No political justification or security concerns for another war in Ethiopia
By Haile Tessema
Tigrai Online Sept. 4, 2020
The 1998 Ethiopian–Eritrean war baffled the world, and was condemned by many as trivial and unnecessary. In its June 11, 1998 edition titled, “Why they are fighting”, the London-based international weekly The Economist ridiculed the border war as “two bald men fighting over a comb”. The magazine lamented, “They are, per head of population, the two poorest countries in the world, bar Mozambique. Yet they are fighting for a few square miles of barren mountain where a few thousand souls barely scratch a living. The whole border is now a battle zone, and the two countries are on war footing”.
Unfortunately, not only did the war continue to be waged with inevitable high human and economic cost, but also its legacy lived in the form of no war no peace for 20 years until a rookie politician by the name Abiy Ahmed, who was a radio operator in the aforementioned war, ascended to power in 2018. Actually, it’s for reaching a peace agreement with Eritrea and border opening – albeit for a short period of time – that PM Abiy was subsequently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
So, it’d be ironic, ridiculous and utterly reckless for a Nobel Peace Laurite to lead the country to an even more absurd war – this time potentially over the Tigrai Regional Government’s plan to unilaterally hold a state election, in defiance to the federal government’s decision to indefinitely prolong it.
Nonetheless, other than partisan political expediency, the federal government has no constitutional mandate or the moral obligation to use force to bring the TPLF government to submission. Besides, truth is, war on Tigrai will not be a walk in the Park. There surely will be unnecessary loss of soldiers’ lives on both sides, death of civilians and carnage, not to mention damage or destruction of public and private properties for which the war monger party would be held responsible.
Furthermore, the effects of war on the ailing economy would be enormous. What is unfortunate about contemporary Ethiopian politics is that the economy tends to be put on the backburner. The last time the economy or people’s livelihood was made to be a political agenda was during farmers’ and students’ rebellion of the 1970s ‘land to the tiller’ and tax-cut demands as well as cab drivers’ strike that was triggered by fuel price hike that together became cause for Emperor Haileselassie’s regime toppling.
Yet, ideological (at least when communism was in the game) and identity politics have taken precedence to the total negligence of the economy despite the fact that bread and butter politics affects all in more ways than one – regardless of ethnic identity or religion.
Meanwhile, what is currently at play is arrested development; an economy on a standstill, if not on a deathbed; hyperinflation that has shot living standard to the roof thereby making life unlivable even for the middle class; rampant unemployment; extreme poverty; homelessness, increased prostitution; a rise in petty as well as dangerous organized crimes; the mushrooming of registered charity organizations and non-registered charity group activities, etc.
Sadly, instead of putting the priority, energy, meager financial and material resources towards collaboratively combating a common enemy, i.e. underdevelopment, unemployment and poverty, rumors of war are spreading like wildfire. And if – God forbid – that comes to pass, it would be a shame that a leader who climbed to power preaching peaceful conflict resolution, harmonious coexistence, human rights and democracy would yield to the culture of war as a solution to a clearly political issue. Particularly, when the rumored war is even more trivial than the Ethio-Eritrea war he participated in as foot soldier, and then got awarded a Nobel Peace Prize as a Prime Minister for apparently playing a leading role in ending it.
Still, all said and done, let’s hope and pray that common sense prevails in the end to resolve the conflict through non-violent political dialogue.