When Ethiopia roars from the South the threat is real. We Eritreans don’t take Ethiopian threat lightly. Generation after generation, we Eritreans have been on the receiving end of Ethiopia’s Tuta, Zeraf, Geday, Yematreba Fiel Zetegn Tweldalech….adventure. And we have deep scars to prove it. We have layers of tears still fresh. We have dark ring-scars in our psychic that depicts one hundred fifty years of agony – Wube, Sibagadish, Alula, Haileselassie, Derg, EPRDF (1998 – 2000) – and today – these dark clouds hovering-over our heads…
“We will work towards changing Eritrea’s policies or its government. This could be done diplomatically, politically or through other means.” Prime Minster Meles Zenawi – nazret.com – By Eskinder Nega
To shed light for his new policy on Eritrea, on the first week of September 2011, right after the Ethiopian sponsored seminar to strategize what to label the PFDJ regime and how best to achieve regime change – one of the Eritrean opposition journalists asked Prime Minister Meles Zenawi this question – (interview tape part one 23:20) – “Eritrea has become threat to Ethiopia by becoming center of terrorist activity; as a result your government has changed its policy from reactive (defensive) into an active (offensive) posture; so, are you going to pursue your active (offensive) policy to depose the Isaias regime in co-ordination with the Eritrean opposition organizations?
After a long pause, very cleverly, the Ethiopian prime minster responded to the question instead of giving a straight answer. And none of the other journalists pressed the prime minster to answer the question that is puzzling every Eritrean and many more in the region: proxy wars aside, under any pretext, will Ethiopia pursue its new policy to topple the regime in Eritrea? I guess, you can’t look squarely in the eye and ask such question, when you are the guest of honor. But if you connect the dots, Ethiopia’s groundwork to change the regime in Asmara couldn’t be any clearer.
As if Ethiopia’s new policy is not creating enough anxiety among Eritreans, to add some flavor and some color to Mr. Meles Zenawi’s new policy on Eritrea, leaders of an organization that is supported by Ethiopia, whose members are half-baked Eritreans with Mama-Ethiopia fever – upbeat by the Prime Minister’s new policy on Eritrea, were not shy to tell us in print – Eritrean sovereignty is nothing but a joke. Listen for yourself:
“We strongly believe that the initiative taken by the EPRDF (Ethiopian Ruling Party) and the Ethiopian Government to sort out the Eritrean problem once and for all is the right step in the right direction. After all, Eritrea has been the problem child of Ethiopia and the Eritrean problem is also an Ethiopian problem…. As far as we are concerned, there is a need for a complete overhaul and reengineering of the Eritrean Opposition Groups…..
Our good friend Prof. Tekeste Negash Challenging some Eritrean Groups bluntly told the participants that as a highlander (Eritrean from Ethnic Tigrigna) he has more things in common with the people of Tigray than with the people of Western lowlanders (Eritrean Muslims).” THE HARSH REALITY OF THE ERITREAN TRAGEDY: Thu, 29 Sep 2011 – By Prof. Fisseha-Tsion Menghistu & Associates – Courtesy of Meskerem.Net.
Deki-Erey, there is something we all should know – proxy wars aside, today and forever, under any pretext, if Eritrea is ever going to be invaded by any foreign country, the invader won’t be Somalia, Djibouti, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Sudan. It is going to be Ethiopia. And definitely it is going to happen. It is just a matter of when. Ethiopia is too big, too powerful with too much ambition, to remain boxed. There is too much ego in the Abyssinian elite, and there is too much expectation from the region and from the Global Powers, for Ethiopia to play bigger role in the region. Irrespective who is in power, Ethiopian regimes love-affair and fixation with the Red Sea will always remain constant. And we Eritreans are too small and we own everything, yes everything that Ethiopia dreams to have, to be a regional power. And simply because the majority of us are blood related to them, the Ethiopian elite will always feel a sense of entitlement, to the Eritrean Land and to the Eritrean Sea.
Once again let me make it very clear, Ethiopia’s fixation and sense of entitlement to the Red Sea, our love of Eritrea without any parallel, and the Weary Eyes of Eritrean mothers looking to the South fearing the worst, will always remain constant. And this reality, will always keep us all on our toes – men women boys and girls, ready to defend, to die and, to shed our blood and tears.
Without disregarding their importance, presenting the Ethio-Eritrean issue as an issue of democracy, rights of nationalities, ports, proxy wars, and border disputes is absolutely ridiculous. The issue is a lot bigger and a lot more complex than we would want it to be. Even if the border dispute is resolved to Ethiopia’s likening, even if Somalia becomes a stable country that has good relation with Ethiopia, and even if we allow Ethiopia to use Eritrean ports below Djibouti’s rate, I don’t see Ethiopia giving-up its regional ambition and remain boxed to our south just for the sake of peace with Eritrea. It just isn’t going to happen.
Mind you, I’m not in the business of fear-mongering. I’m not trying to sow seeds of hatred and mistrust between two kins. I’m for one globe. I’m for prosperous united Africa under one flag, and under one constitution. I’m for free movement of people, free movement of goods and services, with one single ID card of citizenship for every individual citizen of the whole Horn Region. I’m just saying – the Addis policy makers are always getting it wrong. And we are paying for it. If you are courting your dream woman to earn her love and affection, aggression doesn’t work; trust does. If you lay back relaxed and earned her trust one day at a time, nature will take its course and you will have a partner for life. Ports and borders are distraction from the main objective; and we are wasting our precious time over destructive issues.
Ethiopia’s sense of entitlement and fixation with the Red Sea is only one vector of the Eritrean love-equation. Unfortunate for Eritrea there is another love vector with probably higher magnitude that is puling Eritrea towards opposite direction – Anti-Israel Anti-West Arab Region. To make matters even worse, there is another humongous third love vector with a global magnitude that is pulling Eritrea towards different direction – Western interest in the Region and the War on Terror. Last but not least, we have the Islamic Fundamentalism love vector pulling Eritrea towards completely different direction. Just for now, the Ethiopian vector (fixation with the Red Sea), and the Western vector (War on Terror to insure Stability and free flow of resources), though slightly different vectors with different magnitude and direction – they are pulling Eritrea towards the same direction (but not for so long). Since the Ehio-Western vectors seem to pull Eritrea relatively towards the same direction with converging interests, let’s consider them as one vector. Then the other two vectors that are pulling Eritrea at different directions would be: the Ant-Israel Anti-West Arab Region, and the Islamic Fundamentalism.
We Eritreans are sitting in the middle of an active volcano, serving as a buffer zone between three giant shifting political plates that we have no control over. Rhetoric and politicking of the Eritrean opposition and Ethiopia aside, at any given time, any of our governments, PFDJ or not PFDJ, could have only one of three policy choices: to flirt with the Anti-Israel Anti-West Arab Region, to flirt with Ethiopia and the Western global powers, or to flirt with the Islamic Fundamentalists. And we can’t flirt with all and get away with it. We can flirt only with one. And flirting with any one of them will put us at war with the other two. No matter whom we flirt with, there will always be a price to be paid in blood and treasure. Analyzing the reality of Eritrean geographical location, the Geo-Politics of the region, and our dilemma whom to flirt with will be the argument of this article. Let’s roll:
Eritrea’s geographical location:
With about 1200 kilometers of Red Sea coastal line, over 350 islands, and lying along a commercial shipping route that connects Europe Middle East Africa and Asia, Eritrea’s geographical location has always been one of the vital strategic places in Africa. To add to Eritrea’s strategic importance, the Red Sea and the Gulf regions are so rich in natural resources; they have always remained the center of attraction and competition among Global Powers.
But the rich natural resources of the region, didn’t improve the lives of its people. Instead, the people of the region ended up with extreme poverty, destitution and corrupted dictators and monarchs who serve nobody but their own self interest and the interest of Global Powers. This regional poverty, destitution, and hopelessness or as some call it – The Arab Street – gave birth to Islamic Fundamentalism. To protect their interest, some of the corrupted dictators of this region aligned themselves with Western global powers; while others aligned themselves with Eastern global powers. But the belligerent, angry, militant Islamists pledged war against both global powers. To protect their interests, though in different ways, both Western and Eastern Global powers declared war against these Islamic Fundamentalists – The War on Terror.
The result: polarized region. At any given time, any government in this region, no matter what policy it follows, it will always have an ally that would stand by it, and a determined enemy that won’t stop short of toppling it. We Eritreans are in the eye of this politically turbulent storm. And no matter what policy our government follows, we are guaranteed to have a determined enemy and a determined friend. For us it is not a matter of choosing the right or the wrong policy, but a matter of choosing the right poison at the right time. Now let’s see the Isaias regime’s political calculus for picking its poison:
The Asmara Regime Policy Choice: The Asmara regime has chosen its poison pill. And there is no secret about its poison pill. It has been flirting with the Anti-Israel Anti-West crowd for quite some time. And that will lead us to the obvious question: what is Asmara’s political calculus? Well, let’s see:
#1. Isaias doesn’t have to be bothered by election. There is no democratically elected head of state in the region. Therefore by not holding elections Isaias would feel right at home. Of course he could hold election at any time; but without policy change, even if he wins fair and square – which he could – the Eritrean Opposition, Ethiopia, the “independent observers”, the “human rights watch” and the Western Media are going to dispute the result of the election and say, the election was fraudulent, it was rigged, it was fixed, it was a sham…then the Isaias regime would be delegitimized; and Isaias will end up in worse shape than he was before. If he loses in an election and hands-over power to anybody – to an opposition or one of his PFDJ Senior Cadres, well, with outside pressure, Isaias will most likely face Kaddafi or Saddam Hussein’s fate; or his predecessor might hand him over to The Hague. Either-way he can’t win. So might as well tell his crowd, Eritrea won’t be ready for election for the next thirty to forty years. Of course some of his supporters will believe him and stand by him.
#2. Isaias has created a powerful (militarily) state that could not be intimidated easily by its neighbors. We live in a polarized ghetto neighborhood where everybody wants to acquire the biggest gun in the business. And in my neighborhood, you don’t want be the weakest of them all. And the region wants Isaias Militarily to be very strong. And he loves that. Why does the Anti-Israel, Anti-West Arab Region want Isaias to be strong you ask: well, to box Ethiopia and keep it in check; to stop Ethiopia from becoming a regional player in the Horn; to stop Israel Intelligence and Israel Navy from using Eritrean Islands.
#3. Isaias has successfully suffocated the Eritrean Opposition. By flirting with the region, Isaias is enjoying a red carpet reception in the Gulf States, Tripoli, Cairo, Riyadh, Khartoum, Tehran, and Sana’a. He is probably getting subsidized oil, gas – plus petro-dollar filled briefcase every time he visits an Arab capital. And unless he switches allegiance, even after government changes due to the Arab Spring, Isaias’s relation with the Arab region won’t change very much. He is collecting the 2% “voluntary” tax money from all Eritreans in North Africa, Sudan and in the Arabian Peninsula with no problem. Using their influence they even helped him-out, when he got in trouble during the Djibouti debacle. His opposition organizations are smoked out from all Arab countries. Literally, he bankrupted the Eritrean Islamists, Jihadists and ethnic organizations by denying them any support from the Arab world. He bankrupted the ethnic Tigrigna dominated opposition organizations, because they have nothing to offer to their base that Isaias couldn’t. Hard to believe but very true – while Ethiopia is lobbying to sanction Eritrea for its support to Somali Islamists, Eritrean Islamists and Jihadists are in Addis lying relaxed in the best hotels Ethiopia could offer, fully paid by Ethiopian tax payers.
#4. Isaias is successfully implementing his Gerrymandering and Social Engineering project. To his credit, Isaias knows Eritrea and Eritrean people like the palm of his hand. The reason why Eritrean insurgency spread like a wild fire in the 1960s, and the reason why it was impossible to create ethnic Tigrigna dominated organization in the Field of Eritrea was simply, due to the Eritrean ethno-religious demography. During the Ethio-Eritrean federation, counting on ethnic Tigrignas to deliver, Ethiopia was pampering and cuddling ethnic Tigrignas to make the federation work. Though 50% of the Eritrean population, ethnic Tigrignas were densely concentrated at only 30% of the Eritrean land that borders Tigrai region. But Eritrean Muslims, though thinly spread, occupied 70% of the Eritrean land; which includes all areas that border the Red Sea and the Sudan regions; giving them all the advantage in the world to move in and out of the country with no hoops to jump. And that gave Eritrean Muslims the opportunity to arm themselves and challenge Ethiopian rule. Ethiopia could only hopelessly beg Arab neighbors to stop their support to the Eritrean insurgency; and we know what happened.
Well, Isaias knows this very well; because he is the product of it. Unless the Eritrean ethno-religious demography is completely altered, ethnic Tigrignas will always be threatened by proxy opposition organizations that are pampered by the Arab Region. To stop this threat, over the past twenty years, Isaias and his PFDJ cadres, while creating roadblocks to Muslim refugees from returning home, have successfully resettled ethnic Tigrignas on the 600 km border stretch with Sudan and 1200 km stretch along the Red Sea region.
Today, while Muslim ethnics reside in their traditional locality engulfed, ethnic Tigrignas has settled at Sudanese border from Om-Hajer to Maeloba, Gerset, Fanko, Alebu regions , to the river banks of Sawa, Homib, Barka, Himbol, Anseba, Zara all the way to Karora. And on the Red Sea coastal areas, ethnic Tigrignas has settled from Karora region, to Zula, Marsa Fatma, Tio, Ed, Beylul all the way to the border of Djibouti. Isaias and his PFDJ cadres have implemented this brilliantly executed demographic alteration plan while enjoying red carpet reception in Arab capitals. Why is the Arab Region looking the other way while Isaias is changing Eritrean demography forever you ask: well, simple politics: to choke a bigger foe (Ethiopia), it is justified to sacrifice a small friend.
Is this worth all the trouble that Isaias is facing with Western powers? Well, your guess is as good as mine. Could this be the end of PFDJ as we know it? I don’t know, but I can say this with absolute confidence: if Ethiopia is planning to use this upcoming EDA National Conference (November 2011) as a launching pad for – regime change and nominating leadership that would lead Eritrea post PFDJ – EDA will shatter into pieces before Christmas of this year (2011); and you can take that to the bank. Time permitting, these and other issues would be our discussion on my next article (of course with a lot of speculation and guessing). For now, before I leave you – there is something that I can’t stress enough – the relationship between regime change in Eritrea and democracy:
Please don’t fool yourself – the whole regime change project has nothing to do with democracy. The reason why Western Countries are against the PFDJ regime is not because – Eritreans are denied freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, democratic governance, rule of law, ethnic equality…. But of course Western powers don’t mind using them when convenient. Western Countries are not on a mission to spread democracy around the globe. They didn’t have any problem doing business with Hosni Mubarak, his three-decade corrupted rule, and his seventy billion dollar account. They didn’t have any problem doing business with Bin Ali, the apartheid regimes in South Africa, Mobuto Sese Seko, General Augusto Pinochet, and many more dictators. And to this day, they don’t have any problem doing business with dictators and monarchs around the globe.
Please grow up – Western Countries won’t have a sleepless night if hundreds of starved Eritreans are dying on the Arabian hot desert sands or shark infested high seas. They didn’t invent their satellites for the purpose of using their satellite image to spot emaciated Eritreans crossing the border. Western Countries are not in the business of feeding hungry people or eradicating hunger from this planet. If Western countries were genuine about eradicating hunger in The Horn, as rich, as powerful, and as reliable ally as it is, with little help from the West, Ethiopia would have exceeded its food security objective decades ago. Sadly, to this date, yes by the Western own media, the name Ethiopia has become synonyms with hunger.
Please stop living in denial – Please stop dreaming, hallucinating and drooling about Arab-Spring. Arab Spring is a false-hope. Arab Spring is an illusion. Regime change with Arab Spring type public uprising doesn’t solve any problem. There is no shortcut in life. Public uprising brings only uncertainty. Public uprising brings only power vacuum that would be filled by the military. Case in point: Ethiopia had its Arab Spring in 1974; what did it get – The Derg. Just for the sake of argument, let’s say the PFDJ regime is toppled tomorrow morning by public uprising; then what? How are the days before and after Isaias going to be any different? If Isaias is deposed by public uprising tomorrow morning, the beneficiaries of the uprising would be his Generals and Colonels? There is no point for calling Arab Spring type uprising if you don’t have any control over it. And the Eritrean opposition doesn’t have any underground networking in the country to control the uprising; at least that I know of.
Listen: with the exception of few lucky countries, for the past half century, all Arab and African heads of state lost power by public uprising or military coup d’état. The events that took place in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Cote D’Ivoire or what is happening in Syria are no different. There is nothing fundamental and there is nothing democratic about these changes. The Western-Media would want us to believe democracy is sweeping North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Well, if the event that is sweeping North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula is Democratic Change, then would Western Countries and Western Media allow such sweeping “democratic” changes to take place in Western Europe and North America? Absolutely not; because there is nothing democratic about it. Arab Spring is nothing but uncontrolled desperate move by people who are desperate for any change.
Democracy doesn’t mushroom overnight. Democracy could not be implanted or imported. Democracy is a culture that’s supported by democratic institutions. The countries in North Africa and in the Arabian Peninsula don’t have democratic culture and democratic institutions. And Eritrea is no different. Please spare yourself from disappointment – there won’t be any democracy in Eritrea and these countries for many, many years to come. Any surprises?
This regime change project is not about democracy. This project is not in the interest of the Eritrean people. It is not in the interest of the Ethiopian people. It is not in the interest of the Horn Region. This regime change project could only create power vacuum and radicalize the whole Horn Region. Yes from Kenya, to Somalia, to Yemen, to Eritrea and to Sudan. One has to be very naïve not to see which dictator is going to be the next victim after Isaias if not before; of course the War Indicted Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan. Meles and his government are not the owners of this regime change project. Meles and his government are speculators. They are in this project riding the storm betting to win big by aligning themselves with the powerful. Eritrean sanction crafted by Gabon and co-sponsored by Nigeria says it all. Ethiopia influencing IGAD to sanction Eritrea is hard to believe but plausible. Ethiopia influencing AU, UN and the Security Council to sanction Eritrea and to change the regime in Asmara is simply absurd.
Like it or not, intervention by global powers is going to be the new norm in Africa. Get used to it. Africa is going to be a battleground between Western Global Powers and the Rising Challengers from the East and from the South. Western intervention in Africa is not going to end with Tunisia, Cote D’Ivoire, Libya, Eritrea, or with Bashir’s Sudan. The battle is going to rage in every corner of the African continent. Many African leaders are going to be labeled and vilified as dictators, war-criminals…. and will be killed and jailed. African leaders would be in a dilemma – whom side to be, for a long time to come. Whom to side with – is going to be one side of their political dilemma – the other side would be – ethnic based drooling opposition organizations that would beg global powers to intervene in their country for their political gain; of course in the name of democracy. Every country in Africa has many ethnics and clans. In every African country there is ethnic grievance. The reality of ethnic grievance and ethnic oppression in Africa has served Western Intervention from the days of slavery until this very moment. And regrettably, it is not going to change any time soon.