There are many instances of governments that are overthrown, pushed out, reclaiming their authority or totally dying out. In the Horn of Africa, there were many such change of governments. Some short-lived, others permanently die out.
In 1960 the Ethiopian Brigadier-General Mengistu Neway led a coup with his younger brother Germame Neway and the Imperial Bodyguard that he commanded surrounded military bases in the capital and took over the radio station. Then he announced the overthrowing of emperor Haile Selassie and in his place, hen installed the king’s son, Crown Prince Asfa Wossen as a king. The king who was visiting Brazil returned to Asmara and his loyalists crushed the coup was and arrested the coup plotters. As a result, Germame committed suicide and Mengistu surrendered. They hanged him a few months later.
In 1989 Major General Fanta Belay once a commander of the air force, and Major General Demessie Bulto, commander of the 2nd division tried a coup against Mengistu Hailemariam who was on a visit in East Germany. The next day Mengistu returned home and crushed the coup. By 1990 Mengistu executed over a dozen high-ranking military officers in relation with the coup attempt.
1969 Jaffar Al-Numeri deposed the government of Ismail Al-Azhari and established a one-party system under the Sudanese Socialist Party in a coup known as Thweret Mayo, the May Revolution.
In support of Numeri, the famous Sudanese singer, Mohammed Werdi canted a popular propaganda song, “Haamina w’Faarisn”(Our guard, and our hero).
In 1971 the Communist party member Major Hashem Al-Atta led a coup against Numeri. He declared himself, Babikir Al-Nour, and Farouk Osman HamdAllah (the latter two were in the UK) in charge of the new government.
Mohammed Werdi changed the wording of his song, just like the Isaias cult will do when the day comes. He sang, “La Haamina w’la Faarisna” (Neither our guard, nor our hero).
Babikir Al-Noor and Farouk HamadAllah were flying in a jet from London to Khartoum to assume power. But Gaddafi’s fighter planes intercepted the flight in Libyan airspace and forced it to land in Libya—he arrested Babikir and Farouk HamadAllah.
In Saudi Arabia, an airplane carrying Iraqi delegation to congratulate Hashim Al-Atta’s coup mysteriously crashed in mid-air.
However, days later Numeri’s loyalists made a counter coup against Hashem Al-Atta and freed Numeri from his prison cell. He regained control of the government.
They jailed Mohammed Werdi.
Nimeri denounced the Soviet Union and most of its allies and expelled his East German advisors. Gaddafi handed over the coup leaders from London to Numeri who hanged them alongside Atta and others.
It was time for Numeri to switch alliance with China, and later with the United States. And in 1983 he declared Sharia law, launched a reign of terror, and chopped limbs, hanged people, including the famous reformist scholar Mahmoud Mohammed Taha for his unorthodox religious views on charges of apostasy.
In 1985 a group of Sudanese military officers led by the Defense Minister and Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, Field Marshal Abdel Rahman Swar Al-Dahab. Deposed, Numeri sought refuge in Egypt. Suwar Al-Dahab promised to return the country to a civilian rule and kept his word, unusual for a soldier. In a year’s time, Sadiq Al-Mahdi formed a civilian government.
In 1989 Omar Al-Bashir, in collaboration with Hassan Turabi (National Salvation Front) deposed the civilian government of Sadiq Al-Mahdi.
In 1999 Numeri returned to Sudan to ran in the Presidential elections of 2000. He failed and in 2009 he died at the age of 81.
Al-Bashir was deposed in 2019 and he is still in jail.
In 2013 soldiers led by Colonel Saeed Ali Hijay, tried a coup against the regime of Isaias Afwerki. During the attempt, which is widely known as the Forto Mission, Colonel Saeed Ali’s forces controlled the broadcasting station and read a communique. A few among the participants in the muting betrayed the mission and the attempt was crushed. That was the second serious challenge to Isaias Afwerki and his party since 2001 when he purged the G15, (senior officials and ministers of the government) who demanded political reform.
From 1969- 2019 Sudan saw 7 coups – averaging one every 14 years, while Africa had 137 coups; the last one happened in Mali in August 2020.
Ethiopia and the Eritrean struggle
From 1975 to 1977, the ELF and EPLF outgunned the Ethiopian army and overran all its garrisons and camps throughout Eritrea except Asmara, Massawa, Keren, and Barentu. By 1977, the EPLF was poised to drive the Ethiopians out of Eritrea. However, the Ogaden war between Ethiopia and Somalia started prompting the Soviet Union, Cuba and Yemen’s military to as the Somali forces were poised to capture Addis Ababa. “a massive airlift of Soviet arms, the deployment of 18,000 Cubans and two Yemeni brigades reinforced the Ethiopian army.” After defeating Somalia, Ethiopia moved all its manpower and military might to Eritrea face the threatening advances of the Eritrean liberation armies. Overwhelmed by the attacks, the Eritrean organizations and retreated in a move known as Strategic Retreat.
Between 1978 and 1986, the Ethiopian Derg regime launched many major offensives against the independence movements; they did not crush the Eritrean forces.
In 1988, the EPLF captured Afabet followed by Massawa a few years later. In 1991, the EPLF liberated the Eritrean land.
Eritreans faced a serious political impasse in the forties finally settling for a UN mediation. In the 1960s hunger and Malnutrition hit the Horn of Africa region, the USA came to our rescue. In 1984 a serious famine hit Ethiopia, particularly Wollo, Dimbelby of the BBC popularized the hunger. The Bob Geldofs and Michael Jacksons of the world started a campaign—“We are the world” is one of the initiatives to save Ethiopian.
When the South and North of Sudan remained entangled in a never-ending conflict, it was the international community who came to the borders with security, food and medicine. Darfur suffered from civil strife and genocide; it was the same helping hands that intervened. The Sudan discovered oil in the 1980 and boosted the Sudanese economy for some years. However, soon South Sudan succeeded. The oil wealth? South Sudan remained with the oil fields, but North Sudan had the pipeline, the port and the refinery. The two are an integral part in the use of oil. The oil stayed underground as it was for millions of years. And both countries lost the benefits of the wealth.
Recently Ethiopia started a military campaign against its norther region of Tigrai. It created miseries, destitution, and refugees, except for Sudan that has received tens of thousands of Ethiopian refugees, it’s the international community, particularly the West, that is helping the people. And the regions popular complaints and appeals for a resolution are directed to West.
On another front, Sudan and Ethiopia are fighting a border war. Eventually the West is expected to arbitrate, feed the people whose crops and livelihood is destroyed and to stop the marauding gun-toting hordes who call themselves national armies.
The same is happening to Eritrea and hope is from those with big guns and deep pockets will eventually help bring an end to the misery. There are many examples of such insanity but enough said. Now, do the governments of the region have the nerve to talk about sovereignty?
Elabered Plantation, Eritrea
In 1977 a joint ELF and EPLF forces attacked the Ethiopian garrison at Elabered and captured it. Elabered, a plantation village, had several small industries including citrus plantation, a fair-sized dam, a dairy farm, a crate making factory, a tomato farm and tomato paste canning factory, and a winery. The crate making installations had large machines. The commanders of the two Eritrean forces (ELF and EPLF) had to divide the booty to avoid a confrontation and it ended up in a disaster: the ELF took the large machine and the EPLF took the sawing machine. But separated, the two parts doomed as useless in an inefficient manner due to inability to value things properly.
In the other side of the village, some soldiers found the winery and helped themselves with the wine from the fermentation containers. Dozens died of poisoning.
Preparing for the political flood
The above is meant to serve as a background to what happens when change finally comes and how our experiences are like other nations. The interest of all countries tied to the interest of other countries. And if Eritrean is unable to safeguard its sovereignty by correcting the common attitudes and install a just governance, there is no point in parroting Sovereignty as a slogan. It’s empty.
The influence around Eritrea
- First Parameter: these includes immediate neighbors like the Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Yemen, Saudi Arabia. Whatever these countries go through affects all the neighborhood. They are joint stakeholders in the stability of the region—in one way or another, they intervene or interfere in each other’s affairs to protect their interest.
- The Parameter countries: these are countries of the larger region and neighboring countries in the first parameter. Though not immediate neighbors, they are not far removed from the first parameter countries. They have an interest in the region and its situation concerns them. Eritrea should realize they will not watch silently when their interest is at stake.
- The Third Parameter: these are countries of the world at large; all world countries are in this parameter though some might not be geographically related. However, they are also stakeholders. For instance, why would countries like Colombia, Fiji, or Vietnam be interested in our region? Why would industrialized countries like Korea, Japan, China, and the USA, and Europe, be interest in Eritrea? The former shares this world with each other and they could meet on political and diplomatic affairs. The latter want stability in the region where one of the most important waterways in found. They need a stable Red Sea, Bab-El-Mendeb and Suez Canal to move their manufactured or agricultural products and get supplies like oil and other raw materials. They all have interests in the region and will not watch developments silently.
Where is all this leading to?
I am talking about the flood I told you in my last episode Negarit 117. Now that I explained the background, in my next Negarit, 119, I will present an interview with Saleh Younis taped over the last weekend. We will discuss the initiative articulated by him in his article “Government in exile.” In subsequent articles and video, I will delve into the topic deeper and deeper with a goal of reaching an understanding on how the world is looking at Eritrea and its expected change. No one wants to remain a bystander when others are designing the type of change that Eritrea and the region should have. Therefore, it is important that we get fully engaged and that is the reason behind the serious consultations and preparation going on behind the scenes. I hope the political parties will be up to it and face the challenge with total dedication and selflessness.
It’s about what is being cooked for Eritrea and how we must deal with it. Until then, stay calm—think rationally and not emotionally. Our nation is in dire straits because the governance of the last 30 years has failed and there is a risk the entire nation will fail if not remedied quickly. It’s time that Eritrea became a respected member of the world community and not a pariah state denied the opportunity to excel. Eritreans are suffocating, they cannot implement their ingenuity and be motivated to restore normalcy in their country. The nation needs to know there is life beyond militarism and that battles are means of solving problems and not a way of life. The PFDJ has turned Eritrea into a military camp, devoid of any civilian consideration. It’s denied a peephole to a normal life, to civilian life, to a life of peace and stability, a life of freedom and rule of law, a life of excellence and healthy competition between its entrepreneurs, its educators, its industrialists, traders, merchants, farmers, and workers. Eritreans must graduate to a life that’s free of fear and want. A life where citizens walk with their head up, in dignity, not in humiliation and fear. And that must be the goal of all Eritreans.
Until the following part of this episode, stay well.