Dialogue Between Eritreans and Ethiopians – by Yacob Haile-Mariam (PhD)Published Posted on | By TZTA News
An Idea Whose Time Has Come
by Yacob Haile-Mariam (PhD)
Congratulations are in order to the leaders of Vision Ethiopia who had the courage to broach the subject of reconciliation heretofore regarded as taboo for both the Ethiopian and Eritrean intellectuals, and yet is vital for peace and development not only for these two
Similar effort was undertaken some time ago by courageous individuals like Prof. Fesseha Tsion Medhane and others who had launched the Ethio-Eritrean Solidarity Group on which we had pinned much hope for some kind of dialogue and interactions between these two fraternal people. It is indeed a sensitive subject over which thousands have perished on both sides and therefore understandably, one has to tread on very carefully.
Ethiopian and Eritrea
More than twenty years have passed since a fratricide took place the likes of which has rarely been seen anywhere in recent memory. In the opinion of this writer, who once lived in Eritrea for a brief period and enjoyed his stay tremendously, there are no other two people who are so irretrievably intertwined as Ethiopians and Eritreans are.
Their destinies are directly intertwined not to mention about their economic welfare. If there are any two people who should have not separated, Eritreans and Ethiopians perhaps provide the best example. The superfluous relations that Eritrea has forged recently with some neighboring countries canno
The Algiers Agreement and the decisions of the Border Commission, who other than their own geopolitical interests, had the least consideration for our welfare in fact exacerbated the already tenuous situation by putting our two countries in perpetual war footing.
The relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea cannot be reconciled by judicial process because it is not a matter of right, rather it is a matter of self identity and therefore the Algiers Agreement was a flop from the very beginning, not to talk of the manner it was handled which was amateurish and short-sighted especially on the Ethiopian side.
Some Ethiopians abroad took issue with those of us who advocated for an outlet to Sea for our country which has the unenviable distinction of being the most populated country in the world to be land-locked at the shortest distance from the sea anywhere – believe it or not a mere 60 kilometers. If the charge is that we were trying to save our country from asphyxiation, and the advocacy was to secure her rights in accordance with international law, then we plead guilty as charged. Our effort was firstly to restore the unity or the federation or still come up with some sort of a mutually agreed device which will tie the brotherly and sisterly people of Ethiopia and Eritrea together. Failing in that we forwarded argument based on international law that our country with close to a hundred million people should not be land-locked while it is located within a walking distance to the sea.
Knowing the economic and security implications of being land-locked, we could not dismiss the issue as a commodity which we could purchase from somewhere, as once Meles Zenawi argued. Such a stand would be tantamount to abdicating our responsibility to our people who have given us so much when they have so little. To the dismay of the naysayers we will continue to peacefully advocate for access to the sea through our own Port Assab to the extent allowed by international law. In the least we will seek some sort of modus operandi with our Eritrean brothers and sisters which will take into account the vital interests of our country inter alia access to the sea.
Our eagerness for an outlet to the sea is matched by our eagerness to avoid any kind of war in the future. Failing in this effort there is a very good chance of Assab being casus belli and that should be avoided at any cost whatsoever. There has already been far too much bloodletting among these brotherly and sisterly people.
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t stand the test when the chips are down. Eritrea is just as in danger as Ethiopia is, because the geopolitics of the region is equally hostile to Eritrea as it is to Ethiopia. We are after all “Habesh” historically speaking.
Eritrea and Ethiopia broke up not by the genuine and informed decision of the people, but because of the short shortsighted and politically myopic leaders who could not see beyond the tip of their noses.