A commentary from a reader.
It’s all a bit of a mystery.
Strictly speaking, while he was in Addis Ababa he and his team should be in quarantine and not moving around without wearing masks. But let that rest. Perhaps when you are a President, the rules are different.
What is so important that it required a visit, apart from showing the world that President Isaias is alive and well?
Officially we are told that the meeting is about :
- COVID 19
There are a few problems with this agenda.
In the last month there have been a number of IGAD video conferences dealing with the issue their financial and social repercussions and regional cooperation on the issues. This included showing a united front to donors like the World Bank, IMF and African Development Bank. Eritrea did not participate in any of the video conference meetings.
On COVID, we are repeatedly told Eritrea is doing well. There have been no deaths and that more than half of the 39 cases identified have recovered. There are no new cases.
However, lock down that was meant to finish at the end of April has been extended indefinitely and Liberation day (24 May) festivities is likely to occur with a form of lockdown in place.
It could be argued that the conversation between Isaias and Abiy is about the concerns that COVID could cross Eritrea’s borders. In this case surely the meeting should be with Djibouti and Somalia. Better still; Eritrea should participate in the IGAD meetings.
LOCUSTS: Eritrea has repeatedly stated that the threat is under control and the Ministry of information has published articles to that effect. Again, this should meant joining the IGAD talks.
What is left to discuss that may not have been made public?
- border issues – which irrespective of what President Isaias thinks is much more than a line on the ground. The border issue is also about a number of territories Eritrea had to hand over to Ethiopia around Tsorona, Alitena etc….it is about the rights of the people living on the border . It is also about commerce, movement of people, and so on.
- the Ethiopian elections. A key thing to remember here is that President Isaias disapproves of the Ethiopian Federal State and the decentralisation it implies. It is just the kind of decentralisation that might resolve the Eritrea- Ethiopia border impasse . Isaias only concedes that it is an issue as a means of suggesting that Eritrea is still under threat from an Ethiopia that is taking the wrong direction, and that Tigrayans and the TPLF remain a threat.
- Eritrean refugees. Here we know what the agenda is – discourage Eritreans seeking sanctuary in Ethiopia; close the camps and disperse those who won’t return to their country of origin.