A GLIMPSE OF OUR SITUATION: OLD HABITS DO NOT DIE OUT THAT EASILY By Tecola W Hagos.
“የእውነተኛ ሰዉ ጥላ በጨለማ እንኩዋን ይታያል።”
[The shadow of a true believer can be discerned even in the dark.]
This is a very short statement meant to be a brief response to an inquiry on my chat response to an article by Yilma Bekele, by a certain Dawi, a prolific and astute chat blogger throughout the Ethiopian web discourses. I have attached a part of my response in that format, but also decided to post this longer version, which I believe is highly speculative and I beg your indulgence. The sole purpose of starting a dialogue on certain issues I raised here is distinct from the issues discussed by Yilma Bekele, which is the starting essay for all that follows. This is my sincere effort to understand our future. “የእውነተኛ ሰዉ ጥላ በጨለማ እንኩዋን ይታያል።” Dawi asked of me the following:
[Prof. Tecola said:
[[.. Is it not mind bending to think that one can get benefit or help from a party that has rejected a historic family and has divorced violently that relationship would turn around and help some members of that same rejected and divorced family?,,]]
- Prof. Tecola – Can you please elaborate on this:
Over the years, starting from Cohen and others we have learned that Isayas was indifferent in going it alone after the overthrow of the Derg; he talked about confederation etc. however, TPLF leadership (Meles in the forefront with his book on Eritrea] had a stronger commitment to Eritrean independence with all its associated Ports; to this day, Ato Sebhat vows to defend Eritrean independence while some known Eritrean separatist intellectuals have moderated their stance on that subject. There were times where Isayas was accused by some TPLF leadership as a sell out and known to compromise Eritrean Independence any time therefore, why can’t we assume that he was practically pushed out of the Ethiopian fold by TPLF? Now Demhit protecting him indicate his indifference to the Eritrean identity and may not even be afraid of his Ethiopian one? Why shouldn’t we consider that he is not against Greater Ethiopia then?
If that is the case both the moderate EPRDF and the opposition you condemned shouldn’t be afraid to pursue working with the man because after the defeat of the Derg, he didn’t forcefully “reject” or “divorce” the Ethiopian family on his own free will but, others somewhat helped pushing him out of the fold??]
I thank you Dawi for engaging me and other readers on a subject matter that is profoundly complex. Even though we really must not discuss issues outside of the subject matter covered by Yilma’s article where our discourse started, I am making an exception this time in responding to your request for me to elaborate on certain issues you highlighted. I need to start by stating the obvious that there are several intriguing questions one can ask in relation to the current stand-off between Ethiopia and Eritrea, wherein the following are the most important in my mind:
1) How MUST the Ethiopian Government deal with Isayas Afeworki in his changed circumstances?
2) What should be done for the future of Ethiopia with a hostile Eritrea being an independent state?
3) What would be the modality and form of relationships between Ethiopia and Eritrea in the aftermath when none of the present political leaders of either country are in power?
At any rate, these issues cannot be handled in this format of discourse. My suggestion is to find some credible independent individual or organization to start the discourse in a town-hall type meeting inviting representatives from all concerned parties. Nothing would please me more than to see some mature resolution of the unnecessary division and emasculation of a people, for these people if left to their own devices are capable of transforming the whole of Africa into a power house of economic wealth and technological advancement. However, for that to happen we must first put our house in order.
2. Ethiopia Vs Eritrea
Whether Isayas Afeworki is now under pressure for change, the fact remains that he consistently tried his very best for scores of years to undermine and disrupt Ethiopia’s sovereignty and its legitimate interest to develop its resources. For example, his latest anti-Ethiopia endorsement and support of Egypt against Ethiopia on the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam is a serious point to remember. He tried to use Somali Jihadists to create civil unrest and conflict in the Somali population of Ethiopia. I mean the list of hostile activities is very long. It is foolhardy to make compact with the Eritrean Government at the moment whose leader is still smarting from some mythological grievance against the Ethiopian government of the Imperial days. At any rate, what is there to offer as an incentive to an ambitious man who is already a head of state, commander of an army, et cetera, et cetera and fabulously wealthy? It seems to me we have to wait nature taking its course a couple of decades from now to think out a much realistic modality for reintegration of Eritrea with Ethiopia.
First, we must ignore the endless boastings in the media of the likes of Sebhat Nega who is still “proud” of fracturing Ethiopia using that single incident of our history of an Emperor seceding Ethiopian territory to some foreign power a century ago. In no way that would justify the current divisive process that is hurting everyone in the region especially Ethiopia that has to expend for fees and transit expenses of almost a billion and a half dollars annually, most of that in fees paid to Djibouti to use its port facilities. Most of that money ends up in the pocket of Dubai, the Gulf Country, which runs the Djibouti Port facilities, through its DP World pursuant to an agreement for a 30-year concession signed in 2005. Because of a recent dispute, the Government of Djibouti is trying to control the Port now under the authority of Djibouti Ports & Free Zones Authority (DPFZA) directly answerable to the President of the Country.
In order to get the Ethiopia-Eritrea issue started with the right perspective, we must begin the negotiation and/or discourse with political issues and not with issues dealing with economic cooperation. Ethiopia must not be used to bail out Eritrea’s economic problems. Economic cooperation is the goal and the incentive for political realignment and recreation of a unitary state of Ethiopia where self-administration of regions is to be seen as purely a matter of expediency and efficiency not aimed at the promotion of ethnic or linguistic goals. On the other hand, if we start with economic concessions and cooperation, what would be the incentive for full-fledged national integration. Instead, what would emerge from that form of setup is the replay of the situation of 1991 to the end of that decade of Eritreans in close protection by their government end up monopolizing and overwhelming the rest of the Ethiopian citizens in all areas of economic advancement and entrenchment.
3. Current Winners in the Skirmish within the TPLF
The faction of the EPRDF leadership that you seem to identify as “moderates” that are arguably willing to have relationship with Eritrea are not true moderates, rather they are protecting the interest of Eritrea in an around-about-way and their own grasp on power; they would not care for Ethiopia’s national security or interest in real controversies. I will not trust the fate of Ethiopia in their hands. It seems to me the die-hard leaders such as Sebhat that want to keep Eritrea separated from Ethiopia and the so called moderates are not just two sides of the same coin but are the single side of that political coin. Ultimately I will not trust any of them with the future of Ethiopia. There is also the fact that people seem to overlook about the limited abilities and stunted creative capacities of the leaders in power in Ethiopia. Even more alarming to me right now is the fact that the faction within the leadership of TPLF/EPRDF that wants to keep the divisive and anti-Ethiopia legacy of Meles Zenawi seems to be gaining grounds over the reform minded leaders within the TPLF/EPRDF.
Sebhat has done his job extremely well camouflaging himself as an aggrieved victim of Meles Zenawi and that of former First Lady Azeb Mesfin; he had effectively turned the table on the reformists as he did over a decade ago on the nationalists who fought the war of repulsion of the Eritrean incursion into Ethiopia in 2000. Sebhat seems to achieve such monumental task without any portfolio and with no formal state power base or even without any power derived from leading a political party. His special art is in his ability to create connections with existing power treads and helping thereby create a net of power that could easily overcome anyone foolish enough to challenge the existing order.
Be prepared for more repressive governmental policies and alienations of Ethiopians in our immediate future. Once more we are witnessing a repeat of Meles Zenawi’s modus operandi whereby the reality of sitting in the state’s throne of power trumps anytime any political party hegemony. It seems to me political expedient for both leaderships of OPDO and ANDM to have joined the bandwagon of PM Hailemariam Desalegn and the winning faction. Soon Ethiopia would end up with a single Prime Minister liquidating his current Deputies. If you have watched Hailemariam’s demeanor in recent video recordings, he seems to be a changed person oozing confidence, even bordering arrogance. The same is true with Dr. Teodros Adhanome who had disappeared or receded in the last few months and is now booming out with solid presence.
This consolidation of power by those that are in the State’s executive, Legislative, and military power structure will have far reaching and a decade long implications, at least. Those TPLF leaders, such as Aregawi, Giday et cetera that were expelled from power long ago before EPRDF demolished the Derg Regime and took power in 1991, and those expelled since, at different times, especially those TPLF leaders Meles Zenawi dismissed from the TPLF and finally from the EPRDF, such as Adanech, Gebru, Seye et cetera better head to the nearest monastery, for their hoped for comeback effort of excruciating dedication seems to have been quashed irreversibly for the near future. Do not misread me here, for I believe the inclusion of former TPLF members within the current Ethiopian Government structure would have been a great political incubator for Ethiopians to use in order to recover from the excess of the two consecutive revolutionary governments. Hopefully that form of inclusiveness would have led to the emergence of the democratic process ending the endless rat-race of human rights activism. This kind of “baby steps” would have empowered all Ethiopians in the long run with minimal bloodshed and threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ethiopia.
I will end my speculative analysis with a note on the Ethiopian military. It seems to me that the Ethiopian military has been mobilized and stratified against the reformists who would have reconciled with most of those former TPLF leaders expelled from the EPRDF/TPLF. The coming election is another element that must have been used against reformists, for it can be argued such rocking of the boat would only be disruptive and would sink the boat that is the EPRDF. At any rate, Ethiopia is worse off with this faction of the TPLF getting the upper hand and we are heading into more repression and political disaffection.
There is not much by way of a conclusionary remark at this point, but a number of unresolved issues still remain out there in no man’s land. In Ethiopia history not only repeats itself but also highlights that uniquely Ethiopian reality with blazing colors. Despite such obvious debacle, I still believe peaceful engagement of dissention and mobilization of forces must be done before violent form of confrontation with the Ethiopian Government. Especially no Ethiopian should be involved in protest activities that undermines the deeper interest of the Motherland.
The storming of the Ethiopian Embassy, the desecration of the official Ethiopian Flag or insignia is beyond any protesters legitimate reach. No matter what symbol is attached to our Ethiopian colors, I am extremely offended by the juvenile behavior of a few protesters who tore down our colors/flag at our Ethiopian Embassy grounds; I repeat “our Ethiopian Embassy grounds.” After all many of our relations including our Fathers and Grandparents fought for that Flag to maintain our independence fighting off the colonial aspiration and invasion of Italy, and tens of thousands died in battle and others by firing squads of Fascist Italian soldiers and Askaris. Our Ethiopian Colors/Flag no matter what symbol or emblem is added to it that is transitory, still deserves our respect. We ought to respect even the flags of our enemies. My blood boiled over when I saw videos of such gross vulgarity of a handful of men tearing and stomping on our physical representation of Sovereignty. I draw the line at that, and I will not allow anyone to cross that line in my presence. “እውነተኛ ጥላ በጨለማ እንኩዋን ይታያል።” Long Live Ethiopia!
Tecola W. Hagos
November 10, 2014