Making September 16, a public holiday for Peace Between Eritrea and Ethiopia
To commemorate the victims of war in Eritrea and Ethiopia, during the Tokyo Peace Day Memorial Ceremony, Eritrea was represented prominently by Eritrean Ambassador in Japan, Ambassador Estifanos Afeworki (Bruno) who narrated a short history of Eritrea and the legacy of 72 years of conflict that the Eritrean people endured since the end of World War II.
Ambassador Estifanos expressed and shared the level in which global superpowers were heavily involved in the affairs of the Horn of Africa region. He also briefly educated the audience, how deeply Eritrea was affected as the devastation caused on its people and the overall impact for its growth and development was negatively affected. Ambassador Estifanos noting the importance of the peace agreement signed between Eritrea and Ethiopia in Eritrea, and in Jeddah Saudi Arabia, in 2018 said,
“Humanity deserves eternal peace”.
During a speech he delivered at the ceremony, Ambassador Estifanos also requested that;
“Starting 2020, the governments of Eritrea and Ethiopia to consider making September 16, a public holiday to commemorate victims of the long conflict of both nations.”
Ambassador Estifanos, who was born two years after the end of World War II, has lived through decades of wars and instability within the region. His lifetime experience is a testimonial of how Eritrea and Eritreans lived through these difficult times.
While the war on terror, as well as the instability, of the region made international news headlines, it is also to be noted that bad relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia comes to mind for most people around the world when they think of the region as a whole and Eritrea as a nation. The views of the world as a whole are limited to the state affairs of the last 20 years. The reality however, is that Eritrea has been a major player in global affairs and continues to play a leading role in the peace process throughout the region. The strength, resilience, unity and prevailing peace in Eritrea and the peace agreement between Eritrean and Ethiopia and its successful implementation will foster a new era of peace, stability and growth for the horn of Africa region and beyond.
Please forward, herein below, video to 22 minutes to listen to his full testimony speech in the Tokyo Peace Memorial Day Ceremony held on March 10, 2019
Prologue The winds of change and hope that have been blowing across the Horn of Africa should inspire the peoples of this long troubled region to fully appreciate their long term socio-political and economic implications. The tested wisdom and experience of the Government of the State of Eritrea (GSE) and the resilience of the Eritrean people triumphed over the potential existential threat emanating from a volatile and rapidly deteriorating political and social situation in Ethiopia. The untenable situation in Ethiopia was a product of rampant corruption among the upper civilian and military echelons and an ethno-political system ravaged by recurrent and pervasive ethnic strife. The failed state, touted as a regional anchor, was the beneficiary of unfettered military, financial and diplomatic support from successive US administrations and European Nations. What aggravated the political turmoil in Ethiopia was the fact that the regime, preceded by an expansionist “socialist” government, was imposed on a population whose collective psyche was still under the firm grip of a deeply rooted feudal culture. Additionally, the self-serving and fear mongering narrative, promoted by the leaders in Ethiopia, that any reform or changes to the status quo in Ethiopia would result in its disintegration was proven wrong by the peaceful but persistent struggle of the Ethiopian people. It is worth noting that the relentless efforts of the Eritrean government under the leadership of President Isaias Afwerki , to support the democratic movements, played a critical role towards the development of political consciousness among Ethiopians. Lastly, the struggle for genuine democracy of the Ethiopian people in general and the youth in particular, under the leadership of Dr. Abiy Ahmed , has been a significant factor in bringing about gradual democratic change and preserving the integrity of the Ethiopian nation.
Just as the identity of a person is shaped and maintained by socio-political, psychological and emotional life experiences, collective historical and political experiences mediated by social values, traditions, cultural institutions and beliefs (McAdams, 2018) are critical factors that contribute to the development of a cohesive national identity. For more than a century, the historical and political experiences of the Eritrean and Ethiopian peoples took divergent paths and resulted in their respective national identities. Regardless, it bodes well for both nations and the region as a whole that the ushering in of peace and cooperation has been enthusiastically embraced by both peoples. To reap maximum benefits from such an unprecedented development and ensure its sustainability, the respective historical and political experiences of the two peoples should be properly understood. Any intentional effort to advance a distorted narrative of their respective histories and dismissal of each other’s socio-political experience will only result in mutual resentment and distrust.
Introduction In this brief article I aim to take a glimpse at and walk the reader through a painful but salient aspect of the history of the Eritrean people and, thereby, make a modest contribution toward a deeper mutual understanding and sustainable cooperation between the two peoples.
Due to strategic geo-political and economic factors, selective gross human rights violations and war crimes have historically claimed a monopoly with regards to international news media coverage and exposure within academia. Others deemed less significant and, therefore, inconsequential have been relegated to oblivion and still remain shrouded in the annals of human history. The extermination of six million Jews in World War II and the Rwanda Genocide of 1994 that resulted in the deaths of almost a million civilians, mostly Tutsi, have justifiably been the beneficiaries of continual international attention. However, crimes committed against marginalized populations with insignificant political and economic clout such as the Arawak Indians (Zinn, 1995); The African Holocaust and the Slave Trade (Clarke, 1992); Aborigines of Tasmania; the Herrero and Nama of Namibia; the Gypsies in Europe; the Kurds in Iraq (Lemarchand, 2011) to name a few did not until recently capture the long overdue attention of legal scholars and historians. Despite the fact each of the above mentioned cases was a product of a unique interaction between socio-political conditions and historical events, the undeniable truth is that in every case the systematic extermination of innocent and defenseless civilians was an important motivating factor.
Therefore, the gross human rights violations committed against innocent Eritrean civilians by successive colonial powers in Eritrea should remain intact in our collective memory lest some segments of our people become victims of what (Scobie, 1992) calls a sense of pastlessness. Realizing the potential danger of historical amnesia, the GSE utilized massive human and material resources to investigate and document, in a stunningly vivid detail, virtually every incident of atrocity committed by Ethiopia on defenseless Eritrean civilians. These invaluable historical materials have been accessible to a large segment of our people; however, for the benefit of our youth in the diaspora in particular and the international community in general, the importance and urgency of translating them into English and Arabic must be underscored. An accurate reconstruction, meticulous documentation and effective generational transmission of this painful aspect of our history is, needless to say, highly significant to the development of our cohesive national identity
The GSE and the Eritrean people should not be deterred from fully exposing and disseminating the abhorrent acts committed against innocent Eritrean civilians. Allowing our history to be told from the perspective of our former colonizers and present detractors is tantamount to trivialization of the atrocities and humiliation our people endured and distortion of our history. We should also be constantly vigilant against persistent attempts to gradually bleach out our collective historical memories by those who advance a revisionist and disparaging narrative of our political and social experience. We should never forget that the crimes committed by successive Ethiopian governments and the subsequent horrible sacrifices endured by our defenseless and innocent civilians are an integral part of our history and national identity formation process.
The wanton killings of civilians, the illegal expropriation of our arable and grazing lands and unfettered exploitation of our natural resources have historically been justified as actions necessary to ostensibly preserve international and regional stability and promote national interests and security. On the contrary, our indomitable spirit and persistent resistance against these gross human rights violations have been vilified in order to serve the geopolitical and economic interests of Western nations. As a people we should be cognizant of the fact that we owe our existence as a sovereign people in a sovereign state to the protracted valiant struggle and enormous sacrifices of our heroes and heroines.
Atrocities against Eritrean civilians did not begin in the recent past. Referring to the harsh conditions during the Ottoman Empire’s rule in Eritrea from the 16th to the 19th centuries for example, our ancestors coined a phrase that captures the essence of their suffering and the brutality of the Turkish rule. The phrase is still used to this day in casual conversations among Eritreans.
Atrocities committed by Italian Colonial Authorities In addition to seeking to secure geo-political interests, exploit economic resources and effect religious conversion , Italian colonialism in Eritrea was also perversely inspired by a racist ideology as manifested in the preposterous motive to “civilize” a barbarian population. General Antonio Baldissera, the first colonial commander, did not mince words when expressing his racist views nor did he hesitate to use the curbash, a whip made of hippopotamus hide that lashed backs raw. It became an institutionalized weapon frequently used to strike terror into the civilian population in order to obtain submission.
It is also worth noting that the perception of “ literate “ Italians about the colonized population was not at variance with that of the racist colonial functionaries. For the most part Italians viewed the indigenous population,
“as not civilizable, promise breakers, deceitful, anarchic, unteachable, and in any case destined to vanish because of famine and vendetta” (Bruner, 2017, p. 3).
The imprisonment, torture and murder of the civilian population based on trumped up accusations of treason and espionage were not only rampant but also executed with impunity. According to (Bruner, 2017), Napoleone Corazzini, a prominent Italian journalist who seemed to be on a mission to expose the corruption and unruly savagery that possessed the colonial police in the city of Massawa in 1891. The following paragraphs, based on Corazzini’s report and quoted in (Bruner, 2017 ) clearly illustrate the unhinged character of the Italian colonial police force and its callous disregard for Eritrean life and dignity. The first appalling incident carried out in Massawa in 1889, was about Getheon,
“a wealthy Eritrean merchant who had been arrested at Massawa, Italy’s colonial port on the Red Sea and imprisoned on espionage and treason charges pursuant to Livraghi’s orders. A search of Getheon’s house discovered a large sum of cash which Livraghi claimed as prize money, contending that the sum represented funds meant for obtaining arms and ammunition for use by rebel tribes. Awaiting trial in December 1889, Ghetheon disappeared from colonial prison. According to Corazzini , Livraghi recognized that the proof of Getheon’s crimes was flimsy and therefore decided to have him killed. Indigenous police dragged Getheon out of prison in the middle of the night, took him some distance away from Massawa, and then shot him twice. Not dead after two shots, the merchant was finished off with stones and clubs. Livraghi witnessed the killing from horseback and then dismounted to verify that Getheon was in fact dead. The body was thrown into a grave, and Livraghi helped conceal the grave by smoothing out the earth” (Bruner, 2017, p. 6).
He cites another brutal killing that illustrates Livraghi’s ruthlessness
“ the case involved Osman, a Moslem Chief. He was arrested in a town outside of Massawa on Livraghi’s orders, also on charges of espionage and treason. Delivered to the Massawa police, Osman disappeared. Colonial authorities told his family that he had been deported to Italy. However, Corazzini claimed that the same police commanded by Livraghi led Osman one night through the countryside. At some point Livraghi ordered a halt and directed that a grave be dug. He told Osman that the grave was for him. Osman threw himself on the ground pleading for mercy, but Livraghi made him stand up and then “ laughing spasmodically” shot him twice. Remounting his horse, Livraghi smoked a cigarette while his squad threw the body into the grave and covered it over. Corazzini suggested that the body was buried “ perhaps while it heart was still beating.” Livraghi then trampled on the grave site with his horse.” (Bruner, 2017, p. 7).
Subsequent to the defeat of Italy by the Allied Forces in April 1941, the British Military Administration (1941-1952) in Eritrea allowed Italian bureaucrats to continue to serve in powerful civilian and military positions. As a result, the Italians continued to abuse their power and commit atrocities against Eritreans. For example ( Almedom, 2006) gives a chilling description of an event that occurred on August 7, 1941. The account clearly illustrates the utter disregard the Italians had for Eritrean lives, as well as the complicity of the British:
“In Asmara, the families of Eritrean police officers had not been paid for several months following “liberation.” Those families signed a petition asking for their situation to be considered by the new administration. Twenty delegates were sent to deliver the petition to the BMA. They were met by a very hostile Italian officer, a member of the “ old guard”, who inspected the signed petition, ridiculed the delegates for trying to voice Eritrean grievances, and ordered one of his subordinates to shoot them. Many were killed on the spot and those who fled were pursued all the way to the Eritrean quarters of Idaga Hamus were some armed Eritreans fired back to stop the chase.” ( Almedom, 2006, p. 115)
War Crimes committed by Ethiopia According to (Erlich, 1996,) the Tigrean Ras Alula, King John the IV ‘s military strategist and ruthless administrator in Eritrea, frustrated with his repeated failed attempts to take Kassala from the Sudanese Mahdists, decided to cover up his military debacle and appease his King by exterminating the Kunama and Nara nationalities and pillaging their villages. The following excerpt from his book clearly illustrates the above stated point
“ On November 1886 the ras ordered his army to march some eight miles southward to the spring of Mogolo. There he camped again, became frustrated with his inability even to contemplate an attack on Kassala, and therefore ordered the greatest plunder in the history of the Baria tribes. During the last week in November, two-thirds of the people and cattle of the Baria and Kunama north of the Gash were destroyed. On 1 December 1886, ordered his army to march back to Tigre, even though, as in the previous year, he had not seen the gates of Kassala” (Erlich, 1996, p. 101)
The struggle armed for independence in Eritrea started in 1961 after all peaceful protests were exhausted. Gradually as it gained both military and political momentum it wreaked havoc within successive Ethiopian regimes. As the result, as the collapse of Haile Sellassie’s feudal regime seemed imminent, Ethiopia’s brutal war against innocent Eritrean civilians intensified. The result was an unprecedented loss of innocent civilian lives, razing of entire villages and immense scale of looting with the sinister intent of eradicating the basic foundations of their lives.
During the struggle for independence and the post-independence era, the PFDJ People’s Front for Democracy and Justice), formerly the EPLF (Eritrean People’s Liberation Front), embarked on a concerted effort to carefully and exhaustively document the atrocities committed by successive Ethiopian regimes. For example, the massive unedited document painstakingly prepared by Tesfalidet provides a disturbingly graphic account of Ethiopia’s crimes against humanity. Furthermore, the important task of shedding more light on Ethiopia’s sordid history has continued through rigorous academic work. As a result, important books and articles have been published. For example, the voluminous and invaluable piece of work by (Berhe et al, 2017) is replete with visual images, incriminating evidence from Ethiopia’s military and security sectors and most importantly testimonials from victims who miraculously escaped Ethiopia’s wrath. In the introduction, the book provides a succinct historical context to help the reader gain a profound insight into the intentions of Ethiopian rulers. The book also includes hitherto secretive Ethiopian documents, such as classified correspondence between high level civilian and military officials regarding its policy of extermination and copious reports on casualties for each incident of atrocity it committed.
The book consists of forty-three cases narrated by twenty nine authors. Each story begins with a demographic and brief socio-economic description of the village, town or city that was targeted for annihilation and destruction. As the editors admit this is not, by far, an exhaustive document but the accurate and graphic narration of each incident indisputably proves the brutality of the Ethiopian regimes and the extent to which they were determined to go to annihilate the civilian population. The book also demonstrates that this was not a case of whimsical acts of cruelty by deranged individuals but premeditated and carefully planned state sponsored crimes against humanity.
It is noteworthy that each incident narrated in the book was thoroughly investigated and carefully analyzed. The following is a list of the Eritrean villages, town and cities targeted by the Ethiopian regimes with the year in which the incident took place in parentheses:
Atrocities committed under Haile Sellassie’s reign: Rora Bet Gebru (1966); Adi Ibrahim(1967); Emberemi (1967); Mogolo(1967); Hazemo(1967); Ailet and Gmhot (1967); Melebso (1967); Adi Shuma (1968); Geleb (1970); Besikdira (1970); O’na (1970); Habrengeqa (1970); Kubub- Abena (1971); Dighe Adie Atba (1971); Um Hager (1974).
Atrocities committed by the Ethiopian Military Junta:
Under the guidance of PFDJ, formerly EPLF, the Eritrean people never contemplated to exact revenge on the military that dehumanized them for decades. On the contrary, according to (Ogbamichael, 2016), following the total military defeat and eventual collapse of the Ethiopian Military Junta in May 1991, the Eritrean civilian population, still reeling from the long and brutal Ethiopian rule, was able to forgive and summon the emotional strength to offer food and water from its depleted resources to the well-armed occupation army as it chaotically trekked, in droves, towards the Sudan in the west and Ethiopia in the south.
Such acts on the part of Eritrean civilians, which are consistent with EPLF’s history of magnanimity, demonstrate their nobility and benevolence. Furthermore, the decision by the Eritrean National Assembly on June 26th, 1998 to protect the rights of Ethiopian civilians in the midst of the “border war” demonstrates the government’s principled stand on the issue of human rights. This should be juxtaposed with the Ethiopian government’s decision to expel and expropriate the property of over 70,000 Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean descent because “ it did not like the color of their eyes”. In fact, anecdotal and circumstantial evidence suggests that the government was bent on exterminating the Eritrean civilian population and even commit instant shooting of Eritrean POWs (Gebreyesus, 2018) during the “ border war”. Thus, to watch innocent Eritrean civilians see off the brutal colonial troops with a tremendous outpouring of forgiveness must have been surreal just as it was a clear testament to their nobility.
Lastly, one can justifiably argue that the United Nations (UN); the African Union (AU), formerly the (Organization of African Unity) (OAU and the Western Nations were complicit in the commitment of these heinous crimes. They chose to turn a blind eye and remain silent despite the fact that they had the regional and international legal instruments to invoke in order to bring pressure to bear on successive Ethiopian Governments. But their appalling inaction emboldened the oppressive system in Ethiopia regime to carry on with its reprehensible policy.
What makes this matter utterly ludicrous is the audacious duplicity of these regional and international organizations to level politically motivated accusations of “human rights violations “ against the GSE in order to advance the geopolitical and economic interests of Western nations and their puppet regimes. Needless to say, the GSE, as the current diplomatic and political developments illustrate, continues to be the bastion of a fiercely independent policy and a staunch promoter of genuine social and economic progress in the region.
Conclusion The main objective of this brief article is not, to borrow a phrase from (Zinn, 1995), to grieve for the victims. Rather, for Eritreans in particular and the international community in general to come to grips with the fact that the Eritrean victims did not suffer and perish in vain. Their sacrifices were made for a noble cause, the outcome of which all Eritreans will relish for generations to come. As survivors of this painful aspect of our history, we shoulder the responsibility of taking stock of their horrible experiences and integrate the new historical awareness into our individual and collective national identity. Just as important is also the task of educating our youth about this important facet of our history.
References Almedom, M. A.: Re-reading the Short and Long-Rigged History of Eritrea 1941-1952: Back to the Future? Nordic Journal of African Studies 15 (2): 103-142 ( 2006) Berhe, S.; Tesfaburuk, H; Yemane, T. (Eds)(2017): Gfi Gezati Ethiopia ab Ertra. HDRI Publishers Bruner, C.S. (2017). Late Nineteenth- Century Italy in Africa: The Livraghi Affair and the Waning of Civilizing Aspiration. Cambridge Scholars Publishin Gebreyesus, Z. ( 2018). Meghuar Igri MeKel. HDRI Publishers Clarke, J. H. (1992). Christopher Columbus and the African Holocaust: Slavery and the rise of European capitalism. A and B Distributors and Publishers Group. Erlich, H. (2006). Ras Alula and the Scramble for Africa. A Political History: Ethiopia and Eritrea 1875-1897. The Red Sea Press, Inc. McAdams, D. P. (2015). The Art and Science of Personality Development. The Guilford Press Ogbamichael, S. (2016). Siret: Sgdan tzelatn Eritrawi SHwanetn, Nalet Publishers.
Rene Lemarchand, Editor (2011). Forgotten Genocides: Oblivion, Denial and Memory. University of Pennsylvania Press Scobie, E. (1992) African Global Presence. A & B Books Zinn. H. (1995). A People’s History of the United States 1492-Present. Harper Collins Publishers, Inc.Rora Bet Gebru (1966); Adi Ibrahim(1967); Emberemi (1967); Mogolo(1967); Hazemo(1967); Ailet and Gmhot (1967); Melebso (1967); Adi Shuma (1968); Geleb (1970); Besikdira (1970); O’na (1970); Habrengeqa (1970); Kubub- Abena (1971); Dighe Adie Atba (1971); Um Hager (1974).
The price Eritreans paid to win freedom and keep it is unprecedented. Eritrea sustained years of battery and endured challenges never seen anywhere in Africa if not the world. Thirty years of Armed struggle from 1961-1991, war against the TPLF 1998-2000, and the last twenty years of No-War-No-Peace especially have proved extremely difficult. The only time Eritrea lived in peace was from 1991-1993 before referendum and until 1997 as UN recognized independent Nation.
We can look at the legacies of the struggle for independence and the border war of 1998-2000 separately. But that would be a mistake. Because what happened over the last 20 years was a continuation of the struggle for independence and by far the most difficult journey Eritreans travelled albeit successfully.
In 60 years, starting from 1961, Eritrea was forcefully annexed. Soon thereafter Ethiopia started to systematically dismantle Eritrea’s resources and disintegrate Eritrean populations. Countless villagers and villages were torched in quest to find Eritrean fighters. Thousands of Eritrean youth were imprisoned, beaten by Ethiopian soldiers.
First Haile Selassie in cooperation with the US, later the Communist Military regime of Mengistu Hailemariam expanded its repressive measures and escalated the wars. Western observers that witnessed the sustained bombings and wars once wrote, “The Stones are Burning,” to express the intensity of the war waged against the people of Eritrea by Soviet backed Ethiopia.
The last twenty years particularly have been debilitating. For the first time in the history of the world, one nation was targeted by Washington’s all-might, Europe, United Nations, the Arab League, African Union, every country in the Horn of Africa. For unknown reasons China and Russia were acquiescent to Washington’s demands In addition, the west employed TPLF and gave the minority regime in Ethiopia green light to do anything it deemed necessary against Eritrea.
These campaigns were far reaching and revealing and showed how Western coordination of resources, media, NGO’s, human-rights organizations, military and financial institutions work. It exposed how the international PR and propaganda machinery work. It also exposed how the West use Human Rights, the War against Terrorism and freedom of speech as cover to pursue regime change in countries of interest. And every tool was all employed against Eritrea to its maximum impact. No country was vilified by international media all over the world like Eritrea. The cut-and-paste journalist pushed the same messages all over. Simply put, Eritrea was a nation condemned.
What happened to Eritrea was deliberate. Resources and strategic location made Eritrea target and the people suffered for sixty years mercilessly as a result. In sixty years, Eritrea endured systemic alienation, deliberate displacement of populations, economic strangulations, thousands of dead, hundreds of thousands wounded-disabled and millions were forced to become refugees. The people of Eritrea suffered economic hardships and unnecessarily endured tremendous pressures.
The timing of the war of 1998-2000 was designed to stop Eritrean take-off. They wanted to give Eritrea no break as a nation. It is hard to imagine in 1991, when EPLF entered Asmara victorious found a battered bare-nation, empty-banks and a nation without institutions. And in less than 4 years as a nation, Eritrea was forced into a war of aggression that she successfully repulsed, subsequently ensured the signing of the Algiers Agreement in 2000 and won arbitration in The Hague.
Soon thereafter, the TPLF broke agreements it signed, violated international borders, announced it will conduct regime change and attacked Eritrea militarily at will, and the international community acted as if it was Ethiopia’s privilege.
Instead of punishing Ethiopia, the world rewarded by helping TPLF violate the rights of the people of Eritrea. Washington and Europe brazenly thought sanction measures and managed to place arms embargo denying Eritrea the right to self-defense and economic sanctions designed to debilitate and render her Eritrea failed state. The language that governed the sanctions were broad and invasive. According to the sanctions everything that entered Eritrea was subject to investigation. Countless number of goods shipped to Eritrea via the Red Sea were subjected to unnecessary searches, stopped and docked in Djibouti for months. Worse yet, Eritrea was paying for it. These included medicine and daily essentials. In simple terms, the term “Arms” can be interpreted anyway and used it as excuse to confiscate countless items and money.
The people were not spared. As part of their destabilizing efforts, Eritreans became the targets. The youth especially were targeted because they are the backbone of the economy and the future of the country. To fleece the nation, US and EU enticed the youth to flee in large numbers by promising asylum. Anyone claiming to be Eritrean was granted asylum no questions asked creating a floodgate of refugees from other countries who thought asylum claiming to be Eritreans. Even Israel, under pressure from Washington, was pressed to accept asylum seekers from Eritrea which led to countless refugees flooding the Sinai.
This ill-conceived agenda was creating human trafficking bonanza in Tigray Ethiopia, where thousands of Eritreans were trapped and exploited by traffickers. ID cards of Eritrean refugees were taken by TPLF strongmen and sold to Tigraians that used the names to enter Europe and US while the Eritrean kids languished in camps.
These are some of hardships Eritreans endured for twenty years. Intense state of conflict and entrenchment of the minority regime in Tigrai made peace difficult to envision. Eritreans are hopeful and resilient people and were certain the minority regime will fall. However, the TPLF appeared intent on abstracting the process. As the movement against regime intensified all over Ethiopia, the people of Tigray were doing their own resistance against the change. Large number of Ethiopian soldiers were stationed in Tigray region hence difficult to see how peace will come.
That changed quickly. To the surprise of many around the world, when President Isaias Afwerki swiftly accepted Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s call for peace and received him in Asmara and immediately thereafter, President Isais reciprocated by going to Ethiopia; that opened a new chapter of relations between the two countries. That marked the end of TPLF’s abstractions.
There are those who believe the changes that took place in Ethiopia, the rapprochement with Eritrea and developments in the region to be the result of Abiy’s efforts when a lot of work was done ahead of the change. Abiy Ahmed himself is the byproduct of the work. Eritrea always wanted peace with Ethiopia and stability in the region. Contrary to what the TPLF sold, that Eritrea wants to break up Ethiopia, Eritrea wants stable Ethiopia.
If Eritrea’s goal were the balkanization of Ethiopia, working with TPLF would have been easier. Instead, Eritrea invested on the people of Ethiopia financially, politically, diplomatically and militarily. Eritrea provided home to all those who thought justice and fought to bring change. Eritrea gave all Ethiopian groups room and opportunity to chart directions of their choosing based on their political inclinations knowing, one-day, they will become players in the future of Ethiopia. For this selfless act Eritrea paid dearly.
TPLF, designated these groups and individuals’ terrorists and tried to label Eritrea a country that harbors terrorists.
Eritrea never had and will never encounter enemy as determined and as vicious as Tigrai People’s Liberation Front. TPLF is the deadliest enemy Eritrea faced because its determination and willingness to do anything. To avoid listing the litany of crimes and human rights violations against the people of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and the region; we can simply say TPLF can give Hitler a run for his money. Had TPLF gotten the opportunity, it was capable to commit crimes far worse than that of Hitler’s Nazi.
The people of Eritrea are now exonerated. Eritrea took a principled stand to stand with the people of Ethiopia who ultimately humiliated TPLF and chased it back to Dedebit tails between legs, leaving everything behind in shock. TPLF entered Addis Ababa escorted by Eritrean People’s Liberation Front tanks and was easily chased out of Addis by Ethiopian youth armed with stones.
The people of Eritrea and Ethiopia went through decades of conflicts that helped cement negative views about each other. To separate the people of Eritrea and Ethiopia TPLF made it point to seed and foment hate in schools and every way they can but failed.
At the end, the people showed TPLF that they are capable to overcome evil and start anew. The warm reception Eritreans accorded PM Abiy Ahmed and in return the warm reception President Isaias received in Ethiopia opened a new chapter of history between the two people.
Since, all the opposition groups that spent years struggling the brutal repressive TPLF regime from Eritrea are back in Ethiopia working with PM Abiy to strengthen the fragile transition taking place in Ethiopia. That is a major victory for Eritrea.
Eritrea is victorious on so many levels. Until 2005, many Ethiopians had eschewed view and used to see Eritrea as enemy that wants to see instability by creating division amongst Ethiopians and believed Eritrea wanted to take advantage of Ethiopia. Rather than focusing on their issues, many focused-on Eritrea wrongly until they woke-up and understood TPLF and its evil agendas. Eritrea was in a way the whipping boy.
It is major victory for Eritreans to see their nation seen as example by Ethiopians and people of the region as country that lives by paying for tomorrow, by making sacrifices, in cooperation with one another, by self-reliance, without foreign meddling for collective good. These are stands Eritreans live-by. The people of the Horn of Africa have witnessed Eritreans suffer and sacrifice collectively to ultimately overcame all the adversities and became victorious.
For a long time, Eritreans were trying to reach-out and met stiff resistance. Today, Ethiopians, and the people of the region know what Eritrea stands for and her capability. They know Eritrea is a friend that means no harm because, in the darkest moments of Ethiopia, when every country in the region sided with TPLF, Eritrea was the only nation that stood by the people of Ethiopia
Leaving Behind Trails of Losers
Eritrea faced interesting mix of adversaries that operate as opposition. Concurrently they acted as human rights activists, refugees, victim-advocates, religious rights activists and NGO’s centered on Eritrean issues. They have made cottage industry out of human rights, refugee, freedom of press and related issues in the name of Eritrea.
The regime change agenda US, EU and TPLF pursued against Eritrea created opportunities for anyone who claimed to have a cause. They recruited, incentivized and encouraged Eritreans, foreign NGO’s, activists and Tigrayans in the name of Eritreans to dissent, campaign and lobby anyway they can. Funded and propped by TPLF and its handlers, anyone can establish websites, radio and satellite TV stations to reaching Eritreans.
These individuals have enriched themselves as authorities and experts. They were given access to in UN and Geneva to set Eritrean agendas, create narratives to be used by international and regional organizations such as the UN Human Rights Commission. They were emboldened to believe that they can vilify, harass, intimidate and get physical with Eritreans that stood with their government and people against the minority regime in Ethiopia and injustices of the West.
With stroke of a pen, by an agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia, all that ended. Ethiopia closed the offices and stopped supporting all the anti-Eritrea elements that operated out of Ethiopia. These include, religious extremists, disgruntled individuals that held high level positions in Eritrea, individuals with power-ambitions and armed-organizations created and funded by the TPLF. For example, as soon as PM Abiy Ahmed announced peace with Eritrea, the Afar armed movement TPLF run immediately retreated to Tigray because they realized they have no cover.
Now, most of these people are ashamed and in hiding unable to show themselves publicly. Their funding, and support is drying because there is no regime change agenda anymore. The US, EU and their organizations are working to mend relations with Eritrea. The visible few are desperate and starved for attention from anyone. Their voices are louder and their tactics, (lies, deception and misinformation) are brazen and changing with every news cycle. They are bankrupt in principle.
When PM Abiy made the call for peace, they said, “President Isaias will not accept peace because he is using the conflict with Ethiopia to control Eritreans.” After he accepted it, they said, “He is selling Eritrea and uniting it with Ethiopia.” It is amusing to witness their daily flip flap and duplicity.
These groups and individuals were working with TPLF on an agenda that tried to undermine the government Eritrea. The TPLF called for people to people relations between the people of Tigray and Eritrea to usurp the government which ultimately was designed to undermine Eritrean sovereignty. But when Eritrea gave Ethiopians free access to enter Eritrea after the peace agreement, they cried foul claiming Isaias is selling Eritrea. And on and so forth. Their stories change day by day. These is done to cast doubt on the peace process and create a wedge between the people and government of Eritrea. That is over now.
Eritrea Victorious Once Again
What is success, victory for the people of Eritrea? The people of Eritrea have made heavy sacrifices to earn opportunity to live in peace and build nation worthy of the lives that were lost to bring a free nation. They know, to build a nation worthy of the sacrifices made by our martyrs, they must all play their due role. For 20 years, with blood, sweat, money, time and hard work Eritreans ensured sovereignty in ways no African country ever did. The achievements are numerous and layered.
For the first time in the history of Africa, Eritrea and Ethiopia have a border agreement that was agreed to and signed by two African countries! Hence, it is no longer colonial boundary.
Since the end of World War II, the United States eyed and tried to control Eritrea using Ethiopia. For brief period the Soviet Union tried that as well. The US used unlimited resources, might, international influence and brains to achieve that.
US’s number one weapon of choice was Ethiopian leaders. The US used Ethiopia to pursue military and other adventures against Eritrea. Eritrea was forced to deal with combination of US and Ethiopia with their unlimited access and influence in the African Union (AU), Arab League, Israel and other regional actors; US position at the UN Security Council; control of the global financial and trade networks; control of the massive mass-media, influence and control of aid organizations, Human Rights groups; partnerships, and collaborations between US and its European partners. Brilliant Eritrea overcame by controlling the situation with Ethiopia.
TPLF’s grand scheme entirely depended on winning against Eritrea, controlling the Red Sea and by extension to control a Balkanized-weakened Ethiopia and region.
Due to its strong standing with the US and EU, the minority TPLF regime was emboldened, overconfident and felt-invincible. TPLF felt, war on terror-card will work forever. Exploiting US interests in Ethiopia and the region, the TPLF diverted funds meant to Ethiopia to Tigray to private coffers of the party and individuals in the party. Indirectly, the US, was funding TPLF’s aspirations of independent greater-Tigray expansionist agenda. These emboldened some who started to see Tigray as independent country.
Eritrea managed to withstand all aggression TPLF can master and gradually exposed it for the world and Ethiopia to see. Ethiopians sided with Eritrea and defeated TPLF.
The last twenty years proved there is nothing worse than a neighbor who wants to destroy you. The people of Tigray know who Eritrean people are, how they live and conduct their affairs. They used these knowledges against Eritrea and in collaboration with US and Western powers aimed to destroy it. There is no sugar coating this historic fact! In twenty years, Eritrea managed, against all odds, one more time to fight and retain independence. Here are some of the challenges Eritrea endured:
Deadly Wars from 1998-2000. More than 20,000 Eritrean youth perished.
Deportation of 80,000 Eritreans by Tigray People’s Liberation Front from Ethiopia.
Hundreds of thousands internally displaced from Eritrea’s most fertile agricultural land.
Diplomatic hurdles designed to weaken Eritrea’s hands before Algiers agreement.
Attempted to alienate Eritrea
After signing Algiers Agreement, machinations to undermine the agreement.
Tried to undermine sovereignty of Eritrea UN peacekeeping mission.
Initiated No war no peace to keep Eritrea on a sustained state of conflict to weaken Eritrea economically, militarily, to undermine resolve, to frustrate the youth.
Deliberate mechanisms to entice youth to flee and fleece the nation of her youth. Youth that fled were in turn used to vilify, demonize the government, and the national service to justify punitive measures.
Persistent coordinated effort by western intelligence operatives that operate as NGO’s to undermine Eritrea history, resolve, image, nationalism and sovereignty. They used all global institutions at their disposal to bring Eritrea to her knees. This include the Human Rights Commission at the UN.
Coordinated media campaigns by Western agents that operate as journalists and cut-and-paste journalists all over the world. Extreme debilitating sanctions designed to undermine Eritrea was thought and enacted, shutting down the economy, banking and, placed arms embargo. The arms embargo was used to stop all shipments for unnecessary search holding shipments for months at a time.
TPLF hired, funded operatives all over the world. The TPLF hired countless lobbyists, Public Relations firms, individuals in key positions all over the world to influence policies that could help undermine Eritrean independence.
TPLF hired and funded Eritreans to operate as opposition inside Ethiopia and in the Diaspora.
TPLF stole identities of Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia and used it to send Tigrayans to Europe and the US as Eritreans.
In coordination with some Tigrayans born and raised in Eritrea during Ethiopia’s occupation of Eritrea, these Tigrayans acted as Eritrean opposition and worked hard to sally the image and history.
Long standing US Eritrea policy. Eritrea under control of Ethiopia.
The list is endless. Eritrea overcame. Here is how:
1998-2000, Eritrea managed to repulse hundreds of thousands Ethiopian soldiers that aimed to reverse Eritrean independence at best or, take Assab by force.
After 20 years, Ethiopia accepted The Algiers agreement and peace is won.
Embraced 80,000 forcibly deported Eritreans and resettled them in Eritrea.
Resettled hundreds of thousands of Eritreans. By building dams and expanding agricultural farm-lands to sustain Eritrea’s bright future.
Eritreans remember US official who went to Badme the disputed land Eritrea won in arbitration and, echoed TPLF’s talking point, “We can’t divide churches,” to demarcate borders to undermine the agreement. US officials on board.
UN peacekeeping mission was systemically shut down for overstaying its mandate and for serving as intelligence gathering tool.
No war no peace agenda is dead and buried with TPLF in Tigray. In a humiliating fashion, TPLF made Tigrayans from villages in the border area with Eritrea to cross the border waving white-flags and plea their desire for peace with Eritreans.
The TPLF enticed Eritrean youth to flee so they can pick-up arms to fight against the government. That didn’t materialize. All the youth wanted to do is help their families.
Foiled all attempts to alienate Eritrea.
All campaigns by international NGO’s, mainstream media are being exposed daily.
The illegal sanctions are lifted.
US longstanding policy against Eritrea changed to bilateral relations
Eritrea patiently and methodically dismembered all hostilities and started a new chapter. Geopolitically, Eritrea is the epicenter of the region. Eritrea’s geopolitical importance is cemented as indispensable. Saudi Arabia, Israel, UAE, Egypt, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Somalia and Kenya see no stability or progress without Eritrea’s engagement. Sudan is trying to mend past mistakes. Europe is clamoring to enter Eritrea.
The United States changed its long-standing Eritrea policy as part of new Africa strategy and announced it will strengthen bilateral relations with countries of importance which include Eritrea.
While under duress, under unbearable external pressures; Eritrea laid foundation that ensure food security, laid platforms that ensure infrastructures for the future of Eritrean roads and railways.
Eritrea partnered with mining companies that believe on mutually beneficial approaches centered on educating Eritreans to develop indigenous expertise and ensure sustainability.
Eritrea managed to change extreme existential threats to long term opportunities that ensure viability and sustainability of her programs. Eritrea managed to change the mindset of many in the region, the world . Eritrea is an example of resistance based on just and self-reliant approaches. Eritrean ways are worth emulating because they are guaranteed to help foster regional partnerships and cooperation to ensure bright future for the region. Once slated for alienation, Eritrea is integral part of the future in the region.
After TPLF ignited wars, General Sibhat Efrem once remarked,
“Our difficult challenges are behind us. For Eritrea, the most difficult challenge was to build our home. Once we built our home (referring to Eritrea’s independence), no one can tell us how to decorate it and run it. It is all up-to us. No matter what others say or do, it matters none because they have no right and there is nothing, they can do about it. Because we control our fate, destiny.”
In 20 years Eritreans achieved unprecedented achievements. Everything, all the money resources spent (in the billions), the machinations, wars, psychological warfare, economic strangulations, propaganda, vilifications campaigns and distortions applied against Eritrea were designed to do one thing; undermine the resolve of Eritrean people. The people of Eritrea foiled it.
Now, it is time to turn the house into home unperturbed, unfazed, victorious and once again saying Awet N Hafash, victory to the masses while remembering why it is important to give our-all and work to achieve the highest standard of living based on high standards because that is the only way we can repay their debts and honor them.
Glory to our Martyrs
In Commemoration of the 29th Anniversary of Operation Fenkil
For twenty years, Eritreans in the diaspora have been forced to focus on the situation in Eritrea. Every day that went-by was a struggle as the situation in Eritrea was tough to say the least. Eritreans were inundated with news that made them feel uneasy.
As a result, Eritrean community was focusing on helping their country anyway they can. In the process, overlooked were the lives, the stories, achievements and businesses of Eritreans all over.
Eritreans are industrious, technical and brilliant entrepreneurs that have been able to adopt and strive everywhere they went. That story is yet to be told.
One such story is Abraham Melles’s who came to the US in 1998 from Eritrea and quickly established as one of the promising entrepreneurs that achieved many successes in relatively short period of time.
Most of the people that know his early business ventures know Enjera Restaurant in Metropolitan Washington DC, in Crystal City, Arlington, Virginia.
Abraham opened Enjera restaurant as Eritrean cuisine against the advice of many who wanted him to promote it as Ethiopian but insisted to promote Enjera restaurant as Eritrean cuisine and did very well until he sold it for profit and moved on to other ventures.
Abraham has a good eye for business. A year after he came to the US and settled in Virginia he founded Crystal Parking, a Virginia-based parking services company. Crystal Parking has been operating for 18 years as parking management for businesses, special events, valet parking, transportation and temporary staffing company successfully. Abraham Melles has employed thousands, many of whom are Eritreans. These are Eritreans with little or no experience being acclimated to life in the US.
His latest ventures caught my attention because, this time Abraham is hoping to create opportunities in Eritrea and in the US simultaneously.
Abraham recently opened Star Hotel, a 28-room boutique hotel in Asmara, Eritrea and, in August of 2018, Abraham opened Delina Eritrean Urban Kitchen, 50-seat tapas-style restaurant that serves Eritrean cuisine in Bethesda, Maryland, 20 minutes outside DC, that he named after his 10-year-old daughter.
Abraham is always thinking about growing his business ventures while embracing his community, providing employment and business opportunity for all. In fact, in the very near future, Delina Kitchen will open a restaurant in Arlington, Virginia.
Delina Kitchen is very appealing because it is modern, hip and designed to expand beyond the Metro DC area and all over the country if not the world. Abraham Melles is one such person that could accomplish that.
The food is healthy and fresh prepared every day. It is a well executed concept that has been received very well by Bethesda community.
Delina Restaurant is serving an area that is home to Marriott Headquarters, National Institute of Health (NIH) and other major multi-national organizations. Delina creatively engages the community by providing healthy fun positive environment. They also have Jazz music on Thursdays.
Abraham Melles is an inspiration, he is part of the Eritrean Diaspora story that we must all tell from now on.
The Tiffany Haddish Story and Its Implication to Diaspora Eritreans Amanuel Biedemariam
The best way one can describe Tiffany Haddish’s commitment to her heritage is, “Inspirational.”
Majority of the Eritrean youth and young adults in their thirties forties in the Diaspora today were raised by parents that came to the US and other countries in the eighties and early nineties. Their parents came from Eritrea through Sudan and other places escaping death, imprisonment, torture and hardship from the hands of Ethiopian military.
These Eritreans expressed their love for Eritrea in their daily lives. They lived, breathed, sang and played Eritrea every day. They gathered in Eritrean events, honored Eritrean heroes and supported Eritrean struggle for independence financially, morally and advocated for the Eritrean cause every day. Eritrea was in their heart. It was and remains their purpose, mission and life. They are dedicated backbone of Eritrea. They support their families and Eritrea at the same time equally. Eritreans have demonstrated to the world what it means to love a country, family and community as one.
The kids grew up in these environments and were influenced by it. They knew Eritrea emotionally and grew up loving Eritrea as their parents did. Their houses were decorated with Eritrean arts, souvenirs and memorabilia. They ate Eritrean food, listened to Eritrean music and grew up with Eritrean families in Eritrean communities. They went to all Eritrean events and wherever they travelled Eritrea travelled with them.
They grew up understanding their obligations-aware of their responsibilities and know what it takes. They know it takes their commitment, time, dedication and sacrifices. They have learned that their heritage is extremely important and they are dedicated to lift and honor Eritrea.
Eritreans have been enjoying these children flourish and bring Eritrea to the forefront lifting it like the EriAm sisters Haben, Salina and Lianda did when they burst to the seen in America Got Talent in 2009. These kids went as far as Sawa Eritrea with their parents and expressed their love for the people with music before they became the sensation the world knew them to be.
Nipsey Hussle is thriving, Layne Tadesse is keeping reggae alive and relevant everywhere he goes. The late Sandman Negus left indelible impression. Who can forget Shannon-Ogbani Abeda who made history as the first Eritrean from Africa to compete in Winter Olympics PyeongChang in 2018. There are more than can be mention here. These children are flourishing with Eritrea in their heart and mind. And their need to promote Eritrea is having impact on the life, perception, image, mood, self-esteem, pride and inspiring others. It is a great example how one can do good for the greater good.
The Tiffany Haddish story is no different from the stories above. What makes here story unique is that she elevated it to a new stratosphere. She took it to a level that is undeniable. She did it with pride, gleeful pride that is infectious. She did it with love and affection for her heritage. In one night, Tiffany brought Eritrea to the world. She inspired millions, particularly her peers. She placed Eritrea in Hollywood’s radar instantly. In doing so she aroused curiosity, interest about Eritrea.
In the last 20 years, Eritrea received unprecedented undeserved negative attention. The vilification campaigns waged against Eritrea has been relentless. Major part of the campaign was directed at Eritreans in the Diaspora. It was meant to cripple their resolve. However, the long struggle for independence is foundation impossible to nudge.
The Tiffany Haddish story therefore, is the untold story of Eritrea that the world is yet to see, hear and experience. It is the story of resolve, resilience, perseverance, struggle and victory. It is the outcome of a struggle that Eritreans waged from all around the world as one. It is an example that the world can learn from. That is, when people are connected by a cause; no distance, time or obstacles can stand on their way.
Tiffany Haddish is a blessing, inspiration and incredible talent. Her late father Tsihaye Reda Haddish must be beaming with happiness knowing that he bestowed the love for her country, people and heritage. It is obvious that he loved Eritrea and expressed it with incredible affection that motivated Tiffany to travel all the way to Eritrea. Her Eritrean dress in the Oscars was the icing that seared her queenly image.
Thank you Tiffany for the smile you bring to the world.