Ethiopia-Eritrea: Enough must now mean enough

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Dilwenberu Nega (11 August 2014)

In his interview with Tsinat Radio host, Solomon Tekalegn, Prime Minister Haile Mariam Desalgn, made public his administration’s resolve to strike at the fountainhead of terrorism in the Horn of Africa. Echoing his predecessor, the late prime minister Meles Zenawi - whose tireless mind and burning vision are widely acknowledged even by his trenchant critics - Haile Mariam highlighted “the imperative to chop off Asmara’s tentacles of terror for they constitute a direct threat to our national security.”

This clear affirmation by Ethiopia’s Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces came close on the heels of an awesome military exercise by the Ethiopian Ground Forces close to the Eritrean border, spurring speculation that Ethiopia is now ready to unleash its long-awaited war on terror.

Critics had for long accused the GoE of mollycoddling Asmara’s dictatorial and insolent leadership, of shilly-shallying on whether or not to mount surgical strikes against terrorist training centres.

But now Andargatchew Tsiege’s stories have shed brighter light than ever before on the length and breadth of Asmara’s involvement in acts of terrorism inside Ethiopia, it is incumbent on Haile Mariam Desalegn to demonstrate to his party, and indeed to Ethiopians, that he is a worthy successor to no-nonsense Meles Zenawi by sanctioning a robust punitive action against Eritrea.

The whole world, never mind his own people, know only too well that Isaias Afewerki is not only a malevolent tyrant, but he is obsessed with aiding and abetting terrorists. The on-going UN sanctions on Eritrea was the international community’s answer to his all out support for Al Shabbab in Somalia.

There are also indications that Asmara is attempting to fish in South Sudan’s troubled waters. To Ethiopians, his Ethiophobia, is nothing new, as one tends to understand his pent-up resentment against what he erroneously regard as a colonial master. But for goodness sake, its high time that Isaias and his likes come to terms with the fact that they have been an independent state for two decades, and stop viewing Ethiopia as an enemy number one.

Why are attempts being made to brush over the irrefutable truth that Ethiopia and Eritrea share a common denominator in terms of culture, religion and blood consanguinity?

As far as Ethiopia is concerned the last thing in the nation’s agenda is war with Eritrea. True, in 1998 we went to war with Eritrea not over “a piece of barren land,” but over a sacred principle: the blatant and gross violation of Ethiopia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Once Ethiopia recaptured the occupied territories, it expressed its willingness to sit down with Eritrea and discuss the implementation of the Border Commission.

Asmara, or rather adamantine Isaias Afewerki, refused to engage in talks with Ethiopia prior to the implementation of the Border Commission. This is a puerile and nonsensical exercise at conflict resolution. Bademe is a bedizen of thousands of Ethiopians from the Regional State of Tigrai, and their will must be seen to prevail. Hence Bademe must not be viewed by either side as a linchpin of Ethio-Eritrea relations. Asmara must garner the inner strength and courage to look beyond Bademe.

The current no peace no war status has hit Asmara more than Ethiopia. You only have to witness the scarcity of grain in Asmara which in the past was supplied from Ethiopia. Add to this the thousands of Eritreans fleeing the iron-fist rule of Isaias Afewerki, and you have a bonfire waiting to happen in Eritrea at any moment.

In order to divert public discontent on his administration, Isaias has succeeded in inculcating Eritreans with the notion that ETHIOPIA is their nation’s bogeyman. Nothing, however, can be further from the truth. Ethiopia offered preferential treatment to the region both during pre and post independent Eritrea. However, what EPRDF is dead against now is Asmara’s proposition that Ethiopia should abide to their notion of “Eritrea Yeglachin; Ethiopia Yegarachin!”

EPRDF’s daily mantra is “war on poverty” and not war on Eritrea. But it now looks as if EPRDF has come to realise, rather belatedly, that it cannot win its war on poverty while the clouds of terror are hovering over Ethiopia.

That is why it is indispensable to rein in on terror by hitting hard at the incubator of terrorists. Prime Minister Haile Mariam can, therefore, take comfort from the anticipated show of understanding and support by the public when he orders Ethiopia’s gallant defence forces to deliver a calibrated response to Asmara’s acts of terror. Go for it Mr. Commander-in-Chief!