Ethiopia & Eritrea: A Faustian “Peace” Bargain with the Devil?
The question of economic opportunities being given to our neighbors before Eritreans, calls for a separate analysis. The question of spiritual proselytizing in public being given to our neighbors in Amharic before Eritreans call for a separate analysis. The question of refugees right to return being left untouched so far when Eritreans are languishing at the doorsteps of our neighboring countries, namely Sudan, calls for a separate analysis. Whilst keeping the fluid nature of Ethiopian-Eritrean peace negotiations in mind, trying to capture the big picture of where things might be headed is a worthy endeavor. Not to mention the question of geopolitics, which is not only critical but has several components that call for a separate analysis. In this opinion piece, only one component of the latter will be addressed, namely notions of Pan Africanism.
Pan Africanist in the Making
Can Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed be the Pan Africanist leader who can deliver peace in the region? He has all the ingredients necessary to be that and more. He is highly intelligent, poetic in his oratory. And he is not shooting in the air or waving his swords. The days of politics of the warrior (zeraf and ere- geday)* are long over. The three thousand years of Ethiopia’s warrior history is finally in its waning phase with the ascendance of Abiy Ahmed to the highest cabinet post.
The days of Fiyyel WeTeTe** is so 1978, it has no place in 2018, which appears to be the unambiguous PM Abiy Ahmed’s message as he embodies notions of peace and love in his political philosophy. Three things are readily available for PM Abiy to base his moral imperative to lead the Pan Africanism wagon: (1). The Horn of Africa has had written languages as far back as any others in the world; (2). The earliest human existence can be traced back to the millions of years as Lucy (Dinkinesh) is its supportive evidence; (3). The Horn of African region is one of the many areas where agriculture was independently developed some 10,000 years ago. Such irrefutable knowledge is based on historical facts. We may be at the precipice of going beyond the three-thousand-year history of war. There is more of the historical narrative of civilization and development that can be narrativized if we only focus on our own history rather than on European and the West telling us what our history is. This is where Pan Africanism can kick in giving us the needed impetus to thrive as a people of the Horn.
The Politics of the Uncultured
The politics of the uncultured who would break glasses full of blood as a symbol when delivering a public speech to show that they are the ultimate brutes is long over. Love and poetic languages are much more potent and effective potions as was evident in recent days. The question that remains unanswered and that remains to be seen is whether Eritrea’s dungeon maker can be rehabilitated and build social and political institutions instead?
Can Eritrea’s Dungeon Maker Become A Peace Partner?
Can the same be said about Eritrea’s Dungeon-Builder, in which innocent Eritreans have been holed underground by the very man that PM Abiy Ahmed is making that Faustian bargain of peace with? Now that the euphoria has subsided; that the man at the helm in Eritrea is back in his haunted castle and where the slaughterhouse will welcome him back; where he will hear those whistles of tormenting ringing in his mind’s eye; where the bells of torture will chime in his ears when Asmara’s Cathedral strikes its midnight toll; where he alone makes any decisions he wishes moving forward; it remains to be seen what he does domestically. Would he free the unjustly imprisoned? Would he institute some modicum of governance with some sort of constitution by which the country and its people would abide by? Would he allow free movement of citizens? Would he allow the convening of more than three people in one gathering? This is an awesome power to readily dispose of.
Can anyone see a comedic irony in the surreal peace process in which we were made to witness? With the great fanfare at our disposal as we watched we could chronicle and chime-in our thoughts in real time in the myriad of social media venues of our choosing. Can there be peace between two nations with a population on one side being sidelined? Can Ethiopianism and Eritreanism remain as independent entities? The former is at a huge advantage to keep its identity intact because its people are free to voice their views. As for the latter, only the man at the helm says what Eritreanism is and by golly, it shall be so, at least in the duration of this peace process. Can this prove to be an error of countless “isms” that we’ve been hearing about of late? So many questions and no discernible answers that can be ascertained at this time but are left at the disposal of time to inform us and waiting eagerly and anxiously is the only option.
The Politics of Love
In June and July of 2018 Ethiopians and Eritreans have seen what it is like to arrive at the politics of love – to the poetics of politics in Ethiopia, where, for the first time, the nation of 100 million is ruled by someone who is cultured, who is highly educated; one whose oratory skills match that of Obama, save the teleprompter for the latter and the plagiarism insinuations of the former for the former colonizers and their progenies to shed crocodile tears for. PM Abiy can voluntarily strip off his Ph.D. title and would still be that cultured individual who has the gravitas and the enthusiasm to have massive followers as he does now. Our region has been transformed seemingly overnight. The Politics Turn from its masculinity to the politics of gender neutrality is taking shape in real time. The barbaric language that goes with war and hate is now replaced with the language of love and plenty of hugs.
Would what we have seen over our computer screen become a veritable explosion of love, of brotherhood, of sisterhood, of fraternity, and of difference between and among Eritreans the likely scenario? Could the same be said of our uncultured brute? Is what we have seen paranormal? You bet it is. But, does it make it any less palpable for peace to reign in the region? Not really. It is more than palatable if PM Abiy begins to see beyond the man at the helm of power in Eritrea. Making a bargain with the devil can be used as a stepping stone toward permanent peace with Eritrea, but not as the be-all and end-all.
The Bullet Train of Peace and Love
Attempting to make sense when a neck breaking bullet train of peace is on the move is an exercise in futility. But, no matter what, at this junction of Eritrea’s history, Pan Africanism and/or peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea can only have a lasting effect if and only if Eritreanism is kept intact. Overlooking notions of the latter even at the level of one port like Assab will be a Faustian bargain that will come back to haunt the region afresh. The deafened silence of Eritreans by the brute force at the helm will inevitably unravel at the proportions of the thirty-year-war-of-independence or worse.
Injecting Personal Views on the Current Events
The measuring yardstick should never come from a place where Eritreans’ voice is muffled and coerced. Listen to a young woman who lost an arm during the 1998 -2000 war with Ethiopia, it will give you an inkling how deep the wounds of war still resonate, not at a physical level but at the raw emotions that moves a listener at a visceral level. As if that wound wasn’t enough, the young woman’s older brother has been posted on the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea for the last twenty years***. Of course, the Asmara residents will come out in droves if they are told to come out to receive anybody that the regime deems appropriate to do so. Anything short of what the Eritreans in Asmara did in receiving PM Abiy Ahmed can be costly. These are people held hostage for the last quarter of a century by the regime in power. Those who have lived under the yoke of the monarchy of Ethiopia know this all too well. Those who lived under the Derg of Ethiopia also know this too well.
So, Eritreans inside Asmara are the anomalies and one doesn’t make conclusive remarks based on exceptions to the rule. It is certain that these Eritreans want peace, but open the border wide in both directions, the direction of the movements will tell the truth. The discomfort created as a consequence of anomalous conditions that distort the specter of truth through the endless visual images of hugs and loves between the two leaders can proffer a false narrative. But, as viewers, we must stay vigilant against some such dispensations. Visual literacy and critical lens combined with our ability to historicize, contextualize what we see with the intent of analyzing the blatant messages and the subtle images, is par for the course.
Meanwhile, hope for Eritreans inside and abroad on the specter of peace being created in the horizon, that chance for us all to see our region try peace for a change, is of monumental import. The only one getting in the way of peace, ironically, is the very man with whom PM Abiy is forging a peace accord. In the final analysis, I am not going to pin my hopes on the man at the helm changing his ways, but I am more than willing to remain on the sideline and watch it unfold. Cheering for peace and hoping for peace to materialize gives me that hope that I know Eritreans will prosper in no time because they’ve done it in the past they can certainly do it within the proximity of the country as they did from without as in Ethiopia and beyond. Political affiliations are such difficult positions to be in when new occasions call for a new way of assessing, synthesizing, analyzing. It is my ardent hope that those of us who have hardline positions against the man at the helm – will take a mortarium – however brief to see if the man can change his ways.
*Search in YouTube titles such as Fukera Ethiopian Music & ሽለላ
**Yefyel weTeTe was a rendition that would come through the radio preceding any ominous announcement that the Derg of Ethiopia was to dispense.
*** The poet, Rumana Berhanu captures how an underage girl valiantly fought in the 1998-2000 war with Ethiopia. This is a voice being dislodged without any coercion as she lives in Sweden.
**** Best Original Rap — The Warriors’ song… ዘራፍ አካኪ ዘራፍ !