The Triangle Of Pricks: Eritrea – Sudan & Ethiopia
le’teakejl alebna higya lwT wo’Hrit
eb atmashash let’thayeb it’trekeb eb tmnit
dib le’amr lel’ake meglel mibel m’qwet
(Selected lines from an old Tigre song “Anseba may zere”)
‘Not Too Bad!’ is what anyone familiar with the frustratingly slow pace of developments (towards a better day) in Eritrea during the last 20 years would describe the speed at which change is taking hold of the nation today. And ‘What a Pity!’ is how anyone familiar with the fact that the traditional Eritrean opposition contributed ZERO towards the change taking place on the ground and towards the demise of the PFDJ would describe today’s developments. Spontaneously motivated New Times (induced not through deliberate human action but through the magic in the prayers of helpless mothers) are just around the corner and the probability of being surprised with a sudden turn of events is greater now than at any other time in the past. The good news: (Thank God!) we can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. The bad news: (God Forbid!) it is a Red Light!
The PFDJ proper in Asmara is shaking at an unprecedented acceleration although still very far away from coming to its knees. Hysterical PFDJ leaders and their core Neo-Nazi machine is in full swing doing extra shifts to plug the ever-multiplying loopholes leaking stink to flood the nation and Crazy Glue to seal the borders into a lone island in hell. Regular clients of the media, including poor little Ali Abdu, are nowhere to be seen. The weekly rituals of the Cowboy President inspecting actual and potential farmlands, “sibuH meriet”, for planned “PROJECTS” hopping from one corner of the Lowlands to the other are no more “Priority” to Hadas Ertra, Shabait and obviously to Gomida himself. The PFDJ’s traditionally proud and rezenti hound dogs have turned fekosti kem kintit and Hafarat kem dumu wandering for guidance, pandering for assistance and praying for deliverance.
Hagos Kisha, Yemane Hibey, Zemihret Adgi and our won Abdalla Pappagallo are at the forefront of a rampage of seminars of “hizbawi mekhete” with one message that does not add up mathematically: that “the UN Sanctions (designed to curb the PFDJ’s adventures in Somalia & Djibouti) are intended to target our National Unity”. Did you ever hear of any two Eritreans, including PFDJ followers and especially Lowlander Vs Highlander or Muslim Vs Christian, contending on whether their President should stick his finger where it does not belong? How in the world can something that does not affect the relationship between two citizens relate to “National Unity”? The truth is: the paranoia with getting ready for any eventuality has nothing to do with the UN Sanctions (at least not directly) and everything to do with the new formula of our resistance in the context of assumptions about how our foxy neighbors might help boost it beyond control. The poster picture they chose for the scheduled “demonstrations against sanctions” isn’t that of a lady in Zurya who would reflect a true picture of what the PFDJ is all about. It is a picture of a beautiful Lowlander with Shedeli screaming her lungs out for a nation that mocked her innocence and a ruthless gang that invaded her land, trashed her culture and trampled on her identity. The ethnic-lineup demonstrations and seminars of kitet are about her because the fake façade and deceitful camouflage is gradually but surely coming down (and we will see if they will ever muzzle her again).
Why would a thuggish gang of criminals, smugglers and black-market dealers worry about sanctions? As per the requirements of the sanction (Susan Rice’s invitation for Eritrea to see the development as an opportunity to rejoin the community of obedient nations), Eritrea has seriously started doing its part. His Excellency Wedi-Afom himself has disgustingly turned 180 degrees and condemned the Somali Al-Shabab only a few days after the sanctions were declared and accepted the invitation extended to bend down and kiss the Obama-Lady’s shoes. Why were the sanctions declared in the first place? The guy had allegedly refused to condemn and to “stop arming the same Al Shabab”. That is for physically “interfering in the internal affairs of Somalia”. According to a link on Meskerem (the website), the shameless President practically calls for sanctions on Al Shabab for “interfering in the internal affairs of Yemen” (according to the link, in an interview with Al Jazeera). In other words, he is telling the world that he has learned his lesson (the same way he learned in Badime).
If we were to dream for the sanctions to have been justified by the regime’s records of crimes against Eritreans (as the only credible moral justification for sanctions), at least AU members would never have become the heroes of that particular dream because each one of them has a lot to answer before lecturing us on “crimes against citizens”. We only have to wait and see if “Al Shabab minus Eritrea’s arms supplies” will be any different from “Al Shabab plus Eritrea’s support” to find out if the AU’s “smoking gun” wasn’t a “toy gun”. Why would I care? The PFDJ themselves are running around telling people that they are not concerned about the sanctions at all (and I believe them): first, because they will obviously behave and there won’t be anything heading towards Mogadishu to warrant the translation of the text of the sanctions into actions with significant consequences for the PFDJ; second, (to be honest with you) I think the whole claim of Al Shabab and others depending on PFDJ’s arms supplies is either gross exaggeration or an outright cookie intended to justify the sanctions that I strongly support for the different reason. The existence of a “real smoking gun” is itself irrelevant to any Eritrean who is worried that the PFDJ’s erratic behavior in foreign relations might one day get us into a catastrophe. The intention of the sanctions is not punitive (to punish the PFDJ retrospectively for what they might have done in Somalia or elsewhere in the past) but speculative (to curtail its ability of doing so in the future). Since the UNSC is not making us pay for the PFDJ’s past mistakes, who wouldn’t welcome a little help in restricting the regime from further mistakes that might cost us dearly?
We need not worry though! Formally lifting the sanctions might be next to impossible given Eritrea’s reputation and diplomatic infrastructure and we should be lucky that we got away with just sanctions. Don’t waste your money on “demonstration burgers”. The PFDJ does stand the chance to neutralize the physical significance of the sanctions simply by BEHAVING and investing the perceived image of “influence on the militants” towards “the fight against terrorism”. The regime, notorious for behaving only after being slapped on the face, will most likely not only behave but go the extra mile by chasing Al Shabab militants in Mogadishu (and by offering similar charities to Djibouti in relation to their Afari resistance groups). The pimping has already started with Minister Osman Saleh’s visit to Yemen, which I bet was about nothing other than “sharing” (diplomatic translation for “selling”) whatever information the PFDJ might have managed to acquire about the Yemeni Islamists and their Iranian connections. In exchange, Shawish Ali of Yemen might have some ideas for the Saudis who (due to their proximity, economic status, alleged role in financing Somali Islamists through the PFDJ and the size of the Eritrean community in the country) will definitely be the primary vehicle in squeezing the PFDJ if the need does arise to move the sanctions from talk to walk.
It must be crystal clear, however, that the PFDJ is no exception to these dangerously endless games in the politics of the Horn of Africa. Not a single one of our neighbors can claim to be any better in dealing with one another or with the Eritrean opposition than the way the PFDJ continues to deal with their respective oppositions. And in this confusion, the PFDJ will always find either loopholes in our neighbors’ institutions to buy them out or flaws in their twisted arguments to buy us out of their sinister designs.
The Sudan is a critical link in any attempts to chock the PFDJ through sanction or action. They have a little problem though. Successive Sudanese governments have known nothing other than pure skunis (street boy) diplomacy guided solely by the opportunistic Jelaba culture of immediate and shortsighted khud-wo-hat (give and take). Any decent Sudanese should have been ashamed to see this gigantic nation that also happened to control the lives of hundreds of thousands of Eritrean refugees, more than willing to join the fight, failed to counter the threat that the PFDJ thugs had managed to mobilize in a few months by importing a handful of Sudanese opposition figures from Cairo and elsewhere. All Sudanese should be embarrassed to see that their country that served as the undisputed nursery of the Eritrean struggle for more than 30 years, cannot influence what goes on in a tiny coffee shop in TalataAsher (a few meters from the border) let alone stand a chance of having a say on issues of governance in Asmara. Shame and embarrassment, however, do not belong in the dictionary of Sudanese politicians. Today the Sudanese government is so paralyzed with fear of what the tiny Paper-Tiger in Asmara can do to it that the mighty Sudan hasn’t only resigned from attempting to meddle in Eritrean politics but has effectively turned into an ardent facilitator for the regime’s machine of horrors against Eritrean refugees and activists.
I am not denying the little honeymoon they are having with the PFDJ but highlighting the occasional panic attacks they passively get from Asmara every time they misbehave. Dr. Afwerki’s gracious services of scratching the wounds of his patients accompanied by a flea market of useful pills to sooth the resulting pain have through the years proven to be very effective shock-absorbers whenever strained relations with a neighbor ended up threatening the regime’s wellbeing. The same pranks have also shown to be short-lived as in almost all cases the same Flea Market Pharmacy ended up feeding another monster in Eritrea’s regional relations. It was this same prank and irresponsible pimping (“sharing” of information) that enabled the Sudanese government to dismantle the infrastructures and neutralize the ramifications of their Asmara based opposition a few years back when the honeymoon was booked. It is this same cheap pragmatism in administering foreign policy that while helping the regime tip-toe safely through dangerous regional politics also feeds the vicious cycle that demands more of the same.
Selling “the pill” (inside information on Sudanese opposition) to the government led to the deterioration and subsequent antagonism (lack of trust) in the PFDJ’s relations with the SPLA and others. This in turn excused the Sudanese government of the need to continue to appease the PFDJ to use its influence to spy on or pressure opposition groups (as there was no more influence left for the PFDJ). The Sudanese went back to voting against Eritrea in the IGAD and the AU and to business as usual in the Sana’a Conspiracy group. The Flea Market Pharmacy had run out of supplies: the very reason that the PFDJ had to fumble for ways of squeezing the Sudanese government in the first place. The cycle has re-started again, with the PFDJ recruiting and organizing a new generation of armed Sudanese opposition groups. Once the Pharmacy is re-stocked again the Sudan will come back on its knees again.
The short term effectiveness of the PFDJ’s purely adventurist and opportunistic handling of regional relations should not be underestimated in its ability to numb the potential consequences of any sanctions that rely on the goodwill participation of the neighboring governments. If you are a PFDJ supporter, you may rest assured that no sanctions on the planet will prevent the regime from hiring pimping Sudanese officials to help Eritrea get around any international or regional watchdogs.
The Weyane is a replica of the PFDJ when it comes to expertise in extortion diplomacy backed by a common societal culture wealthy in the technicalities of mischief and motivated by a shared belief in a common ethno-regional identity at the grassroots level. This reality, or rather the consciousness of its validity, rendered Ethiopia’s intervention and “support” for the Eritrean opposition into ethnically biased and thuggishly administered cheap politics motivated more by the phobia of nursing tomorrow’s perceived enemies rather than by the determination to deal with today’s monsters. Tegaru (more than others) should be ashamed that the only achievements of more than a decade of big-talk by their Prime Minister about standing up for the “Eritrean people” and supporting its opposition were large hotel and catering bills at Geon and Sheraton, while the PFDJ’s silent sting could be felt as far south as Moyale and Mogadishu.
In spite of the lofty rhetoric and false perception of progress induced by big-mouthed and empty-handed Eritrean opposition figures running around from one conference to the other between Addis Ababa and Mekele, the built-in Islamophobia in Ethiopia’s policy towards the opponents of the PFDJ has denied the Weyane of any meaningful access to the full potential of the part of the Eritrean opposition that matters most. This bias and the phobia are directly reflected in Ethiopia’s shamefully negligent assistance and poor guidance (for a country with so much stakes in whatever change might take place in Eritrea) even to those opposition organizations predominantly stationed inside the country such as the Afari movement as well as in their insistence on puppet-running the Eritrean opposition to the minutest detail.
Here is a living example of the Weyane’s pointless micro-management from an “ideal Eritrean opposition figure”, Mr. Saleh Karora (the Vice Chairman of Abdella Adem’s chapter of the ENSF) quoted from an interview (my translation) conducted by brother Jamal Humed (of Adulis – the website) in response to a question about why his group’s “conference” was not held in a dignified and publicized place:
Mr. Karora’s answer:
“After leaving the Central Council meetings and following the split (that happened to the ENSF) we asked the head of the Secretariat of Sana’a Cooperation, Mr. Hibur Gebrekidan, to permit us to conduct our conference. His (Hibur’s) response was negative, which forced us to hold our conference in a time and place unknown to any. And this is nothing peculiar to us but a practice that all Eritrean opposition organizations resort to in such unfortunate situations.”
I have no further comments, neither on what the “Honorable” Saleh Karora disclosed in the preceding paragraph nor on what the Bogyman from Mekele might be trying to do. But I have one little request to make to every respect-worthy Eritrean organization including the EDA that ever held a conference, a wedding party, Nigdet, a picnic or a visit in and to Ethiopia to please (bidun shewshera) publish a copy of the letter that “begged His Majesty Hibur Gebrekidan to PERMIT” holding the event. Thank You! All we need to know is how much kissing, browning and selling might be going on. Tell Mr. Hibur that we stand against the PFDJ only because we have genuine exclusively Eritrean concerns and that his assistance is welcome only in as far as his bosses are convinced that a strong, democratic and dignified Eritrea is also to their advantage. Tell him to tell his bosses in the Sana’a Conspiracy group that we, Eritreans, are a proud people born to lead and never to follow. Tell him you are not a puppet (Unless you are!).
If a serious effort is not made by the Weyane (and by anyone with stakes in Eritrea for that matter) to break away from the PFDJ’s culture of dealing with the opposition groups of its neighbors, Ethiopia (and whoever has a dime invested in Eritrea) will eventually find themselves complete strangers, confused spectators and helpless bystanders when change does come to Eritrea, just like the Sudan was in 1991. Shouldn’t an Ethiopian let alone an Eritrean ask themselves why the Prime Minister who has been to every conceivable gathering on the planet to convince the world that Ethiopia’s ethnic federalism is the best that mortal humans could come up with would shy away from promoting it the closest and weakest neighbor? At least to the Eritrean “opposition leaders” lined up in Ethiopian food banks in Mekele … or to the guys who need the permission of the Honorable Mr. Hibur to breath and to pee? The answer to these questions might lie in what ironically the PFDJ and the bulk of Eritreans call Hibu’e agenda Weyane.
Here are a few facts to help you figure it out:
Ethiopia as a nation has both legitimate and detrimental economic and political interests in Eritrea, and vice versa, that go far beyond regular bilateral interests between two independent countries (in spite of what the PFDJ might want you to believe), backed by irreversible geo-political realities (contrary to Weyane’s rosy dreams). There is excessive popular confidence (on both sides of the ethnic divide) in the feasibility of undoing the developments of the last two decades one way or the other. This unfortunate reality is so overwhelmingly critical to any sustainable coexistence of the two peoples (Eritreans and Ethiopians), that, whether we like it or not, the existing barriers of the two thuggish and narrow minded regimes (and legacies of age-old injustices) will be shattered either through integration or disintegration of either of the two “states”.
Both Eritreans and Ethiopians (those with basic common sense) are well aware of these facts. The few wiser ones amongst us know one more thing that, to be fair, only President Isaias (on the Eritrean side) seems to acknowledge: that in either of the two options it is Eritrea and only Eritrea that is nominated for integration or disintegration (not the relatively mighty Ethiopia).
Three very different and unimaginably costly scenarios have so far been invested towards these choices in both countries.
A complete and seamless incorporation of Eritrea into Mother Ethiopia was tried for 30 long years and the rest is history nailed into a coffin in a tomb in the centre of the earth under the mountains of Denden in Nakfa.
This scenario was the PFDJ’s vision for the long-term relationship between the two countries and it is an image where a powerful Tigray-Tigrigna (TT) core controls Hailesilasie’s Ethiopia (this time of two autonomous entities united in purpose) by either bullying or purging all competing non-TT nationalities and ethno-regional groups in both countries into total submission, assimilation or extinction. This was the project of Land Grabbers and Exclusionists that was (and still is) vigorously and insistently pursued in Eritrea by the PFDJ during the last two decades. The PFDJ’s choice of this avenue and its recommendation as a joint venture for the two countries was motivated by three critical factors: (a) excessive confidence in the capacity of Tigrigna supremacists and their Neo-Nazi machine to impose the project in Eritrea and to assist their cousins across the border in Ethiopia; (b) the perceived helplessness of the primitive non-Tigrigna Bedouin coupled with the belief that with so many of them permanently displaced into refugee camps elsewhere, the job was already half done; (c) the conviction that Land Grabbing and Exclusion is a matter of life and death for Eritrean Tigrignas that far outweighs any political considerations (presumed to be the case for Ethiopian Tigrayans as well).
The Weyane’s response to the PFDJ’s invitation of integration (into the TT Nation) was “Thanks but no thanks”. In spite of the risks involved in confronting the “invincible Gomida” at such an early age, the Weyanes courageously headed for their own project of disintegration into the Ethiopian Nation through a project of Ethnic Federalism. The success of this project was motivated by the negation of the above mentioned three factors (‘a’ to ‘c’) in relation to Ethiopia. The Weyane’s conviction (at the time) was that controlling Ethiopia PFDJ-style was a gamble that no Ethiopian should ever think of attempting (and definitely not a potentially helpless Tigrayan). Sensibly enough, this conviction was solidly founded on (allegedly) 3000 years of failed experimentation by Amhara supremacists. The new rulers did not see any point in reinventing the wheel simply by replacing new actors for the old and the defeated. Eritrean Tigrignas in general and the PFDJ in particular are not to blame as they are new to the game and need to be bitten from the same hole that educated the Weyane and that Amhara supremacists were bitten from in 1991 before they opt for, probably, Weyane-style disintegration into the Eritrean Nation.
With this three proven experiences at hand and having settled for the most logical and sensible choice for their own country, any right minded person would have expected that the Weyanes would establish their own Flea Markets Pharmacies and arada-tera kiosks to auction their own genius invention. Unfortunately, the 1998 embrace from the old Amhara supremacists (with expertise in PFDJ’s Project of Exclusion) and the ecstasy of victory in Barentu two years later came with new game changing realities they would never have dreamed of. Old Janehoy’s spirit started to haunt the Weyane and the abundant Tigrayan wisdom true to its long heritage flourished with innovation. Surprisingly, in the eyes of Weyane strategists the PFDJ seemed to have turned from an enemy that risked their existence into an instrument that facilitates their hidden agendas.
This isn’t an inventive conspiracy theory as traces of the dangerous game that the Weyanes seem to be targeting for Eritrea’s future are nowhere visible than in their selection and dealings with the kind of Eritrean opposition leaders and organizations they claim to be supporting. To make a long story short: (1) the Weyanes have no doubt that the PFDJ will eventually collapse under its own weight mainly through their role in chocking the nation and that the contribution of the current form of the Eritrean opposition is irrelevant; (2) they are determined to make sure that no viable genuine Eritrean alternative emerges before the inevitable collapse of the nation into chaos; (3) replicating the 1950s, they are convinced that whatever designs they might have for Eritrea will rely on the same Tigrigna supremacists underlying the PFDJ today (that the Tigrignas are necessary and sufficient condition for whatever change they envision for Eritrea). It is this twisted mentality and pricky approach that has deliberately rendered Ethiopia into essentially a useless and toothless partner in our struggle for genuine change in Eritrea.
Irrespective of how the Triangle of Pricks in Eritrea and its neighbors might interact, however, the declaration of sanctions by the UN Security Council was by far the most significant development since the end of the Eritrean-Ethiopian border war. The 1998-2000 border war will be remembered not by the achievements and heroism of the 20,000 young men and women who died in honour and in grace but by one single day of humiliation and disgrace in Barentu when Eritrea, the nation, was defeated. It is this very symbolism of an image trashed, a reputation tarnished and a glorious history lost in between that has already started to herald a new era in Eritrean politics. It is the identical symbolism of defeat for shortsightedness, irresponsibility and cheap childish games in regional politics declared in the sanctions that not only Eritreans but all citizens of the Triangle of Pricks should celebrate. May God bless the Security Council for more!
A newborn Eritrean movement is on the rise and the extent to which the traditional Eritrean opposition remains relevant to genuine national concerns, imperative for any meaningful mass mobilization for change, will depend not on “THEIR ACTION FOR CHANGE” but on “THEIR PROACTION WITH CHANGE”. Neighbors are welcome to join or sit back and wait for Breaking News.
Until that day comes and unless you have answers to all their questions, it is at least sound public relations policy for all opposition organizations to project the image of responsible entities worthy of respect among Eritreans including and above all those who, unlike most of us, are responsible enough to assume the existence of neighborhood hyenas hovering to take advantage of the consequences of the PFDJ’s irresponsibility in regional politics and caring enough to answer calls for what they believe to be “a citizen’s responsibility to defend the nation”. All “Doves of Peace”, “Warriors of Inaction” and “Advocates of Hypocrisy”: BACK OFF and LET THEM ROLL! We may need their expertise in demonstrations and protests when the moment of truth does arrive and the light of the conscience does shine.
NB: I have just read Semere Tesfai’s article and I hope to respond to it in due time.