May 10, 2008
It has been fifteen years since Eritrea formally declared its independence as a sovereign nation-state. The price paid was immeasurable : especially for over a decade and a half , Eritrean as well as Ethiopian blood had indiscriminately intermingled , overflowing the streams , the mountains , and the rugged dessert of Eritrea .
The idea of the referendum was presumed by the TPLF leaders as a catalyst for peace and stability in the region . Although the underlying authoritarian nature of EPLF and TPLF was known well before they took power, the referendum was also seen by some opportunist/naivedepending on how one takes themEthio-Eritrean intellectuals as a watershed in the possible transition to a confederation .1 The last ten years of bitter experience , however , has revealed an Ethio-Eritrean relationship, marked by deadly instability . Since the 1998-2000 bloody and devastating military confrontation , the proxy war between the twin tyrantsIssais Afwerki , the dictator , in Asmara2 and Meles Zenawe , the umbilical-cord of the US imperialism in the Horn of Africahas increasingly engulfed the entire region, apparently with no hopeful signs for a peaceful exit . The brutal war and the unwarranted civilian deportations by both regimes has left behind a deep scar that may complicate future relations between the two countries .3
But what is sad and even more complicating is the current discouraging political environment surrounding Ethiopia . Within the Ethiopian political scene , we observe today individuals , groups , and political organizations , for which the independence of Eritrea still remains a bitter pill to swallow . Although there are others , I have in mind particularly the minority group that recently walked out from EPRP extraordinary Congress a group which presumptuously calls itself EPRPDemocratic . In its recent issue of Democracia , the group printed a public statement regarding its
position on Eritrea . To quote :
EPRP-Democratic does not recognize the existence
of an independent Eritrea . Ethiopia and Eritrea are not two
separate countries . Eritrea was and still is partprovince–
of Ethiopia . 4
Accordingly, it concludes :
There is no border dispute at all , as Eritrea is not a
separate and independent entity . 5
Reading the groups statement was achingly a painful experience . I would not be exaggerating at all if I claimed that the authors of those provocative words have indeed grossly abused the concept , democracy , when they affixed the term to their organization . If TPLF were to deploy a military force to reincorporate Eritrea , we ought not be surprised if such kind of individuals , groups , and political organizations , rushed to joinwhat would bea reckless war adventure .
It is a reckless adventure to deny what has been a fifteen-year old realty : The sovereign existence of Eritrea– sanctioned as such by the entire international community . On the contrary , what matters on the groundhaving the long-term constructive vision in mindis to engage tirelessly in creative efforts to entice the Eritrean people to come back under a peaceful and democratic processa process that essentially values their humanity and also strongly underlines our sisterhood and brotherhood with them .
We lost Eritrea to a ruthless tyrant simply because there was incomprehensible lack of democratic thinking and practice in Ethiopia–where debilitating intrigues , conspiracies , and double talk prevailed ; indeed , to repeat that kind of behavior to day would not be a tragedy , but a comedy .
As sad as it may be for some of us , the independence , or the separation , of Eritrea is a reality ; and only the hopelessly incorrigible chauvinists would deny it . The rare wisdom of our dear ancestors that The neck was created to enable us to turn in order to look at what is at the back the latter as a metaphor for the past— ought , indeed , to be instructive for the leaders of EPRP-Democratic . On the other hand, it is the duty of serious democratic Ethiopians to expose such destructive elements totally uprooting their movement at its bud .
A close reading of the Ethio-Eritrean history need to convince us that there areapart from rational economic factorsdeep historical , cultural , and social , repertoire to render Ethio-Eritrean Reunion less difficult and a happy historical encounter . It is only a matter of time .
What is critically missing is the habit of democratic thinking and practice .
The democratic process is the surest road to a happy Reunion ! With the permanent removal of the obstructing regimes of Issais and Meles , and equally , the early preemptive measures that would successfully frustrate the rise of similar regimes , the Ethio-Eritrean democratic Reunion could hardly be a far fetched dream and not only is the project feasible , but also the struggle towards that end is a noble cause .6
As I suggested elsewhere7, the Ethio-Eritrean organic intellectualsthose who deeply care for the welfare of the people—could decidedly intervene to make history by uncompromisingly unleashing the war of ideas : the critical and timely struggle for a paradigm shift .
The struggle of the Ethio-Eritrean Wretched of the Earth shall triumph !!!
1. See Amare Tekle. Eritrea and Ethiopia : From Conflict To Cooperation [ July 1994 ] .
2. For my open public critique of Shaebia in the past , I have been ruthlessly vilifiedlet alone by other Eritreansby some members of my very own extended family , who dearly longed as it is saidfor not even a single person to show up for my funeral . To day I have sometimes wondered what those same relatives may think under their own , current , miserable funeral , engineered by a ruthless dictator whom they once worshiped blindly as the George Washington of Eritreaindeed , Kerien Germow !– Live and Learn !
3. In a rather unwarranted and cruel fashion –alien to the Ethiopian traditionDr Samuel Assefa had tried to justify the expulsion of largely innocent Eritreans residing in Ethiopia— Eritreans , incidentally , who were among the first builders of modern Ethiopia . Ambassadorship to the USA was the reward for his opportunistic and servile service to Meles . See his article , On Deportations , Addis Tribune , May , 1999 .
4. See Democracia, vol . 3 , # 1 [ January 2000 , Eth . Calendar ] : 1-6 . The quotes are my own translation from Amharic .
5. Ibid .
6. I have dearly longed for a fine morningwhen the sun is shining—to listen to the Tigrigna song of the forties and fifties that goes : Oh bus , for whom the dollar is a fixture , please dont depart without me . The highland christian Eritreans have historically seen Ethiopia as a source for employment and schooling ;
and since the forties they have been moving southward to Ethiopiathe point of attraction ; and the song reflects that .
Even the Eritrean Moslemsdespite their marginal status in the Ethiopian life–were not entirely resistant to live within Ethiopia . Their acceptance of the Federal arrangement of 1952 strongly underlines their willingness to live within Ethiopia, as long as the latter was democratic . During the constitutional debate over the Federation , the struggle of Ibrahim Sultan —–demanding for a full democratization of the Federal arrangement , including his demand for the modification of the Ethiopian flag which was obviously bearing christian symbols—– was indeed a noble cause .
7. See my Open Letter to the organic intellectuals across the Horn of Africa . in Assimba.org , Debteraw.com , or Awate.com
*The author, Ph. D, teaches African Studies and is the Head of African-American Studies at York College , The City University of New York .