What Are Eritrea’s Options – If Any?

An important leader in the horn ofAfricaregion has suddenly died. Now remember, “important” – not necessarily good or bad, but nonetheless, important. Discussing and arguing about his record has already begun in earnest and the irony is, the man is not even buried yet.

Zenawi’s record – good or bad may be the subject of debates for years to come, but again, that’s what history is all about. That can be left for history and historians to sift through. For now, there are far more pressing issues which are detrimental to the destiny of the entire region.

The horn region is not like some sleepy hamlets along theNorth Seaor some penguin islets in the South Pacific. It is or it has become in the last couple of decades one of the most volatile trouble spots in the world where the proverbial – the good, the bad and the very ugly cross paths on a regular basis.

In the wake of the passing of the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, arguably an influential regional leader with strong global connections, change good or bad will inevitably come to the region. The mere fact that there will be a change of guards in on itself and a sudden one at that, brings a great deal of uncertainty to the mix. Anyone could try to stir the pot and yes, anything could happen.

If those currently at the helm of power inEthiopiaand beyond try to allay people’s fears by saying that everything is under control, then it is only natural that they do so. The last thing anybody wants is chaos and anarchy. But in reality, the litmus test for how calm and serene things are can only be determined when the general public manages to see the underbelly of the beast. When what might have been hidden comes to the fore, that is.

It is no secret that policies are shaped and /or influenced by leaders, be it democratically elected ones or clan-installed dictators. And as all leaders are humans (with the odd anomalies of course) the personal element in leadership should always be factored in when assessing the roles expected of them.

In other words, Hailemariam Desalegn is no more Meles Zenawi than say, Mengistu was no Teferi Bante or George Bush was no Bill Clinton. That policies can and will be affected whenever there is a change in leadership is a given. Leaders are not like electronic gadgets. They come with a set of values, a set of priorities and a set of principles, biases or even prejudices.

So in short, what this reflects is that given the void created by the passing of Meles Zenawi and further given the volatility of the horn region, there is a great deal of uncertainty in the air. All eventualities perilous or otherwise are possible.

If the recent history of the region is any indication of how bloody wars could be ignited by a stupid dictator, then the peril of igniting yet another one in these uncertain times is very tempting for the same dictator. Even if the said dictator feels impotent or unable to wage a war by himself, he could still be tempted to conduct a war by proxy.

One of the most pressing issues for Eritreans in this scenario is the re-assessment of their options. The looming of uncertain times makes imperative that one looks for cover and particularly more so if that one is as destitute as Eritreans are these days. Is there room to manoeuvre?

Let’s start with the Eritrean dictator, also dubbed mengsti Ertra. What are his options?

As I alluded to earlier in a previous comment, I believe that the dictator has one of three options:

  • Often times, the sadistic nature of the Eritrean dictator reveals  itself in the most peculiar of ways. He gets tremendous exaltation by  going to the funerals or by eulogizing people – some even his own trench  comrades, whom he had actually gotten murdered. It is sick but nonetheless, a psychopathic trait he enjoys best. Any deaths of those he considers his enemies is a fête and thus a target for mockery and sick  rituals. Obviously the late Meles wasn’t his friend – so go figure.

In all likelihood, the media blackout imposed on the Eritrean regime’s mouthpieces is intended to secure the dictator’s ability to attend the funeral. This way, he appears as an above-the-fray politician, saves face and quietly breaks the cycle of isolation he put himself in for years. There you go – three birds killed with one stone. But above all, he gets to perform his sick ritual at the funeral and then go back to his old habits of concocting subversive plots. It is hard to imagine that the Ethiopians could fall for such a farce.

  • If all the attempts of third party players to secure a place for the dictator at the funeral procession under the guise of re-rapprochement and what have you fails – then of course , the dictator can’t remain mum forever. It would be very unlike him. He will be very dismissive of the whole event and will      start preaching about the irrelevance of individuals in the realm of  nationhood and nation building – save and except his worship of course. Watch      for the media blitzkrieg at that point (specially the relay stations like  Meskerem) – you will be flabbergasted by the cascading mood-swings.
  • The dictator’s third option is to let loose his ego-driven demons. When those demons take charge – he always miscalculates – like attempting to stop the sun from setting, for example. Don’t be surprised if he miscalculates again and tries to take a second shot at it.

How about the Eritrean opposition – do they really have any options?

Just not to feel left-out or cheated, it is fair to mention that they also have three big fat options. The first one is to wait, the second one is also to wait and the third and final option – yes you guessed it – is to WAIT.

The first wait is till the funeral of the deceased PM is over (respect); the second wait is for Ethiopia to get its own house in order (they call that national priorities) and the third wait is to figure out which way the Ethiopian wind will be blowing in light of a new administration/leadership being installed in the country.

This in turn, could mean yet another national conference in a year or two from now (same old viscous circle), it could mean a cease and desist order (Al-Bashir style) from the new administration or even a pack-up and leave order. Remember Desalegn or any other person at the helm of power will not be a replica of Meles Zenawi – so anything is possible.

As I am sure you’ve noticed, there is one common factor in the above listed options for the opposition groups –Ethiopia. See how we ended up hinging our destiny to that ofEthiopia?

It is one thing to ask and accept help from a friend or a neighbour but it is a totally different ball game when you intrinsically hinge your destiny to that of your friend or neighbour. Not only do you end up losing control of your destiny in that case but you also expose yourself to the whims of others.

Eritrea’s problems are solvable but only if we all stop going in viscous circles for nothing. HGDEF can be destroyed if our focus and all our efforts are zeroed in on taking out its command structure – yes taking it out, pure and simple. It has to be the immediate focus, if not the only focus and it has to take into account the urgency which the plight of our destitute people calls for.

Anyone in the opposition who tells you that this is not doable, ask them one simple question:   What is your game plan to destroy HGDEF in
the next three to six months?

If they are of the confused type, they will just keep beating around the bush quoting barnyard philosophy and indulging in endless debates. And if they are among those drenched in lofty elitist idealism, they will start lecturing about the pie in the sky and a perfect utopian paradise where folks’ only chores would be to feed and breed in absolute serenity. Neither of these two groups could ever relate to the pain of our destitute people, and truth be told, they have always been a drag.

The only pragmatic option for the opposition is to focus on destroying HGDEF’s command structure – and yes it is doable.


The forgotten:

Watch and then decide for yourself if you can look these people in the eyes and then tell them straight out to stay put for another forty years so that “ reasonable efforts” , not urgent or immediate – but “reasonable efforts”  could be made to repatriate “some” of them to their ancestral lands. All the while, stray dogs like Filipos and one-eyed grain and human-organ bandits like Manjos could roam freely enjoying their war booties.



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