“As Dr Abiy continues his path of close relations with Eritrea expect to see a growing wave of criticism, maybe even demonization, once his “honeymoon” period with the western media goesstale.”
The uniquely African Empire of Ethiopia has seen itself launched intoa peaceful revolution that promises to transform one of the planet’spoorest countries into a modern peoples democracy.
Being that I have spent my entire life living by the principle of “political power grows from the barrel of a gun,” or as Marx said,“Force is the midwife of change,” to see a peaceful revolution nextdoor in Ethiopia is almost too much to grasp hold of. I first thoughtthis was a “soft coup” by the Americans, but this is much more thanthat. American acquiescence was necessary, but the new government leadby Dr. Abiy Ahmed has started what can only be called a revolution.
Prime Minister Abiy, elected such by a parliament 100% appointed bythe former regime, is young, charismatic and has put forward a programof change that is remarkably similar to what Eritrea’s PresidentIssias Aferworki has been saying for the past 25 years and more.Calling on all Ethiopians, the good doctor, past soldier, intelligenceofficer and for the past 8 years a politician, is urging his countrymen and women to learn from socialist Eritrea next door.
“To see a peaceful revolution nextdoor in Ethiopia is almost too much to grasp hold of.”
He has suggested the Ethiopian diaspora emulate the Eritreans andstart donating $1 a day to their homeland. National service andnational education training centers such as Eritrea’s Sawa are beingdiscussed. And of course, if Ethiopia is really to begin to break withits history of debt bondage and beggary, the Ethiopian diaspora, likethe Eritreans, will have to start paying an income tax on theirforeign earnings of 2%. Eritrea, 4 million population, gathers $300million a year or more from its diaspora so Ethiopia should be able tomake a serious dent in its budget deficit by introducing the 2% incometax.
P.M. Abiy’s task is a giant one, for Ethiopia is a big country withmany different ethnic groups and, like Eritrea next door, roughly halfMuslim and half Christian. A divide and rule policy of instigatingethnic based conflict by the previous regime has left the countryburnt and bleeding, with almost a million people internally displaced.On top of this, almost perennial droughts and famines have wracked theland, brought on by western industrialization-induced climate change.
“Prime Minister Abiy is urging his countrymen and women to learn from socialist Eritrea next door.”
Ethiopia should be a thriving country with a well off citizenry for ithas rich lands, lots of water, minerals and even energy. The problemhas been its leaders this past century starting with Haile Sellasie,“Emperor.” His claim to power was based on his grandfather’s use ofItalian-supplied firearms to conquer and loot their neighbors, mostlythe Oromo, from whom the new PM derives. Once in power, havingcompletely subjugated the Oromo, amongst others, Haile Sellasie turnedhis eyes toward the coast and the dream of having his own port on theRed Sea. This meant annexing the Italian colony of Eritrea with itsmuch more advanced economy and of course, the ports of Assab in thesouth and Massawa in the north.
The violent subjugation of Eritrea is central to the modern history ofEthiopia and today’s Ethiopians see the recent development of peacefulrelations as god’s blessing.The Eritreans fought a 30 year independence war which helped triggerthe overthrow of Haile Sellasie, and eventually would see the Eritreanrebel army defeat Haile Sellasie’s replacement, Colonel Haile MengistuMariam, and drive him into exile in ZImbabwe.
The Eritreans left their erstwhile allies of the Tigrayan rebel army incontrol of Ethiopia and returned to their main task of establishingtheir newly independent country. When, two years later, the Eritreansformerly declared their independence and joined the UN the Tigrayan-dominated Ethiopian government did its best to sabotage internationalrecognition, understanding that Eritrean independence would mean loss of control of the mainport of Assab. Never mind that Eritrea gave Ethiopia rent-free use ofAssab, the prestige lost in losing Eritrea to independence drove thenew Ethiopian government controlled by the ethnic minority Tigrayanregime to reignite Ethiopian national chauvinism and eventually, justseven years after Eritrean independence, a new war of conquest waslaunched in 1998.
“A divide and rule policy of instigatingethnic based conflict by the previous regime has left the countryburnt and bleeding, with almost a million people internally displaced.”
After three years of particularly bloody warfare, probably the lastmajor land war in history, and 123,000 Ethiopian dead alongside 19,000Eritrean martyrs (these are the official government figures) with 1.4million Eritreans internally displaced (40%of Eritrea’s population), the Ethiopian invasion has left both countries’ peoples indeliblyscarred. Following the defeat of the Ethiopian invasion the Tigrayanregime began what came to be known as No War No Peace on Eritrea’sborder, every few years sending division strength military incursionsinto Eritrea, forcing Eritrea to maintain a large army of nationalservice military on active duty in its trenches along the border.
The main player in all of this, and something almost entirely excludedfrom mention by the mainstream media, has been Pax Americana, with the Clintonitesand their kissing cousin Barack Obama dominating the list of criminalswho instigated and supported these past 25 years of conflict in theHorn of Africa.
Today’s revolution in Ethiopia has ended all this and with a young,dynamic leader, only 42 years old and sounding like a younger versionof Eritrea’s Issias Aferworki, speaking the language of peace andlove, communal and national harmony and cooperation. However, Dr. Abiy is still havingto deal with violent attacks on former regime leaders’businesses and properties, communal violence in the south, andcontinued resistance by former regime supporters still occupyingadministrative post in Oromia and Afar.
“The Tigrayanregime began what came to be known as No War No Peace on Eritrea’sborder.”
Dr. Abiy is promising a future, and outlining inspiring plans on howto achieve it beginning with peace with his neighbors and the end tocommunal strife in Ethiopia. He speaks directly to the hearts andminds of all Ethiopians in a way almost religious, addressing theimportance of loving oneself and ones neighbors instead of relying onthe gun to define society. Now, I am not a romantic or religious buthis words strike a cord with all people of good heart and give onehope that here in one of the most strife torn, famine wracked placeson the planet there is hope.
Of course it takes unity and hard work, something Dr. Abiy usesEritrea and Eritreans as role models for the Ethiopian people, goingso far as to only half jokingly declare himself Eritrea’s “unofficialforeign minister,” the better to fight the lies being spread about ourcountry.
Eritrean President Issias Aferworki has visited Ethiopia’s capitalAddis Ababa and sealed the deal, so to speak, demonstrating to theEthiopian people his and our entire country’s sincere desire for peaceand friendship between both of us -- all too similar and all toodifferent.
As Dr. Abiy continues his path of independence and close relationswith Eritrea expect to see a growing wave of criticism, maybe evendemonization, once his “honeymoon” period with the western media goesstale and the anti socialist zealots in the west raise a hue and cryalleging “lack of democratic process” and alleged “human rightsabuses.”
Towards the end of his speech at the unity music concert in AddisAbaba on Sunday, July 15, Dr. Abiy, in addressing the problems facingthe country told his listeners, almost entirely under 30, not toworry, “Issias is leading us” as in Eritrean President IssiasAferwerki.
It hasn’t taken long for the cat to get out of the bag so to speakand the influence of “wedi Afom” as Dr. Abiy calls Issias, is now amatter of public record. Maybe we should be calling Ethiopia’speaceful revolution a “Soft Coup” by Eritrea.
Thomas C. Mountain is an independent journalist in Eritrea, living andreporting from here since 2006. See thomascmountain on Facebook orbest contact him at thomascmountain at g mail dot com