1. Straw Man Argument;
2. Recycling Gedli;
3. Perils of Dependency;
4. Are we a Failed State?
5. Need for a Transitional Plan
An article appeared on Asmarino.com whose content did not surprise me considering ‘the Sobering Times’ we went through these days. It appears some latter-day ‘activists’ are deliberately confusing themselves in order to confuse matters and create a stage for their Ethiopianist tendencies. For instance, I found it astonishing why someone had to voice his objection over Eritreans singing the national anthem abroad. Why not? Isn’t that our national anthem? Perhaps it would have pleased the writer to hear the Eritrean refugees sing ‘wedefit gesg‘shi wud enat Etiopia’. ‘Anything the government endorses has got nothing to do with us’ mentality is immature, to say the least. If that is the case then we will have to repudiate public holidays just because the regime commemorates them, for instance.
As an expression of their fretfulness those who are being ‘inspired’ and supported by Ethiopia will continue to sink lower as they belabor their neo-Andinetist stand. Just read and learn how they do that – they are raising lurid and sub-national issues such as region, religion and other social deformities our nationalist struggle dealt with effectively in the past.
Those who would like to move house to Ethiopia remind me of the carpetbaggers. I see them as insidious ‘activists’ with questionable objectives meddling in our patriotic politics. We have to stand up to their reactionary social agenda and be counted now. That is where our patriotism comes in.
Another Asmarino.com writer by the name of Ghirmai S Yebio who paraded himself ostentatiously wrote an article under the title of Independent Eritrea, a crumbling nation and a tragedy: ‘The Architects of Destruction’. He preposterously stated:
The quagmire that Eritrea is in today is directly related to what transpired during the 40s, 50s and 60s and the ideological beliefs that the forefathers of the movement espoused.
Doesn’t this sound like the antiquated argument the Ethiopians used to use in the 60s? I am referring to the Eritra l’Areb atsheyeTm … and their Ajewjew argument. This argument is a typical example of the Ethiopia-led campaign which I have been highlighting in my recent articles–a futile effort to render Eritrea history-less by making a mockery of our history. In other words not a smidgen better that the straw man argument.
The logical fallacy of the argument presented is obvious and I am going to hate myself for being lured into this straw man argument – to clarify how real our people’s struggle was in the quest for freedom. There is no need for me to reiterate the fact that Ethiopia was the architect of destruction in our country; however, I just want to use the article as an example why neo-Andinet thinking is prevalent among those with backward-looking attitudes and beliefs.
What are the new perspectives gained by the passage of time–perspectives that attempt to debunk the history of the Independence Bloc? Eritrea’s freedom project started in the 40s and it was completed in early 90s when Eritrea freedom fighters drove the Ethiopian occupying forces out of Eritrea all together. The list of sacrifices Eritreans made to free their country is not for the faint hearted. The author deliberately skips crucial aspects of our history in order to validate his claim–that our forefathers and liberation fronts heralded Eritrea’s destruction. Yes, there was a lot of destruction because war is destructive by its very nature. However, let’s look at the bigger picture–despite Ethiopia’s superiority in manpower and arms, it failed to crush or weaken our struggle. Actually, in the end Eritrean freedom fighters destroyed the Ethiopian army in order to save Eritrea from total destruction. The Ethiopian forces were decimated in all their eight offensives, weren’t they? Throughout the conflict Ethiopia used anti-personnel gas, napalm, and other incendiary devices. And they still lost. Does the author know our history? Does he want us to include this historical fact in his list of myths he listed out in the article? Just because we happen to be struggling with the PFDJ government at the moment we cannot change our history to suit Ethiopianist analysis, can we? I thought the Tekeste Negash theories were dead and buried!
Let me avoid polemics and look at who are the architects of Eritrea’s intended ‘destruction’?
1. As it is well documented, the 40s and 50s marked a drastic rise in banditry for Eritrea. The Shifta, Unionist and Andinet groups worked together to see the destruction of Eritrea. Moreover, there were roles: a) the Ethiopians (through Colonel Negga); b) the religious establishment (through Abune Markos) terrorized Eritreans into submission. How can we forget the fierce and bloody campaigns the Shifta, with the help of Ethiopia, the Unionist Party and the Christian clergy, led against members of the Independence Bloc? Apparently, these issues are not pertinent to the author’s straw man argument.
Does the author realize that governors of Axum, Adua, Shire, Adiabo and many more had links with notorious Shifta leaders like Assresehey Embaye, Ghebre Tesfazion, Hagos Temnowo and the Mosazghi brothers? Besides, many of the Shifta gangs made Tigrai their second home during those turbulent times.
In response to the increasing numbers of Eritreans who wanted to see an independent Eritrea, the operations of the Shifta in the highlands of Eritrea began to accelerate.
Didn’t Eritreans have the right to fight for their rights? The twisted history and dismissive attitude of the writer cannot deal with the reality of the time and what ensued afterwards.
2. I was really saddened by the fact the author chose to desecrate the history of Abdulkadir Kebire. According to him “Kebire never espoused a nationalist agenda beneficial to the Eritrean people at large but rather a narrow agenda based on past grievances.” He concluded his vilification by stating he was ‘killed by an assassin’ … finito! How the bloody hell did it happen? We are talking about one of our giants here, aren’t we?
My fellow Eritreans, one incident that can very well describe the political edge of the fracas that existed then and was a pivotal fixture in Eritrean politics was the assassination of Abdulkadir Kebire, the president of the Muslim League of the Asmara branch. Kebire’s assassination, which resulted in the suspension of the Andinet group, was the culmination of iniquitous politics the Ethiopia-sponsored groups were engaged in prodding members of the Independence Bloc. How and why do you think Kebire was assassinated? He was assassinated in the main street of Asmara on 27 Mar 1949 as he, together with the Muslim League delegation, was getting ready to travel to New York to explain his party’s position against any form of Ethiopian trusteeship over Eritrea. Both Colonel Negga, the Ethiopian Liaison Officer, and Ghebreselassie Garza, president of the Andinet Movement, were implicated in Kebire’s assassination. The British absolved Negga and Ethiopian involvement in the assassination of Kebire. Guess who rescued the Andinet group, the perpetrators? In November 1951, the Unionist Party and Abune Markos both made representations for the successful release of Ghebresellassie Garza and Habtom Araya, ex-President and Secretary respectively of the Andinet Party. Bonds were signed for £500 with two sureties. The sureties were Tedla Bairu, Secretary General of the Unionist Party and Mebrahtu GoneTu, President of the Hamasien section of the Unionist Party, a rich Asmara merchant. Both prisoners were released on 26 Nov 1951.
When the US sponsored federal agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia was adopted by the UN to have Eritrea enter into a federation with Ethiopia in 1952, a third wave of Shifta activities began to take shape in the country. The aim of the Shifta and their Ethiopian backers was to annex Eritrea with Ethiopia. The remaining few patriots had to be hounded, pushed out of position, and at times eliminated in order to put the finishing touches on complete annexation.
Now you tell me who are the architects of destruction? Eritreans? To me such disclosures are important because they show me the latter-day problems of our society and the gullibility of some sectors of our communities. The neo-Andinet article I mentioned above is a typical example how Ethiopia is walking all over our history with a purpose. To do that, allow me to be rude here, they need the services of our fifth columnists – the likes of Girmai S Yebio, Tesfai Temnewo, Yosief Gebrehiwet, Amha Domenico and others. dey Isayas men yedfrenna’lo! I wish President Isaias had the wisdom to see what he has exposed us to! To a pack of riff-raff! To tell me the ‘irrelevance’ of our forefathers who paved the way for the Eritrean armed struggle is revolting; to tell me the ‘ineptness’ of our liberation fronts is irresponsible; to promote Ethiopia’s interests is simply contemptible.
The president, who has forgotten the way things were and continues to monopolize power by driving away his former comrades-in-arms, associates and confidants is mind-boggling. He is the main culprit in this tragedy. All the miseries we Eritreans are experiencing now are happening on his watch. The disrespect our martyrs are receiving from Ethiopian officials and their marionettes can be traced back to him. The isolation Eritrea is suffering from can also be traced back to him. Who is he left with now? Almost nobody! Some are sidelined (‘frozen’), some are incarcerated, some are driven out of the country, and others are made to expire. Where are the veteran fighters who were with him in Ala? Where are those who took part in the 1977 Congress? If Zewdi, his secretary of 37 years, could only one day tell us the real story of Isaias and the musical chairs he played with the veteran fighters!
The tyrant, just like anybody else, will one day die and his rule will be over, but Eritrea will remain. And it will remain in the hands of Eritreans. However, the death of our martyrs is not death as we know it because it is that very death which should inspire us to look forward to better days. We have to constantly remind ourselves that Ghedli is the basis of our struggle, not Isaias. We relied on our own dexterity to defeat Ethiopia, and now we should think of new ways to reclaim our passion for our liberty. The president exploited ghedli, but we have to recycle it in order to rediscover ourselves. Avoid dependency on Ethiopia all together.
Perils of Dependency
To me debunking the myth that we cannot do without Ethiopian support in liberating ourselves from PFDJ inhumaneness is important. My belief is that we are better off without the Ethiopian ‘support’ because I have seen that very support turn into manipulation. Our weaknesses (discords) made us easy targets–easy to be controlled, easy to be manipulated. If we Eritreans fail to learn the tools of the trade, what it takes to drive the PFDJ lifeless and off the cliff, then we will have to bear the consequences of our failures. If we simply continue to follow our hopes, without any contributions to our campaign – that PIA and his henchmen will one day simply dissipate, then that makes us vulnerable. That is when we fall prey to Ethiopia’s structured deception–I call it the perils of dependency.
Dependency on Ethiopia will just have to run its course, unless we change our course now. We, sitting on the poorer side of the formula, are being locked into detrimental political position. This introduces a paradoxical effect on us. Our campaign will be shunned by folks back home. In a future perspective, Eritrea will have no opportunity to improve the quality of life of Eritreans once sucked in the Ethiopian sphere of influence–a country that is losing tens of millions a year due to lack of access to our ports.
I know this issue of dependency requires deeper studies and careful analysis which I hope we will delve into some day. For now I just want to highlight a few facts: there is a political penetration in our opposition politics by Ethiopia; this penetration is producing an unbalanced structure between our opposition groups and Ethiopia; this imbalance is leading to limitations on self-sustained growth from our side; this limitation is creating certain patterns of woozy relations which is exasperating our people; therefore, we are required to change our ways immediately. We need to articulate our needs on the basis of demonstrable needs of our people and philosophy ascribed by our martyrs–Eritrean solutions to Eritrean problems.
I am tempted to have one more go at those who are depending on Ethiopia to resolve our problems. In order to gain the trust of the yes-men, Ethiopia had to cajole them first and then herd them into its own base. Once in base, it began to introduce them to simple instructions such as walk, halt, jump, sleep…, etc. Soon after that the Ethiopians started using the bridle and then the saddle in order to prepare ENCDC for a mount with the aim of leading them into a gallop towards battle. How?
Declaring Eritrea a Failed State
My fellow citizens, the situation is becoming more menacing than ever, to say the least. Our growing softness towards Ethiopia, our increasing lack of intellectual, organizational and political fitness, is a menace to our security. Not knowing what is going on is a menace to our future.
Here is a sketch how the Ethiopian officials have been dealing with us:
• Entice the opposition groups into Ethiopia;
• Buy the opposition off until they are ensnared and then train them to become Ethiopia’s yes-men;
• Set the stage for infighting and splits;
• Eventually have the yes-men declared as incompetent buffoons;
• Bring other groups (ENCDC and then the intellectual clique, Debrezeit, Smerr…, etc. all Ethiopian products’) while the infighting, splitting and side-lining processes take place;
• Set the stage to sideline the veteran fighters as useless (obstructive) elements; embolden the young to go after the veteran fighters;
• Nurture (concoct) a network of key people to provide ‘intellectual leadership’ (the likes of YG);
• Provide funding selectively-fund media outlets to serve Ethiopia’s plan.
• Launch campaigns to sully Eritrean history for independence;
• Under the cover of ‘support to the Eritrean people’ launch the unimaginable ‘go get him, we are with you’ campaign.
• Frustrate Eritreans until they are disorientated and succumb to Ethiopia’s wishes.
Oh, the fools! Those fools, if they knew what was coming! (The Reprieve, Sartre)
And now, most distressingly, Bereket Simon is campaigning to have Eritrea declared as a ‘failed state’. If he succeeds in bringing the international community to his side that can set the stage for many things, perhaps as far as gaining legitimacy to invade Eritrea. It suffices to go over series of events that took place in Somalia. Once Somalia’s situation was repeatedly declared that it was a failed state, that very declaration paved the way for Ethiopia to invade it in order to ‘rescue the poor Somalis’. Fill in the blanks. Now I have to back off … really going nuts here, am I not?
Is Eritrea a failed state? Or is it a dictatorial state? Is Eritrea more ‘failed-state’ than Ethiopia? Basically, there are indicators to assess how failed is a failed-state. The criteria include a state whose central government is so weak or ineffective that it has little practical control over much of its territory; non-provision of public services; widespread corruption and criminality and so forth.
Please take time to check the list of countries in accordance to Failed States Index and you will see Somalia (1), Ethiopia (19) and Eritrea (25). I will say no more on this subject for now. Let’s wait and see if our fellow Eritreans in Addis are going to join the glee club and declare Eritrea a failed state.
Need for a Transitional Plan
What do Eritreans have to do now before President Isaias and his regime become history? This is a question in everybody’s mind. We have seen entrenched leaders go within a short period of time. And certainly that occurrence will also pay Eritrea a visit one day. Until then what do we do? I believe part of the answer lies in what the patriotic front will do-to devise a transitional plan for Eritrea.
The above statement raises 101 questions. And that is quite natural. A carefully thought-out, well-planned and wide-ranging blueprint for a transition is necessary. It should be bold, inspiring and with a strong vision behind it.
We have to learn a lesson from what happened last January in Eritrea. You remember when Eritrea was thrown into confusion after brave soldiers stormed the Ministry of Information and took over the state-run television service in a coup attempt, don’t you? That didn’t come from Ethiopia-driven activities, did it? That was not inspired by the opposition groups who are flirting with Ethiopia, was it? That came from within. If it happened once it will certainly happen again.
What do we do for now? First of all to have clarity of and rule over our thoughts is very important. We have to stay clear off Ethiopia’s machinations and cling to the love of our martyrs for they are the only ones who can provide the basis of an Eritrean ideology. One needs to enlighten the mind, rein in passion, strengthen the spirit and shake off undesired elements from our struggle. These will be the initial weapons of our patriotism.
We have to remember that if the will of the people is not followed, then the PFDJ government, no matter how strong and roguish, will fall under its own corruption. In the meantime we have to be able to read the wishes of our people, their anxiety over our neighbor’s refusal to honor the ruling of the Boundary Commission, the irrelevance of ENCDC-like groups to their lives and so forth. To nurture the belief in Eritrean solutions to Eritrean problems is certainly worth pursuing.
I will say more on the patriotic front in my next posting.
By Admas Haile
NB: The author is an Eritrean observer