Time to Bring Eritrea in from the Cold (But It’s Harder than It Sounds) – By David Shinn
This is not a rejoinder to Hank Cohen’s piece – Time to Bring Eritrea in from the Cold – published by African Arguments on 16 December 2013. It is rather an analysis of the same issue with the added suggestion that it will be exceedingly difficult to achieve the laudable goals identified by Ambassador Cohen.
I agree with Cohen that it is long past time to end the stalemate between Ethiopia and Eritrea. It is also time for the United States to try again to improve relations with Eritrea. I accept there is no solid evidence that Eritrea is continuing its support for the al-Shabaab terrorist organization in Somalia, thus removing this argument from the list of reasons that obstruct better relations. Finally, there is some evidence that both the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea are more willing to see an end to their conflict. President Isaias Afewerki’s silence following the death in 2012 of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was also helpful.
But it is important to take into account the complicated background that led to this conflict. The movement of Eritrean troops into Ethiopia in May 1998 represented the culmination of a long list of grievances on both sides of the Ethiopia-Eritrea border. With the benefit of hindsight, there were many warning signs that no one seemed to appreciate at the time.
While the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) of Meles Zenawi and the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) of Isaias Afewerki often cooperated in their battle to remove the Derg regime from Ethiopia, they also periodically had tactical and strategic differences. In the post-Derg euphoria, these earlier disagreements were usually overlooked by outsiders. More importantly, the very systems of government established in Ethiopia and Eritrea after the fall of the Derg were significantly different and not much appreciated in each other’s capital. Isaias especially thought Meles’ concept of ethnic federalism was misguided.
There was and perhaps still is a negative psychological element to the relationship, at least for Ethiopia’s Tigrayans who live on the other side of the Eritrean border. Many Tigrayans believed that the more highly educated Eritreans with their experience of Italian colonialism looked down on Tigrayans. Some Ethiopians perceived that Eritreans saw them as fodder for filling low level positions in an Eritrea that would become the industrial center of the region. Ethiopia would be the source of cheap labor and Eritrea would reap the developmental advantage. It is not important if this perception was accurate; perception becomes reality. Ethiopia had every intention of creating its own industrial sector, which was already in progress.
Eritrea created its own currency, the Nakfa, to replace its use of the Ethiopian Birr. This was not a surprise and, in fact, in an interview with an Eritrean publication in May 1997 Prime Minister Meles said it is “necessary” that Eritrea have its own currency and issuance of the Nakfa “will not affect the relationship of the two countries.” But the handling of this issue did become one of many reasons for the breakdown in trust between Addis Ababa and Asmara. Eritrea announced in July 1997 that the Nakfa and the Birr would circulate on both sides of the border and it would retain its stock of Birr for use as it desired. Ethiopia saw this arrangement as unfair, announced a trade policy based on hard currency and letters of credit, and immediately issued new Birr so that Eritrea’s Birr holdings would be worthless.
Since the overthrow of the Derg, Ethiopia had obtained much of its refined petroleum from an antiquated Eritrean refinery in Assab. Eritrea asked Ethiopia to increase the share it obtained from the refinery and demanded additional payment in hard currency. Ethiopia balked at this arrangement and by the summer of 1997 began to import refined petroleum products elsewhere rather than rely on the Assab refinery. It also shifted more of its imports to Djibouti. Once Ethiopia terminated use of the Assab refinery, the facility became uneconomical and Eritrea closed it down. This also forced Eritrea to import its fuel needs in hard currency and at higher cost.
There were several small border incidents preceding the May 1998 conflict that were never made a major public issue by either Ethiopia or Eritrea. The most serious one occurred in July 1997 at Adi Murug in the Bada area of Eritrea. Eritrea claimed publicly after the outbreak of conflict in 1998 that two battalions of the Ethiopian army came to Adi Murug, declared it Ethiopian territory and appointed an Ethiopian administrative committee. Ethiopia claimed that it only briefly entered Eritrea in hot pursuit of remnants of the Afar opposition and then returned to Ethiopia.
Then there was the appearance of the map prepared by the Ethiopian Central Statistical Office for the 1994 census that indicated Ethiopia claimed areas to the west of the diagonal border (the Badme area) separating southwest Eritrea and western Tigray between the Mereb and Setit Rivers. The map also suggested Ethiopia claimed additional small pieces of territory that virtually all other maps show as part of Eritrea. In 1997, the issue returned when the regional government in Tigray issued a similar map. Ethiopia never provided a convincing response as to why these maps appeared.
All of these issues, including some other lesser ones, provided the backdrop for the outbreak of conflict in 1998. Following several minor, alleged incursions by Eritrean forces into territory administered by Ethiopia, there was an incident in the vicinity of Badme on 6 May 1998 involving Eritrean regular forces and hardened TPLF local militia. According to a well-informed Ethiopian account, there were eight deaths on the Eritrean side and none on the Ethiopian side, suggesting the likelihood of an ambush. Eritrea sent a negotiating team to Addis Ababa to resolve the matter. That team unexpectedly returned to Asmara on 10 May and within 24 hours, Eritrea invaded the Badme region, which had been administered by Ethiopia, with a large military force. Thus began a conventional type war on 12 May in which an estimated 100,000 soldiers on both sides perished in the next two years.
Time does tend to heal wounds, but both the Ethiopians and Eritreans have long memories and it is not clear how much of this baggage they can put aside. Much of the discussion since the outbreak of conflict in 1998 has focused on Badme, which is only symbolic of greater differences. Ethiopians and Eritreans must conclude it is in their mutual interest to normalize relations and then begin to solve these political, economic, social, and geographical disputes. Ethiopia needs to approach the problem with the understanding that it probably has to give up control over Badme. In effect, it has already acknowledged this possibility. Eritrea needs to be more flexible on the sequencing of issues. It would be helpful to drop its demand that Badme be turned over first so that negotiations on other issues can begin. Both sides must also understand that small, mutually agreeable changes need to be made along other sections of the disputed border.
It is important that all of the economic differences be on the table, including future long-term access to the port of Assab by land-locked Ethiopia. Trade, open borders, telephone links, and air travel need to return to normal. Eritreans and Ethiopians should be able to move across the border without difficulty and, following the laws in each country, work there. All of this is hard and will take many months to sort out, but Ambassador Cohen is correct that it is time to make the effort.
As for the improvement of relations between the United States and Eritrea, I also agree this would be a positive development. The United States does have a small embassy in Asmara headed by a charge d’affaires. On several occasions in recent years, Washington has explored the possibility of improving relations with Asmara. They have come to nothing and not just because of U.S. concerns about earlier Eritrean support for al-Shabaab in Somalia. Even if it is now possible to put this concern aside, it is not clear that President Isaias is truly interested in improving relations with the United States. There is not much point in assigning an ambassador to Asmara if he/she does not have regular access to the senior levels of the Eritrean government. This is not an excuse for Washington to do nothing, but it is important to understand that the reluctance is not necessarily confined to one side.
Whatever Washington does in the coming months, its relationship with Addis Ababa is more important than the one with Asmara. Although the United States might decide to try again to improve relations with Eritrea, it will not do so at the expense of its ties with Ethiopia. Ideally, the United States, Ethiopia and Eritrea will collectively decide the time has come to normalize/improve relations so that Eritrea can come in from the cold.
David Shinn was the U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia from 1996 to 1999. He blogs at: http://davidshinn.blogspot.co.uk/ This article is part of an ongoing series examining the current state of relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
This article is nowhere near as the genuine & good intention article that Herman Cohen wrote. This article seems like a move to discourage the positive & realistic approach that Mr Cohen, had initially proposed. There’s alot of confused statements that Mr shinn is making,like â€œthe movements of Eritrean troops into ‘ethiopia’ in May 1998….â€ yet he acknowledges the fact that the ethiopian government incorporated large parts of sovereign Eritrean territories into its map, and set out to establish facts on the ground by evicting the original Eritrean inhabitants of those lands and bringing ethiopians to live there, that’s wrong & illegal, no country that respects itself would accept that.Regardless Eritrea decided to to handle this matter quitly, it sent negotiators to talk some sense into the invaders & they cold bloodedly murdered them, that is what Mr shinn is referring to as an ‘ambush’.So he,Mr shinn & his friends in ethiopia have tried hard to make it look like Eritrean troops invaded ethiopia, when the reality is that it was ethiopia that declared war & invaded Eritrea.They failed to accomplish anything they couldn’t get rid of the Eritrean government or take Asab, they suffered a huge defeat, none of there sinister objectives accomplished, except loss of thousands of soldier’s.At the end Badme was rightly proven to be Eritrean as it has always been. That was a needless war, that was forced upon Eritrea by the illegal & criminal activities of the ethiopian government.
The real issue between the 2 countries is the port of Asseb. Landlocked Ethiopias loss of access to Eritreas ports has caused a humanitarian disaster of biblical proportions.
“In Ethiopia, around 28 million people suffer from goitre, and more than 35 million people are at risk of iodine deficiency. More importantly, 50,000 perinatal deaths are related to iodine deficiency each year in Ethiopia.”
“But Ethiopia is landlocked and its soil is iodine-poor. The country used to get its salt from the Eritrean port of Aseb, where iodization factories added the nutrient. But since the war, most Ethiopian salt comes uniodized from the salt flats of northern Ethiopia.”
I like the analysis which it give sense. The war have destructed both countries in term of Human, economic, social displacement, moral and psychological damaging. No one is beneficial from the war.
Therefore, both neighboring people should live in peace and mutual respect and it should go beyond, working for their common Economic, social and other developments.
Their conflict should be resolved on mutual understanding based on legal procedure. The International community has to play his positive roll to an end the stability of the region.
The article is more fire. It seems based on personal emotional feeling. Ethiopia cannot compromise Badem because Eritrea invaded Badem and other area nearby. Asseb belongs to Ethiopia. Those are facts that need to be addressed clearly and honestly. I do oppose how former PM Meles handled the issues, on the other hand, President Issayas is still in jungle mentality, he invaded Ethiopia, Yemen, Sudan, he puts fire for the Somalia war; time to cool down.
So the article is not a solution because donâ€™t have the local history knowledge.
But thank you for your attention, we need peace in that area and out side involve.
To gebreyessus; It’s you and your ethiopian government which has a stone age mentality who seem to have the rule of the jungle mentality, when you outright claim Eritrean port Asab & Badme as ethiopian. The most messed up thing is the fact that the international media & world has thus far tried to keep the truth hidden and wrongly and disgracefully punish the victim which is Eritrea. But as Eritrea has always believed in the Truth & Righteousness it has managed to survive & even grow stronger. Now we see certain people like Herman Cohen speaking the truth. Anyway it’s a good thing that you came out & made wild claims, bcs it just shows the world how Right Eritrea has been all along, that it is you ethiopians who are the aggressors & thieves who want to steal land & port that don’t belong to them.
Unlike Mr Cohen’s naive approach to the issue Ambassador Shin seems to have touched the real cause of the problem..At least he seems to acknowledge the fact that there is more of a psychological element to the issue than a technical one..unfortunately no amount of border demarcation or trade rule can solve a psychological war that has been long been persistent between people who take pride in two parallel reasons, one in having been colonized, and the other in beating colonization..
Perhaps the most sensible phrase I picked from Ambassader Shin’s analyses is “time is a healer”, in this case given the fact that Eritreans desperately need time to reflect on their past behaviour and see Eritrea for what it is rather than what they have been brainwashed since the time of colonization..Unless they are given more time to appreciate Ethiopia and what it means to their existence, early normalization might mean spoiling the progress that has been evident in some Eritrean psychic..It will be like early releasing 5 million patients from psychiatric ward..
The pointless and stupid war that perished the lives of hundreds of thousands of people from both sides and destroyed an incalculable amount of properties was neither about the border nor the desolated patch of rocks called Badme.The cursed dusty village of Badme was awarded to the TPLF by none other than the criminal dictator in Asmara after the TPLF fought on its side to root out the other rebel faction known as ELF in the early 1980. Then if Badme hasn’t been an issue since the 1980’s till seven years after the independence,it certainly wasn’t the reason for the nasty dictator to roll down his stupid tanks into Badme in 1998.It has been used as a smoke screen to hide his real intentions of diverting important domestic issues at home.The war was deliberately waged upon us by the evil dictator so that it could be used as a justification to dump the ratified constitution.16 sad years after the war,he is using the border to commit all the unimaginable and immeasurable atrocities against our people to this day.
The good two diplomats have to understand that the nasty dictator will NEVER and NEVER come to the table to negotiate with the Ethiopians no matter what assurances he might receive because its not in his interest but doing so will be tantamount to tighten the noose around his neck.
If the united states is willing and ready to involve in the negotiation between Ethiopia and small and very poor Eritrea, applying pressure on Eritrea to relinquish it’s claim on Assab is paramount.
Unfortunately, Ethiopians were lead by a person who was more sympathetic to Eritrea than to Ethiopia and willingly gave up Assab for Eritrea. I am assuming and hoping that the current Ethiopian prime minster will protect and defend long term Ethiopian interest and put Assab on the table in every negotiation with Eritrea. TPLF leadership , which is largely infiltrated by Eritreans has done the worst crime against the nation nobody ever done to Ethiopia. It is clear sooner or later Assab will be back to the rightful owner when Ethiopia is lead by her true sons and daughters. Until then let the shabia in Asmara and their surrogates in Addis play a very dangerous game that will eventually destroy both of them. Any negotiation short of reclaiming Assab is worthless and is only aimed to sabotage Ethiopian peace and development once again. Therefore, I appeal to Ethiopian prime minster to refrain from any discussion with Eritrea if it doesn’t guarantee our sea access.
Why Ethiopia has to negotiate with dictator who is not even representing Eritreans? And Eritreans are suffering more than word can describe so Why the good diplomats wants to give peace of mind to this ruthless dictator ?
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Port of Assab belongs to Ethiopia. Realizing that will give the lasting solution to the region. Bademe is a joke. Look at the map of Eritrea (which is drawn by colonizers), completely unacceptable!!!
Ethiopia needs(and will one way or another) to vacate sovereign Eritrean territories, for there to be lasting peace for future generations, the sooner the better, if not this nation Ethiopia that is on life support from the billions of dollars in aid it receives, will completely disintegrate into small fragmented states with an Independent Ogaden, an Independent Oromia & a Dependant small puppet tigray.So you Ethiopians who have commented above i.e. comments 6,7,8 & 9, is best if you stop daydreaming & stop your nonsense hallucinating and becarful what you wish for. Regardless Eritrea will keep growing stronger & stronger thanks to its dedicated patriotic citizens in Eritrea & abroad. Eritrea is already considered one of the fastest growing economies and we haven’t even started yet, were just at the beginning, there’s only good things to come for the next couple of years & beyond.
As much as I respect the honorable ambassador, I find it offensive when people keep recycling old myth about Eritrea’s exaggerated importance to Ethiopia despite the fact Ethiopia has in the las 13 years(since 1998 when Eritrea gained real independence) proved how well it can do without that cursed land..It is even more frustrating when knowledgeable people like Devid Shinn who often advocate fairness and democracy tend to put the interest of 5 million people over the interest of 80 million people…Given the fact that the UN has concluded who the aggressor was and the price Ethiopians paid to deal with the aggressor, it is mind boggling how Mr Cohen and Ambassador Devid thought Ethiopians should bow for the aggressor’s demand..it shows the lack of respect they have for the people of Ethiopia or perhaps they just don’t care wither their proposal is feasible or not as long as it is convenient for the US strategic interest…Yes Ethiopians want a peaceful coexistence with Eritreans, but by the Ambassador’s own admission, we all know that the problem lies with Eritrea’s distorted sense of entitlement and Ethiopians say NO to a friendship that favors 5 million people over 80 million..and please refrain from offending us just because we were once seen compromising to Eritrea’s demand due to the mess cold war left Ethiopia with..we are dignified people and we will remain so regardless of how the rest of the world see us due to our past misfortunes and the last thing we want is people like David shinn telling us to bow to the demand of a small arrogant entity..
Mr Shinn don’t seem to have a full history of the region!
Things can’t be normalized while Isaias is there! because;1) Isaias doesn’t want normalizing as it is a threat to his life,2)he already went beyond return,therefore, Isaias is against normalization under any circumstances! for things to be Normalized:1) Ethiopia must gain its own natural outletat least Assab! 2) the “Mereb milash” Ethiopian torritories must be returned to Ethiopia!
In my opinion, Ethiopia has no benefit of normalizing relationships with Eritrea! there are ports at DJibutti,there are ports at Somaliland,there are ports at Somalia!
we supported the EPRDF doesn’t mean we support all its policies! at this moment, TPLF must revise its stand on Eritrea!
What makes me sad is those who call themselves Ethiopian are having the same sheet understanding as their fathers who day dreamed and fought against ERITREAN sovereign state. This happened in derg era and again in tigray era….what makes me more saddened is this crap pple are next door to us…what a childish understanding they have! They better support themselves instead of begging foreign aid …some mentioned they dont want Eritrea / thats good, but they still occupied it’s land,,,and the same time seeking Assab. We need to build Nuclear mass destruction weapon so that we can fry them like shrimp from the Red sea. swallow it “ERITREA IS A SOVEREIGN STATE”
….. early normalization might mean spoiling the progress that has been evident in some Eritrean psychic..It will be like early releasing 5 million patients from psychiatric ward.
Thank you Alemayehu,for this wise statment.
Ethiopia is doing well without Eritrea, Asab belongs to Afar people.Afars are true Ethiopiens.
Afars on both side of the fake border need more help from
Ethiopian Gevornment .
The comments are all emotional baised and uninformed. Issaias is a criminal but he is not elected president. I don’t think Ethiopian government will negotiate with him as Eritrean peoples representative. Although many mistakes committed on both sides of the border all these must be acknowledged. Eritreans who were living in Ethiopia have been mistreated and deported similar but less harsh has been committed on the other side. If the people at the border given a chance to participate in any negotiation that will bring a lasting peace. Assab is not to be discussed that is Eritrean and Eritrean only.
when do you guys accept the fact that you are very poor, irrelevant both in Africa and the world at large? you are daydreaming to destroy Ethiopia, which is tantamount as Mexico is contemplating destroying USA. Your chance against Ethiopia is even slimmer the Mexicans have against USA.
the sooner you accept the fact and put your tail between your legs the better for you guys. God forbid if another war breaks out and given Meles is no longer on power to sabotage our military gains, Eritrea will be only on the world map. The likes of Alamin who have no idea about the current Ethiopia strength and also who are blinded by an empty nationalism will take this small nation into abyss. Your capital city is 25 km away from the border and in any future military engagement, Ethiopian military will be in Asmara the next couple of days like we did it in the recent past before your president had to call bill Clinton every 30 min while he was in the meantime preparing his plane to fly to Triopli. therefore, this time, nether Meles nor bill Clinton will be around to rescue wodiafom.
With all due respect Ambassador, How did you reach the conclusion that colonized Eritreans are “more highly educated” than the very people who educated Eritreans? It is very sad that a person of your caliber could fall for such a stereotype mainly constructed by Shabian propagandists…need I tell a learned person like you how colonialism affected it’s victims and Eritreans who were not allowed to study beyond 4th grade under their Italian colonial masters were no different until they joined Ethiopians and tasted the fruit of dignity, which of course they couldn’t handle, thanks to the slave mentality..
Thank you for telling the truth about Eritrea. From my experiences, most Eritreans have an extremely delusion view of their country. I’ve heard several Eritreans claim that Ethiopia is actually the worlds top exporter of refugees, Ethiopia is actually the worlds poorest country, etc. Its very sad but the only cure is more medicine(TRUTH)!
“1.6 Million Ethiopian Refugees Have Entered Saudi Arabia since 2012, according to the Chinese state-owned international news agency CCTV.”
“Top 10 Poorest Countries 2013: Oxford University”
90% Living In Poverty
39% Living On At Least $1.25 A Day
61.5% Deprived Of Adequate Schooling
“In Ethiopia, around 28 million people suffer from goitre, and more than 35 million people are at risk of iodine deficiency. More importantly, 50,000 perinatal deaths are related to iodine deficiency each year in Ethiopia.”
Eritrea Exports Per Capita (2012): $70
Population: 6.23 Million
Exports: $434 Million
($434 Million/6.23 Million=69.66)
Ethiopia Exports Per Capita (2012): $33
Population: 93.87 Million
Exports: $3.1 Billion
($3.1 Billion/93.87 Million=33.02)
comment 13 Ehaile;
I never said Eritrea would destroy Ethiopia!Eritrea doesn’t need to, Ethiopians will do that themselves with the all the numerous movements like ONLF,OLF,DEMHIT…..etc.This is all because of the atrocities that are being commited by your puppet genocidal regime. And unless you have forgotten it was Eritrea that defeated Ethiopia in 1991 & trained,armed & took TPLF to the capital of Ethiopia and put them in power, so if Eritrea wanted to,it can do it at any given time,believe that, but Eritrea is more focused on rebuilding Eritrea from zero, destructed by decades of war.
25km is not even a quarter of the length from the capital to the border, you just made yourself look silly & showed your lying nature as an Ethiopian, which is in your blood. PM Meles Zenawi was one of the main instigators of the war, he officially declared war against Eritrea on Ethiopian national television in 1998, and him & is click were talking about defeating Eritrea in a matter of days, but days turned into weeks & weeks turned into months & then years, in 2 years Ethiopia accomplished nothing, they sent thousands & thousands of waves of Ethiopians to there certain death, if any Ethiopians wanted to run away backwards from the Eritrean fire, then they were being shot at & killed by there Ethiopian commanders, that is truly disgraceful & shows the desperation that the Ethiopian regime had to try & defeat Eritrea. Ethiopia had ZERO militarily gains, they forgot who they were facing, they forgot there Eritrean teachers, masters of modern warfare, Ethiopia thought that with the help of foreign mercenaries & Generals they could defeat Eritrea, well they thought wrong and suffered a huge defeat, this was apparent when they were delaying for over a week to sign a peace agreement in Algeria, inorder to try & take Aseb, after waves & waves of Ethiopians dying trying to take Aseb & failed, it’s US masters adviced them that they better sign that agreement, as Eritrea was about to wage a counter-offensive as most of Ethiopias military was destroyed at Aseb battle, it would of been like a walk in the park, once again to the Ethiopian capital. So infact it was the US that saved Ethiopia from complete annihilation.
Very unfortunate. If your analysis on people’s performance is based on their colonial mentality, you are right, our Eriterian brother’s and sister’s were having more better calibers than Ethiopian. For me as an Ethiopian, you are landing in a very wrong and negative perceptions towards Ethiopian, I don’t think you made a reaserch when you writt this article, to concludes that eriterian have a better talent. It is better to go to Roma or London and aske their masters how they govern them., for about 60years.
Comment 14 Teddy;
The Ambassador is absolutely right about that assertion, the Tigrayans had an inferiority complex, and you can even say that was the driving force for them to wage a war against Eritrea, that truly is pathetic to wage a war because of there inferior feelings, they wanted in there narrow minded heads ‘teach’ Eritreans a lesson, but in reverse they got an unforgettable lesson.One higher Ethiopian official was seen on video telling his people that the â€œEritreans look down on us and that they make fun of us with slogans like ‘one cat(Eritrea) can destroy a thousand rats(Ethiopia)'” due to its very large population,that’s roughly translated from Tigrinya to English, its just pathetic to see apparent leaders of a nation making lies like that,because of there inferiority & inorder to wage a war.
Thank you Ambassader.
When it comes to Ethio-Eritrean issue I think the word “respect” is relevant because I think that is what is missing perhaps due to past historical incidents such as colonial interference which left it’s mark in the way people thought about each-other and the emotions you rightly mentioned to exist on both sides are just the symptoms of those artificial differences…
Now diplomatic fallacies aside, the question is how can you take emotion out of the equation when the difference in identity itself is forged out emotions rather than a solid cultural and historical differences.. Do we honestly understand why Eritreans for example can not sustain their self-hood without the myths they have constructed about themselves?, specially given the fact that the elite architects of Eritrean myth the “Tigrigna” happen to share the same culture and history with Ethiopians mainly with Tigrians ? It is even worse when those myths are constructed in relation to Ethiopians, which Ethiopians are capabale of ignoring but do you honestly think it is possible to ignore the fact that those Eritrean myths are expected to be sustained at the expense of Ethiopia? Given our recent bitter history, will it ever be possible for 80 million Ethiopians to accept such an outright insult from 5 million people and if so on what ground? if not, how likely is it the current generation Eritreans who grew up on cocktails of false propaganda and myth construction would settle for Eritrea that is less relevant than Ethiopia they hoped to outshine? Regardless of who accepts it or not, is it not natural that the large and more resourceful Ethiopia would want to assert it’s relevance in the region? and do you think just because Ethiopia had in the past suffered major setback and was forced to compromise Eritrea’s independence, does any one think Ethiopia should continue to submit to Eritrea’s egoistic demands? Don’t you think the sooner Eritreans realize Ethiopians will never entertain the notion of being used the sooner peace will come? Because the chance of Ethiopians repeating past mistakes is zero knowing what the whole intention of almost every Eritrean? By the way Mr Ambassader, every Ethiopian from top to bottom is aware of the factual notion you mentioned about Eritreans wanting to exploit Ethiopia and they even have a saying in Amharic for it, “Eritrea yegil, Ethiopia yegara” meaning, “Eritrea for Eritreans and Ethiopia for share”..So you can see the deep sentiment that there is, and I am sure it would not be understatement to sum-up the current stalemate to this very sentiment..I am sorry if I sound a bit cynical Mr Ambassador, but I am only trying to approach the issue for what it is, and the issue in my opinion is more complicated than what diplomats understandably want suggest..
To tell you the truth, I’m not sure how deep your knowledge of the whole situation is but one should not deny the need for an honest approach to the issue and that honest approach is to see it as a generational issue and treat it accordingly..If I have to be frank as an Ethiopia I DON’T for a moment think rushing to make peace with current generation Eritreans will solve the problem once and for all..I believe Eritreans need time on their own for some soul searching and realization of who they really are as people rather than the superficial image they have forged about themselves, perhaps not due to their own fault, but I guise there is only so much Ethiopia can compromise and I think that was it, 1998! and any deal that resembles pre-98 is doomed to fail and Ethiopia is better off holding to it’s current position for as long as it can, at least until a tasted and sober generation Eritrea is born out of misery. Again I apologize if I’m being to harsh on ordinary people but if we have be honest about the whole issue the individuals who misled and are still misleading Eritreans are brain children of Eritrean people and in fact only survive because the people are knowingly or unknowingly willing to carry them..I do not believe even the Eritreans who oppose the regime have a better vision than the regime, they only hate the hardship and embarrassment the regime caused and disappointed that Eritea is not what they expected it to be..that is it. I therefore do not believe a lasting peace is possible without addressing the root cause of the problem, which is in the mindset…..anyways, thanks for allowing me elaborate on some of the points you raised, and I hope see more of your contributions…thanks again.
I couldn’t agree more.I am an Eritrean (at least forced to) and its true we need to work aggressively on some soul searching so that we realize who exactly we are and it will be a lot easier from there to reach an ever lasting peace with our natural ally.One thing that made me so sad is that how the stupid so called Eritrean politicians failed to realize that the stupid ports that we all bragged about were useless without the cooperation of Ethiopia.
[…] in from the cold” was overdue. On January 13th, onetime US Ambassador to Ethiopia David Shinn concurred and offered a critical analysis of the context leading up to and sustaining the […]
[…] â€œEritrea in from the coldâ€ was overdue. On January 13th, onetime US Ambassador to EthiopiaÂ David Shinn concurredÂ and offered a critical analysis of the context leading up to and sustaining the Eritrean-Ethiopian […]
Open Letter Regarding former U.S. Ambassador David Shinâ€™s proposal to give Badme to Eritrea and for Ethiopia to use Assab
Paulos Milkias Ph.D.
Prof. of Political Science
Ambassador Shinâ€™s proposal to solve the Ethiopian â€“Eritrean conflict that led to a war between the two in 1998-2000 â€“ a war which consumed the lives of over 70,000 people and displaced close to a million people boils down to one thing: Eritrea gets everything; Ethiopia gets nothing.
The decision to boycott the use of the port of Assab was in the first place Ethiopian. Meles at that time said â€œIf Ethiopia does not use Assab; it simply becomes a water hole for camels to drink from.â€
It is Eritrea that has been bankrupted more than it already was by Ethiopiaâ€™s refusal to use Assab. Ethiopia was hurt not because it stopped using the port of Assab. Ethiopia was hurt when the TPLF/EPRDF handed over Assab which was administered as a region of Wollo province during the Haile Selassie period and an autonomous region during the time of the Derg to its EPLF ally. In hindsight, one should not forget that both former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, .Herman Jay Cohen had testified later that their warning that Ethiopia should keep an outlet to the Sea was rejected out of hand by the TPLF/EPRDF Hence, it lost its seacoast and worn the dubious name of the â€œlargest land-locked country on the planet!â€™
Ethiopia was hurt a second time when in 1998, Eritrea invaded Ethiopian territory (the U.N. had determined that) and Ethiopia which won the war and was only 10 miles away from Assab failed to take over the port because the late Prime Minister, Mr. Meles Zenawi ordered the Ethiopian army not to advance and occupy it. Had that been done and the Afars empowered to decide by a referendum whether they wanted their territory to be part of Eritrea or part of Ethiopia, as anybody can guess the outcome would have been clear. The Afars would have chosen their motherland, Ethiopia.
In the absence of a settlement, Ethiopia would have continued the occupation and Eritrea could not have done much. For this we do not even need to mention the six day war and its aftermath in the Middle East. So far the Ethiopian government, which also erred in accepting the Algeirsâ€™s agreement and received a skewed verdict has insisted to occupy Badme (at least during the time of Meles) and there isnâ€™t much Eritrea can do. Issaias, as a survivalist smart cookie knows another adventure would be his ultimate demise. Even the TPLF friends would not have mercy upon him a second time around. So, in brief, I urge Mr. Shin to be even handed in proposing a solution if he is really interested to see peace between the Habeshas who inhabit both countries and are currently â€œdivorced but not separated for goodâ€ as the Eritrean scholar Prof. Dr. Tesfatsion Mednanie puts it.
Dear Paulos Milkias,
First and foremost, when someone starts brandishing a Ph.D before you utter a single word makes the person highly suspicious in-terms of what he is trying to say.
Secondly, the mere fact you try to raise the port of Assab in any context makes you even more suspicious person which has no legal or territorial issue for discussion. I understand that you want to make a case for Assab because you have an intense desire to make it an Ethiopian territory by force or some political expediency; but just like I can not have a territory from Oromo land based on my intense desire to acquire it, you should stop dreaming about acquiring Assab.
Try to think what kind of economical and political agreement that can be signed between the two countries that can be of mutual benefit. History should teach you that it is futile to think otherwise.
[…] January 13th, onetime US Ambassador to Ethiopia David Shinn concurred and offered a critical analysis of the context leading up to and sustaining the Eritrean-Ethiopian […]
[…] David Shinn, the Former United Statesâ€™ Ambassador to Ethiopia also wrote a commentary supporting Ambassador Cohenâ€™s piece. Ambassador Shinn drove United Statesâ€™ policy towards Ethiopia during the 1996-1999 period. His […]
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