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Comments on “Little Spoken Facts, Untried solutions: Revising the Ethio-Eritrean Conflict, by Dade Desta”




The article, “Little Spoken Facts, Untried solutions: Revising the Ethio-Eritrean Conflict”, by Dade Desta, attempts to galvanize all concerned people and as a result I hope it will bring vigorous reaction, especially, from the citizen of both countries to the issue he is trying to address in a fascinating way.

I found this paper very commendable in content and approach, showing the real causes of the conflict and pointing toa clear message as to how and why both countries should act responsibly in order not to be condemned to a similar mis-hap.

The central point of this article is that Badme was not the essense of the conflict to begin with as the Eritrean government tries to convince his own people and the world community.

On page 2 paragraph 1, line 5, Dade says,

[Lacking a more authentic account of the situation, the international community naively embraced this characterization of the conflict and treated it as a border dispute. So much diplomatic and international resources were mobilized in this direction in trying to end the war. Tracking and analyzing incidents occurring in Badme had consumed several diplomatic dispatches for years. However, the devastating war that inevitably followed was a clear reflection that Badme was not the real essence of the conflict. Badme still remains the physical manifestation point of the underlying tension.]

Then on page 20 paragraph 3 he added:

[There are now proofs and circumstantial evidences to refute the border dispute argument to be the primary cause of for the Ethio-Eritrea conflict] 

And I agree with Dade that if what Eritrean government had said were true:

  1. The conflict would never end up in a stalemate and still no solution in sight.
  2. The level of devastation could not be reached to the scale of tragedy, as we knew it.
  3. The strenuous effort of Eritrean government to unseat the EPRDF government from power through all possible means.

By taking the above facts we can reach to the same conclusion as Dade pointed it out in his article that the conflict is deeply embedded beyond border disputes. So it is illogical and uncharacteristic to think that the conflict was solely a product of a mere border conflict. The cause was beyond that and the fundamental reason was the economic one.

 Let me try to throw a light on the past relationship of EPLF and TPLF when they were in jungle and fighting against the Derge government. Their political relation was bounded with deep mistrust and suspicion. To my understanding the following are good reasons why EPLF was considering TPLF as rival not an ally:

  1. When TPLF became strong in military and other related instances, EPLF started to see that dynamism as a threat against its paternal ego and its agendas in the region. Based on that assumption EPLF tried its best to weaken TPLF and retard that organization by employing different covert tactics and even horrible means. This practice was witnessed in 1984/5 when TPLF and Tigray people were at great danger because of the famine. At that time EPLF blocked a passage to innocent hunger stricken Tigreans and we know what happened as the result of that blockade. This ill-will act was deliberately implemented to bring TPLF to the level of devotee status. What I am trying to say is that EPLF was looking a weak political organization and only its willing executioner in Ethiopia.
  1.  Another problem was the Marxist ideology that was introduced by TPLF leaders to their organization and labeling of EPLF as undemocratic organization was absurd to EPLF people and were considering that practice as an over-stretched and act of meddling in the internal affairs of their organization 
  1.  TPLF leaders had never trusted EPLF leadership and were afraid to be left alone if negotiations went on well at that time in favor of EPLF with dergue government, which could have negative impact on TPLF to continue as liberation front of Tigray and later Ethiopia. So TPLF was using all necessary means to avert that danger from happening.

 

  1. The haughtiness of EPLF was another factor in driving wedges between these 2 political organizations. Relatively EPLF had better experiences and exposures to the region and to the world affairs than TPLF at that time and wanted to be treated as all-powerful political entity in that region. That kind of attitude had no acceptance by TPLF people and was creating a rift in their future relations. As a whole the relationship was not harmony, but full of doubts. That’s why both they focused only to joint military operations against the common enemy till the demise of the military government from Ethiopia. In other words, the whole relation was similar to mice and cut plays.

Based on the above facts at least one can imagine that their relationship could lead to some kind of enmity at one day. The reason was that both were ambitious and the only difference was that EPLF saying it openly, but the other one kept it covertly.

Having said that to return to Dade’s suggestion the economic one is the main cause for the conflict and military aggression of Eritrean against Ethiopia is true. Eritrean government felt like a driven cat into the corner and because of that became a tiger to intimidate and reverse the economic policy of Ethiopian government under the guise of border conflict. History tells us that the driving force for the past devastating wars and atrocities were the economic factor and this will be true in the future too. That’s why the exhausting shuttle of diplomacy and grand efforts directed toward the solution remained futile and fruitless. That’s why the mediators could not pull the two leaders from the brink of war into negotiation.

Dade writes on page 19 para. 2, line 8, [Mediators are not in a better position to help the parties. Actually, still do not seem to be motivated to try to understand the real cause of the conflict. The conflicting parties are not in any way softening up their attitudes. Animosity and mistrust remain so strong that they appear to override all other sensibilities. Even if the parties lack a fresh reason or an objective capacity to launch a war, they will always find other ways to harm each other]

The mediators were simply taking this conflict as sheer border conflict and they were trying to solve the conflict based on that false cause. That’s why Dade tries to remind us that their act was wrong and similar to looking dung in a field that never roamed/browsed by the cow. They did not try to address the core problem and only hedging on the issue. In the beginning they did not put it in a right way so as to get it right. 

I admire Dade when he says both governments should not be captive of the past thing, [Ethiopia and Eritrea must start seeing in terms of what they can do in the future, page. Reconciliation involves the creation of social space where both truth and forgiveness are joined together, rather than being forced together into encounter in which one must out over the other, page 28, par.4] and that “where there is a will there is a path” at least for peace and co-existence.  He is sending a clear-cut message that in times of crisis both leaders should feel responsible to guide their people by revaluating our tradition to preserve peace and stability than turning stones to look for excuses so as to justify for what went wrong. Our good culture and values are still operative among us and I hope it will help us to cleanse our grudges and move to the right direction.

Thus, this paper is insightful and informative about the unfortunate conflict of Ethiopia and Eritrea before a decade and I hope it will invite others to tell us what is left and look for better solution.

As an Ethiopian I stand always in favor of my country interest. However, I would like to remind both countries people to think first about the welfare of each other than economic advantages or out-let to sea. Let’s show to the world that we are not beasts but reasonable men and capable of solving our problems in a civilized way.

Both countries got a lesson from this conflict that peace is the best option for their people and to the region. No one will benefit from the misery of another and accordingly let’s direct our energy and resources towards that direction and I hope one day we will both win.

Haile Desta (hailehaw@yahoo.com)

6/21/11

 


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