Hegemony: Potential for war between Ethiopia & Eritrea By Robele Ababya

February 2nd, 2012 Print Print Email Email

The writing is mainly in response to Ethiomedia Editor’s question: “Will Eritrea and Ethiopia go back to war over the ‘volcano attack’? If yes, what do we have to do to stop the return to the 1998-2000 carnage?” posted on 26/01/12. (more…)

The writing is mainly in response to Ethiomedia Editor’s question: “Will Eritrea and Ethiopia go back to war over the ‘volcano attack’? If yes, what do we have to do to stop the return to the 1998-2000 carnage?” posted on 26/01/12.

Internecine war of 1998 -2000

The root cause of the ugly internecine war of 1998 – 2000 between Ethiopia and Eritrea that claimed 100, 000 lives, numerous injuries, dislocation of innocent citizens and colossal damage to the economy should be revisited in order to predict whether more of the same would repeat. The fact that Zenawi publicly complained that he was “stabbed in the back” by his mentor Isaias Afeworqui may provide a clue but may not reveal the truth regarding their differences causing havoc to national and regional peace and stability. Any incident may ignite war between Ethiopia and Eritrea – not necessarily the ‘volcano attack. This writer would like to draw lessons from world history of warfare to make his best guess of the reason for the split of the duo that led to the war and then predict whether a second one may breakout.

Wars fought since the dawn of written history

Hundreds of wars big and small have been fought on our planet since the dawn of written history. For the purpose of this article, a snapshot of the two major wars of the 20th century is mentioned. World War I (1914 – 1918) involving the Triple Entente against the Central powers resulted in the loss of nine million lives and 21 million injuries. It ended in redrawing of boundaries and Germany was made to pay reparations as an aggressor. World War II (1939 -1945) broke out two decades later with the rise of Adolf Hitler; it ended with an estimated loss of lives ranging from 50 – 70 million; other statistical sources estimate 62 – 78 million lives lost. Ethiopia was an innocent victim of this devastating war although Italian Fascist invaders occupied the country in 1936. The expansionist Fascist Italian Dictator, Mussolini, had one and only one reason to invade Ethiopia and commit atrocious criminal acts on her citizens; it was rivalry with European colonial masters to spread his hold over as many countries as possible in Africa using the human and economic resources of Ethiopia as well as the fighting acumen of Ethiopian patriots of which he knew very well by the humiliating defeat of Italian aggressors in the famous Battle of Adwa.

Incidentally, the mostly peasant multi-ethnic Ethiopian patriotic forces, under the Northern Command of Ras Kassa Hailu, dealt a shaming defeat to Marshal Badoglio’s modern army supported by air power. He reconfirmed the bravery of Ethiopian patriots in Tigray in 1936 almost in tears over his loss. Leaflets dropped over villages in Tigray singled out the Amharas and Oromos1 in particular for hindering the ‘civilizing’ mission of Italy; the leaflets carried strict warning intimidating villagers not to cooperate with the Ethiopian army in any way. But fighter-bomber airplanes and containers filled with poison gas dropped from the air made the difference culminating in the occupation of Ethiopia for 5 years. All along Ethiopians treated Italian captives humanely and thought the savage a lesson in compassion.

1 Source: Habešská Odyssea (YeHabesha Jebdu) የሃበሻ ጀብዱ by Adolf Parlesak Translated by Techane Jobre Mekonnen – page 214 • It is an excellent book by the Advisor to Ras Kassa during the Italian Fascist invasion.

The quest for sphere of influence continues to this date supported by sophisticated gunboat diplomacy and/or military intervention by proxy or directly in the era of neocolonialism.

Loss due to internal conflicts in Ethiopia since 1974
The carnage to human lives and hemorrhage to the economies on both the national and regional scale since the breakout of the Ethiopian revolution in 1974 is despicably staggering. The parties in the upheavals include: protagonists of White Terror and Red Terror; separatists like ELF, Shabia, TPLF et al staunchly supported by the Arab world; the Greater Somalia ambition of Ziade Barre ignoring the OAU Charter to which Somalia was a signatory party – a typical example of hegemony still displayed by the five stars on national flag of Somalia. Add to this the invasion of Ethiopia by the Barre’s army equipped to the brim by the defunct USSR while Ethiopia was denied arms by the Carter Administration even though those arms were paid for from the miniscule treasury of in 1977.

Pretexts for starting wars could on the surface be ideological, sectarian, or racial hatred; but in the end hegemony and economic domination are the real underlying goal of political leaders.

Rivals in the pursuit of hegemony

The former inherited similar characteristics from his foster father Isaias Afeworqui. Child and father are both up to their necks in committing heinous crimes including genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, engaging in proxy war, gross economic mismanagement, and destabilizing the region of the Horn of Africa, ad infinitum.

It is obvious that Meles Zenwi and Isaias Afeworqui are the main rivals for regional supremacy in the Horn of Africa. Ironically both worked hand in glove to obliterate Ethiopia and share the spoils. TPLF took Addis Ababa in 1991 and Isaias’ Shabia took Asmara and declared independence in a referendum, a whopping 99.83% supporting secession from Ethiopia responding to a sole questionnaire asking to choose between slavery and freedom. The much vaunted wild ‘vision’ of making Eritrea the Singapore of Africa was shattered for the assumption of making Ethiopia as Eritrea’s market for its industrial products became untenable.

The duo split for economic reasons without which political power cannot be sustained. The two dictators are now miserably desperate misruling impoverished countries and for that reason it is highly improbable that they have the stamina to wage war. If they do against so many odds one should expect refugees and army deserters flowing in both directions. The final solution may then be reversion to the Federation ante, which was dismantled by the Imperial regime.

Factors to consider

Following factors should be considered in the prediction of war between Ethiopia and Eritrea:

1.Degree to which the two arrogant and belligerent tyrants asses their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis, comprehensively and objectively, will be a determinant factor one way or another. If done properly, the outcome of the SWOT analysis should tell the duo that it is suicidal for both to engage in a major military clash. But experience shows that both are driven by petty pride;

2.Independence, strength, agility and dedication of civil societies: Independent civil societies do not exist in both countries to organize and hold public demonstrations to oppose hostilities. But Ethiopians and Eritreans in the Diaspora can collaboratively mount opposition to war between the peoples ruled under duress and suffering abject poverty;

3.Influence by foreign interests: The two dictators are surrogates of foreign powers that drive them on a collision course. Delinking Isaias from Al Shabab through concerted persuasion of the international community will make Zenawi irrelevant to the West, especially to the USA and U.K, and thus weakening his rationale and appetite for waging war.

4. Intervention by the AU and UN: These two international bodies can play diplomatic role to avert war; Ethiopians and Eritreans should collaborate to engage both of them to act positively;

5.Unemployed youth: The rampant unemployment of the youth in the region provide a convenient pool of available manpower suitable for conscripting the young into the military for short training and then deploy them as fighters. Parents and civil societies on both sides should influence their children not to fall prey to the propaganda of their dictatorial rulers and engage in an unjust senseless war once again between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Readers may consider the above and add more of their own to predict whether or not war may breakout between Ethiopia and Eritrea. As for me the danger for war does exist given the saber rattling stance between Meles Zenawi and Isaias Afeworqi and their rivalry for regional hegemony.

Lastly, I am reminded of a distinguished Professor who told me about Murphy’s Law and the next day, almost in tears, complained that he lost his document while giving it the last touch on his laptop for presentation to his employers.” What can happen, will happen” according to Murphy’s Law; let us all work hard and pray in earnest so that war between Ethiopia and Eritrea won’t happen ever again.

Release Andualem Aragie, Eskinder Nega and all political prisoners in Ethiopia immediately and unconditionally!


Habešská Odyssea (YeHabesha Jebdu) የሃበሻ ጀብዱ by Adolf Parlesak Translated by Techane Jobre Mekonnen •

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