New directives to provide full access for Eritreans to their assets in Ethiopia

By Habtu Mesfin (,
(Ethimedia) / May 25, 2009
TPLF cannot be reformed; like apartheid, it should be dismantled.
"TPLF cannot be reformed; like apartheid, it should be dismantled."
I hope you may read this short note and try to bring it to the attention of your distinguished readers since this is one of a sensitive issues in Ethiopian politics. I was watching the news on the new regulation of providing access for Eritreans to their assets in Ethiopia with great amazement. It reads as follows:
"The Council passed decision on the enforcement of the regulation providing access for Eritreans to their assets in Ethiopia, privilege to make use of it and invest in Ethiopia."

"The directive will not be applied for Eritreans who have relations with the government of Eritrea, business and security institutions."

I would like say a few points. (i) Indeed, it is good to normalize people-to-people relations of Ethiopia and Eritrea. However, any effort that involves two nations should be reciprocal, not at the cost of the interest of one party (country). This is the central point to be discussed here. It is a common knowledge that Ethiopians who were expelled from Eritrea have lost not only thier fixed assets such as housing, shopping, fuel stations, jewelleries, bank deposits and even small factories but also they were imprisoned, tortured and expelled from Asmara and Assab. To be frank, most of them were Tigrian-Ethiopians who lost their assets in Asmara and Massawa.

In addition to those Ethiopian citizens that have been expelled from Eritrea empty-handed, many buissiness people in Ethiopia have lost tremendous assets worth billions of dollars at Assab port as the result of the breakout of war between the two nations. It was reported that Shaebia [Eritrea's ruling group] was selling the fertilizer, insecticides, herbicides, farm machineries etc. to Sudanese farmers after it confiscated from Assab Port. All this is clearly known by the Ethiopian people and the government. In fact, the Ethiopian government included all these events in its appeal at the Haig Compensation Commision which decided in Ethiopia's favor. It should be noted that most of the Ethiopian traders who lost their property at Assab Port were unable to re-pay their debts to banks and their collateral have been sold on many ocassions.

So, the question is: "Is it really fair and timely for the Ethiopian government to take such kind of one-side step that does not take into consideration the interest of the Ethiopian people?"

(ii) As it has been quoted at the outset, the new directive is said to be not applicable for Eritreans who have relations with the government of Eritrea, and security institutions. This is also very unrealistic to implement it in practice. There is no fool in the world that says "yes, I am related to the security institutions in Eritrea." By the way, Shaebia is more advanced in such kind of Mafia and espionage activities. In fact, it is a common knowledge in the streets of Addis that that even those Eritreans returned to Addis Ababa in various ways are also working for their government day and night.

(iii) The border demarcation especially the "Badme" issue is still pending. Almost all Ethiopians have a firm stand that Badme will remain part of Ethiopia. On the contrary, ask any Eritrean whether they oppose or support the Isaias Afeworki's government. To my experience, they speak one language: Badme belongs to Eritrea.

(iv) I don't think such steps can win the hearts of Eritreans and then mobilize them to oust the Isaias regime. On the contrary, such action definitely strengthens the Isaias regime by diversifying its sources of finance from Ethiopia as before.

(v) Such steps is clearly a sign of "kneel-down" by the Ethiopian government to Shaebia. While Shaebia is working very hard around the clock to disintegrate Ethiopia with all internal and external enemies of Ethiopia, the EPRDF government is working hard to please Eritreans and thereby benefit Shaebia and disappoint even EPRDF supporters, leave alone Ethiopians at large.

Thus, it is under such situation that the Ethiopian government has come up with a new directive that may have a serious repercussion in the future.

What does Ethiomedia say?

To resolve the political crisis that has puzzled Ethiopians for the last 18 years, it is very crucial for anyone to critically understand the nature of TPLF leadership.

Those who are not interested to know TPLF but would rather like to condemn it as "Woyane," they can stop reading here. Because there is no shortcut answer beyond going back to the roots, and ask: "Which groups created the TPLF leadership"?

Of course, from the outset, TPLF leadership was composed of two distinct groups: Eritrean and Tigrian. The two groups acted as one and moved from 1975 until the political death of the Tigrians in 2001. Here's the synopsis:

When Eritrea invaded Ethiopia in May 1998, the Tigrian wing (Siye-Gebru Asrat et al) has been warning the Eritrean side (Meles-Sebhat et al) that an Eritrean invasion of Ethiopia was imminent. The cautious Eritrean side, however, dismissed Ethiopian public fears of Eritrean invasion as "the cheap talk of tella bett." But war was a matter of days.

And the inevitable happened: Eritrea invaded Ethiopia. Many brave local militias along the borders in Shire and Irob-Zalambessa fought against the invaders, who proceeded to cluster-bombing Ayder Elementary School in Mekelle. Within a few days, thousands of brave fighters were lost.

What made the invasion costly to Ethiopia was TPLF had reduced the Ethiopian defense forces to tatters. MiG fighters of the once mighty Air Force were rusting on the abandoned premises of Debre Zeit while the star-studded pilots languished either in prison or have either fled the country for fear of persecution by a vengeful enemy.

The Ethiopian people, who had helplessly seen the Eritrean regime's years of pillage of Ethiopian resources (from free Ethiopian banks to exporting coffee to shocking port tarrifs at Massawa and Assab ports), roared with anger against Asmara's cowardly attack. The question was: "They fought for independence, and broke away from Ethiopia. Now what do they want?"

Public anger was pouring over Meles Zenawi, who for years was seen as an Eritrean attorney in an Ethiopian palace. For this reason, Meles had to disappear from public view. At least, it was time for him to keep a low profile, and look heart-broken by Shabia's brazen act of invading Ethiopia. Deportation of Eritreans started, and Meles and his gang oversaw the deportation helplessly. He knew if he survives this trying time, he will one day reverse the deportation order. But now, it is not about the deportation of Eritreans that worry him; it is how he can survive, and remain a prime minister in a country that has erupted with an anti-Meles, anti-Shabia anger.

It was also a golden time for the Tigrian wing of TPLF to arrest Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and his yes-men. He killed them a million times, and was seeking one more pure golden chance. Instead of arresting him, they chose to go to war, leaving him at Menelik Palace. It should have been a day of pure joy for Meles.

Meles knew if he would survive those days when anger against him was running high throughout Ethiopia, if he fooled the Tigrian wing of TPLF again after he walked away from the brutal murder of Hayelom Araia in 1996, then he was sure they were not his equals - but his own slaves. But he had to act fast now, take confidence-building measures so that the Tigrian wing of TPLF wouldn't wake up from its drug-induced type of sleep.

One of the confidence-building tactics he took was: "Win the battle and lose the war." He joined the Tigrians, and helped them win the battle (1999 Badme), and once he made sure they no more suspect him as an Eritrean mercenary, he went on setting up the trap for an eventual Ethiopian defeat and an Eritrean victory (Algiers Agreement 2000).

At a time when Ethiopian forces were encircling Asmara for a final showdown with the retreating Shabia, when Shabia troops were crossing borders and surrendering to Sudanese security forces, Mr. Zenawi took a unilateral decision and declared the war would end within 24 hours. All Ethiopian commanders whose military victory was within grasp were shocked like their were slapped in the face. They knew the enemy was back in Addis, but by then, it was too late to stop the cautious Zenawi who had worked all two solid years of how to consolidate his power with the aid of Bereket's B'Aden while the rest of the country was chanting: "Ke badme mels, wede meles."

After the war ended in favor of Eritrea, the Tigrian wing accused Meles Zenawi of being a cold-hearted mercenary who gambled over the deaths of 70,000 Ethiopian soldiers. But it was too late to do them good. Meles brought in the assistance of B'Aden's Bereket Simon, Addisu Legesse, General Alemshet Degife etc. The disorganized Tigrians were rather swept aside at one-go: Siye was sent to jail for six years with trumped-up charges of corruption; the Tewolde-Gebru et al were stripped of their citizenship rights, security chief Kinfe Gebre-Medhin was murdered while swaying like a pendulum between the Tigrian wing and Eritrean wing.

Now it has been eight years since the Eritrean wing had clipped, crushed, burned and scattered the ashes of the Tigrian wing of TPLF. In reality, there is no TPLF but a cover-up for a mercenary group in power. This also doesn't mean there are no Tigrians in power. Of course there are several of them: the army's chief of staff, foreign minister, many generals, security officials etc may hail from Tigrai region like Mr. Meles himself. But their accountability is not to Tigrai or Ethiopia; it is to the one and only Meles Zenawi. Like General Tsadkan or General Abebe Teklehaimanot, they may hold government positions. But when it comes to executing real power, they are mere toys like President Girma Wolde-Giorgis.

Now, it has been years since the Meles-Bereket gang emerged as one solid force in Ethiopia. They have taken turns and crashed TPLF (2001), the popular opposition Kinijit (2005), and now members of B'Aden (ANDM) are being hunted down as members of Ginbot 7. Who's next? If they don't behave, it is of course Aba Dula's OPDO. But the chance of seeing an OPDO rising against the Zenawi-Bereket gang in our lifetime is remote.

Lately, Ethiopians have been urging Meles Zenawi to declare the Algiers Agreement null and void due to Eritrea's violation of the 'agreement."

Of course, they should be kidding. For Meles Zenawi, the time is ripe to reverse the damage done to Eritreans during the deportation days. And the latest decree declares Eritreans are now free to return to Ethiopia and reclaim their property. With the assistance of the "Ethiopian government," they are also encouraged to invest in Zenawi's "robust economy."

Well, what about those Ethiopians who lost their property in Eritrea? At the port of Assab? What happened to the brave Ethiopian soldiers who pre- and post-1991 Shaebia took as POWs to the Sahel, and have never been heard from? What about the fate of those over 100 Ethiopian citizens who were abducted by Shaebia from Irob Alitena, and have never been seen again? What happened to the ruling of the Claims Commission at The Hague? Well, this is a difficult question to answer, and we've to wait until Ethiopia falls into the hands of an Ethiopian.

Here it should be noted that we have no qualms against Eritreans who rebuild their lives through just hardwork. What we are opposed is the time-bomb Mr. Meles is burying between Eritreans and Ethiopians. His strategy to build a privileged class of Eritreans over the ruins of Ethiopia should be condemned not only by Ethiopians but also fair-minded Eritreans.

All said, the bottomline is there is only a mercenary rule in Ethiopia, and for your convenience, we call the mercenary rule "TPLF." Hence, the maxim: "TPLF cannot be reformed; like apartheid, it should be dismantled."

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