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Was it a Bad Day for Ambassador David Shinn, the U.S.A Career Diplomat?

By Amare Lucas
Tigrai Onlne - January 21, 2014

At first glance, I was inclined to ignore Mr. Shinn’s article, posted on Ethiomedia on January 14th 2014 and throw it in a rubbish bin where it belongs, as I did to Cohen’s article. But, out of respect for the good Ambassador, I opted to challenge his article as I understand it. 

Does Ethiopia need to engage the dying Eritrean regime?

However you slice it, the Ambassador’s writing can be summarized as follows: A) Eritrean tyrant, Isayas is at the end of his demise. He must be saved. B) Badme must be handed to Eritrea. As a “reward”, Ethiopia gets access to Asab for a fee. C) America wants to mend its relation with Eritrea and have an Ambassador in Asmara. There is a hint there that David Shinn is a candidate for the post. D) Tigrigna speaking Eritreans are highly educated whereas Tigrigna speaking Tigryans are not. These four are the obvious ones. Later on, I will come to the not so obvious one, which the good Ambassador is trying to communicate with the Ethiopian people at large.

Let’s analyze each of the above four points brought up by Ambassador David Shinn:

 A) If the Ambassador feels burdened and has the will and the means to save Isayas, all I can say is good- luck. Obviously, the good Ambassador is making a 911 call on behalf of the Eritrean leader.

 B) When it comes to Badme, the good Ambassador got it wrong. With all due respect to the Ambassador,  the Algiers Agreement and the arbitration that followed it have been abrogated by Eritrea and they are now null and void. Why? Because Eritrea unilaterally dismantled, confiscated their heavy armaments and kicked out the UN peace keepers from their assigned post. Eritrean military forces entered the 25 kilometers of demilitarized zone illegally breaching one of the main part of the ceasefire. So, Mr. Ambassador, the arbitration that you and Mr. Cohen are singing is no more legally binding. Sir, you also suggested that Ethiopia be allowed to use the port of Assab for a fee. How generous? Mr. Ambassador! Seriously?, How naÔve can we be to be told that one country pays the fee and the other country allows it's ports? Isn’t this a normal and customary practice everywhere in the world? I suspect the good Ambassador is throwing this idea to divert us from the main issue. You like it or not, Asab is an Ethiopian port and it belongs to its true owner.  The bloodshed will stop only and only when Ethiopia gets unfettered access to its port of Asab. Of course, I like to underline that my preference would be getting Asab through understanding, compromise, negotiation, and applying an international maritime law.

C) As far as American and Eritrean relation is concerned, it is the business of the two countries. To achieve that, I don’t think the good Ambassador needs to communicate via Ethiomedia. I believe American policy makers are a walk or a phone call away from Mr. Shinn. if America has the urge to tango with Eritrea, I’ve no qualm with that, and, I might add, many Ethiopians could care less about it. But, don’t count on us that we will be a participating band to the melody. America’s marriage and divorce with Eritrea is none of our (Ethiopian) business.

D) This section is very interesting. Because I’ve never witnessed a career diplomat making such offensive, unwarranted, and undiplomatic statement as the Ambassador did. It is mind boggling for a career diplomat like you to inject himself or herself in to a tribal affairs of people. You are parroting the same exact words that shaebia supporters frequently use. The question is why did you put your dignity on the line These same Shabites have led the world to believe that Eritrean forces will annihilate the Ethiopian force and dine in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa at the end of the first day battle. We all remember how that movie ended. Your assertion of colonial contribution to the education of Eritreans doesn’t hold water for the simple reason that the highest grade they were allowed was grade four. Besides, their 21 years history as a nation doesn’t support the argument of a highly educated society.

Mr. Ambassador, you felt at liberty to tell the world about the uneducated Tigryans in Ethiopia. How much have you read as opposed to being told about Tigray? Have you been to Aksum, Yeha, Gerealta, and other parts of Tigray? Have you ever read about the genius Aksumite, St. Yared? Looking at the monuments, underground palaces of King Kaleb, Gebremeskel, Ezana, Queen Sheba, the rock-hewn churches all over Tigray----Would someone in his right mind dare to say what you said about the Tigryans? Mr. Ambassador, Christianity and Islam got their footing in Tigray. The Ethiopian alphabet, literature, music, art, governance, and the first money in coins were all introduced in the then capital of Ethiopia, Aksum, which happens to be in Tigray. Simply put, Tigray is the beginning of Ethiopia and its civilization.

Sir, I can present a long list of the many wonders and miraculous architects like Fasil in Gonder, the unparalleled rock-hewn churchs of Lalibela in Wollo, and many more Ethiopian prides and early civilization testaments. But you chose to disparage the Tigryans and my focus for now will be Tigray. Mr. Ambassador, why you chose to pick a fight with the children of Alula (true historians refer to him as the great general of Africa) is a mystery to me. To my understanding, your first name, David doesn’t suggest to be that of those who were crushed by Alula at different battle fields. Blame me not! Sir, for I’m at loss to find your motivation. While I’m at it, let me say one thing about the Great Alula. Had his advice been heeded, the word Eritrea wouldn’t have made it to the English vocabulary, let alone evolve into a nation.

Going forward, allow me to dissect the unobvious, but is more harmful and poisonous message that the good Ambassador wants to relay to the Ethiopian people. In plain- and- simple English, the war is between Eritrea and Tigray not between Ethiopia and Eritrea. After all, Badme is in Tigray. Why shed blood for a Tigryan land? Let the Eritreans have it. Nice try, Mr. Ambassador,  It isn’t going to work. Time and again, many Ethiopian enemies have tried the same crusade to no avail. Trust me, Mr. Ambassador; I am not in any way shape or form inferring that you are one of them. But, it is imperative, that once and for all, to make it abundantly clear that Tigray is the nucleus of Ethiopia. Tigray was, is, and will be forever an Ethiopian. No ifs. No buts.

Mr. Ambassador, despite the unnecessary war of 1998 initiated by non-other than Isayas, and notwithstanding the emergence of an Eritrean state, those two Tigrigna speaking people are very much blood related. Do I need to prove that? For starters, Isayas is 75% from Tigryan parents, if not 100%. Most of his trusted aides and advisors are from 100 % Tigryan parents, and some are 50%. In case of Ethiopia, the late PM, Meles is 50% Eritrean. In his recent trip to the US, Sebhat Nega, one of the founders of the TPLF and its first chairman, (I suspect you two have probably met) had an interview with a radio-host in Washington, DC. Answering a question to the host, Sebhat unequivocally declared that he in fact has an Eritrean blood. He also confirmed that there are high government officials in Ethiopia, whose parents are fully of Eritrean origin, and there are some who are 50% Eritrean. It is simply an open book that even at the top of both governments, there are a lot of them that are the product of Tigryan and Eritrean origin. I’m not protesting or condoning it. I’m only telling it as it is. And, no one should be surprised by these seemingly confusing facts. Because, the fact of the matter is, Eritreans, especially the high-landers were part of Tigray before the Italian occupation. Mr. Ambassador, had it not been for the short-sighted, self-centered, and ego-driven leaders on both ends, these two Tigrigna speaking people are brethren that should never go to war. When I see millions of Americans parading and celebrating their Irish ancestry, that is, going back to a quarter million of years, it is not a tale-tale-story when I mentioned the brotherhood of these neighbors. Let me assure you that this isn’t a display of nostalgia, but putting things in perspective. Be that as it may, what it is, what is on the ground. Thus, I accept the Eritrean’s wish to have a state. What I won’t accept is the mantra that Eritrea is for Eritreans only while Ethiopia is for Ethiopians and Eritreans. I admit I’m drifting from my main subject of today. So, let me get back to the subject matter at hand, and make my closing remark.

Mr. Ambassador, taking the initiative to tackle the lingering problem of two warring neighbors is a noble cause that is welcomed by all stake-holders. But I can’t tell a career diplomat that neutrality, fairness, relevant international laws, and long sought solutions, among others, are the must have tools to begin the journey. Rewarding a repeat offender isn’t the way to start that journey.

Having said that, Sir, inadvertently or not, you have become a willing partner of a mission to harm Ethiopia that, at least, to my knowledge was hatched by Ambassador Cohen. The two of you are asking Ethiopia to endure the unendurable. My unsolicited advice to you, Mr. Ambassador, is to come clean and be the Ambassador, you are; be the professor, you are; be the gentleman, you are; be the dignified you are. You must not succumb to the endless and horny lies and tricks and allow yourself to be used as an appaloosa by shebia operatives.

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