Paradox of History: When Chauvinists Shift
Positions and Forge Unholy Alliances
October 31, 2015
I always have said to my friends and
colleagues in the academia that history, at intervals, comes up with
surprises and the latter are often revealed when relatively unpredictable
phenomenon appears on the horizon and when what is brewing in a given
political crisis is not clearly perceived. What we are witnessing at this
juncture of Ethiopian history is a more obscure political atmosphere in
which chauvinist actors seemingly have taken center stage in politics,
especially among the Ethiopian Diaspora.
The Ethiopian chauvinists are a rare
breed of opportunists, shamefaced, undignified, and without remorse, but
it looks they have now created a new political agenda under the guise of
Ethiopian-Eritrean relations. These actors, who were either Derg members,
that is, comrades-in-arms with the Henchman Mengistu HaileMariam who
presided over the Red Terror and consumed an entire generation of
Ethiopians; or ex-Mesione members who were advisors and mentors to the
Derg but who later became victims of the man-eating Megistu politics; or
former EPRP members, who were the number one enemy of the Derg and who
resolutely fought for a people’s democratic Ethiopia, but have now
created a rainbow coalition of unholy alliance with Eritrea. All the above
groupings, of course, don’t represent organizations, but they are
engaged in politics fraught with drawbacks and contradictions. Just few
years ago, they adamantly opposed the secession and/or independence of
Eritrea to the extent of rejecting the new Ethiopian map without Eritrea
and continued to uphold the old Ethiopian map that includes Eritrea in all
their illustrious flyers, memos, circulars, websites, street
demonstrations, and conferences. These flag-waving demagogues and
charlatans have now turned 360⁰ and began to recognize Eritrean
sovereignty, but they use to condemn some of us who supported Eritrean
independence and the self-determination of Ethiopian nationalities.
Surprisingly, these newly born politicians have now become advocates for
I very well understand that
principles and political expediency conflict and political actors could
careless of moral principles. Writing on ‘courage and resistance’,
Susan Sontag once wrote, “while everyone one professes to have them [the
perennial destiny of principles], they are likely to have sacrificed when
they become inconveniencing. Generally a moral principle is something that
puts at variance with accepted practice.”1
So, it looks that the Ethiopian
destabilizing marauding forces that have now forged unholy alliance with
Eritrea, have encountered tremendous impediment and inconvenience in their
attempt to attack or unseat the EPRDF Government, and resorted to
trampling over principles, and wittingly or unwittingly, they have chosen
to undermine the unity and territorial integrity of Ethiopia.
Some of these charlatans are
extremely naďve and they suffer from the paradox of mental vision. Their
presentations are full of incongruous and infantile texts, for I can see
their limited scope in understanding the complex Horn of Africa politics.
Some of them, who just yesteryear use to tell us that Isaias Afeworki was
the number one enemy of Ethiopia, are now telling us that he is the best
friend of Ethiopia. Some of them have gone further against all powers of
reason and history and explicitly stated that Ethiopia is dependent on
foreign (Western) powers while Eritrea remains independent, and for her
stance she is paying a price.
Do these people understand the
political history of our modern world? If they do, they must have some
sense of the essence of contemporary world history. They must grapple with
the hard fact that only China (and to some extent India and Brazil that
are staggering to become fully independent) has escaped Western dominance,
and the rest of the Third World countries, in one form or another, are
dependent on the still powerful European nations and the United States.
This unfortunate global political phenomenon continues in the form of
hegemony (as opposed to naked colonialism) and it does not uniquely affect
Ethiopia; it affects it in conjunction with all other countries that are
collectively known as developing countries, and most certainly Eritrea
could not escape this fate and encounter of history. In fact, just
recently Eritrea got financial aid from the European Union and the
latter’s gesture definitely has strings attached to it and that entails
Eritrea’s dependence on European powers.
As far as I am concerned, the
chauvinists’ admiration of the Eritrean leader is meant to demonstrate
their nascent friendship to him in return for a favor, but they will not
be successful. They don’t know Isaias, but he has studied them carefully
and craftily. He is that good! He may offer them some material and moral
support but he knows too well that they are not in a position to overthrow
the Ethiopian government by means of armed struggle, a guerrilla warfare
that he himself mastered in the past but knows that it is outmoded and
antiquated now. Thus, whatever admiration the chauvinists extend to the
Eritrean head of state, he will not be impressed.
In the ESAT sponsored conference of
“Ethiopia-Eritrea Relations”, in light of the presentations and
arguments the panelists forwarded to their audience, I have come to
conclude that the speakers have constructed their own political world
behind a wall of intellectual detachment.
To further elaborate the above
rationale, I like to involve Michael G. Schatzberg, who, in no uncertain
terms, tells us that sometimes we can confuse our mental perception with
reality and enter into the realm of delusion. This is how Schatzberg puts
it: “at the risk of vast oversimplification, people can and do construct
a phenomenon, believe in its existence and then act on their perceptions
and beliefs, then – at least for them – the phenomenon in question is
very much a reality.”2
When these so-called Ethiopian
opposition groupings realize that their perception is a mere mental
construct that does not correspond to reality, they will understand that
the paradox they have entered into is a self-negating condition; and they
will also recognize that they have reached a vanishing point; a dead end.
That will be the day!
I may have indigestible differences
with the panel of chauvinists, but I believe they are entitled to their
opinion and ideas, although I still maintain they are on the wrong track
of history. I also believe that they will not accomplish any meaningful
goal given their present political agenda, and as a result they could
neither redeem nor mend the damaged Ethiopian-Eritrean relations. Contrary
to their agenda that ring hollow, I strongly believe the Ethiopian and
Eritrean relations could be repaired if the following criteria are met:
between Ethiopia and Eritrea could be realized only via peaceful means and
not through armed struggle or violence.
dialogue should be conducted between the Ethiopian and Eritrean
governments by their own initiative or with the help of a third party,
preferably the United States or the US and China. The African Union (AU)
would have been an ideal mediator, but given the complex global scenario
and Africa’s disadvantaged position in the global arena, the AU would
continue to countenance a weak political role even in resolving African
problems. This is not to justify Africa’s own weaknesses but to
contextually highlight Africa’s paradoxical position in global affairs.
between Ethiopian and Eritrean authorities should take place before a
full-fledged Negotiation and dialogue involve the Eritrean and Ethiopian
governments; more specifically between the two delegations led by Prime
Minister HaileMariam of Ethiopia and President Isaias Afeworki of Eritrea.
If possible, talks
between the Ethiopian and Eritrean people should be conducted in order to
reinforce official negotiations. Involving the people could have two
advantages: a) the people will have a chance in determining their future
in due course of the official dialogue; b) the people-to-people talks
could create a fertile ground for a meaningful and constructive
The negotiation and
dialogue should take place in a neutral country and/or city for the
comfort and confidence of the two parties. By way of suggestion, the ideal
venue could be Nairobi, Khartoum, or Cairo; or any other venue (e.g.
Abidjan, Dakar, Pretoria etc.) of the two parties choosing.
The Ethiopian and
Eritrean negotiating diplomats should not create unnecessary preconditions
and lame excuses, if indeed they will commit themselves to a meaningful
and lasting peace for Ethiopia and Eritrea and for the Horn of Africa
region, a troubled region whose peoples desperately yearn for peace.
Ethiopian and Eritrean diplomats should use the dialogue and negotiation
roundtable as a golden opportunity to seize the moment and go beyond mere
peaceful talks and agree rather on joint development agendas, trade
exchanges, regional security etc.
Both Ethiopian and
Eritrean negotiating delegations should ignore and avoid the so-called
pandering opposition and initiate a genuine dialogue in an effort to once
and for all resolve the antagonistic & inimical relationship between
the two countries.
have discussed in my book, peaceful coexistence begins with the principle
of negotiation, and that, in turn, “entails group discussion and
collective plan based on mutual respect and benefit. …In the event of a
problem, a common discussion platform is employed to overcome any real or
perceived encounter. The principle of negotiation is followed by the
cooperation game and the ultimate objective is to benefit equally, win
concurrently even after some exchange of propaganda and/or satire.”3
It is in this
spirit that the Ethiopian and Eritrean peace dialogue and negotiation
should be initiated.
for Ethiopia and Eritrea dialogue and round table negotiations may imply
hope against hope for cynics, but we cannot dismiss it as an impossible
deadlock. Anything is possible, and if at all the negotiation is ushered
between the two countries, their respective negotiating diplomats are best
advised to explore “topics such as hard-bargaining vs. problem-solving
approaches, interests vs. positions, coercive leverage vs. normative
leverage, short-term agreements vs. long-term agreements,”4
as the US Peace
Institute aptly puts it.
I just want to express my concerns in regards to the overall unstable Horn
of Africa region and convey my modest message to the peoples in the
region. I have written several articles on conflict resolution in relation
to Ethiopia and Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Mali, and Zimbabwe,
and the leitmotif in all these articles was the significance of
alternative perspectives of the negotiating parties, but most importantly
I have underscored what the dynamics of negotiations should be, and that
they must also lead toward constructive outcomes via collaboration and
peace engaging political language.
Susan Sontag, “Courage
and Resistance”, The Nation,
May 5, 2003, p. 12
Michael G. Schatzberg, Political Legitimacy in Middle Africa, Indiana University Press,
2001, p. 3
Ghelawdewos Araia, Ethiopia: Democracy, Devolution of Power, and the Developmental State,
Institute of Development and Education for Africa (IDEA), 2013, p. 40
United States Institute
of Peace, “Negotiation: Shaping the Conflict Landscape,” online
Rights Reserved. Copyright © Institute of Development and Education for
Africa (IDEA) 2015. Dr. Ghelawdewos Araia can be contacted for educational
and constructive feedback via firstname.lastname@example.org
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions of the authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect ethioobserver position. ethioobserver does not exercise any editorial control over the information therein. ethioobserver cannot accept any responsibility or liability for any actions taken (or not taken) as a result of reading the material displayed.