A Glimpse of the Creeping Famine in Ethiopia

By Busha Taa (PhD) / February 3, 2014
In his article, Time to Bring Back Eritrea from the Cold, Ambassador Herman Cohen initiated an important discourse ensued by voluminous reactions from fellow Ethiopians outlining their serious concerns and proposing alternative solutions to the one advanced by Cohen.  With admiration and greatest respect to all discussants, I will throw in few points to the interactively splendid dialogue already enriched by substantive arguments. Should any of my suggestions make this vivid conversation redundant, I shall readily ask for forgiveness.

With the above considerations in mind, the recent reappearance of Herman Cohen, David Shinn and Princeton Lyman as saints of peace in the horn of Africa and the suggestions they offered have been treated as flawed to the best and skewed to the worst. By literally instructing Ethiopia to give its lands away without any possibility of getting something in return, they seriously injured the principal foundation of negotiation as giving and taking. It is too cumbersome to predict whether the worst criminal – hand cuffed and living behind bar - deserves such one sided and yet unsolicited verdict. It should be clear to everyone that the Ethiopian land is not a no-man’s land to be awarded as a placebo to those who are shivering in cold rooms.  Moreover, the Ethiopian land must not be considered as blanket to redress coldness – the coldness that emanated from political immaturity. Any attempt to pull Shabia out of cold via an offer of Ethiopian land is tantamount to pushing Ethiopia into that chilly room; thus Ethiopia must instantly reject Cohen’s projection – and – reject it forever.  Cohen, Shinn and Lyman as experienced diplomats know that keeping discourteous politicians in cold is the major incapacitating panacea in international relations. Hence, bully politicians deserve staying out aloof until they upgrade their behaviors to the level of acceptable international and regional standards.  

The core argument presented by Cohen and sponsored by Shinn and Lyman was that there is no hard evidence currently to indict EPLF for supporting Shabab. However, their supposition is not garnished even by a slice of evidence – showing that EPLF is not providing support to extremists.  The presumption that there is no solid evidence now should not lead to a conclusion that there is no evidence at all. The practice of supplying Al Shabab with materials might have become sophisticated, invisible or gone underground. There might be a third party involvement and both EPLF and Shabab may not shake hands to exchange materials as before. Therefore, the prescription to reward EPLF with Badime for its misbehaving is completely unwarranted and probably ill conceived. More precisely, Ethiopians do not need foreigners to manipulate them as artist moulds clay.  Also, Ethiopians do not need a neighbor whose pure career and constant preoccupation is to dismantle their country.

In principle, the rule of international relations conferred obligation upon diplomats to be makers of judicious arguments, takers of reasons at times and speakers of truths at all times. As guardians of relationships, they should not risk their reputation and credibility in the eyes of contending parties. As well, diplomats should not recline on rigid pride or in the promotion of self importance. In sharp contrast, they have to act as glues to bond differences in an impartial fashion.  Whatever the merits of argument of these diplomats, the reasons they generated this contention at this specific moment is also a conundrum one – truly escaping honest analysis.  I assume that these diplomats chose to incite this discussion for the following reasons.

At present, Ethiopia nationalism is resurging, revitalizing and reinvigorating and hence the leadership of EPLF has interpreted it as a threat to its survival.  Those statements coming from these diplomats are the product of Shabia’s advocacy project recently commenced out of despair.

There is a complete misreading about the lack of cohesion in the leadership of EPRDF.  The rumors that there is a prevalence lack of unity within the EPRDF has led to the conclusion that it is a high time to convince at least one part – and then the convinced one would take on the rest. Such on surface deliberation had already dealt a devastating below to EPLF in the war of 1998-2000. In 2000, Shabia was relaxing on the belief that Ethiopia was suffering from drought and famine let alone pushing the Shabian army out of Badime. However, when the Ethiopian heroes not only kicked them out of Badime but also instantly captured Barantu and threatened the whole existence of EPLF, the leadership of EPLF scrambled to reckon with the brevity of the Ethiopian wave. So, equating national capability with palace politics is not always the smartest move or the fittest and surest measure. In fact, the current Ethiopian capability is far more superior to that of the 2000 one.

Few sergeants of “liberation movements” might have given the wrong impression that ethnic feeling is more salient than contemporary national feeling in Ethiopia. In terms of nationalism, the reality on the ground is much more complex than cyber politicking and Ethiopians have strong national feeling for Ethiopia – they have frequently sacrificed their lives to defend their country. Nonetheless, it must be also clear to the leaders of the so-called liberators that all ethnic groups in Ethiopia encounter comparable problems, face analogous challenges and share similar fate. In fact, no reasoner can deny the non existence of democracy in the country since time immemorial. Nonetheless, the lack of democracy cannot be solved without trusting each other and working hand in hand within the bound of Ethiopian sovereignty.  Concurrently, the wider diplomatic community should not take its marching orders from ethnic demagogues who took oath of allegiance from EPLF to dismember Ethiopia.  

Although stipulated by sage diplomats and business consultants to commence relationship with EPLF, Ethiopia would fare better without any communication with EPLF because:  

EPLF has commandingly supported Egypt and has continued to provide support for Egypt on the Ethio-Egyptian squabble over Abay.

EPLF is constantly organizing, mobilizing and leading the so called liberation movements who challenge the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ethiopia. And, it will not stop any time soon as witnessed by the recent meeting held in Frankfurt by “liberators”- who could not liberate themselves from the yoke of narrow mindedness.

The EPLF is endeavoring day and night to relocate the African Union to one of its crony regimes by vacating Addis Ababa.

Shabia has become information thirsty about Ethiopia and it is urgently striving to penetrate deep into Ethiopia in order to take over the Ethiopian economic and social structures.

Brining Shabia back to Ethiopia means volunteering to lose an incredible amount of foreign currency.

In case, EPRDF insanely engage in any talk with EPLF, however, the right of the Kunama, Afar and other people who darely struggle to remain Ethiopian citizens should also be on the table.  The issue of ports must not be singularly seen as mercantile politics of shipping and receiving but rather has to be treated as a core of Ethiopian sovereignty and the protection of the rights of Ethiopian citizens. In particular reference to Asseb, Professor MInga Negash has offered us very good suggestions on which I will base my very minor proposition.   In earnest, accepting any treaty signed with Italy has a fatal consequence – including the creation of hazardous wave of precedence. The treaty between Ethiopia and Italy in 1928 was not negotiated in good faith; it was concluded under the guise of mutual distrust between the two parties. Prior to thinking to accept/apply this particular treaty, one has to earnestly revisit the following mundane and yet troublesome factors.

First, Ras Teferi (Emperor HaileSellasie) saw the provision that alluded to the construction of road from Asseb to Dessie as creating the high way of invasion- volunteering to be conquered and colonized. Second, Italians were buying time and measuring the Ethiopian force rather than engaging in mutually constructive negotiation. Italians engaged in conciliation to collect information about the size and the morale of the army as well as the types of armaments Ethiopians used. Third, Italians were very suspicious of Ras Teferi from1924 onward - the year he visited Italy and asked Mussolini to give Asseb back to its true owner, Ethiopia.  Therefore, the 1928 treaty was not signed in the true spirit of a treaty but as stage management. If EPRDF fatalistically signs on this treaty behind the veil of ignorance, Ethiopia is going to abdicate her sovereignty over Asseb.  As a result, we are also going to devolve the current solution chasing problem to the future generation. As well, signing any treaty with EPLF now is a simple abandonment of our obligation to the people of Afar and Kunama who have vowed to fight in order to retain their Ethiopian citizenships. More importantly, the treaty under question was nullified at the time when Italy crossed the Ethiopian boarder in an apparent adventure of colonial gamble in 1934. Since it did not serve the purpose of its day, this treaty should not be given the kiss of life.  

Intended or unintended, the EPRDF committed colossal mistakes regarding the Ethiopian territorial integrity from its dark days in forest to its high-time in palace.  For example, the 1900 treaty delineated Tsrona and Fort Cardona to the province of Tigrai. However, the EPRDF did not initially claim them during Algiers agreement and the Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission awarded both Tserona and Forte Cardona to Eritrea. Few of the negligence of duty discerned on the part of EPRDF during Algiers agreement are: First, by submitting an Italian made map as a source of legal reference, EPRDF intentionally murdered the truth of the Ethiopian case in a broad day light. Second, after paying 9,000,000 dollars for law firm to prepare a submission, the government transferred documents to the boundary commission without thorough reading and revising the materials. After the commission framed its mind against Ethiopia, they resubmitted another request for interpretation, correction and consultation on towns and villages such as Tserona, Zaleanbessa, Bure, Fort Cardona and the environs in May 2002. In an instant response, however, the EEBC rejected the document as inadmissible on June 24, 2002. The reasoning of the decision was that Ethiopia’s request was based on the misapprehension of article 28/29 of the commission’s rule of procedure. Ethiopian delegates became unhappy and blamed the commission for focusing on procedure than substances. And, Ethiopia started to request EEBC to reconsider not only about Badime but the entire boundary covering 912 km in length. In a complete reversal of its position, however, the EPRDF declared that it accepted the EEBC decision in 2004. Once again the pressure to bring both together is mounting – EPRDF should not irresponsibly engage in third round land give away.  

Fortunately, what is consoling to Ethiopians is that most treaties have no permanence. The Vienna Convention of the law of treaties on succession of state , 1978 article 8 (1) states:  “The obligation or rights of a predecessor state under treaties in force in respect to a territory at the date of a succession of a state do not become the obligation and rights of a successor state”.  This article suggests that political treaties are not perpetual; they can be revoked, adjusted, rearranged or totally nullified. Thus, the treaty of peace or war signed by the current regime can be readily revoked by incoming regime at any time in point.  All successor states have prerogative to scrap treaties signed by their predecessors after giving reasonable notice to concerned parties. Finally, I would like to augment few propositions for discussion to collectively curve and shape the future of Ethiopia by Ethiopians.

Proposition I:  The people living under the iron fist of Isays Afewiorki are Ethiopians; we are not only bonded culturally, economically and socially but we also share ancestry and kinship. Our relationship is not only backed by politics but it is engraved by blood – like it or not – we are the same people.  Many people from Eritrea sacrificed their lives fighting against Italy alongside Ethiopians.  In recent times, the architect and the commander of the separation, Isays Afework has stated that Eritrea cannot realize its dream without a proper support from Ethiopia. On the closing years of his leadership, he suddenly came to realize that his vision for Eritrea is the distorted one as his management is summiting to a dead-end.  Additionally, Bereket Habte Sellasie who intellectually gambled to separate Eritrea from Ethiopia has loudly and largely cried to see an instant reunion. For this reason, the political language of the day should be rapprochements from below – people to people relationships with the objective of forcing negative politicians to float. Brotherly and sisterly engagement between people would help close the gaps, forge new relationships and create inter/ intra community confidence. Here, caution is very necessary as everything comes in package. We must also be cognizant of the fact that this process may get messy when the shabia cadres involve. Nevertheless, Ethiopians must play the role of peace making as senior partners but never at the expense of Ethiopian unity and territorial integrity.

Proposition II:  It is paramount that all Ethiopians engage in diplomatic activities regarding the unwarranted landlockedness of Ethiopia in order to cement a fertile international ground.  In the era of globalization, access to the sea port is not an option but rather it is one of the highly sought after survival kits.  As actor and obedient to international law, Ethiopia has already signed the United Nations’ convention of the law of the sea part xi that came to force in 1994 which is not signed by  Eritrea. Hence, Ethiopia has better morale clout than the one who did not recognize the rule of the sea game.  All Ethiopians have to register their opposition to the decision that made their country portless. We also urge the EPRDF to train and empower competent diplomats who can visibly and unambiguously fight for Ethiopia, rather than for EPRDF.  Assigning loyal cadre for diplomacy has already put the EPRDF on the collision course with the Ethiopian national interests.  Governing a nation state and voluntarily giving up the right to access a port is a flagrant violation of the national sovereignty.  Such practice contravenes with the fundamental principles of state custodianship.

Proposition III:  This version was brilliantly discussed by both Professors Minga Negash and Paulos Milikias. In the event that the current misunderstanding between Egypt and Ethiopia escalates and should the EPLF ventures to host Egyptians to wage a war on Ethiopia that incidence alone must license the Ethiopian army to go north and take both out.   However, the army must be well prepared to avoid collateral damages that can have international and national repercussions.  Should this episode surfaced, the army must avoid civilian causalities to its best.

Proposition IV:  Ethiopian intellectuals in the diaspora must engage in due diligence with diplomats and/or state functionaries who frequently ally with anti Ethiopian forces. Distancing ourselves from those who hurt Ethiopia is a disservice to that country. We must realize that it is our disengagement that emboldened those who want to dismember and belittle Ethiopia.  As there can be no diplomacy without finance, all Ethiopians have to voluntarily contribute to this cause. An amateurish, clumsy and care free politicking on the part of Ethiopian intellectual must cease and cease now. Hence, we must project a change in the minds of diplomats who support anti-Ethiopian movements and we must be able to penetrate into their minds and souls. 

In conclusion, Ethiopians must take back their past, reinterpret their history, regain their glory and reconstruct their future without any paternalistic external interference. All Ethiopians must do away with negligence and procrastination. The duty of retaking the ownership of that county is a mandatory one to every Ethiopian. 


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