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.
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.
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.
- Overcame unnecessary aggressive shuttle diplomacy.
- 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.
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.
“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