Time for the International Community to

Contextualize Ethiopia’s Parliamentary Election


                                                                                    Adal Isaw


                                                                                                            May 21, 2010


All along, the one-man Eritrean state is doing its best, to impede the arduous work of democratizing Ethiopia into a middle-income country.  The destructive nature of the one-man Eritrean state emanates from a colonial legacy that it still espouses in its politics.  The regime of Afewerki is brazenly quick to praise colonialism more so than it remembers the privileges and opportunities forwarded under duress by its own cousins.[1]  This is a regime that teaches its young about the “cruelty” of Ethiopians, setting aside the cruelty and artfulness of a racist colonizer that people of the same origin and history endured and act together to free themselves.[2]  This is a regime that daydreams as though it is a unique breed not akin to the “Third World.”[3]    This is a regime that goes haywire day and night, to readily exacerbate what are otherwise benign political differences of the same people.  This is a regime that never goes to sleep; frightened that “inferior” Ethiopia is marching towards peaceful democratization and substantial economic development.  Needless to say and quite literally, this is a regime that a European colonizer had left Ethiopia with.   And this is the time for the international community to contextualize Ethiopia’s democratization, bearing in mind the destructive nature of the one-man Eritrean state. 


As is, the scar of colonialism is vividly seen on the faces of many African countries.  Conflicts between nations and nationalities have not yet ceased from exacerbating and compounding the despicable living conditions of Africans.  The dangerous indoctrination that colonizers deployed to divide nations and nationalities of Africa, continues to rift people of the same origin and history who would have otherwise shared meadows for their cattle to graze.  The fourth Ethiopian Parliamentary Election of 2010 will be held with this historic reminder at the backdrop; as Eritrea, a country that has come into existence as a result of European colonization, continues to bleed Ethiopians, hoping to disrupt the journey that Ethiopia is taking towards a full-fledged democratic middle-income country.


The purpose of this article is not “to litigate the past,” to borrow President Obama’s line, except to use history to contextualize and highlight as to why the international community, I believe, is positively serious towards a democratizing Ethiopia, while it is very shy about Eritrea—a country that is being run to the abyss by a single individual.



It may be unfair to paint the international community in a stroke of criticism, as if it is the responsible entity for much of the political and economic problems facing the Eritrean people.  But when it comes to democracy and democratization, however, it is not unfair at all to paint the international community in a stroke of criticism—for failing the Eritrean people miserably.


The Eritrean people struggle for democracy has been fully hijacked and their solemn plea if any is generating a pathetic and literally nonexistent concern from the international community.  For example, EU countries are growing inhospitable to Eritrean asylum seekers in spite of knowing quite well how repressive the one-man Eritrean regime is.  Instead of lending their hands to those Eritreans in need of protection, EU countries instead have negotiated with Libya to help block Eritrean asylum seekers from reaching their harbors.  EU countries may continue to pay Tripoli large sums, to assure that potential Eritrean asylum seekers stay in Libya or are sent back to Eritrea endangering their lives.    


Afewerki is continuously plunging Eritrea into a new depth of discontent and deprivation.  Eritrea’s democratic national election due to be held in 1997 is not only forgotten but is now detested overtly by Isayas Afewerki.  The means of disseminating news is completely monopolized by shutting all of Eritrea’s privately owned media.  Critics continue to be arrested and held without trial.  People of faith have no other fate, but to be prosecuted much like any other political critic; able adults of any age in massive numbers are conscripted to fight against the “enemy”—their own cousins—Ethiopians.


The fourth Ethiopian parliamentary election of 2010 will be held this Sunday with this reminder, while the fabric of the Eritrean society is being destroyed at will everyday, and the one-man regime continues to foment violence, hoping to disrupt the journey of Ethiopia towards a full-fledged democratic middle-income country.  Contextualizing the Ethiopian parliamentary election from this point of reference is therefore vitally important, especially, when the one-man regime of Eritrea is bleeding Ethiopians few days from the election. 


If the international community fails to contextualize the Ethiopian parliamentary election vis-à-vis the violence-prone one-man Eritrean state, it is likely that we Ethiopians will remain wary.  And by extension, it will be hard to blame us for being overly protective of our beloved country and our own destiny.  It is therefore up to the international community to use the historical and political realities that are dictating the Horn of Africa in general and that of the one-man Eritrean state in particular, to accordingly contextualize the Ethiopian parliamentary election to be held this Sunday.  Succinctly put in three words; don’t be picky.  


[1] Check Robert D Kaplan’s Surrender or Starve: Travels in Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Eritrea (1988).  According to Kaplan, Yemane Ghebreab, the political affairs officer of PFDJ, is quoted saying, “We acknowledge that the legacy of colonialism was not all negative.”

[2] Kaplan wrote, “On my flight out of Eritrea, I overheard a teen age Eritrean girl from the Diaspora lecturing her younger siblings in American English about how the Ethiopian murdered the Eritrean people.”

[3] According to Kaplan, Wolde-Ab Yisak, the president of the University of Asmara, observed, “Communal self-reliance is our dogma, which in turn comes from the knowledge that we Eritreans are different from our neighbors.”