Farewell Party for UN Secretary General

“Every revolution begins with the power of an idea, 

and ends when the only idea left is clinging to power.” 

Grudge politics has become the hallmarks of the regime.  The latest non-event of PFDJ moving its troops into the demilitarized zones reflects more on the collective mental state of the regime than its intended effect.  The latest definition of ‘national development’ has both explained few inconsistencies while confusing some of our other observations.

Past observations explained include:  we were wondering about the regime’s claim of so many ‘development projects’ taking place in Eritrea.  The regime has finally explained to us that its ‘development projects’ consist of 1,500 troops and 14 tanks.  Based on the latest definition, we reckon that the regime’s highest number of ‘development projects’ took place between May 1998 and June 2000.  Moreover, all these trips to Gash Barka for ‘development projects’ must be to inaugurate the completion of Sawa trainings. 

Our confusion is this: if moving 1,500 troops and 14 tanks is part of ‘national development’, does this mean that the Ministry of ‘National Development’ is able to mobilize troops and tanks?  Is the Minister of Ministry of ‘National Development’ given an added title – Field Marshall Dr.?  Would this put the Ministry of Defense in conflict with the Ministry of ‘National Development’ – after all, creating internal conflict is the middle name for PFDJ? 

If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it is a duck!



The burning question remains, what is the purpose of PFDJ’s latest desperado theatrics; who is the audience?


ü      Could this be a prelude to invasion?  

o        Probability:  extremely low

o        Tanks are used for advancing or for forward movement.  The fact that PFDJ moved 14 tanks is supposed to signal that the regime is prepared to attack its enemy.  There are three possible [but unlikely] military objectives,

§         Redeploy Eritrean troops in the DMZ to send signal to the world community that unless the border is demarcated, and very soon, that it would proceed with further desperate actions,

§         Another possible objective might be to re-assert its sovereignty over areas awarded to Eritrea under the 2002 border decision.  This would mean rekindling war with Ethiopia.  The outcome of such war is unpredictable. 

§         Still another possible objective might be to invade Northern Ethiopia in a bid to put momentum on overthrowing the PMMZ regime.  After all, having entered into DMZ, PFDJ is now in violation of the 2000 Algiers’s Agreement, thus if war is to re-start with Ethiopia PFDJ must ensure a win because it would face world condemnation regardless.   Any other outcome would be the immediate downfall of PFDJ; it must go for everything or nothing.

ü      Could this be a psychological warfare?

o        Obviously, the regime wants to give the impression that it is desperate enough to carry out foolish acts.  The regime is engaging in desperate acts and it wants the world community to know that, i.e. it doesn’t want to hide the fact it is in desperate domestic political situation.  Although it may put brave face for its domestic audience, it wants the world community, esp. the US, to calculate the risks of alienating a regime into a corner and its possible consequences.

o        As the history tells us dictators leave the impression that they would fight to the last man to protect their own interest disguised under rhetoric of protecting sovereignty.  Some recent examples include Col. Mengistu and Saddam.  In reality, when the noose gets tighter around their necks, they are the first to abandon their bravado and run or hide in rat holes.   If history is any indication, despite the latest PFDJ theatrics, PFDJ won’t do anything to jeopardize its own existence. It would rather sink slowly into its destruction while hoping that some political tsunami saves its political life, than to take its chances with war with Ethiopia which could possibly rid of the PMMZ regime.           

o        Especially in today’s world where dictators might be brought to International Criminal Court (ICC), PFDJ knows that the days of wreaking havoc and then skipping to safe country when cornered is now gone.  As a result, dictators’ tendencies to play their extreme games are taken away from them.  By taking away their extreme options, nearly all dictators are quickly cornered into their submission.

Taking the above factors into considerations, the impact on the following audiences could be,   

1.     Ethiopia:  PMMZ has already responded stating that his regime won’t respond to this apparent provocation.  PMMZ responded as exactly one would expect him to say.  PMMZ believes that it has ‘time’ [and the US] on its side.

2.     US: Similar to Ethiopia’s position, the US will ignore the latest action.  The UN and other world bodies will ignore the latest theatrics.   

3.     Eritrean Population: The Eritrean population is the biggest victim of this latest PFDJ theatrics.  The Eritrean people are wondering what will happen to themselves and family members if another war is rekindled because of PFDJ’s bloodthirsty and desperate acts.  At the end of the day, intensifying the ‘fear’ game against the Eritrean population will only increase the likelihood of popular uprising.  Where the opposition camp is able to strategize and lend the necessary leadership (under recognizable figures) and direction, there can be a very high likelihood of change very soon.   

4.     Higdefawiyans: The latest desperate theatrics can’t be for the benefit of higdefawiyans.  Their support for the regime isn’t based on political prudence nor belief in the rule-of-law, but is based on personality cult.  Thus the regime need not do anything to keep them onside.

For all concerned parties, the latest PFDJ desperate theatrics is a non-event.

War of Attrition

Despite the end of the physical battles between Eritrea and Ethiopia in June 2000, ‘war by other means’ has been raging, even picking up speed, since June 2000 and especially after the border decision in 2002.

Eritrea’s strategy of war of attrition consists of training and arming every opposition group in Ethiopia while simultaneously engaging in intensive media campaign against the PMMZ regime.  Unable to hasten the downfall of the PMMZ regime under this strategy, the PFDJ regime has opened another front in Somalia.  This latest strategy of expanding the war of attrition indicates that the PFDJ feels that it doesn’t have the luxury of time and must hasten the downfall of PMMZ regime – by any means.  The burning question is why does the PFDJ regime feel that it doesn’t have the luxury of time?   There are two main reasons: first, PFDJ is under pressure from its own population to engage in wide sweeping political reforms, and second, PFDJ doesn’t have the political, diplomatic and financial resources to outlast the PMMZ regime.

Ethiopia’s strategy of war of attrition consists of letting the PFDJ regime remain in a state of suspended animation – quickly draining PFDJ’s resources.  Ethiopia has much larger pool of financial resources, including the large foreign assistance it receives.  In contrast, PFDJ must finance 300,000 troops on dwindling financial resources.  In addition, the PMMZ regime is fully aware that PFDJ is under intense internal political pressure and thus for the PMMZ regime ‘time’ is its ace in the hole.  The PMMZ regime is fully cognizant of the internal politics of Eritrea and has prudently avoided from favoring one opposition group over another.

Who is winning the war of attrition?  The essence of ‘war of attrition’ is ‘time’ – who can remain standing.  ‘Time’ implies which side has greater resources to remain standing.  Thus, by implication, this means that every day, every week, and every month that passes, it favors the PMMZ regime and works against the PFDJ regime.

PFDJ’s Schizophrenic Foreign Policy

It is absolutely puzzling to observe PFDJ’s policy towards the sole world superpower.  The PFDJ regime quickly escalated Woyane’s provocation into war by occupying disputed territory in May 1998.  Although the disputed territory belonged to Eritrea, there were international legal procedures that PFDJ should have pursued to claim these lands.  But PFDJ operates under ‘Might is Right’ political philosophy than engaging in the tedious task of diplomacy and international legal avenues.  PFDJ should have learned the importance of ‘diplomacy’ and abiding by international rules [which are not always fair] over the Hanish Islands disputes.

After the Badme fiasco leading to Ethiopia’s Declaration of War, PFDJ hoped that the US would extricate it [PFDJ] from its own mistakes.  Instead, the US and the world community in general placed the blame of aggression squarely on PFDJ.  For the world community, PFDJ Eritrea’s latest and repeated [i.e. after Hanish] action created dangerous precedence [which is really double standard].  When the US failed to extricate PFDJ from its own misguided ‘Might is Right’ political philosophy, PFDJ pursued confrontational approach to dealing with Ms. Susan Rice and Mr. Anthony Lake.  Later, the PFDJ regime claimed that the CIA was plotting against it.  But in reality, the Clinton Administration had goodwill towards Eritrea – calling PIA and others as the new generation of leaders only a couple of years earlier.  Even Ms. Clinton visited Eritrea.  So what happened between 1997 when the US had such high expectation for Eritrea to a couple of years later when PFDJ was accusing the US of plotting against it?  The answer is simple, the PFDJ regime pursued misguided foreign policies, ‘I know better’ and total disregard for international rules – a dangerous example, a troublesome student that needed to learn some bitter lessons.

Unfortunately, the PFDJ has an exaggerated opinion of itself.  It is childishly trying to play the carrot-stick game against the world’s sole superpower. 

ü      The carrot game the PFDJ regime tried to play with the US consisted of the following,

o        Offer the Dahlak Islands for American use (esp. during the war with Iraq).  The PFDJ regime had American lobbyists to win over the American Administration to use the islands.  But although the US navy may have needed the Dahlak Islands for its Iraq campaign, instead the American Administration chose to use the Djiboutian French Naval Base although the French had alienated the Americans by actively campaigning against the American position in the UN Security Council during the days leading to the Iraq War.

o        Join the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ in American campaign into Iraq.

o        The biggest carrot the regime is desperately playing to win over the US government is the PFDJ’s ruthless and reckless interference in the Sudan.  It is no secret that the PFDJ is both the arsonist and firefighter in the Sudanese political arena.   The purpose has little to do with PFDJ’s genuine interest in Sudan but PFDJ’s desperate act of trying to win the American government’s attention.   PFDJ doesn’t accept American foreign policy of pegging their [US] interest with perceived regional powers – i.e. Ethiopia in the Horn, Egypt in the North, Nigeria in the West and South Africa in the South – is unpalatable.  By interfering and playing the broker in Sudan and possible broker in Somalia, and even as power broker in Ethiopia, PFDJ hopes to earn its respect with the American government.  PFDJ hopes that its ability to manipulate regional politics, unlike Ethiopia, in the form of its role as a broker between the Sudanese government and Eastern Sudan rebels is a proof of its ‘power’ in the region.  By extension, PFDJ is sending the signal to the American government that PFDJ can also resolve the Darfur issue which is preoccupying the world community, and beyond that the Somali tragedy

ü      The stick game is usually and naturally the opposite of the carrot game,   

o        Fully aware that the Darfur issue is occupying the Western World, and even possibly becoming a minor issue in some Western elections, the PFDJ regime is sending a subtle message that if the US doesn’t deliver on the border that the PFDJ won’t help with the Darfur issue – and even possibly exacerbating the situation.

o        For a regime that doesn’t have the luxury of time, PFDJ anted up its game by directly interfering in Ethiopia in the hope of knocking off the PMMZ regime.  The message to the American government is that PFDJ has the power to destroy its protégé in the Horn of Africa.  

o        For a regime that is racing against time, PFDJ can’t just wait for the outcome of its efforts in the Darfur and Ethiopian politics.  Thus PFDJ quickly expanded its interference game into Somalia.  If the US doesn’t pressurize Ethiopia to accept the border demarcation, PFDJ is saying that it will adversely interfere with America’s War-on-Terror – America’s current cornerstone of its foreign policy.  This is the ultimate sign of either the regime’s inability to understand the limits of playing with fire or, more likely, its extremely desperate state of affairs. 

Ultimately, PFDJ regime’s message is clear – give me [implement] the border decision or I can wreak havoc in this region.  PFDJ is saying that it is reckless and desperate enough to carry out its threats.  But the politics of appeasement is exercised by the European governments and not by the American government.  As the self-appointed policeman of the world, American policy is based on what any regime’s action or engagement has on ‘precedence’, ‘ramifications’ and ‘implications’ in world order.  In contrast, although EU’s Ambassador to Eritrea was annoyed a couple of months ago over PFDJ’s illegal sale of $ 3 Million worth of food aid, while everyone was expecting stiff response by the EU, instead the EU proceeded with additional $ 25 Million of aid to Eritrea.  EU may claim that the funds were already in the pipeline, but without firm and timely EU response, either by ensuring that assistance is used for intended purposes only or by denying assistance, the EU can only embolden the regime.     

Farewell Party

PFDJ’s latest desperate theatrics has little effect on all the concerned groups.  The timing and purpose of this latest theatrics can only be construed as a farewell party for the outgoing UN Secretary General [UNSG]  Kofi Anan.  This is typical grudge politics (even prevalent within the opposition camp) or ‘Bah Aybelom Politics’ that is played by aspiring politics who can never understand the occupational hazards of being politicians.

The rocky relationship between UNSG and PFDJ can’t be judged in isolation.  PFDJ has made a career out of alienating every diplomat in the world – save the Chinese.  But then again, even the Chinese abstained when the UNSC passed the unfair [to Eritrea] Resolution 1641.  PFDJ has sought confrontation with top American officials, EU representatives and everyone in-between.

Why would PFDJ choose to selectively pick a fight against UNSG?  In reality, the UN in general doesn’t have the capacity to enforce international agreements and decisions.  It must be no less frustrating for UNSG to be unable to enforce international agreements than the aggrieved parties, but must rely on the individual interest of member states to implement them – thus inconsistencies in applying international agreements and UNGA & UNSC resolutions.   Disregarding UNSC resolutions is the rule rather than the exception.  The latest PFDJ theatrics in defiance of Resolution 1641 is simply yet another proof why the 2000 Algiers Agreements can’t be implemented without some fancy diplomatic footwork.   As one can remember, [the unfair to Eritrea] Resolution 1641 was supposed to pass some form of punitive action if Ethiopia and Eritrea didn’t take specific actions.  PFDJ has anted up its campaign against Resolution 1641 – as ‘bah aybelka’ UNSG, but no action has been taken against PFDJ either.

The latest PFDJ theatrics is supposed to put yet another black mark [blemish] on the outgoing UNSG’s legacy.  In reality, the Eritrea-Ethiopia border conflict hardly raises any interest outside Eritrea and only part of Ethiopia.  As much as we regard our Eritrea as the center of the world, for the rest of the world, Eritrea doesn’t even exist on the world map.  Unfortunately, the outgoing UNSG will be remembered more by the Rwanda tragedy [as head of UN Peacekeeping Mission], 9/11, the Iraq (including the Food-for-Oil Program) tragedy, and North Korean and Iranian defiance.  But all these happened not because of the UNSG but despite the UNSG.  His valiant effort to revamp the UN was side-wiped by the US.   With the departure of the current UNSG, the selection of the new UNSG suggests that the UN agenda for the next 5 to 10 years will be dominated by the Middle East and Far East.  Continuing with the trend of the past 5 years, Africa will become even more marginalized.  This will mean that the Ethio-Eritrea border issue will be thrown even further into the back-burner – and even if the border issue is ever mentioned it will be within the context of the War-On-Terror rather than on its own merit.

Under the new UNSG, PFDJ theatrics won’t attract any attention, which will defeat the purpose of PFDJ’s theatrics. World disinterest on the border issue will suit the PMMZ regime because it feels that it has ‘time’ [and the US] on its side while the PFDJ regime feels that a ‘prolonged war of attrition’ works against it.

The only immediate impact [on Eritrea] of the UNSG leaving office will be that those Eritreans of higdefawiyan variety who tried to make a career out of bashing the UNSG in their articles will have to find a new topic – and that will be no easy challenge. 

Absolute Necessities of the limits of power

‘Bah Aybelo[m] Politics’ or ‘Keriyeka Iye Politics’ is destructive.  If politicians can’t accept the nature and occupational hazards of the political world in its treachery and duplicity, and instead turn into personal grudge match, then the result is mutually assured destruction.  Unfortunately, regardless of how rational a person may be, one is never immune from personal feelings – feelings of betrayal, holding grudges, need for vindication and varying degrees of egotism.   That is why institutions are needed to control inescapable human nature.   Institutionalization simply means distributing power such that negative human nature cancels each other out.  Thus the aim is institutionalizing politics is not to turn politicians into perfectly rational people, which is not humanly possible, but to ensure their competitive ambitions cancels each other out and thus mitigating the negative effects of individual human shortcomings.  

A government may fail in carrying out its policies, esp. major policies, for various reasons.  The tendency of any regime that is caught in a wrong major policy is to ‘stay the course’ and thus possibly endangering the unity and survival of a nation.  The head of a regime feels that its personal legacy depends in ensuring the eventual success of its failed policy and thus endangering the survival of the nation [for personal reputation].  That is why the limits of power must be imposed if a nation is to overcome wrong or failed policies – and they happen more often than not.  When President Johnson got embroiled in Vietnam, it took President Nixon to extricate the US from Vietnam.  It will take the next American administration to extricate the US from Iraq.  This is the strength of America.  The American system of government doesn’t allow American leaders who bogged down in wrong policies to drag the whole country down with them.  This is yet another example of the eternal wisdom of the framers of the American Constitution.  Disagreements over course of action are called ‘democracy’ in America.  Disagreements over course of action are called ‘endangering national security’ and ‘temberkaknet’ in PFDJ’s Eritrea.  That is why America [and the Western Democracy in general] can extricate itself from quagmires and PFDJ’s Eritrea can’t.           

In August 2000, the PFDJ Central Committee gave PIA an opportunity to quietly, in a zipped manner that only PFDJ/EPLF can deliver, amend the many mistakes of the previous years.  But PIA felt that his political opponents won’t allow him to live down his mistakes of the previous years.  The only way, PIA felt, to ensure that his mistakes won’t catch up to him was to ensure that he claims eventual success on his initial failures by ‘staying the course’ and claiming personal victory over the border issue.  At the end of the Eritrea-Ethiopia war, PFDJ was stuck between two factors that ensured PFDJ pursue only one course of action.  The first factor was that the Eritrean Constitution and the reform movement must be crushed.  The second factor was to ensure that border victory become a personal victory to absolve himself from the 1998-2000 Fiasco.  The reformers gave PIA an opportunity to extricate himself, but PIA chose the unfortunate path.

Similarly, those in the opposition camp that choose to regurgitate old politics are just as guilty of playing destructive politics – no less than PFDJ’s.  Just as the wise G-15 attempted to do, we have to allow leaders who get caught in formulating or in supporting ‘major’ policies that eventually fail to extricate themselves in honorable way that allows them to save their names and legacies.  In exchange, these leaders must seek wide consultation to amend mistakes or pursue other widely accepted alternative course of actions.  The fact that PIA ignored the reformers’ correct approach of offering to extricate PIA in exchange for proceeding with reform doesn’t retroactively blemish the G-15 over their prudent approach.  If we allow our pessimism to think five moves ahead in a political chess game, we will only end up advocating for ‘the end justifies the means’.  That surely will mean the end of our aspiration for democratic Eritrea, and ensuring that Eritrea remains among the ranks of all other failed and failing states.  We have to operate as if our next political move defines all our future political moves.  It is this wisdom of the G-15 we admire and respect.  That is why they chose to offer their lives for the next move – not for three moves ahead, but the next one. 

It would be naïve to think that the current struggle is only against the PFDJ regime.  The problem of PFDJ is universal and our campaign is to ensure that personality cults and whims of individuals don’t lead to the destruction of our nation – a nation entrusted to us by the sweat and blood of hundreds of thousands of Eritreans.    The limits of power and establishing institutions are the only ways to ensure the long term viability Eritrea as a stable democratic nation.  Institutions are created on the strength of current flexible, learning, innovative and systematic organizations [both political and non-political].  

Berhan Hagos

October 21, 2006

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