Donkey-Kick Diplomacy

Isaias started his latest speech on the occasion of the 32nd Anniversary of the  Independence of Eritrea as follows: “allow me to express my congratulations to the people of Eritrea inside the country and abroad, as well as to the friends of Eritrea and all free peoples in the world.”

“The Free people of the world” caught my attention; it is an American slogan, and they might not like the appropriation of their slogan.

He continued, “this promising development invariably impels our adversaries… to hatch new plots and revamp their toolkits of harassment.” And he kept calling the US administration, “The Washington Groupie”

He could have though that kind of language absolves him of general view that he is the main problem of Eritrea: hatching endless wars like the rest of the other leaders and spreading instability in the region. But why would a head of state use words like “groupie”? Why can’t he say, the American administration, the white house, or anything that doesn’t devalue the speech of a president who supposedly represents a nation?

Such statements are fit for partisan cadres and activists, but certainly not a respectable language for a head of state who is expected to muster some diplomatic  acumen.

“Washington clique and its allies – have employed against our liberation and independence for the past eighty years that entangled three generations of our people, to drive a wedge between Ethiopia and Eritrea and to instigate war incessantly.”

That sounds like a cover up; the entire region is prone to conflicts, igniting wars for trivial reasons. And that destructive culture is mainly flourishing by the leaders who refuse to look at the region and the world except through the glasses of medieval warlords. He is nurturing that war culture religiously.

The English translation of his Tigrinya speech doesn’t reflect the nuances as they are understood in Tigrinya. In one instance he accused all his perceived adversaries of searching their old records for lack of reasons to preserve their aggressive postures.

If one owes money to a neighborhood store, every time he passes by he would be reminded by the owner to pay his loan. A good leader should be disciplined in paying his dues or asking for more time to pay back or even be excused. In short, he should resolve the issue with the store owner to avoid embarrassment. But Isaias also needs to search his old books and see what social loans have matured long ago and strive to reconcile them. Otherwise, the issue will stay stuck as a thorn in the throat of the nation.

Isaias considers all issues as external challenges in need of special attention. However, he needs to challenge his own thinking and convictions and look in wards, in himself, before trying to throw his problems elsewhere.

“Washington instigated, through its presumed “proxies”, three military offensives to roll back the positive trend. The final third offensive was deterred through coordinated defensive operations.“

Those who may have missed a fact need to remember that Eritrea has become a militarized country, even the lingo in the civil space (if any) has become militaristic with no space for a civic discourse. The ruling party, and by extension the hostage population, has adopted the military lingo and shunned civil language: history is narrated based on the sequences of wars and battles, they are the milestone of Eritrea’s existence, particularly since Independence Day in 1991.

Worse, there is the word ShiTara, a widely used Arabic word that means smartness. In the PFDJ lingo, however, it has been twisted to a negative word meaning “smart aleck.” Smart doesn’t mean smart anymore to the extent people would rather be defined as foolish or stupid instead of “shaTir”, smart.

There is a bothering switch in his language, he dumps his anger at America but absolves the Soviet Union of all the aggression it committed against Eritrea. Was it not the Soviets who bombed the day out of the Eritrean freedom fighters, including Isaias’ party whose bases were bombed for years by Soviet planes with Soviet pilots, and Soviet generals leading major offensive against the Eritrean fighters? It’s good he made them his friends, in fact it’s good diplomacy not to dwell on the past. But pulling the wool over the eyes of Eritreans who saw the atrocities committed against them by Ethiopian and Soviet allies, including the gruesome bombing of Massawa in 1990, is a cruel joke. Are we supposed to forget that as well because Isaias has started honeymooning with them? And what is the end game, invade the USA?

As funny as it sounds, I imagined Isais invading Washington and I was worried about the thousands of Eritrean Americans who oppose his regime. The first thing he would is round up all of them and fly them to Sawa for military training if not to the notorious Ella-Erro prison. That though sends shivers along the spine of all potential prisoners. But if he could, he would rather start WW3 and get over with it.

“The defunct NATO Alliance led by the Washington clique, and the financial alliance of the fractious European Union… in futile attempts to resuscitate, through intensive care, their worn-out agendas of domination… a trend that might foment global instability.”

He speaks about the dissolution of the Soviet Union in a passive language, as if the Soviet Union crumpled on its own and says: “The Soviet Union that the USA considered their adversary.” Why the passive, twisted language? Could he be denying they were adversaries, but only “considered adversaries”? Was it not and expensive and real?

However, the world knows that the Soviet Union was defeated by the USA after the long years of the Cold War. Maybe he thinks he caused the Soviet Union to crumple?

“In the past 30 years, after the end of the Cold War and with the disintegration, due to mistakes of the leadership, of the former Soviet Union that they considered as their primary “rival”, they entertained a fallacious and premature notion of possessing unassailable power under the mantra”

This shouldn’t mean that Eritrea was not wronged by many countries, including the USA. Far from it. But I despised crude, belligerent language at the expense of a nation, something that Isais always does and ends up the harming the nation greatly.

An Eritrean folksong goes: Hadar Barrista kllte qne, ezzia kwa baEley tekhenakhine, marrying a bar worker lasts only two weeks, even that is because I handle it carefully.

Isaias’ diplomatic relations lasts two weeks at the most—he has no real friends and didn’t establish lasting state relations.

But is his negative attitude towards the USA, and his hate, genuine? No. In fact in the early 2000s, he built an airport in Massawa to accommodate the USA forces. Donald Rumsfeld visited him in Asmara and the PFDJ made that visit seem far bigger than it really was. He had a meeting with General John Abizaid (the commanding General of the US forces arrayed during the Iraq war) aboard a USA ship in the Red Sea; he joined the coalition of the willing in the USA war against Saddam Hussein. His ambassador, the late Girma Asmerom, boasted that the typography of Eritrea is similar to Tora-Bora, Usama Bin Laden’s stronghold in Afghanistan. And the PFDJ was paying $50,000 per month for a lobbyist to warm its way to the American government. It failed, and its major victim was Jack Abramoff.

In short, China is not a close friend of the USA, but the two nations have a mutually respectful relations and competition. China had many crises in America, for instance, it was accused many times of spying and stealing intelligence from the USA, including technology. But I have never seen any of them use undiplomatic language though sometimes they used tough postures. Also, China, with its economic policies, positioned itself as a major manufacturing hub for the USA and had billions invested in the economy of the USA, and vice versa. I believe the relationship is productive and mutually beneficial, though I can’t applaud the appalling human rights situation in China. But I admire their careful, smiling, diplomacy strictly based on self-interest. Does Isaias command the equivalent of the Chinese economic, financial, diplomatic, and military weight? Of course, not even a fraction. Then why all the loudmouth when China is reserved from that kind of belligerent diplomacy?

Even if it is the last thing he does, I wish Isaias would usher Eritrea out of the state of siege mentality and militaristic psyche and towards a just, free, and civil nation. But he doesn’t have it in him.


NB: the above is a rough transcribtion of Negarit 222, delivered in the Tigrinya language on my YouTube channel @negarit


Related Posts