By Abel Kebedom
During the 1998-2000 TPLF war of aggression against Eritrea, the TPLF faction that was spearheading the war and did not like the late Ethiopian Prime Minster Meless Zenawi’s handling of the conflict with Eritrea had one famous slogan. It goes like this: “Ke Badme Melss Wede Meless”. When translated to English it means “After we finish the Badme War with Eritrea we will deal with Meless”. Even though they did not like Meless and had a plan to remove him from power, they clearly understood that the territorial integrity of Ethiopia came first.
Moreover, although it was later proven false by the EEBC verdict, they believed that Badme belonged to Ethiopia and Ethiopia was invaded by Eritrea. Their overall understanding was in line with the general norm of any patriotic citizen would do for his or her country. It was right for them to put the territorial integrity and sovereignty of their country before their political differences with Meless. When the EEBC verdict was rendered, the then TPLF foreign minister Seyoum Mesfin, called for all local and international reporters in Addis to say Ethiopia was awarded more territories than it requested, including the town of Badme. He asked the international community to ask Eritrea to withdraw from all territories that he assumed were awarded to Ethiopia, including those he did not ask for. If Eritrea did not withdraw its army he threatened to use force.
When it was clear that Badme was given to Eritrea, the then TPLF foreign minister who was eager to take land that he did not ask for from Eritrea, reversed course and refused to vacate sovereign Eritrean territories. In fact to this date the minority regime continues not only to occupy sovereign Eritrean territories but also sends its army to attack deep inside Eritrea. Does the TPLF minority regime have to do more than what it has done so far to humiliate Eritreans?
I wanted to start my writing with the above example because it has a lesson to those Eritreans who are cooperating with the occupier to overthrow the current PFDJ regime in Eritrea first and work for the territorial integrity of Eritrea later. It is clear that we Eritreans do not see eye to eye with the PFDJ regime anymore. The arrest of the G15, the nullification of our constitution, the undemocratic and sadistic nature of the regime and its treatment of the youth are some of the reasons that forced us to look for an alternative to the current despotic regime in Eritrea. However when it comes to the territorial integrity of Eritrea the previous issues are secondary.
As I said it before it is true that we all Eritreans are hurt, humiliated and angered by the actions of the PFDJ regime in Eritrea that we long considered our own. Yet our anger on these issues does not outweigh the anger that comes from TPLF’s occupation of Eritrean territories by force. The TPLF occupation of Eritrean territories by force is a humiliation to all Eritreans including those who are currently languishing under PFDJ’s inhumane and degrading prisons. Above all those are the people who spent all their youth life for the liberation of Eritrea. No one more than them wanted to see the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Eritrea respected.
Given the above situation the current actions of some Eritreans who are cooperating with the occupier TPLF regime to overthrow the current regime in Eritrea are not only shameful but also their amount to treason. If you ask them, out of curiosity, as to why they are cooperating with TPLF it does not take long for you to understand that they are naïve and shallow. They believe that after they overthrow the PFDJ government with the help of the TPLF, they will be able to solve the occupation problem with the TPLF peacefully. What they do not know is the reason TPLF is occupying Badme and other Eritrean territories is not because it does not like PFDJ. Let alone EPLF and TPLF who are father and child, Sebhat Nega and a former Mengistu Hailemariam’s vice president, Fisseha Desta, who was part of the broad day light Hawzien market Massacre of thousands of innocent civilians, are friends now. TPLF’s occupation of sovereign Eritrean Territories is part of a bigger strategy.
TPLF believes the no peace and no war policy is the best way to weaken Eritrea and finally place it under its indirect rule. It means those Eritreans who are assuming that they are working against the PFDJ regime are indirectly working in the interest of the TPLF hidden agenda. If woyane wants to help the Eritrean cause, it first needs to vacate sovereign Eritrean territories. Then we all Eritreans, regardless of political ideology, will come together and work to clean our house. It is not the job of the TPLF regime to choose a government for us. We choose our government ourselves.
Hence, as it stands right now, although the PFDJ regime is part and parcel of the problem, the major enemy of Eritreans is TPLF. TPLF occupation of Eritrean Territories is a setback to all Eritrean’s desire to have a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Eritrea. Therefore TPLF cannot be an ally to the Eritrean cause and no one should cooperate with it to overthrow the current regime in Eritrea unless it vacates sovereign Eritrean Territories first. This does not mean that some morally bankrupt and weak Eritreans will not go to Addis and try to plot with TPLF to overthrow the current government in Eritrea. Those who introduced regionalism at the University of Asmara for the first time after the libation of Eritrea, those who served as messenger boys and led Woyane aggression against Eritrea during the 1998-2000 war, and those who think they have a reason to be Ethiopians may try to put the carriage before the horse. But one thing is clear.
No matter how much we hate and despise the PFDJ regime we cannot afford to gamble on the existence of Eritrea as a sovereign and independent country. Eritrea comes first. Hence before we demand any other change in Eritrea we should gather our energy and resources and demand the respect of the territorial integrity of Eritrea. I am aware that some Eritreans might think demanding the respect of the territorial integrity of Eritrea first is tantamount to giving the PFDJ regime a pass to govern Eritrea for life. That may be well true. But it is not worse than TPLF’s continuing occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories and subjugating Eritreans to the endless no war no peace policy.
Thus if TPLF wants to create a peaceful neighbourliness with the people of Eritrea and help their cause in pursuit of democracy and peace, it does not start by occupying sovereign Eritrean territory, organizing ethnic based opposition groups and working to weaken the defence and economic capability of Eritrea. It needs to start with respecting the territorial integrity of Eritrea.
Awet Ne’ hafash and Zelealemawi Zikri in Sewatna.