“When corrective measures are taken in Ethiopia, we have to cooperate with them, not as an option, but as an obligation in order to ensure lasting peace with them. Ethiopia’s stability is important for the stability of the region. This concerns us more than any other neighbors.”
On 17 February, President Isaias gave one of his annual lectures – dressed up as an interview.
There have been several summaries of what he had to say.
The Eritrean Ministry of Information offered a summary.
This summary addresses the situation in Tigray. Other issues have not been included.
Isaias Afwerki: broadcast interview February 17, 2021
When the initiative for reform in Ethiopia took place, Dr. Abiy came up with words like love, peace, and cooperation with Eritrea. Many believed this to be a point of change of relations with hope for peace and tranquility.
When Abiy said he would respect the border demarcation verdict, it was a sign of game over to the [TPLF] junta.
TPLF did not feel good about this. On our part, we did not rush for the border demarcation, but focused on building lasting peace and stability of Ethiopia. But TPLF continued to prepare for war. Both of us were following this up. Abiy suggested many good ideas out of good will.
But we did not rush for what he said because we had to look at the situation from different angles, based on our past experiences.
Abiy had requested that I meet with Debretsion [of the TPLF] repeatedly – there was no need for a middle person to do that. And when we met in Zalembassa [11 September 2018] I did not have the appetite to talk at the time.
In the next meeting in Omhajer – I had always been saying no to meeting with Debretsion up through the night before, but when we got there, I changed my mind and talked to him for nearly two minutes – I had one question – I was even reluctant to ask the question, but I did anyway.
I asked Debretsion, why were they preparing for war? Why all of that?
Debretsion said, it will not be so. Then I wondered what that meant? “You are preparing for war, why?” I asked. My main message was to tell him that war was not needed and telling him to avoid it – I said that I didn’t want to talk about other things, but just this message because Abiy was pushing me for that. But Debretsion’s response of saying it will not be so meant they would continue their preparation for war. Nobody knew where this would take us.
So, we started to assess different scenarios.
Finally on November 3rd , while we were watching developments closely, an adventure in attacking took place, an incident which nobody in their right mind would imagine would happen. I still wonder why.
The Northern Command [of Ethiopia] had about 32,000 personnel, out of which 1/3 were Tigrayans. Earlier, an election had taken place in Tigray, followed by claims that the federal government was illegal. This was the first game plan. When they attacked the Northern Command, they planned to completely destroy the army and then head to Addis Ababa and then make changes there, and then change the government in Asmara. This was madness, a big miscalculation.
They killed and captured members of the army, but there was a section that survived it. This was a turning point. It is difficult how things grew up that fast to this stage. Maybe many movies can be made out of this in the future.
We can conclude that this happened as a consequence of the political situation in the last thirty years. This did not happen just now, all of a sudden. It was not created over the past two years.
We have to know the cause that goes back thirty years and one can say even fifty years. If we don’t know this cause, we cannot get a lasting solution for the future. I call it “politics of explosives.” We had many talking points on which we sometimes agreed, and sometimes not.
For example, in 1994 Meles came and showed me a draft of the constitution [for Ethiopia]. When I read it, all I could see was potential threat or danger. So I said to him that that constitution could not work for Ethiopia. Meles said that he expected me to say that, but argued that it was this constitution that could fulfill their long term objectives as it would place timebombs in all the regions of Ethiopia which would explode everywhere in case the plans to continue as one country did not work.
So the formation of regional states was designed for the mere desires of the TPLF – this is their philosophy or thinking, not just since 1994/1995, but one can go back to the 1970s. It is this thinking that has sown ethnic conflicts and confrontation for the last 25 years in Ethiopia. Until the recent correctional measure was taken.
So what does the situation in Ethiopia look like today? It must be assessed deeply. Many worrisome cultures have been inculcated in the last 25 years. We cannot live in peace as neighbors and cannot help each other unless these things are done away with.
It might be out of context, but it is a pattern that has been going on in Somalia, Iraq, Libya and Lebanon, and even what was plotted to take place in the Sudan are all of the same pattern, based on ethnicity, warlords that dis-unite countries. Sometimes organization comes under religious disguise. Then countries enter into chaos and end up being disintegrated. Small administrations come and then external forces come as humanitarian organizations. Then, no more national and sovereign institutions. Finally an agenda of external forces is implemented. What happened in Ethiopia the past twenty-five years is nothing different.
What makes us different is that we as a people have learned from past experience because we have gone through some challenges in the past. We have faced many divisive and confrontational experiences in the past. We are not different.
The division introduced by the British administration has taught a lesson to our people. We have seen our struggle up to 1981. We managed to resolve all the differences in those years. We should not allow this to happen in our neighbors so that we can live in peace and harmony.
So, when corrective measures are taken in Ethiopia, we have to cooperate with them, not as an option, but as an obligation in order to ensure lasting peace with them. Ethiopia’s stability is important for the stability of the region. This concerns us more than any other neighbors. Our first plan was to contribute some for the stability of Somalia, but that did not work out. For Ethiopia to play such a role, its domestic situation is decisive. This is what we learned in the last three months.
Eritrea’s past experience
Eighty years or beyond, after the end of WWII, countries have had their boundaries defined. Eritrea was one of them. When John Foster Dulles said that Eritrea does not represent the U.S.’s interests, our destiny was prejudged based on that. We had to fight for our independence because we were denied our freedom. We were forced to do so.
The British – 1941-1951—it was only for the service of the big powers. Foreign agenda has forced us to fight for self-determination with big sacrifices. There was no need for us to fight Ethiopia, had it not been due to foreign agendas – not Ethiopia’s.
Come 1991 – end of cold war. The new epoch allowed us to make good relations with Ethiopia. In a few years’ time the question of the border, and with Yemen, Ethiopia came because of foreign agendas. Badme [border dispute and war] was just a fabricated agenda from external forces caused by the betrayal by the TPLF.
For example, the United States gave $20 million to Ethiopia for this purpose. With unipolar power, they planned to create spheres of influence with much support given to the TPLF clique.
After 2000, many of the agendas were inspired by external forces. Even the Tigray case that past three years, all the thinking must be seen from that perspective – main actors are the big powers.
Our relation with TPLF over the years until 1991 was changing thanks to our experience despite the interference of external forces.
The case of Tigray is not over yet because those external forces are not going to sit idle. Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia all show us what might come in the future.
Why sanction? To weaken Eritrea, and this was done by defaming and disinforming. The 9-year sanction has its own history. What happened the last three months is following the same pattern. We have to know that we can control this only by effectively working against it.