Guarding our Peoples' Moral Victory
July 5, 2009

In the current cloudy relationship between Ethiopia and Eritrea, different views are being expressed representing various political entities. These entities range from the average citizen that has been fighting with determination against injustice in both Ethiopia and Eritrea to those that have succumbed to a state of desperation to the extent of looking for pivotal support from those they have been fighting against all along. What seems to be amiss in this spectrum is the fact that our peoples' multifaceted struggles have meaningfully changed the political reality on the ground in both Ethiopia and Eritrea. Even though the fruit of the struggle of our peoples is yet to become ripe, the political climate in both countries appears to be set in motion to put a significant meaning into our peoples' legitimate power that has been taken away by self-centered and self-righteous individuals.

Isaias Afewerki, a long-time leader of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) and the country's President since 1991, recently expressed his new support for Ethiopia's stability. His new opinion led his former political friends to liken it to a humiliating treachery. Perhaps, Mr. Isaias's new view is the first since he dropped out of his University education in Ethiopia's capital to join a group of individuals who had been organized as the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF.)

In what appears to be a political race, Sebhat Nega, believed to be the figurehead of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), recently went on an unusual public campaign for him and suggested that Article 39 in Ethiopia's constitution, which provides for the right to self-determination up to and including secession, will be removed from it in the near future.

Some members and supporters of the TPLF, including Sebhat Nega and Siye Abraha's supporters, have been on a verbal barrage course to the extent that a sense of guilty consciousness appears to have started to sink in.

In the middle of this political climate in our region recently emerged an opinion piece by Major Dawit Wolde Giorgis, a long-time army functionary in Eritrea representing both the Haile Selaassie and Mengistu governments of Ethiopia.

The concern and sincerity of Major Dawit about regional stability is evident in his opinion piece. To begin with, he is a soldier who served his country. In his own words, "the sanctity of the flag, the unity of Ethiopia" was paramount to him and his classmate comrades, who, he informs his readers, are not alive today. Perhaps, it is only fair to contemplate that at least some of them may have died fighting Isaias's EPLF, or its affiliates. According to Major Dawit, all his pioneer classmate comrades, and hundreds of thousands of soldiers that he came to know later in his life, died in the service of their country with a smile on their face, apparently fighting against Isaias's EPLF, or its affiliates.

The opinion piece also recounts the service of great Ethiopian patriots from Eritrea who served their country, Ethiopia. These include a bulk of the troops of the great Ethiopian patriot Ras Alula Abba Nega, the head of the Black Lion military, the first and second foreign ministers of Ethiopia, the first Ethiopian Ambassador to the United Nations, and General Aman Andom, a prominent army officer who played a key role in bringing down the regime of Haile Sellassie.

Major Dawit's opinion piece goes on to advocate that Eritrea is the "center of our civilization and faith," "source of our culture and literature," and "center where Ethiopiawinet began" that every Eritrean he met admits to as the ultimate truth. He also reminds his readers once more that he "grew up taking the unity of Ethiopia and the inviolability of its frontiers as sacred oath not to be broken or questioned." He posits this as a "timeless sacred alliance between us and the spirits of our ancestors," that hundreds of thousands died defending, and that this "has been brutally ravaged by a bunch of arrogant self-righteous ethno centric individuals who are at the helm of leadership to destroy this unique legacy."

As much as it may have been well intended, the theme of Major Dawit's opinion tragically fails at least on three counts.

First, it fails to make distinctions between the Eritrean government that is drawn from Isaias Afewerki's EPLF, the Eritrean people including those who have been suffering under this group's dictates, and the Ethiopians from Eritrea that served their country, perhaps, with as much passion as Major Dawit, if not more because of their practical experience under Italy's rule.

Second, it fails to remind its readers that it is in fact, Isaias Afewerki who questioned the unity of Ethiopia first that Major Dawit considers inviolable, dropped out of a university education in the Ethiopian capital, and practically exacted the violability of Ethiopia by managing to install himself in Asmara and worked for a long time with the TPLF. Asmara is a city from where Major Dawit once governed, from where Isaias is ruling Eritrea today, and playing a role in the region's politics. Arguably, the EPLF and TPLF and its top leadership may know each other more than Major Dawit knows anyone of the groups or individuals.

Third, it attempts to advocate that "Ethiopians can only take hard positions when the steps being taken by the Eritrean government violates the fundamental principles of our relationship and endangers our peace and security," being clearly oblivious to the fact that Isaias's EPLF already has a history of taking the hard positions that Major Dawit wouldn't be ready to subscribe to even today. If the TPLF is run by a "bunch of arrogant self-righteous individuals" that have been affecting our people's legacy, it may only be a vice of what Isaias's EPLF had in the store for our people and unique legacy, the sentiment of which is still expressed by its plethora of unwitting cadres.

Glory be to our peoples' multifaceted struggles, guilty consciousness appears to have started to sink in the faculties of the leadership of both the EPLF and TPLF, if their political expressions in the last few years are any indications to the desperate. As Major Dawit carefully observed, "... after years of war in Eritrea, the relationship between the people was never seriously damaged. It never went to a level of civil war. That is the greatness of the Ethiopian people. It demonstrates how deep our culture, our understanding and levels of tolerance have evolved over the centuries."

And if truth be told and Major Dawit is ready to accept it as he prescribes it to the younger generation that has been conveniently blamed for denial, the relationship between both the EPLF and TPLF on the one hand and our peoples' deep culture on the other hand can never be mixed in history's books. Intolerance is the epitome of both fronts while tolerance has been the character of our peoples' deep culture. One is as young as dropping out from colleges and running away from civil service to join armed struggle, living insecure life in the jungle, and then ending up at the helm of a nation's treasure that became a venue to the dereliction of assumed responsibility, whereas the other is a value system that "evolved over the centuries," as Major Dawit put it. Therefore, any careful observer or activist in the service of the people should not expect or ask the people to rally behind those that have been on an opposite trajectory to their value system instead of expecting and asking the lost to come back to our peoples' established trajectory of value system.

Our peoples' struggle should not be guided by a sentiment of a casual personal acquaintance of Major Dawit with Isaias Afewerki. If a meaningful bond in the cause of the people was ever practically conceivable from such casual encounters, Major Dawit could have continued on his profession of guarding what he was trained for to do by taking the opportunity of joining Isaias at Nakfa in the fight against Mengistu's government and solving Eritrea's problem with some federal arrangement with Ethiopia that both foresaw back in the days.