“TPLF policies & reckless offensives do not represent the interests of the people of Tigray who have no problem living in peace with other nationalities in Ethiopia & their Eritrean neighbors.” – President Isaias
The second part of the Interview was focused on a message to the people of Tigray, on bilateral ties between Eritrea and Somalia, Kenya, and the Gulf countries.
1) On TPLF’s visceral political follies and message to the people of Tigray
President Isaias underlined that the quagmire triggered by TPLF’s War of Insurrection must be seen in its cumulative context. It is indeed inextricably linked with its erroneous political objectives from its genesis as articulated in the Manifesto of its formative years in the 1970s.
While the people of Tigray had every right to fight – together with other oppressed nationalities – for justice and equality within Ethiopia, the TPLF’s secessionist agenda was untenable and a distortion of the legitimate aspirations of the people of Tigray. At the time, the distorted political objective was ultimately rectified after extensive consultations that took several years on the basis of which we were able to subsequently cultivate ties of cooperation.
Immediately after the fall of the Dergue regime, however, the TPLF reverted to a (dualist) policy of fomenting ethnic polarization to maintain its monopolistic control of Ethiopia while also creating conditions of fragmentation (as a residual option).
The umbrella organization – EPRDF – that it created was designed to serve its total domination of economic, political, and military power to the exclusion of others rather than serving as a vehicle for cementing harmony and national cohesion in Ethiopia.
The 1994 Constitution similarly contained Article 39 which allowed secession and other provisions that corrode national unity and social cohesion. The TPLF’s unabashedly pronounced strategy included sowing discord and planting time bombs here and there, that it could detonate to create perpetual conflict in the event that its monopoly of power was challenged.
The TPLF believed that it can achieve its distorted policy objectives only by allying with and becoming subservient to a major power. In this respect, the border war that it unleashed against Eritrea in 1998 under the pretext of a “dispute” over Badme and its invasion of Somalia in 2006 were essentially extraneous agendas.
The TPLF was ousted from power in 2018. But instead of rectifying its toxic policies, it unleashed the destructive and costly offensives that raged for two years.
TPLF’s policies and its reckless offensives do not represent the interests of the people of Tigray who have no problem living in peace with other nationalities in Ethiopia and their Eritrean neighbors. These are accordingly times to say “enough is enough”; a time to draw appropriate lessons both for the people of Tigray and the region as a whole.
2) On bilateral ties between Eritrea and Somalia
President Isaias elaborated on the historical realities that precipitated a political vacuum in Somalia after the fall of the Siad Barre Government.
Somalia’s ethnic and religious uniqueness notwithstanding, myriad external interventions coupled with internal weaknesses led to clan politics and debilitating instability. Dubbed a “failed State”, chronic instability and the threat of “terrorism” was exploited by external forces to perpetuate their presence in Somalia.
In the circumstances, the urgent task is for the restitution of a sovereign Somalia that can stand on two feet. This will require bolstering its sovereign institutions including credible defense forces.
Eritrea is playing its modest part in this endeavor. This is also buttressed with similar contributions from Somalia’s immediate neighbors. These modest efforts must be seen as enabling contributions and not as a substitute for the central endeavors of Somalia itself.
What must be recognized is Somalia’s substantive potential contribution to the region in terms of its geo-strategic importance; considerable resources (agriculture, fisheries, and possibly oil & gas); but above all the presence of large communities in the neighboring countries vital for lubricating and cementing people-to-people.
3) On bilateral ties with Kenya
President Isaias noted that both countries had embarked on nurturing close bilateral ties in the early 1990s during President Arap Moi’s tenure. But the relationship remained strained afterward for a variety of reasons.
President Ruto’s initiative and his recent visit to Asmara contributed to reviving the relationship today. This is anchored not only on enhancing bilateral ties but also on the alignment of perspectives and views of bolstering regional cooperation that forestalls unhelpful external meddling.
President Ruto’s initiative has also resulted in Eritrea’s decision to resume its membership in IGAD. The desire is to revitalize IGAD as an effective regional institution for promoting peace and stability as well as economic cooperation among the Member States on the basis of synergy and complementarity.
Eritrea and Kenya have also agreed to work out concrete mechanisms and institutions of coordination to facilitate their bilateral cooperation in a variety of sectors.
4) On ties with Gulf Countries
President Isaias expounded on the negative ramifications for cooperation in the wider Horn of Africa/Red Sea Region that prevailed in previous decades as a result of geopolitical power games. The Gulf region was seen as the “sphere of influence” of western powers in the context of the “policy of containment’’.
This situation is gradually changing in tandem, and in correlation, with unfolding global changes.
Gulf countries are diversifying and cultivating solid economic ties with Asia and other parts of the world. This trend is entailing more profound ties between the Gulf States as well as with the countries of the Horn of Africa.