Dr. Abiy Ahmed’s Zinger and Witticism: Ethiopia’s Acceptance of the Border Ruling
We live in an interesting times indeed. What seems to be the impossible, as far as the dictator is at the helm in Eritrea, is perhaps possible after all. Under the young and charismatic leader,
We live in an interesting times indeed. What seems to be the impossible, as far as the dictator is at the helm in Eritrea, is perhaps possible after all. Under the young and charismatic leader, the recalcitrant Ethiopia has accepted the border ruling of 2002. This is extraordinary news indeed, as the stubborn political paralysis enveloping Eritrea and Ethiopia for the last 20 years was a disaster of epic proportions. Though the dictator and his ever obedient dogs were taken by surprise at the news, we hear a few mutterings: ‘the weyanes had finally buckled to the border ruling of 2002’; they are conspicuously mum, nonetheless. No flag waving, no guayla or no jubilation. What are they wary of?
I have no reason to doubt Dr. Abiy Ahmed’s statement about overcoming the political stalemate between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Or, perhaps a carefully crafted ploy to destroy the Eritrean dictator politically, who has made Eritrea the epicenter of instability in East Africa? If that is the case, Abiy Ahmed’s zinger and witticism is magnificent indeed. It is worth remembering that the dictator used the border issue as a modus vivendi to render the Eritrean people in perpetual servitude, to create a siege mentality and to hamper peace and reconciliation between Eritrea and Ethiopia. He used this excuse to deny Eritreans a peaceful living in their own country. With the announcements coming out of Ethiopia, what would his next move be now? It is thus incumbent upon the Ethiopian leader to expose this duplicity and create a political mine field in Eritrea. That is how you destroy your enemies.
To put the argument in perspective, referring a bit of history is in order here:
In the 1920s, the warlords of Ethiopia came to a reluctant awareness that a young Prince by the name of Ras Teferi Mekonnen, often referred by his regnal name, Haile Selassie, was about to assume the Ethiopian throne. The warlords were even more incensed that how the small and cordial usurper had outwitted them to maneuver his way to the top by duping the already weak Empress Zewditu. Despite their anger however, – and, this is the reason why unity for a common cause is of paramount importance – the warlords were in no position to mount a formidable defense against Haile Selassie. They were more interested in defending their own turf than confront him. They were as divided as ever.
Haile Selassie, the ambitious usurper, was summoning the warlords, one at a time, to the capital to buy their loyalty. With defeatist undertones, most obeyed, as they came to realize that their audacity wouldn’t pay any dividends in the face of division. Some, who understood the Prince well, hesitated as their revolt is of no match to that of the cunning ruses of Haile Selassie’s; they obeyed him, nonetheless. But one, bold and arrogant warrior, Dejazmatch Balcha of Sidamo decided to defy Haile Selassie. In his self aggrandizing and arrogant ways, Balcha thought Haile Selassie to be a weak man, unworthy of Imperial Ethiopia’s throne. In the end though, Balcha decided to come to the capital to pay Haile Selassie a visit. In so doing, he would bring thousands of his soldiers, presumed to be 10,000 strong, to the capital as guarantors of peace or war, as the situation dictated; or so he thought. And encamped them a few miles outside Addis Abeba. But Haile Selassie had his own plans. He promptly sent emissaries to Balcha to attend a dinner party in his honor in the capital. It was said that, “the paranoid are easier to deceive.” Wary of Haile Selassie’s intentions, Balcha would attend the party, provided that he brought his personal bodyguards, to number around 600, all armed. To his amazement, Haile Selassie agreed to entertain his bodyguards too, just to soften him and win his trust.
Imagine Haile Selassie’s cunning abilities to entrap his enemies.
Over the meal and festivities, Balcha wasn’t amused at the goings-on, thinking and strategizing his next moves. In the mean time, he thought he had the upper hand. While the festivities were in full swing, Haile Selassie arranged a large army of his own to encircle Balcha’s encamped army outside the capital. Though a full battle would have called the shots for the day, the always shrewd Haile Selassie preferred other methods to disarm them. He appealed to their human instincts: their greed. He commanded his armies not fire a shot, lest Balcha hear the commotion and promptly return to his soldiers. He instead commanded them to present them with cash and gold to buy their weapons back. Balcha’s troops, salivating at the prospect of fortunes, had taken the bait and hurriedly scattered to the countryside. It seemed surreal, but in this way, Haile Selassie was able to disarm Balcha’s troops. Upon his return to the valley where his troops encamped, Balcha knew he had been tricked. It was too late. He attempted several escapes, but to no avail. The arrogant Dejazmatch Balcha was promptly arrested and sent to a monastery. In this way, without resorting to violence, without firing a single shot, Haile Selassie destroyed his enemy.
The defeated Dejazmatch Balcha was alleged to have said:
“Do not underestimate the power Teferi, he creeps like a mouse but he has jaws like a lion.”
As the history of Haile Selassie and Dejazmatch Balcha makes abundantly clear, astute politicians have a myriad of ways to destroy their enemy. In fact, they do have a multitude of ways to do just that. So, is the news from Ethiopia a true desire for peace with Eritrea? Or, would it be an expertly tailored ploy to expose the dictator’s true intentions. Would the Eritrean dictator follow suit and reciprocate in earnest? Let’s keep in mind that now, Dr. Abiy’s statement deny him the excuse to keep the so-called national service in perpetuity. Now, he doesn’t have any reason not to implement the constitution: to allow the free press, freedom of movement, the release of long held political prisoners and the immediate end to the never ending national service in Eritrea.
As most of us in the opposition believe, peace and prosperity of Eritreans are anathema to the dictator. He can not live in a peaceful Eritrea; for he used the no-war no-peace hangover as an excuse to deny Eritreans a peaceful living. And quite honestly, he isn’t short of easily duped sympathizers, who genuinely believe that the border issue to be the cause of Eritrea’s problems and scapegoating Ethiopia for the stalemate. But, why are they mum now? Why can’t they celebrate at the news? Wasn’t ‘Ethiopia’s refusal to withdraw from Badme,’ their argument all along?
It is my belief that Mr. Ahmed’s statement is intended to find ways for peaceful resolution of the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia. It is also quite possible that the intention is to expose the Eritrean dictator’s true colors. And to politically destroy him in the eyes of Eritrean and Ethiopian people? We will know soon. Abiy Ahmed sent an olive branch to the Eritrean people. Any well meaning Eritrean should support the initiative in its spirit, as a venue to gradually bring peace to the long suffering Eritrean people. Incidentally, to say that the 2002 border ruling is the best Eritrea could achieve is a bit of an overstatement. Let’s not forget that several villages in the south, hitherto Eritrean, found themselves to be Ethiopian by the border ruling. A lot of compatriot who hailed from these villages – who were Eritreans by sweat and blood – had found themselves to be Ethiopians by this ruling. These people were crying for justice for the last two decades. It is my hope and prayer that they get their rightful place sometime in the future.