BY BEREKET KIDANE
Countries are like people in many ways. Some years are more important than others. Some years drag and nothing much happens. In other years, a lot happens quickly and leaves you breathless. In 2018, Eritrea had one of those seminal years where too many things happened too quickly and its citizens were struggling to catch their breath.
It seemed as if the State of Eritrea lived 3 years in one in 2018.
From the dramatic fall of its sworn enemy TPLF Weyane of Tigray to the rapid pace of political transformation of the Horn of Africa and the lifting of the illegal UN sanctions on Eritrea, it has been one of the most important years in the State of Eritrea’s history.
The Fall of TPLF Weyane
When historians write TPLF’s obituary (1975-2018), they will write that the reason TPLF rose to power was because of the EPLF and the reason it fell from power was also because of the EPLF.
Antagonizing the Eritrean State and making an enemy of the Government of Eritrea did not work out too well for the TPLF in the end. The fall of Weyane and the rise of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to power provided Eritrea with a partner in peace that shared its vision of a harmonious and peaceful Horn.
Martyrs Day Speech
President Isaias’s Martyrs Day speech on June 20 where he indicated that Eritrea will send a delegation to the Ethiopian capital to test if the outreach by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is real, seems decades ago now because too much has happened since.
Following the Martyrs Day speech, Eritrea sent a high-level delegation to Addis Ababa, which was reciprocated by Prime Minister Abiy’s maiden voyage to Asmara. Prime Minister Abiy’s visit was an important strategic and diplomatic overture that marked the end of the 20-year war between Eritrea and Ethiopia, ushering a new era of peace with the signing of the ‘Asmara Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship’.
Eritrea becomes the Horn’s center of gravity
The list of politicians and statesmen who journeyed to Asmara in the summer of 2018 to sign peace agreements with neighboring nations and their own national governments is long and distinguished. At last, there was even a begrudging recognition from the big powers that the road to peace in the Horn of Africa runs through Asmara. It was awe-inspiring to witness General Sebhat Efrem’s prescient and prophetic declaration from some years back come true.
President Isaias’s rock star reception in Ethiopian cities
Following TPLF’s fall from power, President Isaias received a raucous welcome in Ethiopian cities and was greeted as a conquering hero with large crowds spontaneously breaking into chants of ‘Issu’.
Hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians lined up the streets of Addis Ababa, Awasa/Hawassa and Gondar to welcome President Isaias and show their appreciation.
Of course, President Isaias and his government did not rid the Ethiopian people of the murderous and kleptocratic TPLF regime by themselves. It was the organic and courageous struggle waged by the Ethiopian youth that accomplished that.
Nonetheless, there was a general acknowledgment and gratitude from the Ethiopian people that the steely resolve President Isaias showed in the fight against the Western-backed TPLF regime coupled with the moral and strategic support his government provided the Ethiopian people played a pivotal role in TPLF’s fall from power.
It was an endearing iconic moment to see President Isaias presiding over the official reopening of the Embassy of The State of Eritrea in Addis Ababa after 20 years.
Families reunite after 20 years
In order to inflict maximum psychological pain, TPLF followed a sadistic policy of separating Eritrean families before deporting them. Eritrean parents were plucked from their homes in the middle of the night and separated from each other and their kids before being ordered to walk over landmines into Eritrea.
Many Eritrean families who had their homes and businesses illegally confiscated by TPLF officials succumbed to depression and died shortly after reaching Eritrea. But those who survived were reunited with their parents and children after 20 years.
Iconic photos that captured the emotional moments of families reuniting after 20 years on the runway of Asmara International Airport went around the world.
The lifting of the illegal UN sanctions on Eritrea
Perhaps the most economically consequential one of the troika of events (the fall of TPLF, lifting of sanctions, peace breaking out in the Horn) was the lifting of the illegal UN sanctions placed on Eritrea in order to bring it to its knees by crippling its economy and stripping its right to defend itself militarily.
The dream of TPLF was to create a diplomatically isolated, economically and militarily weakened pliant Eritrea that they can have their way with. It never worked out that way. In fact, on the eve of the UNSC’s lifting of sanctions on Eritrea, TPLF officials were being hauled to jail and doing the perp walk. The lifting of UN sanctions on Eritrea should now bring in the much-needed and anticipated foreign investment to Eritrea.
Ethiopian tourists flock to the Red sea coastline
Massawa, the pearl of the Red Sea, is experiencing a resurgence following the signing of the peace agreement and opening of cross-border travel between Eritrea and Ethiopia. It will take time to restore Massawa to its past grandeur but it will happen sooner than later because the market is there and the conditions are timely and favorable.
Eritrea’s tourism infrastructure in general needs an upgrade and a total overhaul. Ethiopian tourists who had never been to Eritrea before were pleasantly surprised to see a warm and friendly Eritrean population, clean and orderly tree-lined cities with beautiful architecture and a terrific, pristine coastline.
Gulf and Arab investors are said to be highly interested in developing Eritrea’s tourism infrastructure on the Red Sea. We’ve heard of the Israeli Riviera around Eilat on the Red Sea, the Egyptian Riviera around Sharm El Shek on the Red Sea, the Italian Riviera on the Ligurian Sea..etc. Will there be an Eritrean Riviera on the southern Red Sea around Massawa and its chain of islands for the people of the Horn and tourists from around the world to enjoy? Time will tell.
TPLF Official publicly asks for mass amnesia to set-in among Eritreans
The audacity and stupidity of TPLF officials have no boundaries. In one of the most laughable and undignified moments of 2018, a TPLF official publicly asked the people of Eritrea to let mass amnesia set-in among them.
Abay Tsehaye said, “Just forget it.”
- Forget that we ever broke up your families and illegally confiscated your homes and businesses before deporting you because we didn’t like the “color of your eyes.”
- Forget that we ever invaded you and are still occupying your sovereign territory illegally.
- Forget that we engineered sanctions against you in collaboration with our Western masters to cripple your economy and break you militarily.
- Forget that we used Amhara and Oromo kids as cannon fodders to kill more than 20,000 of your sons and daughters.
- Just forget it. Allow for a collective mass amnesia to set-in among you.
Really TPLF? You want us to forget it just like that? Our forefathers warned us about you. Those crooked mountains were not named “the heart of Tigrayan” for no reason. Just forget it, huh? That is lame.
Martin Plaut gets punk’d
Well, it’s just been that kind of year for Eritrea. Martin Plaut, the purveyor of fake news on all things related to Eritrea and a known TPLF sympathizer, was promised really juicy bad news coming out of Eritrea by a Londoner of Eritrean descent named Yacob.
Yacob reportedly told Martin Plaut to meet him in person at a Kings Cross Starbucks so he can personally deliver the juicy bad news coming out of Eritrea over a cup of Grande Mocha Frappuccino.
Like a hungry wolf salivating at the thought of red meat, Martin showed up on time and even saved a seat for Yacob, fully expecting to devour the whatever bad news was coming out of Eritrea.
Instead, what he got was a bucket of eggs dumped on him. He got punk’d. There was no bad news coming out of Eritrea. The practical joke was on him. Ol’ Martin probably needed a good shower after that.
2018 is closing fast and has been a momentous year for Eritrea. Glory to the young men and women of Eritrea’s Warsay generation that folded and outlasted TPLF’s evil designs on Eritrea.