The Insanity of Isaias Afwerki’s
A Mid-Summer 2018 Surprise
With a countenance ablaze with a smile Eritreans had never seen—for they knew him only with a sullen scowl—Isaias Afwerki told a cheering Ethiopian crowd that henceforth there would not be a separate Eritrea and Ethiopia. “We are one people,” he was telling them, and anyone who doubts this must have his head examined, he seemed to intimate. This was music to the crowd’s ears. Here was what they always thought to be the arch enemy of Ethiopia—the devil incarnate—proclaiming in no uncertain terms that he was one of them—a lost child come home from the cold!
The crowd was delirious with joy, and the other character of this new imperial enterprise was beside himself, laughing and looking up to his new-found big brother like a newly maturing junior brother.
The declaration of “Aykessernan” (We didn’t suffer loss) was made in Asmara as the Abiy/Isaias “bromance” was unfolding. The statement “we are one people” was said in Addis Ababa in July 2018.
Isaias did not stop with this astounding proclamation of a new imperial enterprise: he struck a nail on the coffin of the countervailing, anti-imperial liberation experience. The words he used were carefully chosen leaving no room for doubt that his new fealty to the imperial enterprise is unshakable. He said:
These words might not have meant much to the incredulous Ethiopian crowd, and especially to the new partner, who had after all been a loyal adjutant to Isaias’former foe, Melles (now duly departed),
playing a crucial role as a military spy even in the so called “Weyane War,” between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
I kept wondering how Abiy’s evangelical conscience “processed” the heartless Aykessernan declaration, given the fact that he knew a few thousand innocent Eritrean youth had been sacrificed as fodder in the so called “Badme War.” Perhaps he rationalized it as the war imperative, as did Isaias. But rationalizing is one thing; declaring that we did not lose is quite another.
I am devoting a few lines to this point because Abiy’s speech when he was newly elected Prime Minister and especially his release of all prisoners and declaration of peaceful resolution of the tension between Eritrea and Ethiopia was so affecting that he had fooled some of us into hoping that the proverbial millennium was around the corner. He also deceived the international community, which glamorized his image with crowning him with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 a decision now regretted by so many including some who lobbied for him to get that symbolic honor at the time.
But such is the manipulative power and insanity driven by imperial ambition that even formerly sane-looking persons can shroud themselves with total masquerade while shamelessly being sucked up into the vortex of imperial yearnings. The imperial bug seems to have stung Abiy, if he hadn’t been infected before. Perhaps the royal bug is a more apt metaphor in his case, since he has told us that his mother had told him he would be crowned the seventh king of Ethiopia, one day.
The Insanity of imperial yearnings of Isaias
To the reader who wonders how a once popular Liberation Fighter—a revolutionary—could entertain imperial yearnings, the answer can be found in a combination of medical and historico-cultural context. I have explored this subject in my bookk, Desecraters of the Sacred Trust (2020). As I have explained in the book I just cited, Isaias has had dreams of becoming the Lord and Master of realms beyond puny Eritrea. He even entertained prophetic qualities and some of his admirers (a few living, others departed) had believed he deserves realms far beyond Eritrea. Then why pretend to be a revolutionary and a liberation fighter of Eritrea, you might wonder. And it is a good question. The curious mind seeks to answer this puzzling question even by quoting Confucius. But the answer is simple. It is about ambition, and ambition, to quote Marc Anthony of Shakespear’s Julius Caesar, should be made of “Sterner Stuff,” the Stuff that is willing and eager to sacrifice thousand souls and declare Aykessernan (“We did not suffer loss”).
Isaias and the Liberation Fight
So Isaias is willing, though certainly not able yet to sacrifice Eritrea’s sovereignty on the Altar of his imperial project. It should be recalled that fifty years ago (On December 1, 1970), the Ethiopian army committed the most horrendous massacre in Eritrea. Some 1000 innocent civilians were burned alive in the villages of Beskidra and Ona. Today the same army is back in Eritrea, this time at the invitation of Isaias Afwerki, as part of the Isaias-Abiy joint strategy to attack Tigray. The reason given by Abiy for the attack of Tigray with heavy duty armament was the claim that the TPLF leaders had committed crimes for which they must be arrested and made to face justice.
Now while we are on the subject of the war in Tigray, we must in all fairness consider the question of who started the war and why. Abiy’s explanation is that the TPLF leaders defied the central (federal) government by deciding to organise an election in their region, following the decision of the federal government to postpone the election because of the Covd-19 pandemic. They went ahead with the election in defiance of the federal government’s decision to postpone the election. They held the election and thus presented a fait accompli, while the other regional governments agreed with the decision of postponement. It is important to note that the TPLF leaders cited their constitutional right to hold the election and that postponement of the election violated what is ordained in the constitution.
The two sides thus held opposed positions, which leads to the question whether, irrespective of who is constitutionally on the right side, there were genuine efforts to resolve these fundamentally opposed political differences and constitutional interpretations with sagacity and flexibility, and even , perhaps, by including help from the global community. This is a highly relevant question in view of the fact that war involves unnecessary loss of life and destruction of property. Did the federal government under Abiy devote sufficient time and energy in attempts to persuade the TPLF to negotiate a peaceful solution to avoid war. Abiy says this had been done, including the dispatch of mediators to travel to Mekele to try to convince the TPLF leadership that a peaceful solution is a better option and that the TPLF leadership were not willing to compromise.
The TPLF, on their part, contend that the Abiy government had decided to invade Tigray and attack, a strategy that they had been hatching for over a year in consultation with Isaias, who has his own reason for going to war with the TPLF.
Abiy characterized the war campaign involving 100,000 soldiers armed with tanks and heavy artillery as a law-and-order action, as a police operation designed to arrest criminals. The response of the TPLF is that it is war of genocide, aimed at obliterating them and also Tigray as a whole. Time will tell as to who is right; it remains to be seen as to what the ultimate outcome will be. Whatever the final outcome, it is already clear that the war in Tigray has already cost heavy casualties and devastation of property.
The War in Tigray and its consequences
The so called police operation ended in the capture of Mekele, Tigray’s capital. But the object of the operation, namely the arrest of the culprits, was not realized: they were not captured; they had left town tactically retreating to the mountains. It was later reported by international journalists that the TPLF leadership and their mass of followers had reverted to their old mode of guerilla warfare. So Mekele is under federal authority, having been captured by the Federal Ethiopian forces, minus the “criminal Junta,”that is the TPLF’s top leadership, as Abiy’s government had dubbed them. Clearly, the capture of Mekele neither ended, nor would end the war in Tigray, reportedly planned and executed under the joint Ethiopian forces and several Eritrean divisions ordered by Isaias to be part of the joint operation.
Given the fact that Isaias had suffered a humiliating defeat by the Weyane in 1998, it is reasonable to assume that Isaias has been plotting the war strategy with Abiy. It is even reasonable to suppose that Isaias is the principal schemer of this attack on Tigray. It stands to reason because Isaias has been entertaining an opportunity to take revenge, a payback for the humiliating defeat he had suffered by the late Melles in the so called Badme war of 1998-2000. His “invincible” EPLF army had suffered defeat to the surprise of all who had thought such fate unthinkable.
Other Consequences of the Tigray War
1. Abduction of Eritrean Refugees
In addition to the vengeance that Isaias secured from the Tigray war, it has also been reported that he used the opportunity of the involvement of Eritrean troops in the Tigray war to score another vindictive victory by abducting (reportedly) some 6,000 Eritreans from the refugee camps of Tigray and taking them back to Eritrea from where they had fled years earlier. Such act, if true, is a serious violation of international law and both Isaias as the perpetrator of the act, as well as Abiy as a presumptive enabler of the abduction, are answerable under international law. Some responsible people from the region and the international community have been calling for a thorough investigation of the abduction by a neutral body under the aegis of the United Nations and the African Union.
The most immediate action should be to send a Commission of Inquiry to Ethiopia and Eritrea with two aims, under the auspices of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees(UNHCR).
The first task is to ensure that no harm must befall the abducted refugees by Isaias and his odious security machine, which is notorious for acts prohibited by International law of Human Rights. Eritrea is a prison nation, with hundreds of thousands locked up in crowded containers and suffering the cold night and the sweltering heat of day, with most of the prisoners suffering from serious illnesses.
The second task of such a Commission of Inquiry is to probe deeply into the circumstances including collecting evidence involving Isaias and his government in the act of abduction, provided the story of such abduction is confirmed. Again, subject to the confirmation of the said abduction, the Commission should spend time both in Eritrea and Ethiopia with demands made that all persons suspected of being involved in the act of abduction should be investigated. And the report of such inquiry must be made available to the United Nations and the African Union, as well as to the internatipnal community at large, including journalists and researchers.
2. The Involvement of Ethiopian Troops in Eritrea
As noted above, fifty years to the day when the Ethiopian army committed horrendous crimes in the two villages mentioned above and elsewhere, Eritreans are now experiencing another invasion that had been ended by our liberation, a liberation accomplished by the sweat, tears and blood of countless patriots and especially by our martyrs. Some fear if this is not a beginning of Eritrea’s recolonization by Ethiopia, this time, ironically, facilitated by Isaais Afwerki.
A Puzzling Phenomenon and Our Response
How was this possible? It is rumored that Ethiopian soldiers have been roaming in our villages and towns, the very places that had been liberated from Ethiopian occupation almost thirty years ago. If the rumor that Ethiopian soldiers are roaming on the streets of towns and villages is true, it would be treachery of the first order that the same person that had led the liberation of Eritrea is now allowing or encouraging Ethiopian soldiers to invade our country. Such a deplorable act should not surprise us now that we know who Isaias is and who he has been from the beginning. This astounding development in which Isaias is a partner with Abiy in the war in Tigray is a logical development from his long-held grudge against the TPLF because of the humiliating defeat he had suffered at their hand.
But it is the more reason to be clear on some crucial points. Let it be clearly understood and let the world know:
First, Eritrea is not for sale, despite Isaias Afwerki’s imperial yearnings and machinations. Eritrea’s sovereignty, attained with the precious blood of martyrs will not be bartered away by a power-hungry adventurer and his Ethiopian partner in crime.
Second, the other Eritrean liberation fighters, including the Eritrean intellectuals involved in this book project, are determined to critically and systematically expose the lies and overt and covert schemes in which Isaias and Abiy are engaged, and will continue the struggle against their imperial machinations. The timely theme and title of the book project, “The Pillars of Eritrea’s Sovereign Nation-Statehood,” is one reflection of this ongoing effort.
Third, All Eritreans, especially the new generation of youth some of whom have been subjected to servitude and weaponized by Isaias to advance his secret deal, will resist to the last breath, as expressed in the old mantra of the Eritrean revolution—akhr nas akhr Telga!
Fourth, There is a new awakening in which the Eritrean masses both at home and in the Diaspora, are making new commitment to see to it that Isaias and his exterminator regime is removed and replaced by a democratically elected assembly.
“The Pillars of Eritrea’s Sovereign Statehood” Book Project
This book project reflects a new dedication to add an intellectual version of the ongoing fight for Eritrea’s liberation from the exterminator regime.
In what follows, the reader will find the nature and objective of the project and a list of its participants, which appears at the end of the book. A cursory look at the Introductory chapter will give a sense of the reason why the project was conceived. A summary of each chapter is also found at the end of the Introductory chapter.
The effort involved in this book project is a reflection of the depth of our patriotic fervor and our determination to preserve, protect and promote our country’s sovereignty, a sovereignty that was obtained with incalculable sacrifice. The imperial yearnings and machinations of Isaias, far from discouraging Eritrean patriots, adds grit to our determination. This land of heroes and martyrs is not, and shall never be, for sale. The sovereignty obtained with inestimable sacrifice must and will be defended by all patriotic Eritreans with all the resources at their disposal.
The Clear and Present danger (as one of our chapters has called it) posed by the unelected adventurer with his criminal intent of smothering our sovereignty, must be seen for what it is: High Treason for which the accused would face appropriate legal sanction prescribed by the law. It has now become clear that Eritreans must decide to realize this clear and present danger and do everything (and anything) to put an end to it once and for all. Failing to do that will mean losing our treasured sovereignty. We must gird our loins for the final fight, the fight of our lives. We must use every available means to put an end to Isaias Afwerki’s criminal intent.
The Crisis and Its Challenges
The Chinese define crisis as the coincidence of danger and opportunity. We are now at the crossroads facing the challenge of our life time. With the war in Tigray, we face a challenge presenting us an opportunity of Do or Die, an opportunity to put an end to the despotic regime of Isaias Afwerki. How we do it is not a contested issue. We cannot be distracted by any fancy moralizing about the end not justifying the means. The end of putting an end to the exterminator regime of Isaias prescribes the means. The end of saving a nation and its people, who fought for thirty years for their self-determination and achieved national independnece, justifies the means that helps in their survival. Imagine a creature that is cornered and threatened with death with his trembling body put against the wall. What does such an endangered creature do? The answer is simple—the endangered creature does not hesitate. His/her instinctive act is to charge at the source of the danger. Survival is the first law of nature, which we humans share with other fellow creatures. So, we are at a historical moment of DO OR DIE!
Clear and Present Danger—Whither Eritrea?
The writing of the participants of this project is the intellectual equivalent of guerrilla warfare, the warfare which after thirty years of effort of blood, sweat, and tears eventually secured our independent statehood. The various chapters contained in this volume explore the various pillars that support the idea of our sovereignty. It is a national imperative of which every Eritrean must be constantly reminded that there are essential pillars that support the sovereignty of their nation.
The words “Clear and Present Danger…”and “Whither Eritrea…”are titles of two chapters of this volume—words that sum up the challenges our nation-state faces and also raise critical questions that must find answers if we are to have a democratic and optimally developed Eritrea holding her proud place in the family of nations. It is the cautious but firm optimism about Eritrea’s possibilities with its hard working, resilient, fervently patriotic, and selfless people not only to survive the present danger, but will thrive and confirm the idealism and patriotism with which its freedom fighters paid huge sacrifice. The common faith uniting the participants of this book is testimony to the hope that sustained us in our long struggle for our independence and sovereignty.
Finally, in as much as we are jealous about of our own sovereignty, we must respect the sovereignty of other nation states, including our neighbors. We must, therefore, make it clear to all concerned that we do not believe in the involvement in the affairs of other nations, including the on-going war in Tigray. This, despite our sincerely felt sadness to see our neighborly Tigrayan brothers and sisters getting embroiled in a devastating war.
May this devastating war come to an end with a settlement satisfactory to all concerned.