“Solution” if any, for the border impasse.
Dec. 26 2007
It was a surprise for most of us when Eritrea invaded Ethiopia. However, for some folks who knew the nature of Shaibia was not happened out of expectation, even some said it took long for Essayas to take the measure. Most Tigrians shared the latter idea. Some representative from the border area presented their concern to the Tigria region council that Shabia would invade Ethiopia. We all knew what was responded for their worry, even from the prime minister himself. Unfortunately, we saw inhuman and cruel invasion which results in death of 1000’s of innocent people, or main enemies according Shabia’s definition.
It may be helpful to see the Eritrea’s the so called referendum briefly, to discuss the current Ethio-Eritrea problem as its cause is back to those days. We heard from the media outlet that 99.8% voted yes for independence. This was not a surprise as the choices were limited between freedom and slavery. Any way, the vote was certified as free and fair by international observers as well as by the Ethiopian government. However, under the umbrella of one party and under the condition where people was not allowed to hear and read different opinion, the result was obvious and as expected. Hence, the process was to legalize Eritrea as a new state. Any how, any body with a normal mind did not believe the process of separation was properly handled. The referendum was just legalizing Eritrea and Ethiopia was the first country to recognize the new state without considering the ability of Eritrea to live as a new state.
The situation was then changed and there were two countries side by side in the region. Nonetheless, the separation was not done in the benefit of both countries to avoid conflicts. There were a lot of outstanding issues to be settled by the two countries. The border issue, citizenship of people of Eritrean origin living in Ethiopia and mainly the economic issues was unresolved issues. Eritrea was determined to get a maximum economic benefit from Ethiopia. I remembered in the place I used to work in Ethiopia, there was a small research to find out the fluctuation of exchange rate, especially the black market. Eventually, the main factor identified was the demand by the Eritrean state sponsored companies, like Red Sea, for hard currencies. During the research time we tried to ask some hard currency venders to whom they sold their currency. They usually told us the have a huge demand from Asmara with a better price. As we all knew the two countries used a common currency and was not hard for Eritrean to get Eth. Birr legally and dumped into the black market to get hard currency. I can say that Ethiopia born huge burden as a result of reckless post-independence economic and political arrangement with Eritrea. Eritrea was able to use Eth. Birr without an agreed monetary policy. I did not want to talk this economic issue in this article but this was believed to be a cause for the conflict. In my next topic I want to discus the Eritrea’s motive and the economy.
Obviously, there is a consensus among Ethiopian and some Eritrean intellectuals that the territorial dispute was not the main cause of Ethio-Eritrea conflict. Even, Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, dismissed the border dispute was the cause of the conflict. I also shared this idea. It is a very recent memory for some of us when the Eritrean wanted to have their currency, Nikfa, without seeing the consequences. Economic issues needs expertise and very qualified advisors to see a consequence of a policy change with regard to the complex world. Eritrea as a new nation perhaps lacked this expertise and pushed for new currency to be fully independent. Paradoxically, Eritrea wanted Nikifa to be traded at parity with Ethiopian Birr in violation of the economic policy in Ethiopia and even surprisingly they wanted there currency to work in Ethiopia. Openly they want to keep their illegal benefit up. For some reason the Meles’s administration refused to entertain Eritrea’s demand. This was the beginning of the conflict.
Eritrean was very ambitious to develop Eritrea’s economy to the level of East Asian countries. Development is far beyond ambition especially in today’s competitive world. It needs human and material resources, good governors and good relationship with countries which you can able to trade with to boast the economy. Eritrea lacks all of these factors, hence it almost impossible, let alone to reach the Asian economic miracle but to keep the country run as a poor nation. It is not bad to dream to be a big or powerful nation but it is really difficult or sometimes suicidal to seek illegal benefits from other countries to realize untenable dream. I also believe that the aim of achieving miraculous economic development as the expense of others is not the only dream of Shaebia but also a considerable section of the people. We now know Eritreans are waiting in long line for bread, sugar and the like. Tanks to the few media out lets in the country we have learned that the country’s economy speeding down ward until it lands harshly and crack down. Hence, economic crises are getting worst and the conflict would gona be increased as it is a direct impact of economy.
Furthermore, weak nations like Eritrea are very venerably for foreign influence which manipulates them to run their adverse motive in the area. Historically, Ethiopia has enemies and they may want to use this situation into their benefit. Hence, I do not want to rule out this possibility as one of the cause for the conflict. Therefore, it is definitely in Ethiopian disadvantage to see a small weak country in a very strategic place of the region.
Meanwhile, there has been a consensus on the Eritrean question among Ethiopian since the start of the conflict. Some of us who supported the Eritrean question before were forced to asses our stand. The very premises of our support were to avoid another prolonged war. No body had a doubt that Eritrea was part and parcel of Ethiopia except for the colonial period. Hence, I supported the Eritrea’s independence not to drag into war again. First, the war was not avoided. Second, we have now a permanent enemy at our northern corner who works hard to destabilize our country. Third, Shaibea had tried to use the port issue to influence policies in Ethiopia. For these and other reasons, Eritrea’s question is now a uniting factor not divisive in Ethiopian politics. There is a consensus among Ethiopians now, not to mention some hard core supporters of the ruling party.
Depending on the real cause of the conflict and aftermath political development in Ethiopia the conflict should be resolved in such a way that can address both countries concern and the real cause of the problem. First, since the border issue was not the cause of the conflict, the solution has to see far beyond this issue. For instance, if Eritrea can not proceed as an independent nation with the resource they have, other options have to be considered. Second, the port issue should be addressed. Imagine the public opinion in Ethiopia is changing fast, so any solution which will not considered this concern is not lasting solution. The convergence of the public interest into a single stand of the port issue, definitely, showed as port is not simply an entry or exit for commercial goods. It is an issue of national security and country’s right to have an access to a sea. Any border settlement that does not allow Ethiopia to regain access to the sea would be fruitless and potentially dangerous for the peace of the region.
It was made clear then the split in the TPLF central committee was attributed mainly to handling of the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The splinters accused the prime minister’s reluctance or unwillingness to solve the problem properly. In different occasions, these folks told Ethiopian people they made a mistake when they treated Eritrean question during and after the downfall of Derg. It is a wise move as it is perfectly read the public opinion. In politics flexibility is a wise strategy to approach sensitive issues. I also hopefully expect the same move by the ruling party in this issue. Otherwise, hasty move to demarcate border with out considering the overall condition will definitely end up in another war.