In part one of my posting I tried to assess the dire situation that Issayas finds himself in, in a somewhat humorous fashion. Unfortunately, both the humour and the seriousness of the matter were lost on some readers. The main message was quite simple: everything lssayas has done to “protect” Eritrea from its “mortal enemy” Ethiopia has ended up structurally nullifying his defense capacity; so much so, that he is now unable to respond in any meaningful way to the humiliating and devastating series of attacks over the past few months. His very raison d'être which is to defend Eritrea- is gone and gone for good. If he ever had a reason for staying in power, that very reason no longer exists. It has disappeared into thin air. What goes for lssayas also goes for the regime.
The die is cast.
Having lost the capacity to defend himself against his nemesis, what can lssayas do? Broadly speaking he has two options. The first one is to recognize that the game is up and negotiate with the Woyane. Although it is very difficult to imagine now, I don’t think it is impossible. First, we know that lssayas would not shy away from such a turn-around, if his power and life is on the line. He probably believes he can sell anything to the average Eritrean, including some sort of peace agreement with the Woyane. The Eritrean public may, in desperation, go along at least for the initial period. The Woyane have time and again said they are prepared to sign a peace agreement with anybody who happens to be in power in Eritrea at any given time. On the other hand, while such a climbdown is not impossible for lssayas, it is bound to be the most difficult magician’s trick that he has ever tried pulling off. He is also likely to be worried about the medium to long term reaction of the Eritrean people. In the end it is about his power and he cannot be sure that Eritreans will bear with him after peace is firmly established. Finally, he will not trust the Woyane to play ball all the way. He will be suspicious that they will have some trick up their sleeves designed to facilitate his removal from power, once he signs the peace agreement. If I were to add up the odds, I would give the peace negotiation option a 30% chance of materializing over the next year.
The next option is to do more of what he has been doing so far. If the result of such an approach has been to make lssayas completely defenseless in the face of the Woyane we cannot expect different results from more of the same. But given the difficulties identified with the only other option, that of peace, he may gamble like the desperate man that he is. And he seems to be doing a lot of that already.
He is trying to force all the “youth” that are under the ages fifty to sixty in to joining the army and the zonal army. On the one hand, this is exacerbating the conflict between the regime and the population; and on the other hand, speeding up the exodus. Now, even the offspring of the rich and well-connected are joining the stampede. The difference being that because they pay hefty bribes they are escorted by the four wheel drive cars of senior officials right to the border. In other words, the attempt is not filling the empty shell of the army with additional manpower. It is speeding up the process of making Eritrea” youth free”
There is a captive population; the very old in the villages are being armed. Obviously, they will be irrelevant in any actual war between the Woyane and the EDF. Unless, of course, the Woyane try to occupy and “pacify” every village. I have no reason to believe that the Woyane are that stupid and inclined to occupy and pacify Eritrea. Therefore, though the old captive villagers are militarily irrelevant they are not politically so. As every village becomes an armed fortress, personal and regional conflicts can spin out of control and become militarized. On the positive side, many of the youth who have been hiding from the regime can learn to exploit the new opportunity and as the regime begins to crumble from the inside and the outside, spark rebellions in several areas which can eventually choke the regime.
Time is up!
I think that the lssayas’s regime is living on borrowed time and its fate will be determined within the next year or so. Externally, the tension we now have cannot continue indefinitely. Either lssayas will extend an olive branch or continue to use his Ethiopian protégés to provoke the Woyane. So things will boil over sooner rather than later, and the regime and the EDF will be destroyed in short order. While I will not cry for the regime if that happens, it is not my preference. I do not favour the Woyane directly removing the lssayas regime, and my lack of preference for this option does not stem from any philosophical reason, but arises from the conviction that it will be traumatic for our young nation and will imply unnecessarily heavy cost in human life. I would rather have the Woyane remove lssayas, than lssyas staying in power for another decade for the same reason. lssayas in power for another decade is going to be more traumatic and expensive than some short and bloody war with the Woyane.
But we have other options that we can capitalize on given the current tensions and paralysis of the regime. As all of the regime’s policies appear to be weakening it irreversibly, why not deliberately use them for the same purpose. What if we were to carry out a massive and continuous campaign to show the Eritrean people inside the country that lssayas is unable and unwilling to defend them against anybody? That he will end up by destroying the nation and that it is therefore up to them to stop that from happening. Instead of asking them to refuse arms, why not encourage them to get all the weapons they can get to protect their property, their youth and women from continuous harassment by the regime. Why not encourage the youth to join the army and get the guns and go back to their villages to beef up the defenses established by their forefathers. This could start small, but once it covers large areas it will have a snowball effect and the regime will implode from within. Hence, in addition to the usual thing, can the Diaspora get their act together and remove the regime in the best possible manner before the Woyane does it with all the positive and negative consequences such an action would produce? I at least think it is worth considering. How about you?
Simon T. Keleta