Meles Zenawi’s war threat against Eritrea – Eskinder Nega, Addis Ababa

March 25th, 2011 Print Print Email Email

Much to the amusement of Addis’ increasingly politically astute public, peace-dove-on-Eritrea-Meles-Zenawi has abruptly vanished from the public arena. In place of this familiar persona has come the new war-drumming-on- Eritrea-Meles-Zenawi. (more…)

Much to the amusement of Addis’ increasingly politically astute public, peace-dove-on-Eritrea-Meles-Zenawi has abruptly vanished from the public arena. In place of this familiar persona has come the new war-drumming-on- Eritrea-Meles-Zenawi.

Speaking to journalists at his last press conference, Meles accused, for the umpteeth time, the Eritrean government of attempts to sabotage the latest AU leader’s summit in Addis.

“Agents of Shabiya (the Eritrean government) were seized with explosives intended for disrupting the AU leader’s summit,” said Meles. And while he would have normally stopped here and moved on, visibly relishing the dependable competence of his security services, he opted to beat the war drum. “We will work towards changing Eritrea’s policies or its government. This could be done diplomatically, politically or through other means.” He clearly implied war.

But only a few days earlier he had categorically told an Eritrean opposition radio station that his government “would work in a military capacity” to oust the Eritrean government.

Consistently accused of being no more than EPRDF stooges by the Eritrean government, Eritrean opposition groups based in Addis were embarrassed almost beyond redemption. They immediately struck back with a public reprimand: it is for Eritreans to change their regime, they countered.

But whatever the political cost to the Eritrean opposition, Meles has clung firmly to an overt policy of regime change. “We will not sit idle and watch while Eritrea challenges our sovereignty,” the Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Dina Mufti told Reuters subsequently. “We will take all measures necessary to defend ourselves.”

Depending on the source, the total number of Ethiopia’s armed forces is anywhere between 200,000 and 250,000. Experts , no less the mighty CIA, are less sure about Eritrea. Figures vary wildly between 150,000 and 300,000.

There is less controversy about the number of tanks, though, which are crucial in modern warfare: between 300 and 500 for Ethiopia verses 100 to 200 for Eritrea. A limitation, so say analysts, which seriously hampers Eritrea’s offensive capability. Both sides, however, rely on the old Soviet T-55 models. Ethiopia has more of the T-60s version, but not enough to really make a difference.

But the most serious discrepancy lie in airpower. Here is where, by the reckoning of most experts, the most crucial battles were fought in the border war of the late 90s.They forecast the same for a future war.

And surprise of all surprises, the advantage lies fantastically with Eritrea.

Ethiopia’s contemporary Air Force, according figures available on the internet (which could be outdated, but is unlikely in this case), is a ghost of what it used to be in the Derg years, when it was second only to that of South Africa’s in black Africa. In active service are only 55 fighter and attack jets: 21 MIG 21s; 12 MIG 23s; 4 SU 25s; and 18 SU 27s. The ancient MIG 21s and MIG 23s have been upgraded by the Israelis in the late 90s, but are mostly dismissed as inadequate by experts. The Air Force will have to rely almost exclusively on its 22 SU 25s and SU 27s if war is ever to break out with Eritrea.

By contrast, Eritrea’s Air Force has 100 advanced fighter and attack jets: 55 MIG 29s; 17 SU-25s; and 28 SU-27s. Blaming the loss of the border war on Ethiopia’s then overwhelming air superiority, the Eritreans have gone overboard to close the gap. No nation the size of Eritrea, save Israel, boasts such colossal airpower.

In other words, there hangs a somewhat precarious parity on the ground, along with vivid Eritrean air superiority.

Where Ethiopia has clear advantage and Eritrea lacks notably is in potential. Ethiopia is not only overpoweringly larger, both in terms of population and resources, but the tiny Eritrean economy has endured debilitating structural failures for a decade. The Eritreans are in no position to engage in an expensive war. But no less, given the clear discrepancy in air power, which needs time to correct, neither is Ethiopia in a strategic position to pursue an offensive war any time soon, too.

This explains the current stalemate.

Meles knows all this. Look no further than the paltry defense budgets of the past half decade. He has seen no reason to arm. He is no doubt aware, too, that the Eritrean economy is finally on the mend as of this year. Buoyed by windfalls from a booming mining sector, the Eritrean treasury is now awash with new crisp US Dollars. And with Isayas’ resolve to assert control over Badame not only as undiminished as ever, but also a clear national priority for him, the stalemate is in danger of being reversed.

But not any time soon. Both sides need time to prepare for what they have promised to be a final showdown. And they need to do it quietly.

So, then, why would Meles suddenly stir this uneasy status-quo? A premature war would most probably hurt him more than it would Isayas.

Moreover, both Meles and the international community are highly apprehensive about what could come after Isayas. The odds are that Isayas remains Eritrea’s best shot for stability. The danger of political Islam overshadowing secularism in Eritrea has grown dramatically with the increasing radicalization of Middle Eastern politics. Only the strong hand of Isayas and the fall of Turabi in the Sudan have kept militants at bay. But they haven’t given up, and crucially, are less fractious than secularists, who will be hard pressed to come up with a rallying figure in the absence of Isayas. Eritrea’s future is at best complicated.

Thus Meles is in no position to deliver on his threat.

What has compelled Meles to draw the Eritrean card is the growing pressure for political reform. This is his way of deflecting attention from his internal problems. He is desperate to steal the thunder from the North African protests, and, given local history, nothing competes with the potential imbedded in the Eritrean issue.

But what ever his shortcoming, Meles is probably too smart to plunge the nation in to war to stave off change. It has been tried before elsewhere, and in most cases has hastened rather than delayed change. He would be foolhardy to repeat the mistake.

He is most probably bluffing.

Finally, a note to Eritrea’s ruling party: while an attempt to bomb an AU leader’s summit is no reason to start a war, Meles’ accusation could not be dismissed outright either.

Beware: Ethiopians are more united than they are usually given credit for. Don’t provoke them.

The end.

Keep posting the articles on your facebook pages.

Fight tyranny from your PC!

The writer could be reached at

  1. Let them kill each other
    | #1

    The oppositions have a lot of responsibility to inform the public in Ethiopia not to fall for Meles’s propaganda and not to support the war with Eritrea. The war is not only unnecessary, it is going to bankrupt Ethiopia totally and destroy its limited defense system and its resources. This war has nothing to do to defend and protect Ethiopia but to kill Ethiopia and Ethiopians. For the last 20 years, TPLF members have shown unimaginable hate towards Ethiopians by abusing their power, looting, committing unspeakable crimes, genocide and on top of it all, TPLF have chased away Ethiopians from their land and have sold the Ethiopian land. Why should even on single Ethiopian soldier die for TPLF? Meles and Isayass deserve each other and let them kill each other.

  2. Pro_peace
    | #2

    Gash Polisu said “Let the war start and it will be the end of both regimes. Mark my words. They call me Gash Polisu!”

    why don’t you go there pick arm and fight? Why you wanted other people to die for you? Why the blood that have been shed so far between them is not enough for you Mr. opportunist, Mr. Scavenger, Mr. Kebero?

  3. dan
    | #3

    Meles was saying possible war with Eritrea just to divert attention since he has so much pressure with this recent Uprising staff. What reason is he going to give to the Ethiopian people? already there is deep economical crises and to wage a war you need resources unless he willing to die in Eritrea than in Ethiopia he has no reason to start war. This is a new pattern Every time Woyane has pressure they bring
    Eritrea in the picture ,I believe We don’t need War with Eritreans the
    only difference we have with is a port {we can solve it on a table} War
    is not the answer both people have Enough and Both Woyane/Shaebia need
    to go so we all can live in peace once for all.

    Note: both people have enough poverty their economy is very bad people are having difficulty feeding their families don’t you think they have
    enough . that it self is worst than the actual war. may god bless the people specially the poor .

  4. amlakaman
    | #4

    Abugida , Abugida Abugida , I do not care if you do not print my comment but you have to exercise what you preach . In my book you are another kiss ass Shabia . I just wonder what planet you and your likes come from .
    Like I told you again the last time I heard , in 2000 the Ethiopian Air Force destroyed the so called Eritrean Air Force Base in Asmara , the main Electrical Depot in Massawa , and the famous SAWA in a matter of 2 hours and thirty minutes to be exact . Never heard of Ethiopian Air Force after that and I do not think Essayas or you want to find out . This is just for you to read . Do not print .

  5. Zerayakob Yared
    | #5

    By the way, what is all that የቀን ላሊበላዎች ጫጫታ on the other web? ማሌሊት ያሰነባበተቻቸውና ገና ስንብት ያላገኙት, የእኔ እበልጥ-የለም እኔ ነኝ የምበልጥህ, ስለሆነም እኔው ነኝ “ጌቶቹን” የማገለግለው አይነት ጫጫታ!! መንፈሰ ሽምቁቅ ሁላ! ይሄ ሁሉ ለፍርፋሪ !? ወይ ኢትዮጵያና ነጻነት, በስማችሁ ስንቱ ተወሰለተ!

  6. Anonymous
    | #6


  7. amlakaman
    | #7

    Bravo Abugida ,
    Let people express their views , you print and we will have our opinion on the subject that is one step in practicing THE CULTURE OF DEMOCRACY .

  8. bbx
    | #8

    Eskender You have all my respect and I deeply salute you for all your perserverance and Love of Ethiopia. We all Love you and wish you all the best.

  9. Alemseged Asefa
    | #9

    Zerayakob Yared . Why do you deny the true thing that happend in Ethiopia.I am from Addis Ababa. I am one of the victime of Ethiopian poeple.You know it, who is going to scholar and who is promoted any position . You know what did the government the last 20 years. If the person are not the member of woyane , we can not get any benefite ,even we can not get simple short training and bounes. you creat a false BPR in order to dissmise the innocent profesional worker with out any reason that was your pretext.You know that where the manager comes know that where are learing woyane family. you know that who is got the city house and land for house. you know that how many presioner in the know that who is dancing at the movement, you know that who is constructing a huge bulding by abank birr. you know that who are dismissed from the job. I can not explain all things, please remember the following main points and do not write the buleshit and stupied idea. we are preparing to stepdown this regim by the motto of “Ethiopia or death”.You can’t help it, because you Woynes are clueless, senseless, heartless and inhumane individuals that enjoy human miseries.
    I bet you won’t repeat the senseless statements you made in front of:–
    —the teachers, journalists, bankers, and business owners who have lost their jobs because they are not members of TPLF mafia group.
    — the tens of thousands of Ethiopian mothers and fathers who lost their children by Agazi Army.
    —the tens of thousands of Ethiopians children who lost their parents by the ruthless Agazi army.
    —that mother who lost her two sons minutes apart right in front of her door.
    —that family who lost their father and mother right in their back yard in front of them.
    —the millions who are expected to die for lack of food and water.
    —the Ethiopians in Gambela and Gondar who have been chased away from everything they know and love to give their land to Sudan and foreign billionaires.
    —the millions who are struggling to make ends meet while tyrant Meles and his close mafia buddies looting the country to live large and stashing millions in foreign countries.
    —Britukan, the other political prisoners and the tens of thousands innocent Ethiopians who are locked up in Woyane prison without a day in court and rotting in jail and tortured.
    —the millions of Ethiopians who can not even find cooking oil, sugar, fuel and other necessary items.

    It is impossible to mention all the 20 years of endless misery and the human abuses Woyane thugs have caused on innocent Ethiopians

  10. Zerayakob Yared
    | #10

    ውድ Alemseged Asefa,

    “buleshit” እና የመሰሉ ቃላትን ከመጠቀም ልትቆጠብ ትችል ነበር,(በእንደነዚህ አይነት ቃላት ‘ሃሳቦችን እናንሸራሽራለን’ የሚሉትን ሰዎች, እኔ ‘አሳዳጊ የበደላቸው’ ብዬ ነው የምገነዘባቸው):: ግን ይሄ በዚሁ ይቆይና ወደ ዋናው ነጥብህ ልምጣ::

    ከላይ የጠቀስካቸውን ክፉ ነገሮች (almost) በሙሉ, ማሌሊት በእኔ ላይ, ምናልባትም በአንተም ላይና, በእርግጥም በጠቅላላው የኢትዮጵያ ህዝብ ላይ ኣድርሳለች:: አንተው ራስህም እንደምትለው ይሄ ነገር የሚወገድበትን ትግል መሻትና ማካሄድም አለብን:: ግን ሁለት ነገሮችን አልቀበልም!

    እነሱም ባጭሩ ሲጨመቁ:
    1. ዛሬ ተቃዋሚ መስሎ መታየትና ነገ ግን ለጥቂት ጥቅሞች ሲባል የማሌሊት አገልጋይ ሆኖ መገኘትን !
    2. የማሌሊትን ቦታ ለመውሰድ በመንሰፋሰፍ ብቻ “minority”ውን የትግራይን ህዝብ መወረፍ ወይንም ለመፍጀት ቆንጨራ ማውዘግዘግን !

    እነዚህን ሁለት ኣስጸያፊ ነገሮችን ከሚያካሂዱ ሰዎች ጋራ አብሬ ስፈተፍት ከምገኝ, ዮሃንስ መንግስተ ሰማያት ውስጥ ሆኖ ወደ ገሃነበ እሳት ገፍትሮ ለእሳት ቢሰጠኝ ይሻለኛል!

    ከአክብሮት ሰላምታ ጋራ!

  11. goban gergo
    | #11

    War is one of dictators weapon to stay on power . It is not meles Zenawi only,both side want to make unagle war to weaken the nations. both side needs war to escape from revolutionery demonstration .but people of ethiopia ertrea must expose this criminal act of the dictators.The perviouse war were considerd as a criminal war due to they delibratly killed nations to creat hates among the nations
    It is the responsiblty of both side elders to expose and call nations not to partcepate in this war
    It is the responsiblty of elders to expose the prevouse and the today’s are a crminal , genocide war . they must investigated . you! ethiopians , erthreans don’t keep silent. apple it to international community. this illegal war must investigated .both of them diging the grave for themslves

  12. zelalem
  13. ሀኖክ
    | #13

    እባካችሂሁ ቶርነት ክፉ ነው ሰው ነው ሚበላ. ለዛች አላፊ እድመያችሁ ገታን አትበድሉ. ሁሉም አላፊ ነው.
    እንድያውም ገታን ተከብላችሁ ከሲኦልና ከገሃንም አምልቱ ሚክንያቱም የሃትያት እዳችሁ ገታ ከፍልዋል ከአሁን ብሃላ ልሃትያት ሚከፈል እዳ የለም እና በወነት ገታን ተከብላችኅኡ ከሲኦል አምልቱ ተተንከኩ ችሀዋታ አይደለም ይሀ ትኮችሃለህ ብሃላ ተተንከከ
    አምልት እውነት እልሃለሁ አምልት አምልት ጊዘ አለህ አምልቲ ገታ ጊዘ ሶትቶሃል ልታመልትበት እባክህ የተወደደ ወንድመ እባክህ አምልት ሲኦል ሚታለክስበት እንጂ ከሃትያትህ ሚትመለስበት አይደለምና አሁን ጊዘ አለህ አሁን ወንድሜ ሃይማኖት አይደለሁም ሚናገርህ ያለሁ በየሱስ አምለት ገታ ዎዶሃለ. በካ ከፍሎልሃል እዳህን እባክህ ወንድመ በከላሉ ገታን ተከብለህ በስሙ አምነህ አምለት.ተተንከክ ተተንከክ ዛረ አምልት ከሚወድህ ሀኖክ. I am not Ethopian I am Eritrean but I love ethopian peaple. becouse Jesus loves Ethopia. I Love u be bless.

  14. Ahimad gulu
    | #14

    this is the braveness of ethiopian . it doesn’t mean woyane . when woyane get filled his bell he runging with ethinc federalism , but when he lost a vision, call ethiopians for support. woyene is only strong by leaking westerns ass

Comment pages
Comments are closed.