Strategic Alliance

The purpose of this article is, as are all my other articles, to engage Eritreans in discussion over various issues.  Some opposition articles are written advocating or proposing certain solutions over delicate and complex issues without the benefits of comprehensive and wider discussions and debates among the wider community of Eritrean political activists and interested individuals and groups.   It will be more productive if we can engage in discussions over the enabling factors that allow us to arrive at our solutions through flexible and inclusive processes.  For emphasis it worth repeating that our discussions and debates should primarily focus on processes and enabling factors that allow us to resolve dynamic challenges and issues. 

This writer has made a couple of political observations throughout the years that should give us some concerns,

First concern is, ask anyone how we are going to resolve any issue and one is to get a quick assured reply – but of course, they say, through the democratic process is the reply.  Although most of us are aware of the basic principle of democracy, I am afraid that most of us still don’t have a good grasp of the intricate nature of democracy and the mechanisms required to use the democratic process.  Unfortunately, there is no one single manual on how to develop and utilize the democratic process to resolve issues.  Rather, a suitable democratic process that caters our own domestic realities can only developed through trial-and-error.  If we fail to understand and develop the intricate mechanisms of democratic process, our aspiration of building a democratic nation will surely falter.  A large portion of arriving at a solution is agreeing on the process itself.

Second concern is the tendency by some of our political activists to advocate certain solutions without fully divulging and discussing the assumptions and premises contained in their arguments.  One may have the freedom to express one’s position on any issues without feeling obligated to explain why that view or opinion is preferable.  The onus is always on the reader to question the writer’s premises and basis of arguments.  When one argues for a certain course of action, for a certain policy, for a certain solution, readers should ask writers or advocators of these ideas to explain their line of reasoning

Strategic Alliance

This writer will use this issue to illustrate how one’s assumptions can skew an argument.   It is worth keeping in mind that with PIA’s strategy to win his Pyrrhic victory suffering serious setback in Somalia, it is highly plausible that PIA will resort to more repressive measures in Eritrea to maintain power in upcoming months.  Consequently, the call for strategic alliance with Ethiopia will become stronger in the next few months.  But this call will come from certain members of the opposition camp and not from the Eritrean opposition political groupings. 

Most opposition political groups have sought close working relationships, and even strategic alliance, with the Ethiopian government.  As we noted few months ago, the opposition camp has been complaining that the Ethiopian government has not reciprocated the opposition groups’ rapprochement.  Despite the opposition camps direct experience with the Ethiopian government, some still call upon the opposition camp to pursue ‘strategic alliance’ with Ethiopia.  Our question should be, do these political activists have better understanding of the political realities than those who were actively campaigning for such strategic alliance?  What are their underlying arguments and rationale for advocating such position?  Some confuse the long-term strategic alliance, or more accurately good relations with Ethiopia, as a basis for establishing close relationship with the Ethiopian government at this point in Ethio-Eritrea relations.  Woyane may have different short-term and long-term interests in its relations with Eritrea, and that these two short- and long-term interests may have different strategies.  

Those who advocate for ‘strategic alliance with Ethiopia’ make certain assumptions that PMMZ’s primary objectives for Eritrea are to remove the PFDJ regime and to install some form of a democratic government that is friendly to the EPRDF regime.  In reality, these might be secondary objectives.  In diagnosing PMMZ’s designs towards Eritrea, our starting point for our analysis can only be that PMMZ’s primary motives are to pursue policies that best serves EPDRF regime’s, Ethiopia’s and/or Tigrai’s perceived short- and long-term interests.   What might be these short- and long-term interests?

1.      Negating the internationally arbitrated border decision.   Although the border decision basically divides the disputed territories, which are all Eritrean territories based on colonial border, between the two warring parties, EPRDF and esp. TPLF would face tremendous political challenges if it was to give up Badme during highly charged political climate.   Contrary to opposition camp’s belief that Woyane wants to immediately remove PFDJ, in reality, Woyane might in fact prefer to play PIA into a political straightjacket that would nudge PIA to take irrational actions leading to some form of renewed conflict.  A diplomatically isolated PIA, and Eritrea, would be held liable for this irrational action leading to rescinding the border decision.  Winners may dictate the terms of armistice.  The opposition camp can’t offer any proposal that will disentangle Woyane from the Badme quagmire, other than to let time heal wounds.  The opposition camp can’t offer any immediate and tangible deals on the border that will allow PMMZ to treat the opposition camp favorably.  It is more prudent to assume that Woyane won’t give up Badme without exhausting every means to reverse the border decision and keep Badme before it irreversibly gives it up to Eritrea by proceeding with demarcation.   [Note:  the outcome of war is unpredictable, but Woyane would act on the assumption that it could win]

2.      Despite PMMZ’s claims that Asseb is sovereign Eritrean territory, no one can tell for certain what PMMZ’s long-term strategy is to snatch Asseb away from Eritrea and placing it firmly in Ethiopia’s or, eventually independent, Tigray’s grips.  It is possible that PMMZ is using PFDJ’s paranoia to destroy Eritrea’s nationhood.  A weakened Eritrea would implode leading to a break-up of Eritrea.  Or, a weak Eritrea may establish a federal state with similar rights to secede accorded to nationalities in Ethiopia.  The Afar/Denkel region of Eritrea would exercise its rights to secede as nationalities in Ethiopia, or alternatively Denkel declares some form of independence unilaterally as Somaliland has done.  Eventually, Ethiopia/Tigray incorporates the Denkel region.  Although this possibility might sound far-fetched, the political turmoils of the last decade only reveal that nothing is outside the realm of possibility.  To many of us, the wake-up call wasn’t the capture of Barentu, but rather PIA’s nonchalant decision to evacuate Asseb and hand it over to Woyane.  The June 2000 conflict in the Asseb region was launched after Woyane’s main thrust in the central zone had failed.  There was no possibility of Woyane regrouping to attack the Central Zone after its initial offensive.  Yet, PIA ordered all troops to withdraw from the Asseb region.  It was the bravery of one army General that saved the day.  Had Woyane occupied Asseb, the border decision might have been sharply drawn in favor the Woyanes.   It remains a mystery to this day why PIA decided to take such potentially disastrous decision, and one is only left with a nagging suspicion.   Such types of irrational PIA decisions only embolden Ethiopians/Tigrayans to hope against hope that the irrational and belligerent PIA regime is their best bet to get their pie in the sky.   Woyane needs PIA to remain in power in order to realize their ultimate dreams.

3.      PMMZ may believe that Eritrea must be totally weakened in order to ensure that the future Eritrea doen’t become militarized again.  Nobody knows what PMMZ’s definition of weakened Eritrea is.  The PMMZ regime has no incentive to remove PFDJ, which is doing exactly what Woyane want done to Eritrea.  In fact, PMMZ will keep PIA in a state of paralysis – not alive or dead – but in a state of paranoia that will ensure PFDJ destroy Eritrea, and by extension hoping to destroy Eritrea’s defense capabilities.

4.      PMMZ may need to maintain a tense border situation with Eritrea as a ploy to keep his political base’s interest aligned to his.  Thus, PMMZ needs an external enemy, i.e. PIA/PFDJ, as a rallying point for his fickle powerbase.  As such, it isn’t to PMMZ’s immediate interest to assist any Eritrean opposition groups to remove the PIA regime prematurely. 

5.      It may far-fetched but all leaders want to be remembered for expanding their territories – not for shrinking it.  Nobody knows if PMMZ wants to restore his legacy by uniting ‘3,000 year old nation’ than for destroying it.

The question to my fellow Eritreans is, what is this strategy to strangle Eritrea costing Ethiopia?  Next to nothing!  The generous PFDJ regime is using Eritrea’s own resources to torture, execute and exile Eritreans – and in the process destroying our nationhood.  For Woyane, this is the cheapest war they can wage on Eritrea with tremendous gain for Woyane.  In the meantime, Ethiopia continues to enjoy strong diplomatic relations, generous bilateral and multilateral financial assistance, and decent private investments.  What would Woyane gain by rescuing Eritrea from its own self-destruction?   The one danger PFDJ could have posed to PMMZ regime was to destabilize the region.  But with UIC’s loss in Somalia, PFDJ has lost all its possible political leverage.  Could PFDJ destabilize Ethiopia?  That is a complex task, which has failed to-date, and it isn’t for lack of wanting or efforts on the part of PFDJ.  PFDJ may dabble with even more dangerous external activities, but these would be more desperate acts than coherent and lethal strategies to achieve its Pyrrhic victory.   

Woyane must have sighed a collective relief when PIA arrested the reformers, who would have pursued prudent policies that would have denied Woyane from attaining their long-shot goals.  As long as PFDJ continues to destroy Eritrea, everything Eritrean, and our sense of nationalism, Woyane’s best political bet remains keeping PFDJ in powerUnder this scenario, the PMMZ regime can’t be interested in ‘strategic alliance’ with the Eritrean opposition groups that would prematurely remove the PFDJ regime. One can almost imagine Woyanes raising their ‘minilikh’ in honor of PFDJ, which is on a path to delivering to Woyanes what they want without even lifting their fingers. 

The question to those who advocate for ‘strategic alliance’ with Ethiopia remains, what could the opposition camp offer to the PMMZ regime that PFDJ isn’t offering indirectly through its own [PFDJ’s] inept and destructive politics?  Unless getting your hotel bills paid by Woyane is considered ‘strategic alliance’, we eagerly await to hear their rationale why Woyane would be interested in ‘strategic alliance’. 

China and Africa

I have included this discussion to illustrate how many writers, esp. Africans, make certain assumptions [always examine writers’ assumptions and emphasis] when writing their articles.  The China-Africa relationship is being portrayed as if China is finally rescuing Africa from Western imperialists.  But this is a very simplistic argument.  Although China’s growing economy has increased the demand for African natural resources, thus increasing the price of commodities, wealth hasn’t been Africa’s problem.  The price of natural resources has been fluctuating for the last half-century, but African leaders have squandered African wealth on opulent life styles, corruption and mismanagement.  The embezzled funds are stashed away Western Banks.  Therefore, the primary question shouldn’t be whether the West is exploiting Africans and if China is rescuing Africans from Westerners, but if Africans have accountable governments that make proper use of their national wealth.  We can start with examining our own government.  

China’s relationship with Africa will evolve gradually, leading to a relationship worse than what currently exists between the West and Africa.  For instance, China is becoming heavily reliant on Angolan oil.  Although China is aggressively attempting to diversify its sources of oil supply in Africa, it is not difficult to analyze what China’s concerns might be in its aggressive pursuit to expand its economy.  As Chinese leadership feel that they must control its domestic factors in pursuing its economic campaign, China must equally pursue acts designed to control its foreign supply to ensure that its economy continues to chug along.  For instance, in relying on Angola for its supply oil to run its economy, China can’t allow Angola’s fickle domestic politics to jeopardize its own [Chinese] economy.  China will no longer be disinterested party in the internal affairs of Angola.  To ensure continuous oil supply from Angola, China may have to prop up the current regime supplying its security apparatus or any other assistance to keep the current regime in power even if the regime is engaged in repressive acts.   Similarly, China can’t remain disinterested over Darfur if that could affect the flow of Sudanese oil to its economy.  It is interesting that one of the pledges of assistance given to the Sudanese government during the current Chinese Premier’s visit is to build a new presidential palace.  To me, that defines the relationship between China and Africa – propping up unaccountable regimes, Déjà vu!

China and Confucianism

Concerned that the discredited Marxist ideology would create a moral vacuum, the Chinese authorities have begun a quiet campaign to bring back the two thousand year old philosophy/religion of Confucianism.  It was only yesterday that Mao was fully campaigning to destroy it.  The Chinese leaders are concerned that if the Chinese value system is left devoid of any belief that Western moral values would replace it.   The Chinese leaders aren’t restricting their new campaigns to domestic audience.  China has already begun opening and financing Confucian centers around the world.  Ultimately, China hopes to open up to 500 new Confucian centers around the world.

Then, we have PIA who is destroying all our moral values, our proud traditions and cultures.  What is he trying to replace it with?  They are being replaced by corrupt practices, cruelty, selfishness and every other destructive values.   

Berhan Hagos

February 3, 2007

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