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WHAT IS THE WAY FORWARD FOR ERITREA?

WHAT IS THE WAY FORWARD FOR ERITREA?

 

YERHIWO AMLAK  NOV 28, 2018

 

The year 2018 will be remembered as a phenomenal year in the history of Ethiopia and Eritrea. This is a year when two sisterly countries locked in a deadly border war, which claimed the lives of tens of thousands of combatants and civilians and put  tremendous economic and financial resources to waste, agreed to make peace and implement the final and binding Algiers Border ruling arbitrated by the United Nations.. It is also a year when Ethiopia, after being rocked by Oromo and Amhara youth protests for over 3 years, made a turnaround  by elevating Dr. Abiy Ahmed, an Oromo,  into power and marginalizing the influence of the Tigrean Peoples Liberation front over the ruling coalition party the ETHIOPIAN PEOPLES REVOLUTIONARY DEMOCRATIC FRONT  (EPRDF),  At last, the volatile Horn of Africa Region seems to be seeing a light at the end of the tunnel and heading  towards a transition from an era of eternal conflict to an era of sustainable peace.

 

    Today, seeing the leaders of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia cajoling one another in uncharacteristic pomp and camaraderie  -  a feat that was not even remotely possible a year ago - has become a common place occurrence. Talks about regional, economic and political integration, undeterred movement of people and capital across once entrenched and closed borders are dominating the editorials and op-eds of every conceivable news outlet in the region and the Diaspora.  And It is particularly soul lifting to see the Ethio-Eritrean border wide open and people from both sides of the border moving freely toreconnect with their loved ones after years of separation and cross border trade taking place in full swing. The unfolding events sometimes have the appearance of being too good to be true especially when observing Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afeworki exchanging state visits and generating exuberant public jubilations in their respective countries.  This turn of events, described by some as the making of a "God's miracle", particularly seems to have a spell on President Isaias Afeworki, who during his formal and informal public appearances seems to be overwhelmed by the ecstatic reception he received from Ethiopian government officials, community leaders and the general public.  It has been very entertaining to observe Mr. Isaias, a war hardened former leader of a Guerrilla movement and rightly or wrongly perceived by many as a cruel dictator, softening up so visibly and cracking up and grinning awkwardly as if he was in a state of trance.

 

To add more flavor to the whole affair, the heads of governments of Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti have been openly lobbying recently for the lifting of the United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed on Eritrea in 2009. Ten years ago, these were among the most vocal national leaders who were pushing very hard for the imposition of the said sanctions. It is apparent that the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions would not have been lifted without the implicit consent of the other Horn countries. The powerful western governments with veto power in the UNSC would not have voted in favor of lifting the sanctions had the peace initiatives and the normalizations of diplomatic ties between Eritrea and Ethiopia not taken place.  But at the same time Western powers may also have an axe to grind in lifting the sanctions because they have a vested interest in the region in light of the growing Chinese influence in the region. Be that as it may, the lifting of sanctions is a welcome development which merits a warm congratulatory wish by the world to the Eritrean People. YOHANNA TO ALL PEACE LOVING PEOPLE OF ERITREA!!

 

In view of the recent mesmerizing political developments in the Horn of Africa, Eritreans are particularly hopeful  that their  government  would start  to exhibit some candor to loosen up from its traditionally  stiff and dictatorial style of governance and start to take positive measures towards respecting  civil liberties and instituting democratic governance.    For years, the Eritrean government has been sticking to the Derg-era slogan of "EVERY THING TO THE WAR FRONT", and sidelining political pluralism and the rule of law by mercilessly suppressing free speech and press and banning any form of political opposition and dissent. Eritrea is a deep state. The country has been dubbed the North Korea of Africa by the international community. For the last 27 years Eritrea has also been bleeding from an exodus of its youngest and brightest citizens. It is not hard to imagine what this will do to one of the poorest countries in the world. The Eritrean population kept on shrinking and the infrastructures and beautiful cities built during the colonial era are going down the slippery road of ruin and disrepair. The Eritrean government never fails to acknowledge the retrogression of the country in all aspects of national endeavors but it never pauses for a minute from attributing these sad predicaments to  "hegemony of the Western powers led by the United States of America" and other real or imagined enemies, never admitting that its own poor governance could be a culprit for its economic and social stagnation and isolation.

 

  But now that diplomatic relations with Ethiopia have been restored and the UNSC sanctions lifted,, people are inclined to believe and/or hope that a big burden has been lifted off the shoulders of the Eritrean government and that the time seems to have at last arrived for the Eritrean government to go out of its "scapegoating and isolationist box"  and start drawing a road map for internal peace and stability, national reconciliation  and democratic governance.  The massive deployment of Eritrean defense forces and youthful conscripts, which, according to the government, is/was deemed unescapably necessary to defend the country against a potential military encroachment by a hostile neighbor,  has to be scaled back now that a peace accord has  been  signed between the country and its huge southern neighbor. 

 

     The leaders of the two countries are winning and dining together  to impress the emergence of a period of peaceful resonance. As a matter of fact, "Mekele",an  Ethiopian flagship cargo frigate, was seen  docking in and sailing off the Eritrean ports of Massawa, as a  gesture of good will and colorful display of the new found love between the two countries. The Eritrean President has declared that Eritrean ports are open for Ethiopian business. Ethiopian Airlines has resumed its daily flight to and from Eritrea. . 

 

  Thanks to the mystifying overtures of the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Dr. Abiy Ahmed,  a framework for peace and progress and regional integration among all countries in the Horn of Africa seems to have been laid down for future implementation.  It would not be out of character to hope that the Eritrean government would pick Abiy's olive branch of peace and "Medemer" and act on  it.  But the devil still seems to be in the detail in Eritrea. The 73-year old Eritrean President has  so far made no concessions to pave the way for a transition to democratic rule.. Eritreans do not know what the future holds for them under the autocratic rule of Isais, The political climate in Eritrea is still insipid and wimp.   President Isaias is not backing off from his old dictatorial ways. He does not seem to be ready to release political prisoners, implement the ratified constitution and embrace the rule of law. It is despicable to see Eritreans being held hostage to the same old toxic political stratosphere that Isais has created since he assumed power three decades ago. There seems to be no end in sight for the plight. of the Eritrean people. 

 

So, what is the way forward for the Eritrean people from this sad predicament? The answer to this question depends on who is trying to answer it. But generally, there are three possible outcomes regarding the future fate of Eritrea.  One point of view, which is entertained by the regime's loyalists is that "The Supreme Leader" is working very hard to turn things around for the better and that Eritreans should continue to pledge their confidence and trust on him and wait patiently for what is to come.. The second perspective could be drawn from the "Greater Ethiopia Doctrine". Surrogates of this doctrine believe that the Prime Minister of Ethiopia will succeed to have Eritrea delivered to him by Isaias in a silver platter and that Eritrea will unite with Mother Ethiopia in the foreseeable future. The third perspective is the one being propagated by the Agazians, a fringe group that believes that a nation of Tigrina speaking people can be carved out of the central Highlands of Eritrea and Tigrai to revive the old Axumite Kingdom.  

 

    As things stand at the moment, the prospects of  "The Greater Ethiopia Doctrine" seem to run a better chance of seeing the light of the day than the other two perspectives. As a matter of fact, continued oppression under the insatiable appetite of Isaias's greed for power and the unrealistic Quixotical Agazian Doctrine may only serve to draw Eritreans more closer to the "Greater Ethiopia Doctrine" than any thing else.  Many Eritreans are frustrated by the turn of events in post independent Eritrea, There are people who, in retrospective, are saying that Eritrea's long and bitter struggle for independence, which tens of thousands of patriotic Eritreans paid for with their lives, has only delivered a zero sum outcome due to bad governance. Others suspect that President Isaias himself is working hard to tie the knots between Eritrea and Ethiopia by means of a confederal or federal arrangement. Such inferences are rightly drawn from what Isaias, in his own words and on several occasions,  has publicly been saying and insinuating  during his interactions with Dr. Abiy Ahmed.  It is very hard to believe that a person who devoted his life for Eritrean separation from Ethiopia for decades would almost suddenly change position and become  "more Catholic than the Pope"when it comes to embracing the "Greater Ethiopia Doctrine" without any solicitation from Ethiopia.

 


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