(Published in Al Jazeera English; Oct. 12, 2018)
(Published in Africa is A Country; Aug. 13, 2018)
Despite the breathless headlines of the rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, nothing substantial has come out from Eritrea, as yet. Eritreans, who have been endlessly waiting to hear of any policy change from their government, are about to give up.
Since Eritrean officials never cared to give any real information on the agreement between the two countries, the only news is coming from Ethiopian media. Eritreans inside the country have had to watch Ethiopian TV channels to stay informed. The Eritrean diaspora is ceaselessly refreshing the Twitter handles of Ethiopian officials. The only time Eritrean leaders have communicated about the rapprochement was to inform residents to show up in public places to welcome state guests. While regular direct flights between the two countries have resumed, and normalization of inter-state relations progress at a swift pace, Eritreans are still held hostage and reduced to mere observes in their own affairs.
The first Ethiopian flight to Asmara carried many Ethiopian investors who came to explore the Eritrea’s business landscape. Eritreans are denied this privilege. Since 2003 import and export businesses have been banned in Eritrea. The subsequent targeting of Eritrean nationals with capital under different pretexts, have resulted in Eritrean investors steadily fleeing the country. The extremely unfavorable conditions for businesses, coupled with a construction ban in May 2006, have pushed almost all Eritrean investors to relocate to South Sudan, Angola, Uganda and other African countries. Click here
Some think his new embrace of peace is motivated by self-interest. Unrest has grown in Eritrea over the last year, and Afwerki may see peace with Ethiopia as the surest way to maintain power. Eritrean exiles question whether he has actually changed. “In his last speech, he did not mention the most awaited issue: military service,” Abraham Zere, an Eritrean journalist and the director of pen Eritrea, told me. “Afwerki is probably buying time to make small adjustments, that might seem semblance of changes such as opening trade and allow free movement within the country, but I doubt he is ready to make any fundamental policy changes such as ending the indefinite military service or releasing all political prisoners.” Click here
(Published in African Arguments; July 18th, 2018)
In barely the blink of an eye, Eritrea’s unpredictable president has completely reversed his rhetoric of the past two decades.
In just a few weeks, relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea have not just shifted dramatically but – in many ways – turned upside down.
For two decades, President Isaias Afwerki had demonised Ethiopia, seeing it as an existential threat. He used the supposed Ethiopian menace as a pretext to establish one of the world’s most repressive regimes, ban widespread freedoms, and impose indefinite military conscription. Some of the only bits of music to get official approval from Asmara were toxic war songs that reinforced this all-encompassing enmity on which the nation’s identity was based.
Now, this could not have flipped more completely. In the past month, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and President Isaias have embraced warmly in both Asmara and Addis Ababa, greeted by huge doting crowds. Eritrean praise-singers have literally changed their tunes to praise peace in Amharic and Tigrinya. Today, the first flight between the two countries in 20 years landed in Asmara, carrying a fully-booked plane that included Ethiopia’s former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.
In barely the blink of an eye, full-throated enmity seems to have turned into whole-hearted love – to the extent that hopeful Eritreans, whose lives have long been determined by the mood of one man, are starting to worry.
Given the opaque way in which the regime governs, Eritreans are used to following Isaias’ words and actions carefully in search of any hints. But for even those unaccustomed to observing him, his recent performance in Ethiopia was startlingly. He appeared out of character, praising the leader of his long-time foe excessively, and proclaiming that the two nation’s populations are “one people”. He then remarkably told Abiy “you are our leader” and announced happily to the crowd: “I’ve given him all responsibility of leadership and power”. Click here
(Published in Africa is A Country; July 15, 2018)
The pace of rapprochement between Eritrea and Ethiopia, longtime foes who have been in deadlock for the last 20 years, changes quickly. It is hard to keep up. By the time this is published, it could be old news.
To recap: On June 5th, Ethiopia declared it was fully implementing the Algiers Peace Treaty signed between the two countries in 2000. This was followed by a long silence on the Eritrean side. Then, suddenly, two weeks later, Eritrea not only accepted the peace offer, but took a step further and sent a delegation to Ethiopia. Shortly after, Ethiopia’s prime minister visited Eritrea. The two leaders signed a joint Declaration of Peace; telephone service between the two countries immediately resumed after 20 years; Ethiopian Airlines will start regular flights to Asmara (a direct flight between the two countries would take an hour; it currently can take up to a day); and roads are about to be opened between the two countries, etcetera. On 14 July, Eritrea’s president Isaias Afwerki visited Ethiopia for three days. The Eritrean embassy in Addis Ababa is expected to be re-opened during Afwerki’s visit in Ethiopia. Click here
(Published in Al Jazeera English; July 9, 2018)
Ever since Ethiopia announced in early June that it will fully accept the terms of a 2000 peace agreement with neighbouring Eritrea, the pace of normalisation of relations between the two countries has been truly stunning.
First, a high-level Eritrean delegation made a visit to Addis Ababa on June 26 and kickstarted the talks on ending the decades-long conflict. Only a couple of weeks later, Ethiopia’s reformist new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed made a landmark visit to Asmara and met the Eritrean president face-to-face.
As the convoy carrying Abiy and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki – who personally greeted his guest at the Asmara airport – travelled across the city, people waved the twinned flags of Ethiopiaand Eritrea and threw flowers and corn. Portraits of Abiy and large Ethiopian flags could be seen on public buildings around the city.
At a state dinner Isaias hosted in honour of Abiy, the two leaders took turns in praising each other. In a televised speech, Isaias said he was “grateful” for the peace efforts of the Ethiopian prime minister. He said that the two countries have already made up for most of what was lost in the past 20 years of conflict. Click here
(እዚ መዘከር ሓተታዊ ቃና ከይህሉዎ ዝከኣለኒ ፈቲነ ዝተዓወትኩ ግን ኣይመሰለንን’ሞ ምስናይ ይቕረታኡ።)
ብዕለት 5 ሰነ ገዛኢ ሰልፊ ኢትዮጵያ–ኢህወደግ–ንዘተ ሰላም ስምምዕ ኣልጀርስ ምሉእ ብምሉእ ከም ዝተቐበሎን ንትግባረኡ ድሉዊ ምህላዉን ድሕሪ ምሕባሩ᎓ እቶም ፊስካ ክንፍሓሎም’ሞ ናብ ዝተመልከተሎም ኣንፈት ክነብሑ ዝጽበዩ ተጣበቕቲ ጭቆና ገዲፍና᎓ እቲ ንፍትሒ ዝቃለስን ዝጣበቕን ወገን ማዕረ ጽንብል ናጽነት ብዝቃረብ ደስታ’ዩ ተቐቢሉዎ።
ልዕሊ ክልተ ሰሙን ሓሊፉ ብዘይ ዝዀነ ወግዓዊ መልሲ ብወገን ኣስመራ ስቕ ምስ ተባህለ ድማ ብዙሓት ንኤርትራ ኣመልኪተን ዝዓያ መራኸቢ ብዙሃን (ብቐንዲ ከኣ ሓይሊ ተቓውሞ) ነቲ ዘይምኽኑይ ስቕታ ኣትሪሩ ኰኒኑዎ። ኰኒኑዎ ጥራይ ዘይኰነ ከኣ ሰላም’ውን ንኢሳይያስ ውጽኢታዊ ዘይምዃኑን ከም ዘይምነዮን ብዙሕ ተጻሒፉን ተዘሪቡን። (ብወገነይ እኳ ኢሳይያስ ንሰላም ፍጹም ቅሩብ ዘይምዃኑ ኣምልኪተ ክልተ ዓንቀጻት እዚን እዚን ጽሒፈ።)
ልክዕ ኣብ ክልተ ሰሙኑ᎓ ብምኽንያት ዝኽሪ መዓልቲ ሰማእታት ኣመልኪቱ ኣብ ዝሃቦ መደረ ግን ፕረሲደንት ኢሳይያስ ንጻውዒት ሰላም ኢትዮጵያ ከም ዝተቐበሎ ጥራይ ዘይኰነስ ብኣካል ንምዝርራብ ልኡኽ ክሰድድ ኣብ ምድላው ከም ዘሎ ጠቒሱ። በዛ መደረ’ዚኣ እቶም ሓበሬታ ደንጒዩዎም ከቕለልዉ ዝጸንሑ ደገፍቲ ኣንፈት ስለ ዝተሓበሮም ከም ወትሩ ክነብሑ ከለዉ᎓ ንሓያሎ ዘገረመ ግን እቶም ተሓለቕቲ ሰላም ምዃንና ክንምድር ዝጸናሕና ኣስቂጥና ጥራይ ዘይኰነስ᎓ ራዕዲ ዝኣተወና’ውን መሲልና።
ኣብ ውሽጢ ሰዓታት “ኢሳይያስ ኣይእመንን’ዩ”፣ “ቅሉዕ ደብዳበ ናብ ቀዳማይ ሚኒስተር ኣብይ”፣ “መን’ዮም ዝውክሉና?” ወዘተ. ግን ከኣ ብኽቱር እስትሕቃርን ናይ ዳእላ ቃናን ግብረ-መልሲ ክውሕዝ ጀሚሩ።
ብወገናይ ኣብ መደረ ፕረሲደንት ኢሳይያስ ኣመና ዘቖጥዓኒ ቃና ነይሩ። ንኣብነት᎓ ኣብዚ ናይ ዘተ ጕዳይ ወሳኒ ተራ ክጻውት ምዃኑ ዘይዝንጋዕን ቀንዲ መሻርኽቲ ምዃኑ ዘይተርፍን ንገዛኢ ሰልፊ ክልል ትግራይ ህውሓት ምንሻው ሓላፍነታዊ ኣይነበረን ጥራይ ዘይኰነስ ንሕማቕ ኣንፈት ዘርኢ ዝተክል’ዩ። ብቐንዱ ሃንደስቲን ኣተግበርቲን እዚ ህይወት ኣሽሓት ዝወሰደ ኲናት ክልተ ናይ ቀረባ ውድባት ህውሓትን ህግደፍን ኣብ ክንዲ ጌጋኻ ኣሚንካን ንህዝቢ ብቕኑዕ ልቢ ይቕረ ምሕታት᎓ ሕጂ ከኣ ካልእ ተዃታዂ ቋንቋ ምዝውታር ዝገደደ ሳዕቤን ክህሉዎ’ዩ። እቲ ዝኸፍአ ድማ እቶም ነባሖ ካብታ መደረ እናጨራረሙ ከጋውሑ ምዃኖምን ምህላዎምን’ዩ።Continue reading
(Published in Al Jazeera English; June 11, 2018)