- Issayas Tesfamariam
When the past is present... by Dr. Tesfay Aradom. Part II (final)
Eritreans had put up sustained and stiff resistance against Italian race based discrimination, land expropriation and failed attempts at religious conversion. They foiled British strategy to destroy Eritrea both as a nation and state and US machinations to deprive them of their well-deserved right to self-determination. When all peaceful means of resistance were exhausted they resorted to armed struggle in September of 1961 against successive Ethiopian regimes that were and continue to be the beneficiaries of consistent financial and diplomatic and military support by the West (1953-1975) and the Soviet led communist nations (1975-1991).
The creation of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front in 1970 had taken the independence movement to an unprecedented higher level politically, socially and militarily. So, such intrigues did not break the indomitable Eritrean spirit as Eritreans persevered in their struggle for self- determination with stronger conviction and determination. Furthermore, the EPLF developed and instilled through persistent education what (Doyle, 1996) calls core EPLF values among the population. Here is a summary of the core values:
o Adherence to high moral and ethical standards even in victory and setbacks. For instance, despite the fact that Ethiopia committed atrocious crimes on Eritreans, the EPLF treated Ethiopian POWs in a humane manner. It even went so far as teaching them how to read, notwithstanding its meager human and material resources
o Use of public meetings both at home and in the Diaspora to critically discuss and reach a consensus on political and social matters
o Instilling perseverance among the entire spectrum of the population as exemplified during the struggle for independence and the equally important task of national re-construction
o Promoting and embracing, both individually and collectively, the concept of self-reliance. This was and continues to be a critical factor both during the war for independence and the post-independence national re-construction endeavor
o De-emphasizing pursuit of individual life goals and objectives in favor of developing a genuine sense of responsibility and concern for the family, community and the nation.
The individual and collective adoption of such values and their daily practice during the protracted and bitter struggle for independence and defense of territorial integrity and sovereignty have contributed to a collective supra-religious and supra-ethno-linguistic national identity (Doyle, 2006; Garcetti, 1999).
Doyle further states that Eritrea was conceived by accident but born by design. With regards to the former, she is referring to the historical and subsequent political events that colluded to gradually create a political entity deserving a right to self-determination. However, the creation of a cohesive nation-state was by no means an accident. A protracted national movement guided by a dedicated, disciplined, principled and representative group of women and men with strong organizational capacity and a clear vision with regards to its political, military, social and cultural objectives was and continues to be a sine qua non. That is why the collective Eritrean national consciousness today is cohesive and transcends religious and ethno-linguistic identity. It is worth noting that many developed and developing countries are yet to fully achieve this level of collective national consciousness (Chua, 2018; Garcetti, 1999).
So, it is within the historical-political context briefly described above that the recent struggle against the West and the regime in Ethiopia should be analyzed. Needless to say, for the West this has clearly been a case of unfinished business. For the present day equivalents of Longrigg, Stafford, Dulles and Spencer like Susan Rice, Jenday Frazer, James Bevan, Chris Mullen to name a few, the existence of a viable Eritrean nation-state has been a hard pill to swallow. So, they have left no stone unturned to wreak havoc within the population and destabilize the government. To disguise their nefarious activities with a façade of legality they conspired, in complicity with their client state in Ethiopia, to level patently false accusations against the State and people of Eritrea at the United Nations Security Council. Consistent with their past anti-Eritrea behavior, US administrations played and active and prominent role in the formulation and passage of unfair and illegal UNSC resolutions in 2009 and 2011. However, having continually failed to provide any concrete evidence to prove their allegations and realizing that it would be a matter of time before their political motivation behind their scheme would be exposed, they concocted a sinister parallel plan. Aimed at humiliating the Government of Eritrea diplomatically and further isolate it from the international community, they introduced a bizarre accusation of human rights violations against its own population. Despite the blatant flaws concerning the conduct and the content of the Special Rapporteur’s reports, the West conspired to heighten to charge to crimes against humanity and formed a Commission of Inquiry (COI) still retaining the SR as a member of the Commission ! The political motivation behind the duplicitous and spiteful activities was, of course, nothing new to Eritreans at home and in the diaspora.
If the West was so concerned about human rights violations and the supremacy of the law, why did it remain silent when the Ethiopian regime expelled 70,000 Eritreans women, children and the elderly and Ethiopians of Eritrean descent and illegally expropriated their hard acquired material and financial resources; when it desecrated a martyr’s cemetery, a symbol of Eritrean resistance, sacrifice and resilience. Similarly, the West’s inaction was remarkable when the human rights of the entire Eritrean population were violated because of Ethiopia’s refusal to honor its obligation to the final and binding decision of the Eritrean Ethiopian Border Commission (EEBC). In fact, the British, as in the past, tried to appease and, thereby, embolden the Ethiopian regime to defy the international community. For instance, James Bevan, the British Director for Africa, stated that he would not “shoot Ethiopia on the head” for not accepting the decision of the EEBC. Similarly, Chris Mullen, the British Minister for Africa, coined the phrase “accepting in principle” that was employed by the regime in Ethiopia to hoodwink the international community (AGE, 2010).
The main objective of this article is not to delve deeply into the protracted and complex history of resistance the Eritrean put up against European colonialism and its intrigues to eradicate Eritrea as a nation-state. There is an abundant number of Eritrean and non- Eritrean historians who shouldered that responsibility with eloquence and authenticity. So, its modest objective is to highlight a long and consistent anti-Eritrean political and diplomatic Western inspired and effected conspiracy spanning more than three quarters of a century. The long overdue lifting of the illegal and politically motivated sanctions is definitely a positive step. However, one hopes that, finally, the West has come to grips with the fact that Eritrea, through a long and painful struggle, has now achieved its long sought and well deserved nation-state status Despite Western intrigues, the Government of Eritrea (GOE) has gradually earned the respect and admiration of the peoples and governments of the region because of its integrity, vast knowledge and experience in regional and international diplomatic and political affairs.
In the aftermath of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Dr Abbiy Ahmed, bold and historic declaration that the Government of Ethiopia would unconditionally accept the EEBE’s final and binding decision, a new sense of hope towards a peaceful co-existence through an economic and diplomatic cooperation between the two peoples has prevailed. Dr Abbiy should also be commended and supported for his indefatigable effort to bring about political stability, social harmony and economic prosperity to the Ethiopian people. However, for the two peoples to reap the benefits of the unprecedented situation and ensure its sustainability, prevarications, duplicity and futile attempts by a small clique of detractors to underhandedly undermine the peace process are ill-advised.
Action Group for Eritrea –AGE-(2010). Mutilating Eritrea along its lines of cleavage: An Unfinished Business
Almedom, A. (2006) Re-reading the Short and Long – Rigged History of Eritrea 1941-1952: Back to the Future ? Nordic Journal of African Studies 15(2): 103-142
Bruner, C.S. (2017). Late Nineteenth- Century Italy in Africa: The Livraghi Affair and the Waning of Civilizing Aspiration. Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Chua, A. (2018). Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations. Bloomsbury,
Garcetti, E. (1999). Civic and Ethnic Allegiances: Competing Visions of Nationalist Discourse in the Horn of Africa. Paper presented at the International Studies Association
Hoyle, P (1996). The Eritrean National Identity: A Case Study. The author is an International boundary lawyer
With Le Boeuf, Lamb, Greene and MacRae in Washington D.C. She served as an Adjunct Professor in Geography and Law at the University of Asmara during 1996.
Pateman, R (1998). Eritrea: Even The Stones Are Burning. The Red Sea Press, Inc