His Excellency Dr. Abiy Ahmed
The Prime Minister of Ethiopia,
Dear Dr. Abiy,
Your Excellency, so far, you managed to give Ethiopia a powerful jolt of a positive energy while giving an energetic boost to the politics of the region. You admirably kept the momentum and direction of Ethiopian politics in pursuit of justice and democracy on a path towards peace while ameliorating the risk of civil strife and chaos. We wish you success in resolving the remaining issues of peaceful coexistence, rule of law, and genuine participatory democracy. Truly, between April and September of 2018 Ethiopia went through an exciting experience.
As you are aware, Eritreans are still struggling for peace, national reconciliation, and democratic transformation of our country. We have unequivocally called for the cessation of hostilities between Eritrea and Ethiopia and the implementation of the Algiers Agreement as a prerequisite for peace.
Many Eritreans welcomed your vision on how to bring about peace to the region that rarely saw an uninterrupted decade of no war. Unfortunately, our positive outlook for the peace you preached was short-lived mainly because you framed the neighborly peace and cooperation we struggled for as one that you can achieve through a vague deal that you and Isaias Afwerki make. Of course, we do not believe (and hope you don’t) that the signature of Isaias doesn’t translate to the consent of the Eritrea people.
When you visited Eritrea, duly elected representatives of the Ethiopian parliament who endorsed your acceptance of the Algeria agreement accompanied you. On the contrary, Isaias stayed true to his nature and showed you that he solely decides on all matter of peace and war—and he considers Eritrea his private property, as evidenced by his son accompanying him in the Zalambessa and Jeddah “official” visits. Mr. prime minister, did you wonder why no elected representative of the Eritrean people ratified the agreements you reached?
We believe you are aware that bilateral agreements or treaties require ratification by the legislative bodies of both countries.
Eritrea has not seen an election since Independence Day some 27, years ago. Even half the members of the pretentious parliament (that ceased to function since 2000) were handpicked by the self-appointed president. Today, many of its members are either exiled, killed, or imprisoned. Last month, one of its members, Mr. Berhane Aberhe, the ex-minister of finance, openly challenged Isaias to convene a meeting of the parliament. He also warned him not to sign any kind of bilateral agreement without the consent of the Eritrean people. Five other exiled members of the Eritrean parliament have issued a joint statement supporting his call. On September 17, Isaias ordered his arrest and his fate, like the tens of thousands before him, is unknown.
As we write this letter, Eritreans are fleeing their country by the hundreds and there is no sign of any peace that has suddenly rained on Eritrea. The dictator is still continuing to do what he did for decades—arresting and humiliating Eritreans.
Unmistakably, an agreement requires the engagement of the stakeholders to be sustainable. Otherwise, it is not binding, and it naturally dies the moment Isaias loses power. Examples of such failed agreements abound but suffice to mention the series of peace and cooperation agreements that Isaias signed with the late Meles Zenawi in 1994–they didn’t last more than four years. Unfortunately, the recent deals you signed only gives the dictator a new lease on life. Hence, many Eritreans consider you complicit in perpetuating their sufferings.
A few people who are supposed to know better justify your actions with the pretext that, “Dr. Abiy is working for the interest of his country.” We do not doubt that, but Eritreans will not endorse shoddy deals concluded behind their back, without their blessing, and against their national interest.
It’s disheartening to see many that the Isaias regime victimized for rejecting his belligerence and warmongering attitude are still suffering for rejecting his ongoing destructive policies. The hate and anxiety he promoted for so long are looming over Eritrea like a thick dark cloud. It would be very disappointing if you think Isaias is your dependable partner for any peace because we know he is not. However, please remember that Eritreans yearn for peace and regret the years of bloodshed and militarization imposed on them; they are the true and legitimate partners for any peace deal. They are its endorsers and protectors. We hope you do not expect Eritreans to honor your agreement with their tormentor.
Dear Dr. Abiy,
In the first few days after you came to power, you declared your acceptance of the Algiers Agreement of December 2000. Implementation of the agreement doesn’t require you to embrace a dictator or cajole him at the expense of the beleaguered Eritrean people. In fact, honoring the Algiers agreement requires you to simply pull out Ethiopian troops from the border area and begin demarcating it. That was the impression and expectation of many Eritreans after your initial statements. However, as the days passed by, you became more ambivalent, and you seem to have difficulty in spelling out that you fully respect the independence and sovereignty of Eritrea. Disappointingly, in your July 2018 public meeting in Minnesota, you wasted a remarkable opportunity when an attendant asked you a question related to the sovereignty of Eritrea. Strangely, you refrained from stating a clear position and instead you shoved the question to the side promising to discuss it with the person in private. That was in July. Since then, did you discuss the Eritrean sovereignty in private as you promised the man? If you did, many Eritreans are curious to know your position.
Dear Dr. Abiy,
For the sake of the peace that you preach, it is incumbent on you to unequivocally state that you honor the sovereignty and independence of Eritrea and cease from giving conflicting statements. Failing to do so your position could be easily misconstrued by the extremist irredentists who want to take the region back to the years of mayhem. We understand reconciling and rapprochement with your government’s opponents requires you to compromise and make some appeasing gestures of goodwill, but that should not result in a negative outcome, at least for Eritreans. Also, please remember that your partner, Isaias Afwerki, has failed to even establish basic foundations for the kind of peace that you preach.
We truly believe that only Eritreans are responsible for solving their political and governance problems. Until recently, that position was not fully endorsed by the Ethiopian government and it is one of the main factors that weakened Eritreans in facing the Isaias regime. Now that the Ethiopian pendulum has turned to the other extreme, and instead is emboldening the dictator, we wish you will remember that a comprehensive peace is not possible while Eritreans continue to live under duress for 27 years.
We have seen the fanfare, the deals you signed in Abu-Dhabi and then in Jeddah under the auspices of the sponsors of the project whose main goal targets Iran—a Sunni-Shiia rivalry that is neither Eritrea’s nor Ethiopia’s war. Also, an impressive number of dignitaries attended the ceremonies, but they are not part of the peace process, and their mere presence does not legitimize an illegitimate deal. In short, their presence has been to lend the deal some semblance of grandeur and credibility in a genius marketing ploy.
Dr. Abiy, we certainly wish you all the luck in your efforts to democratize and develop your country as long as you respect the wishes and aspirations of Eritreans to be free people and Eritrea as a free neighboring country – a historical fact and a political reality that your predecessors attempted and failed to change through decades of war. Moreover, history will not be kind to you if choose to do the same by exploiting Eritrea’s current weakness, by virtue of giving the dictator a tacit support to continue weakening Eritrea politically and economically.
In closing, we urge you to consider the following seven-decade-old ominous warning that all of your predecessors failed to heed, a warning that when unheeded invariably resulted in Eritrea becoming the Achilles heel of successive Ethiopian leaders:
The Eritrean people’s cause is a just cause of the independence of people who refuse and reject any form of annexation, dismemberment or a return to the hated colonialism no matter what type it would be, whatever form it takes, or from which direction it comes. This indisputable right to independence to which our country is attached cannot be ignored without creating a new area of strife in East Africa, since the Eritrean people will never accept Ethiopian domination. — Ibrahim Sultan, “Statement by the Chairman of the delegation of the Muslim League of Eritrea”, Fifth session Ad Hoc Political Committee, UN. 1950-11-21.
Mr. Mulatu Teshome, Ph.D., President, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Mr. Workneh Gebeyehu, Ph. D., Minister of Foreign Affairs, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ms. Muferiat Kemal, Speaker, House of Peoples’ Representatives, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ms. Keria Ibrahim, Speaker, House of Federation, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia