Time To Clean Your Own Courtyard

Hopefully, the guns will stop. Hopefully those drunk with lust for blood will sober up. Hopefully, those who have nothing to sell but hate, destruction and bloodletting will reevaluate their position. Hopefully the poor victims of this war will breathe a sigh of relief. Hopefully the farmers will go to their farms, the shepherds will rend to their goats and cows, hopefully, children will see their parents, hopefully they will start to live a normal life. Hopefully the guns will stop, and the thundering aircrafts of death, and the marauding killers in uniforms sanctioned by state politicians. Hopefully the those who supply the drones will leave the people look up and see the sun, not flying objects dropping fire and destruction.

During the Baddme war that ended in 2000, I wrote that finally the leaders will sign a paper and it happened after so many lives were lost. I have been repeating that for decades, and as recently as two weeks ago. Last time I was relieved when the guns stopped and an agreement was signed, The Hague court passed its verdict to close the case. Unfortunately, the political mischief did not stop but continued for over two decades, denying the people of the region peace of mind and stability. People continued to be incarcerated, killed and humiliated for that long. Worse, a new cycle of hostilities was ignited two years ago, and it wasted more lived than the previous war did. This time it didn’t spare cites and villages that were razed to the ground by drones and fighter planes.

Finally, about two weeks ago, the two parties of the conflict were brought to a negotiations table in Pretoria, South Africa. Ethiopian delegates, together with African and international statesmen and diplomats engaged in a marathon negotiation that went on for twelve days.  On Wednesday, they reached an agreement to stop hostilities and a host of other issues pending technicalities and implementation. Now I started to worry.

The last time around, neither the signing of the Algiers agreement or the International Court verdict stopped the hostilities. It failed to bring about peace. The people were denied the right to live in peace and dignity. And I worried for a while: Will the fate of the Pretoria agreement be the same as the Algiers Agreement?

This time, the stakes are higher, and the destruction so far is colossal–I am hoping the Pretoria Agreement will bear fruit, and we cannot afford but be positive.

However, I have a concern: will the criminals who wreaked havoc in the region be punished for all the crimes they committed? Will the killers and looters be left Scott-free? Will they be brought to a court to set an example, a lesson that Africa miserably failed to learn? I hope the AU will set a tribunal to try the hate mongers, the inciters, the agitators, and they enablers so that potential criminals know there is a consequence to every wrongdoing. Victims have a right to seek retribution for the crimes inflicted on them. But still, this time I hope the Pretoria Agreement will lead to a lasting peace though I wish the following practical steps are taken seriously to help in the process:

  1. Those who caused mayhem and disrupted the lives of citizens, outside the usual active combat, must be punished by a court of law. No one who caused the loss of even one life should go unpunished.
  2. Crimes committed by uniformed personnel fall under the war crime regime. Such suspects must be handled by pertinent courts under international laws, universal protocols and human ethics procedures. For a change, the AU should prove it’s serious about justice. If such crimes go unpunished, it will certainly be repeated with impunity.
  3. All those who were cheering form the sidelines in supporting of one party or another must be identified and punished for the incitements, agitations and propagating for the killing of people and destruction of properties. This segment includes the irresponsible social media propagandists and traders of war who think they can cause massacres behind nicknames, and cause bloodbaths. Of course, this can only be stopped by the who rewards them by patronizing their outlets, But the patrons should know there are consequences for causing fire.
  4. I hope that reckless leaders who fail to reign over their tongues or restrain themselves must be reminded of their inciting pronouncements that cause so much pain and damage. I hope someone finds a legal means to run after such irresponsible leaders and public figures.
  5. In the Ethiopian civil war, paramilitary forces and their leaders probably played the most destructive role. It seemed as if they wanted to prove their patriotism by being more violent. Sadly, they were encouraged and cajoled by politicians of all colors. Worse, the mobs had the blessing of the so-called religious leaders who blessed the marauding militia when they set to eradicate entire villages. Such mobs are not only dangerous to the region, but they are also a liability to the entire humanity.
  6. Finally, Eritreans, including myself, should feel ashamed for allowing their troops to be used as cannon fodder in wars that only God know whom it serves. A nation with no semblance of justice or a normal life at home, has no business to pontificate or interfere in the affairs of other countries, particularly when Eritreans have a myriad of task that must be attended to: The question of justice and peace.

 Whose Sovereignty? 

Most Eritrean propagandists were emotionally vested in the Ethiopian civil war with the excuse of protecting Eritrea’s sovereignty. Anyone who ignores the sovereignty of Eritrean citizens is not qualified to pretend to care for the sovereignty of the territory—both are inseparable.

What is sovereignty of a nation if its people do not enjoy basic rights and basic legal procedures?  Of course, it’s well established that Eritreans do not respect their government, but they fear it. The nation is terrified by their supposedly national government! If a government is unfair, unjust, cruel, and inconsiderate, it can’t win the respect of its citizens. But it can make them fear it because it uses the military might, the security control, and the monopoly of trade and national resources. It controls the fate of the nation; the instruments of governing have equated its sovereignty with that of the nation and thus made the people feel it’s divine.

Some Eritreans cannot understand the concept of sovereignty in alienation of the army, or its leaders, or wars. In their minds, they are inseparable. If the army wins a battle, the sovereignty is protected, and they rejoice. If it loses a battle, the sovereignty is at risk and must start another round of battles. Thus, ruling has become akin to commanding a military barrack. That is why political acumen, diplomacy, and statesmanship lost their meaning in the understanding of the rulers of Eritrea who are experts on failed governance.

Hopefully the Pretoria Agreement will hold. For a change I wish this time the urge to renew the conflicts is subdued, and the culture of a non-stop war is shunned. Only then will the elite of the region demand tens of thousands of lives to sacrifice for the demons in cycles of one generation or so. This 850 years old ritual of bloodshed in Abyssinia must stop.

It’s time for a reconciliation, for a sober assessment of the last three decades of instability and oppression. Our tools of governing must be changed, starting with the main actors who failed thus far. Of course, this will make more sense once the books are reconciled to show the number of lives lost, the opportunities missed, and the psychological trauma inflicted on the people. I hope the armed forces understand they are the protectors of the people, not unelected rulers. The first task of an army is to protect the sovereignty of its own territories. It can march outside its territories only by a dully approved decision of its legislators. Otherwise, it must step back march towards its barracks… after protecting the people elect their government. The army remains the guardian of the peoples’ choices and security. And is that condition is met, citizens are obliged to throw their full support with their elected government and the army. That is what is expected of true patriots; any less is pseudo-patriotism, fake patriotism.


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