Somalia Sorted, Eritrea Next
By Berhane Kahsay,
Things are not looking up for the ostracized Eritrean dictator who has been at the apex of the EPLF since the 70’s. His reign is slowly but surely coming to an end and this fact seems to have finally dawned on the recluse President and appears to be preparing the ground for a suicide mission. The ageing and ailing Eritrean leader is no longer as visible as he used to be, and many of the government functions are performed by the corrupt high ranking members of the military who are making huge amounts of money from trafficking their own people.
Repression, absence of basic necessities and forced conscriptions are causing the exodus of numerous young and old Eritreans in search peace and better lives in foreign lands. Unfortunately, many of these victims of the tyrant end up as sources of human organs for the ruthless and inhuman Egyptian Bedouins. The recent defections of the two trusted Eritrean Air Force pilots commandeering the one and only presidential plane to Saudi Arabia unequivocally indicate the magnitude of the dictator’s predicaments.
Press-ganging has been taking place in Eritrea for nearly two decades and shows no sign of abating. But lately the intensity has increased and hundreds of people are being rounded up and dispatched to the concentration camps in Sawa. Darkness has descended on Eritrea as a result of the persistent power outages; and this may have been the reason why the EPLF leader is herding town dwellers into confined inhospitable areas, more than ever before, so that he could keep an eye on them.
Bread rationing has been the norm ever since Esayass declared war on Ethiopia. Now water is also is in short measures and whatever is available is distributed late at night and this is causing the people tremendous inconveniences as it is disrupting their daily lives. The hardship is set to continue as the Eritrean President has lost his sponsors, Mubarak & Kaddafi, and the support from the Diaspora and Qatar is fast dwindling. The proceeds from the newly created mining sectors are unlikely to ameliorate the grave conditions under which the Eritrean people are living at the present moment.
On the 8th of March, the Ethiopian Defence Forces (EDF) went 20 kilometres deep inside Eritrea in pursuit of bandits who killed European tourists in the recent past in Afar region. The Shabiya Defence Forces that were in the vicinity received a heavy trouncing and the casualties were estimated to be high according to sources close to the Eritrean opposition groups. Those captured and wounded were taken to Ethiopia and a few months later some of them decided to return home and some have chosen to claim asylum in Ethiopia. The brazen action by the EDF has dealt a severe blow to the Eritrean President and blames his army Generals for the humiliating defeat. Consequently, his relationship with the high echelons of the military has become very rocky indeed and many seasoned pundits feel that this may possibly trigger a coup d’état or insubordination in Sawa that could have very serious cataclysmic implications.
Soon after the two incursions by the EDF, the Eritrean President decided to arm the people in various parts of the country with heavy weapons and no official explanation has been given for this drastic and extremely worrying development. Some say the president has lost confidence in his Generals and this was the only way he could express his intense displeasure towards them for not standing up to ‘’woyane’s army.’’ Others believe that there is a very sinister motive behind this grotesque undertaking that may produce dire ramifications. At the 11th hour, the Libyan dictator handed out significant quantities of Kalashnikovs to his supporters and the reasoning behind this move was to make the country ungovernable for his predecessors.
This is exactly what is taking place in Libya at this moment in time. Murder is rife and the country has become a breeding ground for Al-Qaida; ethnic conflict is on the rise; followers of the different stands of Islam are at each other’s throat and managing the Arab nation is proving to be too difficult. Immediate end to the strife appears to be remote and many people are of the opinion that it may take a considerable period before normalcy returns to Libya.
Like Kaddafi, the Eritrean President, whose time is coming to a conclusion, wants to leave behind utter chaos, lawlessness, economic crisis, and endless intractable ethnic and religious conflicts. And it is highly possible that the ensuing anarchy could possibly spill over to Ethiopia and jeopardise the tremendous socio-economic achievements registered over the last 20 years; another Somalia in our backyard is definitely not an attractive proposition at all. Another vivid instance is the civil war that is wildly raging in Syria which has so far claimed the lives of 30,000 innocent people. The violence has spread to neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey with devastating consequences.
It is, therefore, high time for the Ethiopian government to instigate a pre-emptive strike against the Eritrean dictator before his dangerous grand design comes into effect. Esayass is in a desperate and very perilous position as a result of the ingenious and shrewd measures taken by the late Ethiopian Premier, and all the new leadership of the EPRDF need to do is go one step further and apply the coup de grace. Short of an all out war, there are various steps that can be applied to sort out the Eritrean dictator for good.
Esayass does not send his tanks into Addis, and yet he causes sheer panic via his surrogate organisations every time large scale international meetings are held in the metropolis or foreign heads of state are on official visits to Ethiopia. The no war, no peace policy had its day and we want to see the back of it, as it has not managed to resolve the Eritrean issue once and for all. Numerous endeavours to negotiate with the pariah leader of Eritrea have failed and to consider it now is to revive the fortunes of the tyrant who has been isolated and rejected by the international community. In any case why should Esayass negotiate as resolution of the Ethio-Eritrea dispute will deny him the excuse not to institute the democratisation process that for sure will bring the end of him? State of war is what he craves as it gives him the opportunity to put draconian measures in place in order to subdue his own people and prolong his stay in power.
It is gullible indeed to expect the fragmented Eritrean opposition to dislodge the slippery President from power. They are no better than the man they are futilely attempting to dispose of, and most of them are in this game to simply line their pockets with Ethiopian tax payer’s money. The EPRDF government must discard Eritrean Diaspora opposition outfits dominated by highlanders which are organised along awraja lines. Instead the focus ought to be on the Kunamas and Red Sea Afar who are modestly making inroads against Esayass.
Giving full fledge support to the two non-Tigrigna speaking ethnic groups is in Ethiopia’s long term national interest as it is pretty certain that they will play a decisive part in post Esayass Eritrea. The Kunamas have the economic clout as they possess the fertile Gash Barka which is the bread basket of Eritrea, and the Afars have the key port of Assab. The close links will pay dividends once the dictator is out of the scene whether the highlanders like it or not.
Water politics is another important factor that should compel the EPRDF government into action against the Eritrean tyrant. Although Esayass is on his last legs, the arch enemy of Ethiopia, Egypt, could rescue and prolong his life span. Many Egyptians believe that it would be easier for the Arab nation to destabilise Ethiopia via Eritrea and the unpatriotic opposition gatherings such us G-7 and ENTC, than a full scale war or bombardment from neighbouring Sudan. As far as possible, all potential or actual sources of threat must be dealt with swiftly in order to stop the enemies of Ethiopia from succeeding with their evil intentions.
The fact of the matter is that, the Ethiopian people are one and the same on the issue of Abbay ; and as result of this water tight unison, Egypt will never succeed with its intentions to stop Ethiopia from using the ‘liquid ‘gold to markedly improve the lives of its people. Consolidation of democracy and the rule of law; maintaining and improving the economic status of the citizens; and peacefully resolving issues raised by the Muslim community now and in the foreseeable future will ensure no hair line gaps exists for the Egyptians to exploit and deflect the country from its resolute determination to become the economic power house of Eastern Africa. Military action against Ethiopia is unwise and may place the Egyptians in a quagmire from which they will not be able to come out.