Radio Erena: 24 February 2021
President Isaias Afwerki’s interview on Feb.17 was a bore as usual. In a yawning monologue, he hovered over the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea touching almost everything but the genuine wants of the Eritrean people. With literally no interruptions from the two local TV interviewers, the president lectured about the unending conspiracy against Eritrea, its leadership, and its people. He disregarded the persistent situation created by Covid-19 and his government policies towards it, especially availing the vaccine for the people, a matter which has become the foremost concern of governments worldwide.
“Not as expected,” commented a friend on the interview. True. Those who waited for the interview were simply expecting a broad elaboration on the recent war in Tigray, its outcome, Eritrea’s role in it, which had been praised by the Ethiopian prime minister himself, its impact on the future relations, and finally and most importantly the status quo of the Eritrean occupied territories. Unquestionably, the participation of the Eritrean forces in the war has exceeded the objective of regaining Badme and the other occupied sovereign lands, a presidential statement would have placed things on track in the people’s minds.
Once more, we are facing the dreary pattern of the president’s interviews: talking about everything and saying nothing. The reason is not difficult to decipher; the leader intends to keep the people in the dark as more knowledge would mean more questions, his favorite gimmick is to play and replay ad infinitum the conspiracy theory.
In the past twenty years, all Eritreans were forced to believe that TPLF has been the roadblock in Eritrea’s march to development. Children at school as the elderly in their huts knew through the tedious repetitions that the superstars of the Woyane were the arch enemies of the Eritrean dream of being Africa’s Singapore. Schoolchildren even enjoyed joking about it: when the national team lost one of its matches in Kenya, the teens said it must be Woyani who must have caused it.
Jokes aside, this time it’s more serious. We know that TPLF leaders harbored ill intentions against Eritrea, but we didn’t exactly know that they planned to invade Eritrea after toppling the government in Addis Ababa. The president disclosed that “the plan was to neutralize the 32,000 contingent-one third of which were affiliated with TPLF- and topple the Federal Government. Part of the plan was the subsequent invasion of Eritrea.”
Because all conspiracies are stealthy and woven in the dark; and leaders are the only ones to know about them, the leader wants us, anew, to take his words as the truth. We know better. Thirty years of conspiracy theory meant only supplying the dictatorship with new blood. Eritreans now shudder at the ruse.
Regarding article 39 of the Ethiopian Constitutions which established ethnic federalism and led Ethiopia to the current crisis, the president enjoyed reminding us in his extended discourse of the ‘disastrous impact’ of applying such a solution to the neighboring giant politics. He talked incessantly in earlier interviews about that imprudent choice of former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Criticizing Ethiopia for adopting ethnic federalism is outward and repeated in the president’s interviews, but what he discreetly suggesting to Ethiopians is to follow the Eritrean example vested in his ‘judicious’ leadership in the past 30 years.
Ostensibly, the Eritrean example of the Stalinist rule is appealing to the wishes of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. He is progressively copying his formidable Asmara ally by limiting access to information, imprisoning his adversaries, and above all keeping his cards closer to his chest. The training is paying.
Avoiding ethnic federalism by having an Eritrean regime’s replica in Addis Ababa is a recipe for chaos. Ethnic federalism policies backfired in Ethiopia to the extent that they did really generate wide discontent; but dictatorship, be it of a leader or one party is not the wise option.
In the end, the Eritrean president asked the Eritreans to tight the belts around their wastes to face the conspiracies and to rebuild the country, a demand that can hardly be bought today under thirty years of the world’s worst dictatorships.
By Fathi Osman