Teddy Afro Bedele Beer: Atse Minilk Controversy

Ethiopia’s democratic process has taken one small step forward last week. Activists from the Oromo
community in Ethiopia have started a well organized campaign against Bedele Beer owner for becoming the main sponsor of the upcoming tour of Teddy Afro. The campaign started when Teddy Afro known for his infatuation with past emperors was quoted glamorizing Atse Minilk’s conquest and his expansion of Ethiopia towards south where many of the Oromo community lived. It is said Atse Minilk army was very harsh against the Oromo people and other communities in the area. Many argue, Atse Minilk – partially from the Oromo ethnic himself, harsh treatment of the people was not unique since most of the feudal emperors before him were also harsh to the Amhara, Tigreans and the Afars.

In the West when people get frustrated with certain companies act they usually start a boycott campaign to punish the company where it hurts. This has been a very known and effective tool in many of the well established democratic countries. Unlike the old days where Ethiopians always turn a simply disagreement in to a quarrel of zero sum game outcome, this time, the Oromo activists are using a proven tool to make their voice heard. We say amen to this, but what about you?

Also, we were taken back when we heard after coming this far in the democratic process and after building the strong foundation of the new federal democratic Ethiopia, the Orormia regional government has given a go ahead to build a museum somewhere in Arrsi that will hold a controversial statue. The statue is said to represent Atse Minilk’s atrocities against women. We think this is not what Ethiopians need to bring forth at this point in time. Now is the time to forgive and move on against the common enemy we have that is poverty.

Never mind about the veracity of the history behind the statue. We do not need to go that far to find out of our brutal emperors and governments before. We have the Mengistu Hailemariam government with a much more horrific stories. The question is why was OPDO not persuasive enough to ask the locals to focus on the current issue than the past? We understand some of the dysfunctional opposition infatuation with emperors of the past! At times it is irritating but why fall for their trap? These oppositions are left over’s of the last supper that was served some 22 years ago! Can’t we forget them and move on? Have Your say!!

Time to Bring Eritrea in from the Cold –Says Herman Cohen!

Time to Bring Eritrea in from the Cold – By Hank Cohen

Posted on December 16, 2013 by AfricanArgumentsEditor

After being part of Ethiopia for forty years, the people of Eritrea held a referendum in April 1993 and decided to establish an independent state. The referendum took place in the aftermath of a thirty-year insurgency against two successive Ethiopian regimes waged by the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front (EPLF). At the same time, an allied insurgent group, the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF), took over power in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, after the military collapse of the Soviet-supported regime headed by President Mengistu Haile Mariam.

Between 1993 and 1998, the two “brother” governments of Eritrea and Ethiopia, headed by the EPLF and TPLF, enjoyed excellent relations. They maintained a common economic system that allowed landlocked Ethiopia full access to the Eritrean Red Sea ports of Asab and Masawa, including control of their own handling facilities for the transit of cargo.

The relationship started to cool in 1997 when the Eritreans created their own currency, the Nakfa. They did this without arranging to establish a system of daily settlements for cross border trade between their currency and the Ethiopian Birrh. This could have been done through a facility provided by the International Monetary Fund. Without such a facility in place, the Ethiopian Government announced that all cross border trade had to be settled in US Dollars.

This resulted in a financial setback for Eritrea because of its limited access to hard currencies.
In 1998, the Eritrean Government complained that Ethiopian government representatives, including police, were beginning to encroach on Eritrean territory near the border town of Badme in southwest Eritrea. According to Eritrean sources, four of their police officers who went to Badme to investigate turned up dead. Again, the Eritreans said that they had no choice but to retaliate with military force against the alleged Ethiopian encroachments and murder of their policemen. The Ethiopian Government denied all of the Eritrean allegations about encroachments and the killing of Eritrean policemen, claiming that the Eritrean military attack was totally unjustified.

Instead of negotiations, the Eritrean action triggered a massive Ethiopian armed response, unleashing a major bilateral war that lasted two years, and that caused approximately 100,000 dead and wounded on both sides.

Under Algerian Government mediation, a cease-fire was accomplished in 2000. In view of the border as the ostensible main issue in contention, the Algerians established the Ethiopia-Eritrea Border Commission (EEBC) to arbitrate the exact boundary line. While the EEBC was doing its work, the long border remained heavily armed on both sides.

The results of the EEBC arbitration upheld Eritrea’s main claims on the border delineation. The Ethiopian Government made a public statement agreeing to the arbitration result, but insisted that it would not proceed to delineate the final border settlement until they could have bilateral discussions with Eritrea. The Government of Eritrea declared that it was open to discussions without any preconditions, but insisted that Ethiopia first had to delineate the border pursuant to the arbitration decision. This total stalemate in the bilateral relationship has continued until the present, with both governments holding to their inflexible positions.

Because of the stalemate, the border has remained heavily armed on both sides. This situation has caused particular hardship to Eritrea. Because of the country’s small population, young men conscripted into the armed forces to patrol the long border have had to serve for indefinite periods without knowing when they would be demobilized and returned to their families. As a result, over the past decade thousands of young Eritrean have ‘illegally’ left their country to seek asylum in the other countries, including Ethiopia, Egypt, Israel, the Emirates and southern Europe.

In addition to the expensive armed camps on both sides of the border, the situation of ‘no peace—no war’ has resulted in a total stoppage of cross border trade, and the loss to Ethiopia of Eritrea’s convenient nearby ports for Ethiopia’s exports and imports. Ethiopia’s only access to the ocean since the war began has been via the 900 mile antiquated railway from Addis Abeba to the port of the neighboring country of Djibouti at the entrance to the Indian Ocean from the Red Sea. In addition to the long distance between Djibouti and Addis Abeba, port fees in Djibouti are excessively high.

To make matters worse, both Ethiopia and Eritrea have become ensnarled in the chaos of Somalia since that government collapsed in 1991. The rise of the Islamist group Al Shabab, with abundant assistance from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula caused Ethiopia to send troops to Somalia at various points from 2006 to the present day. Between 2006 and 2010, the security crisis in Somalia has caused relations between Eritrea and the United States to deteriorate badly. In 2008, the George W. Bush Administration declared Eritrea to be a “state sponsor of terrorism”, thereby triggering US trade, investment, and travel sanctions against Eritrea and its leaders. The reason was the identification of Somali Islamist extremists attending a Somali political dialogue meeting in Eritrea. Indeed, this caused the US Government to become so enraged that the American Assistant Secretary of State for Africa expressed to desire to reopen the EEBC arbitration decision in order to favor the Ethiopian border claims. This request was not adopted.

The Obama administration accused the Eritrean Government of allowing the transit of arms to Al-Shabab – the reason for this alleged support being that Eritrea wanted to help an enemy of Ethiopia, thereby putting pressure on its neighbour to implement the arbitration decision.

In 2009, Senior Etritrean officials met in Rome with the American Permanent Representative to the UN, Susan Rice, and the US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Ambassador Johnny Carson. The American delegation was apparently not satisfied with the Eritrean rebuttal of the allegations about their allowing the transit of arms to Shabab. There were also accusations of Eritrean support to insurgents opposing the Ethiopian regime from within. As a result, Ambassador Susan Rice introduced a resolution in the UN Security Council calling for sanctions against Eritrea. The resolution, UNSC 1907, was enacted in a watered down version of the original harsh US draft, but nevertheless caused Eritrea to become something of an international pariah. This situation continues.

However, as far as external support for Shabaab is concerned, all available intelligence indicates that Eritrea has not had any contact since 2009. Earlier intelligence reports, denied by Eritrea as fabricated, indicated Eritrean facilitating the transfer of funds to Shabaab – nothing of that sort has been reported since 2009 by any source. Those of us who know Eritrea well understand that the Eritrean leadership fears Islamic militancy as much as any other country in the Horn of Africa region.

In recent months, positive signals have been coming from both countries. Eritrean President Isaias Afewerke has been quoted as saying that Eritrea cannot fulfill its destiny without Ethiopia. The Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn, has said that he is willing to go to Eritrea to engage in dialogue. In short, the wartime tensions of 1998-2000 no longer have a logical basis for continuing to exist. Normalization of Ethiopian-Eritrean relations promises a win-win future for both nations.

In view of the absence of any intelligence, real or fabricated, linking Eritrea with Shabaab for over four years, the UN Security Council should terminate sanctions imposed in 2009 by UNSC resolution 1907. Since European Union governments have maintained normal relations with Eritrea since the country’s independence, one of the European members of the UN Security Council should propose a resolution to end the sanctions. The US should agree to abstain rather than veto such a resolution.

To break the stalemate between Eritrea and Ethiopia over the implementation of the EEBC boundary decision, there needs to be a mutually face-saving solution. I propose that Ethiopia offer to accept a symbolic initial takeover by Eritrea of territory awarded by the EEBC, followed by the same day opening of dialogue with a totally open agenda. This dialogue could have the benefit of a neutral mediator, or not, depending on the wishes of the two governments. Here again, one of the neutral Europeans should have the ability to inspire confidence in both sides.

A normalization of relations, following the end of UN sanctions against Eritrea, would have immediate benefits for both countries. A resumption of Ethiopian use of Eritrean ports would provide economic benefits to both countries with trade resuming in both directions. Both sides would also be able to demobilise the border with important cost savings.

Both countries, of course, continue to have important human rights issues. Normalization of bilateral relations would make it easier for the US and the international community to encourage political and governance reforms.

Finally, the normalization of relations between the United States and Eritrea would open the door to military-to-military cooperation of the type that would enlist Eritrea in the war against Islamic terrorism in the Horn coming from across the Red Sea.

Yes, the time has come to bring Eritrea in from the cold.
Herman J. ‘Hank’ Cohen is Former Assistant Secretary of State for Africa.

Now that you have read Mr Cohen’s argument what do you think? Do you think it is the time to save the dying regime of Afeworki as Mr Cohen says or it is the time to stand firm. Do you think Ethiopia/PM Hailemariam govt should revisit the EEBC fiasco/decision even though the Eritrean regime has violated it many times before or stand firm with the proposal PM Meles government put on the table long time ago – that is to demand for a sit down negotiation to solve all the issues between the two countries, no precondition including handling of any territory. Have Your Say and do not let Mr Cohen have the last Say on this with his own pre condition of transferring Badme or any place for that matter!

Looking Deep in to this Picture and Remembering

If you look deep in to this picture and fall back in to memory lane imagine how many of our people suffered to bring such development. Seeing these magnificent towers of hope and energy it looks as if they are there to represent those who died. The battle to defeat poverty once for all started as you all know in these hills – so to speak. These and other similar hills all over Tigray hold in them the remains of those gallant fighters who died. With time passing those who died to bring peace, justice and development may be fading away from our memory but we sure hope projects like these will keep them fresh for eternity. Look at the picture and share what comes to your mind, have your say!

Ana Gomez and Her Angry and Vengeful Politics

Unlike the early days of the online media, we have all learned not to be easily shocked, surprised, or overly excited by what we read online. Mostly, we try to verify the reliability and reputation of the source. Sometimes, we try to analyze the characters or personalities affiliated in an outrageous story or analysis and we raise questions like….did he/she really say that? …Really? Would he/she say that? What would be his/her motive to be so wrong? and so on.

When we read Ana Gomez’s interview with a journalist from a local private media, we didn’t even doubt the authenticity of this story knowing it is the angry Hana Gobeze spewing her venom again. By the way, she likes her nick name and she is flattered to be named as Hana Gobeze. May be we are wrong referring to the interviewer as a journalist… sounds more of an opposition spokesperson according to his line of questioning and his opinion of her being respected by ‘a lot of Ethiopians’. That’s beside the point….You will judge for yourself.

At first, we wanted to sit down and write to respond to what she said line by line, but decided not to, because she is overwhelmingly wrong, biased, angry, arrogant, and filled with vengeance.

After reading this transcript and trying to make sense of her anger and the personal hate she harbors against the great leader, the late PM Meles Zenawi, one can easily conclude that she must have been really hit hard where it hurts the most the way PM Meles cut her to size last time!

While failing miserably on her analysis and wrong on all points, we have to admit that she is right about one thing she said….” She doesn’t pretend to know Ethiopia well enough”. You are darn right ! You, including your confidants, don’t know Ethiopia and it will stay a mystery to you forever.

She even dares to tell us that poor countries like Ethiopia don’t have the right to protect their people against terrorism and she says that’s reserved for the rich, developed, and powerful countries.

This angry woman says a lot more. Read on(here) and Have Your Say below…!