Drs.Tsegezab Gebregergis, London, March 18, 2007
At this turning point in their history, it is very important for Ethiopians to understand and acknowledge that they were deliberately confused and misinformed about their past by successive Amhara rulers of Ethiopia, the leaders of the Orthodox Church and their ideologues.1 Ethiopians should also be aware that they were deceived into believing, and to be inordinately proud, that Ethiopia is the only un-colonized (and the oldest) kingdom in Africa.
They were deceived into thinking that it has a glorious past of three thousand years of history, which can be traced back to the ancient Kingdom of Axum.2 Similarly, Ethiopians were also made to believe and glorify the Abyssinian monarchs as the direct descendants of the tribes of the Lion of Judah and as rulers chosen by God. They were also misled to believe literally the legend that Emperor Haile Selassie was the elect of God, the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah and the 237th successive monarch of a dynasty established by the sex-relationship between King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.3
Hence, the understanding of Ethiopians of themselves, of their past, the history of the people neighboring Ethiopia, is based on a fallacious construction of the past.
In turn the Ethiopians’ distorted understanding of the Ethiopian and Eritrean past has created within the Abyssinian Ethiopian society at large and its ruling class, unhealthy nationalist emotions, feudal greed and obsession with Eritrea. This false understanding of their past has also created an archaic anti-democratic belief within the Ethiopian society that the Abyssinian Ethiopians are destined to rule over all others in the Horn of Africa.4
As a result of these misguided teachings, the people of Ethiopia remain the victims of false ideas and ideologies. Consequently, the expansionist Amhara rulers have used the common folk as cannon fodder and minesweepers in the recurring bloody and agonizing conflicts unleashed against Eritrea and Somalia.5 Ethiopia remains not only a conflict and famine and disease-ridden country, but also the most underdeveloped in the world measured by all the indexes of development. Indeed, Ethiopia today has become dependent on recurrent emergency relief aid and handouts from the international community to feed its people as if it was a helpless nation. Is this not a great shame in a country, which boasts of having three thousand years of independent existence?
It is the duty of those Ethiopians who believe in democracy today to make a clean break with the accumulated lies of the past and embrace courageously historical and political realities. The sooner Ethiopians do so, the better for themselves and for their immediate neighbours. In doing so, Ethiopians will be able to settle an account with their illusory past and build the future on the basis of reality. However, for strange reasons, Ethiopians are still stuck in
their illusory past. Hence, Ethiopians are still living in confusion and creating confusion for their immediate neighbours, especially Eritrea and Somalia.5a
THE UNDERLYING CAUSES OF THE PRESENT CONFUSION
At present Ethiopia is still beset by a number of violent and non-violent conflicts of both a separatist and communal nature. The major internal conflicts currently besetting TPLF/EPRDF managed Ethiopia are generated by and are the consequences of the collapse of the rule of law. Dictatorship under the disguise of the so-called revolutionary-democracy also undermines the rule of law. Policies of ethnic federalism have been devised as a form of divide and rule and guarantee the continuous dominance of Ethiopian politics by the TPLF/EPRDF. Multiparty elections (in name only) have been introduced to impress foreign donors. TPLF/EPRDF’s adamant refusal to accept the Oromo and Ogadenian people’s rights and the right of other oppressed nations and nationalities to self-determination further undermines the rule of law as does its contemptuous refusal to abide by and accept the outcome of the May 2005 Ethiopian election. The rule of law is mocked by the imprisonment of its political opponents and journalists without trial and by its continuing gross human rights abuses and its resort to military force to resolve the ongoing conflicts bedevilling Ethiopia. 6
WHAT THE TPLF/EPRDF GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO UNDERSTAND
It is thus high time now for the TPLF/EPRDF government to understand that the most effective means of ensuring Ethiopian territorial integrity, internal peace and long-term stability is to seek a sustainable resolution of each conflict by addressing the grievances of the parties involved rather than blaming Eritrea for every problem which confronts Ethiopia. Ethiopia is so suspicious of tiny Eritrea that it would blame it even for the droughts. TPLF/EPRDF Ethiopia is also spending huge military budget at the expense of civilian projects in order to enhance its purported internal and external security concerns. Subsequently, conflict-ridden Ethiopia is deterring the much needed foreign investment and tourism and making Ethiopian economic growth and recovery impossible.
Similarly, the engagement of the Ethiopian armed forces in prolonged internal and external conflicts in all parts of the country, including with Eritrea and Somalia, will also set in motion the process of Ethiopian disintegration. Indeed, unless the TPLF/EPRDF government undertakes the urgently needed appropriate measures to reverse the trends, the most severe consequence of Ethiopia’s ongoing unresolved internal and external conflicts will culminate in the separation of one or several of the provinces experiencing protracted independence movements.
THE ONLY REALISTIC WAY FORWARD
The only feasible way forward available for the TPLF/EPRDF government to create peace and stability within Ethiopia and between Eritrea and Ethiopia is to submit to the wishes of the Ethiopian people as expressed in the contested election of May 2005; release all political and civil society leaders and journalists detained without trial; decriminalize internal dissent and stop its crude military intervention in Somalia’s internal affairs, and withdraw immediately its occupation army from Somalia without any conditions.
Last and by no means the least, the TPLF/EPRDF government must also accept and implement unconditionally the legally binding, final and non-negotiable April 2002 border decision of the Ethiopia-Eritrea Border Commission (EEBC) as stipulated in the Algiers Agreement of December 2000.7
It must be clearly understood by all peace lovers that the unresolved border issue between Eritrea and Ethiopia is one of the most burning issues of our time. It needs to be resolved now because once the border issue is settled with Eritrea and democratically elected governments are established in both Eritrea and Ethiopia, all the obstacles for the restoration of a mutually beneficial relationship between Eritrea and Ethiopia will also vanish. However, to achieve peace, the international donors and international organizations must exercise active and genuine pressure on the Ethiopian government. The standoff is created – with the connivance of the US-government 7a– by Ethiopia’s recalcitrant refusal to accept and implement the non-negotiable border decision of April 2002.
However, much to the chagrin of the people of Eritrea, the international community has dismally failed to fulfill its obligations. As a result, the Eritrean people are condemned to live in a cold war situation. And unless the cold war, which is designed to wear-down Eritrea 8, is brought quickly to an end and mutually reassuring peace and stability restored, war between Eritrea and Ethiopia will be inevitable. Another war with Eritrea will bring in its wake massive population dislocations and sufferings in a scale unseen in the history of the region. If a new war is allowed to break out between Eritrea and Ethiopia, the governments of the US and Ethiopia will be held squarely responsible for whatever happens to Eritrea and its people.9
The sponsors and guarantors of the Ethiopian-Eritrean peace deal of December 12, 2000 (i.e., the US, the European Union, the United Nations and the OAU) and all other concerned parties must act now and do everything possible in their powers to stop the pending war between Eritrea and Ethiopia. And the only way to stop the pending war with a happy ending is to enforce the April 2002 Eritrea-Ethiopia Border Commission’s Decision without any further delay.
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Notes and references
- With regard to how the Ethiopian past is deliberately obscured in order to suit to the interest of Ethiopia’s parasitic rulers, in his book” Ethiopia: Power & Protest”(1996) Gebru Tareke has astutely made the following observations: “The affinity between the [Ethiopian] warlords who created dynasties and built kingdoms and the theologians who constructed dynastic legends and ideological precepts to validate kingly authority is quite striking. It is no surprise then that what we know about Ethiopia since the thirteenth century, when the manuscripts known as the “royal chronicles” began to be written, is almost exclusively the record of the thoughts and activities of these two privileged groups. In the background there have always been the multitudes of toiling peasants of whom we have had only tantalizing glimpses” (p, xi.)
- For the claim that Ethiopia is one of the oldest nations in the world with a history of 3000 years, see Sha. Atnafu Makonnen“Ethiopia To-Day” (1960), p39. For the different interpretations of the Ethiopian past, see Teshale Tibebu” The Making Of Modern Ethiopia -1896-1974″, (1995) pp. Introduction I-VII.
- All these unsubstantiated claims are stated in The Kebre Negast(The Glory of the Kings), which is, according to Harold G. Marcus, a pastiche of legends conflated early in the fourteenth century by Tigrian scribes with the intent to legitimize the ascendancy of Emperor Yekuno Amlak and the restored Solomonic line. In it, Ethiopians becomes as the chosen people, an honor reinforced by their acceptance of Christianity. The Kebre Negast is thus a national epic that glorifies a particular monarchical line and tradition and also indelibly associates Ethiopia with the Judeo-Christian tradition. The aim of the epic is to arouse patriotic feelings of uniqueness, to glorify Ethiopia, and to provide a proud identity. (See H. G. Marcus, “A History Of Ethiopia” (1994), pp.17, 18 & 19). See also the English translation of The Kebre Negest by Miguel F. Brooks (1995) pp.19-45. Article 2 of the revised Ethiopian constitution of 1955 also claims that the ruling line descended from Menelik, I, the son of Makeda, queen of Ethiopia, and king Solomon.
- The claim of three thousand years of independent existence is, however, dismissed by another enlightened Ethiopian writer as follows: “The deep-seated myth that has for so long enshrined Ethiopia-both the name and the country-still blurs genuine historical understanding. Ethiopia’s existence as a ‘modern state’ does not-as the ideologists of the ancien regime claim-extend beyond the 1900s and into the limitless and ever-remote millennia. The same historical forces that created the ‘Gold Coast’, the ‘Ivory Coast’ the Sudan and Kenya were the very ones that created modern Ethiopia too. And recognition of this fact makes modern Ethiopia no older than these African states. What makes Ethiopia’s creation as a ‘modern state’ formally different is the way the same historical forces evolved”(See Addis Hiwet“Ethiopia, From Autocracy To Revolution”(1975), p.1.
- It is reported that in the 1998-2000 Ethiopian-Eritrean war alone, more than 100,000 Ethiopians has died in the war of aggression Ethiopia launched against Eritrea
5a. It should be clearly understood also that the TPLF/EPRDF government of Ethiopia has evils designs on Somalia, just as it has on Eritrea. Indeed, the strategic goals of the TPLF/EPRDF government of Ethiopia is to keep Somalia and its people weak and divided so that the Somalis would never be able to make an effective claim to regain the parts of Somalia still under Ethiopian colonial occupation. In their evil designs on Somalia, the Ethiopian government always wants to bring on board the Kenyan government. However, the Kenyan government would be better off and much safer if it would courageously renounce once and for all the parts of Somalia, which is still under its jurisdiction, just as Mauritania boldly renounced in 1976 on the parts of Western Sahara which was then under its control.
6.Concerning the question of democracy and the gross violation of human rights in TPLF/EPRDF ruled Ethiopia; see Theodore M. Vestal, “Ethiopia, A Post-Cold War African State (1999), pp.55-60 and 103-109.
- The Eritrea-Ethiopia Border Commission (EEBC) was established as part of the Algiers peace agreement that ended the war in June 2000. In it’s ruling of April 2002, the Border Commission awarded the town of Badme to Eritrea. But Ethiopia, with the US-government’s connivance, has adamantly refused to accept the final non-negotiable and legally binding decision. In doing so, Ethiopia is jeopardizing the peace and stability of the whole region (for details, see the April 2002 final decision of the EEBC).
As far as the independent Ethiopian-Eritrean Boundary Commission (EEBC) is concerned, in its last meeting in The Hague in November 2006, it has stated that it has given Ethiopia and Eritrea one year to physically demarcate their border or have it marked for them. In its statement, the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission have also said the two nations would have to finish erecting the border-marking pillars by November 2007. However, if they fail to do so, the border as drawn by the commission would automatically stand and that the Commission before its retirement would demarcate the border on maps and leave the two countries to establish the physical boundary themselves.
7a. Here, it is important to remind readers that in 1952 the US-government had forced Eritrea to enter into a sham-federal relationship with imperial Ethiopia against the wishes of the Eritrean people. This was done so in order to secure the strategic global interest of the US and provide Ethiopia, its ally against communism then, an outlet to the sea. The US-government did also encourage and gave the green light to Emperor Haile Selassie to annex Eritrea in 1962 – an illegal annexation that triggered the 30-years war between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Today again, the US-government is doing everything it could to weaken independent Eritrea in order to subordinate it to Ethiopia, its ally on war on terrorism.
- It should be clearly understood by everyone concerned that the long-term political objectives of the TPLF/EPRDF government of Ethiopia and its imperialist American patrons is to break the morale of the Eritrean people and create Somalia type of confusion and anarchy in Eritrea and thereby to fish in troubled waters and justify its re-colonization of Eritrea.
- Ethiopia and its American masters must be acutely aware that on the border and sovereignty issue, the Eritrean people are singularly united and no-amount of pressure will force them to yield to the Ethiopian government blackmail. In other words, on the border and sovereignty issue, the Ethiopian government and their American sponsors are thus being faced by the Eritrean people in their millions and not simply by President Issaias Afeworki and his government.