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A Leopard can never change its spots

By Teweldebrhan Kifle (tewoldek@yaho.com)
Tigrai Online Dec. 25, 2012

Isaias Afewerki can't change his spots
In the recent past, different media outlets reported president Isaias Afewerki (PIA) of Eritrea is said to have requested the Republic of South Sudan and Qatar for mediation with Ethiopia on the long overdue border impasse.

In the recent past, different media outlets reported president Isaias Afewerki (PIA) of Eritrea is said to have requested the Republic of South Sudan and Qatar for mediation with Ethiopia on the long overdue border impasse. PM H/Mariam Desalegn on his part reiterated time and again the long-held position of his government’s keenness for negotiated settlement as stipulated in the five-point peace plan which came into effect since November 2004. As usual though, the Eritrean media remained tight-lipped typical attribute of the PFDJ culture which is presumably sustained on leaving the public in the dark.

The first line of the peace initiative reads as “Resolve the dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea only and only through peaceful means”. There is neither bad peace nor a good war. History has it that no lasting peace can reign out of war and warmongering. For countries like Ethiopia and Eritrea, peace is not a matter of choice but a quintessence of their very survival- a way out of decades’ predicament.

Apparently, the man who is said to have consented to a positive nod for the ball of peace to roll is PIA, with a track record of doublespeak, conceitedness, and known for squandering countless opportunities over the years. There is a dearth of explanation on the behavior of the state of Eritrea under his leadership for its military adventurism and insatiable desire of fishing in troubled waters. In this regard, the mainstream media has been hopelessly involved itself in mundane kind of reporting which in the end, one can’t help but remain uninformed a propos the real motive of this tiny state which had bitten more than it could chew in its 21 years of mere existence.

Assuming that the news is authentic, it would be imperative to reflect on the lingering issues and concerns hovering over the horizon. Why did PIA instigate the war in the first place? Why did he refuse to withdraw his occupying forces and turned a deaf ear to repeated appeals from USA, Rwanda and the AU only to make a post-midnight call to the then UN secretary general swallowing his pride? Why does he unflinchingly support and befriend with all sorts of destabilizing forces all over the region?

He has been mocking on the five-point peace plan Ethiopia have put to the negotiating table since the time it permeated the airwaves. Far worst, in a contempt to the Ethiopian state, he went out of his way to accuse the United States for “authoring” the peace initiative. There was no time passed without reaffirming his refusal to the peace demands in his incessant, infamous long New Year and independence days’ interviews. Why a change of heart now? Finally, an attempt will be made to elaborate whether negotiation at this point in time serves the long-term interest of Ethiopia.

Eritrea rolled its mechanized brigades over Ethiopian sovereign territories in a brazen contravention of the United Nations charter while the later was busy fighting its prime enemy poverty. To the utter dismay of many, Ethiopia was stabbed in the back. Isaias, the braggart, conceitedly denied though as if nothing had happened even reproached the Ethiopian parliament for passing the ultimatum that the country would exercise its right of self-defence enshrined in article 51 of the UN charter had he failed to withdraw his forces. His abnormality had gotten the better of him that he further made it known to every “fuming and fretting soul” that he was peacefully sleeping in serenity, hence, had no idea about the incident. This was PIA in a time high on his horse when he was sure enough to break “the fragile nation” to the south border beyond the point of no repair. “What I have learned in the past few years is that might is right” was his reply to a question from a CNN correspondent, ensconced in his new palace during the height of the war with glittering face insinuating that history was in the making.

Incidentally, PIA, in his apocalyptic mood, assured himself and his followers that it would be a matter of inconsequential skirmish and maneuver to push “divided Ethiopia” off the cliff, if it failed to accommodate his perverted ambitions. He was confident that he had built a military might second to none. “Withdrawing out of Badme is tantamount to mean that the sun will never rise again” retorted when implored to heed the mediators. Deflated arrogance and exaggerated self-worth took their toll so that he entered into a foray of an all out war with an extremely proud nation that knows no subjugation in whatever its forms even from imperial powers let alone a tiny state, created, largely, at the behest of the new Ethiopia proper.

Much to his credit, PIA was not alone. True to form, the vast majority of Eritrean elites rallied behind him, reinvigorated their resolve to do everything needful to “humiliate the 3000 years old nation”, a mantra they recite for some kind of solace in the middle of downright despondency. They idolized, deified, and worshiped him as being the father of their new nation dubbed as “African tiger”, molded to fit the size and myth of “Ghedli” stripped off all its old histories and connections. They tarnished Ethiopia, the very victim of aggression, using their mighty pens for years on end. But, in the end, when they woke up from their deep slumber, they found themselves between the rocks and the hard place, witnessing their Eritrea being turned into a black-hole of ever unseen misery: where the youth is reduced to guinea pigs of a grand experiment of self-reliance, where there are more dungeons than schools, where the youth is leaving in droves anywhere their legs lead them to as far as it’s away from the excruciating modern day slavery of “warsai”, where parents foot the bill of their fleeting away sons and daughters, and where its per capita refuge production is unparalleled by any other nation.

The mess Eritrea is currently in has its origins in the bogus nationalism it helped create which revolves around military adventurism and extreme hate towards the Ethiopian state and its people, where the president is at the helm. Before some meaningful change takes root, it is a necessity that Eritreans redefine their nationalism and chart out their priorities. For their own sake, it’s a must that they repudiate the mantra of “against all odds” accepting unequivocally the fact that they defeat neither Ethiopia nor Dergue; all they did was just a modest contribution of theirs where Ethiopian took the lion’s share in pulling down the legs of the brutal regime. It’s mindboggling to allow such grand distortions of history of not-so-distant past pass unchallenged which might lead to another round of miscalculations and mayhem. It takes no brainer to fathom that Ethiopia is the regional power. Any endeavor oblivion to this glaring fact is doomed to fail.

Another disorder that is maligning the president and his ilks is that their visceral hatred to anything Ethiopian. It includes, but not limited to, language, culture, history, myths and legends, heritages, literature and the fact that being the oldest independent nation on Earth. It seems to me that hatred is fear without courage. It is fear and acquired powerlessness in the face of a perceived injustice. Fear turns into hatred in a desire for vindication or revenge because the source of power to face the challenge is out of one’s reach. PIA blames, the US, CIA, NGOs, Ethiopia, even the sun for his failures. It’s a feeling of victimization at play. He relied for far too long on variables that he hardly can change. It’s not a matter of time, political polarization or anything else but the limit that Eritrea can fare even when at its best- a small country, with virtually insignificant market potential, and turning the “camel drinking ponds” to useful service hubs exclusively dependent on Ethiopia’s volition to avail them.

These two are the main sources for the sordid state of affairs Eritrea and PIA are currently finding themselves in. These commodities have been excessively imbibed by the political gurus, Diaspora, the opposition politicians and even gullible grass root movements. They need to learn history if they will that the main cause of Nazism and the wars the world had seen in continental Europe were caused due to the unbridled nationalism prevailed then compounded with hatred towards a particular race. PIA is not different in intent that he is only disadvantaged in terms of what he can do with his limited power in his grip.

I am of the opinion that this president is beyond reform. He is stuck in the rut. The reasons for the past war are still alive- only he has lost the capacity to give another fight. His good old friends had gone. His is left out in the cold. The country which he has managed to lead for over 21 years is in dearth of all basic amenities required for healthy nation state: water is in short supply; power shedding is quite too common. Eritreans of all walks of life are converted to guntoting masses. The sanction has already started to punch. The economy is in shambles. The number of dictators who bail out the gas bills is reduced thanks to the Arab Spring. Indications are that PIA’s days are numbered.

 It’s in this backdrop that PIA is said to have shown “goodwill” to sit for negotiation without preconditions. It means that he has perceived some kind of existential danger looming around. He is conditioned to threat. He is like the proverbial frog which lost its life due to conditional loss of sensitivity to a mounting heat and when it knew, it was too late to get out of the boiling water and died as a result. So if PIA is about to negotiate, it could be anything but not out of goodwill. He is cornered and the noose around his neck is getting tightening by each passing day.

And his recent desire for negotiation is aimed at placating the international community for lifting the sanction. Ethiopia should not fall into such kind of trap that hands over a life vest to a president piloting a sinking ship. PIA is in a quandary of contradictions of his own making. When he feels that he is strong enough, he would resort back to his old habits. Ethiopia is better off with the present pressure valve tightened. The best solution is not in relieving the equilibrium but diligently working for pressure buildup large enough to hasten the burst. I have no doubt Ethiopia is more than capable to contain the spillovers within acceptable level.

So far as PIA is ruling Eritrea, the best option for Ethiopia is maintaining the status quo. He would continue playing the Abay card too for some leftovers as he has always been. His hands will remain dirtied with the mud of Al Shabab and other countless terrorists. He will remain a menace to regional peace to his last breath. The earlier he is gone; the brighter would be the future for the Eritrean people in particular and the horn in general. And the sure way of hastening his demise is denying any degree of legitimacy whatsoever in the name of negotiation. Negotiating with PIA at this point in time has lost its essence and is out of taste. Let him count the cost of his arrogance and dictatorship which he helped create in his own terms.

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