The Horn of Africa has been plagued by conflicts and war for decades, and finally it seems that peace has come to the region. Political changes in Ethiopia have opened for a rapid peace agreement with Eritrea signed on 8 July 2018 by president Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea and prime minister Ahmed Abiy of Ethiopia. As a dream that finally comes true, the unjust sanctions against Eritrea on Nov. 14, 2018 was unanimously lifted by the members of the UN Security Council.
If you want to understand the Eritrean freedom struggle then you must learn from history. It is a story of a region that has been dominated by the great powers and where Eritrea did not get its freedom as other African colonies. Eritrea first got his freedom in 1991 after 30 years of military and political struggle and has rightly been called the African Vietnamese war. Eritrea was the subject of maneuvers from the superpower US, and Foreign Minister John Foster Dulles stated in 1952 the following: “From the point of fairness, the point of view of the Eritrean people should be taken into account. But the United States’ strategic interests in the Red Sea and world peace make it necessary for the country to be associated with our allied Ethiopia”.
The cold war and US interests of imperialism meant denying the Eritrean self-determination as other colonies in Africa, and this policy has led the western powers ever since. Thousands of lives could have been saved if the Eritrean people had been able to develop their country in peace. This is crucial to understanding Eritrea’s determined opposition to any attempt to subvert the country and dictate a particular policy.
Ethiopia has for decades refused to acknowledge the reality that Eritrea does not accept submitting to any great power or regional power. Ethiopia’s changing governments have created divisions and divisions in Ethiopia with many large ethnic minorities. During the Empire period and Mengistu regime, the Amhara group dominated. With the liberation of Eritrea in 1991, Mengistu crashed, but unfortunately, the Tigray group continued the destructive policy. With the suppression of the other ethnic minorities and a nationalist policy where Eritrea was made a problem rather than a partner.
The Tigray Group and their organization TPLF chose to support Washington’s and Bush’s government’s “war on terror” and became a tool for continued external interference in the region. Through a targeted and cynical propaganda, Eritrea was made into the rotten apple and accused of supporting terror in Somalia. The US strategy with “regime change” and demonization was followed. Eritrea was made into the problem even though Eritrea had the most forward-looking peace policy for the region. The problem was, in essence, that it did not include the great powers, but was based on the region itself having to solve its problems without external interference. Ethiopia was actually under control by the Tigray minority and held the whole region hostage for 27 years. Not to mention the harsh repression of the other ethnic minorities in Ethiopia, here especially the Oromos and Somalis.
But now game is over and a new government in Addis Ababa has broken with the past. The border has been opened and cooperation agreements have been made between the two countries. It has sparked joy and expectations of peace and development in a hard-troubled region.
John Graversgaard is an Eritirea solidarity activist