Dr Tekeda Alemu’s interview: a political bombshell to critics

By Dilwenberu Nega
April. 01 2011

Ethiopia’s well-read and intellectually nimble Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Dr Tekeda Alemu, is little known to the Ethiopian Diaspora and to its online media. Even in Ethiopia where Dr Tekeda had good innings as State Minister at MoFA, he is known more for his workaholic nature than for his affectations with the media. However, thanks to his maiden interview with Gezategaru online discussion forum (please listen to the interview on Aigaforum) we can rest assured of the media friendly skills of our man at the UN.

The question on why Ethiopia’s advance inside Eritrea came to an abrupt end during the Ethio-Eritrean War of 2000 is something which caused rumpus and distrust among the Ethiopian Diaspora, notwithstanding Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s repeated defense of the Government’s stand at the time. Certain Opposition leaders at home and critics abroad over egged the issue in a clever ploy to portray the EPDRF in general and Prime Minister Meles in particular as adopting a policy of appeasement toward Eritrea.

In answer to a phone-in question Ambassador Dr Tekeda Alemu, who was at the epicenter of a flurry of diplomatic activity at the time, sounded so elated to seize the opportunity and clear the miasma of confusion surrounding this very issue. And clear he did in a manner and style which shattered the arguments of critics into smithereens. The long and short of his response is that although militarily we were making substantial inroads, diplomatically our hands were tied.

The Government of Ethiopia had acted in a responsible and civilized manner by paying heed to diplomatic overtures from the international community. An attempt, on the other hand, must not be made to lose sight of the fact that Ethiopia’s war mission in 2000 did neither include the annexation of Eritrea nor the removal from office of President Isais Afewerki. Our military and diplomatic victory against irredentist Eritrea allowed us not only to dislodge the enemy from sovereign Ethiopian territory, but to shift all our focus of attention and resources into what we believe to be our veritable enemy – extreme poverty.

One point which Ambassador Dr Tekeda highlighted and which I wholeheartedly support is the near dilemma every state and United Nations encounter with the question of what to do with this enfant terrible who beyond any reasonable doubt proved to be a bane of peace in the Horn of Africa. What has, therefore, become the sixty-six thousand dollar question to me and perhaps to a lot more Ethiopians, both at home and abroad, is to know when is it that our Government decides that push has come to shove in our dealings with Eritrea. I am neither a jingoist, nor a pacifist, but as a realist I expect nothing less than an ultimatum to Asmara to come out from Arat Kilo: Cut it out or we will cut you out.

Thanks to alert Ethiopian security services, so far Ethiopia has managed to nip in the bud major Asmara-propelled terrorist attacks, but what – God forbid – Asmara succeeds in mounting a huge terrorist attack in what is widely regarded as the ‘Brussels of Africa?’ According to Ambassador Dr Tekeda, Ethiopia has tangible evidence to prove that Eritrea is arming and dispatching terrorists to cause havoc inside Ethiopia. Alerting the international community of the consequences of Eritrea’s terrorist activities is a commendable demarche, but do not let us forget for one second that Asmara’s track-record is replete with instances of The State of Eritrea turning a deaf ear to hitherto demands by the international community to refrain from acts of provocation.

While I am full of praise of the wisdom and patience exhibited so far by the Government of Ethiopia, my fear is that unless the Government’s recent stern warning as well as its declaration that it has departed from its previous stand vis-à-vis relations with the State of Eritrea, is not matched with a fine blend of brain and brawn, Asmara might consider our resolve to be nothing more than a bluff.

This comes with my humble thanks and appreciation to Ambassador Dr Tekeda Alemu for his insightful analysis.