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Reasons for the Approaching Political Floods

There are many instances of governments that are overthrown, pushed out, reclaiming their authority or totally dying out. In the Horn of Africa, there were many such change of governments. Some short-lived, others permanently die out.

Ethiopia

In 1960  the Ethiopian Brigadier-General Mengistu Neway led a coup with his younger brother Germame Neway and the Imperial Bodyguard that he commanded surrounded military bases in the capital and took over the radio station. Then he announced the overthrowing of emperor Haile Selassie and in his place, hen installed the king’s son, Crown Prince Asfa Wossen as a king. The king who was visiting Brazil returned to Asmara and his loyalists crushed the coup was and arrested the coup plotters. As a result, Germame committed suicide and Mengistu surrendered. They hanged him a few months later.

Sudan

In 1989 Major General Fanta Belay once a commander of the air force, and Major General Demessie Bulto, commander of the 2nd division tried a coup against Mengistu Hailemariam who was on a visit in East Germany. The next day Mengistu returned home and crushed the coup. By 1990 Mengistu executed over a dozen high-ranking military officers in relation with the coup attempt.

1969 Jaffar Al-Numeri deposed the government of Ismail Al-Azhari and established a one-party system under the Sudanese Socialist Party in a coup known as Thweret Mayo, the May Revolution.

In support of Numeri, the famous Sudanese singer, Mohammed Werdi  canted a popular propaganda song, “Haamina w’Faarisn”(Our guard, and our hero).

In 1971 the Communist party member Major Hashem Al-Atta led a coup against Numeri. He declared himself, Babikir Al-Nour, and Farouk Osman HamdAllah (the latter two were in the UK) in charge of the new government.

Mohammed Werdi changed the wording of his song, just like the Isaias cult will do when the day comes. He sang, “La Haamina w’la Faarisna” (Neither our guard, nor our hero).

Babikir Al-Noor and Farouk HamadAllah were flying in a jet from London to Khartoum to assume power. But Gaddafi’s fighter planes intercepted the flight in Libyan airspace and forced it to land in Libya—he arrested Babikir and Farouk HamadAllah.

In Saudi Arabia, an airplane carrying Iraqi delegation to congratulate Hashim Al-Atta’s coup mysteriously crashed in mid-air.

However, days later Numeri’s loyalists  made a counter coup against Hashem Al-Atta and freed Numeri from his prison cell. He regained control of the government.

They jailed Mohammed Werdi.

Nimeri denounced the Soviet Union and most of its allies and expelled his East German advisors. Gaddafi handed over the coup leaders from London to Numeri who hanged them alongside Atta and others.

It was time for Numeri to switch alliance with China, and later with the United States. And in 1983 he declared Sharia law, launched a reign of terror, and chopped limbs, hanged people, including the famous reformist scholar Mahmoud Mohammed Taha for his unorthodox religious views on charges of apostasy.

In 1985 a group of Sudanese military officers led by the Defense Minister and Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, Field Marshal Abdel Rahman Swar Al-Dahab. Deposed, Numeri sought refuge in Egypt. Suwar Al-Dahab promised to return the country to a civilian rule and kept his word, unusual for a soldier. In a year’s time, Sadiq Al-Mahdi formed a civilian government.

In 1989 Omar Al-Bashir, in collaboration with Hassan Turabi (National Salvation Front) deposed the civilian government of Sadiq Al-Mahdi.

In 1999 Numeri returned to Sudan to ran in the Presidential elections of 2000. He failed and in 2009 he died at the age of 81.

Al-Bashir was deposed in 2019 and he is still in jail.

Eritrea

In 2013 soldiers led by Colonel Saeed Ali Hijay, tried a coup against the regime of Isaias Afwerki. During the attempt, which is widely known as the Forto Mission, Colonel Saeed Ali’s forces controlled the broadcasting station and read a communique. A few among the participants in the muting betrayed the mission and the attempt was crushed. That was the second serious challenge to Isaias Afwerki and his party since 2001 when he purged the G15, (senior officials and ministers of the government) who demanded political reform.

From 1969- 2019 Sudan saw 7 coups – averaging one every 14 years, while Africa had 137 coups; the last one happened in Mali in August 2020.

Ethiopia and the Eritrean struggle 

From 1975 to 1977, the ELF and EPLF outgunned the Ethiopian army and overran all its garrisons and camps throughout Eritrea except Asmara, Massawa, Keren, and Barentu. By 1977, the EPLF was poised to drive the Ethiopians out of Eritrea. However, the Ogaden war between Ethiopia and Somalia started prompting the Soviet Union, Cuba and Yemen’s military to as the Somali forces were poised to capture Addis Ababa. “a massive airlift of Soviet arms, the deployment of 18,000 Cubans and two Yemeni brigades reinforced the Ethiopian army.” After defeating Somalia, Ethiopia moved all its manpower and military might to Eritrea face the threatening advances of the Eritrean liberation armies. Overwhelmed by the attacks, the Eritrean organizations and retreated in a move known as Strategic Retreat.

Between 1978 and 1986, the Ethiopian Derg regime launched many major offensives against the independence movements; they did not crush the Eritrean forces.

In 1988, the EPLF captured Afabet followed by Massawa a few years later. In 1991, the EPLF liberated the Eritrean land.

Eritreans faced a serious political impasse in the forties finally settling for a UN mediation. In the 1960s hunger and Malnutrition hit the Horn of Africa region, the USA came to our rescue. In 1984 a serious famine hit Ethiopia, particularly Wollo, Dimbelby of the BBC popularized the hunger. The Bob Geldofs and Michael Jacksons of the world started a campaign—“We are the world” is one of the initiatives to save Ethiopian.

When the South and North of Sudan remained entangled in a never-ending conflict, it was the international community who came to the borders with security, food and medicine. Darfur suffered from civil strife and genocide; it was the same helping hands that intervened. The Sudan discovered oil in the 1980 and boosted the Sudanese economy for some years. However, soon South Sudan succeeded. The oil wealth? South Sudan remained with the oil fields, but North Sudan  had the pipeline, the port and the refinery. The two are an integral part in the use of oil. The oil stayed underground as it was for millions of years. And both countries lost the benefits of the wealth.

Recently Ethiopia started a military campaign against its norther region of Tigrai. It created miseries, destitution, and refugees, except for Sudan that has received tens of thousands of Ethiopian refugees, it’s the international community, particularly the West, that is helping the people. And the regions popular complaints and appeals for a resolution are directed to West.

On another front, Sudan and Ethiopia are fighting a border war. Eventually the West is expected to arbitrate, feed the people whose crops and livelihood is destroyed and to stop the marauding gun-toting hordes who call themselves national armies.

The same is happening to Eritrea and hope is from those with big guns and deep pockets will eventually help bring an end to the misery. There are many examples of such insanity but enough said. Now, do the governments of the region have the nerve to talk about sovereignty?

Elabered Plantation, Eritrea

In 1977 a joint ELF and EPLF forces attacked the Ethiopian garrison at Elabered and captured it. Elabered, a plantation village, had several small industries including citrus plantation, a fair-sized dam, a dairy farm, a crate making factory, a tomato farm and tomato paste canning factory, and a winery. The crate making installations had large machines. The commanders of the two Eritrean forces (ELF and EPLF) had to divide the booty to avoid a confrontation and it ended up in a disaster: the ELF took the large machine and the EPLF took the sawing machine. But separated, the two parts doomed as useless in an inefficient manner due to inability to value things properly.

In the other side of the village, some soldiers found the winery and helped themselves with the wine from the fermentation containers. Dozens died of poisoning.

Preparing for the political flood

The above is meant to serve as a background to what happens when change finally comes and how our experiences are like other nations. The interest of all countries tied to the interest of other countries. And if Eritrean is unable to safeguard its sovereignty by correcting the common attitudes and install a just governance, there is no point in parroting Sovereignty as a slogan. It’s empty.

The influence around Eritrea

  1. First Parameter: these includes immediate neighbors like the Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Yemen, Saudi Arabia. Whatever these countries go through affects all the neighborhood. They are joint stakeholders in the stability of the region—in one way or another, they intervene or interfere in each other’s affairs to protect their interest.
  2. The Parameter countries: these are countries of the larger region and neighboring countries in the first parameter. Though not immediate neighbors, they are not far removed from the first parameter countries. They have an interest in the region and its situation concerns them. Eritrea should realize they will not watch silently when their interest is at stake.
  3. The Third Parameter: these are countries of the world at large; all world countries are in this parameter though some might not be geographically related. However, they are also stakeholders. For instance, why would countries like Colombia, Fiji, or Vietnam be interested in our region? Why would industrialized countries like Korea, Japan, China, and the USA, and Europe, be interest in Eritrea? The former shares this world with each other and they could meet on political and diplomatic affairs. The latter want stability in the region where one of the most important waterways in found. They need a stable Red Sea, Bab-El-Mendeb and Suez Canal to move their manufactured or agricultural products and get supplies like oil and other raw materials. They all have interests in the region and will not watch developments silently.

Where is all this leading to?

I am talking about the flood I told you in my last episode Negarit 117. Now that I explained the background, in my next Negarit, 119, I will present an interview with Saleh Younis taped over the last weekend. We will discuss the initiative articulated by him in his article “Government in exile.” In subsequent articles and video, I will delve into the topic deeper and deeper with a goal of reaching an understanding on how the world is looking at Eritrea and its expected change. No one wants to remain a bystander when others are designing the type of change that Eritrea and the region should have. Therefore, it is important that we get fully engaged and that is the reason behind the serious consultations and preparation going on behind the scenes. I hope the political parties will be up to it and face the challenge with total dedication and selflessness.

It’s about what is being cooked for Eritrea and how we must deal with it. Until then, stay calm—think rationally and not emotionally. Our nation is in dire straits because the governance of the last 30 years has failed and there is a risk the entire nation will fail if not remedied quickly. It’s time that Eritrea became a respected member of the world community and not a pariah state denied the opportunity to excel. Eritreans are suffocating, they cannot implement their ingenuity and be motivated to restore normalcy in their country. The nation needs to know there is life beyond militarism and that battles are means of solving problems and not a way of life. The PFDJ has turned Eritrea into a military camp, devoid of any civilian consideration. It’s denied a peephole to a normal life, to civilian life, to a life of peace and stability, a life of freedom and rule of law, a life of excellence and healthy competition between its entrepreneurs, its educators, its industrialists, traders, merchants, farmers,  and workers. Eritreans must graduate to a life that’s free of fear and want. A life where citizens walk with their head up, in dignity, not in humiliation and fear. And that must be the goal of all Eritreans.

Until the following part of this episode, stay well.

About Saleh "Gadi" Johar

Born and raised in Keren, Eritrea, now a US citizen residing in California, Mr. Saleh “Gadi” Johar is founder and publisher of awate.com. Author of Miriam was Here, Of Kings and Bandits, and Simply Echoes. Saleh is acclaimed for his wealth of experience and knowledge in the history and politics of the Horn of Africa. A prominent public speaker and a researcher specializing on the Horn of Africa, he has given many distinguished lectures and participated in numerous seminars and conferences around the world. Activism Awate.com was founded by Saleh “Gadi” Johar and is administered by the Awate Team and a group of volunteers who serve as the website’s advisory committee. The mission of awate.com is to provide Eritreans and friends of Eritrea with information that is hidden by the Eritrean regime and its surrogates; to provide a platform for information dissemination and opinion sharing; to inspire Eritreans, to embolden them into taking action, and finally, to lay the groundwork for reconciliation whose pillars are the truth. Miriam Was Here This book that was launched on August 16, 2013, is based on true stories; in writing it, Saleh has interviewed dozens of victims and eye-witnesses of Human trafficking, Eritrea, human rights, forced labor.and researched hundreds of pages of materials. The novel describes the ordeal of a nation, its youth, women and parents. It focuses on violation of human rights of the citizens and a country whose youth have become victims of slave labor, human trafficking, hostage taking, and human organ harvesting--all a result of bad governance. The main character of the story is Miriam, a young Eritrean woman; her father Zerom Bahta Hadgembes, a veteran of the struggle who resides in America and her childhood friend Senay who wanted to marry her but ended up being conscripted. Kings and Bandits Saleh “Gadi” Johar tells a powerful story that is never told: that many "child warriors" to whom we are asked to offer sympathies befitting helpless victims and hostages are actually premature adults who have made a conscious decision to stand up against brutality and oppression, and actually deserve our admiration. And that many of those whom we instinctively feel sympathetic towards, like the Ethiopian king Emperor Haile Sellassie, were actually world-class tyrants whose transgressions would normally be cases in the World Court. Simply Echoes A collection of romantic, political observations and travel poems; a reflection of the euphoric years that followed Eritrean Independence in 1991.

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  • Haile S.

    Selam Saleh,

    An image for imagination

    The serpentine thing tied around the collar of Isayas appears to be heading towards Abiy. It looks like a whip-snake, a coachwhip as it is usually known, a beautiful red one at that. But, not sure if it is biting. The thing also looks like a thick real braided whip too. Its tail-end is collar hidden around Isaias, but we don’t know whether the knot is fixed or a noose. The handle-end is on the side of Abiy, but we don’t know if he is handling it. Both mens faces are not expressive to tilt to one theory or the other. The only face that is talking is Saleh’s, as usually smiling, a little ironic and unusually hopeful. As you promised us, we hope to see the reason behind in your upcoming beats of negarit.

    • Saleh Johar

      HaileS,
      Your picking of abstract images is amazing. You have done that a few times. Do you live close to the Louvre 🙂 I envy you.

      • Haile S.

        Selam Saleh,

        No comparison with Awateland in abstract art 😁. Keep it coming. I am having fun! Louvre is known for its classic paintings. The are many modern art museums in Paris, one of which is George-Pompidou center, modern starting from the exterior of the building. Now lets start finding a place for the classic and modern art museums in Eritrea. At present, it is in an old Derg-nationalized Catholic missionaries building not far from the old ማርያም ግምብ prison.

        P.S. ሎምቅነ ነጋሪት ክትጅምር፡ እንታይ እዩ ደገ ደገ ዘብለካ ዘሎ? 😁

        • Saleh Johar

          Hailat,
          Homesickness. That’s it. I pretend it is the environs of my town. And it has a soothing effect… and a little spicing of the intro instead of the boring talking head in the intro. Consider it a mini national geographic program.

          NB: (እንታይ እዩ ደገ ደገ ዘብለካ ዘሎ?) That triggered a memory of a joke and I am laughing. However, since it’s a usable content, you have to wait for it in future episodes when applicable 🙂

  • Brhan

    Dear Saleh,

    Thanks for the episode

    While writing this comment, I saw It has already got arround 5000 views 500 likes ( with 5 dislikes) in YouTube since it post today Febaruary 18, 2021. I believe Negarit together with Fanus and Falfasa are working in the best interet of our Eritrean society.

    I just want to indicate a typo error and that is the issue of 1989 Ethiopian coup to be inclunded under Ethiopia and not Sudan.

    The introduction was deep and it showed how an outside factor has been significant in bringing changes. Which brings me to our current situation. Currently we have an outside factor i.e. the new US adminstation asking the Eritrean goverment to take its forces out of Tigray, Ethiopia. The forces are still there because according to IA ” we are provding our duty” in Ethiopia where its PM A. Ali has said that ” the operation has been over” since 28 November 2020. May be the two allies are now at odds which makes easy to an outside factor to deal with it. Already one ally , UAE has distmantlled its base in Assab and left.

    • Saleh Johar

      Brhan,
      You are doing a great job as a watchdog of what’s said and written. With the limited resources that we have -/editors, designers, script writers, directors, and producers— we need people like you to check us out and mention the flaws. Thank you