In a conference held at the Economic Commission for Africa on December 9,1998, the chief Shoan spokesperson and leading theoretician of ESUNA old guards, the Ethiopian Students Union in North America of the 70s, Professor Andreas Eshete, under the guise of discussing the current border conflict, delivered his usual Abyssinian diatribe on Eritrea. Just like all Shoan diatribes, Andreas's also had a set of concluded formulae and all facts and propositions must be created and twisted to lead to those conclusions. True to his forefathers in the process of discussing any issue on Eritrea, the Professor had to somehow make sure that he appeases the foreign powers that have always been instrumental in arming Abyssinians to the detriment of oppressed nationalities in Ethiopia and also Eritrea. Interspersed in Andreas's speech one can see that particular Shoan flavor of sadism and arrogance. Thus Andreas Eshete begins his long diatribe by stating that the Eritrean Government has the unequivocal support of educated Eritreans. He adds that both the Eritrean Government and the educated Eritreans have embarked on a suicide mission. For many Eritreans this strongly smells of Haile Sellasie's "embi lale sew tiyit agursew!" and Mengistu's "yefiyel wotete!" Well, like father like son.
At any rate, to understand the gist of Andreas Eshete's speech as set forth in The Reporter Magazine issue of December 1998 (vol. 2, no.15) it is a must that we begin from his conclusions.
Debtera Andreas's ("debtera" is Amharic for Abyssinian Professorship!) first conclusion is that Eritrea invaded Ethiopia. For the Debtera, somehow certain facts must be created to show that Eritrea invaded Ethiopia. Knowing his longstanding position on Eritrean Liberation movements, one is not surprised why Debtera Andreas failed to ask elementary questions that would have helped him to conclude who the aggressor is. The first essential finding to make would have been to locate Badme on the map. The second logical thing to do would have been to discuss and study the letters that were exchanged between President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, with regard to the border disputes. A reasonable finding and understanding of the two issues would have then led him to a sound conclusion.
Instead of following a reasonable logical sequence to determine who the aggressor was, the Debtera goes to look for the cause why Eritrea invaded Ethiopia. Alas! He found the answer in Eritrea's insistence on self-reliance. The Debtera, through his twisted logic, concludes that Eritrea does not have enough natural resources and hence can be self reliant only by using its forces and plundering other countries and that is why it invaded Ethiopia. I think only a habitual parasite will consider self-reliance as depending on other peoples' resources. But, mind you, the Debtera mentioned 'self-reliance' in his discussion as a two-pronged tool. On the one hand, attacking Eritrean self-reliance is going to please some international donors. Nations as well as organizations that foster dependency would be glad to see Eritrean self-reliance attacked, especially by a professor, who was parachuted onto the political arena, by a non-governmental organization, which has been heavily funded by shady US donors. On the other hand, this is a subtle call for Eritrea to accept all foreign assistance and accompanying structural adjustments which will insist, inter alia, that Eritrea reduce its armed forces, which the Debtera thinks is oversized. In passing, it is appropriate to question and ponder the mysterious places and circumstances that the Debtera professor is always found in. With no political party or affiliation and only with the subsidy from a non-governmental organization known as InterAfrica Group, Professor Andreas has managed to be a spokesperson of the Ethiopian Government. Stranger and more mysterious still, he was with 'tagay' Hayelom Araya when the latter was fatally shot in a bar brawl. Incidentally 'tagay' Hayelom Araya had a modest education and was awarded the rank of a general, post mortem. The Debtera was also instrumental in silencing Amhara chauvinists who opposed the current regime in Addis Ababa. With no government portfolio, Andreas Eshete had also taken the task of organizing workshops and seminars during the discussions of the draft Ethiopian Constitution. His funding sources and his modus operandi remain shady, although many Amhara chauvinists link him to US intelligence and rightist organizations in the US.
Why is the Debtera very worried about the size of the Eritrean Army? If one knows how the Abyssinian mind works, the answer is simple. In earlier discussions we have seen that Abyssinian hegemony has three elements that make it work. These are: a) getting military and political support from imperial forces, b) plundering the resources of the Oromos, Gujjis, Sidamas, Somalis etc., and c) finding access to market for those plundered resources. For this old formula that was established by Menelik II to continue functioning, the new factor in the region, Eritrea must either go or be as impotent as possible. Eritrea is a symbol of liberation to the oppressed nations within Ethiopia. To put it bluntly, the only danger to Abyssinian hegemony is a strong Eritrea.
We shall return to these needs of the Abyssinians, but I would like to discuss some of the ridiculous premises that Debtera Andreas raises to justify his even more ridiculous conclusions.
The second reason, according to the Debtera, why Eritrea invaded and attempted to subdue Ethiopia was because Eritrea thinks that the Ethiopian Federation, the Ethiopian free press and the Ethiopian multi-party system and the Ethiopian rule of law is a sign of Ethiopia's weakness. He continues to state that Eritrea got this impression from the opposition political parties and from the opposition press. What can we understand from these statements of the Debtera? The Debtera, on the one hand says that the federation, multi-party system and free press are Ethiopia's strength and simultaneously states that the opposition and the free press do not know what is going on in the country. This is typical Shoan logic of assertion and denial. For Eritreans, a federation that is run by a gang of four or five Tigrayans, opposition parties that function only in the confines of "Arada" and a free press that circulates only in "Arada" area and holds the word record for having the highest number of its members in jail is only a mockery. Whether the Ethiopian system is democratic or not, whether Ethiopia has a viable multi-party system and whether Ethiopia's free press is alive and active is Ethiopia's problem. It is of no concern to us Eritreans. We are only responding when Abyssinians create their fairy tales in their attempt to continue their hegemony in the Ethiopian Empire at the expense of Eritrea.
Among the fables that this Debtera from Merhabete creates is a statement that Eritrea thinks of itself as superior and as such it has officially claimed credit for EPRDF's victory over the Dergue's army. This is a repetition of the unfounded statement issued by the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry on July 9th, 1998, under the title, "Ethiopia Saddened by Inflammatory Speech." Instead of falsely accusing Eritreans of making such statements, the Debtera should have held his cousin from Menz responsible for making such a statement. It was Mengistu Hailemariam who on the eve of the launch of The Red Star Campaign, said, "We should not consider Sha'bia as a group of bandits that is confined to the mountains of Sahel. It is one and many at the same time. It is a group which has and is creating, training, arming, and leading other groups of bandits inside Ethiopia. When this group is annihilated the head of the other movements will be cut, and there will be no force that can pose a threat to Ethiopia." The Menzie in his speech meant a threat to Abyssinian hegemony and the Debtera from Merhabete is worried about this threat. As wax and gold these two Shoans are the two sides of the same coin.
The Debtera continues to attack Eritrea and Eritreans and flatly states that the Eritrean Government's arrogance towards foreigners and international laws in turn has resulted in the lack of respect to the Eritrean people. However the Debtera may want to insult the Eritrean people, the only gentlemanly answer we can give him is to unequivocally state that we respect all the peoples in Ethiopia. We do not expect any better opinion of the Eritrean people from a member of a ruling class that used to state, "We need the land and not the people."
Debtera Andreas then discusses how at the time of the 1993 Eritrean referendum the Ethiopian Government missed the chance to force Eritrea to accept certain conditions. The Debtera does not discuss those conditions. He was interested only in the use of force. I cannot give the reasons for the cause of the Debtera's short memory span. But it will not hurt to remind him. Eritrea got its independence by force. Eritrea could have declared its independence in 1991 except for the fact that it wanted to assist in stabilizing the situation in Ethiopia.
Continuing his diatribe, the Debtera attempts to placate himself, albeit subtly, by trying to show how Ethiopia and many Ethiopians supported, despite many objections, the liberation of Eritrea. As Eritreans, we have no illusion of who in Ethiopia welcomed the liberation of Eritrea. If any Abyssinian thinks he supported Eritrea because he visited Eritrea during the referendum, he must be deluding himself and not us Eritreans. Note, however, that many in Ethiopia and not in Abyssinia are our strategic friends and their support is accepted with gratitude. I will not pass without mentioning Lencho Letta's speech at the Peace and Democracy Conference held in Addis Ababa in 1991.
The Debtera in the final section concludes by giving THE legal opinion regarding Eritreans that are being deported from Ethiopia. He conveniently bypassed the need for establishing the necessary premise and safely asserted the Ethiopian Government's position that Eritreans were being deported for security reasons. The Debtera does not and cannot explain how septuagenarians and octogenarians, infants and pregnant women, and patients in hospital wards can be security risks. They can be a sore to the Debtera's eyes, but by no definition can they be considered security risks. One is not surprised when one considers the Debtera's respect for the Eritrean people. Going back to the legal opinion, the Debtera states that Eritreans complain that they were being penalized for actions they performed before such actions were considered illegal. I presume, although the Debtera does not state what the criminal acts were, that these acts were the contributions that Eritreans made to their country before the Ethio-Eritrean dispute. Anyway, what the Debtera attempts to show is that a US Court in a 1952 ruling had held and established the principle that, however harsh a penalty it may be, deportation is not a criminal sanction.
The Debtera's quotation of a US court to establish a legal principle for Ethiopia shows you only how important that foreign element is for Abyssinian hegemony. When at the last quarter of the last century the Italians occupied the port of Assab, Menelik II wrote a letter to the King of Italy. In his letter, Menilik II expressed how happy he was that Italy got what it deserved. He went further and asserted in his letter how he felt that he was white. Years later when Haile Selassie inaugurated his palace on top of the grounds overlooking Lake Hora at Bishoftu he looked at the British Ambassador and proudly named the palace "Fairfield Palace." In the 70s, Mengistu made sure that Lenin had the largest statute in front of the Jubilee Palace. Today almost every opposition party in Ethiopia writes letters, petitions and other declarations to the government with a copy to all major western power embassies. The Debtera, in importing the US legal principle, is in line with the Abyssinian tradition of looking for acceptance from foreigners.
Debtera Andreas in importing this legal element to the case of Eritreans in Ethiopia shows you how he contradicts his previous assertion that the rule of law reigns in Ethiopia. If it does, Ethiopians beware of US laws! Most of all, however, where the quotation from the US courts betrays Andreas, is that the parties in the case he quotes had their day in court, while Eritreans had their days and nights in prisons and dungeons. This is the Debtera's sense of justice and rule of law.
A legal principle works only in a viable legal system and not on paper and in the abstract. As we all know, more can be said by omission rather than commission and the Debtera does not say a single word about the properties of all the Eritreans that were deported. He just states that the issues are political and human problems and not legal. The Debtera's assertion that Ethiopia is on the path of development is a resounding empty phrase when at the same time it grossly violates human rights.
The Debtera's opportunism betrays him when he laments how, the Right to self-determination, which has been enshrined in the Ethiopian Constitution, is endangered when confronted by expansionist nationalism! In an article he wrote in Challenge (XI, 1, 1970), under the title "The Problem of Regionalism and Religion: Some Theoretical Considerations," Andreas Eshete unequivocally stated that the historical conditions necessary for invoking the principle of the right to self-determination were non-existent in Ethiopia. He added in that article that anybody who is looking for those conditions is perpetrating a fraud. Twenty-nine years later, and long after the nation has gone through an integration process, the Debtera must have found the necessary historical conditions to enshrine it in the Ethiopian Constitution or he is, to use his words, perpetrating a fraud. This is the logic of a split personality, albeit both of them evil. The purpose of Andreas's new found affection with the principle of self-determination is to appeal to the oppressed nations and nationalities within the Ethiopian territory and attempt to show them that Eritrea is endangering the exercise of this sacred principle. No one is falling for this crooked logic of the Abyssinian. As far as the use of the media and the right to express our ideas are concerned we are on equal footing and we shall continue unraveling Abyssinian intrigues and double standards.
Finally, from the cozy rooms of the Economic Commission For Africa Debtera Andreas shouts, "Everything to the war front!" As the Tigrinya saying goes, "kwinat zeywaAle beliH," [He who hasn't participated in the battle is indeed sharp!]. Mengistu in his 1990 speech to the Addis Ababa University students mentioned how the Northerners (Eritreans and Tigrayans), farmers and the educated, have arisen in unity, how poor and destitute they were and depended on other Ethiopians during rainy days. Mengistu declared that the Northerners were on a, "aTfto maTfat" [destroy and perish] spree and then called upon the University students to go to the war front. The students did not make it to the war front and Mengistu took the opposite direction and fled. As you can see, there are a lot of similarities between Andreas's and Mengistu's speeches. In fact Debtera Andreas's speech can be any of Mengistu Hailemariam's speech, with the necessary changes made.
It is quite appropriate to discuss now what the Abyssinians want to attain from all these fabrications, lies and kow-towing to foreign powers. The Ethiopian Empire cannot continue with the old formula where Abyssinians benefit at the expense of the other oppressed nationalities. The establishment of a democratic government or governments in lieu of the current set up is, for the debteras, a nightmarish scenario as anyone can imagine. For the majority in Ethiopia, it will be the beginning of life without Abyssinian terror and deceit. It will mean control of their own resources and thus develop and improve their economic, cultural, political and social conditions. If the majority control their resources, the Abyssinians have to move there to sell their labor. Ironically, today the opposite is true. The resource owners also sell their labor to the Abyssinians who control Ethiopia by force of arms. In short, the Abyssinians are riding on tigers and they dare not dismount as the tigers are getting hungry.
I have omitted many of the Debtera's lies, fictions, and boring Shoan repetitive cliches. In fact, at first I did not want to respond to the Debtera's diatribe. A few years before Menelik II died of syphilis (a disease that particularly afflicts the Abyssinian ruling classes that causes a lapse in memory) a replacement for Antonneli, who was Italy's representative in Ethiopia, was perplexed by Menelik's intrigues and aptly called him the Greatest Ruffian. As the Eritrean proverb goes, you cannot wake a person who pretends to be sleeping. All these Shoan ruffian professors will never wake up and conduct truthful discussions for the benefit of the people in the Horn of Africa. Although these ruffians cannot in any way hoodwink us, they have succeeded in preventing us from launching fruitful dialogues with our brethren in the region. I am calling upon all Eritreans to give these ruffians a secondary place in our discussions and develop working relationships with Oromos, Haddiyas, Sidamas, Kambatas, Gujiis, Somalis, Afars, Gurages and other oppressed nationalities of the region. By working relationships I mean conducting discussions and dialogues to arrive at common agendas. Launching fundraising functions together to assist their organizations and their people as the need arises. We need to make a clear-cut break with these Abyssinian ruffians of the Horn of Africa and find the real peoples in the region who need to be empowered. Our relationship with the ruffians should only be to expose them to the world. We can do that best, though, only when we can promote the causes of the oppressed peoples in the region. Such a noble cause is part and parcel and a continuation of our own liberation.