Katie Melua is one of my favorite western singers. Her soothing voice and musical tone gives one relaxation. The title of this article is inspired by one of her songs, ‘thank you stars’, in her album ‘piece by piece’. I would like to regard myself as one of those ‘others’ who attended the meeting of Eritrean intellectuals, professionals and others in Addis Ababa last month. I think it is important for the Eritrean opposition to have good and healthy relations with all political actors in Ethiopia and in the region generally, be they in power or in opposition. It is also important for all of us that we and our neighbors live in peace based on mutual respect and understanding. It is only then we can have sustainable development. It is also important that we have free, democratic and justice upholding countries around us that respect human rights. We all gain from that. Regarding relations with the Ethiopian opposition, the bottom line should be that they recognize Eritrean independence and sovereignty.
Ethiopia with about 80 million people is one of our big neighbors. We are bound to live as neighbors for ever. We have historical relations with it and we have ethnic extensions like we have it with all our neighbors. It was our colonial power; we were forcibly annexed to it for 30 years. The legacy of the liberation war and the border war after liberation has left deep injuries that arehealing with time. Our current brutal dictatorial regime that is oppressing us can not be entrusted to forge good relations with Ethiopia or with our other neighbors. It is in the interest of both countries that we lay ground for a new fraternal relationship based on mutual interest and trust and it is high time the Eritrean opposition did that. I have previously reflected on our relationship in two articles related to the last year meeting of the National Conference for Democratic Change in Addis. At this particular junction of our history I would like to thank the TPLF in particular and the EPRDF in general for the following specific reasons. I am not looking for nor I am in need of any favors from the Ethiopian Government in doing so, but I want to state facts that have been blurred by the huge propaganda machine of the Eritrea regime. I have also to state that like many other Eritreans, I supported the Eritrean Government during the border war.
Thank you for:
- Hosting the Eritrean opposition during the last decade and for keeping it alive;
- Accepting all components of the Eritrea opposition as they define themselves be it based on ethnic, religious or other wise and giving room even to those who accuse you of interfering negatively in the Eritrean affairs and for respecting Eritrean diversity;
- Being friend in times of great need when all our neighbors not only abandoned us but collaborate with the Eritrean regime in oppressing us;
- Protecting us from our own Government on a daily basis by providing refuge to more than 60, 000 Eritreans (most of whom are young);
- Saving the lives of 4000 young Eritreans from being deported back to Eritrea from neighboring countries that were supposed to give us at least safe haven based on religious and humanitarian grounds;
- Easing the situation at the refugee camps and for opening the opportunity for higher studies where more than 500 persons take advantage of it at present. This is at the time young students are forced to live in trenches for years without education in their own country.
- Giving Eritreans in Ethiopia, preferential treatment based on the historical ties;
- Recognizing and defending the right to Eritrean independence during the liberation war when even some Eritrean scholars felt that the Mengistu regime was so progressive so that there was no need for independence
- Recognizing Eritrean independence from the start and paying a high price for that after the downfall of the Dergue regime;
- Emphatically stating that you respect the territorial integrity of Eritrea and for showing to the Ethiopian chauvinists that Ethiopia can not only survive but it can thrive as well, without any ports of its own, while at the same time our own Government is working closely with the Ethiopian opposition that do not recognize our independence and have declared openly that they will retake Assab. By doing so, has the Eritrean regime lost all its legitimacy to represent Eritreans.
- Stating that you have recognized the border ruling between the two countries in writing to the Secretary General of the UN and for asking for negotiations during implementation so that the marking on the ground will be carried out to the best benefit of people living in the border area;
- Clarifying that there is Eritrean territory that was given to Ethiopia by the border Commission still under the administration of the Eritrean Government. Our Government just emphasizes that the Weyane are still holding Eritrean territory.
- Being honest in not only recognizing and apologizing that mistakes were done during the border war from your side, but for taking concrete steps to redress the mistakes. On the other side our Government has never apologized neither to the Eritrean people nor to the Ethiopians
- Clarifying that the coalition between the EPLF and the TPLF against the ELF was not a Tigrinya alliance, but was necessitated by self defense against the coalition between ELF and EPRP to attack TPLF and at the same time regretting the use of force, then.
- Giving us a breathing space, bringing us together, helping us to build trust amongst ourselves; a trust that we lost due to our Government working day and night to sow divisions among us.
- Showing us the way to forge a strong people to people relationship.
I would like to err on believing what I have heard, what I have seen, what I have experienced over the years than to err on not believing it. Now that we are coming close to National Conference for Democratic Change in Addis I call upon all skeptics to engage positively by participating and say their opinions there and see what is going on in Ethiopia. Then they would have more credibility when they express themselves, rather than sit in their ivory towers in Europe and the USA and profess judgments not based on facts. History is being made, be part of it.
Thank you so much.