By Agazi Y. Meckonen*
Dec 11, 2005 — It should be made clear from the outset that a single innocent blood must not be spilled to settle the border issue between Ethiopia and Eritrea. It is also my belief that, despite intermittent posturing and irrational outbursts, Mr. Issayas will not venture to have a full-fledged military confrontation with Ethiopia. This, not because he doesn’t want to, but rather because he realizes that doing so will be, aside from being ruinous to Eritrea’s economy is tantamount to a political suicide, for the outcome of such a confrontation is a foregone conclusion.
If there is one lesson that the EPLF learned from the war of 1998-2000, it is the fact that the mythology created during the armed struggle about self-reliance could not confront the reality of the battlefield in the absence of groups and individuals from the other side who coordinated their struggle with it .If the EPLF was blinded by its own mythology, the war which caused so much death, destruction and loss of territory, must have made it very clear.
On Saturday, December 10, 2005, Reuters reports that Seyoum, the Ethiopian Foreign Minister, “In a letter to current Council president, Emyr Jones, Britain’s permanent representative to the United Nations,” has indicated Ethiopia’s willingness to “pull back its troops in the interests of peace”.
Pulling away troops from the border may show intent to live in peace with the neighbors, or it could be interpreted as a sign of weakness by Isayas Afeworki of Eritrea. At the moment, one can not say, with certainty, what is in the minds of Meles and Seyoum or what sort of a signal they are attempting to give to Isayas and EPLF.
Either way, today, after a respite of a few years, If Issayas feels he has gotten back his strength and can intimidate neighbor, he has nobody but Meles to thank. It is because of Meles’ role before, during and after the war that I say he will be responsible for any harm that Issayas might cause on innocent Ethiopian citizens, by embarking on another military adventure against Ethiopia.
Having said that, despite all the reasons that Issayas should not, if he goes ahead and creates a military confrontation -who said dictators were rational- on the part of Ethiopians, all blame for the loss of even a single life will have to be squarely put on Meles’ shoulder.
Meles’ and the TPLF’s accommodation, which did not take into account Ethiopia’s national interest, towards Issayas that existed during the guerilla days to facilitate each others’ agenda was continued after TPLF took power in Ethiopia. Six months prior to TPLF’s assumption of power, Meles, in an extended interview with his spiritual father Paul Henze, while discussing the issue of the importance of Assab to Ethiopia, was quick to tell Henze that Massawa was the port relevant to Tigray, hence explaining one of his rationales for being accommodative towards Issayas.
Emboldened by this stand of the TPLF, Issayas tried to squeeze every possible advantage from Ethiopia, to a point where it was even suggested that he was the sole leader in Eritrea and at best a co-leader and worst the real leader of Ethiopia. The drama around the referendum illustrated this very clearly. In as much as TPLF was fond of explaining the relationship between Ethiopia and Eritrea as in a martial relationship that has gone bad, when it came to the settlement of this dispute, it looked like Eritrea was represented by top notch lawyers from New York, while Ethiopia was represented by the proverbial public defender from the South who slept during the proceedings and had his client sent to the gallows.
Luckily for Ethiopia, some influential leaders within TPLF who were fellow travelers and in the main thought like Meles and his group when it came to relations with EPLF during the guerilla days, noticing the pressure from below, felt that the prevailing unequal relationship should come to an end, now that both groupings are in charge of their ?countries’. Though not able to convince Meles and his group, once these elements took their blinders off they were able to see the very many machinations EPLF was orchestrating against Ethiopia and were keen in terminating this relationship. EPLF on its part was aware of these forces and campaigned heavily to have these people purged from TPLF and, to force the issue, as a corollary started provocative military maneuvers in the border region. Several warnings by Gebru Asrat and colleagues to Meles and his group about these and other actions by Issayas were scoffed off, until after that fateful day when Issayas sent his troops to Badme. What transpired since then is well documented that we need not go in detail, but we have to note that the death of the innocents in the region and especially the children of Ayder are certainly partially attributable to Meles’ callousness .In fact, it were to be anywhere else such dereliction of duty and callousness should at least have cost Meles his leadership position.
Ethiopia was not fortunate enough to see Meles’ treasonous actions end here. Once Issayas invaded and refused to vacate the areas which he took by force, Ethiopia was left with no option but to reverse the invasion by military means. While this was being conducted in a decisive manner and at great cost so as to assure no such military adventure could be contemplated by Issayas again, Meles in what his colleagues later characterized as a treasonous act unilaterally declared the end of the military activity giving a much needed chance for Issayas to resuscitate his army from near collapse. Let us not forget Issayas had started hallucinating about going to the mountains, and apparently an order to evacuate the cities was also in the works.
In addition to Meles those high ranking members of the TPLF hierarchy and cadres who in collaboration with the Addisu Legesses, Bereket Simons and Teferra Walwas conspired to purge elements within TPLF who stood their ground against EPLF’s subversion and military adventure and Meles’ failure of leadership will be responsible for any loss of life that will occur. Since the acquiescence of these elements helped Meles purge his serious challengers within his organization, he has indeed transformed the TPLF indeed the EPRDF into his image and has totally taken control to a point that one might argue that these organizations exists in name only.
This being the case, any military adventure on the part of Issayas, if it occurs and causes any loss of life will be Meles’ responsibility, and for this his removal from power becomes even more pertinent.
If it is said that Meles has a recognizable mental aptitude, it has become abundantly clear in the past fourteen years that he lacks political wisdom and vision, two qualities that are of paramount importance in addressing the myriad of problems we face in Ethiopia.
If no such personality is visible in the horizon today, the removal of Meles from the helm of the political leadership will certainly hasten the emergence of a few within a short period of time.
*Agazi Y. Meckonen is an American of Ethiopian origin. Email: AgaziYemane@HotMail.Com