EXPANSIONISM: ETHIOPIA'S CHRONIC ILLNESS
The war now looming between Ethiopia and Eritrea is a direct manifestation of Ethiopia's appetite for expansion and annexation of territories to which it has no legal right for its claims. For centuries, it employed "lie, deceit, and conquest" as a tactical policy to expropriate territories and subjugate peoples in the process. There is no country in the Horn, including the Sudan, which is not directly or indirectly affected by this. The Somali land of Ogaden in the east, the Oromo land in the south and west, and of course Eritrea in the north are direct victims of such policy.
The same old tactics were used to occupy a chunk of territories that constitute present day Ethiopia, which include Shoa, Arsi, Sidama, Kafa, and Welega by Emperor Menelik in the 19th century, and their grip consolidated by Haile Selassie as late as in the 1930s. The vast Somali land of Ogaden region was only incorporated into the Empire State of Ethiopia in the 1940s at the blessing of the British Empire at the time. So was Eritrea. With the political, military, economic, diplomatic support of the west, particularly the U.S., Eritrea was forcibly annexed by Ethiopia in 1962 against the 1952 federal resolution of the United Nations. For forty years ( ten years of federation and thirty years of armed struggle ) Ethiopia successfully blocked the question of Eritrea from ever being raised in any U.N. or O.A.U. forums. Only the unflinching determination of the Eritrean people for freedom brought them liberty by sheer force of arms, a repeat no Eritrean soul would want to ever happen again. Yet, to the disappointment of Eritreans, who fought so hard to achieve freedom from the oppressive rules of Emperor Haile Selassie and Colonel Mengistu of Ethiopia, once more their freedom is being threatened by present day Ethiopia's rulers, the Weyanes of Tigray, the very same people Eritreans helped for them to come to power. The Weyanes, like their predecessors, are now enchroaching Eritrean land piece by piece and they have unilaterally declared war against Eritrea to achieve just that and more. Ethiopia's thirst for territorial expansion is real and chronic.
Ethiopia's chronic illness of expansion can in some way be explained by centuries old belief that Ethiopian Empire extended from the Mediterranean Sea to Madagascar, a myth that made its way to the Ethiopian school curricula and as such into the psyche of every Ethiopian ruler that came to power. In practical terms, this always meant a point of contention for Ethiopia's claims when settling territorial disputes with its neighbors. International treaties and resolutions such as those adopted by the O.A.U. that stipulate that European colonial boundaries are sacrosanct, are feared and overtly ignored by Ethiopia when it comes to border demarcations. Anything that challenges its territorial claims has to be met by tangential counter-claims of its own which do not have any legal bearing to the problem. Ethiopia has a reason in doing just that. The borders it shares with its neighboring countries are either clearly demarcated such as that with Eritrea and Kenya and not so with Somalia and the Sudan. Both situations do not serve Ethiopia's interest. Its ambition for territorial expansion into areas clearly demarcated borders will certainly be curtailed, and its hold of territories that are not clearly so may be lost to their rightful owners if it ever agrees to abide by international treaties and resolutions that recognize boundaries on the ground. Ethiopia is well served by avoiding all this and by appearing that it is a victim of military aggression by its neighbors, a stance which is serving it very well, especially in the eyes of the O.A.U.
That is exactly how it is behaving towards the State of Eritrea at this moment: ignore the international treaties that delineated the boundaries between it and Eritrea and the resolutions of the O.A.U. regarding colonial boundaries, and declare war to resolve the conflict. The conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia, unless otherwise it has more sinister motives that do not exclude Ethiopia's desire to one more time annex Eritrea, can be resolved simply by resorting to the demarcation of boundaries on the ground as the Eritrean Government consistently tries to espouse to in its dealings with Ethiopia's unilateral declaration of war against it. Ethiopia does not have a better choice other than to accept the call for peaceful resolution of the conflict and agree to the demarcation of its boundary between it and Eritrea. Eritreans did not fight a bloody ( and lonely ) war for over thirty years to just give up their country's sovereignty, a cause they died for in the first place. Any other solution, history is the wisest teacher ever, other than abiding to the resolution and spirit of the Charter of African Unity, which refers Africa's European colonial boundaries as sacrosanct, will be detrimental not only to Ethiopia but also to the rest of Africa. For certain, Ethiopia would not like to entertain the thought of having to deal its boundary problems with the Somalis in the Ogaden front, nor does it wish to open up unsettled boundary dispute with the Sudan in the west. Many African countries have similar problems to deal with. There are a lot of cans full of warms out there ready to be loose.
Dr. Andemariam Gebremichael
Boston, MA, USA