(By Fessahaye Mebrahtu) –
The relationship between Ethiopia and Eritrea has been undermined for far too long; destabilizing the people and the region. Of course, not withstanding that every single life is precious, Eritrea has been disproportionally disadvantaged than Ethiopia. The positive thing is that in spite of the protracted conflict and strife, the people have been able to compartmentalize the conflict into political box, without damaging the people-to-people relationship. Political leaders have tried to incite conflicts among the common people, the people have been wise enough not to be trapped into their snares. For example, during the tit-per-tat deportations of each other’s citizen in 1998-2000, the majority of the people did not participate in this tarnished chapter of history. To the contrary, the people took of each other’s children and properties.
In 1998, the Border-War was avoidable. After it started the mediators, namely Rwanda and USA had a good proposal to resolve it peacefully. However, the instigators of the conflict did not have any intention of stopping it until their political agenda met intended goal. The intended goal was political gamble to of power consolidation not physical demarcation of the border. This was true on the Eritrean side and for the Ethiopian leadership of the time, it gave an opportunity to legitimize and consolidated power too. Ethiopian Emperors and Italian colonizers, who controlled Eritrea had scrupulously demarcated the boundaries repeatedly more than one hundred years ago. Dictators’ mind set is utilitarian; the people are their disposal tools to do whatever they wanted to do with them to achieve their selfish goals, which usually is to amass power, eliminate perceived enemies and have full control of the country they rule by decree. Isaias instigated the border conflict to achieve all of the above and to destabilize the Ethiopian political leadership at the time.
The Ethiopian response to Isaias’ instigation of the border conflict might had served the EPRDF leadership temporarily; uniting the country against a common threat. In the long run it has become a liability. TPLF (Woyane) became Isaias’ lynchpin as if all the Eritrean political, economic and social misfortune hinged on them. Awarding Badime to Eritrea signified a symbolic victory for Isaias, notwithstanding the catastrophic human and property damage as well as the loss of Eritrean swath of territories to Ethiopia. The “No War, No Peace” environment, which ensued the end of the active conflict remained as “Ominous Cloud” over Eritrea for almost 20 years; stunting any economic growth and human development. On the other hand, in Ethiopia was business as usual; making significant economic progress. Yet, Ethiopia political and social fissures became increasingly obvious, an opportunity for political enemies to exploit. For 20 years, the Eritrean regime was busy pocking Ethiopia’s wounds. The regime’s media was highlighting any negative news against the country, of course blaming Woyane for everything wrong. Though the purpose of such negative news was for domestic consumption, it also revealed the mind set of the regime; gleaming on the misfortune of manufactured enemies, the Woyane. Such propaganda has a lasting impact on the Eritrean public.
The national unity which was created in Ethiopia to push back Eritrean aggression in 1998-2000 was short lived. The ethnic based Federal Government of Ethiopia became a two-edged sword. On one hand it gave voice and identity to Ethiopian ethnic groups that were politically disenfranchised and on the other hand it fragmented the country; using Woyane as the scapegoat for power abuse and corruption. The demonization of Woyane became the entry point for Isaias to undermine Ethiopia’s national unity. The armed and political opposition groups of Ethiopian central government found haven in Eritrea of Isaias. The relentless propaganda from inside Eritrea and the Ethiopia Diaspora, thanks to the internet era emboldened the resistance against Ethiopia’s ruling party, dominated by TPLF; leading to the resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and the appointment of Dr. Aby Ahmed as new Prime Minister from the Oromo ethnic group.
Dr. Aby Ahmed’s rhetoric for peace and reconciliation was fresh air to Ethiopia, which was under state of emergency following several riots and mass demonstration in many parts of Ethiopia. Dr. Aby’s whole sale amnesty, especially freeing political prisoners and journalists created a euphoria. Dr. Aby’s call for peace with Eritrea without any precondition unlike PM Hailemariam and the late PM Meles Zenawai brought a ray hope for Eritreans, who were held hostage for two-decades by their own regime with the pretext that Ethiopia posing danger to Eritrean sovereignty. When Dr. Aby offered the olive branch, Isaias did not respond for nearly three-weeks, whether he accepts or rejects the peace offer. For those who do not know Isaias, this lull period of no response was a loud response we all should pay attention.
Isaias is very calculating and conniving person, to the point of “evil genius.” During this silence, he was concocting his political survival strategy and exacting his revenge against “Woyane,” who know him most next to his cabinet minsters languishing in prison since 2001 and some even before. He knows that so long the influence of Woyane is in place, he cannot play political game in Ethiopia. Isaias can pretend to be a statesman to other Ethiopians but not to Woyane. When Isaias used the slogan, “Game Over” his message was aimed at Woyane’s loss of power not exclaiming we can finally demarcate our borders. His sole plan is to eliminate the Woyane leaders through the ruse of eliminating corruption; using Oromo and Amhara operatives to apprehend such perceived corrupt citizens. The border demarcation is no longer an issue according to Isaias though his day and night slogan for 20 years was border demarcation. Imagine!
It won’t be too long before Isaias inserts his security apparatus into Ethiopia using the cover of bilateral security agreement. It should be remembered that he has assassinated several Eritreans, who apparently were a threat to his power hegemony or who knew too much about his true background and intention. This political killing took place, when he had penetrated the security apparatus of the EPRDF, prior to the border conflict. There is nothing to stop him to continue his practice, when given an opportunity. However, from now on his targets will be Ethiopia’s emerging leaders as has succeeded neutralizing Eritrean opposition groups.
One has to understand, Isaias always advocated for a united Ethiopia, against the initial vision of TPLF and at the same time he was supporting Oromo’s self-determination. That is the appeal for Ethiopian opposition leaders; giving him entry points to the current internal political of Ethiopia. The photo-ops of Isaias we are noticing in Ethiopia are all pretentions. Ethiopians be ware, you are making a deal with the devil himself. Before too long, you will notice the disappearance of your assertive and vocal leaders mysteriously. Even PM Aby, you are worshiping now will be disposable if Isaias has his way; penetrating your security system.
My observation is that Dr. Aby came with olive branch in his hand; asking for national peace and reconciliation but we are noticing a shift in his attitude and actions at the behest of his god-father, the “evil genius.” Dr. Aby’s naivete has been obvious; inviting opposition groups without any precondition and without vetting process or period whether these groups pose danger to the national cohesion of Ethiopia or not. The second observation is that the national reconciliation and peace does not give amnesty to the Woyane leadership; hence, the people of Tigray. Targeting a particular ethnic group, is antithesis to the rhetoric of national unity. These all are the hidden hands of Isaias; advancing his political agenda and calculation.
I am an Eritrean for a full disclosure, who wishes peace and prosperity in Ethiopia, where its ethnic and political diversity should be points of strength not liability. However, I have experienced the evil design of the Eritrean regime on how it destroyed a promising nascent country for power satiation. If Isaias was not able to meet the need of a small population, don’t ever think that he has the capacity to be a statesman overnight. Please, look at his track-record. He locked up his own comrades for asking what you have been asking for the last several years, accountability, transparency and political liberalization. He has never taken any responsibility for anything in his life except blaming others. But his cruel in-humanity was obvious when he denied that the Eritreans, who shipwrecked in Lampadusa (Italy) as non-Eritreans. The Eritreans and Ethiopians beheaded in Libya by ISIS were memorialized by your own government while Isaias did not even acknowledge that there were Eritreans among them. You are embracing a cold-hearted and calculating dictator with a goal in mind; believe me that goal is not for your welfare.
Isaias’ ego could not be satisfied by being the president of a small county, Eritrea. He has a vision of bringing together the Horn of Africa, at a face value its is noble cause but his intention has no nobility in it. His plan is circumventing the influence of Ethiopia, twenty-times the population of Eritrea. He cannot stay under dim light while Dr. Aby or any other leader are shining. The invitation of Somali for Trilateral relationship was a strategy of gaining influence as the visionary leader. However, we know that Isaias has been the cause of conflict in our area picking a direct fight with Sudan, Yemen, Ethiopia, and Djibouti. Indirectly, he has destabilized Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan by supporting the Darfur rebels, Ethiopia and even as far as DRC. Some years ago, an American diplomat who worked hard to settle the Ethio-Eritrean border conflict told me you Eritreans are stirring trouble in the Horn of Africa.
Currently, Isaias is busy on taking revenge against Woyane. His action will be critical in divide and rule and further destabilizing Ethiopia’s national unity. Once he succeeded neutralizing Woyane, he will come back to the Amhara and the Oromo; depriving you of your own leadership in favor of wimpy and spineless leaders, who can be easily manipulated by his whims. Do not forget, you are dealing with devil, who has no boundaries to his cunning to do evil so long it serves his purpose. Like the Amharic and Tigrinya saying, “ጅብ በማያውቁት ኣገር ሂዶ ቍርበት ኣንጥፉልኝ ይላል – ዝብእስ ኣብ ዘይፈልጡዎ ዓዲ ከይዱ ቆርበት ኣንጽፉለይ በለ።” Isaias cannot pretend to be an angel in Ethiopia, while his track-record in Eritrea is blood- soaked to his knee.
The peace accord with Ethiopia was welcomed by all Eritreans to have normalized relationship with our neighbors and blood relatives on the other side of the border but nothing has changed in our country. For twenty years, Isaias has used the “No war, no peace” situation as an excuse to keep his military rule in place; keeping hostage our youth in the military service, not implementing the constitution, muzzling the free press, imprisoning his political critics, curtailing freedom of religion, including jailing a Patriarch, keeping the economy on chokehold, etc. The other issue Isaias has been blaming others for creating untannable economic development was due to the unjust “Sanction.” The Sanction has been lifted up now. What is Isaias’ new excuse for his disastrous rule; denuding the country of its youth and resources? Dictators do not run out of excuse until they run out of breath! Isaias will find new excuses to avoid being accountable to his internal political debacle.
Eritreans do not keep your hopes high for any political change in Eritrea so long Isaias is in power. On the other hand, his influence in Ethiopia is becoming apparent; igniting more ethnic fires and divisions. We are already witnessing, the shift from the mood for national peace and reconciliation; giving way to ethnic targeted killings and mob-lynch, detaining members of Woyane or their families. If there was a whole sale amnesty at the beginning of PM Aby’s coming to leadership, why all of a sudden, there is a shift in rhetoric; undermining the spirit of amnesty, national unity and reconciliation.
I would like to bring to the attention of Ethiopians, who are entertaining the unity of Eritrea with Ethiopia. Unity is strength and not a weakness, but Ethiopian successive regimes have squandered the opportunity half a century ago and by stretch as far as Emperor Minelik II. Let the process of unity evolve organically through economic and cultural integrations which might be take generations. Even if Isaias signs unilaterally without the wish of the people, who voted 98% for independence do not push your luck; it will backfire, scorching us again. Can’t we learn from history? My Ethiopian brothers and sisters do not be fooled by Isaias’ charm as we Eritreans have been fooled for decades and we could not let go of his tight grip; to the point we can’t breathe. You are entertaining a cold blooded two-headed serpent, who stings first those who are closer to him. The first person in danger is, Ethiopian Prime Minster, Dr. Aby Ahmed.
I wrote this article January 2019, which was posted in February 2019. The current development in Ethiopia, a war of ethnic cleansing taking place on the State of Tigran and its citizens has exposed the true nature of these tyrannical leaders, Isaias Afeworki and Abiy Ahmed. My assessment of the peace agreement between these two leaders in the name of Ethiopians and Eritreans was evil by design.
Those of us who have been suffocated under his boots, we know that Isaias Afeworki could not shed his demonic stripes instantly. He is a person consumed by fear, hate and revenge. For twenty years, Isaias was looking for an opportunity to exact his personal vengeance against TPLF (Woyane) for the following reasons:
- Ethiopia by its size, history and sphere of influence, any leader who ascends into power had prominence, overshadowing Isaias’ grandiose ambition over the Horn of Africa;
- PM Meles Zenawi badly bloodied the nose of Isaias over the 1998-2000 border conflict;
- The sphere of influence of Ethiopia at the UN and other world organizations succeeded in curbing Isaias’ ambition and spoiler-in-chief;
- Tigray became haven for Eritrean military deserters and national service dodgers;
- Ethiopia’s economic development in general and Tigray’s in particular grew at remarkable speed while Eritrea regressed back to the 19th This are some of the few issues at the core causes of Isaias obsession, jealousy, hate and revenge against Woyane.
PM Abiy Ahmed ascendancy to power became the perfect storm for Isaias to exact his revenge; he has been brooding against Woyane and the people of Tigray. When Isaias accepted the invitation to end the no peace, no war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, his phrase “Game Over” was a-tell-tell sign that his intention was not sincere. Those of us who knew Isaias political calculus, were alarmed by the secrecy of the peace agreement and its lack of reciprocity. For Isaias, the peace accord was a cause for trauma. For 20 years, he was singing dirge over Ethiopia but when he visited the country, he was shocked how much economic progress the country made while Eritrea was a mere shadow of its past and its people dependent on foreign remittances. In Isaias world, this is not acceptable. We have many anecdotal stories in Eritrea that he would close family shops if it comes to his attention that their business is growing. He is that petty.
The irony is that Isaias Afeworki’s ancestry is from Tigray. Having so much animosity towards his own people is unimaginable. We have to know that the people of Tigray and of Eritrea are the same not only the Tigrinya speakers, even most of the other ethnic groups have common border, sharing ethnic groups on both sides – from Kunama in the far west to Afar in the east. Their alienation from each other stemmed from the scramble of Africa and Italy colonizing Eritrea. Eritreans and Tigrayans were divided for the divide and conquer purpose.
Emperor Menelik II, who became the King of Kings at the demise of Emperor Yohannes IV 1889, was content with divided Tigrinya speakers, lest they challenge his Showan power hegemony. Though political elites tried to exploit the estrangement of Tigrayans and Eritreans as irreconcilable difference, the common people never forgot that they are victims of accident of history but still brothers and sisters. The picture was clear when the two people expressed joyous family reunion void of any animosity or estrangement. This gesture set an alarm in the hateful heart and mind of Isaias. This was a dangerous sign for his power monopoly. He immediately closed the border between Eritrea and Tigray; then he got busy planning to fulfil his “Game over” plan to eliminate Woyane. He found perfect and willing allies in executing his evil plan. The right-wing Amhara elites, who love to hate Tigrayans and the naïve and ambitious, PM Abiy Ahmed.
I would like to mention an ominous issue that historians and investigative journalists have to make a thorough research. In 1990s, I heard that there was an Ethiopian, namely Amhara blueprint for the genocide of Tigrayans, at that time it included Eritrea and Tigray. The plan foiled with the demise of Mengistu Hailemariam of Dergue in 1991. If this story is true that the genocidal blueprint existed, it is important to for the people of Ethiopia and the world to find out who are the architects of such evil design since the Dergue era. Whether blueprint exists or not, a genocide is taking place in Tigray. One has to also assess that Eritrean soldiers are perpetrators and victims of the genocide. For twenty years they were brainwashed with the hate as if Woyane was the root cause of their misfortune, unending military service and lost opportunities to lead their lives. With way the war is conducted, Eritrean youth are dying like flies; Eritrea also losing its future because every able body from 18 years of age to 70 are fighting on the war against Tigray. This is a war of mutual annihilation. Evil might win battles but never the war. The final victory will be of the people of Tigray and the truth will shine like a day light, bringing the architects and executers of the evil plan to justice.