25 April 2018

Ethiopia: Efforts to Normalize Ethio-Eritrea Conflict, Critical Challenges

Photo: Ethiopian Herald
The Ethiopian army.

As mentioned repeatedly, various efforts have been and are still being made to normalize the confusing ongoing situation of no war no peace between the brotherly Ethiopian and Eritrean peoples. Indeed, trials have been made by the Ethiopian government though the other side of the equation has been absent. This, in turn, resulted in a high socio, political, economic, cultural and other related costs in both sides.

Now the two peoples at the grass root levels seem to have become desperate in the outcome of such efforts and highly determined to take their own actions in different perspective. The new initiative set up under the name 'Peace Song for Ethiopia Eritrea' is a worthwhile movement in this regard. Undeniably, the Ethiopian government on its part seems to have sensed the cost of the situation and started expressing its concern since the past recent times.

According to Professor Gebru Tareke, a historian, repeated attempts have been made on the part of the Ethiopian leadership since the late PM Meles to Ato Hailemariam Desalegn and the new Premier has now come up with an olive branch to Eritrea.

"I have taken part in two critical meetings of the Initiative and hope it to borne fruit. I will personally keep on attending on the activities of the initiative."

On the other hand, Yemane Kidane (Jamaica), former member of TPLF's Central Committee expressed that he has attended two of the events organized for scholars. As to him, the issue has been totally forgotten and there was no such an agenda previously. One might only have heard of it when he\she goes to the northern part of the nation. "The only thing made at the government level in this regard was the promise made by the former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to pay visit to Asmara and make a speech which by the time was really a hot issue. The same is true for such bottom up public initiatives that there was no such a movement. Religious fathers might have tried, of course. Now the case could get attention due to various public pressures at all levels.

Abebe Aynete, Senior Researcher at the Ethiopian Foreign Relations Strategic Studies Institute, for his part said that such movements were carried out as campaigns. For instance, seven or eight years back a similar movement was initiated by youths of various sub cities along with other concerned organs. But, it was then forgotten completely after a while. Likewise, the Institute in 2011 had organized two conferences of people to people where various stakeholders from both parties had taken part. Even an album entitled 'Peace to Ethio-Eritrea' was released. Unfortunately, the efforts could not be pushed forward. That was the very problem of all those endeavors. The new initiative with bottom up approach was started following the repeated failures of all those trials at government level.

Abebe mentioned that the new initiative seems capable of going a long way forward as compared to those trials made prior to it though it is earlier to be sure. "However, I do not believe that it will be a mere event just like the previous ones. The processes it passed through, programs and the way it is handled so far designate its sustainability".

The new movement which is initiated by the young refugees here in Ethiopia directly goes to the public. They are trying to create and increase pressure on the Asmara regime as it may not bend without popular pressure in Eritrea. So the demand of the pressure has to come from the Eritreans themselves, nobody else can do it for them, Yemane said.

"One of the main agenda of Isaias Afewerki is inculcating in the minds of Eritreans that Ethiopia will conquer and demolish Eritrea. For instance, he even blames on Ethiopia for his being unable to ensure basic human and democratic rights in Eritrea. And he must do so- otherwise, the bullet will backfire to him. Simply put, if the case with Ethiopia is resolved, the survival of Isaias will be in danger, so it is unimaginable to expect Shabia to do so"..

As to Yemane, the movement is however, quite free of any government intervention. And this would in turn have a positive impact in letting Eritrean brothers and sisters identify the reality on the ground. All these movements will influence Eritreans to pressurize the regime in Asmara. Then Isaias will be forced to come to a roundtable discussion for he can have no other option other than swallowing the hard truth.

The Professor on his part expressed that youths of the day are restless; they want to see concrete results so swiftly, no more deceptions, no more zigzags. So, more pressure should come from both sides and even more from the Eritrean side. "And I like very much what the Eritrean refugee those living here in Ethiopia are trying to do. This is the first step in the right direction, in my view. I am hopeful, by now, Isaias must be retired. He is a pariah government in the world. So he has to come back to his sense," he restated.

Isaias would have to come to realize and accept that Ethiopia is the anchor of the horn of Africa and it would be futile for him to keep on challenging and provoking Ethiopians and Ethiopia.

The Eritrean people perhaps more than the Ethiopians need peaceful and durable resolution for the ongoing conflict as 'no peace no war' condition does not help anyone. Thus, Isaias should welcome with his open arms to the gesture that has been extended by the new PM of Ethiopia," he noted.

The very trying scenario in Asmara today, as to Yemane, is the absence of any organized body or institution that can direct Isaias to the right way when he is mistaken. Isaias is everything of Eritrea that he is the government; the constitution, the party and everything else.

"So I can, in no way, be convinced that Isaias will live in peaceful manner even if Ethiopia gives Badime to Eritrea. The real cause behind the curtain for the war from the very beginning was not the boarder issue. It was rather caused by Isaias' ego and daydream to become hegemonic in the greater horn."

Since the last 15 years, Isaias has a misconception that he has been and is still considering Ethiopia is a failed state. And the very saddening issue in this regard is that he believes the propaganda he himself fabricates. Likewise, he takes intelligence from anti-peace forces and believes them when they feed him with the information that they think is what he wants to hear about Ethiopia. With regard to the recent crisis in Ethiopia, he has for instance said that game is over, Yemane remarked.

Nearly 60 years of the history of Eritrea has been squandered for lack of an imaginative leadership - a leadership that has little or no respect for the people that it pretends to lead. And that has to be changed and the ball as people repeatedly say is in Isaias' court. "The message of the new PM is very positive and I hope it is about time that President Isaias Afewerki embraces it and come to a round table conference and iron out their differences," Gebru echoed.

That is what both the Eritrean and Ethiopian people want and demand their respective leaders to do. This situation of no peace no war, cannot go on indefinitely. It is costing the Ethiopian and Eritrean people too much in every aspect of life, he furthered.

Abebe added that there are various situations which may challenge these efforts in Ethiopia. In the first place, there is no similar activity in the other side of the equation. Furthermore, the response of the Eritrean government to the message of the Ethiopian premier is just to mention a few among others.

According to Professor Gebru, only a popular uprising can change this inflexible and rigid mindset of president Isaias. In his view, no external force would be able to solve the current situation in Eritrea. If any external force tries to do so, the likely outcome would be very similar to that of Libya. That would be horrendous not only for Eritrea but for the greater horn in general. But this does not mean that people with good will for Eritrea and its people do not have to make political, diplomatic pressure on the Eritrean leadership. External pressure without any direct intervention is needed, he elaborated.

Eritrea today is an impoverished state- impoverished with greater extent for it is losing its youths. One can guess what future such a country may have if its youths lose almost total hope in their future, their people and their nation. That seems the current situation in Eritrea, he restated. In this regard, the new Ethiopian PM seems to have sensed the situation very well and he should try his utmost to accomplish some of the promises he made in his speech though the road ahead of him is rough, because he would be held accountable, he added.

As to Abebe, it seems there is something that is missed in between. Ceasefire and deploying a peacekeeping force were among the decisions of the boarder commission; however, Eritrea has violated that by having expelled the UN peacekeeping forces since 2002. As to him, if the peacekeeping forces had been there, it would have contributed its own share in the peace negotiation processes. But, the Ethiopian government did not say anything while all that happened by Asmara. So, Ethiopia must reconsider the case as it is Eritrea that violated the principles of the Algiers Agreement.

If Ethiopia can have clear policy, it is possible to create many modalities. It can, for instance use third parties like the UN and other international organizations, Said Yemane.

In a nutshell, all of them expressed hopes that it is about time that things would be normalized regardless of the challenges here and there. And they mentioned the relationship between these brotherly peoples of the respective nations as everlasting irrespective of the situation between the two governments. Governments would be changed but the two people are immortal, so the gaps created by the past and existing generation have to be closed. That is the main objective of such movements.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia to Allow All Africans to Visit Without Visas - Govt

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has revealed that the country will "very soon" follow Rwanda's example allowing all… Read more »

See What Everyone is Watching

Copyright © 2018 The Ethiopian Herald. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 800 reports a day from more than 140 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.