September 17, 2007

Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows: Isaias Afeworki Pandering to CUDP?

Argan Beekan

September 16, 2007

After extracting his country (Eritrea) from the jaws of Ethiopian colonization after 30 years of liberation struggle, Eritrean president Isaias Afeworki says he strives for unity of the empire he separated from not very long ago.

In an interview he gave to Eritrean media on June 10, 2007 and published in “One Ethiopia” magazine, Isaias declared “It is our persistent stance to strive for a united Ethiopia.”

“One Ethiopia” is produced by the Eritrean Ministry of Information in the English, the Amhara and the Tigre languages, and distributed in the Diaspora by Eritrean embassies.

Even before one gets to read the content of “One Ethiopia”, a single glance at the cover page and one is left with no doubts as to the message the magazine intends to impart to the reader: Ethiopia’s unity and territorial integrity. Looking at the graphics and the caption on the cover page, if you did not know what Isaias looked like, you would think he were the leader of one of the Ethiopian opposition parties like the CUDP (Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party) for whom Ethiopian unity is euphemism for Habasha hegemony.

Go ahead, open the magazine and look at the inside page of the cover. A map of the Ethiopian empire, adorned with the green, yellow and red of the empire’s flag with a caption reading “Ethiopian people’s Ethiopia” appears. The implication is that this is what the peoples of the empire would want to maintain. You would feel you were looking at an organ of, say, CUDP not at a magazine produced and distributed by Isaias and Co.

No don’t read the magazine. Not yet! Don’t even glance at the next page. Jump directly to the inside page of the back cover.

A map of the Ethiopian empire, partitioned into nine (9) separate territories with various flags and a caption reading “Woyane’s Ethiopia” appear on the page. Even Oromia, as we know it today, doesn’t appear as a contiguous territory. God only knows what Isaias meant by that! The intention here is to show the reader what would happen to the empire if it is to continue along the path the TPLF (Tigray People's Liberation Front, the current regime in power in Ethiopia) is taking it. Compare that with "Ethiopian people's Ethiopia" and what is implied is crystal clear.

Now, close the magazine and look at the back of “One Ethiopia”. Prominent on this page is, again, a map of the Ethiopian empire adorned with the empire’s flag colors and “Ethiopia” inscribed in the middle. Just above the map appear pictures of Seyye Abraha and Hailu Shawel side by side. Seye Abraha, you may recall, is a former partner in crime of Meles Zenawi’s against the Oromo and peoples and former defense minister of the Empire who was incarcerated for six years on corruption charges before he was released in July 2007. He is the man who led the TPLF army which decimated Oromo freedom fighters while they were encamped in 1992. Hailu Shawel, of course, is the former leader of All Amhara People’s Organization and current leader of the most backward Ethiopian opposition party (CUDP) who would roll back all achievements made by the Oromos and other colonized peoples of the empire over the last 30 years if given a chance. For instance, given a chance, him and his party (CUDP) would partition Oromia into smaller “kifle hagers” and would sell off all Oromo land to the highest bidder just as the TPLF is doing at the present time. It is no brainer that Melles Zenawi, Seye Abraha and Hailu Shawul have no difference in their view of the Oromo and other colonized peoples' questions.

What is the message between the covers of “One Ethiopia?”

No different from the message the covers portrayed. In this interview, Isaias Afewrki addresses many questions pertaining to the region in general, the Ethio-Eritrean conflict, the role of the US in the region and Somalia issues in particular. He rightly exposes the tyrannical nature of TPLF and the almost total control it is wielding on all aspects of life in the empire.

The gist of his message, however, is to reach out to the likes of CUDP by assuring them that he will strive (struggle, fight forcefully) along side them to keep the empire intact. Echoing the CUDP and speaking about the current TPLF constitution, and particularly about Article 39 of the Ethiopian constitution (which is only on paper anyway) Isaias says:

“Since they [TPLF] have no faith in the Ethiopian people as a whole, they divided them into the Amhara people, Tigre people, Oromo people and many others. Because that is what their constitution asserts. The constitution allows the right to self-determination up to secession. We can say that the regime’s mental instability and dangerous political approach has taken a constitutional shape in the name of federalism and democracy. Ethiopia is thus exposed to a never seen before ethnic polarization, although it would take longer to discuss the dangerous consequences of such a situation.” (p. 46)

I don’t believe it is lost on Isaias that this is music to CUDP’s ears.

That TPLF’s mental instability is endangering the whole region, well beyond the empire’s boundaries, is no brainer and is widely acknowledged. However, it is not clear why Isaias Afeworki considers inclusion of self-determination up to secession in the constitution a dangerous political approach and why such a provision should be blamed for “ethnic polarization.” Unless, of course, the purpose is to pander to CUDP and the likes! What should, for instance, the Oromo political party which he is currently hosting in his country, and who has repeatedly expressed the desire to make use of that part of the TPLF constitution, understand from this statement? That Isaias would sell them to the highest bidder?

As a former colony of the same empire Oromos and others are struggling to free themselves from, one would have thought Eritrea would take a principled approach and support the decolonization struggles of those nations who are still suffering under the yoke of Ethiopian Empire. Instead, Eritrea’s leader chose to pander to a party with retrograde Amahara-centric agenda. Apparently, to Isaias “What is good for the goose is [NOT] good for the gander.” In other words, what is good for Eritrea – an independent state - is NOT good for Oromia or others.

If unity and territorial integrity of the empire is to the benefit of the colonized nations and nationalities, then why did Eritrea fight 30 years to decolonize herself from Ethiopia? Or are there lessons learned by Eritrea since independence regarding the pros and cons of decolonization that Isaias is trying to inform others about? Would Eritrea be willing to be part of "One Ethiopia?" Otherwise, it would be the apex of hypocrisy to strive (struggle, fight forcefully) for a “unity” to which one does not want to be a party.

American Chronicle


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