[Editor's note: we received a clarification from Semere. Comments are now reactivated. We will explain the issue soon.]
There’s no nice way to say this. The anti EPLF/PFDJ opposition that was led by the Ghedli generation for over three decades is laying on its deathbed waiting the inevitable. And there is nothing that could save it. Yep, the Ghedli generation opposition leaders who are trashing the PFDJ regime for not transferring power – have failed themselves to transfer power to the young generation; they have failed to earn the trust and respect of the Eritrean people; they have failed to articulate their message and lead the fight against PFDJ; or simply they have failed in every category. The Ghedli generation opposition leaders have failed so bad Isaias, his ministers, his Generals, his Colonels, his spy and security agents could leave the country, and all “his conscripted army and militias” could call it a quits and go home, and still no opposition would show-up at the doorsteps of the State Palace to govern. That’s how bad they are.
And what does that mean? That means, for the next decade or two, Eritrea would be governed by some kind of PFDJ derivative brand. That means, the Post-Ghedli generation (under forty), has to go back to the drawing board and learn all by themselves, how to be a civilized opposition in the Eritrean political arena. And that would lead us to the obvious question: where did the Ghedli generation opposition leaders go wrong? Well, hindsight being 20/20, there are many mistakes and missteps one could point-out; but the biggest mistake that finished off the Ghedli generation opposition business is their dishonest political position towards the 1998 Ethio-Eritrean border war. Let me explain:
During the 1998 war, while young Eritreans were losing lives and limbs to defend their people and their country, the Ghedli generation opposition leaders were perfectly comfy sitting on the lap of the invading Ethiopian army. And what was their justification to be on the side of the invading army? Well, according to them, siding with the invading army was justified because ‘the war was ignited by Isaias Afewerki’. Based on that dishonest justification, they coordinated their propaganda campaign with the Woyanes, and headed North riding on the back of Ethiopian tanks. When the invading Ethiopian army pushed the Eritrean defense forces, the Eritrean opposition were on the “liberated” areas “helping” their people. At least that was what they told the world. But in reality, the drooling opposition, were on the war theatre for one and only one reason: to stay in close proximity to the throne – betting that the invading Ethiopian army was to march all the way to Asmara to put them in power.
And that memorable ride on the back of Ethiopian tanks followed by → their silence/cheering during repeated Ethiopian incursion on sovereign Eritrean territories, their apologetic tone towards Ethiopian occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories, and their dishonest political positions that were/are synchronized with Addis policies, are the grave missteps that tarnished the Ghedli generation opposition brand and the fatal blow to the head, that eventually left their opposition business in a persistent vegetative state. To be very precise: these are the Eritrean opposition dishonest political positions (which actually are an extension of Addis policies):
Dishonest Political position #1. The Eritrean opposition lobbied, volunteered their service and did everything in their power to put in place the most severe economic sanction possible – yes, including putting Eritrea on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. When the sanction did exactly what was intended to do: hurt the economy and the people (shortage of medicine, food, gasoline and other basic commodities + intermittent utility supplies and services: water, phone, electricity….) they told the Eritrean people, it is the incompetent PFDJ leadership and its failed economic policy we all should blame – exactly like their handlers in Addis.
Dishonest Political position #2. They lobbied, volunteered their service and did everything in their power to deny Eritrea the right to purchase arms to defend itself. When the sanction did exactly what was intended to do (weaken Eritrea’s defense capability) they told the Eritrean people, it is the incompetent PFDJ Generals and their incompetent conscripted army we all should blame for failing to defend the Nation – exactly like their handlers in Addis.
Dishonest Political Position #3. They lobbied, volunteered their service and did everything in their power – Ethiopia to invade Eritrea in order to topple the PFDJ regime. With Western affirmative nod, Woyane leaders declared regime change policy to put a puppet government in Asmara. To achieve their regime change objective – they waged intensive diplomatic offensive at IGAD AU and UN to isolate Eritrea; they adopted a ‘no war no peace’ policy to tank the Eritrean economy; and they lined-up 300 thousand strong army to stretch thin and break the Eritrean border defense lines on the 900 km Ethio-Eritrean border. To give credit where credit is due – PFDJ leaders rose to the occasion, stood their ground, called every able Eritrean citizen for duty, fought every hurdle inside and outside Eritrea, and finally, they foiled Woyane’s regime change adventure. They told the Woyanes in no uncertain terms – it is Eritreans not the Woyane led government that decides who should/shouldn’t govern Eritrea. Yes, for a decade and half and still counting, not only the PFDJ government has defended man-to-man the 900 km Ethio-Eritrean border stretch, but also the 700 km borders along the Sudan and Djibouti, and the 2,300 km Islands (354) and coastal territories of Eritrea. And what are the Eritrean opposition calling, the call for duty and the obligation of every able Eritrean citizen to serve his/her country? “National service is slavery; Sawa is a slave camp; National service is inhumane illegal and criminal; National service is forced labor; National service is cruel punishment, National service must stop; Eritrea doesn’t need large army….” – exactly like their handlers in Addis.
Dishonest Political position #4. They lobbied, volunteered their service and did everything in their power to empty the Nation of its young – by encouraging the young to drop their arms, abandon their construction projects, leave behind their love ones, and runaway from the “Hell on Earth Nation” they are living in. Then the young started trekking North by paying human traffickers, some as much as sixty thousand US dollars (Ransom at Sinai) (Courtesy Asmarino.com Sat – April 07, 2012). When the young started to suffer and die during their exodus to reach the “Land of Milk and Honey”, the Eritrean opposition told the Eritrean people, it is the PFDJ regime we all should blame for the exodus, death and suffering of our young. Yep – not the Western countries that are rewarding those who fled the country with permanent residence and citizenship; not the hostile policy of the Tigrean/Amara hardliners that is forcing our young to endure harsh trench life; not the Eritrean opposition that are sensationalizing the tragic death of those who didn’t make it while applauding as Heroes and Celebrities those who made it to “safety”; not the TV/Radio/Internet/Newspaper giants and personalities that are blasting the air and cyber waves to encourage our young to leave their country; not the Bedouin smugglers who are torturing and killing our young; not the family members who are financing their trip; not the young who made conscious decision and planning to take the risky-journey hoping to secure residence in the West; but the PFDJ regime – exactly like their handlers in Addis.
Now ask yourself: if the Eritrean opposition, are proud of their contribution to the sanction and isolation of the PFDJ regime (Eritrea) and if the Eritrean opposition are proud to support Ethiopia’s ‘no-war-no-peace’ policy (which they are), then, why are they blaming the PFDJ regime for the effects of the policies they proudly support? Isn’t the objective of sanction blockade and isolation to make people’s life miserable until they raise-up and overthrow their government – or until their government yields to the demands of foreign powers? Isn’t that exactly what the Tigrean/Amara hardliners are telling us every single day – No matter who you have as your leaders (PFDJ or Opposition), if you don’t yield to our demands (access to the Red Sea), we are going to make your life a living hell? Don’t we all know very well – ‘let’s talk about border demarcation’ is a code word for ‘let’s talk about Ethiopia’s right of access to the Red Sea? Now, knowing full well what the Tigrean/Amara hardliners are after, what are, the Eritrean opposition, willing to give Ethiopia that the PFDJ regime wouldn’t?
Is the opposition method of fighting the PFDJ regime justified? Are we supposed to be inspired by the Iraqi/Afghani/Libyan/Syrian/South Sudan types of opposition: sectarian and tools of foreign interests? Looking to the future – is this how a civilized Eritrean opposition ought to fight a ruling party? If the Eritrean opposition were to win and govern Eritrea tomorrow, what would they say to the Eritrean people, if the PFDJ supporters were to align their policy with foreign interests and fight them, the exact same way they are fighting the PFDJ regime today? Trust me – the answer is very obvious: the opposition leaders would say and do the exact same thing the PFDJ regime has been doing and saying for the last decade and half. How do I know? I know for certain, because we’ve been down that road before. Let me explain the hypocrisy:
The Eritrean opposition misguided political positions, especially their position vis-à-vis the 1998 Ethio-Eritrean border war, is not an honest judgment mistake. It is a deliberate political move blinded by grudge and resentment. The top echelon of the Eritrean opposition who were riding on the back of Ethiopian tanks, are not some amateur politicians. They are seasoned politicians who could mentor me, you and more. They are not strangers to the intentions of Woyane; and they are not new to the Badme border conflict. They themselves were on the receiving end of Woyane’s evil brunt while EPLF leaders were having cigar with the Woyanes during their honeymoon. They just made a deliberate choice to sleep with the Woyanes simply because they loved power more than they loved their country and their people.
Again, most of the Woyane toadies (spare the Neo-Unionists) who are telling us today that the 1998 border war was ignited by Isaias Afewerki to flatter their Woyane bosses, are the same leaders/cadres who were sending me and my Tegadelti comrades to harm’s way to do the right thing: protect thousands of Eritrean citizens at the same contested areas (Badme areas) from the harassment, imprisonment, confiscation of properties, eviction and killings of innocent Eritrean citizens by the same Woyane leaders. These are the same leaders who were bitter at Isaias and co. for playing politics with the lives of innocent Eritreans and sovereign Eritrean territories. Now – since it was wrong for EPLF leaders to play politics with sovereign Eritrean territories then, since it was wrong for EPLF leaders to play politics with the lives of thousands of Eritrean citizens then, since it was wrong for EPLF leaders to invite the Woyanes into Eritrean internal conflict then, you would think the current opposition leaders (former ELF leaders and cadres) would have some decency to refrain from repeating the exact same mistakes EPLF leaders did in the early 1980s.
But guess what, the minute Woyane leaders flexed their muscle and pointed their gun at the PFDJ regime, all of a sudden, they all became changed men. In an instant, they dropped their principled position, wiped their tears, forgot all about their pain resentment and humiliating defeat, and made their pilgrimage to Addis in a hope to heal (restore) their wounded ego. And when they landed in Addis – to show (express) their submission, their obedience, and their affection to the Woyanes in no uncertain terms – they averted their eyes, tucked their tail tight, raised their haunch high, dipped their head low, and started licking Woyane boots, all in solicitation for power. And we all know what happened next: they headed North riding on the back of Ethiopian tanks, belching their offensive and noxious fumes in the face of the Eritrean people, all from the excess Kitfo and Teg they consumed in Addis and Mekele.
And just for the curious mind – what was Woyane’s justification to side with EPLF, to defeat and humiliate ELF in the early 1980s? Well, their justification was “we are not against Eritrea or the Eritrean people; we are against the incompetent ELF leaders”. And what is Woyane’s justification to humiliate, starve, bleed, conspire against, and occupy sovereign Eritrean lands today? Yes again, “we are not against Eritrea or the Eritrean people; we are against the incompetent PFDJ leaders”. And the Ghedli generation opposition leaders are cheering and dancing with passion to that recycled old Woyane-tune with no shame. What a pity!
Listen: politicking and hypocrisy aside, had the Eritrean opposition leaders been in the position of the PFDJ regime in May 1998, they would have done the exact same thing PFDJ leaders did – probably a lot earlier (considering ELF-Woyane relation and the ethno-religious make-up of the two). If you want to know the truth, which I believe you do – it was never Isaias/PFDJ stupidity that got us into the 1998 border war, but the reality of a perfect political storm that was created by the vengeful Amara hardliners unbridled lust for revenge, and the conniving Woyane leaders political calculus to dominate and govern Ethiopia at the expense of the two people.
Again, no matter how you slice it and no matter from which angle you look at it, it will never be the removal of Isaias Afewerki or defeating the PFDJ regime that would solve the Ethio-Eritrean problem; because the problem has nothing to do with Isaias or the PFDJ regime. It has everything to do with – Western Powers’ desire – Ethiopia to play leadership role in the Red Sea Horn Region and Ethiopia’s desire to have access to the Red Sea to help Western Powers and help itself. And that problem is as old as Eritrea itself and it will remain as such for as long Ethiopia remains landlocked country. Therefore, at any given time, we may not know what kind of hostile policy Addis regimes would be cooking against Eritrea; but we know for sure, we will always need carefully crafted diplomacy that is flexible with time, and strong defense capability that’s ready at a moment’s notice. Strong defense: to protect what is rightly ours in a ghetto neighborhood – carefully crafted diplomacy: to manage to live in a relative peace between two killer jaws. And that is the Eritrean reality the opposition failed to understand.
Deki-Ere, when it comes to the 1998 Ethio-Eritrean border war:
- A. Isaias ignited the 1998 border war is bogus argument that doesn’t pass a simple stress test.
- B. Even if we assume Isaias/PFDJ leaders were wrong in every decision they made after May 05, 1998 – still, their response was right; because the 1998 war was nothing but a defensive war intended to protect Eritrea and Eritreans.
- C. Today, to the Tigrean/Amara hardliners, humiliating, defeating and dismantling PFDJ has become an obsession. But make no mistake, they will never, never, never.… find a friend like Isaias and an ally like the PFDJ regime on the Eritrean side for a long, long, long… time to come.
- D. The 1998 Ethio-Eritrean border war was planned, instigated and declared by the Tigrean hardliners. The motive: grudge, territorial expansion, and most of all to secure legitimacy to govern Ethiopia.
- E. The Ethio-Eritrean border commission (EEBC) was never a legal entity in search of finding the truth (if there is any) but a political body delegated to find a pragmatic political solution to the Ethio-Eritrean border conflict.
- F. The West sided with Ethiopia in the 1998 Ethio-Eritrean conflict, not because PFDJ Eritrea was wrong and Woyane’s Ethiopia was right, but because:
(a) Western interest was better served by siding with Ethiopia
(b) Allowing Ethiopia to prevail was the most pragmatic way to end the war.
And making a compelling case argument for the above statements and more is the arguments of this article (PI). Let’s roll:
‘The 1998 border war was ignited by Isaias’, is bogus argument
Nowadays, there are many people who would have us believe that the 1998 Ethio-Eritrean border war was ignited by Isaias Afewerki. In fact some have even the audacity to claim, that they could challenge anyone who dared to argue otherwise. Well, just for now, let me make partial rebuttal to the “Isaias Afewerki started the war” argument. They claim Isaias Afewerki singlehandedly ignited the 1998 border war. Fair enough; but – what is the roll of an individual leader in a given society – the roll of Isaias Afewerki in Eritrean politics and in the 1998 Ethio-Eritrean border war to be exact? Is it: (a) Decisive role or (b) Important role but not decisive
A. Decisive Role: If you believe Isaias opinion is the only opinion that matters; if you believe Eritrean politics is a one man show that is run by arbitrary impulse of a one man (Isaias), then you have to explain the cognitive ability of the people you are insulting. You have to explain the intelligence of the people who supported the Eritrean government during the 1998 border war. You have to explain the cognitive ability of thousands PFDJ sympathizers and die-hard supporters all over the globe. I’ve heard people calling the PFDJ die-hard supporters – Komaros, goons, dummies, zombies, illiterate, lowlife souls…. If that is your line of argument, make your case. The burden to proof falls on you, to prove that you are in fact mentally superior to them. You have to explain the attributes and qualities that made you a thinking person who can distinguish right from wrong, while the PFDJ “dummies” lack that ability. And you won’t do that for one simple reason; because you’re dead wrong.
Let me be very blunt: Isaias is the villain, Isaias started the 1998 war, Isaias must go…. type arguments are arguments that don’t add any value to our national debate. Changing an individual leader doesn’t change anything. Blaming Isaias, the top 200, the top 2000 or the top 20,000 PFDJ leaders for all Eritrean ills is not a winning argument. Individual leaders are mirror images of their base; and everything they do/don’t do is shaped and influenced by their community. Individual leaders lead by spearheading the passion and aspiration of their constituency; PFDJ constituency in this case. And PFDJ is a political doctrine. PFDJ is a political doctrine that has evolved over the past five decades (before Nehnan Elamanan), and without a doubt Isaias has been one of its main architects. But the doctrine is neither dependent on the fate of Isaias nor is created by him. Isaias Afewerki never started a movement or ignited a fire; he was just instrumental in turning an existing flickering spark into a giant raging fire. Now tell me, to solve the problem, do you study the raging fire or the cause of the spark that created the raging fire?
Don’t blame Isaias Afewerki and his top men for all Eritrean ills, is not a political gimmick intended to defend Isaias and his top men. It is a smart, mature, and timely political argument that would revolutionize the way we see things and the way we run our political business. Isaias and his top men are ailing and frail men at their eleventh hour nearing the inevitable. But our colorful opinions, our attitude towards each other, and the issues that divide us will never, never, never…. be affected by their fate. Therefore, Eritrea is governed by the whim of one man; we have to rid Isaias to free our people…..type arguments, are arguments that don’t add any value to our national debate. Instead, these are arguments that inadvertently send wrong impression and false hope: Isaias is our problem and removing Isaias is the solution to our problem.
I hate tangential arguments, but the only people who put greater emphasis on the role/removal of an individual leader are foreign interests; because foreign governments don’t give a damn about the complex internal political-dynamics of a given nation. All they care is about their interest. And their interest could be protected by simply removing a single leader that is hostile to their interest, with a corrupted one who is willing to destabilize his/her country to serve their interests. And to that end, the Ethiopian intelligence and security agents are busy recruiting and pampering the – “we are one Habesha one destiny and Ghedli is the source of all our miseries” type Neo-Unionists – and the “we have to appease Ethiopia to live in peace” type dead souls – in order to secure favorable concession from Eritrea: Access to the Red Sea. And by the same token, to secure their national interest and to promote their regional agendas, Western Powers have added on their payroll different brands of one-man/woman political entrepreneurs (“human rights advocates, faith-based charities, Journalists, TV/Radio/Internet warriors…”) that trash the PFDJ regime as their daily business to earn a living. And I admit, even though they are not attracting much of an Eritrean crowd, they sure are doing a hell of a job injecting our prescribed daily dose through our IVs for maximum effect.
In contrast, if we look at the Eritrean opposition who should count the most (the Islamic and ethnic organizations), they don’t see Isaias with the same prism foreign interests do. To the Eritrean ethnic and Islamic organizations, defeating Isaias the one-man doesn’t serve any purpose to their ultimate objective; because defeating Isaias is not their ultimate goal; defeating the Tigrigna clan and reversing the “Tigrignanization project” is. As far as they are concerned, the difference between Isaias and any leader from his clan is just the mustache (Al-Sheneb). That’s why they are not in a mood to talk about reform. That’s why they have made their central objective to defeat the PFDJ regime, to uproot the whole PFDJ infrastructure, and to outlaw PFDJ members from practicing politics – all through the barrel of a gun. And if you care to know, they have operational name for their mission: radical change. Now tell me, what value does it add to our National Debate, the – “Eritrea is suffering because of a one-man (Isaias) dictatorship”, “to save Eritrea Isaias must go” type arguments? None, none whatsoever; but for sure, until they reach the fork in the road – the Islamists, the Christian Fundamentalists, the ethnic warriors, the Neo-Unionists, the foreign interests and the political entrepreneurs are all using the same megaphone to vilify the PFDJ regime. And they sure are louder than hell.
B. Important Role, Not Decisive: If you believe Isaias is just a charismatic leader of his base, like I do, then you are acknowledging that the problem is more than a one man problem and the solution is a whole lot more complex than removing the top man (Isaias). Since Isaias is a charismatic leader of a sizable constituency then his views and decisions are shared by many Eritreans. Therefore, the Eritrean opposition may not agree with the Isaias constituency, may not respect their opinions, may not like them, may hope wish prey and dream to marginalize them, but it is utterly foolish to fathom a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Eritrea without them.
Like it or not, PFDJ is a force to be reckoned with. It is too big, too important and too powerful to be ignored. The political significance and the political strength of the Eritrean opposition, is predicated on their political position towards the future of the PFDJ crowd. Having a platform that would defeat, dismantle and outlaw the whole PFDJ infrastructure is neither a winning strategy nor an intelligent way to govern a nation. To any pragmatic person, the – ‘we are going to defeat PFDJ by the barrel of a gun and we are going to weed out every PFDJ bigot….’ – type bravado could only be explained as an empty political rhetoric intended to attract the attention of a narrowly targeted constituency during desperate times; nothing more, nothing less.
Let’s face it: no matter what the Eritrean opposition thinks of the whole PFDJ thing, for million reasons, change is going to come only from inside Eritrea. And the Eritrean opposition leaders don’t have an iota of influence to engineer or shape the outcome of it. If the Diaspora based Eritrean opposition, are going have any role in Post-Isaias-Eritrea, it is going to be at the timing and at the goodwill of the Post Isaias PFDJ brand government. If that is the Eritrean political reality, then, what is the wisdom of talking tough (violent change) when in fact, your both hands are tied behind your back? Or simply, how could you defeat the PFDJ regime militarily to have it your way, when you don’t have the military might to get the job done? You just can’t. Of course there are those who would beg to differ, especially those who pray every single day facing South; but their prayer doesn’t have any buyer. Let me tell you why:
Praying Facing South Is A Futile Quest To Bring Change
I know there are many people who would love to argue – violent regime change with active involvement of Ethiopia is still viable. And it sure is possible; but not probable. When it comes to violent regime change in Eritrea – the West doesn’t have any appetite for it, Ethiopia is incapable of successful regime change, and the Eritrean opposition organizations that advocate violent regime change are all stationed in Ethiopia. That is a fact. Now let’s make logical deduction from there. Knowing full well the desired end-result of the host and its financiers, we can say with absolute certainty, neither the Qyada Al-TewaEf who want to establish Hkuma Fedarelia nor the UmeraA Al-MuEminin who intends to establish Al-Dewla Al-Islamia that would AhKm Bil-Qannun SherEya are going to pop-up through Adwa, Tserona, Zalambessa – to defeat the PFDJ regime, impose their will, and govern their way. So, if the presumed Ahmed Chalabi is not from the Qyada Al-TewaEf or from the UmeraA Al-MuEmineen, then, where is this Southern poster-child going to hail from? Well, where else but from the Al-EtHadeeYun.
Now, if we accept the above premise to be valid premise, then we can conclude with certainty, any wind of Violent Regime Change that blows from the South is a change that doesn’t have any good choices but all awful; because for all intents and purposes any violent regime change that is engineered, directed, and overtly executed by Addis policymakers could only accomplish one and only one thing: empower the Neo-Unionists by destabilizing Eritrea. And the last thing we (Eritreans) want on our plate is Ethiopian boots on Eritrean ground with a mission to “liberate” us by empowering the Neo-Unionists. That’s why succumbing to Addis policymakers pressure threats and promises have proven to be the kiss of death for any Eritrean political opposition. And the Eritrean people have very good reason to be uneasy about Addis groomed political leaders. As the age-old saying goes “once bitten twice shy” would be a good way to put it.
Therefore, to spare ourselves from being “liberated” by Ethiopia, the prudent thing to do (to achieve regime change) would be to explore every possible option at our disposal – as long it doesn’t invite Ethiopian boots on Eritrean ground. And if we zoom-out our lens and look carefully at the colorful Eritrean political landscape from afar, we can clearly see all the numeric coordinates of our linear politics (violent, non-violent, PFDJ and all in between) – all in just one single flat plane. Sweet. Now, if we plot all the numeric coordinates and connect all the dots of every linear political formula in the Nation, we can see with clarity a single intersection (common thread) where all our linear politics cross (meet) the PFDJ regime straight line.
And that single intersection of our linear politics: the weary eyes that never stop staring the dark clouds on our Southern horizon, is the anchor-rope in our hearts that keeps pulling us towards the PFDJ regime, whenever Ethiopia roars from the south. That’s why, when the great majority of Eritreans (silent/non-silent, PFDJ/Non-PFDJ) shout for change, they also cry change to come only from inside Eritrea. Yep, no matter how imperfect the presumed change, no matter how long it takes, the great majority of Eritreans want change to come only from inside Eritrea. Not all out of love for Isaias Afewerki, not all out of love for PFDJ and its pillars, but all out of concern for Eritrea’s stability and all out of fear of relapsing back to the iron claws of our giant Southern neighbor – yes with the help of its Western allies again. Well, the concern of the “silent majority” seems valid; doesn’t it? Yes indeed, yes indeed!
But honestly it is not all that simple. To view everything through the prism of ‘fear of Ethiopia’ to the complex Ethio-Eritrean problem is a very simplistic and distorted way of looking at the whole Ethio-Eritrean problem. To be frank, the great majority of Eritreans don’t have any fear or hatred towards Ethiopians. The great majority of Eritreans are not against strong relation with Ethiopia. The fear is still there but “fear of Ethiopia (Addis regimes)” is not the only challenge to the Ethio-Eritrean problem. In fact trying to line-up the interest of all (Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Western) stakeholders is as daunting challenge as building trust between the two people and the two governments. Asmara and Addis policymakers could have a perfect agreement that could serve the best interest of both nations and still the agreement could be killed by anyone of the stakeholders. Let me explain the complexity of the problem just to prove a point:
Just for the sake of argument, let’s say an Eritrean delegation led by Isaias Afewerki went to Addis to hammer-out a deal with the EPRDF government. And let’s say after a marathon of meetings, they made breakthrough on their negotiation and said – ‘from now on there won’t be any hostility between Eritrea and Ethiopia; Ethiopia will have full access to Eritrean ports; the border issue is irrelevant; both Nations will use a single currency and single monetary policy; both nations will have integrated economy; people goods services and capital will flow freely between the two nations; all military security and intelligence missions would be coordinated and executed by a unified central command.…’. Now, in this hypothetical scenario, what would the reaction of every stakeholder, on both sides of the Mereb River and beyond be? Well:
- The Woyane “hating”, “demarcation loving” diehard PFDJ crowd would say – ‘it is time to mend fences and move on’. And in less than twenty four hours, they would be claiming victory and dancing in every town across the globe. No surprise there.
- The Eritrean Non-PFDJ ‘Silent Majority’ that claims to be – infuriated by Ethiopia’s refusal to demarcate the border and terrified by Ethiopia’s “evil intent”, would rally behind the PFDJ regime and join the party in no time – if any with a grain of salt. Shocking? I think not.
- The Eritrean ethnic and Islamic organizations (spare the Kunamas) would say “Hell No” – and would flee from Ethiopia in an instant (and we all know where). Reason: irrespective of its content, any agreement reached with Ethiopia by PFDJ or any agreement that would extend PFDJ’s life – is null and void. That is a no brainer.
- Western Powers would say – ‘simply brilliant; new breed of African leaders; today you’ve proved to your people and to the whole world that you are courageous, democratic and visionary leaders – now go get the Islamic fundamentalists….’ But of course with a caveat: Isaias must go. And if the West is not on board, everything is dead. And you can bet your last penny on that.
- The Amara hardliners would fully support the agreement if and only if other than the Tigreans are at the helm – meaning them. But if the two “Tigrewoch” are at the helm, then the agreement is dead on arrival. And you can take that to the bank.
- The Tigrean hardliners would fully support the agreement if and only if they are threatened from their south. Always remember - the cunning Tigrean hardliners would say የሕዋት ኢና(we’re brothers) if and only if (a) power is slipping away from them (b) their Killil (region) and their economic livelihood is threatened by their Southern rivals; which is around the corner. A……men.
- The rest (2/3) of the Ethiopian population don’t count. Tough life, but that is how business is done down under. No need to sugarcoat there.
Let me clarify two points: a) Western Powers love everything Isaias does; but in all likelihood, they are not going let him survive; not because he wouldn’t serve them well, but to send a clear message to other African “psychopaths, madmen, dictators, tyrants…” – the consequence of getting on the wrong side of the West. Again, the West is not interested in doing business with Isaias; the West is interested in doing business with someone exactly like Isaias. b) Any meaningful Ethio-Eritrean agreement that brings the two people closer could only be possible if and only if real power is shifted south of the Tigray Killil (Region) or in practical terms if and only if the Amaras are at the helm (or the Oromos????..). Any genuine political formula for peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia is inversely related to the distance between Asmara and the dominant ethnic in Addis. Anything else is just a waste of time. Make no mistake: we are where we are, because, the vengeful Amara hardliners are not ready to make peace with Eritrea and the cunning Tigrean hardliners can’t deliver peace even if they want to. And that is the stone cold truth. Now you know the players, the stakes and how any stakeholder could derail any Ethio-Eritrean forward progress. And all are self explanatory statements – except one:
Why Does The Eritrean Silent Majority Always Side With The Isaias Regime?
And the answer is very simple: the Eritrean ‘silent majority’, are very sober very wise and very pragmatic people. Their support for Isaias has nothing to do with worshiping him, seeing him as their demigod, or lack of understanding his mistakes and misdeeds. They know Isaias is an ordinary man who has his share of mistakes. But still they support him because they are rational people; and rational people justify regime change only after they quantify cost benefit analysis. They are rallying behind the Isaias/PFDJ regime because the alternative to Isaias/PFDJ is the dead-end parochial politics of the Eritrean opposition or even worse – entrusting Eritrean sovereignty to the Ghedli-denigrating Neo-Unionists. Therefore, since all the Eritrean opposition could offer to the Eritrean people is either Parochial or Unionist politics, the Eritrean people are left with no other choice but to remain with the better alternative: PFDJ. Because, embracing the 1940s and early 1950s toxic politics is nothing but a threat to our National Security, an obstacle to our unity and an impediment to our forward progress.
Just to prove how detrimental the Eritrean opposition politics is to the very existence of Eritrea, let’s forget for a moment all Eritrea’s challenging issues (land, political Islam, ethnic politics, refugees, equitable distribution of power, language…) and stay laser focused on one single issue: the Ethio-Eritrean political conundrum. To show how wrong the Eritrean opposition political position is, and to solve the Ethio-Eritrean problem, well, let’s first identify the real cause of the problem. And for those who want to know the real cause of the problem or for those who want to challenge this writer – this is the crux of the Ethio-Eritrean problem.
The current Ethio-Eritrean problem doesn’t start and end with Isaias, PFDJ, or Ethiopia. It starts and ends with the West (US). Eritrea’s current problem is not internal governing problem. It is regional policy problem. Anyone who thinks, the West is against the PFDJ regime because PFDJ is mistreating its citizens (lack of democracy) is either extremely naïve, stupid, paid agent or is someone with hidden agenda. Please, don’t consider yourself more worthy than you really are. Western Powers are not in the business of spreading democracy to your African neighborhoods. Western powers don’t give a damn how an African government is governing (treating) its citizens. Western powers wouldn’t care if an African government kills half of its population with machetes in one week. But they would have a problem if their national interest or the regional policy they designed to serve their national interest is threatened. It is that simple. Don’t get me wrong; Isaias/PFDJ has never been Anti-West; is not now; and will never be. The West is reprimanding Isaias/PFDJ for one simple reason: out of frustration, Isaias/PFDJ refused to follow the script. Yes, for the same damn game, and for the same damn rules, Isaias/PFDJ wanted to play with the wrong team at the wrong stage. That’s what got him in trouble with the stage manager that is coordinating the whole aspects of the theater. That’s what got him at odds with the lead actor and its teammates that are sweating and bleeding day-in and day-out doing their part – per the written script. And the lead-actor on the performing stage is none other than the PFDJ arch-enemy, the region’s thorn in the flesh, the darling of the West: Ethiopia. Now what does that mean?
That means the solution to our current predicament is entangled with how we play with Addis policymakers on Regional issues – again not on how we govern ourselves. And there is no detour on this route. Western Powers are not going stop outsourcing their regional projects to the likes of Ethiopia; because it is cheaper and less obvious (will give African face to their intervention). And the Aid addicted Tigrean/Amara hardliners are not going to stop terrorizing their people and their neighboring countries; because in their Aid addicted rotten mind, the fastest way to economic growth and prosperity is, to get high with Western Aid money. That’s why they are causing mayhem and destruction on the whole Horn Region – every time they smell bacon. But that is unsustainable. True, with or without Ethiopia, the West will be fine; but if the current status quo continues, Eritrea and Ethiopia would eventually be destabilized. Let me explain:
For Eritrea it won’t be Ethiopian’s ‘no-war-no-peace’ policy (because no-war-no-peace policy punishes landlocked Ethiopia more than it does to Eritrea) or the economic hardship from sanction that would break its back. It is the unbalanced and unsustainable exodus of its young that would destabilize it; and probably even make it a failed state. Meaning, if the current trend continues for a decade or more, the Eritrean ethno-religious demography would be altered in a big way. As a result, Eritrean Muslims will have a commanding majority in the Nation. To reflect the reality on the ground, the underrepresented Muslim majority will rise-up demanding their fare share of power (and rightly so). And at that point, if ethnic Tigrignas refuse to accept change, misread/miscalculate the tide of change, or feel threatened by the tide of change – they will react with violence to the Muslim uprising and that would lead into a disastrous civil war. I hope I’m wrong, but if the Eritrean ethno-religious demography is altered in a big way, neither the current opposition-brand line of thinking nor the current PFDJ-brand style of governing, is capable of walking Eritrea through smooth transition to reflect the new reality on the ground. Therefore, if the Eritrean government fails to reform itself and change direction soon, and if the Eritrean opposition fails to reject the politics of Islam and the politics of zero-sum game, then Eritrea would definitely go through the experience of ELF 1975 – 1977 and would eventually end-up with the experience of ELF 1980 – 1981 (Ethiopia siding with the obvious faction). And if that happens, we all (Eritreans and Ethiopians) will end-up being losers.
For Ethiopia, it won’t be the lack of love from Western powers that would destabilize it. It would be the never-ending war and hatred towards its neighbors and the three million plus (on average) new blood that would be added to its workforce every single year in a sluggish economy that would destabilize it. Sluggish economy because Ethiopia can’t be at war with itself and its neighbors, and still enjoy vibrant economic growth all at the same time. Mind you: it won’t be Foreign Aid; it won’t be subcontracting Western projects; it won’t be constant conflicts and hostilities with neighboring countries – but peaceful cooperation and cross border trading with every country in the Red Sea Horn Region that would make landlocked Ethiopia an African Economic Tiger. And doing business with Eritrea is the easiest of them all. Landlocked Ethiopia is not going to achieve economic miracle leaving the whole Horn Region behind. At best landlocked Ethiopia could only be as prosperous as its neighbors, as peaceful as its neighbors, and as stable as its neighbors. And that’s not all: Ethiopia that doesn’t have access to the Sea, Ethiopia that doesn’t have strong allies in the region, Ethiopia that is surrounded by a raging fire, Ethiopia that is struggling to get by; Ethiopia that is dependent on Foreign Aid…..is worthless to the West. The implication: well, Eritrea and Ethiopia have to talk. Eritrea and Ethiopia have to make policy adjustments. Eritrea and Ethiopia have to establish close relation that’s based on mutual respect. And the sooner the policymakers of both nations understand this, the better for both nations and for the whole Horn region.
And to the Eritrean silent majority, that is where the Isaias factor comes more than ever. To understand the Isaias factor, let’s think about our fears and let’s contemplate the inevitable: Tango dancing with Ethiopia with close body contact and hands wrapped around each other’s waist. Well, we all love to have good relation with Ethiopia, but this time around we all want to make it right. And to make it right, our policy adjustment must be a policy that benefits our people economically; and it must be a policy that doesn’t compromise our sovereignty, our territorial integrity and our national security. Therefore, when we negotiate with Ethiopia, as a small/weaker nation (compared to Ethiopia and its allies), we would be better served as a Nation and as a people at least, at least, at least….if we fulfilled the following three basic criteria.
- It is in the best interest of every Eritrean, when our government negotiates peace with Ethiopia while having united people, a stable country, a vibrant national economy and a strong defense capability.
- It is in the best interest of every Eritrean, when all agreements reached with Ethiopia are – fully documented, transparent, approved by the great majority of Eritrean Muslims, and signed in front of guarantors and independent witnesses.
- It is in the best interest of every Eritrean, when all agreements reached with Ethiopia, are agreements – that don’t allow Ethiopian troops on Eritrean territory; are time sensitive; (must have starting and ending (renewal) date); are reversible and achievable.
And that is where it gets tricky: Forget while weak and divided, even when united and strong, always the odds are stacked against small/weak nations when they try to achieve meaningful agreements with bigger nations. Small nations, even if they do everything by the book, still, signing an agreement (new) that serves the best interest of their people or reversing an existing agreement that doesn’t serve the interest of their people is always an uphill battle. And there is another cruel reality. Small/weak nations, not only, are pressured to make damning concessions during negotiations, but also, even if they want to implement the agreed-upon (stipulated obligations) signed-agreements, they are always left-out in the cold by the supposedly witness and guarantor nations. Case in point: Ethio-Eritrean federation and Ethio-Eritrean border agreement. Therefore, this time around, when we negotiate with Ethiopia, we have to do it once and we’ve to get it right the first time; because we can’t afford to repeat our past mistakes. And if history is a guide, honoring agreements is not the Tigrean/Amara hardliners strong suit.
That’s why we say, it is imperative Eritrea to have a strong defense capability; that’s why we say our borders must be clearly delineated and demarcated with all our neighbors. That’s why we say we shouldn’t give any excuse for any foreign troops to be in sovereign Eritrean territories. For instance, if a corrupted Eritrean regime signs an agreement to have Ethiopian troops on sovereign Eritrean territory for a period of ten years, not only it is next to impossible for Eritrea to reverse that agreement, but also Eritrea would definitely lose its political independence as a result of that agreement – unless of course global powers pressured Ethiopian troops to pack and leave – which is very unlikely. Case in point: Syrian troops in Lebanon. Now let’s see how the Eritrean opposition leaders and their cadres are running their political business.
Instead of working towards economically strong Eritrea the opposition are hell bent to destroy Eritrea’s economy; instead of working towards united people they want to erect walls between faiths ethnics clans and sub-clans; instead of secular politics they want to introduce ethnic politics and political Islam; instead of strengthening our current defense capability they want to destroy our current defense capability through civil war; instead of negotiating with Ethiopia while united and strong they want to negotiate with Ethiopia while weak divided and vulnerable (in Asmara state palace surrounded by Ethiopian tanks), instead of embracing work ethic I can do it attitude and self reliance, they call these Eritrean attributes and traits slavery; instead of fighting for Eritrean sovereignty and territorial integrity, they condone Ethiopia’s occupation of Eritrean lands, instead of believing-on the obligation of every Eritrean citizen to serve his/her country, they call the obligation of every citizen to serve – illegal, criminal, slavery, inhumane….
Now let’s compare PFDJ leaders and their cadres to the opposition leaders and their cadres. With all their blemishes, there is one, time-tested distinguishing quality PFDJ leaders and their cadres’ posses which no one could dare deny. They have consistently defended Eritrean sovereignty; they have consistently defended Eritrean territorial integrity; and they have consistently fought for the best interest of Eritrea the best they know how. And they have a bloody nose and a black eye to prove it. Now tell me – in the last thirty five years, what have the Eritrean opposition leaders and their cadres done to defend Eritrea? When was their proudest moment in their three and half decade journey? Now, can you see why the Ghedli Generation Eritrean opposition is in irreversible coma today? I do.