The Eritrean government, which is led by one man, one party totalitarian regime, has been in power since its independence. The man at the helm of power, Isaias Afewerki, who led the Eritrean People Liberation Front ( EPLF) in its 30 years struggle for independence from Ethiopia, won the war and established the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice party, which anointed him as the country’s only president to date and he has been in power ever since the country’s inception in 1993. From its birth as a new nation, Eritrea, is known more than anything else for instigating war with its neighbours in all its four sides of the borders I.e Yemen in the east; Djibouti in the south east; Sudan in the west; and Ethiopia in the south. Its war with Ethiopia, in 1998, was by far the mother of all its wars whereby more than 100,000 soldiers known to have perished from both sides. The disputed region which has been the cause of the war, Badme, is still in the hands of the Ethiopian government; even though the international court of arbitration decided that it should belong to Eritrea and accordingly, the Algiers agreement which was signed by the late Ethiopian prime minster Meles Zenawi and his Eritrean counter part Isaias Afewerki officially delivered Badme to Eritrea, albeit in paper only. Since then Ethiopia and Eritrea have been in a stalemate over Badme and the solution to the problem has not been in sight.
Last week, the only ruling party in power in Ethiopia since the overthrow of the last military junta aka the dergue in 1991, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front ( EPRDF ) which is formed out of four sister parties l.e Tigray People’s Liberation Front ( TPLF ); Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation ( OPDO ); Amhara National Democratic Movement ( ANDM); and South Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement ( SEPDM ) has elected the 41 years old new Prime Minister, Dr Abiy Ahmed, who is known to be from a reformist group of the party. In his maiden speech, he extended an olive branch for peace to the Eritrean government in order to find a lasting solution to the stalemate that has been lingering since the 1998 war over Badme.
For a normal country that is in a no-war-no-peace limbo, when the chance for peace is raised and an opening for dialogue is requested; the logical thing to do would have been to accept the offer and prepare for a dialogue whereby, each party would table their proposals and find out their commonalities. In so doing, they can start to lay the ground work for negotiation and proceed or let the public know where they diverge in opinions and henceforth the reason for the talks failure.
One does not need to be an expert in the field of negotiations to know that any party would never immediately surrender all its bargaining chip before even having a seat in the negotiating table. Especially with an unscrupulous nation like the Eritrean government, the Ethiopian government needs more leverage than normally required. Therefore, whether the peace offer is honest or not, and no one is saying that neither the Ethiopian government is an honest broker of peace nor for that matter a staunch defender of its borders; but the immediate decline by the Eritrean government through its spokesman Ato Yemane Gebreab, of the new Ethiopian prime minister Dr Abiy’s peace offer without a proper due diligence of the Ethiopian proposal, is undoubtedly a big let down to the peace loving Ethiopians and their Eritreans counterparts. For sure, if given the voice, the Eritrean people would have loved to give it the benefit of the doubt it so deserves.
This blatant and swift rejection just shows that the Eritrean government is happy with the status quo to continue. It is not a secret that it is maliciously exploiting the stalemate and playing the alleged victim-hood in every opportunity it gets to crucify the government of Ethiopia.
One would ask what benefit would the Eritrean government get from the stalemate and why is its utter contempt for the peace offer ? The answer is pure and simple in that the Eritrean government had only one and single strategy to stardom when it got its independence. Its Achilles heels of a strategy which is based on building its economic power house at the expense of bigger, populous and most importantly subservient Ethiopia has been blown out of water; and it has allegedly been the cause of the 1998 war. And recently, while Its bigger neighbour, Ethiopia, has been engaged in building industrial parks; this has caused more consternation and has been the envy of its northern foe that put salt on its fresh wound. Even though Ethiopia is landlocked, its favouritism towards the use of Djibouti port as well as the recent lease of Barbara port, has dimmed the last hope Eritrea has in its superiority over the use of Assab as a port for Ethiopia. That has been the last straw that broke the camel’s back.
Eritrea, knowing that its hope is in tatters and chances dimmed; it has been behaving like a neighbour from hell ever since the 1998 war was over. To distract attention from its own curious citizens, who were hopeful after the independence that life would be hunky-dory, blaming the ‘Ethiopian aggression’ has been its default answer to its economic misfortune and a precursor for a non-ending national military service that engaged its unemployed youth in a labour camp with no end in sight.
However, the forced labour far from being productive, it has encouraged most of its youngsters to flee the country in droves and sadly for some to perish en route to Europe either in the Mediterranean Sea or fell in the hands of the militant Muslim militias. The blunder of the Eritrean government with its single plan for success, has cursed Eritrea into doom and gloom. Far from turning into the Singapore of east Africa as ambitiously planned; it has ended up taking the country backwards to the stone ages. The fact that the Eritrean government has turned down the new peace offer at the speed of light also tells us that it is prepared at any length with no expense spared to thwart the new found hope and fresh breath of air, Ethiopians have aspired with the recent change of the prime minister.
This just shows us that given a chance, the Eritrean government would stop at nothing to put Ethiopia into misery, extend Ethiopians suffering and most likely prepare to rejoice Ethiopians predicament for the foreseeable future. That sinister motive is scary not as a result of Eritrea’s might, but because it has nothing to lose. Like a neighbour from hell, it wants to take Ethiopia down to the bottom where it is sitting comfortably and having that miserable company it loves to hate.