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Debunking the Red Sea Syndrome - Ethiopia’s Incurable Malaise

Posted by: haile habtegaber

Date: Monday, 29 April 2024



Debunking the Red Sea Syndrome - Ethiopia’s Incurable Malaise

We Eritreans are accustomed to the moaning and at times sabre-rattling toxic voices from some Ethiopian elites with regard to the issue of access to the sea. In our usual disposition not to be taken aback though without ignoring, we do not react but wonder for how long these people will nurture this malaise.  However, when I listened to my favourite you tuber Fenkil Eri Media in his eloquent style streaming clips from an interview of an Ethiopian who labels himself as development economist, I felt obliged to respond to the most ridiculously fallacious narration this time round. Those who understand Amharic, can go to the link below to listen the whole farcical interview.

የባህር በር. . . በአራቱም አቅጣጫ!|ቀይ ባሕርኛ |ቀይ ባሕር |Red Sea ( የባህር በር. . . በአራቱም አቅጣጫ!|ቀይ ባሕርኛ |ቀይ ባሕር |Red Sea ( የባህር በር. . . በአራቱም አቅጣጫ!|ቀይ ባሕርኛ |ቀይ ባሕር |Red Sea (

I shall briefly debunk the bare bone of the argument that Aseb as belonging to Ethiopia as this person pushes and repeats the same disinformation narrated by his fellow countrymen. Though prior to my main points, I want to underline the fact that Eritrea’s geographical configuration precedes modern Ethiopia’s geographical foundation. This means Eritrea and Ethiopia were two separate countries before the federal arrangement brought them into a political relationship against the will of the Eritrean population. This historical geographical fact is what determines and predicates any issue between the two countries in relation to their borders.  But these elite Ethiopians never ever acknowledge this historical fact and gloss it over with impunity as this truth will undress their falsified claim that Eritrea was an integral part of Ethiopia. Truth does not die!! 

 Let me now proceed to put the record straight.

Fallacious Assertion 1: Eritrea was separated from her motherland Ethiopia in 1993.

First what these integrity deficient and arrogant Ethiopian elites are trying, is to deliberately inoculate the Ethiopian population at large with the claim that the port of Aseb used to belong to Ethiopia but was ceded by the TPLF to Eritrea in 1993.  This is not misinformation but ABSOLUTE DISINFORMATION intended to galvanize public support for their futile agenda of invasion and annexation.  Bearing in mind that these Ethiopian elites have importunately varnished the truthful historical connection between Eritrea and Ethiopia, the Ethiopian public particularly the young generation lucks epistemic accuracy. Nor do they show epistemic curiously to dig and know the truth.

Secondly these elites know very well deep in their hearts the historical facts that define the relations between the two countries. But they luck the normative moral compass to respect veracity and honesty. They either deliberately avoid the true historical narratives or spread disinformation in pursue of their myth of seaport acquisition.

Fact                             : For the benefit of all including all Ethiopians here is the trajectory of Eritrea’s modern history and its relations with Ethiopia.

1. Eritrea was conquered by Italy in 1890 –with its border with Ethiopia completely demarcated as agreed and signed between Italy and Ethiopia. The border map between the two countries we see today is the same that was drawn in 1890 showing both countries as neighbouring political entities.

2. Eritrea remained Italian colony until Italy was driven out by Britain at the end of WW II.

3. Eritrea was put under British protectorate for the duration of 10 years pending plebiscite to determine its future status subsequently.

4. But was forced to be federated with Ethiopia in 1952 against the will of the Eritrean population.

5. However the Ethiopian government unilaterally abolished the federal arrangement and annexed Eritrea.

6. The Eritrean people started an armed struggle and liberated their country from Ethiopian occupation.

7. Eritrea declared its Impendence through legally accepted UN referendum in which 99.83% of the population voted for independence. Eritrea became an independent sovereign country in 1993 after 30 plus years of war of liberation.

Fallacious Assertion 2: Historically and legally Aseb was Ethiopian port but was leased to Eritrea.

Fact______________: Mr. Dereje Dejene has made a statement of fact without a shred of verifiable evidence to validate his assertion. What is true is that the history of Aseb cannot be separated from the history of any part even an INCH of Eritrea. Eritrea as all present day ex-African colonies was created during the scramble for Africa when Italy colonised it in 1890. This Ethiopian elite makes a reference to the Axumite period as a qualifier word for his audacious claim. But pushing the clock of world history 000s and 000s back is calling for all ancient empires to take control of the lands they conquered  beginning with the Akkadian Empire. He also comes incredibly with the claim that Aseb was leased by the Ethiopian government. What a LIE!! Where is the evidence of the lease agreement that the Ethiopian government signed?  If that was the case why did the Ethiopian government accept and sign to the boundary agreement of 1900, 1902 and 1908 that defined the ENTIRE COMMON BORDDER BETWEEN THE ITALIAN COLONY OF ERITREA AND THE ETHIOPIAN EMPIRE?

Fallacious Assertion 3: Many world governments know that Aseb is Ethiopian Port and should belong to Ethiopia.

Fact______________:  On the contrary World Governments recognized Eritrea as INDEPENDENT SOVEREIGN STATE with its historical and foundational geographical boundary. There is no verifiable evidence that supports the above LIE – AND BIG LIE as that.

Fallacious Assertion 4: Subsequent to Eritrea’s impendence Ethiopia lost access to the sea

Fact                     ____: Eritrea willingly permitted Ethiopia to freely use the Eritrean ports of Massawa and Aseb for all its maritime service’s needs.  Here is His Excellency President Isaias Afeworki affirming that Ethiopia freely used Eritrean ports between 1991 and 1998 war (invasion of Eritrea by the TPLF government), allowed to use them even at the time of the simmering conflict with guarantee in the future use. It was the TPLF government that unilaterally decided to stop using Eritrean ports. Listen at the following link for full factual information. . Starts at 36:40/51:37

I could continue to refute a number of inherently flawed arguments this Ethiopian elite states particularly with his justification of acquiring a port to promote Ethiopia’s economic and security interests. But I leave this to others who may be interested to see things from their own perspectives. What I want to remind Mr.Dereje Dejene is that the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS) entitles land locked countries to get access to the sea on the basis of agreement with the transit states. Thus Ethiopia’s aces to the sea could never be an issue. This incognito agenda is driven so it seems to serve as diversion to escape from failure to resolve internal national crisis which is a perpetual Ethiopia’s modus vivendi.

However this UN formulated entitlement is not to be implemented at the expense of the sanctity of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the port owning coastal states. Nor is the laughable demographic size a logical and extra justification for a country to avail itself of the UN conventions. Small or large, the convention serves the needs of any country. The problem with Ethiopia’s quest for access to the Red Sea is therefore, its unwarranted demand to own coastland of a transit country to build its own port by hook or crook. It is this Ethiopia’s arrogance, insensitiveness and futile projection of military power that poisons and precludes the much desired peace and stability of the region from flourishing. 

In conclusion I want to urge Mr.Dereje Dejene instead of mobilizing your people to rise up in search of Sea port, urge them to work for internal national integration and unity. Mr.Dereje I do not think you do not see that up and down your country’s people are at each other’s throats. As things stand now, Ethiopia is much less than a one country as people cannot freely move between its constituent parts. Throw away the ill thought agenda of acquiring sea port by hook or crook as you say. This reckless misadventure is poisonous, futile and a negation of the constructive role for the integration of the Horn Region your country would be expected to play.

Finally ONE MORE CRITICAL POINT I want to remind Mr. Dereje Dejene and others like him is that if they do not accept and respect the sanctity of colonial boundaries, the Ogaden which the British ceded to Ethiopia in in 1897 would also deserve to go away from Ethiopia. Thus people who live in glass houses should not throw stones!


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ERi-TV, Eritrea - ጸብጻብ ዑደት ፕረዚደንት ኢሳይያስ ኣፈወርቂ ኣብ ዋዕላ ደቡብ ኮርያ አፍሪቃ | Reportage on President Isaias Afwerki's visit to South Korea for the South Korea-Africa Summit, held from June 3-4

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