PM Dr. Abiy Ahmed, who has been in power for over a year now, has turned the Horn’s political landscape upside down. A spell of euphoria and positive energy had been cast in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa when he first came to power. 

However, now doubts have been cast on his ‘new ideas’ instead; with the recent high level assassinations people are realizing that his reforms are too good and too rapid … in fact, there are more unanswered questions now than ever:

  1. Will PM Abiy Ahmed deliver at least half of his promises?
  2. Why are we witnessing more and more violence in Ethiopia now?
  3. Why are the Tigrayans, generally speaking, despondent?
  4. Is the Amhara/Oromo coalition for real?
  5. Is Eritrea capable of accommodating the changes peace will bring about?
  6. How could the PM trust and have Isaias Afwerki as a partner?
  7. Why are Eritreans inside the country less informed than their Ethiopian counterparts?
  8. Why are the PFDJ so confused and lost?
  9. Why are the border-checkpoints closed again?

These are questions everyday people are asking after having lived through the roller coaster times. We know we will not be able to answer those questions adequately for they cover vast areas of discussions.

In order to find some answers we try to investigate what is going on in social media, leaf through the pages of government newspapers, capture people’s sentiments and we try to examine our conscience.

Social Media

Let’s assess the year that was wasted and hopes that were sunk since Abiy came to power.

The impact of the questionable peace initiative could be felt through the exchanges that were taking place within Facebook, various blogs, message boards, YouTube and so forth.  People began to notice how hollow and offbeat the deal was early on.

As Eritreans we know each other well, don’t we?  Most of all, we know who Isaias is. As we observed Isaias rejoice during the time leading up to the signing of the peace agreement – his silly grins, chest-beating instances, tongue-tied-ness and more – we knew right away there was something amiss. Many wondered why Isaias was giving control to Abiy Ahmed regarding future handlings of the peace process knowing full well that the border was not going to be demarcated.

A country like Eritrea, one that has gone against any normalcy one can imagine, has given its citizens and others the run-around ever since it came into existence as a country.  Features such as lies, deceit, affectation, empty promises, false lines of argumentation and contempt define the regime. Simply stated, Eritrea can be trusted neither by its own citizens nor the international community. Didn’t PM Abiy know that Isaias used the ‘border ruling’ as a pretext all along when he used to serve as intelligence chief for instance?

Mr. Yemane Gebremeskel, the Information Minister, continued to tweet messages that sugar-coated Isaias’ blunders, and the surrogates, punch-drunk, echoed his messages to other government supporters.

On the other hand, indeed many were talking about peace – a discussion which demonstrated peace is the most desired commodity in today’s Eritrea and Ethiopia.  People from both sides of the aisle were singing, people who lived in the border area were celebrating, the euphoria had raised people’s expectations both in Asmara and Addis Ababa.

But Eritreans immediately took advantage of the pause of hostilities by taking flight to Ethiopia. That is a big statement by itself.  That demonstrates that Eritreans do not trust the regime at all.

Eritrea Profile

The government’s English newspaper was quick to publish stories in succession. 

8 Sep:

  • Leaders of Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia Hold Tripartite Meeting
  • Joint Declaration on Comprehensive Cooperation between Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea 
  • Ethiopian Embassy in Asmara Re-opens
  • Ethiopian Commercial Vessel Makes Port Call in Massawa
  • Reportage: A Fore-taste of Hope for East Africa

 There were similar stories in earlier copies of Eritrea Profile:

 President of the Republic of South Sudan, General Salva Kiir, arrived in Asmara on 18 August, for an official visit at an invitation of President Isaias Afwerki.

 Such stories were more or less announcements, declarations.  So, there was no change in the way ‘news’ was distributed in Eritrea. And there was no change on the ground whatsoever.

Although Ethiopian news channels suffer from partisan politics, one could still say it was much better at handling issues regarding the peace process. At least we, Eritreans, came to know more about what was going on through Ethiopian news channels.

BBC Tig Service             

BBC Tigrinya played a big part in broadcasting developments regarding the peace process. Its website pages were filled with stories such as:

  1. Zalambesa: Witnessing Peoples’ Faces awash with tears from sheer happiness
  2. Dawit Shilan, Eritrean top vocalist, finally meets his father (Shilan used to live in Eritrea but his father lived in Ethiopia) It is to be remembered that Shilan performed for President Isaias and PM Abiy Ahmed during the state visit at the State House banquet
  1. The Role of Saudi Arabia and United Emirates in the Ethio-Eritrea peace Initiative
    An excellent interview with Ahmed Saleh al-Qeysi. (A popular figure within Eritrean political circles – he is one of the founders of the EPLF – he no longer supports the regime in Asmara) 
  1. There was also a story on Prof Mirjam van-Reisen - a prominent Horn researcher who is looking into the issue of trafficking and migration 

Peoples Stories

PFDJ Friend: We have a friend or two who happen to belong to the PFDJ camp: 

Sometimes we speak freely about Eritrean politics. We agree on many things –

  • The need for constitution
  • The fact our young are fleeing
  • The need to keep the country united
  • The cause of our martyrs
  • Political restlessness in the country and abroad (…and more)

We disagree on numerous counts –

  • Views on the country’s leadership
  • Suspicion concerning the ‘political agenda of the opposition’
  • The significance of the concept of home
  • ‘What will happen if the president were not at the helm of the country?’

When we talked about the ‘peace agreement’ we certainly did not see eye-to-eye. They would not dare to weigh the agreement critically because they are PFDJ members after all – they are expected to agree and agree some more even if they disagree deep down. 

Some Reflections

We Eritreans, just like our Ethiopian counterparts, were very interested in the new initiative in our region.  However, we questioned the sincerity of both the Eritrean and Ethiopian leaders concerning the sudden change of heart.  We have been vindicated by many things since then – that the “border line of reasoning” was a bogus position to take.

President Isaias might want to appear as if he is an authentic voice that represents Eritrea, a peacemaker or someone who really cares about the people of Eritrea; but we see him as someone who is deliberately confusing the issues for the sake of self-preservation.

PM Abiy, although he has managed to bring in freshness into the Ethiopian and regional political landscapes, he seemed he was playing with fire. Well, time has proven that he indeed is playing with fire. 

Actually, we could say that both PM Abiy and President Isaias seem to have ulterior motives for the charade – we believe they had scores to settle with the region of Tigray.  And we were simply being dragged into that dispute against our own will, senselessly.

We should also put into consideration the fact that PM Hailemariam Desalegn and the late PMs Meles Zenawi put Eritrea through grief with their deliberate ‘we have accepted the UN ruling in principle’ exploit that put Eritrea in limbo for more than 16 years. All of a sudden, once Abiy came to power, all was forgiven and forgotten. Yes, just like that.

However, a year on, there is still nothing tangible to show for all that hoopla. That is why we are asking “where is the beef?”