“If it wasn’t for my bad luck,” said the old blues singer, “I would have said I have no luck at all”. Talk about Eritrea’s bad luck or having no luck – whichever is worse. As if suffering under PFDJ’s tyranny wasn’t bad enough of a curse, the poor people are faced with yet another deadly calamity – the ugly spectre of a fast approaching break-up of the country.
Last week, the brilliant politician, RSADO’s chairman Ibrahim Haroun gave us a taste of what it would feel like to come face to face with the stark reality of one of the most important regions of the country breaking away from the rest of the nation.
I am sure that many were spooked to a rude awakening from their long slumber by the direct and defiant messages sent by the chairman; this despite the fact that “the right to self-determination up to secession” have long been the stated positions of both the Afars’ RSADO and the Kunama’s DMLEK.
What was new this time around was that Mr. Haroun hinted that his people might exercise their option by formally declaring secession. Now, ask yourselves how that felt over the last few days when everybody was mum and when no further clarifications were issued on the matter. I bet everybody felt sick to the stomach, worried stiff that finally, the stuff may have hit the fan.
The idea was as brilliant as much as it was deliberate and to the point. Now that most of the sensible folks among us, Tigrignas and Non-Tigrignas alike, got a glimpse of what it would feel like when and if the stuff finally hits the fan – it is better that we see danger for what it is and act on it now when we still have a small window of opportunity to do so.
Obviously, first thing is first. We should never take RSADO’s political manoeuvres for gimmickry or hollow bravado of some crazed people who just want to steer the pot. Only the chauvinist bigots are that dumb to entertain such thoughts.
If anything, we should take these manoeuvres as a warning that the most destructive and the most dreaded of wars – a secessionist war could very well be the eventual fate of the nation, if the necessary remedial actions are not taken now to prevent such an eventuality. As they say, “ked a’Azara man anzar” – forewarned, forearmed. If we fail to perfect our fire drills this time around, we stand the risk of getting engulfed when the real fire hits.
The stand taken by the chauvinist bigots that the Afars couldn’t survive without the rest of Eritrea is too farcical of an idea which only the naïve could entertain. Lest we all get caught off guard, we should never even remotely consider such a silly idea to be some kind of an assurance that the Afars are doomed to accept chauvinist tyranny as fait accompli. They will never do.
Besides, the Afars have just reiterated their long-held position to the whole nation that they will never settle for anything less than the right to self-determination at par with all other ethnic groups in the country.
Did they ask for any special status? No. Did they ask to secede from the country? No. Did they openly adopt a charter which unequivocally calls for secession if the right to self-rule (local government / federal system) is not adopted? Absolutely – you can’t get any clearer than that.
Now, unless the chauvinists and their sympathizers are even dumber than many thought, how could this be a hidden agenda? How could this be Ethiopia’s little secret to break-up Eritrea into little enclaves? They did spell it out for you stupid, didn’t they? What is it about self-rule that horrifies you so much that you are willing to risk the break-up of the country for it?
And what’s the rest of the nation waiting for before taking action to adopt a clear-cut and un-equivocal system of self-rule which brings equality between all ethnic groups? A formal declaration of a secessionist war?
It is important to remember that the Afars’ history of nationhood predates that of Eritrea’s not by a few years or a few decades as some might assume, but rather by several centuries, if not more. Self-rule isn’t something they figured out all of a sudden in 1977; it has long been part of their rich culture and history for centuries.
They didn’t get to be called “fierce fighters” for nothing; they have successfully managed to defend their people, their land, their faith and culture against all kinds of marauding shiftas, feudal warlords, crusaders and various other aggressors over the centuries. They may have lost some battles over the years, but at the end of the day, as history clearly shows us, they have always won their wars. Their attackers had to learn the hard way that they weren’t built for the kind of terrain the Afars call home.
PFDJ thugs and all those who subscribe to the chauvinist agenda (the hade hzbi hade libi crap) the arrogant fools that they are, think that the Afars are too weak to make a dent through an armed engagement. But remember that these are the same people who used to taunt the “Tigrayans” to bring it on – and when the “Tigrayans” finally brought it on and war broke out, they run so fast that even their own shadows couldn’t catch up with them. Just through their sheer arrogance, they subjected the poor conscripts to the carnage of war, where they perished by the tens of thousands and they brought a humiliating defeat and shame to the nation.
This time, as the spectre of a civil war looms closer and the nation faces yet another deadly calamity, the chauvinist thugs, who never seem to learn anything from their blunders, are still shrouded in their silly intransigence. But then again, no one ever expected them to change anyways.
What is really worrisome by all accounts is the complacency of the rest of the nation, particularly that of some within the opposition groups who never get tired of mimicking PFDJ’s every move, when it comes to dealing with the grievances of the Afars and the other ethnic groups. This complacency (or may be even complicity to some degree) may lead to an eventual civil war which in turn, could lead to the break-up of the country.
If a secessionist war breaks out, it would drain the life out of the country in no time. It won’t be about numbers or military might, neither of which are at the disposal of the PFDJ anyways. It would be more about who could withstand a protracted war of attrition – a war that sucks out every available resource the country has, human or material alike, bringing it to its knees and forcing it to accept what was inevitable in the first place.
We don’t need to go any farther than our own region to see precedents to such wars of attrition. The war for independence in Eritrea or the secessionist war of the South, in the Sudan are two classic examples. Despite it being twenty times the size of Eritrea – despite its humongous human and material resources and despite its huge circle of friends both from the West and the East who helped arm it to the teeth – despite all this, what a small group of determined Eritrean exiles/students decided in Cairo, Egypt in the early sixties, changed the face of the entire Ethiopian empire for ever. It wasn’t about numbers or military might. It was about a belief in a cause and the unwavering determination to pursue it.
Likewise, what a group of Afar exiles/students in Brussels, Belgium decides one of these days may very well change the face of Eritrea forever. If the Afars are left with no other options but to declare their Mount-Adal-moment – then on the firing of the first bullet, it will be a point of no return for the whole nation. All those who are now indulging in hallow sloganeering can then kiss their sovereignty and territorial integrity crap goodbye for good.
Just like many countries that preceded it, Eritrea can never win a secessionist war against any of its regions, least of all the Afar region. The country would be broken up into several enclaves at the worst or get bogged down in a treacherous and protracted war of attrition for generations to come at the best.
But that’s not all –
The Afar territory is not just any region in the country. It has a detrimental and strategic economic value to the whole nation. If the Afars secede, they could still have the economic potential to survive as a viable nation on their own. The close proximity of their land to the Ethiopian hinterland, with roads and port facilities even better than those of Djibouti and with one of the largest landlocked countries in Africa with a bourgeoning population of over 70Million and a fast growing underdeveloped economy knocking on their doors looking for port services – The Afars couldn’t ask for anything more.
The revenues generated from port services alone could sustain their economy for as long as Ethiopia remains land-locked – which is forever. Talk about a solid and sustainable source of income. They don’t need to join Ethiopia to survive, replacing one chauvinist hegemony with another – it just wouldn’t make any sense. Besides, they are not that dumb to sell their cow to their neighbour when they can sell its milk and still fare better.
They don’t need to chase poor Yemeni fishermen in international waters, confiscating their boats in clear acts of piracy as PFDJ thugs do with the sole purpose of selling the confiscated boats in some far away lands for the much needed hard currency.
Unlike PFDJ thugs, the Afars could do better by exploiting and profiting from their vast marine resources in the Red Sea and by creating a viable modern fishing industry. They could generate additional revenues by developing their islands into beautiful sea resorts and by promoting their tourist industry, given the unique topographic features of their land.
They could also generate more revenues by modernizing their traditional salt mining industry – a source of revenue the Afars have always relied on for years. They could even afford to work on their untapped long-term economic prospects of offshore oil drilling and the list just goes on and on.
With so much revenue on hand, the Afars could bask in affluence, perhaps with the highest per capita income in the whole region. They could build modern schools, colleges and universities, instead of PFDJ’s indoctrination boot-camps and prison like-schools.
They could build the most sophisticated infrastructure in their towns and cities with goods, services and utilities available on demand and as required, and not as rationed by the ruling clique as in PFDJ’s Eritrea.
Despite all these incentives and temptations to go their own way, the Afars decided to stick with the notion of a unified Eritrea for whatever it is worth. They died and sacrificed for the idea of an independent and a free Eritrea, just like any other group in the country.
They didn’t have any qualms sharing their vast and strategic resources with the rest of the country and it is worthy of a mention that their contribution to the national coffers before PFDJ’s suicidal border wars with Ethiopia, was by far the largest of any region in the country, including the entire Kebessa escarpment. What did they get in return? Beles? Not even that.
All the Afars got was PFDJ tyranny in all its ugly shapes and forms. They didn’t even get to keep the names for their region, they had to be tagged with Tigrigna labels as a flagrant affront to their cultural values. The atrocities committed by the chauvinist PFDJ thugs against the Afars is a matter of a well documented record – it doesn’t need any rehashing here.
But the least that the Afars are owed is for the rest of the nation to listen to them, to listen to their grievances. This will definitely not come from those who subscribe to the chauvinist agenda. They are too dumb to even contemplate how exposed and how vulnerable the country is. Their sheer attitudes of intransigence is leading the nation towards yet another deadly calamity and the horror of it all is that, they don’t even realize it one bit.
The territorial integrity of the Eritrean nation is not going to be preserved by the infusion and encroachment of chauvinist hegemony in any region of the country. Not in a million years – it is just a futile attempt. No amount of social engineering will ever succeed to replace a full laissez faire de-centralized system of governance as the most equitable solution for the nation’s ills. Anything less will spell immediate disaster for the nation whose unity is hanging by the threads.
A decentralized form of governance was adopted by the NCDC and rightly so, as the only form of governance which could help keep the territorial integrity of the nation intact.
The Afars are not asking for anything more than this and if it is the “up to secession” clause which is giving the exclusionists within the opposition the goose bumps, then they should consider this: the Afars have hinted that they could drop the “up to” qualification if that makes them feel any better.
Unfortunately by then, the goose bumps of the exclusionists will turn into ugly warts and they will go down in history as the only ones whose intransigence lead to the break-up of the country, second only to the main reason for such a break-up, PFDJ’s chauvinist agenda.
M I S C E L L A N Y
It is said that Eritrea has a shadow Mufti who keeps close tabs on and gives orders including what to say on his sermons to the PFDJ appointed Mufti, Sheikh Al-Amin. Who do you think is that shadow Mufti?
1- The dictator himself (sick thug) 2-Yeftahe Dimitros (cruel irony) 3-Adei Tabetu (tenqualit) 4- Wuchu (illiterate bum)