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Home / Awate Team / Awate.com’s Saleh Johar interviews Meles Zenawi (2008)

Awate.com’s Saleh Johar interviews Meles Zenawi (2008)

The following was first published in May 26, 2008. It’s the first ever interview with the late PM Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia by an Eritreans entity since 1997.  The file was lost around 2012 due to some server mishap. Thereafter, several people have asked us about it but we couldn’t find it until recently. This republishing is dedicated to the “PFDJ’s ambassador” at the UN because we traced the original through her extensive social media entries about the interview.
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Introduction to the Interview

awate.com has often emphasized the importance of dialogue–that if Eritreans and Ethiopians are to overcome decades of war, suspicion and mistrust and live as good neighbors, efforts must be made by  intellectuals, journalists, community leaders, elders and religious leaders to embark on a people-to-people dialogue.  The wall of separation that is built by self-serving regimes must be demolished.  Unless the taboos of who-goes-where-and-meets-with-whom are permanently uprooted, we as a people will be victims to those who thrive in environments of misunderstanding and miscommunication and those who have designated themselves the role of brokers through whom we have to go to even talk to our neighbors.  In this vein, awate.com has co-sponsored initiatives and outreaches to break down this psychologicial barrier. This interview is a continuation of such efforts.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia was interviewed by Saleh Johar of awate.com. The interview was conducted in English (tape recorded) at the PM’s office in Addis Ababa on May 12, 2008 and transcribed for publication on May 23, 2008. It is composed of four topics: 1) Ethiopia; 2) Ethio-Arab relations; 3) Sudan-Eritrea-Ethiopia and 4) Eritrea.

ETHIOPIA

1- After seventeen years of experience with ethnic federalism, in 2005 you had a crisis following the elections; and now you have an armed opposition. You came to power through an armed struggle: how do you explain the armed struggle that your government is facing?

My own feeling is that the … while we have put the federal system in place to replace the imperial system that was present under both the emperor and Mengistu, in my view, was the only way foreword and a very bold experiment. Dismantling an imperial system and putting in its place a functioning federal system is a process. And like all processes, it is bound to face bumps along the road.

2005 was the process of putting in place a federal system…it has to be buttressed by strong institutions of federalism and a good stand to defend the institutions. It has to be buttressed by a working economy–that took time. It is to be buttressed by an evolving culture of tolerance and understanding. So, I am not unduly worried that this is still work-in-progress. All that matters to me is that we are making progress. And I believe we are making progress.

It is true that we have armed opposition groups in this country. It is very unfortunate that there is still basis for such expression for dissent. I believe that over the past 17 years we have created space for peaceful dissent. Much of the imposition [opposition?] in 2005 was in fact composed of remnants of the Mengistu regime who wanted to undo the process of reform of government institutions over the 17 years. So long as they express their opinions in a peaceful and legal manner, that was perfectly legitimate. So, I think we have enough space for people to forgo option of understanding, but the regional circumstance, underdevelopment, poverty and backwardness  in the country is such that there must be some space, some basis for some sort of armed opposition. The good thing is because it doesn’t have mass followers or mass back up, so far it has not been other than a civil difficulty in the region.

2- There are some nasty reports coming out of the Ogaden region. The region, it is said, enjoys all the rights enshrined in your constitution up to the right to secession. Did the ethnic federalism fail there or is it because of some external agitation as reported…what is going on there?

Well, there is a snag in the process there.  People from the region there are amongst the most vocal in protecting… in defending the rights of nationalities of Ethiopia, the right of secession included, when the constitution of Ethiopia was being approved; there were heated debates over there… and people from the Somali region were very active in supporting that right. And I don’t believe the previous irredentist agenda of Somalia has any action at this stage.

But the region is still among the most backward in the country. It has not benefited adequately from the progress that we have made in terms of economic development. This is not because the federal government does not want that region to benefit from the growth that is taking place in the country. It is because as a result of federalism, much of the work has to be done by the state, the federal state, itself. And the dysfunctional element that we see in Somalia has its reflection in our Somali region. The clannish alliances; the misuse of resources based on clan alliances and so on. That has very significantly retarded the growth of the region in terms of good governance and in terms of economic development. Therefore, there is room for resentment in that particular region. That is part of the problem.

The other part of the problem is that it borders with Somalia and it has many cultural links in Somalia and, so, it is inevitably going to be influenced by developments in Somalia. It has not been possible for us to completely quarantine the Somali region of Ethiopia from what is happening in Somalia.

And then, of course, there is the interest in the part of some of our neighbors, particularly the president of Eritrea, in trying to destabilize Ethiopia. It is a combination of these regional and local factors. At one stage, it caused a serious security threat. We have tried and removed this security threat. For us to stop the process of degeneration there, and I believe we have, more or less, we have successfully done so.

I understand there have been horrendous, reports of horrendous, human rights abuse, villages burned and all the rest. I can tell you that in an environment of conflict  that it would not be possible for me to say that there were no violations of human rights, there were no, so-called, collateral damages. But I can tell you adamantly there was no systematic violation of human rights.

We, our movement, knows how it feels. Our movement knows how insurgent movements succeed. Violation of human rights in an environment of counter-insurgency is the sure way of handing victory to the other side. We know that. And it will be stupid for us to engage in activities that would absolutely result in our defeat. So, there was no systematic violation of human rights. But in an environment of conflict, I cannot be 100% sure that there was not a single civilian killed.  I am 100 % sure there was not any village burned; but I am not sure that one hut here, one hut here has been burned, or no such thing has happened. So all I can say is no systematic violation of human rights but it is possible [there was] collateral damage of some sort.

3- I would like to hear your views about what happened in Kenya recently. After fifty years of democracy, relatively speaking, the last election in Kenya caused a crisis in which so many lives and properties were lost. Are you afraid that something like that would happen here, or why do you think something erupted out of nothing in Kenya?

I don’t think something erupted out of nothing in Kenya. Some people define democracy as a process. Behind the process is selection of leaders by people and free competition of parties and so on and so forth. There are a number of pillars that need to be put in place: institutions of democratic governance, including judiciary; proper civil service institutions; cultural tolerance, and an economy that functions–and that functions properly. Now, in many African countries, the state is the biggest business. If someone wants to become rich, the shortest path is to become a minister. And therefore, politics becomes a zero sum game.

Democratic politics is not designed to manage zero sum games. In some instances, it is being asked to manage zero sum games. This is a contradiction in terms. What we in Ethiopia hope to do–have started to do–is to separate wealth-creation from management of the process of politics and try to create a vibrant private sector, opportunities for business advancement. So that those who want to accumulate wealth, do not go through the indirect way of accumulating political power first. Until we have done that, we will not have a stable democracy anywhere in the continent, and we are unlikely to have stable democracies in a decade or two. It took many democratic states in the West centuries, but it doesn’t have to take us centuries. But we have to put the infrastructure in place. We have to build institutions and we have to redesign our economies in such a way that they can be–economics can be separated from politics; and politics can become something other than zero sum game.

4- There are some leaders in Africa, Mugabe and Isaias for example, who believe that western module of democracy doesn’t work in Africa. How do you see that in relation to what happened in Kenya? I have heard people say that those two leaders are right, democracy doesn’t work in our region. What are your views on that?

I am not sure whether Mugabe theoretically argues that quote unquote western democracy does not work in Africa. There may be criticisms as to how he practices it. But I am not sure whether he theoretically argues that democracy should not or does not work in Africa.  I know Isaias does so.

Now it is not a question of importing foreign ideologies, as it were. For me in Ethiopia, I look at what other possible ways out there are for us in terms of governance here in Ethiopia.

And I start with the fact that Ethiopia is an extremely diverse society. I start with the fact that previous regimes in Ethiopia have tried to resolve the issue of diversity through homogenization, attempted homogenization, assimilation. I start from the fact that they have completely failed. I start from the fact that the best way of accommodating diversity is democracy. Therefore, in the case of Ethiopia in particular, democracy is not a question of choice; it is a question of survival. Either we accommodate diversity by peaceful means or we implode.

So the question is not whether democracy is advisable for us or not. I think it is a forgone conclusion: we have no other option. There is no other option of accommodating diversity that can work. The question, therefore, should be how best do we achieve that. Recognizing that this is a process, how do we avoid attempted short-cuts that  take us to dead-ends, on the one hand; and using the slogan of processes as an excuse to indefinitely postpone the exercise of democracy. We have to avoid both extremes.

Other than that, I don’t think we can avoid democracy without transforming ourselves into failed states. And I think in the case of Eritrea too, Eritrea is diverse enough. Perhaps not as diverse as Ethiopia but diverse enough. And the tensions in the Eritrean society are such that I don’t think they could be accommodated by any means other than by democratic means. Therefore, Eritreans have no other options but to embark on a democratic process.  How it does so, how much time it takes–all of these are for Eritrean to sort out. But the path is unavoidable and very clear.

ETHIOPA-ARAB RELATIONS

5- Eritrea is accused of being involved in the activities in Somalia and many people believe that it is helping in getting Ethiopia out. And it has the blessing of some regional countries. This new venture has given the Eritrean regime a new lease on life, at least diplomatically. The involvement of the Eritrean regime in Somalia is seen as a counter to Ethiopia’s involvement. In fact, the regime has tried to position itself as a defender of Islamic and Arab rights in the region and some regional intellectuals and diplomats are promoting this positioning.  How do you see that working? And why don’t you pull out of Somalia?

First of all, I don’t take the Arab world as a homogeneous block with some anti-Ethiopian agenda or visceral hatred of Ethiopia. That is not true. We have excellent ties with many Arab countries at this stage. We have extraordinarily close ties, for example, with Algeria. We have extraordinarily close ties, for example, with Yemen. That has nothing to do with Arabism. That has nothing to do with Islamism.

But of course there are geo-political interests. We are next-door neighbors with the Arab world. Unavoidably, some of these countries may have geo-political interests that they think are in contradiction with Ethiopian geo-political interests. They may try to sell their specific national geo-political agenda as some sort of an Arab agenda but I don’t think they can succeed.

Now Isaias, since the first day he had this dispute with [Ethiopia], understands this and has tried to capitalize on it. Some of these countries that have geo-political interest that they think are in conflict with ours are … have some weight in the Arab world, and may hold views contrary to ours.  That is very unfortunate and it is very damaging to Ethiopia’s interest and Isaias has tried to capitalize on it.

The first point I would like to make, therefore, would be that there is no homogenous Arab position on any matter whether it is Somalia, Eritrea or Ethiopia. A good part of the Arab world still has excellent close ties with us and we need to maintain that.

In the case of Somalia, we intervened primarily because of our national security. The Jihadist group in Somalia, they declared war on us. They threatened our immediate national security interest. They posed what we call clear and present danger. We intervened to stop it. We stopped it in two weeks. We could have immediately withdrawn without any risk to our security. Unfortunately, we didn’t do that. We didn’t do that because we felt that we owe it to the Somalis who sided with us in fighting the Jihadists to give them some breathing space so that they can reorganize, reconsolidate themselves so that peace can be given a chance in Somalia. We felt that we would pay in blood, some blood to that, it would be worthwhile. It would be a plus to our future cooperation with the Somalis.

The African Union backed our agenda and we felt that we owed it to the African Union to give them some breathing space until they bring alternative forces. That is why we have stayed on in Somalia and we have no other agenda. Technically, we could withdraw tomorrow without any risk to our national security. We have no anti-Islamic agenda. Many people do not realize, for example,  Sharia courts are recognized and backed by the government in Ethiopia. This is a secular state, but in our constitution, there is a provision that, on family matters for example, whatever the Sharia court decides would be enforced by the Ethiopian police. Now, every Muslim in Ethiopia has a choice– he can go to secular courts in family matters or he can go to Sharia courts in family matters. He can go to Sharia courts in family matters and if the Shraia courts decides one way or the other, the state is obliged to execute [the decision]. Now, this is a country that is supposedly involved in an anti-Islamic agenda! Ethiopia cannot be an instrument of anti-Islamic agenda because it is [Islam is] part of its system. And over 30% of the population in Ethiopia are Muslims. We cannot have an anti-Islamic agenda without imploding from inside…

6- Do you think you have done a good job in explaining this to those who accuse you?

I think we have done a good job in explaining this to Ethiopians because I do not see resentment on the part of Ethiopian Muslims regarding the government or its policies. On the contrary, Muslims have traditionally been among the most supporting of the EPRDF [Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Forces, ruling coalition] in Ethiopia. But we have done a lousy job in terms of explaining this to the outside world. And the situation in Somalia has made [it] a very bad job and even worse because interested parties have presented it as a crusade of some sort.

7- Coming to the crusade part, your opponents accuse you  of executing American agenda in the region. Considering the anti-American sentiments in the region, are you not positioning yourself in an antagonistic position? Are you worried that your regional policies would be perceived as similar to the imperial Ethiopian policy and your being positioned as such?

There are a number of points that need to be stressed here. First, we do not have visceral knee-jerk reaction or hatred towards the Americans or the American agenda. We evaluate the policies being implemented in the region. Where we see a coincidence of interest and policies, we interact with the American plan as we interact with anybody else. Where we see lack of coincidence in our positions, they go their way and we go our way. So, we do not want to be part of anti-Americanism for the sake of being anti-American.

Secondly, in the case of Somalia, for example, I remember the commander of the joint task force that they have in Djibouti going to Nairobi and speaking to the press — just before we intervened — and telling the press (and I am quoting here) “we are sitting this one out.” Meaning, the United States is not going to be involved in Somalia. They didn’t expect that we would remove the Islamic Courts from Mogadishu in two weeks. They thought that [it] was going to be a very difficult experiment. And so they didn’t back it up initially. After the initial success, the Americans have given us diplomatic support and back up. That is for the Americans but the African Union has also given full backing up.

We do not know any anti-Islamic state agenda of the United States. Some constituencies in the united states may harbor anti-Islamic agenda; but we are not aware of any formal US anti-Islamic policy. We, most certainly, are not part of any such policies. We couldn’t. We are not. And we would not be. But I understand that this has not been explained adequately. And we… that we are being labeled as crusaders. We are not crusaders. We think religious wars, whether it is crusade or Jihad, we believe belongs to the Middle Ages not to the present.

SUDAN-ERITREA-ETHIOPIA

8- Let me ask you about your relations with the Sudan. It seems the Sudanese-Ethiopian relation is inversely proportional to both governments’ relations with Eritrea. How is that so? Could you characterize for me that relation?

It appears to be that; I doubt whether it really is that. Initially, we had excellent relations with the Sudan. I am talking about some few elements in the Sudanese establishment who abused the goodwill that we had with the Sudan as a movement,  as a government. And they were involved in the assassination attempt on [Egyptian] President [Hosni] Mubarek in our country. That soured our relations for some time. And the relations improved when many of these elements were removed from the Sudanese government.

With the demise of AlTurabi, that coincidence, that coincided with the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea. So, it is possible to interpret the reinvigoration of relations between Sudan and Ethiopia, in the late nineties and early 2000, as result of the dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea. But since then, we have maintained excellent relations with Sudan. Sudan’s position with Eritrea has changed from time to time. Initially, it was antagonist, very similar to ours. At a later stage, it was more accommodating. In spite of this situation we have excellent relations with the Sudan.

I don’t think the relations between Sudan and Eritrea has improved as a result of diplomatic skill. I believe it is a matter of blackmailing. The Eritrean government has successfully planned, blackmailed, the Sudanese government into improving its relations with Eritrea. I do not believe there is any love lost now between the Sudanese government and the Eritrean government. I believe the Sudanese government has been exploited by the Eritrean government to blackmail the Sudanese government and I understand that. I believe the support of the Islamic opposition groups by the Sudanese government, to protect their interest, and we understand that. And as a result we have had… we have maintained our relationship.

9- There is one thing that has been coming up as far as Ethiopian policy towards Eritrea is concerned. Many Eritreans say that Ethiopia has a landlocked-country complex. Can we comfortably say that this complex is not there perhaps because Ethiopia now has several access to other ports?

I cannot tell you that every Ethiopian shares my view, but I can comfortably tell you that my position, my view, is a majority position. And that is the position of the government. My view is this: the Ethiopian imperial system has been dismantled and replaced by the federal system that we have in place. For Ethiopians, a constitutional country established on the the basis of the right to self-determination that really expressed desire of its people was the sine-qua-non for the maintenance of the country. All those Ethiopians who do not want to be Ethiopians simply have the right not to be Ethiopia or else we could die…

But the Eritreans have expressed their desire to be independent state in an internationally supervised referendum and the thirty years war ended this time.

So any attempt to incorporate Eritrea in the fold of Ethiopia will not succeed in incorporating Eritrea; it will simply succeed in dismantling Ethiopia, because it will dismantle the fundamental principle on which Ethiopia is formed: the right to self-determination. And that is, I think the majority position. I do. I am very comfortable that this is the government position. Once you agree on this fundamental principle, the issue of ports becomes an issue that is non-political.

Port service is a service like hotel service, like tourism service like any other service; you can buy it in the market. If you have the money, if we Ethiopians are rich, then we can buy this service from any provider. The most perfect provider would be Eritrea- for geographic reasons, cultural reasons, but it is not the only provider. If you are poor, the ports won’t make any difference to begin with. So the issue is an issue of economic growth in Ethiopia. The port is clearly a matter of buying and selling a service.

That is my view, that is the view of my government, that is the view of my party, and that is the view of the majority of Ethiopians. But I cannot tell you that there are no Ethiopians who do not have sort of ports hang up; but this is not a majority view and it is a dying view.

ERITREA

10- The last part. There is a general view and there are many in Eritrea, quite a few, who have this nightmare that, someday, what happened in Somalia can be repeated in Eritrea and quite a few who think that way out of fear of Ethiopia’s intentions. How do you make them feel comfortable that what happened in Somalia will not be repeated in Eritrea?

There are two possible ways of doing that. One possible way of doing that would be to say that I do not have any type of hatred to the Eritrean people, I never had that type of hatred to the Eritrean people. My track record does not show that kind of hatred to the Eritrean people, etc, etc. In other words, I would appeal to their emotions and feelings, it is somebody’s emotions. But these are emotional arguments that don’t cut that much ice.

So we have to talk about interests now. Interests are more solid than emotions. I would want somebody to convince me that it is in the interest of Ethiopia as to create another Somalia in Eritrea. If it is in the interest in Ethiopia to do it, then I can understand why Eritreans would be worried. Because they might read that interests are more substantive that sentiments. But there is no reason to believe that a Somalia in Eritrea would to the benefit of Ethiopia, not at all. The best scenario for Ethiopia is a stable Eritrea, one that is not a thorn on our back. That is the kind of Eritrea that we would like to have.

We don’t deserve the Eritrea that we now have, and I don’t think Eritrean people deserve the Eritrea that they now have. And I don’t think Eritreans deserve a Somalia in Eritrea, and I don’t think we deserve a Somalia in Eritrea. So it is not in Ethiopia’s interest: in fact, the self-interest of Ethiopia is in seeking that Eritrea doesn’t become another Somalia.  One Somalia in the region is one too many. And it is not a theoretical issue it is a practical issue. We know what a failed state in Somalia means to Ethiopia. It means a nightmare. Why would we want to have another nightmare in North?

11- Something that goes back a while, a bad experience in the late nineties, quite a few Eritreans were deported from Ethiopia…now quite a few of them support the Eritrean regime not because they agree with its policies but because they feel they were wronged by your government. What would you say to them?

I can’t tell you this was our finest hour–far from it. It was a very regrettable process. All I can say is that people ought to understand what happened. As the invasion came as a shock, not only to the Ethiopian people as a whole but also to the EPRDF. And many in the EPRDF were surprised at the betrayal. And there was an element that was about lashing out and lashing back. At that stage, the Eritrean government was saying that they have a big presence [in Ethiopia] and if they wanted to remove the government from Addis, they could do it, any time. And the Eritrean community organizations here, in Ethiopia, were practically declared by the Eritrean government as an element of a fifth column that they have in Ethiopia.

Now when you combine that perceived threat with the anger amongst many in the government, it was easy for these angry people to argue that we have a security problem and the primary responsibility of the security of our citizens; therefore, we have to decrease the security threat. This was a circumstance that brought the situation- an environment of  risk and environment of anger and an environment of  hatred.

I would also wish those who have been deported to understand that this government had resisted a similar approach from 1991 to 1998. It was not because there were no temptations to do that. And the Eritrean [government officials] were repeatedly informed. We have discussed this with the Eritrean government, trying to involve it each time without creating tensions and anger among the citizens. Many Ethiopians at that time wanted us to retaliate in kind, we resisted that because we felt it will not be in the long-term interest of the two peoples. And because we felt that whatever the Eritrean government does, we do not need to have a similar response. So in 1998, the circumstances that were created, were such that we could no longer resist. So, this very regrettable thing happened.

Now, it is easy for someone who was not on a receiving end, to theoretically argue that was wrong. It was a very unfortunate and let’s move on. Those who have been on the receiving side of it feel the pain and we have to understand that. All I can say to them is, please try to understand the circumstance. I am not going to justify it by any means, I am going to explain the circumstance.

12- I want to ask you about the Eritrean opposition at this point. How do you evaluate it, what is your assessment of its performance?

The Eritrean opposition organizations…come in all sorts of types and sizes. And therefore, there is a variation in the qualities and performances. I am very encouraged by the recent developments within the Eritrean opposition and so the level of maturity that in some way was absent in that camp. And this is a recognition that the future destiny of Eritrea would not be determined by the thirteen opposition organizations. And the recognition of the thirteen organizations that a vision for Eritrea that could be implemented as soon as the Eritrean government is removed.

The mission of the opposition ought to be to remove the current government and let the Eritrean people make their choice on any of the pending issues in Eritrea, recipe, form of government, that is for the Eritrean people to make the final decision on. And so I think it was a bit academic of them to quarrel on how to decide on the future of Eritrea or how to govern future Eritrea. All they need to understand and accept is that the Eritrean people should have the final say. And that is the task of the opposition organizations. I think they are moving in that direction and that is why I think there  has been an improvement in the level of maturity.

Secondly, they appear to be at loss, as to how to bring about a government change in Eritrea. This is understandable. They see that the Eritrean people who fought the previous Ethiopian regimes in Eritrea, so valiantly, but are now avoiding being so [valiant], as far as the current government in Eritrea is concerned and are in desperation, engaged in an exodus. Now, this is something new for the Eritrean political culture and experience. And I wouldn’t be surprised if people felt bewildered by what is happening to the Eritrean people: why are they not fighting back? Why are they fleeing their country? Etc. So a new understanding of what is happening in Eritrea is required. And there appears to be bewilderment in that sphere. I hope they will, over time, come up with a proper explanation of what is happening in Eritrea and how best to start from where we are now to bring about change in Eritrea.

13- People think that you have the skill and talent but question your will on the type of support that you give to the Eritrean opposition in comparison to the support the  Eritrean regime gives to your opposition. I would mention here facilities such as passport, for example, where the Ethiopian support is not forthcoming?

Let me say a few things here. First, we would like to distinguish our support from that of the Eritrean government to the Ethiopian opposition. We would like to make sure that is based on clear principles. Governance in Eritrea, democratic governance in Eritrea, is for Eritreans. Those of us who are not Eritreans, who may have goodwill towards Eritreans, can wish the Eritrean people the best. But we cannot make it our business. That is an issue of principle that we cross at our own peril as Ethiopians and could endanger Eritreans too. So, we have been very careful to try to make sure that our support is based on clear and firm principles. Now, what are we doing then with the Eritrean opposition? Why are we, however limited our support might be, why are we supporting them?

Our interest in Eritrea, as state, is to have peaceful coexistence with Eritrea. The current Eritrean government doesn’t want to give us peace. We believe the Eritrean people want peace. We believe these opposition groups, give the Eritrean people the space to make decisions, and we will have sustainable peace with Eritrea. So it is in the interest of peace of Ethiopia that we support the opposition. We are not interested in the details of their program. The only program we are interested in is whether the Eritrean people will be given the space to make decisions. If the Eritrean people are given the space to make decisions, we have guarantees because we know the Eritrean people want peace.

We do not expect guarantees about peace from any group. If we couldn’t get it from our former comrades in the EPLF [Eritrean People’s Liberation Front, previous name of ruling party in Eritrea], with whom we fought and died together, we cannot get it from anybody else other than the Eritrean people. So, we want to support the opposition for one and one reason only: because we expect them to give the Eritrean people the space to make the final decision on peace. Therefore, we have been very careful, not to make choices about the political platforms of any party. We might like some platforms and we may not like another platform but we do not believe it is our business to choose between these platforms. It is the business of the Eritrean people.

So, when there have been quarrels amongst these parties: on the one hand, people encourage us to talk to them and try to reconcile them; on the other hand people do not want us to intervene in their internal affairs. Understandable. So there has been understandable hesitation on our part to get too close to the opposition, Eritrean opposition. That has been one of the limiting factors.

The second factor has been an element of skepticism, on the part of some in our government, as to whether this is a worthwhile investment of our time and our resources. And it is understandable given the weakness of the opposition. But I think we have overcome this skepticism within the government. And therefore, we are now in a better position to provide whatever assistance we can when whatever assistance they need.

Now you know we are a very poor country; there is a limit to what we can do. Unlike Isaias, our only agenda is not to remove Isaias. Our primary agenda is to bring about development in our country. And so, we do not have as much surplus as Isaias does. Because for Isaias, that is the only agenda that he has. Nevertheless, we recognize we could have been helpful without delving into internal matter, we could have been very helpful in the past. And I am sure given the prospects that are now visible as a result of the progress that the opposition has made, we could be more helpful.

I want to shoot down one misperception that I see among the Eritreans in the Diaspora. Some people are arguing that this opposition wants to remove the government in Eritrea by joining the bandwagon of Ethiopian army, that they want to mount Ethiopian tanks and move to Asmara. I have not heard anything of that type from the Eritrean opposition, and I am very happy I didn’t hear it from the Eritrean opposition because it is not going to happen. I have said over and over again, unless there is a full scale invasion of our territories, no matter what Isaias does, there won’t be a single Ethiopian tank in Eritrea.

FINAL QUESTIONS

14- Tell me if I would have a chance in my lifetime, to see you being addressed as ex-Prime Minister when you can probably teach at a university, write books or run a foundation?

Absolutely. I am looking forward to it. I don’t think it is too far away.

15- So  you will set that example?

Absolutely, I can tell you that. I hope that… now you cannot be sure whether you can live through tomorrow, but assuming that I will have a normal age, in three years time, you would call me ex-prime minister.

Thank you Mr. Prime Minister.

Thank you

About Awate Team

The PENCIL is awate.com's editorial and it reflects the combined opinions of the Awate Team and not the individual opinion of team members.

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  • haileTG

    Selamat Awatista,

    According to news sources “Burundi has started to roll out its first Covid-19 jabs, leaving just Eritrea and North Korea as the only countries on Earth not to begin a vaccination drive.”

    Soon Eritreans travelling out of the country will not be able to do so. The regime might Vax only its foot soldiers to be able to travel. Yemane hibey has been going around EU holding kitet seminars to his evil supporters. Only Yemane hibey can delude himself that Eritreans will line up to die in defense of his savage genocidal regime.

  • haileTG

    Selamat Awatista,

    Sometimes it is important to imagine the worst of a person/entity based on their track record. IA/PFDJ are indeed an evil genocidal group. Eritreans didn’t dare to convince themselves of such due to the offending party being close to home.

    IA/PFDJ had massacred disabled veterans, they mass incarcerated students in Wi’a, they put G-15 and journalists underground to their death by rotting away, they put the youth under severe form of mental and physical abuse, engaged in slavery, sexual violence, refused burials, incarcerated children, incarcerated people for over 20 years for belonging to faith group, shut down education, health clinics and construction for private citizens, it has even refused a Covid-19 covax for Eritrea.

    IA/PFDJ went to Tigray with premeditated plan of causing genocide and mass strife on the people. The people of Tigray didn’t quite see the exact scenario and underestimated the evil IA/PFDJ. It is great relief to see the evil regime in Eritrea has been thwarted fully. But, it should never be allowed to flourish again. It has shown its evil intent and actions for far too long underestimated.

    The evil IA/PFDJ must be uprooted from its foundation because the risk it poses is far too great. It is a fatal parasite.

    • Amanuel Hidrat

      Selam Hailat-TG,

      Keep up with what it matters us tremendously. To fight against the evil man at the center of our politics, is what it matters in the past, it matters in the present, and it matters in the future, until his demise. Those who tries to protect him behind a hatred on TPLF will lose eventually, when the despot lose all his dreams in the civil war of Ethiopia.

      Regard

  • Dongolo

    Selam all. It is indeed unfortunate that the digital information contingent of the TPLF is allowed to post (misleading/inaccurate) with impunity and often without providing any information source.

    • iSem

      Hi Dongolo:
      Again, I would have taken you seriously if you have proof that Eritrea was liberated
      And talk about evidence, can you point where is the flaw in Haile TGs comment, in my comments regarding the monster in our country or Emma’s wavering support of the people of Tigray, or Ismail’s very insightful comments
      Actually Haile TG did not go far enough to equate IA/PFDJ and EPLF otherwise his comment is very true. Everything PFDJ is doing to the Tigray people now
      has being perfected on Eritrean people, so stop pontificating and calling liberty fighters like myself and Haile TGand Emma and Ismail TPLF.

      • haileTG

        Merhaba iSem,

        How about we settle on IA/PFDJ having roots in EPLF’s segment – that was equated as the dark forces within the organization whom were referred to as such by the G-15 when that evil section started spewing vicious allegations on the former. My question is that can we say the entire EPLF organization was evil just as the entire PFDJ organization is apparently evil? The PFDJ is the incarnate of the shadowy hate filled vicious and vindictive elements within EPLF. EPLF had many forward looking leaders, all of PFDJ and EDF leaders are criminals and evil doers.

        • Berhe Y

          Hi HaileTG,

          I think it will be helpful if we limit the accusation to those who actually responsible. My late aunt who when I last saw her at 78 was card carrying member of PFDJ. If I am not mistaken at some point there were 600K card carrying PFDJ members.

          The nazzzi party as per Wikipedia had 8.5 million members.

          If PFDJ is to be defeated, those who are on his side need to abandon it. If criminalizing all of them without any evidence then they will stick to the regime as they know what awaits them. We need to win them over, like everyone else, they too are the first victims of the regime.

          • haileTG

            Selamat Berhe,

            It is a timely question that you’ve raised, I will give my personal take. Firstly, ex-members of the Naazii party are criminals to be apprehended and be brought before justice.

            Anyone who is currently card carrying and supportive of PFDJ is:

            – in support of the tragedies happening to Eritreans as they disperse out of the homeland

            – in support of the cruel incarceration of many thousands of Eritreans in Eritrea

            – in support of the death and maiming of Eritrean youth in Ethiopia

            – in support of the egregious crimes committed by the regime against Eritreans

            – in support of the egregious crimes committed by the regime in Tigray

            – in support of causing the country to be exposed to international sanctions and open invasion

            All of the above are being paid for by somebody else’ blood, it is a crime against humanity at home and abroad against innocent victims. There is no longer a time for these card carrying members to escape culpability. They are speaking at the top of their voice in support of what is going on, many are aiding and abetting the crimes materially, morally and politically. No decent Eritrean wants to share their responsibility, they own it. If someone is living in a cave in the furthest mountain in Eritrea since they were issued their card and have no clue what happened since, then yes. The rest are party to the crime and guilty before man and God. I personally don’t have any hope they will be won over, they need to get their consequences. Otherwise, where is justice? We really don’t need them for the sake of expediency, only if they accept that they are party to an evil system and they wish to regret it and get out of it. More than anything that us mortals can do to them, they have the blood of the poor and innocent on their head, which they ought to think what to do about.

          • Berhe Y

            Hi HaileTG,

            Is criminal by association is the norm now? What happened to “innocent until proven guilty”. Do you actually think in most cases, that the people who are card carrying members of PFDJ have a choice? at least those inside a country….

            Did all 8.5 million members of Nazzii were persecuted? What are you talking about?

            If your objective is to “criminalize” everything and anything related to “EPLF/ PFDJ/ Eritrea” then, you have a tough battle ahead of you. ምስ ጎቦ ምግጫው ይቀልል.

          • haileTG

            Selamat Berhe,

            Please see my reply to Haw Ismail. PFDJ – Criminal (all of it). Eritrea and EPLF – not so. PFDJ ምስ ጎቦ ምግጫው ይቀልል:-) We all would get peace.

          • Berhe Y

            Hi HaileTG,

            Obviously you either misunderstood what I am saying or we are talking about different things. You did not answer my question? What happened to those 8.5 million people is what I am asking. Not what happened to the organization and I am not arguing if the organization PFDJ to continue or not after the removal of IA. That’s left for the Eritrean people and Eritrean legal system to decide.

            I am talking about the people who are current card members of the organization and what we do with them.

            You are talking about the faith of the organization in the future. The organization is a dead organization but in name only…it is used to serve those in power….but the most majority of members (those 99.99%) have nothing to do with the organization or it’s crimes.

            For example, if all those who work in the bank, or teachers, Sedaw are members? They become members, for the most part by force, because PFDJ wants to cut money from their salary for party membership. What are you going to do with them?

            Does it occur to you that they have no “freedom” to return the membership back and refuse to join?

          • haileTG

            Selamat Berhe,

            Here are a recap of where we are at:

            – We need not waste time to win over those in support of the regime. They are morally evil people and their actions would haunt them.

            The PFDJ organization will be demolished post IA and legal responsibility will be levelled against those with an issue they need to answer for. The rest will go home. Any individual who is at home or abroad, who is freely supporting PFDJ with/without card is an evil individual, no exceptions. All I said is that the blood of the innocent will remain at their hands for very long time to come. This is not a political issue, it is an issue of a man who has been locked up for 20+ years walking free or not. I am saying the PFDJ SUPPORTERS are evil people. If we can’t judge them, God will. But I have no problem with someone with a card but opposes the PFDJ, i.e. people like G-15 and many others. I am talking about “supporting” the PFDJ at this junction in history is an evil act against many innocent people.

          • Saleh Johar

            Berhe,
            I think you are mistaking common members with the core. The system must be condemned but the common members will face the fate of previous commoners. For instance, the seemingly large numbers of common members have no genuine affiliation, they will melt out of the PFDJ the moment it’s overthrown or gone. All it takes is changing the placards they carry. That happened after the demise of Haile Selassie and later the derg. I saw many ESAPA members working at the airport and other places as if nothing happened. If pursued, tell me how many would have been in trouble ! Please don’t trivialize it. No one is going to chase the Adey Tekhaas of Eritrea. (iSem, that’s the correct name just in case you run after the wrong adey:-)

          • Berhe Y

            Selam Saleh,

            I don’t know why you think I was trying to trivialize it.

            My question is that can we say the entire EPLF organization was evil just as the entire PFDJ organization is apparently evil? The PFDJ is the incarnate of the shadowy hate filled vicious and vindictive elements within EPLF. EPLF had many forward looking leaders, all of PFDJ and EDF leaders are criminals and evil doers.

            This comment is what prompted me to respond, which my understanding was they were were not making distinction, where I responded by saying

            I think it will be helpful if we limit the accusation to those who actually responsible. .

            The rest I am in agreement and I don’t think there is any difference.

            But I am glad I commented, at least we got someone like Ismail to weight in and set the discussion in the right and correct path.

            One other point try to pass across is, focus on the real culprit rather than generalizing.

          • iSem

            Thanks SGJ:
            Yes, Tekaas is the rigt one but you only used Tabetu one time I think and I think commenting under Ali Salem’s U-Turn.
            But both good names

        • iSem

          Hi HaileTG:
          I am just more succinct that you. I agree with you. Yes aboy Fikadu:-)

          But here is the thing, when we say PFDJ= IA= EPLF, we are not talking about every card carrying adey Tabetu as Saleh G once put it or as BY is trying to confuse. It is the mind set, the idea, the notion, the entity that is anti Eritreanism. I always say who came first PFDJ or EPLF and I get puzzled looks and I get ata wedi PFDJ was created in 1994 and EPLF in 1970. I say, no PFDJ came first and I go in explaining my theories.
          Many here, our friends here, smart ones at that still are confused about the fact that PFDJ just did not spring in 1994, that the angle EPLF was hijacked, that our liberation front was hijacked by IA, suddenly, out of the blue, that founding fathers and mothers of Eritrea disappeared in the ether and our culture of acceptance just was created.
          That is why I just write the simple equation, probably to please BY, I should introduce to the equation minus hatneny Tabetu, minus card carrying akoy Andemichael
          you get my drift? If I am in coherent, lend me your Tims DD

          • Berhe Y

            Hi iSem,

            You are good at analyzing a problem but you are not good at finding a lasting solution.

            It’s like when someone goes to the Dr. and the doctor is analyzing to find the problem, the root cause. You are like the doctor who would say, the root cause of your problem is, you should never have smoked 30 years ago, you should have exercised, you shouldn’t have drunk alchohol, you should have drunk green tea and you should have done hot yoga etc:).

            And the person says to you, I know, i know the problems that I have now, but what you suggest that I do?

          • iSem

            Hi BY:
            The upvote is not for agreement in this case, it is for a good example applied wrongly:-)
            So, I am not saying we should not have done, that or done this like the Dr.
            I am, on the contrary, identifying the problem. The problem is not just IA like Sal used to say and now have relinquished it. For, Solution I am not saying let us massacre all of them including adey Tekaa.
            Your analysis is IA is the only problem and handful men and women. Or, if am wrong, what is your analysis and solution, briefly I mean?
            Also I am saying PFDJ did not just appear in 1994, like Sal used to say and he is still nursing that idea.So do you think PFDJ came out of the blue and what is your solution, just pin everything on IA?
            In any crime there are the collaborators, there are accessories and there are moral supporters. You will of course deal with the criminals and accessories and collaborators but you identify the moral supporters, too for moral shame like Ismail said, but you do not punish them.
            I never said we should punish every card carrying member, because there are those who carry the card to get sugar and bread and those who carry it but are not criminals. But you are minimizing the number of criminals and telling us, do not call PFDJ criminals, there are good ppl in them , do not call EPLF killers there were good ppl there. I suspect that you know my solution is as good as my analysis but you want to be in the nice guys, balanced, fair bothsidist group. But sometimes there are just facts and they are not balanced or in the middle and with PFDJ, it is not just IA and handful, it has tentacles and branches and cutting roots and the snake head does not kill the monster, the branches can group, but the leaves when they fall and get dry, they may die. The analogy is the majority of PFDJ will be leaves but do not minimize the number and don’t just pin it to IA, he is not omnipotent like God and even God uses/needs prophets to do his job 🙂

          • Berhe Y

            Hi iSem,

            I don’t think that you and are on different path on many aspects and certainly when it comes to the criminal regime and it’s tentacles of power.

            In short what I disagree with you is to focus on facts and narrow on those responsible. It’s true we may not then all but we start with what we know and go down from there.

            You know when the Iraq war started, the US had deck in of cards identifying those who are most wanted. Sadam being number one. We talked about that type of list and I think AT had similar list but only up 10 15 I think or less.

            The UN commission of inquiry had a list of those most responsible but unless I am mistaken, the chair of the inquiry in one of his press briefing said, it’s kept highly confidential.

            I think starting with that kind of focused and purposeful list would go along way and it has better chance of acceptance. Off course that does not mean it’s all and end of all but a start, and build on it.

            Another point that I think we differ is, how far you want to go, like all the way to the 70s. That may be important and necessary but I think it fades away the current Crimes and most people do not relate to it.

            As to PFDJ/ EPLF and “criminalization” of those organizations, I think I disagree with you. As I have said many times, there are people who not only fought but died repressing the organization believing what they did was for the better of the country.

            I am saying, let’s leave that to the aftermath after IA is gone and let’s use proper investigations, interviews and get to the bottom of it when we can do so.

            By this I don’t mean we don’t do nothing, as many have already done so to document what they know which is what we should continue to do.

            EPLF have brought and delivered independence. This fact, I think it’s hard to take away and many people, see the payout of their sacrifice they are rewarded by independent country. You may disagree, there is no country, there is no government etc but please do give the respect for people who believe so. For example, when Eritrean flag is wave after Eritrean athletes wins a race, it’s real and it’s a fact. This fact lots of people associate with and give value.

            If Eritrea makes it to the World Cup in Qatar, I am buying my ticket and will attend and will be waving Eritrean flag :). You and HaileTG can wait until Tigray flag is waved :), it’s a jab, at you and HaileTG as you say “there is nothing wrong with it”.

          • iSem

            Hi BY:
            have you heard the Tigrinya adage, “the devil makes a good pot but forget to make a cover 🙂
            Your not so bad comment was made worse by the last sentence, you cannot help it;-)
            But am not into flags anyway, as any shifta can have beautiful flag and hoist it, you are too much into symbols
            But i can live with the rest of your comment
            And if the Tigrayans pull this, rise from dead, then I will not be ashamed to carry they flag, although I do not like flags. Every country should remove their flags and just hoist white flag and write the name of their country on that white flags.
            Good luck in Quatar, I would have fun seeing you wrapped around a flag

          • haileTG

            Selamat Berhe,

            I will add my response here, but I confirm that I received the jab, your response to SGJ and the other responses to iSem.

            It appears to me you are asking, I would say fair question, that we need to identify the crimes and criminals. That is a valid way forward. Since you mentioned the CoI Eritrea, and it only considers violations post-1991, I have no problem with that. However, I am open to the views of individuals you seek redress for issues that happened pre-1991. Why not, they have a right, should they wish to.

            Now, what as aspect of PFDJ participation be considered criminal and thus justice needs to be done to address it? Here are my list, consider them and give us your response:

            – An active, political, military, economic leadership of PFDJ
            – An active involvement in dissemination, propagation and organization of PFDJ initiatives.
            – Taking actions in words or deeds to defend, cover up, deny acts of violations by PFDJ
            – Taking an active role in words or deeds to attack, dissuade, intimidate, against victims or potential victims or their close relatives in their struggle to free themselves
            – baring false witness to accuse the victims or to embolden PFDJ in any manner willingly in domestic or overseas platforms, media coverage or organizations.
            – casting doubt, invalidating, accusing and sabotaging the struggle for justice with intent to promote PFDJ as an organization or individuals associated or commonly understood to be proponents.

            You can add or dispute any or all of the above, but anyone who is guilty of the above and (more as needed) is what I have in mind as persons taking responsibility.

          • Berhe Y

            Hi HaileTG,

            The jab was to give some equivalence and show that sometimes we only see our own version of facts.

            I think this list your provided is important but too broad, borders to “police thought”for most of them, with the exception of the first. Even that, you have to establish and designate, PFDJ is an illegal entity, which ti my knowledge was never been listed as such. Like for example, al-shebab. How can you accuse someone associating with an organization which is never considered illegal? May be in Tigray but for sure, no where in the world.

            Which law have such individuals broke?

            You forget the element that you wrote earlier, “beyond reasonable doubt”.

            I understand we need to go back to Eritrea so that justice is served, but if there is enough ground, there is nothing that stop us from bringing those criminals and their crimes you listed above to justice in the lands and places where we live.

            This is exactly what I mean, loosing focus. Ar the risk of annoying SJ, are we going you after the young children who dress up in Eritrean ethnic costumes and dance in PFDJ organized festivals “ dissemination, propagation PFDJ initiatives.”.

            Or are we going after the women who stay up all night cooking food to serve and sell food to help “ and organization of PFDJ activities?”

            In my opinion m, start with the top list and start active legal frame work to bring them to justice, take the list that CoI has and turn it to ICC.

          • haileTG

            Selamat Berhe,

            What is the purpose of this whole undertaking of ensuring justice and responsibility? It is so that our children and future generations can close the terrible chapter and have a legacy of peace and stability. True, we can try to game the process for short term political gains, however that would be at a cost of ruining the high values attached to the whole undertaking as it relates the generations to come. Hence we need to have an honest, fair, catch all system/framework of ensuring the process of accountability.

            Under the Institutional Accountability section V [A] #326 & 329 the CoI Eritrea has found the PFDJ as responsible to its final conclusion of

            “reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in Eritrea since 1991. Eritrean officials have engaged in a persistent, widespread and systematic attack against the country’s civilian population since 1991. They have committed, and continue to commit, the crimes of enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearance, torture, other inhumane acts, persecution, rape and murder.”

            At the time of the Naazzii crimes, the party was not illegal, but based on forward looking conclusions drawn from its acts, there was no doubt the party would become illegal. The PFDJ has already been implicated in crimes against humanity and there is no doubt it would be held accountable when situation permits. So, we can’t argue that because so far no court has ruled it illegal, therefore it is not illegal. No court ruled IA illegal, he is still head of state but we know he will be found to be a criminal when apprehended. So, PFDJ is an organization that is doing things that will cause it to be legally liable – as stated in the excerpts above.

            Again, simply focusing on IA, the top echelon, or all of PFDJ card holders…does not serve the cause well. The cause being our ability to leave a legacy of durable peace and reconciliation for future generations. Therefore, we need to have a fair framework that identifies individual culpability. We can’t say the Minister of Agriculture should face justice for being a leadership but YPFDJ operatives should go free because they were not in leadership. The latter probably caused more damage in fighting a propaganda war for PFDJ than the minister of Agriculture. It is not fair nor consistent. The catch all system should be framed as such to get those who have engaged with impunity and are walking at home and in diaspora with blood in their hands.

            A new crime section that need to be added in my opinion is also “incitement of hate” towards Tigrayans through words and actions. The recent act of the regime in Tigray was a direct result of the “incitement of hate” the regime inculcated on the minds of the people. Not only the damage that was done but the puzzling reaction of Eritreans at a national level in the diaspora has been frightening to say the least. I only thought genocides were the forte of other peoples and cultures, it was an eye opening to note how PFDJ succeeded to numb sense of humanity and outrage among its people while it engaged in rapes and massacres. Its 20 year incitement policy seemed to have worked if things didn’t turn pear shape for the regime, the Tigrayans would have had it. So, an awareness, education and justice initiatives against hate mongering of populations (such as Tigrayans) is something we need to include on our watch list. It is not Ok because it would ultimately lead to something ugly and sinister. We can include the experiences of Rwanda and others in our school curriculum to prevent it repeating again.

        • Ismail AA

          Selam haile TG, iSem, Aman and Berhe Y,

          If I may be allowed to throw a line or two about the point you are discussing, I must say that let us not overlook the bottom line. Fundamentally, from pure legal perspective, each person should be accountable to his/her deeds before the law. In my humble opinion, blanket accusation does not really serve justice. Otherwise, it would be justice meant to serve injustice against individuals who had no share in crimes evil persons had committed.

          Having said that, nevertheless, there is also here a ground for moral and humanitarian accountability for group in whatever form it may manifest itself. Thus, the ordinary folks that had formed the holy milk cow as the power base of the EPLF that had morphed to an evil that came to take the infamous of PFDJ cannot be hold as individuals persons responsible for the crimes the PFDJ committed.

          However, since what later became the PFDJ had been incubating in the midst of expanding membership (as a clandestine ostensibly revolutionary cell inside the then united front ELF-PLF) from its very early days in the plains of Ala, many of those who in some ways survived the maiden liquidationist machine of Isayas Afework, ought to have known with what kind of human they were dealing and serving. Starting from the dubious killing of fighters like Abraham Tewolde to the mass liquidation of a group of intellectuals Eritrean womb had born in false pretension of “safeguarding” the revolution from “extremist” elements for they had just demanded order accountable leadership, should have alerted them with what kind of person they were dealing. They should have known him and his evil intention when he arrogantly told them at the congress in 1977 ‘that a step was taken against them because they erred”. Those words were enough to silent them forever. So, was not this a kind of fate-imposed submission to the will of an evil man? Weren’t there a few whose conscientious moral rectitude should have emboldened to say no to him ? Had this happened, a few victims could have been saved. From those days on ward, the field for liquidation, incarceration and banishing was wide open before him.

          Thus, in my considered view, the argument about who should be held responsible for the crimes committed, and still counting, is the evil man and those who with awareness helped him, and still continuing. The ordinary members of the EPLF should only cited on common moral grounds, just like those in other organizations where alleged crimes by their leaders may be also pending until due process of law. Only those who served and are serving Isayas and did, and still do, his dirty jobs by gathering intelligence and running and lubricating his killing machine, and digging his fox-holes in which citizens are rotting to death, should be called before court of law to answer for their roles. For me, the ordinary rank and file cannot share responsibility for crimes the EPLF, and later the PFDJ, had committed in their name.

          • haileTG

            Merhaba Ismail,

            Thank you for adding to this discussion because your views hold unique value as they benefit from experience of those days. Me and iSem are nay Tim Horton 🙂

            Now, if we cut right into it, the issue of responsibility is the key matter here. And I am glad you amplified that aspect in your conclusion. Therefore, let’s consider EPLF and PFDJ – members and leaders; guilt or innocence. I would like to deploy a key legal jargon here: Beyond All Reasonable Doubts. In other words, a person is guilty or innocent beyond all reasonable doubts. Now, for our readers, reasonable doubt refers to what a reasonable person would do under the circumstances. A reasonable person is considered to be someone of sound mental state, in a position to make choices, they have a common knowledge of the matter under consideration, they have a means to avoid the situation if they chose. As a jury, we are now called to find:

            a) EPLF as an organization is evil beyond all reasonable doubts;

            b) PFDJ as an organization is evil beyond all reasonable doubts;

            I find (a) Not Guilty, (b) Guilty.

            On (a) – the Not Guilty Verdict

            It is reasonable for an organization to stray at times and still be supported for staying true to the overall cause. The organization had congress and it is reasonable that members may have considered that as a venue to correct problems. The nature of the crimes were such that they can trap the member in conflict of interest where the goal of the movement was given a higher significance. Under the above circumstances, the EPLF leadership has done many improper acts but a reasonable person can still associate with it while condemning those acts. Verdict: Not Guilty.

            On (b) – the Guilty Verdict

            It is not reasonable for an organization to completely abandon the cause for which it is founded, shut down all means of redress and engage in an egregious crimes against humanity. No person, of sound mind and considered “reasonable person” under its legal definition would be able to justify being a member of an organization that is linked to mass violations of human rights as witnessed in Eritrea today. There is no apparent or actual overarching national goal to be achieved which could put the member on reasonable conflict of interest. An under aged child incarcerated into adulthood, people kept underground for decades, the youth ending up in peril trying to cross seas and deserts, all opportunities shut down for citizens, incessant propaganda of genocidal hatred towards neighboring region of Tigray, blanket condemnation and disrepute of the country by the whole world, and many more sick acts to cause personal pain by targeting individuals, customs of burial and the rest… A reasonable person would not associate or hold membership card of such a murderous organization. Hence, PFDJ as an organization and all its members are responsible for the ongoing atrocity against innocent people. Verdict – Guilty.

          • Desbele

            Selam Haile,
            Reasonable argument. My verdict though is guilty on both accounts.
            The very means used should by any means not be the opposite of what the organization aspire to achieve. Assuming the organization was fighting for freedom, the rule of law and self determination, how would one expect the org to achieve them if the means used are exact opposite of those very ideals – serfdom, liquidation, rule of jungle….
            Or , was the higher case was just ‘independence’ ,better even to call it then Separation and then whatever?

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Selam Haile-TG & Ismailo,

            Both of you have distinguished the between the culprit and innocently associated Eritrean within EPLF/PFDJ in an unambiguous manner in your arguments. All your focus is on how we handle justice in the future if we are going to erect a democratic and judicious governmental system. A dream not easy to actualize it. Why will it be difficult? In my view, we Eritreans tend to be unruly and uncompromising in our attitudes.

            In my book, however, EPLF and PFDJ are the same in organizational principles as well as in its practical activities, as in slaughtering, butchering, and exterminating our fighters and our citizens both in the struggle and in the way of governing its subjects. The organization is an evil organization, and all the crimes committed for decades by the organization is premeditated crimes (a) both within the organization and outside the organization (b) both within our country and outside our country.

            What worries me more than anything is the culture they have implanted within the country and our young generation – erasing the culture of humility, decency, respect, empathy to each other as family and as a society. The Deculturalization process has been going for decades by decree without any resistance. At least we have to be reminded the task before us.

            Regard

          • iSem

            Hi Ismail AA and Haile TG:
            Ismail, thank for adding texture to the Tim DD guys’ argument ( took it from Haile TG, an insult:-))
            But seriously, revenge is not a solution and we are not looking for that. But to pin it only on IA like many often did her, is mendacious and even the proponent of this idea in awate, that our problem/enemy is not PFDJsim, it is Isaisim has abandoned it and where he left off, others are picking up, pontificating about all PFDJ are not criminals, sirs and madams that is elementary and we are smart enough and decent enough to know that card carrying Adey Tabetu is not blood thirsty
            The moral guilty that memhir Ismail mentioned is very interning but for that to happen there should be admission and society should give them chance if they admit and go through self examination/reflection on how they wronged Eritrea by their moral support and we can have our truth and reconciliation, I am for it
            But those who have bloody hands directly and they are in the thousands and they have roots in Eritrea: they are not just a bunch of Tigraynas like Monkey and IA and Kisha and they will not pick up and leave. These criminal are from all 9 ethnic groups, both religions, urbanites and country side, farmers and merchants and educated and illiterate. The bloody handed people have a backup and it is mafia—the organ traffickers who amassed hundreds of millions and they will fight us tooth and nail after PFDJ is gone for their survival, remember that, So after PFDJ is gone, besides the work to set up the roots of institutions we will fight the criminals, legally of course not with extrajudicial killing like PFDJ.

          • Ismail AA

            Selam haile TG, Aman, Desbele, iSem and Berhe,

            As an injured person myself, it would be defending the indefensible to absolve crimes committed under the egoistic rationale of defending a cause in the name of the very people that in the final analysis found themselves at the receiving end. I am alluding to the horrendous losses we suffered an evil man’s wars and compelled exiles and calamities associated with it. I understand each of you are looking at the issue from this angle (subject to correction if I erred.

            Nonetheless, the sum total visualizing a corporate organization as a person. As I noted earlier today, a person is the basis of serving justice in crimes. It would not possible to put a whole organization in dock before a judge or jury. A corporate body can only be accountable through persons who committed crimes in its name. If those criminals would be found guilty, members of that collectivity would feel responsible and conscientiously regret the guilt for failing to be aware when they should have been why their leaders committed those crimes. For them, the matter would end there, while the real persons who had perpetrators the crimes would serve justice in one form or the other. Their guilty consciousness would only be cleansed by a form of reconciliation as happened in South Africa when justice and truthfulness reign under a legitimate national government.

            Thus, from legal point of view, thus, the crimes committed by the order of Isayas Afeworki and his associates were, and still are, perpetrated by persons in the name of an organization. The multitudes of the rank and file who believed were discharging their patriotic duties dispersed across the land sweating, bleeding and dying had no role at all in what Isayas premeditated and executed. What they were rarely been told was their leaders were doing what they did in the interest of protecting their organization from many deadly enemies.

            Remember that before deployment those innocent Eritreans were aggressive de-brief and disoriented that their organization was sat in the middle of internal and external: The ELF ( Ama), imperialists, Arabs, the educated (bourgeois) etc. Some of the sensitive crimes were sugar dressed by thick propaganda that associated the victims with one or the other enemy. Didn’t we heard the members of G-15, and patriots like Haile Woldetensaie (Drue) were branded by the supremo and his associates as agents of the CIA? The law will have to sort out whether the mantra that all the crimes committed, and still being committed, under the leadership of Isayas Afeworki were done in the interest of EPLF and, at the present Eritrea, would provide the criminals and their leader immunity to escape the force of justice.

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Selam Ismailo,

            On the “force of justice” that doesn’t give immunity to criminals, I do have my worry about it:

            My worries is always whether we are capable to form a court of justice that gives justice to the victims. I am worried in the name of reconciliation that criminals will escape from “the force of justice. I haven’t seen from all our conversations and debates that remove my worries from my mind at least from rhetorical approach. In the mind of Eritreans reconciliation overrides justice.

            Regard

          • Ismail AA

            Selam Aman,

            Considering the angle you are coming from (culture and customs appeasements etc.) makes your worries legitimate. The meaning and efficacy of reconciliation can be conveniently evaded at the expense of true justice and justly redressing the damages of victims. The traditional concept of forgive and forget can undermine the force of justice.

            However, in our debates we are looking at the matter from hindsight of normalized realities under which a legal system with the necessary enforcement agents would be place. Otherwise, reconciliation under flawed system of law would be a perfect escape route for criminals, as you have stated.

          • Berhe Y

            Dear Ismail,

            Thank you for your well thought out and very reasonable and realistic analysis and understanding of the situation.

  • iSem

    Hi All:
    Where brother Brhan, our awate’s journalist.
    Follow the news Ethiopian government is reaching out to the international community for help. Semere Tesfai’s and the other Abiyot’s prophecies have came true.
    “this guy is insane” BY said. when he saw the video that Sal provide where Abiy compared himself to Mark.

    • Brhan

      Ya Zol Ya iSem Zol Semh,
      I think you need another double double from Tims ….I did provide today and Ismail commented and haileTG liked it.

      • haileTG

        Hey Brhan,

        May be iSem is looking for extra strong DD, not sure if Tim’s do it, so I will offer some of mine:-)

        Today, both the PMAA govt and Tigray govt issued a peace related statements:

        PMAA has called for the intl community to support Ethiopia’s “peace overture”. It blamed the TDF for the current military engagements and claimed that TDF used “human wave” of “hundreds of thousands”.

        The Tigray govt for its part has issued a statement stating that the PMAA regime has been given enough chances to come to the negotiating table but made a mockery of them all. It continues to expose innocent people of Tigray mothers and children to death through blockade. Hence, the TDF see no hope on peaceful means to solve the problem with the PMAA govt, therefore it would be taking action “in the language it understands”. Thus, they made the following calls:

        Intl community: must understand that there is no hope in peaceful end

        PMAA regime: must accept their ceasefire terms of negotiation without ifs and but’s

        Eritrean People: the people must discourage the deployment of their kids to this war, the EDF members should use all opportunity to defect, the opposition groups, civil society, other movements must raise up and say enough and chart a new path for their country.

        End of statements!

        • Brhan

          Merhaba haieTG,
          Well said as usual. Thanks.

        • Amanuel Hidrat

          Selam Hailat-TG,

          Abiy’s government has no choice except to accept the ceasefire term of TDF. The Military and Foreign affairs network reported that the office of foreign minister of Ethiopia has reached the state department officials to mediate the conflict.

          • haileTG

            Hey Aman,

            My goodness! What about all the people who died and wounded for the crazy 7th King now?

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Selam Hailat- TG,

            I think, unlike our despot who never took responsibilities, and who has never being asked for accountabilities, the Ethiopian people will make Abiy accountable for his crime if Ethiopia will continue to exist the Ethiopia we know for generations.

            Regard

          • iSem

            Hey Haile TG: their leaders who incised the violence should be held accountable and that includes awate’s Abiy and Semere Tesfai, who called for the destruction people

          • iSem

            Emma;
            TDF should now push a little to Gojjam and Dessie and then up the ante on their proposal: like the right to create its own army, compensation and Hague. Else, they should make Ethiopia ungovernable, so it has no chance to become threat again to their very Tigrayness

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Selam Sem,

            If Wollo fall under TDF, Gonder will fall as cascading of events with less fight. TDF is making history that goes into history books.

        • iSem

          Hi TG:
          If you drink Tim’s DD then you are only in live either states, Michigan or NY:-)
          TDF sounds confident from their statement. They are pushing to Dessie and am waiting Ashagren too shot himself and ST to eat his words and Abi to nurse his wounds

          • haileTG

            Hi iSem,

            Latest chatter indicates that there is a very disorganized withdrawal from Dessie is taking place. Kombolch and Dessie are being rattled by heavy gun fires.

  • woldu hadgu

    Dear Awate Citizens and Visitors:

    Extraordinary Times! indeed extraordinary times to witness in real times, war between good and evil; justice and injustice; peace and violence; freedom and subjugation; love and hate; compassion and indifference; dignity and power; determination and cowardice..

    But we are sure of one thing: At the end, Good shall triumph over evil; Justice over injustice; peace over violence; freedom over subjugation; love over hate; compassion over indifference; dignity over power.

    Of course, for this to happen there is a price to pay and the people of Tigray are paying heavy price, but

    ALTHOUGH, they are AFFLICTED in every way they are not CRUSHED,
    PERPLEXED, but not DRIVEN TO DESPAIR;
    PERSECUTED, but not FORSAKEN;
    STRUCK DOWN but not DESTROYED!

    After this horrendous and painful trial of a lifetime a NEW TIGRAY will emerge; a new Tigray that has nothing with the old Tigray. The dross will be cleared and a SHINNING TIGRAY will be REBORN!

    We Eritreans are proud and Honored to have TEGARU as our neighbors. In short time they taught us how to stand against evil and triumph.

    My heartfelt Love, Compassion and Good will to the People Of Tigray

    • haileTG

      Selamat WH,

      Here is a tweet from Rashid Abdi along those lines:

      “Rashid Abdi

      @RAbdiAnalyst

      There is no moral equivalence between Tigrayan activists voicing pain, suffering of their people with genocidaires promoting fascism, regime ideology, gloating over mass killings. To put two on the same pedestal and to pontificate about balance is hypocrisy. Worse, it is callous”

      • Amanuel Hidrat

        Selam Hailat-TG,

        When ENDF and the Amara fano/militia lost the war, Abiy who has been rejecting the US effort to mediate the conflict, for almost a year, is now, seeking US support to resolve the Tigray issue. Zegerm-Eyu!

        Regard

    • Amanuel Hidrat

      Selam WH,

      Well put and well said brother.

  • Amanuel Hidrat

    Selam Awatistas,

    When Abiy and Issayas lost on the war fronts, they bombed Mekelle and killed Tigrian civilians in a day light. From the get go, the war wasn’t against TPLF. They war was against the Tigray people to erase from the face of the Earth, if not to subjugate and intimidate for full submission. The genocidal war is continuing unabated in full swing in all its facets from mass massacre to hunger war encircled to blockaded from any access to humanitarian aids. This war is not war of politics, it is war of termination of human race unheard in its nature and tactics. Conscientious Eritreans must add their voice to the cry of the Tigray people to address it in the international stage. Humanities should overrides political interest. Let us show our humanities against this genocidal war.

    Regards

    • iSem

      Hi Emma:
      I agree, nothing new with IA and he found his soulmate in Abiy
      But the question is: is this bombing sign of desperation or flexing muscle

      • Amanuel Hidrat

        Selam Sem,

        This is a sign of desperation. In the last push of a war, losers launch barbaric act on civilians as desperation to maximize human lose on his nemesis. Derg has taken similar action in Massawa/Eritrea and Hawsien/Tigray in his last days of his demise. I hope TDF will expedite the defeat of these two evils, to stop the war induced feminine, and open the blockade to flow the international aids.

        Regard

  • Brhan

    Hello Awate forum friends:

    Several wounded in air raids on Tigray’s Mekelle:
    Regional media Government spokesman denies reports of air raids as TPLF-controlled Tigrai TV says several wounded in Mekelle.
    18 Oct 2021 AJ English

    AJ, BBC, and other neutral media sources have not been reporting news from Ethiopia. The above news and BBC Amharic news war in Wollo (mentioned below ) is the newest since last week.

    Both (TPLF and PP) sides’ information verifies that heavy fighting is going on in south Wollo.

    While TDF information is detailed and provides the logistics of the outcome of the battles ( though it is not indicating its casualties), the Ethiopian side is not. But one can easily understand that the Ethiopian army is weakening from Ethiopians themselves.
    Amhara National Movement (አብን) leaders are saying to the people of Wollo, ” ሁሉም ነገር ወደ ጦር ግንባር.” They did not tell the people of Wollo what had happened to the Ethiopian army in Wollo recently. Though neutral media do not verify it, TDF media announced the destruction of Southern Command, in Wegeltena, and the Eastern Command, in Haro-Chifra. There is no comment from A. Ahmed Ali and his ally, DIA.

    • Ismail AA

      Ustaz Brhan,

      Thank for the follow up briefing, Things appear to be settling on a stalemate. That is the case in hot war if one of the belligerents fail to make gains at the initial phase of the campaign, especially on side of the attacking side. The stalemate suggest that nothing changed on the ground and the defending side maintains pre-attack positions due to the absorption and containment of the initial thrusts. We could have heard something from the attacking side had there been gains or break down of the defend lines of the TDA. In fact, we are hearing more news from the Tigrayan side rather from the government side that has talk much about the mobilization and deployment. Anyway, it is hoped the outcome of this flare up campaign would persuade the government that there is no way to end this terrible conflict save a political dialogue, and save lives and property.

  • haileTG

    Selamat Awatista,

    A final link before the weekend is over:)

    https://www.politico.com/news/2021/10/17/ethiopia-dayton-peace-process-516117

    A very interesting analysis by two well placed individuals in the politics of our region.

    It seems to me that their proposal is short on one aspect, status quo!

    • Berhe Y

      Selam HaileTG,

      When you say “status quo” I think you are implying to Western Tigray returned, and any land that was lost to Eritrea also returned that use to be under TPLF.

      That may be a good outcome for TPLF and Tigray but I don’t know that will end the conflict permanently.

      Do you think that will guarantee the end of the conflict?

      I think this will be a good outcome for Tigray but it will be a prelude for the demise of Abiy and IA in long run. And they know that, and unless they are forced they will not agree to that.

      In my opinion, I think the proposal is a good one that will alleviate the human suffering but find a durable solution without one side eliminating the other side.

      Note: Please before people jump on me as if I am supporting this, I am only commenting on the article HaileTG shared.

      • haileTG

        Selamat Berhe,

        In as far as the current deadlock is concerned, your assessment is correct. That is why we see no solution in sight, other than the military one at this junction.

        However, status quo is not a final settlement, merely a start of negotiation and political solution. When TDF say North western and North Eastern Tigray under Eritrea, they mean the Badime and Erob areas respectively. Eritrea holding it without pillars emplacement or TDF holding it under status quo is not an outcome in any final sense.

        In order to force TDF to enter negotiations under blockade, ENDF needs the military upper hand. IMO, it is very unlikely for the latter to reverse its fortune without a good long time to recover.

        • Berhe Y

          Hi HaileTG,

          I think Badime or any dispute land with Eritrea has less significance to both Eritrea and Tigray. It’s not a matter of life a death situation if the land is controlled by either side. Yes, definitely for the people that live there but a small problem compared to the bigger problem.

          I think TPLF would be under a lot of pressure to open the western as suppose to ENDF.

          Abiy (and IA) can agree to all what the article discussed, so long as he thinks he can contain them.

          The latest round of conflict, if it’s initiated by ENDF is really a bad move.

          I don’t know when are they going to get it, you can’t win a war fighting the entire people. Same goes for TPLF if they think the can win fighting and win Amhara or Eritrea people.

          • haileTG

            Merhaba Berhe,

            All good, except your very last parting shot:) It is IA/PMAA are the ones fighting against people by forcing them into starvation. TDF/TPLF is fighting for the people of Tigray, to prevent the two partners in crime. Amhara need to back off from being used in this way.

          • Berhe Y

            Hi HaileTG,

            What I mean is, TPLF thinking and wanting to win over the people of Ethiopia, including Amhara and force regime change is problematic.

            The thought that, “Amhara are being used by Abiy”is also problematic and think. This is the type of attitude that doesn’t go anywhere.

            What could be the worst thing for the people of Tigray if Ann they want the western part is to access Sudan and North to Eritrea ?

        • iSem

          Hi BY and Haile TG:
          I think the Amhara got to smarten up and purge Abiy and make a deal with Tigray. Tigray and Amhara hate each other, they know that. What they seem not to get is that they are destined to live together, unless genius, pastor Abiy has a novels idea to move Amhara to other area. No way peace can be attained without getting to that realization and working out a solution, solving the land issue and to guarantee that such mayhem does not repeat.
          Abiy for his own delusion ambition is taking Ethiopia to war and he has not even counter offered TPF’s negotiation points. TPLF to its credit has put forward its proposal and amend it once. Abiy, not yet.
          So war will continue unless the Amhara smarten up and remove Abiy, it is the cheapest price to pay to remove Abiy, it will not require skill to replace this one 180 pounds delusional due. Just bring a divorcee Amahara woman and an Oromo man and let them copulate.
          Now, think ,with all this blockade how is TDF able to accomplish all this success? Someone needs to write confession of war hitman a sequel to confession an economic hitman