“Abeba Gual Addis Abeba” Informal Conversation or a Spat amongst Ethiopian and Eritrean Artists?
“When there is a door it’s easier to knock and come in, but if you try to enter through the window even a small child in the house could defend his home.” General Sebhat Ephrem
Often we hear people saying music is a universal language, there is some truth to it. However sometimes it might come across as controversial and polarizing especially to our part of the world where a single country is a mosaic of tribes. In this crossing of culture words and messages can get mixed up in interpretations.
In the book “Ye Jemila Enat” written by the gifted writer Tesfaye Gebreab the chapter “Tikur Amlak” dispels a long campaign of disinformation and imbalance. The chapter aids us in understanding the belief of the Oromo people and their connection with land and Supreme Being who they refer as “Waqa Guracha” meaning “Black God”. The chapter goes on to explain on how the Oromo people see them selves as black, the relevance of black color within the Oromo culture and how the white color holds no value is explained beautifully. We actually encourage you to read it; the following is an excerpt from the chapter
“The famous star Teddy Afro calling Menilik “Black man” might not impress the Oromos. Had he sung “Menilik white man” the song would have got much acceptance. I am sure if Emperor Menilik woke up from the grave and heard he had been called a “Black Man” he would have considered it as an insult. This is because the Emperor considered southern and west African tribes, Shankilas, Gambellas, Konsos, etc as being black.”
So what has this got to do with Eritrea?
One surge coming from Ethiopian artists is the obsession of Eritrea; it might not be an exaggeration that Eritrea is acting as a garlic in the art and propaganda sphere. Just as most dishes have the base recipe garlic for great flavor, Eritrea has to go into every album, book, newspaper….etc to attract audience and infuse the content.
While the TPLF constantly churns out evil propaganda about Eritrea, at least the artists have taken the romantic path of cultural engagement to what is often described as soft power. The lyrics often are buttered up for the unsuspecting but the message is clear to those who listen with their ears rather than their hearts. In what seems to be a direct response and first of its kind an Eritrean artist has put forward hard-hitting lyrics with the single “Abeba Gual Addis Abeba”.
Comparing the use of lyrics, a conversation with a wise elderly person jumps to mind, we found ourselves discussing history, the system of governance and its impact on behaviors of society comparing on Ethiopia and Eritrea. The conversation started to get interesting, the wise elderly person started to list the different strata’s of society and the land tenure system within feudal Ethiopia.
- Balabat: Traditional leaders and indigenous people who own land.
- Gultegnya: Those assigned with ownership right from the monarch or province leaders who had the right to make land grants.
- Ristegnya: Those who are hereditary descendants of landowners who had the right to inherit land, which is unchallengeable and uninfringeable.
- Neftegnya: Armed settlers who occupy land, which doesn’t belong to them by force.
- Chisegnya: Those were majority of the peasant population who are considered tenants and lived their way by cultivating the land of those described above. The term comes form Amharic “Tis” which means smoke, signifying the tenant could be removed from the land as quick as a smoke.
The Chisegnya has to always show his respect for the landowner addressing him as “Getaye” which means “My Lord” and has to bow down to salute for he is under his mercy.
You might be thinking where are we going with this but there is a relevance to one part of the songs’ (Abeba Gual Addis Abeba) lyrics where it says;
“Gezay Gezakhi Meas Rehiqu
Maere Zetsilo Tsehay Beriqu
Ember Nehnas Kab Tinti
BeBeynina Iyu Ressti”
The above lyrics translates as
“My house and your house is not far, it even shares the same brightness at sunrise. Belief in aristocratic ruling class, backward thinking left you in a dark corner/cave, desire for others belonging, yet our land ownership has been distinct from long ago”
The elderly wise man continues, Eritrea had a republic style of governance. Supreme power was held by the people and elected representatives, which they nominated as their leader. Therefore a broad sense of equality existed amongst the population. The people had their own customary laws for people, land, environment, animals, etc.
The wise elderly man then goes on to elaborate with example, for instance on a wedding they sing “Meseel Messel Ne Abokha Meseel” which loosely translates as “Take after your father/Inherit your fathers values” when he is married its called “Mesilu” which means “He took after his father” automatically then by right he is allocated land for farming and land to build his home from the village. In the case of a woman, she is also entitled to land if she does not get married.
It is therefore clear to see why the Eritrean character has been irrepressible for law guarantees his right. It’s also clear to see how deep only one part of the lyrics delves in from a historical perspective. The other part of the lyric goes;
“Men Alo Ab Gorebetu Hawi Endanedede
Dekhinet Afaniyu Neqedmit Zekhede
Eiran Seleban Nenehiden Yeqareba
Emni Zeqebil Araqi Neyew Beliyo Abeba Gual Addis Abeba”
“Who is there that successfully saw poverty off while the neighbors house is on fire, (Eritrea and Ethiopia) are close to each other, leave the middle man out who passes the stone.”
Eritrea’s strategic location has always been a source of interest for super powers and the grand dream of Roosevelt for the region dictated Eritrea and parts of Somalia to be under the domination of Ethiopia. On 13th of February 1945 Roosevelt met with Haileselassie aboard the U.S navy ship USS Quincy (CA-71) on the Suez Canal; the Ethiopian emperor was briefed about the grand idea where the U.S intention of opening a base in Eritrea was communicated. Ethiopia was to prepare for managing Eritrea on behalf of the U.S. the stage would be set for colonisation by proxy.
A few years later John Foster Dulles who served as U.S. Secretary of State under Eisenhower had this to say in 1952
“…From the point of view of justice, the opinions of the Eritrean people must receive consideration. Nevertheless, the strategic interests of the United States in the Red Sea Basin and considerations of security and world peace make it necessary that the country (Eritrea) has to be linked with our ally, Ethiopia”, John Foster Dulles in 1952
Ethiopia’s modern military from air force to navy, airlines and other institutions were built on the expense of Eritrea. Its economy flourished for Ethiopia was used as a tool; OAU was placed in Addis conveniently, the country rose to prominence and glory in Africa on the basis of its subservience.
The relationship successive Ethiopian governments enjoy with the superpowers is that of the glove and fist. Perhaps professor Mesfin Weldemariam (despite not accepting Eritrean independence found courage to speak the truth) an Ethiopian academician and human rights activist said it best at a conference on the future of Ethiopia and Eritrea relations held in the US in 2015.
“I am not blaming those foreign powers who are imposing their interests on Ethiopia and Eritrea, but I must also say Eritrea and Ethiopia are different countries. Eritrea’s case is quiet different, I do not believe it has allowed the imposition of the will of other super powers on it and for that it is paying a price, a very serious price. But in the case of Ethiopia we are still dominated but that domination and the blame for that domination Ethiopians must accept that. It is our responsibility, it is because we are weak, it is because we do not understand our history, it is because we fail to come together and stand up for our pride for
our sense of honor that our ancestors passed on to us. We are weak in every sense of the
word, so it is that weakness that the foreign powers are exploiting, they give us money, but they rob us of our sense of honor and dignity. So the role that Ethiopia plays in the scheme of things that it has never design nor created is submission. Submission to the US under Hailesellasie, submission to the Soviet Union under the DERG, submission to US under the Woyane. To a certain extent only resistance is demonstrated only in the case of Eritrea.”
After all we guess it’s not that hard at all to understand who the middle man is in the song “Abeba Gual Addis Abeba”. It is also worth noting Eritrea’s strategic geographical location, in a recent oration by Elias Amare (an Eritrean Writer, Journalist, Researcher, and Peace Activist) presented the topic “Geopolitical earthquake in our region relative to Eritrea’s national interests” focusing on how we are witnessing a regional earthquake in our region.
- Horn of Africa
- The Nile river basin
- The Red sea region: Eritrea not only is in the Red Sea region but also is located in a highly strategic on the choke point of Bab El Mandeb.
In this geography Eritrea is located in highly strategic location in the world and Eritrea plays a pro-active role in 3 of the regions than any country in the area. For instance if we look at South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia they are in the Horn of Africa region but not on the Red sea. Out of 9 countries in our region Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Eritrea is the only country that sits in these three regions. Taking the conflicts in the region Eritrea has made important strategic relation with countries in the region such as Egypt and the GCC countries.
It is to be recalled that President Isaias Afwerki conducted a two-hour live interview with local media on 20th of May 2017 on the occasion of the 26th Anniversary of Independence Day. Excerpts of the interview relating to this article are as follows.
“We should be more concerned about enhancing the stability of the Red Sea region as we believe working together to deal with common interests are useful for bringing stability. We should also be more concerned, to the extent that our limited capabilities allow, about the situations in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia given the cumulative experiences of the last 25 years. We also work closely with the Gulf States for the same reasons. Unfortunately, this has been worrisome to those who harbor ill will against Eritrea. This must be seen against the backdrop of the failure of all the unwarranted measures stacked against Eritrea: the imposed sanctions; border disputes; demonization; and, diplomatic campaigns to isolate Eritrea.
Regardless of the speculations and unjustified perceptions, we will continue to work closely with all the relevant actors in our region for the purpose of pooling and synthesizing our resources for advancing the common good. There is no other alternative to this route. The ties that Eritrea is cultivating have good prospects in the near future. As I emphasized before, our history and political tradition attests that we do not join or flirt with military blocs and alliances, which are mostly characterized by short-lived benefits and interests. We believe in constructive and interdependent engagement. Our relationship with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates as well as the peoples of Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia and other peoples in the region are not short-lived; rather they are based on long term and mutual benefits. Concerning the multi-layered cooperation with Egypt, which may currently be at its formative stage, we are determined to scale it up and accelerate its pace in the period ahead. From this perspective, it must also be noted that if we wish to expand our military and security cooperation, it will not be deferred or postponed under any circumstances.”
The song “Abeba Gual Addis Abeba” takes into account all of the various dimensions and calls for collective security by working together without external interference to bring peace and prosperity in the region.
Conversely we see Ethiopian artists repeating the old broken record, which has thrown the region into chaos for decades. For instance Teddy Afro has found himself in hot waters again and has been causing a huge uproar by Eritreans on social media after the release of his new album “Ethiopia”. On previous work with regards to Eritrea he started off with Dahlak, Fyorina Gual Asmara (with added flavor of “Kemdilayey” as I wish) and now he has added even more fuel to the fire.
The latest controversy of Teddy Afro starts with the poster of his album “Ethiopia” that gives the impression of the map with Eritrea included. On one of the songs despite for his well known of preaching for “love” has instead chose to use inflammatory language to bring back the Camel by going to the Red sea.
“Gondar & Gojam, Wello & Tigray
Oromo & Tegulet together a one,
Gurage & Harrar, Dorze Welayta,
Benshangul Somalia, Afar Asayita,
let me fetch water for my camel traveling like the Afar,
fetch water for my camel traveling to the Red Sea,
Can’t find a rope at sight to capture & pull her back with”
Eritrea’s national emblem is the camel and, he has yet again opposed Eritrean independence in the most disrespectful manner just as those who entertain the Abyssinian dream. It simply makes you wonder who is behind Teddy Afro or even who is using him to achieve their own agenda? Who are those who have political and cultural interests? Why so much obsession with Eritrea? Why this trend of desperation from Ethiopian artists? Why the desperate need to instil Abyssinian mentality to the young generation?
The injustices committed by successive Ethiopian regimes against the Eritrean people are grave; Eritreans paid and are paying a very serious price with their life and with the lives of loved ones for ensuring independence and sovereignty of their country. The Eritrean people are forgiving in nature, however this forgiving nature has been misread and has motivated many artists such as Teddy Afro to play with fire conducting a very dangerous cultural invasion. Eritreans even deserve reparations and the people of Ethiopia and artists in particular carry the responsibility on the need to explore avenues of peace and understand history then relay it to their audience. The definition of a true artist is to first become a deep analyst, especially if you are a controversial singer like Teddy Afro. Basing a message on historical fairy tale can only be attributed to two things, either its historical amnesia or deliberate provocation.
Teddy Afro manifests his message in the name of “love and unity” while wearing a double mask, if his message were to be turned in to reality what would it entail? Lets imagine and swap Teddy’s role from an artist to a Prime Minister of Ethiopia. With the message he advocated as an artist what course of action would he take against Eritrea? The idea he represents poses a great danger despite the disguise; his message will only lead us towards further dispute, and will act again as a stepping-stone for the Ethiopian strategy of force against Eritrea.
The strategy of force against Eritrea for nearly seven decades has given Ethiopia less peace and security. This is talking even if there is an Ethiopia, which Teddy Afro agrees to most analysts scenario forecast. On his latest interview he touched upon “Ethiopian identity being in grave danger”. Well he is not mistaken; perhaps the reasoning behind his choice of poster, a map of Ethiopia portrayed by traditional coffee maker made out of clay is then a justification of a fragile state. What we don’t understand is the inclusion of Eritrea within the map?
Teddy is undoubtedly a popular singer who has much potential, but seems to have over read his potential revealing his lack of empathy. With the popularity and public acceptance he hasn’t used it for the betterment of spreading a message, which serves towards positive contributions.
He has lost the opportunity to engage Eritreans; his bogus “love and peace” only serves seven decades old ambition of Red Sea. Had he been genuine he would have left a great legacy not only in Ethiopia but in Eritrea too.
It is thus obvious to see he echo’s the Abyssinian aristocrats who have the desire of grabbing what is rightfully others property. In addition he carries the wrong behavior detested in Eritrea, which is the pretentious love of “Wededkush, Abedkulish, Motkulish”. The more Teddy and his likes try to preach pretentious love and unity with the framework of Abyssinia the more chaos can ensue.
The song “Abeba Gual Addis Abeba” goes to a rap mode and below is the lyrics and its translations
Be Senki Tikabo (Because of Aid)
Serah Albo (Widespread Unemployment)
Tesainu Habo (Vanished Pride)
Tsehay Araribo (Desolate Situation)
Mesenakhil Gobo (Winding Mountain of Obstacle)
Lebeda Gubo (Epidemic of Corruption)
Zenakhi Atsebo (Glory of Famine)
Meftehi Kirekebo (To Find a Solution)
Benebsekha Mikhal Kulu Yekeal (All is Possible from Self-Reliance)
Wahis Tselal (Guaranteed Shelter)
Enteleki Qelay Entay Atemeteki Nabay (Be Content with What’s Rightfully Yours)
Hadarki Arnebi Keyteteasi Dahray (Look after your home before its too late)
Mellis Ilki Ba Zekeri Leili Seb Feqri Ne Bahri (Look at the Previous Chapter, Greater Love for Sea than Humans)
Mesluy Feqri Hemaq Bahri (Pretentions Love Weak Behavior)
Newri Iyu Newri (It’s a Shame)
Melekit Wetri (Symptoms of Frustration)
Yefelto Iye Hemamki (I Know your Ill Will)
Tenasehi Gedefi (Be Prepared for Confession)
Ne Lebi Gedaf Zeyedleyo Zeraf (No Need to Growl for a Forgiving Heart)
Kefatki Yeguahaf Ne Hadish Meraf (Throw Your Evils for a New Chapter)
Shet Geet Tseruy Lebona Meftehi Kelena (Firm Clean Hearted Wisdomatic Solution)
Serah Laqeba Neyew Beliyo Ba (Leave the Craftiness Aside)
The last part of the lyrics asks rhetorically, “Ne Whab Tseba do Yekhelae Mai Tseba?” which translates as “How Can You Deny Milk and Water to a Milk Provider?”
In a national unity conference conducted by Ethiopians in Seattle, Washington from 27th to 28th of May 2017 where intellectuals such as Professor Mesfin, and others such as Lencho Bati have been asking “why Ethiopia is not moving forward or declining, and how Asian countries have transformed in 30 years time”.
In our opinion they fail to address the strategy of force against Eritrea for nearly seven decades, which has given Ethiopia less peace, security, and depredation. We would like to leave you with the extensive interview below; Zerai Haile with General Sebhat Ephrem conducted the interview in Tigrignya on 12/02/2002 but is still very relevant to this topic. For the purposes of this article we have gone through the process of translating it in an effort to foster an understanding and revolutionize the mindset of those Ethiopians who believe in the strategy of force. We have focused on two of the questions posed by the interviewer, which is relevant to this topic.
Disclaimer: some points in translation might not give the intended meaning/message, but we have tried to translate it to the best of our abilities.
Why do Ethiopians always prefer to go to war and what benefit do they get out of it?
This question directly brings us to the aim of war, so what is war? As you said why do they push for war agenda? War is easy as a social and political problem if you are to get a definition for it. It doesn’t need much theory, a country goes into war to bring enhanced peace, if the peace you have is good then going to war might bring you more loss than benefit, and this is the real meaning of war.
When countries are at war process they have to look at and question the aim of enhanced peace, this helps to control their appetite of war. If you are not able to see this then you are only looking at big victory, and an untouchable mirage, and going after this mirage might bring you loss but not victory, its fall back will be not enhanced peace but deteriorating peace leading to weakness and deterioration of power as a country. The worst that can happen is the country being weakened by war. If you are conducting it with a view of enhanced peace, in parallel the war cannot take long as you are preserving your power, if you cant see this and wage continuous war the country is finally weakened. When the country is weakened and brings peace it can’t be able to make use of the peace. A government weakened in war cannot use the peace that comes as it is already weakened, and cannot bring a united powerful country but a fragmented one.
If we look at history there aren’t much countries, which have been totally defeated by foreign countries, they have depleted their power in war and when peace comes the smallest obstacle leads to their down fall. Non-fruitful and aimless war always has consequences of leading to weakness as I have elaborated earlier. If you look at Napoleons war its continuous war for lasting peace, and he brought peace by continuous war in Europe, if it said that it was during the time of Napoleon which brought about law it was with the aim of continuous war to bring peace and this can be summed as a definition of the war. In the end Napoleons war made France a weaker country with not much attained. If you look at regimes in Ethiopia this model of thinking has been there for a long time, by continuous war Ethiopia can achieve peace is the thinking. When you see intellectuals and high-ranking officials repeating this, it is always the thinking of Napoleons time trying to bring peace by continuous means of war. In the end if you look at it Napoleon didn’t bring peace but for a short time he might have built a big empire in Europe, but in the end it transformed Europe but has left France weakened. The revolution had managed to abolish the monarch but after 17 years of war and destruction France returned to monarchy with a weak king. This is the aim of war which people need to understand.
As you have described it you have elaborated lasting peace cannot be achieved by continuous war, so how and why are Ethiopians trying to achieve this argument?
This will lead us to the topic of strategy of peace for countries or national security strategy for countries. If we look at this from ours and Ethiopians experience it is possible to talk about two big strategies of security. The first is collective security, which offers the best outcome looking at it from economic point of view and has more value for money and is based on openness and trust. This pushes you towards all efforts conducted leads to a collective benefit, and is inexpensive if you look at it as a choice. This with all its problems and weaknesses Eritrea and Ethiopia not only from 1991 but had started it before then, but as governments from 1991 to the end 1997 have worked on it with all its weaknesses. We all understand that without a doubt it had a good outcome, to work efficiently it needed time. If you look at the past eight nine years experience it was successful process by itself. If this had not faced any obstacles it would have been a source of pride in Africa, it would have opened a new chapter in Africa.
External observers who had evaluated the situation reached a conclusion that this would become successful relationship, this had not moved forward. As all of us know in 1998 Woyane declared war approved by the parliament, as mentioned earlier you wage war to bring enhanced peace, how are we going to replace the peace we had? What is it replacement? Even though there were different level of studies in the end it was greed, which pushed for war, and the evaluation was not available. If you look at it in this war Woyane lost more than 158,000 soldiers this is what we know, they might say its 130,000, close to 300 – 400 thousand have died and 8 million has been affected due to drought according to what we heard in the media, the worst is 1.8 – 2 billion dollar has been lost due to this war. Minister Seyoum might know the details better than me what the people of Ethiopia paid for this war, on top what I mentioned, has Ethiopia got better peace or gone worse after paying all this price? Perhaps minister Seyoum knows it better, what price has been paid and what has Ethiopia gained minister Seyoum might know it well. After knowing all of this the better path is how to get out of this devastating war situation?
How to bring about lost opportunities after paying big price, then start over after evaluating, this is what you expect from high academics and high officials, because this is the civilized, and better thinking, and it would benefit us all. However what we are hearing from Seyoum and others is what we have heard for 30 years during the reign of Mengistu, the Red sea is our lifeline (throat). We have heard this for more than 30 years, and if it’s about war it has been our job for more than 30 years, and it holds nothing new, it’s what was there and what we know in the past, just like the saying “a deaf person has only one song”. So as you have been saying this thinking or may be more of this commentary is coming because the court is about to give its verdict.
If we look at Ethiopia in the past 50 years without the means of change it has been degrading it from day to day weakening it further is the strategy of war or as you said by continuous war to bring peace. Ethiopia has tried to bring development by continuous war, if the revolution of Eritrea has been there for more than 30 years, and if we are now in 2002, Ethiopia might have got in the middle 7 – 8 years of breather from war with Eritrea, but it is not possible to say on one side that the war inside the country has got a breather despite it being small wars, however its always continuous war for more than 50 years. We all know how a strategy like this has weakened and degraded the country; Ethiopians know this better more than us. The better option as we have been discussing earlier was collective strategy which the Peoples Front (EPLF) drafted was one that worked and was tried practically. Throwing that away and going back to a 30, 40-year-old strategy and the impact it had in weakening Ethiopia is a historical record, and it’s possible to look at big dimensions.
In these 50 years the first that comes is federation period, federation as we all know it the people of Eritrea was not satisfied with it, because it was the decision of the UN it had accepted it otherwise for the people of Eritrea the federation was below the will of the Eritrean people. If you look at it in the history of relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea for Ethiopia there was nothing better than federation. When Haileselassie’s forces controlled the necessary areas in Eritrea, and when he believed he was powerful enough he abolished the federation. The regime didn’t stop there by abolishing the federation, as he felt more powerful than ever. By various means and policies, the human capacity, the financial wealth, the factory of the country one by one was transferred to mainland Ethiopia. Education went to all time low, the health care system was in ruins, and this all culminated to the sad story of federation. What did Haileselassie’s strategy of force bring for Ethiopia?
First this force abolished the federation, and it’s Ethiopias force, which abolished the federation, second it gave birth to the force of Eritreans. At the end the force of Eritreans, in addition to the drought, which occurred in Ethiopia led to the downfall of Hailesellasie’s regime. The power of Haileselasie was the defeat of Haileselassie, the DERG regime followed and at first when it came to power it strictly condemned Haileselassie’s strategy of force. There was a heavy and intensive propaganda campaign, which went on to say Eritrea shouldn’t have been burned to the ground, Eritrea shouldn’t have been made an orphan, and Eritrea shouldn’t have entered into war. All of this was until the regime became stable, in line with this there were big political efforts to the tune of returning federation, autonomy, self governance (Ras Geez) as a solution with many slogans, and there were many groups of peace to turn the slogans into practice, with heavy propaganda by saying these groups were going out to the fields meeting with opposition forces.
All this was done until the DERG regime acquired power, DERG with time and assistance it got, after it built the powerful army in black Africa the powerful infantry, navy, air force, commando, mountain army (terara), ranger, special forces and various others the agenda for peace was changed. It went into the usual agenda of war or strategy of force, the power which DERG acquired was new to black Africa after the entrance of Rommel to Africa it was second time the biggest power which entered in Africa with the addition of Cuban, Russian, and other powers. With the growth of this power all the talk of self governance (Ras Geez), autonomy and others was forgotten, one of the most powerful wars in 2nd world like was conducted for more than 17 years with much artillery, jets, and new modern gunship helicopters. Eritreans on their part used various ingenious means to primarily stop this big power, and by slowly chipping it DERG was finally defeated. War without aim at the end is weakening yourself, and this weakening for the DERG as we all know it lead to it being defeated without a trace and the independence of Eritrea came about.
If you look at Woyane it follows the same pattern, until you acquire enough power you bring pleasing politics, pleasant thinking that would make us progress, and you add propaganda to it, but this is only till you acquire power. When you have power like Woyane and come to the understanding of “we have control of Ethiopia, 40 – 45,000 powerful modern military, we have reverberated air force, we have enough money, we have international support, and the international community will assist us” then its confidence grew in parallel into thinking the “Oromos, and Amharas are with us, we are not alone, and Eritreans might not have this assessment”. When you add all of this it’s about infringing the sovereignty of Eritrea and starting a war, Woyane drew a new map and brought its modern military to the border and by force infringing Eritrean sovereignty to bring new political reality. You always need power to infringe sovereignty and bring new political reality and Woyane has learnt this well from the past history of Ethiopia. In the end a starting point to start the political reality kicked off in Bada, then Adi Murug, then Badme and in 1999 all of this was forgotten with the power and assistance of the world a lot of propaganda was carried out which relayed the message that Ethiopia has reawakened, the sleeping giant is awakened.
In line with this the aim was changed as well, to enter Asmara, not only to infringe the sovereignty but to destroy it too, as we all know it in 1999 there was a war and countless people died, 2000 the war continued and it was the same, in the end the dream of entering Asmara quickly faded away. In the end “we can enter Assab with this force, lets go” and in Assab the outcome was the worst defeat. After 3 years of war, a drought, which has affected 8 million people, $2 billon worth of money spent, 158,000 people died without a fruitful outcome and the war came to an end.
Woyane cannot do nothing more than that, in Ethiopia a new reality dawned and this means the revolution of Tigray which started in 1974 -75 from Dedebit has finished its journey and in the end just like a rubber band it stretches and when you leave it, it comes back together. The question is not that it comes back together but the damage it brings with it, and the revolution of Tigray just like a rubber band has stretched and come together. This didn’t start with them, as I mentioned before just like Napoleon you stretch and start off with the king, you overthrow the king and in the end you return to the king. This is the norm in process of revolutions and it hasn’t started with Woyane, all you have to do is withstand it and wait for it until the start of the return journey, this is the process of history.
Cromwell’s revolution started like that, it stretched and came back to its place, and the Tigray revolution has returned to Tigray and people are waiting to see the damage and there is no doubt without a question it has finished and gone back to its place. We are in a stage where Ethiopia is on a new path going to a complete change, what is the new? How is it going to come about? What is the replacement for the revolution of Tigray in Ethiopia? All of us will witness it together, in history its not what you see that brings change, it’s the unpredictable that changes history. If it was the predictable everything would have been easy, everyone would have understood history and awaited the relevant outcome. We will all see it patiently what history is going to bring about in Ethiopia.
Meles has touched upon it in the so called new democracy on how Ethiopia is going to go in a new path, I cant speak in length now if that going to work or is something new going to come. After a revolution there is a brief honeymoon period, people will listen to you, in my view Woyane didn’t make good use of this honeymoon period after conducting this social revolution. To make the country united, to bring the economic development to the desired level, to shoulder the responsibility of liberating tribes and bring tribal equality, to fight against tribal inequality and over persuasiveness, all the struggle was forgotten and in the end its impossible to control and understand the direction of the revolution. What is the social aim and political aim of the revolution? In the end to me I have a problem understanding it, if you look at the revolution it is for tribes, and in the end there is no tribal equality, it’s to bring a strong Ethiopia, in the end there is no strong Ethiopia, it’s to have a strong military, in the end there is no strong military, so in conclusion in this current time Ethiopia is going to a new direction whether we accept it or not that’s the truth, reason being as mentioned earlier the revolution of Tigray has gone back to its place.
As mentioned in the view of the past 50 years we didn’t abolish the federation, and now talk about the Red sea, and giving Assab to Ethiopia or not holds no value. Federation had placed the whole of Eritrea with Ethiopia, we didn’t abolish the federation, Ethiopia had abolished it, after that the Mengistu regime had many chances of rectifying the mistake, but hadn’t used it and to contrary used it to destroy the country. Whatever skills (builder, mechanic, etc) which existed there including factories all of it was moved, if you look at Asmara now all of them are being trained recently, all of the skills we moved to Addis Ababa. As long as they thought they had the power, they cut the country to highland and lowland just like a butcher in the meat shop or cut it to pieces like a wedding cake, but the power doesn’t have a continuous lifetime. It changes and in the end what did the DERG get? It’s embarrassing, what did the strategy of force give the DERG? The best army in black Africa, the best air force, and the best navy until now is not known where it is, and no one can’t even talk about its traces, the core army currently in Ethiopia is from the Woyane. Just as we talk about it all ways it has vanished, an army with much grace built for 50 years from the days of Haileselassie. When you talk about Ethiopia from 1919 it had 2 aircrafts and in 1935 they had 1 squadron, when the Swedes came to train them in the 1940s the Ethiopian air force had its own fighter and training squadron. Various units of the military (Kibur zebegnya, etc) and others in that era including the Holeta military academy had been established, all this investment in the country which went on for numerous years was gone with the DERG just like the saying “gone with the winds” all of it vanished at the same time, you can say the force of strategy exposes you to this sort of fate. There is no opportunity but to face force by force, in this collision of force by force only the one that believes in the force of strategy, and the one which doesn’t understand the aim of war is to bring enhanced peace, will deplete its force to the end reaching to the level of the DERG.
The weakness we are witnessing of Woyane is the same, there is no army which was totally defeated by war, but weakened in continuous war and in the end will fall by the smallest obstacle. Otherwise there is no country totally defeated by war till total demise, its only small instances just like the second world war, armies from left to right, east to west, the whole world from Russia with America can defeat it. This is possible but in other cases its weakened by continuous war and defeated in the end by a small obstacle just like the saying “a weak Ox falls with the smallest obstacle (stone)” you bring the Ox to plough the land and uproot the obstacle (stone), but a weak Ox falls with the smallest obstacle (stone) and in the end a country can fall in these sort of circumstances with the smallest obstacle leading to its downfall, this is the case of Ethiopia. The question which needs to be raised or the people of Ethiopia needs to raise is, what did the force of strategy in the last 50 years achieve? And what did Woyane achieve?
All of the opportunity has been lost; Ethiopia’s fate in 1991 with the downfall of the DERG saw a country with no army. It was the good intention of the EPLF (Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front), good intention of Tigray, good intention of other organisations, good intention of individuals, good intentions of OLF (Oromo Liberation Front) we all set off to build a nation and played our part accordingly to our ability and in the end Ethiopia was able to stand. How did Ethiopia manage to stand up with no army? This was an account of Eritrea’s good intentions, a good way that showed a responsible path Eritrea followed, people might have not payed attention to it at the time but we worked to the best of our ability to stabilise the situation, otherwise the situation the country faced was grave. As I mentioned to you earlier, how can an army of 350,000 vanish with the wind? This is what happens in history, what I wanted to say in the end is which path should a country take in order to increase its peace and security? In Ethiopia there was only one option and that is the strategy of force.
What did this give Ethiopia? 30,000 soldiers of Haileselassie gave the country the highest security and development, DERGs army 350,000 soldiers gave Ethiopia the lowest peace in continuous war and in the end Ethiopia lost that army, Woyane came, and by 1997 it had 40,000 soldiers, by this 40,000 soldiers it gave Ethiopia the security and development with no parallel. If Woyane has now 250,000 soldiers in its army, and with this 250,000 soldiers Ethiopia’s security is sixty percent hollow. When it had 40,000 soldiers and it had full security for Ethiopia, but now with this 250,000 it has less than sixty percent or less lower security. What should they do to avoid a situation worse than this? This is a different question left for the country to answer. For us who are observers from far the strategy of force has this sort of outcome, so what is the lesson in the end?
It’s what I mentioned earlier, for Ethiopia to enhance its security the increase of soldiers in its army, the purchase of aircrafts Sukhoi or non-Sukhoi, the increase of tanks and all of the investment all of the time in parallel in direct proportion destroys its security; this is what Ethiopia needs to know. Whatever investment Ethiopia does to build a big and powerful army in parallel it is destroying its security, so the strategy of force works against Ethiopia. The more it tries to acquire more power, the weaker the country becomes, if Ethiopians fail to realize this, in the end a country simply doesn’t survive, if you are to make a country survive a lot of effort is needed and one of the challenges Ethiopia faces is this.
If you understand this well enough and war comes tomorrow what is going to happen? I don’t have the belief that the pattern of history changes, this is the history that has been going on for 50 years. If we ask what did it give us (Eritrea) to those who don’t like force, who don’t like war, who seek for more peace and what did it give for those (Ethiopia) who seek for enhanced peace through the means of war? If the history of the past 50 years is to go, what is left of it is a small part and will not be for the benefit of Ethiopia, for us I understand it that we are in the end of the journey. We don’t want the worse to come, in the past Eritrea brought the options but for the question you asked how the strategy of force benefits them (Ethiopia) I would describe it in this manner.
Zerai Haile with General Sebhat Ephrem conducted the interview in Tigrignya on 12/02/2002.