Eritrea comprehensively covered in the recently launched DISCOURSE Journal.
From the Editor 01-25-17
A new quarterly journal called DISCOURSE launched on Thursday 19 January 2017 featured contents that focus on the relations of the Horn and the Gulf, with particular emphasis on unsettled issues between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Professor David Shinn of George Washington University, Alex de Waal of World Peace Foundation, Yosief Ghebrehiwet (an activist who has been writing about Eritrea’s predicament for long) and Saleh Johar of awate.com, among others, contributed articles to DISCOURSE.
The two prominent analysts and writers of Eritrean origin, Yosief Ghebrehiwet and Saleh Johar founder and editor of awate.com assertively looked into the background of the current unhealthy situations of Ethio-Eritrea and boldly proposed possible solutions in their articles titled “Ethiopia and Eritrea: The Waiting Game” and “Bridge on the Mereb and Other Rivers” respectively.
Yosief Ghebrehiwet went at length and defined the Ethiopian policy towards Eritrea as one of containment. Ethiopia purports to achieve at least surviving the waiting game without incurring significant loss to its side. Yosief showed how he believes the Ethiopian policy has been wrong in terms of meeting the very goals in-built to it and in the many unintended damages it caused on Eritrea.
In the long analysis Yosief wrote, he said “The rationale behind the containment policy has been that a no-peace-no-war situation, however long it lasts, will in the final end do more damage to Eritrea than to Ethiopia.” The author likened this approach to the Regan’s policy during the Soviet era over the USSR that the Reganites believed would bring a system collapse on the other. “And that regard” ysief argues, “this policy has been delivering par excellence, with Eritrea now driven to a demographic meltdown at the center, with serious geopolitical ramifications for the entire region”. According to Yosief, this is wrong because it was possible to effect regime change while securing the nation. What the Ethiopian policy is doing, in Yosief’s view, is destroying the nation while sustaining the regime.
According to this author, as the waiting game policy by Ethiopia stays long, it generates a lot of unknown or outside regional variables that Ethiopia would never be able to control as it stays as such for a long time. The author brought up Ethiopia’s wrong decisions towards solving the problem and he bluntly argues that how Ethiopia unintentionally was helping the Eritrean regime all along and today’s Ethiopian government’s policy towards the Eritrean regime a continuation of those mistakes. But Yosief emphasizes the consequences of these flawed policies have had much more devastating effect on the very people and nation of Eritrea. He alarmed that a “generational genocide” is being committed in Eritrea where the older generation, Yikaelo, consumes the younger generation, Warsai. All these, Yosief points out, will lead to massive unraveling where the end results will be a full anarchy. In his words, “the anarchy that will follow will make the Somali one a picnic by comparison.”
Yosief appeals to those who err on separating the fates of Eritrea and Ethiopia. “The fates of Ethiopia and Eritrea are intertwined in ways neither Eritreans nor Ethiopians seem to fathom: politically, culturally, strategically, economically and, above all, existentially” concludes the author. Yosief asserts that Ethiopia is the only entity that can bring regime change and it should do it for the sake of both peoples.
The other prominent Eritrean writer Saleh Jahar declares the fact that the relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea or whatever remains thereof have been effectively destroyed. Hence the need to pick up all the bricks of the relationship that have fallen down and rework the relational reconstruction from the scratch. Johar says, “The current totalitarian regime sits over a deformed state that doesn’t reflect the aspiration of the people”. This author recalls the fact that Eritrean case was all about freedom and justice and said it won’t be fair to question the validity of the entire journey to nationhood because of the problems manufactured by the regime. Johar tries to show the sunny side of the matter and appeals to Eritreans to envision peaceful relations with all their neighbors and more so with Ethiopia, which in turn, should also assure Eritreans of genuine intents of good neighborliness and mutually respected cooperation. Saleh Johar advises for a transparent intellectual discourse on the optimal options of the relationship.
Peter Pham of the Atlantic Council reflected on many African issues in which he also mentioned Eritrea. “Nowadays, every one of the 54 countries in Africa, except one, has opened the political space for elections. Eritrea is the only country that doesn’t have elections. I think one has to also look at not just the formal legitimacy of the regime and the lack of elections but the fact that its citizens are voting with their own feet. That, I think, says everything that needs to be said.”
Alex de Waal who looked into the Red Sea becoming a playground of the Gulf States and other powers has things to say on Ethiopia and Eritrea, as well. “There are real risks of renewed war. Relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea remain tense and militarized. The dangers posed by the combination of a newly confident Eritrea, militarily active in the Red Sea, and a nervous Ethiopia, should not be underestimated.” Alex de Waal sees the expansion of Wahabism and Militarism in the area and advises the African Union to have a more assertive posture over the Red Sea. Ambassador David Shinn pulls a wealth of data on HORN-GULF relations and interaction, and the messy relation and influence Qatar has with these Horn countries. Shinn said, “The most important GCC political engagement in the HOA has been the solicitation of help from Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Somalia to combat the Houthis in Yemen.” Shinn advises the Horn and Gulf leaders to craft a more realistic relationship between them on the investment and trade areas than on politics or religion. The Human Right Scholar Mehari Taddele also advised the United Arab Emirates on misplaced emphasis it gives to its diplomatic missions by tailing KSA and partnering with others on political and security issues while reducing Ethiopia’s importance to only trade destination.
DISCOURSE is a print platform for Africans and for outsiders who know Africa to debate African issues. The maiden issue also carried many more contents on Africa, general humanity, exclusively Ethiopia, South Sudan, and China’s signature project - One Belt, One Road.