The Troubling Eastern Africa Region and the Danger it poses to the National Security of Ethiopia



The Troubling Eastern Africa Region and the Danger it poses to the National Security of Ethiopia


By: W. Yilma                                                   January, 2, 2015

As we all know Eastern Africa region is one of the most troubling and dangerous area in our world. Somalia and now Southern Sudan are the most troubling countries engulfed in their own internal conflicts. Eritrea on the other hand is serving as a catalyst to aggravate the situation where problem arises.  Especially, today’s situation in Somalia is a direct effect of Eritrean role in organizing, training and equipping all kind of terrorists, including Al-Shibab, and Alitihad. Eritrea is a host country for many terrorist groups. Eritrea is a lawless country with no constitution and rules of law. In today’s Eritrea, everything, including the economy and the human capital is under the direct control of the ruling elite.

The problems we are facing today in Eastern Africa region is not an isolation incidences. Other than the internal problems of the countries in question, there are external players who have their own agendas to impose on the region. Egypt and, few European countries, and US America are among those forces aggravating the situation. While Egypt role have historical background mainly due to Nile River, others Europeans and US America interest is to promote neo-liberal ideology and to impose theirs hegemonic geo-political, as well as economic interest.    

The existing problems prevailing in Eastern African countries today emanate mainly from each country’s internal socio-economic and political problems. These problems attracted the formation of different politically motivated organizations in the name of liberation movements. Because of this Eastern Africa region is considered as one of the most hot spot where long term liberation movement activities was conducted. Some of the liberation organizations are Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF), and Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF), later changed to People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), TPLF, OLF and SPLA. Each has their own failure and success. The two main rival Eritrean rebels groups fought for independent were ELF, and EPLF or PFGJ. After TPLF destroyed the ELF from Bademe, EPLF managed to dominate the Eritrean politics until now.

The nature and purposes of these liberation movements how and why they organized is complex. Some are organized purely to bring internal change, and others influenced by outside forces have double missions. Example for the later is Eritrean case. We know how and by whom the Eritreans liberation front’s are formed, and for what purposes. Leaving aside the historical background of the Eritrean people struggle for justice and freedom, one of the main purposes of the involvement of external forces, mainly Egypt and other Arab countries was clear. Other than religious issue, water politics play a central role. Former Egyptian military ruler, Gamal Abdel Nasir plays a crucial role for the establishment of the two Eritrean liberation fronts, ELF and EPLF. Syrian role was also significant at the initial stage. Ethiopian student movements indoctrinated by Marxist-Leninist ideology also play a pivotal role in bolstering EPLF and encourages others to organize in the name of liberation fronts. Ethiopian People Revolutionary Party (EPRP), a student movement advocating Marxist-Maoist ideology is one of them. As far as I know, EPRP advocated the Eritrean independent for quite a long time. In fact EPRP was trained and equipped by EPLF. Started from 1966, there was an open discussion through media outlets (Ethiopian radio, and Addis zemen news paper) between EPRP and Meson about the Eritrean and other related issues). That is why the former Derg show favoritism towards Meison and provide them an office at Minilik palace by rejecting EPRP.  During the Somalia war of aggression Mesion abandoned Derg and both EPRP and Meison role in Ethiopia politics start diminishing.

Regarding Southern Sudan, it has similarity with the Eritrea situation. The Sudan government discrimination both in religion, economy development and racism against Southern ethnic groups has created internal conflict. This unfairness persuaded other external players to involve in the internal affairs of Sudan politics and speed up the independence struggle by the South. Due to Nile politics, Egypt also plays pivotal role in helping the Northern Sudan to subjugate the Southerners. In fact Sudanese problem is a continuation of Egyptian policy when they ruled Sudan. Western countries role during the cold war era in SPLA politics also contributed an internal struggle within the liberation army ( Riek Machar, from Nuer tribe is western educated person to challenge former SPLA leader John Garand). Emperor Haile Selase and Col. Mengistu H/Mariam also play both a positive and negative roles in Sudan politics. The role of successive Ethiopian government in handling the Sudanese issue depends on the political temperature between the two countries. But the central issue was how each country helping the rebel groups in their soil. At present, Ethiopia has a good relationship both with North and southern Sudan governments (but this is not without risk). These good relationships between the two countries perfectly matched the geo-political interest of Ethiopia.

When it comes to Somalia the situation is different than Eritrea and South Sudan cases. Other than Egypt (which persistently encouraging Somalia to open war against Ethiopia), Ethiopia role, especially during Col. Mengistu also play a significant role in creation the present Somalia situation (due to Tit for Tat politics). However, after the Bademe war, Shabia role in exploiting and aggravating Somalia’s situation does not have a comparison in Eastern African history. Shabia is responsible for training, equipping, and harboring terrorist groups like Al-Shibab and Alitihad which both are actively engaging in war both in Somalia and Ethiopian Ogaden areas. Alitihad is still hiding and have shelters in western and US capitals. Western politicians knew, but as long as this terrorist organization is not attacking them in their soil, it is ok for them to give save heaven for any terrorist groups.  The so called Human Right and the state department are advocates for this terrorist group.  In general due to the efforts of IGAD and African Union, the situation in Somalia is getting better, and it is my hope that Somalia’s will solve their internal issues in near future.   

As I stated above, the undemocratic nature of Eastern African countries created a favorable condition for the formation of different “freedom fighters” groups. As a result of this, Eastern Africa is one of the most conflict prone and human tragedy regions in Africa. Because of intrinsic and extrinsic factors associated with different determinant, some succeeded in achieving their objectives to secede and created a new country. Eritrea and South Sudan are among them.  However, secession by itself should not be considered as a final goal for freedom. After secession many believed that those freedom fighters will transform themselves and fulfill the desire and aspiration of their own people by implementing democracy, rules of law, and constitutional accountabilities. Unfortunately, except EPRDF/ TPLF which was transformed Ethiopia and its party from freedom fighter to statesman, the rest are unwilling to change their behavior and attitudes, and stubbornly continues to follow the law of the jungle (some readers may disagree with my personal analysis,  and I respect that). Perfect examples are Eritrea and Southern Sudan rebel groups. These two countries problems are aggravating from time to time and hard to predict where the problem will end up.  

Shabia is one of the luckiest and successful rebel groups in getting full supports of the Eritrean people since the start of struggle for independence. Beside this no one other than EPRDF/TPLF fully supported the Eritrean people struggle. Shabia is still denying EPRDF/TPLF fighters sacrifice in saving Shabia from Derg jaw during the “Key kokeb” military operation. Unfortunately Shabia misinterpreted and abused all these supports and portraying itself as superior organization to do vulgarly whatever it likes to dominate the entire Eastern African regions. This feelings and schizophrenic mentality is still alive among some naive Eritrean elites.

Shabia is confidence that no matter how the Eritrean economy is crumbling and to what extent the Eritrean people are becoming poorer, the Eritrean people will not have the courage to rise up to challenge their government. Since its inception, Shabia has one jungle philosophy in which in some case it works. When Shabia faces a challenge that cannot be solved militarily or any other means, they give ample time to the situation they faces, believing that time will solve it. In this case Shabia is waiting a situation where Ethiopia become engulfs with her internal conflicts. This is what Shabia and Egypt are working and waiting for, especially in this coming election, which both the government and the opposition should pay attention seriously.

What must be clear here is that the Ethiopian government should give a priority to minimize the risk coming from Eritrean regime. The ordinary Eritreans are paying dearly sacrifice to satisfy the egoist ambitions of their government. It is clear that the Eritrean people are now become slaves of their own brutal and blood thirsty government. They do not have courage and strength to stand up and challenge Isayas brutal government. No matter what sacrifices it may takes and for how long, the majority of Eritrean people are willing to full-fill their master Isayas demands to harm Ethiopia. This is why Shabia is born not to full fill the aspiration of the ordinary Eritrean people, but to harm Ethiopia and to full-fill the wishes of Ethiopian historical enemies. This is why Egyptian influenced other Arab countries to include Eritrea as a member of Arab league. This is clear and not based on fallacy or mere opinion. This is what makes differences between us Ethiopians and Eritreans. I am not preaching here we have to act the same way some Eritreans are acting against us. But we have to be vigil, proactive and determined to find ways and means to isolate and speed up the demise of Shabia. Why do we create a situation similar to Indo- Pakistan border dispute as a result of Kashmir?  No matter what agreement we reached to solve the border issue for the sake of peace (even compromising a small piece of land from Bademe), Shabia will never satisfied as long as Shabia does not get free access to exploit Ethiopian resources.  The Bademe war is not a core cause of the war. As far as I know, it is only ELF who claimed from the beginning Bademe as an Eritrean territory. Shabia never raised the issue of Bademe until they ignite the war in 1998.    



When it comes to South Sudan, the situation is not as easy as we think to solve. This is because the social fabrics and structures in that country is in very primitive stages. Traditional culture is dominated the social fabric of the diverse societies, and rival tendency between these diverse clans, and ethnic groups are deep rooted in the country. Illiteracy rate is very high, and infrastructure is at primitive stage. The very few elites are not far from tribal thinking and grievances. This is why it become very difficult to solve the problem arises between the two main different functions (mainly Dinka and Nuer). The external players are also encouraged the two different functions to stand on their grounds and compromise seem too far to reach. IGAD should be cautious not to be dragged in this conflict by siding with either side (Uganda should refrain from siding with President Salva Kiir). The same as Uganda, Ethiopia, and Sudan have similar national interest. But this neighboring countries interest should not be seen more important than to bring peace to South Sudan. Only genuine and a coordination effort of IGAD countries with no back stage lobbying will force the two functions to come to a negotiation table. The neighboring countries, especially Ethiopia are at risk due to lack of peace; and it is possible if the peace talk failed the problem will spill-over to the neighboring countries. This is what the Ethiopian government together with other East African (IGAD) countries should exert maximum efforts to solve the S. Sudan problem as soon as possible. The danger is clear. Egypt and Eretria will get access to harm Ethiopia and as a result of this, our national security will be in danger.

What lesson can be learnt from the past history of “freedom fighters” era? The Eritreans and South Sudanese experience has clearly indicating that it is not secession and fake “independent” that brought peace, democracy, economic development, and universal human right to the people in question. It is a struggle to bring genuine political, social, and economic justice for all people regardless of their ethnic, race or religion.  Especially in our situation where traditionally most of the political organizations have restricted to narrow exclusive, an oligarchy type organization that restricted broader and inclusive approaches, they need to emancipate themselves to think in broader concept to bring peace to the Ethiopian people and beyond. Instead of party line thinking, they need to implement participatory democracy that does not antagonizing the best interest of our nation and her diverse social groups. The Independence of Eritrea and South Sudan brought to the people of both countries not freedom, rule of law or economic prosperity, but much unbearable oppression and brutal oligarchies of dictatorial one party rules. Other “freedom fighters” causing havoc to their people should take lesson from these two “independent” but very troubling countries.


I wish all Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopians a happy European New Year!

Long Live Ethiopia 



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