By Keffyalew Gebremedhin, The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
It is no surprise that since June 18, 2018, the famous quote by the English novelist Charles Reade: “Courage, mon ami, le diable est mort! (Take courage, my friend, the devil is dead!) has been on my mind.
After listening to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed that day in parliament, his pledge to institute the rule of law —”Presumption of innocence until proven guilty”— for the first time ever in my life has made me trust our nation’s leader and as such identify myself with him. Thus, the pinned message on my twitter page now essentially reads: ABIY AHMED OUR PRIME MINISTER in the context of rule of law!
In response to Ethiopia’s acceptance of in its June 8, 2018 statement of the December 12, 2000 Algiers Agreement without any precondition, Eritrea too has today broken its silence and has expressed interest in sending a delegation to Addis Ababa for the necessary peace talks.
On account of what Abiy has demonstrated to date, more particularly inside the TPLF parliament last Monday, Eritrea seems convinced its infamous foe, the ‘clogger’ of peace to date now belongs to Ethiopia and Eritrea’s past. By the will of the Ethiopian people, the TPLF regime is very likely put out of commission. However, there can be no certainty it would not try its mischiefs, as it has already been trying to fan ethnic tensions and conflicts. However, the prevalent mood in the country is, as stated in my response to similar concern Tuesday, the risks are more to TPLF as well as the responsibilities for the consequent conflagration, leading to its final termination!
Eritrea responds to Ethiopia’s peace overture
The TPLF’s information outlet secured this Eritrean information from a tweet by Ato Estifanos Afeworki, Eritrea’s envoy to Japan, revealed:
President ISAIAS announced tdy that #Eritrea shall dispatch delegation to Addis Abeba to a constructive engagement with #Ethiopia #BBC #CNN
9:27 PM – Jun 19, 2018
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A translation of the President Isaias’ statement, as presented by The Washington Post reads:
“We will send a delegation to Addis Ababa to gauge current developments directly and in depth as well as to chart out a plan for continuous future action…The Eritrean people, but also the Ethiopian people, have lost an opportunity of two generations for over half a century”.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has responded positively, according to the paper, expressing “his readiness to welcome warmly and with considerable goodwill the Eritrean delegation.”We have heard in the past, the evidence for Eritrea of Addis Abeba’s acceptance has been Ethiopian troops withdrawal from Badme. Now, I feel, there may have been quiet contacts between Addis Abeba and Asmara for some time to return to status quo ante 1998.
I strongly feel that this Eritrean positive response comes after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has exorcised in public in parliament on June 18, 2018 the 20 year-old demon that has locked Ethiopia and Eritrea into a permanent state of conflict. Abiy seemed to level the fault for this on the TPLF. He accused the Front of squandering a poor nation’s resources, as if acquiring the latest sophisticated ground and air warfare weapons could secure peace. It only proved a hindrance to peace, while it was too much, costly and burdensome for a country of 105 million population against a nation of 5.2 million.
It is the case, I presume, possibly the prime minister’s first extensive reporting to parliament on the overall Ethiopian situation, with emphasis on the importance of sustainable peace with Eritrea that must have helped sway Eritrea to end its wait and see attitude.
I learn from my own and close friend’s reactions to Monday’s development, i.e., Abiy’s vision, his logic, transparent approach, seriousness and the courage of his profound conviction have done the magic, gripping Ethiopians at home and abroad, possibly infecting Eritreans too.
Abiy’s “መደመር” Gospel
The sense amongst the majority of Ethiopians today is optimism, at last finally better days are coming. On the other hand, before our eyes, the TPLF has taken humiliating beatings with the truth and revelation of its injustices against our citizens and the nation. Therefore, for almost everyone the awareness of the possibilities of becoming one and whole again for real.
Equally important are the lessons from the past that remain valid: this wholeness must be constructed on the solidity of mutual respect, equality, freedom, rule of law and respecting the dignity of each and every Ethiopian, fully restored where infringed and wholeness within every citizen’s reach.
Instrumental for the prime minister in doing his ‘healing’ is his now popular approach “መደመር”! It literally means, to be added, in the sense of readiness to pull together.
The prime minister believes his “መደመር” ensures sustainable peace, beat poverty and facilitate true development of Ethiopia, or a group of nations working together toward the same goal of changing the lives of their citizens.
This “መደመር”, Abiy has been harping from day one since he set foot on the political scene on April 2, 2018.
In its deeper meaning “መደመር” implies being conjoined, as one people i.e., to live in sustainable peace that facilitates working together toward enabling our people(s) to live qualitatively improved life.
This represents a complete departure from the nearly three-decade-old ideology and state politics of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). We saw in Ethiopia through its white lies and its mafia-esque robbery, ethnic politics has been TPLF’s goal of fragmenting society into its lowest elements, which literally is its war game, its strategy is to enable it to divide and conquer even relatively stronger party, eventually reducing it into its prey.
For Abiy, what“መደመር” or being conjoined means, Ethiopia internally achieving unity and cohesion— to stand as the Ethiopian nation and state. As pertains to the Horn of Africa sub-region, four days before reporting to parliament he was in Somalia. On his return, Abiy offered his vision for Ethiopia and Somalia. His effort is to spread his “መደመር” Gospel, that is replicating the same amongst Ethiopia’s neighbours. This he said would create better opportunities for the peoples of the Horn of Africa, a sub-region to date known for its restlessness and wretchedness of life.
Because of my familiarity with the situation in Somalia, I am more surprised by the degree of welcome accorded to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to his “second home”. There is also the affirmative response of President Mohammed Mohamud to the Ethiopian prime minister’s “መደመር” Gospel, already pointing out Somalia’s readiness to work full time to benefit from economic integration making it his nation’s objective!
In formulating this, Abiy’s starting basis is the shared commonalities between the two nations, which capitalises on shared ethnic origin, culture, religion and history, as he put to Somalia’s leadership!
Ethiopia and Eritrea: One people, One nation
Speaking of his approach for peace between the two brotherly peoples of Ethiopia and Eritrea, Prime Minister Abiy emphasised each and every exercise for peace heretofore has been exploited for political ends.
It is in that context he vowed “There to be no democratic dispensation in Ethiopia in his administration, wherein we [the politicians] bring forth to the table only what we scheme and plot.” (“ከዚህ በኋላ የድብቅ ፖለቲካ ኢትዮጵያ ውስጥ አይሠራም… በመደበቅ፣ በመሸረብና እኛ ብቻ አብስለን የምናቀርብበት ዴሞክራሲያዊ ሥርዓት የለም”!)
Instead, as a soldier who has paid his share with the lives of a close family member and friends and the damages Ethiopia has sustained during that war with Eritrea and the consequent losses in wealth continuing to this day, his made clear how his proposal can be realised as follows:
“Our thinking is to talk together and work toward realisation of the objective of what the EPRDF Executive Committee has proposed. This makes sense because the people of Eritrea are our brothers. Brotherhood would not disappear irrespective of land taken, or land received.” (“እኛ የምናስበው እየተነጋገርን እንተገብረዋለን ብለን ነው፡፡ ምክንያቱም የኤርትራ ሕዝብ ወንድም ነው፡፡ መሬት ስለሄደና ስለመጣ ወንድምነት አይቀርም”)
In the barely three months Dr. Abiy Ahmed has been in office, he has won the accolade of politicians in foreign lands and the international media. A good friend of the Ethiopian people, who for long has sought and endeavoured through the United States Congress to change the untenable course Ethiopia has been orbiting, Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, noted:
“I welcome news of Ethiopia’s acceptance of the 2000 peace agreement with Eritrea as well as parliament’s approval of a bill to end the State of Emergency. I remain cautiously optimistic that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed will continue along the direction of peace and respect for human rights. The lifting of the state of emergency means that imprisoned journalists and peaceful activists must now be freed, and greater progress must be made toward inclusive governance. Congress will continue to monitor developments in Ethiopia with guarded optimism.”
Abiy’s maturity and his reflection in everything leaves its traces for everyone to see. He has repeatedly acknowledged what has propelled him to office is the citizens’ opposition to decades of TPLF mode of governance by state violence, official burglary and torture and terrorism against the people, as he has put it, ‘the terrorism of those in power’.
Of course, Isaias has also picked this point, it seems as a reminder – I don’t know to whom — as The Washington Post quotes him saying “Ethiopians have said ‘enough is enough’… Ethiopia is now at a turning point or transition.”
In When Peace is a Problem, international observers The New York Times quotes think:
“If Ethiopia does withdraw its troops from the Eritrean territory it still occupies, a key excuse for Mr. Isaias’s iron rule will be removed.
His admirers hope that he would grab any historic opportunity for real peace with Ethiopia to display once again the visionary leadership that defined him as a freedom fighter and reset his management of the country.
His critics, who see him as incapable of shifting gears, believe the sustained bluff that was mass conscription may have just been called. If they are correct, Ethiopia’s recent peace overture could actually make the region more, not less, volatile.”
While there is always that possibility, this time I would like to believe the author Michela Wrong is wrong in subscribing to this view in this situation. I strongly believe Isaias is too foxy to recognise pulling the strings too tight this time would be against his sole interest — spending his last days in power!
Perhaps the story by The Financial Times bears some veracity in stating, even given what Prime Minister Abiy spelt out to parliament regarding access to international waters to Ethiopia’s goods and services – the accursed TPLF has deprived it of. It is of the view that peace between the two nations could, at least, pave the “way to resumption of commercial relations.”
What has surprised me most is the silence of the United Nations secretary-General preferring silence on this Ethiopia-Eritrea peace overture! Recall that the United Nations had managed the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) peacekeeping mission between the two warring nations from 2000-2008.
The UN knows Ethiopians know full well that the TPLF has been accorded, to the misfortune of the United Nations, the running of one whole UN peacekeeping force, the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), free to exercise its ethnic discrimination practices since 2011 in its designation of force commanders, deputies and other officers, as I had tried to bring this breach of Charter principles the to attention of all concerned.
What is more worrying is murderer TPLF commanders assuming responsibilities in UN peacekeeping operations, as I had made known in 2018 in Part I and Part II of my articles on the subject.