The Eritrean National struggle was never a separatist struggle as some Eritrean quarters are now philosophizing and before them many Ethiopians who preferred to give up to bitterness and bury their heads in the sand.
From the beginning to the end the separatist and the secessionist was Ethiopia, not Eritrea! It was official Ethiopia who recognized the Eritrean colonial boundaries beyond which it gave up to the conqueror as a separate and alien country, back in the nineteenth century. It was not the peoples of what was to become Eritrea, who chose that.
And when after nearly seventy years of living separately of Ethiopia, after seven decades of indepent living and independent development, social, political and economic, Janhoi came and demanded submission and the instant mutation of Eritreans. This was not included in the contract; it came out of the blue. As if the seventy years didn’t pass by, as if generations of people didn’t build their lives to different purposes and on other principles, Janhoi wanted Eritreans to forget all of that, and turn their ways of living which were conditioned to suit a different life, upside down, as is the order now, just turn them into Janhoi’s ways. What about our laws, devised to suit our ways of living? Turn it into Janhoi’s ways too!. What about our standing institutions? What about the agreements and accords between the components of our societies, nationalities, tribes and sects. Turn them into Janhoi’s ways too? What about education of our children, what about languages official and non-official. Turn them to Janhoi’s ways? Laws that already have taken root and working for us just fine? turn it to Janhoi’s ways. Forget it, like it never happened, like you were born today on Janhoi’s arrival. It was, practically, like branding Eritreans now to morph, by a decree, into Ethiopians overnight! Are Eritreans then a property to be labeled and relabeled without their interference in the matter? Would you, Ethiopia, accept that for yourself if you were in Eritrea’s shoes? Would any one accept that for himself and continue believing himself a free man?
There was in fact no offer of unity proposed to Eritrea, it was only subjugation, and the turning to upside down of lives that was offered in the name of unity. And even if it were, for argument’s sake, historically true that Eritrea was indeed part of the Ethiopian Empire all along; this does include or justify forcing subjugation on its people demanding the humanly impossible. Was it a piece of clay artifact broken, now, to be restored to its original form? Or was it a piece of cloth torn and now ordered to be stitched back together? No, it was lives of Millions at the stake. And who can in his right mind, blame resisting such a blind force. Where was the offer for unity in all that happened? It seems that it was subjugation and humiliation that the proponents of feudalism both in Eritrea and Ethiopia wanted, as for unity, hardly one can trace it in their deals and transactions, after all doesn’t unity imply approval, admission and acceptance all based on free will.
Incitement to suicide
How dare, then, people like Yosief Gebrehywet (YG), after all that want to retroactively condemn the revolution and diabolize it ? Are they now pretending wisdom and objectivity that they don’t command? Are they now pretending innocence and consecrating themselves into princes of enlightenment.
Don’t they seem to be too hasty handing themselves the pen to themselves to re-write history which they deliberately misrepresent or are unfaithfully ignorant of? Their line of thought tends to forget, or, likes others to forget, that peace is not only the absence of war; it is the absence of war twined with justice. That was not the offer Eritreans had at the time. They seem also to think, in their haste, that their abstractions are not and can not compensate for those individual lives of thousands of men and woman whose lives were short-cut for pseudo-historians to write the only way they can . This is the type of history writing is according to which: the historian Will Durant, history as
“Caesar was a numbskull and Napoleon a fool. Since it is contrary to good manners to exalt ourselves, we achieve the same result by slyly indicating how inferior are the great men of the earth. In some of us, perhaps, it is a noble and merciless asceticism, which would root out of our hearts the last vestige of worship and adoration, lest the old gods should return and terrify us again.”
Eritreans are not all likely to fall for the Ahistoric rants of the likes of YG, and give them credence. The deconstruction of the Eritrean consciousness and the falsification of its conscience should takes much more than elegance in writing and simple pedantry. Eritreans have no feeling of apology to offer to anybody for their revolution, and it is not for YG and his likes to tell how very tough and evil the revolution is! That, Eritreans know first hand without any arrogant pointing out to them what revolution is. They know it is evil, but it is, they also know, the lesser and necessary evil, occupation, tyranny and injustice, being the greatest evil, the mother of all evils, necessary and unnecessary, including revolution. In fact injustice alone, by itself, is the only evil as the British Carlyle would preach in his essay of rights and mights. Elegant pedantries is not going to push Eritreans and convince them commit suicide and self annulment.
Back to the main issue.
Ethiopia never looked for unity with Eritrea at any time in the past, and if it was, it never cared to show it. It always was keen on showing the contrary. It was submission that Janhoi’s Ethiopia projected, and nothing less. Eritrea never rejected fairness but it was not offered anything that even looks like it.
Making the worst out of a bad situation
The greatest opportunity for Imperial and national glory passed by Janhoi, without him, even, taking as little as noticing it: the federal arrangement between Eritrea and Ethiopia should have been seen, at that time, a luring model to copy and gradually generalize and recreate it with the rest of the provinces of Ethiopia. It was for him an opportunity to bring the whole of Ethiopia in unity with Eritrea instead of the other way around, that of subjugation to bring Eritrea into unity with Ethiopia. It was a less expensive opportunity to put Ethiopia and Eritrea into a novel way of development very early, but even that needs an eye that sees.
By insisting and sticking to their ancient methods, Janhoi and his inheritors, dedicated separation while preaching union and installed cessation effectively. Can there really be a unity without first engaging in emotional unity? How is it then to blame Eritrea for not taking the high road to the absurd? Who is the secessionist here, anyway? Sincerely!
Political divorce took place, and this time, and after that and again, Ethiopia was the isolationist and the separatist in more than a way. Is it not Ethiopia who claimed all along that Eritrea was part of it and even went unreservedly into a surreal war for more than thirty years? When Ethiopia took Eritrea, and then abolished its infant democracy and crashed its newly found freedoms, was it not doing that in challenge of the Eritrean people and constitution which was in a working mode at that time, yet when leaving the country it left it to a non-authorized, non-elected body? Ethiopia may justify that by saying it could not have done otherwise at that time! Military evacuation is one thing but extending legitimacy to one is another!
True there was not much that Ethiopia can do then, but it could also not extend the necessary legitimacy of independence to a not yet authorized and a not yet elected body. How come, it is fair to destroy Eritrean societies and smash its political infrastructure for long years and then abandon its reins to un-authorized and un-elected body? Doesn’t that entail some kind of moral responsibility however, even if there was nothing to be done at that time except what has been done?
Was it really wise or necessary to subject Ethiopians of Eritrean origin, ordinary citizens of Ethiopia, to expulsion and uprooting, this would be well expected from a regime as lawless as that of Eritrea. Where can one see a failure of strategic thought and loss of sense of direction so clear as it is in this case of Expulsion of Eritreans from Ethiopia? By expulsion of those Ethiopians of Eritrean origin, Ethiopia was again asserting its dedication to isolation, separation and cessation while claiming the contrary at the same time. Ethiopia was, again, seen dedicated to extend the political divorce of Ethiopia and Eritrea and usher it to a new low and deeper level of divorce, that of human divorce. Ethiopians could say that this was a two way avenue and that what happened to Eritreans in Ethiopia happened to Ethiopians in Eritrea. While this is perfectly true one would wonder if these Ethiopians who say this, would truly like their country to be compared to the PFDJ Eritrea and its regime with that system of ignorance. What about the withdrawal of Passports from Eritreans in foreign countries? Was it wise and useful to anyone? Only the dictator of Eritrea profited heavily from this, it was a boon, diverted to him directly from the Ethiopian State. It was a windfall and a good addition to his war coffers from the pockets of poor Eritreans who otherwise wouldn’t have contributed to his aggressive war were they not left open to the manipulation of the Eritrean dictatorship. This didn’t reflect the kind of relations existing between the two peoples of Eritrea and Ethiopia. A relation so close, blood relations and other interests which though existing with other neighbors of Eritrea, but are not politically expressible for historical reasons. Withdrawal of these passports besides its cruel nature was a direct hit at the social fiber uniting the peoples at the human level, not a clever move by any standard.
One can’t sense here, in the sorry expulsion of Eritreans from Ethiopia and the other miserable story of the blanket withdrawal of passports from Eritreans, except a break in reason and a net gain to the nihilist clique in Asmara. This was a service to that regime, a loss only to the miserable deportees, a loss to real Eritrea and real Ethiopia; it was also a free propaganda for the barbarous regime and a prop to his justification of setting the country on the route to endless war footing. These were only instances showing the grievances of the Eritrea and the way many of its sons see and feel. The general rule to extract from these lessons is not difficult to conclude.
Brave New world
Things have changed since then and perhaps it is better at this moment than it ever was but this is, yet, far shorter than enough to satisfy and represent the real interests of the peoples of Eritrea and Ethiopia and to the unity of Eritrea and Ethiopia. Unity in this context doesn’t denote to political unity, that particular unity is subject to rebuilding the human relations between both peoples for a long time):
Eritreans abandoning the regime in Asmara, officials or ordinary people fleeing should not be treated as Refugees and Camps; Eritreans should not be seen as refugees in Ethiopia, if Ethiopians who are now angry because of their belief that Eritreans have chosen cessation over union are truly angry for the right reasons and not merely giving up to the feeling of injured vanity. If in the past they fought what they think was a struggle for a sublime ideal such as unity, where they really, faithfully and truly fighting for it? If it is so, their loss of the war and the loss of Eritrea should not at all mean the death of the ideal. It only means that the ideal is higher than they have estimated it is in the rank of ideals. It also means that they, now, have to search in other ways and directions more suitable for achieving the same goals. Real Unity is an ideal of the highest order and value even to Eritreans, one shouldn’t forget!
The one hundred student seats reserved for Eritreans by the University of Addis Abeba though the enablers of this generous act have to be thanked for their thoughtfulness, this should not prevent us seeing that it is not reasonable to think that if what Ethiopians maintained for generations saying that the Eritrean peoples and the Ethiopian peoples are one and the same then this would look like a very tiny and small step in the right direction, it is in this respect a token but a small one even if for past claims alone. If the belief in Ethiopians, when they were fighting for Eritrea, was sincere that Eritrea is part of them isn’t it now the right time for them to prove, to themselves in the first place, that they were sincere in their belief? Or is it that the kind of belief they were holding is one which gets vanquished to the soul by a military failure? If that was the case, the whole episode must have been the most expensive adventure in the history of the peoples of Eritrea and Ethiopia. But one prefers not going that way. Eritreans in Ethiopia should not be treated like refugees as if they are in Egypt. Instead they should be treated the same way East Germans from behind the Berlin Wall were treated. West Germans on arrival to the west. Eritreans in Ethiopia should be treated the way North Koreans are treated in the South as southerners on arrival. If there was a real feeling of unity only twenty years ago, they couldn’t have dissolved in one generation. Unity of the feeling comes prior to and outlast political unity, if there was a real will for unity, that is. In fact if there was a feeling for unity, political unity is a matter of economic convenience and expediency, a matter for graphs and papers to deal with.
The guarantee for Eritrean Independence in the current situation is Ethiopia because it has an interest in that. In the other hand Eritrea would be a strong element in securing and guaranteeing Ethiopian safety and reinforcing it by becoming a bulwark and a buffer between it and Sudan which is effectively an Egyptian controlled State in the past, now and most probable in the future, a reminder to this fact is the visit last month of General Sudan’s defense minister to Egypt which as, some Sudanese sources claim, is a disguise for the signature of extra items in their defense pact. Think now, if that is true against whom this pact directed, is it against Libya, Saudi Arabia or future South Sudan? It is not of good use to Ethiopia having Eritrea as part of an Ethiopian union at this point of history, because, in that case, it may have to defend it against Egypt if the need arises or Sudan. disintegrates and the East was annexed to or allied to Egypt, but an Eritrea, democratic, independent and in the friendliest terms with Ethiopia is in the best interest of both Eritrea and Ethiopia for Eritrea to be as neutral and indifferent, say, as New Zealand is, in the matter of the Nile Basin countries crisis with Egypt, id of utmost interest to both Eritrea and Ethiopia, because this neutralizes a long stretch of the Sudanese border depriving it turning into a belligerent border some time in the future.
Today Ethiopia have a unique opportunity of proving a change of heart concerning the case of genuine unity and also of proving its will to take the driver’s seat for building, not only a real and meaningful platform, which would work towards genuine unity between Eritrea and Ethiopia but also between the whole of the area of the countries of the horn of Africa. If the dream of unity fails here be sure it will meet the same fate there. The case of Eritrea and Ethiopia is the litmus test for the realism of an even bigger idea.
Ethiopia as a state and people have a moral obligation towards the Eritrean peoples whose life was shattered and turned upside down because of Ethiopian arbitrary tampering with the fundamental political and social arrangement in Eritrea post Second World War. The Eritrean peoples are still living the fallout of that initial, illegal and unfair tampering. That was the mother of all the ills and tragedies that folded the Eritrean life since the late fifties of the twentieth century and until today. The role played by the United Nations into cheating Eritrea into its creation, federation, without guaranteeing its application and protection is not less than a conspiracy which Eritreans will never forget.
Ethiopia has also that same obligation for other reasons, obligations of less altruistic motives, though nonetheless as important. The formation of a just and genuine union between Ethiopia and Eritrea and the rest of the Horn of Africa is not only a preference; it is an inevitable requirement in the long run, if these countries hope to survive the rest of this century. The work for it should start now, and no one country is as qualified as Ethiopia to pursue this except Ethiopia.
The Eritrean dictator’s decision to openly ally himself with the Egyptian regime in the matter of the Nile water crisis between Egypt and Sudan on one side and the Nile riparian African States in the other, is not an Eritrean people’s decision, in this regard ordinary Eritrean’s guts relates to the Ethiopian feelings far more than to the Egyptian. No wonder here that the Egyptian soldier on the border practices his daily hunting skills without thinking about his victim, an expression of the with the Eritrean dictator in his war against his people.
Ethiopia has the moral obligation and the political motives, on top of its right to self-defense to interfere and openly help the Eritrean opposition parties working for democratic change in Eritrea, including training and material support. It is for the common interest of Eritrea and Ethiopia. Eritrea is not an external affair to Ethiopian politics even if policy makers there pretend otherwise. The same applies to Eritrean politics in normal and abnormal circumstances. Eritrea, regardless of pretensions and counter pretensions, is at the heart of internal affairs of Ethiopia as much as Ethiopia is at the heart of Eritrean Political dynamics. No one of them can live ignoring or contradicting the other. This will never change as it ever has been.
The stakes for Ethiopia in the success of Eritrean opposition forces in Eritrea deposing the dictator and his system of governance are much higher than the Egyptian stakes in keeping Eritrea Armed to the teeth creating mischief to Ethiopia, thus making it relocate much resources and energy of Ethiopia which otherwise would have been used in developing and transforming the country. No need here to remind how lethal this cocktail is for Eritrea.
For this and many other reasons, a fresh way of seeing at things is called for, both in the Ethiopian State’s politics and the Eritrean Opposition camp. It is time for Ethiopia to project its influence and contribute on the shaping of future Eritrea to the good of the two nations. This is a more legitimate activity, much more than the Egyptian efforts to reinforce and keep the hold of the dictator on Eritrea. If there are Eritreans who still suffer sensitivity about Ethiopian interference in Eritrean affairs, then these have to accustom themselves and learn that Eritrean Dictatorship can not be deposed without the direct help of Ethiopia. The Dictator and his party have no qualm in bringing in the Israelis, the Egyptians, the Iranians and the Qateris to fortify their position and strengthen his grip, how is it, then, profane for Eritreans to join hands with Ethiopia, most natural ally of Eritrea?