EPRDF and EPLF’s Belligerency: What is the way out?

Almost 15 years have passed since Ethiopia and Eritrea agreed, after ending the bloody war, to make peace. Although it is very difficult to say neither of them wanted peace, the very agreement the two signed has never went far from the papers. The Eritrean government, led by Eritrea People Liberation Front (EPLF), wants EPRDF hand over of Badme as agreed in Algiers. The Ethiopian government led by Ethiopian Revolutionary Front, (EPRDF), on the other hand, afraid of backlash from the people, who consider the verdict, admittedly, an outcome of its tactical and strategic mistakes, is focused instead on agreeing on formalities. A breakthrough to a lasting peace has, thus, remained elusive because the two remain world apart and unyielding in their demands.

EPRDF, of course, claims the peace deal has, however tentative it may be, enabled it direct its resources to economic development. Because of this policy, it claims, it not only has managed to concentrate on its priority, development, but also score notable achievements. Hence it continues to side line the idea of containing EPLF through violent means. The economy, indeed, has improved and the peace deal sure has positive role in this. But one cannot also deny that Ethiopia, during this time and because of EPLF sponsored problems, has incurred huge economic losses. Not only that it also has experienced endless kidnappings, killings and countless property damages by EPLF and its surrogates. The peace deal, therefore, even if, to a certain degree, is positive, had also damaging effect to Ethiopia’s security and peace.

EPRDF, in response to EPLF’s subversive activities, of course has issued, during these years, several warnings. It has bombed Eritrea’s facilities, and even chased, by going to Somalia and other countries, its satellites. EPLF’s attacks however did not subside. In fact they grew, from time to time, worse. As a result, Ethiopia, PM Hailemariam said, is now “… compelled to take an action against the State in Asmara unless it cease its destabilizing activities and change its peace poisoning strategy” (Waltainfo, July 07, 2015). EPLF knows firsthand how bad war is. Unfortunately, and against all odds, war drum, not peace, is all it bits. Hence, and as usual this too has fallen in deaf ears (listen to VOA July 10, 2015 Tigrigna interview with Eritrea’s authorities).

What use will EPRDF’s peace have then when the other party, EPLF, does not have the appetites? Nothing. Why not then finish the unfinished business subscribing to the language EPLF understands? Ethiopia, even now, and because of EPLF, is paying heavy price. What value would another wait, will bring if EPLF chose to wear an elephant’s skin? What advantage will another peace lobby give if it does not deliver Ethiopia from the burdens? However slow the pace is, many may argue, the policy Ethiopia chose is good enough to outlast EPLF. How long will EPLF last? No one knows. Why then wait knowing EPLF’s years are unknown? EPRDF needs to face the reality, however grim, and face off the Asmara regime. And yes, it will have the following advantages.

Saving the budget it spends on its military is first. Ethiopia spends large portion, probably one fourth, of its budget, a budget which it could otherwise have used to step up development efforts, to watch the borders. Moreover, wasted is also the huge man power, this army possess, it could have deployed in productive sectors. As far as EPLF continues to pose as a threat and the peace deal neither avoids war nor delivers peace, spending millions will be Ethiopia’s fate. Putting an end to the peace deal therefore is in Ethiopia’s best interest because it saves Ethiopia money and labor which it can use to build more infrastructures.

Building a lasting peace with Eritrean people is the second advantage. Eritrea under EPLF regime is bad and the people have been subjected to harsh treatments. Poor public service, abject poverty and mass exile has become their distinguishing features. They have become a commodity, the source of, being targeted for their organ by those the Asmara regime classified brothers turned vultures, high profits along the Arabian Desert markets. The regime has thus a lot to contribute more to their misery than their liberties. Why maintain a peace deal that even do not benefit its people? The immediate reaction here will be why bother. Well the answer is if stable Somalia is a guarantee for safer Ethiopia, safer Eritrea guarantees Ethiopia’s peace more.

There is more to this however. As many have, both Eritreans and Ethiopians, pointed out time and again, hatred and politics aside, the future of the two people is tied together. They share more than border, they are brothers. Even amidst all wars and bloodshed and so many conspiracies, the bond is still strong, the blood is still thicker. Fraternal attitude is on the surge again and the hope for future unification is looming on the horizon. Good leaders, honest and direct talk among the people is all it needs. Ending the stalemate, therefore, would give both people an opportunity not only to reflect on their mistakes but also begin reconciliation and heal their wounds.

Avoiding future EPLF sponsored war will be the third. Why EPRDF stopped a war that it already won is a puzzle. Even more puzzling is why EPRDF failed, when signing the deal, to dictate EPLF to oblige to its terms. Whatever motive and reason EPRDF had regardless, one thing is very clear: the deal has given EPLF a chance to recuperate and, by equipping itself better, resurrecting again. Not only that, it gave EPLF another chance to pursue its dream, to launch war, against Ethiopia to get even. Ethiopia might have the capability to withstand any EPLF’s provocation but strength aside, the cost of damages it will incur is not going to be simple. If it is thousands now, it will be thousands more. EPRDF therefore should mind this and take action before it is too late and Ethiopia pays heavy tolls.

Supporters of the Asmara regime argue the attacks are not EPLF’s but the work of opposition groups. The problem with this claim is, however, the opposition groups, though might have some role to contribute, are not as capable, as some want us to believe, to launch and sponsor attacks as EPLF is. They do not have the man power. They do not have the budgets. Worst, these groups do not have freedom to organize and execute their organizational tasks. They are very much controlled by and at the mercy of EPLF as any Eritrean is. EPLF, not them, should therefore be one that deserves the stick because EPLF, not them, is the real culprit who hatches and spews the venoms.

Preventing foreign enemies from using Eritrea as a launching pad is fourth. EPLF is always averse to Ethiopia’s peace and developments. All its activities so far are focused on weakening Ethiopia than building Eritrea’s interests. EPRDF should therefore not second guess that EPLF can, any time, open its doors to Ethiopia’s enemies. All EPLF needs is a foreign power willing to participate in its schemes and they are plenty. The foreign powers too are desperate to recruit a foot soldier to advance their sinister motives and EPLF is standing by handy. Both have therefore an opportunity they cannot afford to miss to form an allegiance, as has been witnessed in the past, and sabotage Ethiopia’s development efforts. Taking a pre-emptive action, therefore, becomes paramount if ERDF is to dispel the omens.

Last and fifth is maintaining regional stability and peace. Ethiopia’s peace is partially dependent on the peace of the region it is part of. Regional peace helps Ethiopia focus not only on its internal affairs but also forge intra state economic cooperation. EPLF is an anomaly to this. In fact Somalia’s, Djibouti’s, South and North Sudan’s, Ethiopia’s and other Middle East countries’ instabilities are its by-products. Ethiopia’s is worse though because it, apart from experiencing border skirmishes, alone or with UN, is shouldering, army and budget wise, the burdens. If EPRDF needs to stop surrogate wars wreaking havoc the region, and, by virtue of that, save Ethiopia’s economy, it should primarily focus on drying the wells, right where they are dug, inside Eritrea’s territories.

Is not Eritrea a sovereign? Eritrea is definitely a sovereign. The answer is therefore yes. However when Eritrea, a sovereign country, becomes or is used as, by virtue of its leader, a launching pad of terror, Eritrea relegates, by virtue of this terror, the status of being a sovereign. The same thing is true with regard to international law. When the country, by virtue of its regime, violates the law it is a member of and involves in destabilizing countries the law acknowledges as sovereign, the country, by virtue of its acts, therefore, ceases to qualify for the Law’s protection. Whatever problem Eritrea faces, whether this is direct or indirect is therefore, EPLF and its leader’s making not Ethiopia’s. EPRF has therefore every right to defend itself provided it has the commitments.

EPRDF need not even involve directly ending EPLF’s threats. It can allow access to opposition parties it gives shelter to, to operate and fight the regime across the border on their own. It can give them logistical and moral support to pursue their struggle instead of keeping them as pawns for future trade off negotiations. The support it give them should be heartfelt and sincere and should not attempt to capitalize on their weaknesses. The opposition might harbor views EPRDF dislikes but EPRDF should not use this difference as an excuse to withdraw support or dictate its beliefs. Provided they have the ethics and are against the regime, it should give them the necessary support. Helping the opposition help themselves helps not only achieve their freedom but also creates assurance to Ethiopia’s peace and future economic interests.

Whatever approach EPRDF choses to take to solve the issue, it should mind itself with the following: EPRDF has to stop playing too much with fire, often times recklessly, as it did in the past, when it comes to Eritrea’s issues. EPRDF can support Eritrea’s cause and Ethiopian’s do not have a problem with that. If any, it is the holier than thou approach, old TPLF centered model, EPRDF adheres to, which always end in Eritrea’s favor. EPRDF, of course, should not attempt to take advantages of Eritrea’s weakness. Tempting though it could be, its policies should transcend the current disagreement and turmoil. It should however adopt a firm stand with regard to EPLF: that it is a great obstacle to Ethiopia’s peace and progress not a peace partner. Since EPLF is the very cause of local and regional instabilities, EPRDF’s task should be, before anything else, bringing an end to EPLF and its subversive activities.

Godofai Tgiorgis


Source: Aiga Forum