What Lessons can Eritrea Learn from the Molla Asgedom Affair?

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Drs. Tsegezab Gebregergis, London, November 16, 2015

Molla Asgedom was one of the original founders of the Tigrian People’s Democratic Movement (TPDM). The organization was created in the aftermath of the 1998–2000 Eritrean-Ethiopian war, and Molla Asgedom eventually became its chairman. The TPDM was established with the given intention of overthrowing the tyrannical TPLF rulers of Ethiopia and instituting an alternative democratic government [1]. Since its establishment, Molla Asgedom led the TPDM from his Eritrean base, until he made a dramatic escape on Friday, September 11, 2015 via the Sudan to Ethiopia, joining the oppressive TPLF government which he had claimed until then to have been fighting against. Thus, until the day Molla Asgedom defected to Ethiopia, the general public in both Eritrea and Ethiopia believed that he and his organization were genuinely opposed to the Tigrian rulers of Ethiopia.

Interestingly (though unsurprisingly), the TPLF Security Service boastfully announced on Sunday, September 13, 2015, that Molla Asgedom was their own spy, planted in Eritrea, and had had active covert contacts for over a year with the TPLF Security Service, and that he, with an estimated 700 members of his army, had returned safely to Ethiopia [2]. What’s more, as if to confirm the unworthy and shaky relationship of the PFDJ government with their Sudanese counterparts, the report also confirmed that the Sudanese government fully collaborated with the treacherous Woyane rulers of Ethiopia for the safe return of the TPDM soldiers with their arms – soldiers who had committed untold abuses on and crimes against the Eritrean people during their 12 years in Eritrea [3].

As could be expected, the deceitful and treacherous Woyane rulers of Ethiopia and some of their Eritrean collaborators have been celebrating the safe return of the spymaster Molla Asgedom and his army to Ethiopia, and the incident was described and greeted as a great New Year gift to the Woyane leaders.

Surprisingly, however, while a highly embarrassing incident with earthshaking political consequences has taken place inside Eritrean sovereign territory, the dictatorial government in Eritrea have to date kept silent about the defection. It is perhaps necessary to remind readers here that Molla Asgedem and the TPDM were Issayas Afeworki’s favourite among the Ethiopian political groups stationed in Eritrea, just as Meles Zenawi and his organisation the TPLF were at one time. Ironically, both the latter and the former have utterly betrayed the Eritrean dictator.

I had Predicted the Defection of Mola Asgedom

I was not surprised when I heard about the sudden defection of Molla Asgedom with some of his soldiers to Ethiopia. Indeed, some three years back, I had predicted the event and the true nature and mission of the TPDM forces stationed in Eritrea. To be concrete, in 2012 I was invited to present a discussion paper at the Paltalk room (Enda Jocker) bearing the title “Who are the TPDM? And what is the purpose of their stationing in Eritrea?” In this, I stated categorically and authoritatively that the TPDM forces stationed in Eritrea are an extension of the Tigrian People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) army in Eritrea, and that their major task was and is to protect and shield the Eritrean dictator from the wrath of his own people and to quell an uprising by the Eritrean people [4].

Likewise, I also informed my audience that the TPDM are actively working clandestinely with, and are sending periodic intelligence reports to, the Woyane rulers of Ethiopia [5]. Consequently, I warned that the presence of TPDM forces in Eritrea poses a great danger to the security and unity of Eritrea and its people. Thus having understood the danger associated with the active presence of foreign forces in our country, I suggested that Eritreans should protest the presence of the armed Ethiopian groups stationed in Eritrea and demand their immediate expulsion [6].

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Although Molla Asgedom and some members of his group have now left Eritrea, the danger emanating from the active presence of armed Ethiopian forces on Eritrean soil has not lessened. The danger remains because there are still a substantial number of armed Ethiopian groups (such as the Afar People’s Movement, the Amhara People’s Movement, Arbegnoche G7 and the Tigrai People’s Democratic Front) stationed in Eritrea. These armed groups have refused to accept the new status quo brought about by the emergence of a politically independent Eritrea. Indeed, their eyes still remain fixed on the Eritrean shores, and they bitterly complain about the fact that small Eritrea owns over 1,000 km of coastline, while Ethiopia, with its population of over 90 million, remains a landlocked country. In other words, these groups still see Eritrea as part of Ethiopia, and are looking for an opportune moment to bring Eritrea back to the Ethiopian fold. It is thus of pivotal importance that Eritreans should never forget the hard fact that Ethiopia’s misguided desire for access to the sea was the major cause of the bloody thirty-year conflict between the two countries.

It is also very important for Eritreans to understand that the armed Ethiopian groups based in Eritrea have undiminished loyalty to the unhinged Eritrean dictator and are keenly prepared to shield him from internal trouble if he is cornered by his people. Thus, by their very nature, the Ethiopian groups allied with the Eritrean dictator are stringently opposed to the aspirations of the Eritrean people.

Conclusion

Eritrea and its people have learned a painful lesson from the recent Molla Asgedom affair – that the armed Ethiopian political groups stationed in Eritrea are a great risk to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. Thus, in light of Eritrea’s recent experience and the lessons gained from it, Eritrea should get rid of all the Ethiopian political groups who are being accommodated in Eritrea today on the basis of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’. As far as this author is concerned, the unprincipled military alliance Eritrea has conducted with the Ethiopian dissident groups – groups that have openly expressed the view that Ethiopia without Eritrea is like a chicken without a head – is very harmful to Eritrea’s long-term interests. Indeed, such an unreliable alliance is garnered and entered into only to quench the wild political ambition of the Eritrean dictator, and does not promote people-to-people relationships. The allegiance of the different Ethiopian groups based in Eritrea is to the Eritrean dictator, and not to Eritrea and its people.

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Eritreans should never lose sight of the fact that their callous dictator and his entourage are well known for entering unhesitatingly into all types of unholy alliances for short-term gain, as long as such alliances help to maintain the absolute political and economic hegemony of the PFDJ regime. Thus the duty of Eritrean intellectuals should be to expose and alert the people on time to the dangers associated with unprincipled alliances with political groups that are diametrically opposed to Eritrea’s long-term interests and to the aspirations of the people to live under one sovereign, united and harmonious country. It was the desire to alert the Eritrean people to the existing danger that motivated this author in writing this article.

Footnote

1.According to the Somalia/ Eritrea Monitoring group (SEMG) “The TPDM …  political program states it aim “to establish a popular democratic government of Ethiopia where the rights of nation and nationality are respected and narrow nationalism is abolished”, arguing that “[the current system] being organized narrowly based on clan and family orientations… It is striving to exercise a divided and rule policy to create chaos and disintegration in the name of self-determination.”(See an article titled “UN report: Eritrea-backed rebel TPDM has tens of thousands fighters”, Horn Affairs-English, October 20, 2014.

  1. According to Ethiomedia website, “The top leaders of TPDM were working clandestinely with the Ethiopian government security for over a year. TPDM’s mission was to foil any Eritrean government’s anti-Ethiopia operations, secretly transfer information and other evidences to Addis Ababa … See Ibid
  2. According to the government press release, “The Ethiopian government also praised the Sudanese government for protecting the TPDM forces on its territory from any Eritrean attack, providing food, shelter and medical help to the wounded as well as the means of transportation of TPDM rebels to the border areas with Ethiopia” (see an article titled Ethiopia praises TPDM leader as ‘patriotic’ “, Ethiomedia, September 14, 2015.
  3. See”, Horn Affairs-English, October 20, 2014
  4. See again the article Ethiopia praises TPDM leader as ‘patriotic’ “in Ethiomedia, September 14, 2015.
  5. Similarly, I also wrote an article in Tigrinya titled “እንታይነት ደምሒት ይቃላዕ” and posted on Mdre Bahri in September 4, 2015. In it, I cautioned Eritreans of the danger involved with the presence of armed foreign forces in our country and the urgency and necessity for their removal before serious damage is done to our country and its people (See Mdre Bahri https://mdrebahri.wordpress.com/%e1%8a%a5%e1%8a%95%e1%89%b3%e1%8b%ad%e1%8a%90%e1%89%b5-%e1%8b%b0%e1%88%9d%e1%88%92%e1%89%b5-%e1%8b%ad%e1%89%83%e1%88%8b%e1%8b%95-2/

 

 I also wrote an article in Tigrinya titled “እንታይነት ደምሒት ይቃላዕ” and posted on Mdre Bahri  in  September 3, 2015. In it,  I cautioned Eritreans of the danger involved with the presence of armed foreign forces in our country and the urgency and necessity for their removal before serious damage is done to our country and its people.