Ethiopian Regimes; Perpetual Menace To Eritrean Unity
By: Fesseha Kidane(University of Asmara)
March 30, 2005

Eritrean unity against alien regional as well as international imperial powers has its roots in pre colonial times. It is historically proved that, the chiefs of midri bahri, (today’s Eritrea), has been uniting in the face of an external threat. It is this unity that halted, the possible advance of Turkish, Egyptian, Ethiopian and Italian from the Red Sea coast to the interior.

The annihilation of the Tigrian Markediwos and his forces, who were on the move to collect tax from midri bahri, by the united front of midri bahri chiefs; the united chiefs stand to protect the brutal wubie campaigns; Bahri Negasi’s attempt to halt Turkish infiltration into the Eritrean highlands; The role played by the Nara chiefs, Agotaie and latter Ali bida, in rallying the chiefs of the Beniamir, Billen, Maria, and Mensae to unite in the face of the incessant and brutal slave raids by Mahdists, Egyptians, and Ethiopians; the Afar under Mohammed Anfarey killing Italian explorers and colonialists, and making travel through their territory, especially to foreigners, risky and Bahta Hagos attempt to rally the people of highland Eritrea, to rise against the Italians; are some historical citations testifying to the existence of Eritrean unity in the remote past. It is indisputable that, these encounters were sporadic, but the leading figures in these encounters called upon Eritrean unity in the face of the threat. To put it in simple words, these incidents were fought under the banner of Eritrean unity. The alert reader could imagine the existence of Eritrean unity in the remote pre-colonial times.

Turning back to Ethiopian centrifugal and marauding disposition towards Eritrea, which is the focus of our concern here, goes back beyond colonial times. Starting in the 16th and 17th century, successive Ethiopian regional feudal lords have been always on the move to disrupt Eritrean unity. After the reign of Bahri Negasi Ishaq, there emerged powerful chiefs in the highlands of Eritrea. Some of these chiefs were not only strong but they were also in a position to question Ethiopian authority. Successive Ethiopian lords committed themselves to incite troubles among these compatriots. They began nominating some of these chiefs as their vassals and played them against rival chiefs. As a consequence of this divide and rule mechanism, the once united front of the Eritrean chiefs turned in to a hostile one. Several chiefs were engaged in conflict against one another, while Ethiopia kept on sharpening their differences. With this, the unity of Midri Bahri was lost and the Eritrean highland turned into a scene of fratricidal conflicts. The conflict between the ruling houses of Hazega and Tseazega could be cited as an example of these conflicts.

Historically, this marks the beginning of the deep-seated and deep-rooted Ethiopian inclination to disrupt Eritrean unity, which fragments of which still survive in the hearts and minds of the contemporary despotic, warmonger and recalcitrant Wayne Juntas.
Walking in the footsteps of the colonial period, Italian colonial aspiration and its endorsement by the Berlin conference brought Eritrea under Italian colonial umbrella. World War II victory went in favor of the allied powers (Britain, U.S.A, France, and Russia), and on the basis of subsequent deliberations held between these allied powers, Eritrea was placed under the tutelage of the British Military Administration. During the British military administration, Eritrean unity again resurfaced, under the banner of nationalism. In Europe nationalism has been the byproduct of capitalism, the extension of capitalism in to the European colonial possessions, led to the emergence of nationalism in the colonized territories. As a manifestation of this, in Eritrea, during the British military administration, we see the formation of different political parties united on the platform of Eritrean independence. Thence, Ethiopia, under the feudal and autocratic emperor Hailesilassie, now committed itself to thwart Eritrean aspirations for independence. To hinder this unity, Ethiopia resorted to the use of ecclesiastical (the Coptic Church under Keshi Dimetros) institutions, to preach the Ethiopian religion of the day,” Eritrean unity with Ethiopia.”

Finally, geopolitical considerations (because of the cold war) and Ethiopian astute manipulation of the Eritrean case dragged Eritrea into the feudal and federal nest of Ethiopia. Eritreans, with their pacifist appeals for independence, were betrayed, owing to the conspiracy of the great powers, especially the US America. The premise, for federating Eritrea with Ethiopia is succinctly depicted in the words of the then secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, in his words; “From the point of view of justice, Eritreans deserve their independence, but for reasons of geopolitical considerations, Eritrea will remain federated with our ally Ethiopia.”
The possibility of wining independence, now virtually dashed, the Eritrean people began to realize that struggle is the only means to that end. As a result, Eritrean unity under the banner of “struggle for independence” began to take a new dimension under the leadership of E.L.M (Eritrean Liberation Movement, Haraka). This unity achieved under ELM was again lost under the E.L.F, owing to the latter’s sectarian and religious discriminatory policies. This unity again was achieved under the dynamic and cohesive leadership of the EPLF. It is this unity, nurtured under the EPLF, which led to the attainment of our independence and testified the invincibility of the Eritrean Unity.

To be recalled, Ethiopian inclination to disrupt Eritrean unity is to a large extent an inherited phenomenon. Having its roots deep in the past, this evil disposition has been passing like a chain within the Ethiopian leadership circle. The Eritro-Ethiopian conflict that erupted in 1998, though masked by other cases, has its deep-rooted and heart buried reasons in this long historical process.