Eritrea’s ‘No Peace, No War’ Policy

Isaias Afwerki, the President of Eritrea

For the past 25 years, Eritrea is being ruled mercilessly by lifelong one-man rule self-declared President Isaias Afeworki. The country does not have well defined and established courts, constitution, and foreign policy, political and economic policy. Statehood process is not yet established. There is no government but one armed political front governing the tiny bankrupt country. Hence, state building, democratization process is either denied or postponed. Economic development process to improve the livelihood of citizens is obscured indefinitely.

No political scientist can exactly categorize the government style of Eritrea. Some attempted to equate the regime with the government of North Korea which is somehow wrong. In the 21st century, be it dictatorial or democratic governments have a defined courts, economic policies and constitutions regardless of its effectiveness. However, none of them exist in Eritrea nowadays. Scholars who closely follow the daily activities of the government of Eritrea have categorized it a totalitarian regime. Yet, an exact definition that define the Asmera regime is not found. To put it shortly, I prefer to call it “Mafia” styled regime.

As a means to escape from accountability, Isaias Afeworke has carefully avoided principles of rule of law, constitutional supremacy and independent court. The political and economic policy of the country is also decided by a single dictator -Isaias. Constitution, independent court and media, democratic elections are considered to be an obstacles for his dictatorial ambition. He knew that having democratic election in Eritrea means change of regime.

As a means to escape for public concern about democratic election, and other basic principles of democracy, Isaias regime had been fabricating several pretexts. Entering into war with neighbouring countries was/is one of his strategy to divert the attention of the public. The hostile Foreign Policy of Isaias Afeworki emanates from such calculations.

After all, he knew well the mentality of his own people and comrades in his circle. Whatever he claims are believed at least for that time. He knew well that Eritreans would say “Eritrea first” at the expense of human rights, rule of law and economic development! Hence, to prolong his power and remain unaccountable for his deeds Isaias projected to commit, he had to use the mentality of his own people and comrades. The questions of democracy, justice, constitution, economic development, and equality of nationalities, religions, rule of law and other basic staffs would be delayed or denied if the country is perceived under war. And, those who raise the question would be labelled as traitors, sellouts etc. It was betrayal in the strict sense of the word to Eritreans who fought for justice but effective strategy to stay in power. An effective tactic used by Isaias for the last 50 years to conduct social engineering in Eritrea.

Expectedly, he had to provoke Sudan first. He had to be honest, good reasons to trigger the war with Sudan since the later was widely suspected of spreading Islamic fundamentalism in the Horn of Africa, particularly jihadists’ existence supported by Sudan inside Eritrea. Thus, Isaias’s move against Sudan was taken seriously not only locally but also by Ethiopia and the international community at large. Hence, nobody suspected him of his future projects. Once, he won the hearts of the local people and outside world as a leader against any terrorism, he had to deepen and use it against others to realize his project of prolonging his power by postponing the basic questions of his people. Thus, he personally triggered the minor disputes he had with Yemen again over Hanish Islands and made it serious war which helped him gain blind support from his people though not his close comrades. His comrades knew that was unnecessary war instigated by his personal calculation. The international community had run hurriedly to reconcile the issue which Isaias wanted it to be. Isaias wants always to attract the attention of the international community at the expense of his people blood. and the damage of Eritrea.

The offensive he projected against Sudan and Yemen benefited Isaias for seven years not to implement the much loaded demands of the people. The Eritreans could not raise questions of writing constitution, establishing courts and democratic principles since the country is under “attack” by neighbours. However, the cards of Isaias lasted not long. People had begun raising the buried questions again. He had to find other new reason to suppress the promises for long again. Ethiopia was the best candidate. This is for reasons that since Ethiopia was portrayed as ‘colonialist’ country in the minds of Eritreans and since the 30 years long armed struggle of Eritrea was waged against it, Isaias found best reason to blind his people.

Expectedly, Isaias sent his secret brigades to instigate war against Ethiopia via the small town of Ethiopia’s Badme in the west direction remote area where nobody can know who started the war. I know well that even his defence minister, foreign minister and generals of the army did not know who provoked the war first since he provoked Ethiopia using few loyal lower ranked solders. This incident had shocked Ethiopians. On the other hand, Eritreans were surprised by the unexpected war. This is resulted from the fact that most Eritreans believed their leader who told them that Ethiopia begun the war to re-take Eritrea. This tactics somewhat is easy to be taken serious by Eritreans taking the past bad history into accounts. Isaias become the happiest leader in the world by misleading his people. His media and cadres commenced massive false propaganda to confuse the people locally and mislead the international community to give the impression Ethiopia invaded Eritrea. It is fairly to say he won the propaganda that time. Most countries and all Eritreans except few trusted the massive propaganda and Ethiopia was portrayed as invading country against small country.

However, when Isaias attempted to prolong the war indefinitely and in the same time, Ethiopia withdrew its troops from Eritrean occupied territory justifying that it had no intention to invade other areas but restore its forcefully occupied territory. He also began losing grounds to mislead Eritreans in the name of ‘invasion’. But Eritreans and the international community set in motion figuring out the secret behind the war.

By the same token, they were also constantly asking the reason why the Eritreans troops had pulled its advancing troops in view of the fact that they were in no position to defend themselves. In due course, they discovered that Ethiopia did not provoke Eritrea. They realized that If Isaias claim was right, Ethiopia could not withdraw its advancing troops at any price. At this point in time, the hidden truth is coming out. The reverse is true now that almost all Eritreans got the secret that why Isaias did start the war and that everything turned against him.

What Ethiopian troops did and what Isaias did tell to Eritreans went opposite proving that Ethiopia did not provoke Eritrea first. If Isaias claim was right, Ethiopia could not withdraw its advancing troops. Now, the truth lies hid from Eritreans for the last 15 years is coming out. The reverse is true now that almost all Eritreans got the secret that why Isaias did start the war and that everything turned against him.

The main reason Isaias did invade Ethiopia was not just because he wanted it or he had land claims. Not at all! He used it to postpone the demand of democracy and constitution and stay in power unchallenged in the pretext of war which he did it. For example, the draft constitution of Eritrea before the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea says: “An Elect president stays only for four years if not elected again”. It further underlines: A president should be Eritrean by blood.”

Isaias could not pass the two basic points. For example, it is absolutely against his ambition to be a president of Eritrea for just four years or more and he is not Eritrean by blood either but Ethiopian born and grew up in Eritrea. Everyone knows this reality on the ground.

Quickly, when a country is under sovereign attack, it is a crime to raise questions of democracy, justice, economic development etc., he declared. For this reason he stayed in power unchallenged up to now. Those who raised the question are now killed, jailed or vanished.

In conclusion, the tactics and strategies Isaias Afeworki of Eritrea applied to stay in power are provoking neighbouring countries first and spread false propaganda as if Eritrea is attacked. Then by declaring state of emergency to suppress questions of constitution, democracy and development, he silences everyone and it was an effective mechanism.

The results of being unpredictable leader for the last 25 years: Eritrea is left without constitution, court and clear economic policy. The political crisis brought social crisis followed by mistrust among Eritreans, frustration, hopelessness, acute poverty and fleeing. Every month, not less than 5,000 Eritreans leave Eritrea. Eritrea’s government may have committed crimes against humanity, including a shoot-to-kill policy on its borders, a UN investigation says. “It is not law that rules Eritreans – but fear,” says the report, which details extrajudicial killings, sexual slavery and enforced labour.

As a result, it is second to war torn Syria in producing refugees in the world. It is said 20 per cent of its population migrated. It is isolated completely from the international community. Ultimately, scholars listed it in the fast falling, rogue states. Eritrea turned into hell. The one man betrayed and killed, tortured and raped his country and people. Surely, 30 to 50 years under peaceful circumstances will take to rebuild Eritrea since serious gab of generation is created. The current generation is all completely not educated. One can imagine what uneducated generation meant for a poor country in transition like Eritrea.

Unless, something is done to save Eritrea drifting into the hands of the Arab countries, the future will be more problematic mainly to Eritrea as a state and Ethiopia’s security. Economic diplomacy, people to people relations should be, therefore as plan ‘A’, quickly installed to normalize the two countries. The plan ‘B’ should force Isaias to come into negotiations on these vital issues for both countries. According to the writer, he can do as far as he is threatened to lose his power. However, prolonging the ‘no peace no war’ policy will end up with the incursion of the Arab States into Eritrea who are hostile to Ethiopia and the state of Eritrea can be fragile paving the way to anarchy like Somalia. That time, Ethiopia will be encircled by fragile states like South Sudan, Somalia and now Eritrea making it difficult and costly to manage security.
This writer, therefore, recommend concerned bodies both in Eritrea and Ethiopia to design sound policies to save Eritrea before too late to fall into stateless situation which will be fertile grounds to anti-peace elements.

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Source: The Ethiopian Herald

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