False Choice on the Border Dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea
31 August 2007
The Eritrean Ethiopian Border Commission (EEBC), established pursuant to the Agreement signed in Algiers on 12 December 2000, held its hearings and made its demarcation decision in 2002. Last November, the commission gave Ethiopia and Eritrea a year to demarcate their 620-mile (1,000-km) border. This decision was both dramatic and surprising since it was the Commission, not the parties, which were mandated to facilitate the demarcation of the border. The EEBC also consequerntly released a series of large scale maps in November 2006 that identified the positions where boundary pillars should be erected.
There is little possiblity that any breakthrough will be achived during the upcoming Commission’s meeting. The reasons are obvious. Eritea is not ready to engage in a constructuve dialogue which will ensure that the demarcation is undertaken in accordance with widely accepted principles and norms of international law. Eritrea has also created new facts on the ground and violated the Algiers Agreement which makes any positive outcome within the embrace of the Commission impossible. As it increasingly become instituionally, politically and legally difficult for the Commission to fulfill its mandate, there is a need for all concerned to adress old questions in a much broader and yet legally permissible manner.
It is so unfortunate that despite Ethiopia’s clearest signal that it has accepted the border delimitation decision, a barrage of criticism is thrown against the Government of Ethiopia for failing to accept the decision. Some experts underline the fact that no statement was issued from the Ethiopian side giving an impression that the country favours al carte application of the ruling. Even Ethiopia’s five point’s peace plan issued on November 2004 clearly stated that Ethiopia accepts the decision. Ethiopia still continues to state that it has accepted the ruling without any precondition.
Ethiopia’s stance is that accepting the decision does not exclude the possibility of undertaking some necessary fixes. Ethiopia consistently argued that such arrangements are both required and are acceptable under international law. The fixes are required so that the demarcation does not unnecessary and negatively affect populations and communities living in the border area. But not only that Eritrea continued to show its typical intransigence and rejected these possibilities, it even went on taking measures that denied the possibility for the minimum conditions to exist for any demarcation to take place.
The Commission does not seem to be disturbed by these flagrant violations committed by the Government of Eritrea. The numerous pronouncements of the Security Council and the United Nations in general did not result in any concrete results. Legal experts say that whereas the UN Security Council can not take action to enforce what is essentially an award given by the Commission, it is granted by the provisions of the Algiers agreement to take measures it deems appropriate to address violations such as Eritrea’s incursion into the TSZ. This is so because the Agreement has explicit provisions dealing with the matter.
Explaining Eritrea’s bad faith
Eritrea’s insistence on a literal implementation of the border commission’s ruling is a concrete evidence of bad faith on its part. As the years pass on and the government’s political and economic standing is incrementally undermined by series of political and economic crisis, the price tag on the border ruling soared. The Eritrean Government staked on being on the right side of the ruling. It considers the ruling as a weighty political card. This became even more important given that the Boundary Commission’s “sister body”, the Eritrea Ethiopia Claims Commission, had ruled on 19 December 2005 that it was Eritrea which unjustifiably and illegally used force in the first place. From the perspective of legality and historical accounts, Eritrea’s culpability is sealed. The Eritrean government is vainly trying to emerge as a winner in the political battlefield.
There are all the indications that the Eritrean government wants the tense relationship with Ethiopia to continue as long as it can. It knows very well that the demarcation of the border by itself will not solve the various outstanding issues which were the root causes of the conflict in the first place. Peace does not serve the short term interest of the regime. In the past, the problem with Ethiopia has served it very well by externalising its domestic woes and problems. This point was well underlined when James Swan recently stated “The Eritrean Government has fabricated a national mythology by demonizing neighbouring Ethiopia, for the central purpose of garnering complete compliance with his autocratic domestic policies. By channelling Eritrean' patriotism into hostility toward Ethiopia, the government ensures that [it] can rule as it likes, without public opposition.”
Another clear rationale for Eritrea’s stance is interestingly similar with the one that Ethiopia has been pronouncing for years i.e. that the demarcation of the border without dialogue will results in egregious forms of injustice. The Eritrean leadership is well aware of the fact that the literal implementation of the border ruling will not go down very well particularly for communities that are directly affected by the demarcation. It simply wishes to see the Ethiopian government face the ensuing public backlash which may be attendant to any ill-considered demarcation. This also goes well, according to the Eritrean thinking, with Eritrea’s subversive dealing with some Ethiopian groups where it wanted to sell its stance on ‘one unified Ethiopia.’
Eritrea has breached its international obligations
The Government of Eritrea has consciously created facts on the ground. By deploying its massively armed military personnel and civilians, the Eritrean Government has obliterated the TSZ. It has amassed its troops in the area. It has also severely limited and restricted the capacity of UNMEE to monitor these breaches. In his report presented to the Security General on 18 July 2007, the Secretary General pointed out the following,
Eritrea has continued the induction of forces into the Zone in Sector West, where, according to every approximate estimates by UNMEE, at least 400 additional troops were employed over the reporting period. In addition to troop rotations in Sector Centre, as well as in Sub sector East, Eritrean Defence Forces (EDF) were observed actively constructing new defences in the Zone, including in close proximity to Badme and other areas. UNMEE also observed that, through rotations, the militia manning the posts in the Zone were increasingly being replaced by regular EDF troops, in direct violation of the Protocol Agreement and the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities of 18 June 2000
In a broader context of the relationship, Eritrea is also the party that has actively taken illegal and criminal measures affecting Ethiopia. It has involved in the kidnapping of Ethiopians and foreigners. It has armed and trained groups which committed and attempted to commit terrorist acts within Ethiopia. Several armed opposition groups are stationed in Eritrea. These actions in one way or another have effectively transformed the post-ruling relationships or lack of it between the two countries.
Eritrea, which has always felt it is on the right side of the ruling for the wrong reasons, invariably took the position that it is justified to take uncensored measures. It either ignored or consciously violated resolutions passed by the Security Council including Resolution 1640 which requested it to violate The international community and particularly the United Nations have encouraged such behaviour by ignoring its serious breaches and violations.
Eritrea’s refusal to cooperate with the UN and other actors has a long history. It has effectively undermined the role of the UN envoy through the person of the Canadian Prime Minster Lloyd Axworthy. "If the organization (UN) is intending to initiate another round of shuttle diplomacy, and seeking mechanisms to replace the rule of law ... it would be advisable to save exhaustion," was the official response from Eritrea to any possible attempt by the world body.
Eritrea does not speak the language of dialogue
The implementation of the ruling should be judged in broader context. A number of questions need to be answered. Will the demarcation of the border as demanded by Eritrea help the two countries to see eye to eye in many other areas? Will it create the confidence and trust required for lasting rapprochement and peace?
The Commission and some of its venerated international jurists often argue that their role is not political and as such it is left for the parties to determine how they wish to solve their problems which are not associated directly with the border. But the problem with this argument is that it ignores the clear and manifest risk that if the measures the Commission decides to undertake are not supported by the parties, they will be recipe for disaster.
Norway’s fall out
Norway is not an important player in the peace process. But its activities are a clear example of how wrongly conceived plan can be a problem than a solution. It is not a member of the group of witnesses to the Algiers agreements. But since lately it has invigorated its role with the attempt to bring a breakthrough. Norway’s overzealousness and lack of focus in its diplomacy in the region should be evaluated from yet another perspective. It is an active member of the Contact Group on Somalia and is its current chair. It has publicly criticized what it called the presence of foreign troops in Somalia. With a strong historical relationship with Eritrea even during the long-drown civil war, Norway’s conducts and dealings with countries in the Horn not only created the impression of bias but did actually undermined the trust and confidence some countries have towards it.
There are three important reasons why Norway has behaved the way it did. The Norwegians’ public pronouncements on the issue have been all over the place. Norway’s State Secretary Raymond Johansen interstingly outlined the Governmnt’s thinking in his lecture delivered at an event organized by the Institue of Strategic Studies in South Africa on May 21, 2007. Firstly, Norway belives and has made it know that it considers Ethiopia’s “refusal” is the main source of the stalmate between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Secondly, it has argued that the international community has sent inconsistent message to Ethiopia, insunuitaing that countries such as United States onply favour Ethiopia on issues including on the demarcation of the border. Thirdly, it argues that Eritrea’s violation of the TSZ is a direct result of Ethiopia’s unwillingness to accept the ruling. Fourthly, it has publicly claimed that there is a direct relationship between the border problem between Ethioppia and Eritrea and the situation in Somalia.
Let us look at these points separatly. It is simply nonsensical to suggest that Ethiopia’s stance, which according to experts in the area of internaational law is quite permissible even under a strict interpretation of international law, justifies Eritrea’s violation of the Algiers Agreement. Secondly the US more or less have promoted simlimar policies like the Norwegians. They have, in a number of occassions and to the chargin of Ethiopian officials, taken position which criticised Ethiopia. No one can interpretate Jendayi Frazer’s view that both Eritrea and Ethiopia violated their commitments as America’s blind support for Ethiopia. Norwegian position is obviously imbued with European anti-Americanism. Norwegians have gravely conflated matters when they connected the border problem between Ethiopia and Eritrea with what is going on in Somalia. Ethiopia has gone into Somalia not to fight Eritrea whereas Eritrea is is in Somalia hoping that it can engage in undertakings that may undermine the interest of Ethiopia. So when Norwegian diplomats make such connection, it becomes clear from which perspective they are looking at the matter. This complicates the mater for them since Norway also chairs the International Contact Group on Somalia. One thing which the Norwegians can not legitimately do is to single out Ethiopia and take it to task on human rights. How come that Norway’s human rights concerns have never been directed at a country which has never held election, which has never had any constitution, which does not have a parliament, which does not even have a single private media?
What has become clear from the official press statement released by the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is that, Ethiopian authorities do not want to escalate the matter. That is probably why they have not publicized the matter till the Norwegians have announced it.
How can the international community help?
The United State, the European Union and others need to ensure that they play their role as true peace guarantors. They can only so by supporting a mechanism which ensures a last peaceful solution to the crisis. It is disconcerting to see the issue being presented as if Ethiopia and Eritrea are faced with the choice between the implementation of the ruling and dialogue. What Ethiopia is asking is the need to implement the decision based on a dialogue which itself is based on international norms and principles. Isn’t that a reasonable demand?
United Nations Secretary General
The United Nations
New York, NY 10017
Dear Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon,
We write you to express our sincere appreciation for your decision to send a fact-finding mission to the Ogaden Region in Ethiopia, and ask you to extend this mission to other parts of the country to gain a more complete view on various atrocities committed by the Ethiopian Government against innocent civilians.
As reported by the international media and human rights organisations, government forces have been conducting gross human rights violations, including the killing of civilians, torture, rape, and destruction of the livelihoods of poor pastoralists in the Ogaden region in Eastern Ethiopia. Many of these actions amount to crimes under international law. Unfortunately, the troubling recent developments in the Ogaden do not stand alone. As reported over the last several years by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Genocide Watch, and the human rights reports of the U.S. Department of State, there have been many similar circumstances in which the government of Ethiopia was involved in the massacre of civilians in other parts of the country, such as Gambella, Awassa, Jimma, Wollega, to name a few.
We therefore urge you to demand the immediate halt to the atrocious and gross human rights abuses currently taking place against civilians in Eastern Ethiopia, but also extend the fact-finding mission to investigate similar massacres in other regions of Ethiopia which have been well documented by established institutions. We also urge you to indict the members of the Ethiopian government who will be found responsible for committing widespread atrocities against civilians in the country.
We thank you in advance for your careful and diligent consideration of this serious matter. We also look forward to further information regarding the measures taken and the findings made by the UN fact-finding mission.
Kassa Ayalew, M.D., M.P.H., Chair
Ethiopian American Civic Advocacy (EACA)
Phone: (703) 665-4042
Lorton, Virginia 22199-1292, USA
The Ethiopian American Civic Advocacy (EACA) is a US based, non-profit, non-partisan civic organization striving to empower Ethiopian-Americans and Ethiopians to fight for the respect of human rights, promote democratic governance, and demand donor accountability in Ethiopia. For more information about EACA, please visit the website: www.eacamoveon.org.
Ethiopia - Washington Update
Posted August 30, 2007
1. URGENT ACTION IS NEEDED to secure co-sponsors for
H.R.2003, The Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability
Act of 2007. Representative Donald Payne introduced
the bill so there is no need to contact his office. We
urge you to contact Tom Lantos, chairman of the
International Relations Committee, and ask him to move
forward to markup H.R. 2003 in September.
We also urge that you contact members of the
committee, asking that they support the bill.
To get the names and telephone numbers of committee
members, go to
Click on the name of a member of Congress and you will
see how to contact them. You can also call the Capitol
switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to
a particular representative's office.
H.R. 2003 includes language condemning two incidents
in which peaceful demonstrators were shot by
government forces. It also includes a ban on travel to
the United States by government officials and forces
involved in the shooting of demonstrators.
When you call to urge support of the bill, explain why
it is important to you. Use your own words. You might
want to mention your concern for human rights,
democratic principles, freedom of expression and
freedom of the press. You should also point out that
the bill will assist the effort to make Ethiopia a
free and prosperous country that can be a reliable
ally of the United States.
After House co-sponsors have been lined up, it will be
necessary to find a Senate sponsor and co-sponsors.
So our effort will need to continue in the Senate.
The Meles regime will try to convince Congress that
legislation like H.R. 2003 could limit its ability to
fight America’s war on terrorism.
Members of Congress need to understand, however, that
a regime that imprisons its most talented political
and civic leaders, that steals elections and represses
the news media, that pursues economic policies that
impoverish the nation, is creating conditions that
breed more terrorism.
We had a good meeting with Senator Barak Obama's
staff. We gave them detailed accounts of the present
human rights situation in Ethiopia. We were pleased to
see that the staff knows lot about the Ethiopian
situation and were sympathetic to our goals.
In attendance at the meeting were Ethiopian Parliament
members Dr. Bezabhe and Major Admasu as well as
Mesfin Mekonen of the the Kinijit International
Council. We requested that Senator Obama introduce
legislation in the Senate in support of H.R. 2003. We
also asked that he contact the State Department to
express concern about the delay in granting vistas to
Engineer Hailu Shawel and other Kinijit leaders.We
have also been in close contact with Donald Yamamoto,
U.S. Ambassador to Eathiopia on the delayed visa
In a related issue, Senator Obama's staff has informed
us that they have talked with the State Department
about the urgent need for visas to be issued for the
scheduled visit to Washington of Kinijit chairman,
Hailu Shawel and other leaders of Kinijit. The
senator's staff said the State Department has given
the visas a high priority.
We will keep you posted on developments.
Sen. Obama's staff urged us to remind the Ethiopian
community that it is essential that we work together
to encourage Congress to pass this crucial
legislation. When we speak together, clearly and
strongly, our voice will be heard.
Mesfin Mekonen, Kinijit International Council Foreign Relations
NES COMMENTARY. No.10
Network of Ethiopian Scholars (NES)
August 23, 2007
Title: UNITE THE PEOPLE FROM THE RED SEA TO THE INDIAN OCEAN: DIVISION AND FRAGMENTATION HAS NOT AND WILL NEVER WORK!!
“As long as boundaries inherited... drawn arbitrarily with no heed to the ethnic, economic and social realities of Africa (continue), so long shall we be plagued by the political refugee problem… (Thus) the fault is in ours, not in our stars!” K. Nkrumah, October, 1965, Accra
“Where there has been racial hatred, it must be ended. Where there has been tribal animosity, it will be finished. Let us not dwell upon the bitterness of the past. I would rather look to the future, to the good new Kenya, not to the bad old days. If we can create this sense of national direction and identity, we shall have gone a long way toward solving our economic problems.”
Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s founding President
“This is my plea to the new generation of African leaders and African peoples: work for unity with firm conviction that without unity there is no future for Africa…I reject the glorification of the nation-state, which we have inherited from colonialism, and the artificial nations we are trying to forge from that inheritance. We are all Africans trying to be Ghanaians or Tanzanians. Fortunately for Africa we have not been completely successful…Unity will not make us rich, but it can make it difficult for Africa and the African peoples to be disregarded and humiliated. And it will therefore increase the effectiveness of the decisions we make and try to implement for our development. My generation led Africa to political freedom. The current generation of leaders and peoples of Africa must pick up the flickering torch of African freedom, refuel it with their enthusiasm and determination, and carry it forward.”
Julius Nyerere, First president of Tanzania
“Deal with the enemy of today without ever forgetting that he could become the friend of tomorrow” Habib Bourguiba, First president of Tunisia
“...Constructing a nation from scratch: We know we don’t have the knowledge. We know we do not have the resources. We know we do not have the experience. Our conclusion is: let’s face it.”
Isaias Afewerki, current president of Eritrea (quoted from National Geographic, June 1996, p.87)
The Horn of Africa Conference was held for the sixth time in Lund University, Sweden between 23 August and 26 August, 2007. It is guided by a wonderful concept of generating constructive dialogue amongst civil society groups, scholars, political leaders and business communities from the Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti
The theme of the conference was on post-conflict peace-building with the objective of identifying key characteristics and contentious issues with a view to facilitate a communicative rationality to encourage consensus by enabling networking and possible undertaking of future activities by the stakeholders drawn across the regions. Indeed such a venture to bring the relevant and significant actors from the region to learn to cooperate and not continue to fight and hate is commendable. In this conference attendance was full, the arguments were lively and at times heated and the issues urgent and very compelling. Not only were all the ambassadors from the region represented and participated, (except Eritrea represented by a Counsellor serving as the ambassador), but also scholars from the region as well as from Scandinavia participated. There was a lot of information and opportunities for networking in the conference. The conference was to come up with recommendations to facilitate a post-conflict era in the wider region from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean. The question we ask is the following: will such a useful forum be helpful in advancing the cause of building trust and moving into a higher level of unity amongst the relevant forces in the region? Can it be useful to create dialogue and communication by refocusing thought and action to solve the real problems of real people? Can it bring the communities, intellectuals, civil societies, the state and society together? If nothing else this conference concentrates our thoughts to ask many pertinent questions.
3. Special Relationship
The people residing from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean have a special relationship. The Ethiopian ambassador made this point very clearly and in several occasions in the two days I attended on the 25th and 26th. The people and the region can either move forward by acting together “like a great body that refuses mutilation” (Fanon) and works for enduring composition or they can also remain trapped in fighting, spreading hate and confusion by trying to pursue misguided missions to form nations without knowledge, resources and experience as Isias boasts. In Africa the post- colonial states have not been successful to bring about a tolerable and acceptable level of well being of the people nor bring fully yet the dignity and respect of Africa from marginalisation and constant state of conflict and warfare. The countries of the Horn of Africa by now should have learned the bitter lesson from the way they mutilated each other by joining the cold war and dying for an agenda which has nothing to do with their own welfare. Having failed to learn from the Cold War debacle, they seem to fall in once again for being victims of global agendas and global politics they have absolutely no part in manufacturing. Some of them fight on the side of one set of global actors that fight another set of global actors. As long as they continue to do so and behave with such subservience to other powers greater than them, they may have a geographical proximity, but may not be able to realise and cement their special relationship to construct a shared present and future free from war and misery. A special relationship means a unity of purpose and approach to develop a shared goal, direction and strategy on how to deal with the external forces and internal challenges in the region itself. How can” one Africa that fights against colonialism and another that attempts to make arrangements with it” (Fanon) ever unite to pursue shared goals either as good neighbours or as entities that need to share a common approach in relation to outside forces that come with their own exclusive agenda and/or internal challenges that can be overcome by deploying unity borne of the special historical, cultural and spatial connections of the region and the people in it?
4. Myth of Origin
Looking back far ahead at the possible birthdates of the names Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti, Eritrea and Somalia, one finds a remarkable history that they more or less originated in the same area and the forces that shaped each one has shaped the other. If we look back thus to the myth of origin of these entities, we find that it argues for their unity and composition rather than their division and fragmentation.
If we take the Pre-Judaic, Pre- Christian and pre-Islamic phases of historical evolution, again the same thing transpires: the same forces that shaped each have shaped the others.
If we take the Judaic, Christian and Islamic periods respectively, we see a history of interaction, communication, migrations, wars, and a shared civilisation and extensive contact through trade with the outside world of Europe, India and China. We see not only did these entities from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean communicate through mutual subjugation and the brutalities, injustices and oppressions recorded in history from the outside medieval and ancient worlds, but also through the migration of their own civilisations through the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean, even the Atlantic and other outlets. (Shihan de S Jayasuriya & R. Pankhurst (eds.) The African Diaspora in The Indian Ocean, 2003)
The division of these entities into the states as we know them as they are arranged now came during the notorious period of the European Scramble for Africa. During this period in the 19th century the people of this region were divided or mutilated and their determined resistance against the colonial encounter was largely and on the whole, though heroic, was unsuccessful. Even the Ethiopian kings that appeared to have been able to snatch and retain a territorially carved Ethiopian state formation that waxed and waned territorially over time from the jaws of the European scramble only were able to maintain and retain on the whole a tenuous grip. Their states have been constantly threatened by perfidious imperial humiliations through unequal treaties and unrealistic and unfair border demarcations that imbedded the seeds of all sorts of conflicts and antagonisms that have undermined state and unification in Ethiopia. The imperial- colonial pressure was victimising rather than building. Ethiopia emerged scathed with the scars and threats of the imperial agenda of the time falling prey to it once more by those it defeated, for example, at Adwa in 1896 and falling under fascist occupation between 1936 and 1941 under the Italians colonial adventures.
Whilst it is very clear to any sober person that Ethiopia suffered as an oppressed country, and whatever it managed to recover from the imperialist onslaught is gained through huge sacrifice and resistance, a particularly sinister reading and twist was given to its role during the Scramble for Africa, as if it was part and parcel of the Great Powers, and indeed a great power itself!! Nothing can be furthest from the truth than this preposterous claim that Ethiopia was part and parcel of the imperial and colonial system. Ethiopia was a victim of the colonial-imperial order and cannot be considered as part and parcel of the imperial system even if it were to have allied with one sort or group of imperial powers locked in rivalries with each other to retain a partially carved state from the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea.
In the Conference in Lund some delegates who should know better tried to spread some unusual tales claiming that the current Somali invasion by the Ethiopian Government was a continuation of the imperial colonial project of the Scramble for Africa where they alleged Ethiopia participated by sending a delegation to the Berlin 1885 infamous meeting. Even if Ethiopia sent an observer, it is a far cry from exaggerating such a presence into a role that Ethiopia was part of the forces that carved the African continent.
Conceptually such a claim is outrageous and bankrupt. The Ethiopian emperor was clear that the people from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean are historically and culturally connected. But he lamented the fact that the imperial project disrupted their unity and appealed to God to restore their unity at some possible time in the future. That prescient insight by emperor Menelik has nothing to do with a colonial project. It has everything to do with redressing great power imperial and colonial injustice visited upon not only on the people from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean, but also Africa from the Mediterranean to the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.
In Ethiopia those who have legitimate demands to decentralise the states of the region particularly in Ethiopia by localising authority at the grassroots by devolving power and empowering ordinary citizens went overboard and created false ideologies of Ethiopia as a’ colonial’ power. This thesis has been loosely spread by books such as Addis Hiwot’s From Autocracy to Revolution, London, published by the Review of African Political Economy group, 1975, Bereket Habte Selassie, Conflict and Intervention in the Horn of Africa, MRP, New York, 1980, A. Jalata, Oromia and Ethiopia: State Formation and Ethnonational Conflict 1868-1992, Lynne Reinner, 1992, Sisay Ibsa et al The Invention of Ethiopia, Trenton, Red Sea press 1991. There are many articles and pamphleteering from the various fronts from the TPLF to OLF, ONLF, Sidama Liberation Front and others that spread loosely the false conception of Ethiopia’s relations with the various communities both inside and outside the region as a colonial relation. This sinister anti- intellectual and devious misconstruction must be rejected and the precise concept that truly characterises relations of oppressions involving the peoples of the region re- formulated by mounting an unsparing criticism of so much of the propaganda masquerading as science. Ethiopia’s relations with Eritrea, Somalia, Djibouti or Sudan has never been colonial and is not colonial in the sense of a relationship that Britain, Italy or France had with these various states including Ethiopia.
5. Build the Unity of the People from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean
The people of the region must enter into an overriding project to unite and reject colonial boundaries. It is a scandal that in 1998-2000 nearly 100, 000 people died to defend borders drawn by others for their own reasons against the interest of the grassroots population by the elites that chose to split Eritrea from Ethiopia and bring both regions to the brink. This is indeed a historic wrong that continues to amaze all justice and humane people throughout the world. Not only has a war being fought, but to this day a no war and no peace state prevails affecting negatively the people who live on both sides of the Mereb River.
The elites have created refugees from each side and it looks the refugees have turned into a breeding ground to destabilise each regime. In recent weeks a new rhetoric has been launched by both the rulers in Ethiopia and those in Eritrea. Isias has given an interview in a glossy magazine in three languages about his undying and unchanging commitment to a ‘one Ethiopia—andit or hanti Ethiopia’!!! He declared in the front cover: “It’s our persistent stance to strive for a united Ethiopia.” Isias utters such a statement, according to the Ethiopian ambassador in Stockholm, whilst hosting forces that have an explicit agenda to break away and create splinter states from Ethiopia in Asmara!
It is also the case that Isias has been instrumental in the support given to the TPLF during its early formation. It is no exaggeration that the formulation of Eritrea’s relation with Ethiopia as a relation between colonized Eritrea and colonizer Ethiopia has given impetus to the tactics and strategy of using and exacerbating ethnic division in order to facilitate Ethiopia’s separation from Ethiopia. This strategy has been used by the EPLF and now it looks rhetorically Isias wishes to join the forces of unity rather than the forces of fragmentation. Curiously in the back cover of this glossy magazine which was distributed at the Lund conference, it has a picture of engineer Hailu Shawl of CUD and Siye Abraha of the TPLF!! Siye has been credited for refusing to be bullied by Isias and urging to re-arrange fair settlement of the Eritrea and Ethiopian problem.
To his credit Isias now seems to oppose ethnic inequalities under the guise of equalising ethnic communities in his concept of ‘hanti Ethiopia’: He said:” The people of Tigray have suffered and have become victims of the hostility created by the TPLF regime’s apparent favour towards the people of Tigray over other ethnic groups.” (p.56)What prompted this commentary in a glossy magazine projecting an austere and modest Isias? If indeed there is a profound change in the way Isias understands Ethiopia, his call for ‘hanti Ethiopia’ can be welcomed. The real problem is what does Isias understand by it and even more does his word and deed match or go in opposite directions as the Ethiopian ambassador to Stockholm pointed out at the conference? The true reasons for this latest posturing by both sides, i.e., Isias swearing for Ethiopian unity on the one hand, and Meles and Sebhat swearing to preserve Eritrean sovereignty on the other, may be revealed when something in terms of actions ensue.
The only way that the recent rhetoric from Isias can be taken seriously is if it stops him from reacting with knee jerk logic and continues to support forces that keep mis-formulating relations between Ethiopia and others in the region with concepts of colonialism and such like. Any colonial formulation is not aimed at a fight against the regime in Ethiopia now. It becomes a fight against Ethiopia’s existence: it is thus, above all, a fighting of the very survival and ontology of Ethiopia as an entity and country itself.
The TPLF leaders now in power too believe in such loose concepts as Ethiopia being a ‘colonial power in Eritrea’ and they too are putting at risk the very survival of Ethiopia both by the clumsiness of ethnicsing the country’s politics and by insisting Ethiopia has been a ‘colonial’ power over Eritrea until they took over the helm of state and found they have to deal with their own idiotic games on Ethiopia’s future. Such self-serving formulation has deeply hurt Ethiopia’s prospects and future. The worry that Ethiopia may be harmed by them is shared by all those who understand Ethiopians having a project of unification of the people who share a long history and fate from the Red sea to the Indian Ocean.
6. Searching for a Constuitive Foundation to unite the people in the Region
Looking back to the long duree, one sees the origin of each of the states we now call Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan is shared and similar. And if we, for example, take the origin of Ethiopia we see two myths of origin: one is Atiopik, grandson of Noah who created the Ethiopian nation and his son Aksumai who formed the Axumite civilisation. In this sense Ethiopia which included not only the states of Eritrea, Djibouti and Somali and Sudan, but also southern Egypt, Yemen east of Aden, Southern Saudi Arabia can be seen like what Scandinavia is to Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden today. The other version is Ethiopia as in the Greek term for sun- burnt faces, in this latter sense-making, Ethiopia can mean ´the whole of Africa’ today.
If we take each of the states and play back history we see the organic connections that existed amongst them throughout history until the 19th century Scramble for Africa. This brings us to an important theorem. How have we tried to understand the past? How should we understand it now? Should we derive positive possibilities from our past or condemn it? Should we dialogue with the past or reject it? Can we back-cast to look far ahead in the future and shape the future together with rules and procedures for full rights of all the grassroots whilst finding workable arrangements for living together peacefully and with security and stability? What constitutive foundation will bring the people from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean to live together in peace, stability, security and unity by doing away with the hurts, hatreds, fights and various unhealthy interventions by outsiders owing to the chronic mistrust, fragmentation and divisions amongst the people that has made it possible for such negative and destructive interventions to occur so frequently and so unnecessarily? How can we heal the divisions and create trust to go beyond the innumerable tragedies, hatreds and fights that have accumulated over years and years of wrongs and internal oppressions backed by external divisive interests?
Moreover should we look back to our past to learn from it or justify the current fragmentation? Should we look at the past to justify division rather than overcome it? Should we look at the past to set new standards rather than accept the ineffective post- colonial states that have earned the ignominy of fragile, collapsed and failed states varied status? How can we derive positive and constructive spirit and energy from the past to create a positive and constructive spirit and energy capable of generating a national direction for transforming the individual, society, and economy, polity with shared democratic systems, rule of law, human rights and governance in the region as a whole?
The 19th century division mutilated the body of our region as indeed it did mutilate the whole of Africa to use Fanon’s words. As the distinguished thinker Prof. Kwesi Prah put it: “We had nothing to do with the creation of these states (say from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean in our case).They were created for us, not with the intent of serving our interests, but rather with the object of benefiting the European powers, which carried out this carve-up, so painfully, and with ruthless determination. Ironically, while we often bemoan colonialism and the legacies of the colonialists, we appear to want to defend, most tenaciously, the most detrimental legacy of colonialism, the colonial borders.”(The Africa Nation: the State of the Nation, CASAS, Cape Town, 2006, pp.289-290). Wars have been fought between Ethiopia and Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea to defend colonial borders drawn by others for their own purposes. People have died in hundreds and thousands for something that must be rejected and not defended. Eritrea and Ethiopian ruling elites tell us they are in a ‘no war and no peace’ state situation because they are fighting over the issue of making sure one of the borders drawn by Italy that divides families and parishes must be honoured. Such is the utter bankruptcy, myopia, lack of self-respect, and criminality of the elites that rule over with crude power and putting at risk our region and not having any positive hope to offer a way out.
9. Concluding Remark: The Only Way out is Unity not fighting and spreading hate and lies!
This commentary was prompted by the Conference on the Horn of Africa in Lund. I found the emotional temperature of this conference very high. It was difficult sometimes to see a constructive way out when people who should behave as organic intellectuals and see deeper and with greater vision feel hurt and communicate that hurt. I write this to urge us to go beyond the hurt and find a resourceful way to deal with the many problems and conflicts that complicate the emergence of a bright future for our region.
I think we can only ignore or side step the variegated history of communication of the peoples through migration, civilisation, wars and injustices at our peril. The past must be dealt with moral intelligence and we must be prepared to deploy and construct the present and shape the future. The 19th century burden must be lifted from the backs of our region by only rejecting it and not defending it. Unity of the region must be a priority of priorities. The people must be allowed to come together. The elites must stop using various stratagems to obstruct the crystallisation of people’s unity in the region. The people’s transactions must be increased systematically and not discouraged. The architecture of peace and stability must be built not partially but regionally. There must be legitimate and agreed rules and procedures to bring us together. Without building a common perspective of the region in relation to external and internal challenges, it would be difficult to create enduring institutions that can valorise the power, rights and freedoms of the people of the region by constructive a flexible , sustainable and workable democratic arrangements.
The current destructive expressions of elite nationalisms would not bring the region together too. Religion would not bring us together either. Only sustained commitment to democratisation and liberty to realise and consolidate the unity of the region and the people from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean will bring us to the promise land of unity and development in freedom. And once we unite, we can create the model for the next important project: the unification of Africa starting from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean and culminating with from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. When we become more Africans, we become even stronger Ethiopians, Somalis and Sudanese by embedding our security, stability, peace, freedom, democracy, rule of law, freedoms of association and speech and governance in our region on a sustainable pedigree.
1. Kwesi Prah, State of The African Nation : the state of the Nation, Casas, Cape Town, 2006
2. Shihan de s Jayasuriya & Richard Pankhurst (Eds.) The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean, Africa World Press, Trenton NJ and Asmara, 2003
3. Isias Afeworki, (Interview) One Ethiopia, Andit or Hanti Ethiopia, Ministry of Information, Eritrean Government, August,2007:
4. A. Osman, Mammo Muchie & Joakim Gundel(eds.), Somalia: Diaspora and State Reconstitution in the Horn of Africa, Adonis-Abbey Publishers, London, 2007-08-28
5. Milkias & Metaferia et al, The battle of Adwa, Algora Publishing, New York, 2005
6. SIRC, Horn of Africa Conference VI: Post- Conflict Peace- Building in the Horn of Africa, Lund University, Sweden
By Mammo Muchie, Chair, on behalf of Network of Ethiopian Scholars, Scandinavian Chapter
Mammo Muchie, DPhil
Director of DIR
Research Centre on Development&IR
Tel.no. 00-45 9635 9813
fax.no. 00 45-98153298
Ethiopia - Man of the Millennium
His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia
A king not in power but one that is still feared by political figures as if he still were.
More than 30 years have passed since he was last seen, that is not considering the sitings by Rastafarian believers who claim he will return for the judgment day sometime in the new millennium. That is not my argument however, because faith has the power to move mountain.
For me its a question of history, dignity and the respect of one self. I never knew him since I was born late after his time, in 1980. However this extraordinary character, a great diplomat and political leader, the one considered as the Father of Africa and one of the many Ethiopian Kings who truly dignified Ethiopia is still being despised.
Why are we so much afraid of his history? Why can't we speak of him? I'm not saying he was perfect or that we should undo what has been done. All I'm saying is that he deserves at least to be mentioned. At least to be know by the new generation. At least be given the
chance to prove what his intentions were.
I have waited too long...and I believe the time has come for what I know is right. The right to know who His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie was. I am not a historian. I am just a simple film maker eager
to know about this king. I am inviting you to accompany me in my journey to discover history. Man of the Millennium is a feature documentary that tries to link the past and the present. A film about a King and of the new generation trying to figure out what went
wrong. A film in which figures from the past talk about what they witnessed. Man of the Millennium is not just a biographical documentary. It is a film were you see the new generation struggling to catch up with their past. In Man of the Millennium you will witness
true life experience of artists trying to make songs and films about issues that are were politically undignified but issues I consider are history, history that must be told.
from the director - Tikher Teferra
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«"alemayehu g. mariam "» «"ali mohammed"» "education" «"human rights"» "usaid" agriculture «alemayehu g. mariam» birtukan china clinton «commodity exchange» dc9 economics economy ecx «eskinder nega» inflation «meles zenawi» «messay kebede» «messay kebede» mideksa murder wikileaks «yilma bekele»