To start where we left off (The Ethiopian Roar… P I) – among other things, we said “if Ethiopia is planning to use this upcoming EDA National Conference (November 2011) as a launching pad for regime change….then EDA will shatter in pieces before Christmas of this year (2011).” Well, the EDA Conference (Waela) was convened at Awassa with no problem; just a minor glitch: the Daniel Tewelde incident. EDA didn’t break up in pieces; it still is kicking. And that begs the question – well, what happened; did anything changed for the better during the Awassa Conference? Unfortunately the answer is no. EDA survived just for a simple reason: the Meles government blinked. The Ethiopian Roar – “We will work towards changing Eritrea’s policies or its government…” threat from Meles Zenawi proved to be a bluff, a hoax, an empty rhetoric. The status quo in Asmara was never challenged. The reason: Meles is incapable of Regime Change Project. Let me make it very clear:
- Rhetoric and bravado aside, Meles will never invade Eritrea to topple the PFDJ regime. Not out of respect for the Eritrean people or the sovereignty of Eritrea, but for lack of power and resources to execute the regime change project.
- Counting on the fragile EDA, if Meles ever decides to remove the PFDJ regime, before EDA sets its foot on Eritrean territory, the Eritrean opposition umbrella will shatter in pieces; leaving him without any “credible partner” to work with.
Well, to be credible myself, I’ve to make a compelling case argument on the above two points. And – challenging the wisdom and questioning the capability of Meles’s regime change rhetoric, and arguing about – the absence of “credible partner” for Meles on the Eritrean side would be the argument of this article. Let’s roll:
Argument #1: The Wisdom and Capability Argument
When it comes to regime change, after twenty long years in power, with an apparent Meles fatigue in his nation, and his legs stuck in the muddy political quagmire of his Eastern project, Meles could only dream toppling the PFDJ regime. For him, any military adventure to the North would be suicidal; and Meles is not one. Don’t get me wrong – when I say Meles will not invade Eritrea, I don’t have any illusion about Meles’s wishes and dreams. Meles or not Meles, no matter who is in power in Addis, the Amara and Tigrayan-Elite obsession with the Red Sea and the constant Roar (Tuta, Zeraf, Gedai…) to have it their way, will always be there. I don’t have any doubt in my mind, before the ink is dry on the recent sanction-papers, under any pretext, the Meles government will start lobbing and volunteering to sell its service for another round of sanction “to punish the regime in Eritrea”. And due to its narcissistic and belligerent attitude, the regime in Asmara won’t have any shortage of “enemies” that would lineup with Meles’s Ethiopia to put the last nail on its coffin. But for now, just for now, Isaias can breathe a sigh of relief at least until another round of political drama starts on the diplomatic circles of Western capitals. And Meles now and for the rest of his reign could only wish and dream to roll his tanks across Mereb River, topple the Isaias regime, and mesmerize us with his ቁስልኹም ኣይትሕከኹ ….(don’t scratch your wounds..) speech from Asmara with “love”.
Those of you who truly believe Meles is going to remove the PFDJ regime to empower EDA – please, please don’t kid yourself. Meles, aligning himself with powerful Global Powers is good and all; but that is not going change Ethiopia’s limitations. Still Ethiopia will be Ethiopia – a poor African neighbor to our South just like us. If the Addis policy makers were capable of regime change, which they are not – if they were serious about sending a regime change message to the PFDJ regime, which they were not – they would have convened the EDA Waela at Zalambessa during the Abune Ambes festival. And at the end of the Waela, they would have taken the 600 Waela participants to the hill-tops of Zalambesa, to enjoy the view of the beautiful hills of Kisad Emba, Debre Shimejana, Emba-Metera, the shining port city of SenAfe, and the exuberant festive celebration of the dancers and spectators on the open fields of Shimejana. Such provocative move would have sent unmistakable message and a shock-wave to the Nerve-Center. But, The Addis policy makers refused to play high stake gambling. Not for lack of evil intent, but for fear our “irrational Mad-Man” might overreact and things might spiral out of control.
To avoid any mishap, the Addis policy makers chose to play it safe; so safe they chose to shoot the “scoring goal” from Awassa (Ethiopia’s Southern Town) by a handicap kicker. They played it so safe, in a way they told the 600 Waela participants and their cheering supporters, ‘the road to Asmara goes through Libreville, Abuja and New York’. And the EDA crowd accepted it with cheers and applauds; because they know full well, they don’t have the legs that could carry them to sprint the distance. Yes, alone or on the back of Ethiopian tanks. They know how many back-flips and somersaults they have to do before they could stand still to govern. After all, didn’t they reinforce the very self-fulfilling prophecy? Didn’t they perfectly fell into the narrative of the skeptics? Doesn’t their “democratically elected” leadership and their “fair representation” of every ethnic every faith and every region on their leadership, speak valium about their post PFDJ “democratic” Eritrea? I don’t know if that was the intent, but the EDA leadership is as popular, as representative and as flawless as the Meles government itself.
So, tell me, unless coerced to do so, how could the Addis policy makers possibly open another War Front to their North to topple the PFDJ regime to empower EDA? They have already sealed their fate. They have already bit off more than they could possibly chew. They have already failed to lead their country and their people into stable and prosperous future. Their reign is already hanging by a thread. They are already in the middle of an explosive war that has Regional, National, Ethnic and Religious flavor. They are fighting a war they could never end. They are fighting a war they will never have a victory parade. Yes it is African war; yes it is African blood; yes it is African lives; yes war of poor African nations don’t make world headlines….but for heaven sake, in some shape or form – it is a Regional War that is involving Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, AU and the West by proxy. It is a Regional War that is claiming the lives of tens of thousands due to shooting war, starvation and mass displacement. The whole Horn Region is in flames. And Meles’s Ethiopia is at the center of this raging fire. Any sane person would tell you, the last thing Meles’s Ethiopia needs is opening another War-Front.
Ethiopia is a country of 80 million people, with about 3.2% annual population growth; yes Ethiopian population is going to grow by 25 million in the next ten years; and it is projected to reach 175 million in the next forty years (2050). For the next decade, Meles’s Ethiopian has to create at least 2.5 million new jobs every single year to keep up with its population growth. Not to prosper but just to stay afloat, yes just to keep the cost of living and the quality of services as is – Ethiopia has to double the size of its economy, the size of its workforce and the size of its services in the next thirty years. Now tell me, I don’t care whose side Meles is on, how could Ethiopia change the lives of its people from poverty and destitution if it keeps squandering its meager resources on regime change projects? How could Ethiopia remain stable when it is at war with itself and with its neighbors? How could Ethiopia prosper without having prosperous trading partners in its neighborhood?
Listen: it is a proven fact, when nations are at war their economy suffers as a result. And when nations face a declining/sluggish economic growth and an increasing population growth, their middle class shrinks dramatically falling into poverty each day. And the gap between the few haves and the impoverished majority widens so much so, it reaches a breaking-point where the status quo becomes unsustainable. War is the primary cause of poverty and destitution. Poverty and destitution are the primary causes of instability. As long Ethiopia continues to wage wars of choice – to suppress ethnics with dissenting voices and to remove “hostile regimes” of neighboring countries, Ethiopia will remain poor and unstable until it changes its policy. And if it fails to change its policy, its government will collapse as a result of internal violence.
But, just for the sake of argument, let’s say I’m wrong and you are right. Let’s say, economically, diplomatically and militarily Ethiopia is more than capable to topple the regime in Asmara. And I agree with you, removing the PFDJ regime is not that hard especially when you align yourself with Western Global Powers. Libyan experience has showed the world, with few ragtag militias that have lingering grudges, Western Media, and Western Air Power any third world country-government could be toppled at any time. But then what? How are you going to stabilize the country? Eritrea has about 200,000 armed men and women in uniform. To completely defeat the Eritrean Army and control the whole country (not stabilize), Ethiopia is going to need an army that is three times bigger (at least half a million men) for about ten years if not longer at a price tag of billions of dollars. And that is an expense Meles’s Ethiopia could not afford. To make matters even worse, the cost of regime change in terms of human lives and resources is only half of the problem. The other half: the war won’t be Addis vs. Asmara.
Eritrea is a buffer zone that could tip the scale of the whole regional politics – the Nile Politics (Sudan and Egypt), the politics of the Arab Israel conflict, and the newly emerging Arab (Muslim) Black Africans politics. If the Meles government dares to invade Eritrea with the intent to install Ethiopia friendly (puppet) regime in Asmara in order to flex its muscle to the Red Sea, then the Ethio-Eritrean war is going to attract the unwanted attention of many players in the region. And that would definitely make Eritrea a failed state. A failed state to Ethiopia’s North, will torch the whole Horn Region on fire from Tanzania, to Kenya, Somalia, Eastern Ethiopia, Yemen, Eritrea and North Sudan. Also a failed state in Eritrea would connect the Horn Region fire to the African Sahel through Sudan, Chad – and all the way to Mali, Nigeria and Senegal. Then to say the least, the disadvantaged Amara will be armed by Eritrean and Sudanese insurgents; and a third war front will be opened on Western Ethiopia; and as a result, Ethiopia would be destabilized and the Meles government will collapse.
Therefore, one could say with absolute confidence, knowing the consequence of war to their North, the current policy makers in Addis will never, never bend, aim and shoot their arrows to the North while butt naked in the South. They are already experimenting regime change project in Somalia hoping to flex their muscle to the Indian Ocean. Trust me, their Eastern project is going to give them so much headache, they won’t have any appetite for real military confrontation in their Northern Front. If you think about it, the political move for the Meles government is very predictable. The people to the East of Ethiopia have nowhere to go but to fight and die at home until they see fundamental policy change from Addis. By the same token, since the Addis policy makers are hostages of their own Eastern Project, they could only refrain themselves from opening another unprovoked war of choice to their North. Seems straightforward, doesn’t it?
But again, just for the sake of argument, let’s say I’m wrong. Let’s say Meles’s Ethiopia doesn’t have any problem to the East of its territory that it couldn’t handle. Let’s say Ethiopia is rich enough and powerful enough to open another war front to its North. Let’s say the argument that the Arab region is going to fight a proxy war in Eritrea is a bogus argument. And let’s say Ethiopia has all the diplomatic cover it needs at IGAD, AU and at the UN to remove the regime in Eritrea. But again the problem is more than Ethiopia’s economic strength, military might and diplomatic cover. Ethiopia’s ability to topple the PFDJ regime bears only one side of the political challenge. The other side: The Eritrean opposition.
Argument #2. The “Credible Partner for Peace” Argument
When I say with a very assertive tone, Ethiopia doesn’t have a reliable partner in the Eritrean opposition; and when I say EDA will break up in pieces if Ethiopia makes a serious move to remove the PFDJ regime; the first question that comes to mind is, how do you know? Well, let me tell you how I know: in Addis we have sensors. These sensors are so sensitive and so accurate, they can detect the slightest presence of dangerous fume, light, motion, proximity and taste in a split-second with 100% accuracy. If Ethiopia makes a serious move to topple the PFDJ regime, not only we’re going to see a flashing red light from our sensors, but also a deafening loud noise that would be heard from one end of the world to the other. And our reliable sensitive sensors are none other than the Eritrean Islamists and Ethnic Warriors in Addis (please spare the Kunamas). Let me give you a little background to the story.
At one time or another, almost all Eritrean political leaders have fought against the current policy makers in Addis. As a result, lives of most Eritreans have been affected negatively due to the decisions made by the current leaders of Ethiopia. Therefore, it is fair to say, there is suspicion and mistrust between Eritreans in general and the current policy makers in Addis in particular. Also, the Eritrean opposition organizations are divided into two camps; those who prescribe violent regime change and those who believe on nonviolent regime change. At this moment, the only political organization that is working with Ethiopia to remove the PFDJ regime using violence is the opposition umbrella EDA. But, if you pay attention to the political positions of Ethiopia and EDA, forget about agreeing on the main issues that matters the most, they are not even on the same planet. Yes, beyond the temporary shallow relation to use each other, there is no common thread that connects the political objectives of EDA and Ethiopia. And let me show you the comparison between EDA and the Meles government – political objectives and political positions vis-a-vis the PFDJ regime and our Region. Good luck if you can make any sense out of it.
►Despite all the rhetoric against Isaias and his PFDJ regime, all things considered – if an election was to be held in Eritrea today, Isaias and his PFDJ party would win fair and square. If you disagree, tell me who would?
►The Addis policy makers and their Western allies don’t want Isaias; they want someone exactly like Isaias. The EDA Islamists and Ethnic Organizations in Addis don’t want anyone who would walk, talk, look, breath like Isaias; they want someone who fits exactly their image.
►The Addis policy makers and their Western allies love everything that Isaias does; they just don’t like him because he refused to stop flirting with the wrong crowd in the region: Kaddafi, Ahmadinejad, Omar Al-Bashir, Al-Shebab….. The Anti-Ethiopia, Anti-Israel, Anti-West Arab Region despises Isaias and everything that Isaias does; they just keep pampering and cuddling him to keep Israel off Eritrean Islands and to keep Ethiopia in the box.
►The Addis policy makers and their Western allies hate Isaias because he is flirting too much with the Anti-Israel and Anti-West Arab Region. The Eritrean Islamists and Ethnic Organizations in Addis hate Isaias because he is not flirting enough with the Anti-Ethiopia, Anti-Israel, Anti-West Arab Region (they accuse him of – abandoning our traditional Arab allies).
► The Addis policy makers and their Western allies want us to believe – Isaias is an Arab agent on a mission to destroy Ethiopia and Western Interest in the region by supporting Somali Islamic Terrorists. The EDA Islamists and Ethnic Organizations in Addis want us to believe – Isaias is a CIA agent with a mission to destroy Eritrean Muslims by denying them their God Given Ancestral Muslim Land and by depriving them from speaking and learning “their” historic Arabic Language.
►The Addis policy makers and their Western allies don’t see any difference between the EDA Islamists and Ethnic Organizations in Addis, and the Arab Region that despise Abyssinians. They are just keeping the EDA organizations in Addis because they are the only opposition to Isaias they could find. The EDA Islamists and Ethnic Organizations in Addis don’t see any difference between the Weasel Meles government in Addis and the “Chauvinist Isaias government” in Asmara. They are just staying in Addis because they have nowhere to go.
►Winking their eyes to the Arab Region, when the EDA Islamists and ethnic organizations in Addis say “Ethiopia is our strategic ally”, literally you can see the Addis policy makers blood boiling hot; because they don’t want anyone to insult their intelligence. And when the EDA Islamists and Ethnic Organizations in Addis hear people like me (Semere Tesfai) claiming to be an opposition to the PFDJ regime, literally you can see their blood pressure and blood sugar level shooting through the roof; because they think that is a mockery of their intelligence as well.
►The Signature Objective of the EDA Islamists and Ethnic Organizations in Addis is – to empower Eritrean Muslims by reversing Ethnic Tigrigna (Christian) Domination, to claim their God given Muslim Land as existed pre-1952, to restore the status of the Arabic language in Eritrean society, and finally to live happily ever after in the company of our traditional Arab allies. And the Signature Objective of the Addis policy makers is?/was – to build a Shining Economic Tiger on the ashes of “our” old dynasty – Axum, Bahre-Negash, Qohaito, Adulis…. Yes a Shining Black Jewel on the Hill for all to see and envy. And to guard their precious Black Jewel, their master plan is?/was, to build an invincible modern military fighting machine that could protect and defend their Grand Frontier that stretches from the Shining Sea to the river banks of Alewaha. Because they know full well, at the end of the day, no amount of hardware, no amount of resources and no amount of alliances will stop and secure their Shinning Black Jewel, when the inevitable long wave length, high-amplitude Southern Tsunami rolls thundering with rage to hit their shores. I don’t know if their dream still lives on, but that seems to have been the original play-script for the stage performance. Well, you got the idea.
Now tell me – how do you bridge these diametrically opposing dreams? In all honesty, you can’t. You can’t reconcile the irreconcilable. If you believe the above stated points are wrong and want to challenge back, be my guest. If you believe whether the above stated points are right or wrong, Ethiopian policy makers will still topple the Isaias regime to empower the EDA Islamists and Ethnic Organizations, you are insane. If you believe EDA is not dominated by Islamists and Ethnic Organizations, you are in denial. If you believe, the Eritrean Islamists and Ethnic Organizations will reform EDA to become a genuine National Political Organization that would give hope to Eritreans of all faiths, ethnics and regions, you are hallucinating. And let me tell you why:
In a multi ethnic society, there is no common denominator that would lead to National unity and then Democracy when political organizations are trenched in Religious and Ethnic Politics. If there was success in such politicking, Lebanon would have been a living example of democracy and National Unity on this planet; but it is not. In ethnic politics, the mistrust is not limited against the sitting government but also against each other as well. On our home front, if ethnic politicking happens to be the preferred blue print for our politics, then one could dare to argue – Tigres don’t trust Tigrignas. Kunamas don’t trust Tigres and Tigrignas. Afars don’t trust Tigres and Tigrignas. Jebertis don’t trust Tigrignas. Sahos don’t trust Tigres and Tigrignas, Naras don’t trust Tigres and Tigrignas…. In ethnic politics, since the only ethnic you trust is your own ethnic, the objective would always be your ethnic to sit on the driver seat. Since there could only be one driver sitting on the driver seat, either your ethnic is sitting on it, or some other ethnic is. And if some other ethnic happens to sit on the driver seat, the rest of the ethnics would turn into porcupines: they will turn their back and they will raise their sharp quills. If anyone comes up with a national plan that involves the ethnic territory of the “loser” ethnics, it would be tantamount to declaration of war on them. Remember: all the issues that are being raised by our ethnic organizations are real issues that deserve real solutions. Issues of ethnic rights, fair representation, allocation of resources, opportunities, services… all must be resolved in a way that would give confidence to all stakeholders. But to argue – we have to divide ourselves into ethnics, clans and sub-clans to preserve our national unity, to protect our rights, and to become democratic nation is insanity beyond anyone’s comprehension.
By the same token, in a multi-faith society, when a political organization is carrying a gun to govern on the name of its God/Allah, there is no common-ground short of marginalizing or converting those with “the other faith”. There is no illusion about the objective of the Islamists in EDA. They are not carrying a gun to assert their right to practice their faith. They are fighting for a well thought-out agenda: to grab state power in order their faith to dominate; and to legitimize the domination of their faith over other faiths using the power of the National Government. If you believe that’s not the case, then tell me – why in the world would they custom-design, produce, advertise and aggressively market to sell a political brand in the name of their God/Allah with the intent to govern us all? If they happen to win and govern the nation with their political brand, as they intend to do, the “others” could only have two choices: to buy their political product (Islam) or to remain marginalized. This is not rocket science. The writing is on the wall for all to see.
Again, the argument is very simple: we all should respect and accept the full rights of all the Faithful and all the ethnics, to organize and to fight for the narrow interest of their faith/ethnic, and to belong to any national political party of their choice as organized body. But to govern the diverse Nation as an ethnic or on the name of their God/Allah is insanity that should not be tolerated. And that applies to every ethnic and to every faith.
Well, with the majority of ethnic Tigrignas outside his fishing net, and EDA being the best playing card he got, one could argue – Meles doesn’t have a “reliable political partner” for his Northern Project. That being the reality, neither Meles nor his Western Allies would topple the PFDJ regime, to empower the EDA Islamists and Ethnic Organization to control the Red Sea. Accepting the fact that Meles is not in a position to pull the strings but to sell his service to milk the project, if those who call the shots ever decide to drop the last straw that would break the PFDJ back to land from our South, which is very unlikely, then without a doubt we are going to witness a major overhauling, restructuring and face-lifting project on the Eritrean opposition in Addis way, way – years before the last straw is dropped. And if ever – the groundwork for overhauling, restructuring and face-lifting project starts to take place, not only the Eritrean Islamists and Ethnic Organizations (who would lose the most) are going to show their strong objection, but also they will flee the scene in an instant (again please spare the Kunamas). And when they leave their current habitat, they are not going to leave the scene quietly. Their deafening alarm will be heard from one end of the planet to the other. Then our Region, smelling the fume of danger will react with its own signal: the Eritrean Islamists and Ethnic Warriors will be welcomed to regroup and to convene their MuAtemer Al-Weteny (National Congress) in some Arab capital. And you can bet your last penny on that.
Folks, you don’t need crystal ball to see how the Meles government, the Eritrean Islamists, and the Eritrean Ethnic Warriors would play their game at the eleventh hour. The Eritrean Islamists and Ethnic Warriors are not going to be outfoxed by the Slick Willies in the Meles government. They are not going to hand over the driver-key and sit quietly on the back seat. They are not going to take “everything will be discussed and resolved once we get to Asmara” for an answer. Because they know where they will end up if they somehow landed in Asmara sitting on the back seat – yes you guessed it right – Era Ero. And that is not going to happen; never. Either having full control – they will be driving all the way to Asmara or they won’t board on the train at all. But for sure they won’t mind relaxing in Addis until opportunity knocks their door.
So please – unless there is a major overhauling restructuring and face-lifting project on the Eritrean opposition, unless some ethnic Tigrigna Ahmed Chalabis with a shady past are occupying key leadership positions in the opposition, unless Eritrean Islamists and Ethnic-Warriors are fleeing from Addis right and left, unless the regime in Asmara the Eritrean Islamists and the Eritrean ethnic warriors are screaming their lungs-out reading from the same note – saying: Agames, Weyane, Ethiopian invasion, foreign intervention…., nothing, yes nothing alarming will happen. Yes, the regime change objective is still there. Yes, there is a price you pay when you flirt with Ahmadinejad, Muammar Gaddafi, Omar Al-Bashir, Al-Shebab and the likes. Yes, sanctions are intended for one and only one reason: regime change. But if you look the pattern and connect the dots, so far the game plan for regime change has been very consistent: induce change from inside. The method for regime change: tighten the screws on the skull of the Alpha-Male until it cracks open. And if you think about it, how much pressure could possibly exert a Tortoise-Skull staffed with inflated ego before it cracks open? Not much. It is just a matter of priority for those who call the shots.
But the fact that there are so many blips on the radar screen, the fact that the Meles government rhetoric is only there to sell its service to milk the regional political restructuring nothing more and nothing less, the fact that there is so much uncertainty in the horizon, and the fact that the regional and global politics are evolving more rapidly than any time in our lifetime to shape the global power politics of our future – PFDJ Eritrea may not even be on the short list of the Regional Political Restructuring menu. If that’s the case, which seems more likely than not – again, against all odds, the survivor (Isaias) might ride the storm and still stand on his own two feet only his fate to be determined by internal dynamics; exactly like many of us are predicting to be the case. And there is testament to this argument:
If Isaias and his TV-ERI are busy analyzing “the truth” about the politics of Somalia, Darfur, South Sudan, Arab Spring, the Cold War, economic recession and unemployment in the West…..for eight long hours times three (Tigrigna, Arabic and English), if the Eritrean Islamists and Ethnic Warriors are lying relaxed in Addis praising the Meles government more than the Ethiopians themselves, if the Meles-Team offensive players are in the high rising building-corridors of Addis and New York waiting a phone call for their next assignment – please, please don’t wake me up with your nonsense false alarms. I’m sick and tired of you people screaming, every time Meles or one of his lieutenants opens his mouth – telling me Ethiopia is going to invade Eritrea, Meles is going to take Assab. Ethiopian official in DC said….watch-out… this time it is different…. blah, blah, blah…..
Listen: we all Eritreans are survivors; we know better than that. Our Tegadalay (Eritrean) survival instinct has thought us with perfection how to distinguish an Ethiopian incessant chatter from a real move. If you really want to differentiate real move from incessant chatter – please don’t watch the lip-movement of Ethiopian public officials; watch the movement of their logistics. And you’re not seeing any. If you are not seeing any, then the status quo has not been challenged (militarily); at least not yet. But that doesn’t mean we have to let our guard down. Let’s not fool ourselves, the timing might change but the main objective never will. The Amara and Tigrayn-elite will never stop salivating at the smell of the Northern gentle breeze; and the weary eyes of Eritrean mothers will never tire watching the dark clouds on the Southern Horizon. For the Amara and Tigryan-elite it is all about political power and economic lifeline, for Eritrean mothers it is all about the safety and the wellbeing of their children. Of course Meles would beg to differ. He would say “the grapes are sour anyway”; and if need be he would say “it is service rendered that could be bought from any neighbor without a fuss”; but I say baloney.
N.B. Time permitting, The Ethiopian Roar… P. III will argue about – a lasting solution to the Ethio-Eritrean political problem.