Solid Foundation Being Laid Towards Ensuring Equitable Development For Generations: President Isaias (PART IV)
Some strategic studies of the US suggest that the main cause for the American hostility towards Eritrea is that President Isaias was not willing to join the camp of what the Administration calls “Africa’s New Bread Leaders”. Was the situation like that? What does to join mean? How do they treat those leaders who join in? What do they expect from them? What reward do they get?
Historically, the western intelligence agencies have tried to prop mercenary regimes in every country. In establishing these subservient regimes, the agencies would first target specific individuals and use various means to recruit them. Corruption is the main technique in this regard and if the individual can be bought then it makes the job easier. The agencies have gleaned tremendous experience at corrupting officials and heads of state and this affords them with the ability to steer governments at will.
Once a mercenary regime has been established the second step would be manipulating it to create a circle or zone of influence at the regional level. For instance, Africa has four influence zones in the north, south, east and west. They also refer to the mercenary regimes that help create the influence zones as “anchors” or “focal governments (countries)”. The level to which that focal government can be manipulated depends on how many officials are in the payroll of the western agencies. In their view, Nigeria is a focal center in Western Africa. They may base this attribution on the large population and the size of economy in that country. However, the fact of the matter is that Nigeria is a country where the people in power normally oppress the people and plunder the wealth and resources of that country.
The early 90’s witnessed political upheavals in our region. The change was manifest in the whole world as well with the demise of the Cold War. There were many changes in Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and other parts of our region. From our perspective, the changes that took place provided a good opportunity for the peoples of this region. With the advent of Eritrean independence, the coerced unification of Eritrea with Ethiopia and the ensuing bloody struggle came to an end opening the way for normalized relations between the two countries. There were ample opportunities for the people to cooperate and prosper thereby setting a positive example in the Horn of Africa. Relatively speaking, Sudan as well was experiencing change. At the same time, the regional organization IGAD broadened its goals to establish conducive grounds for inter-state cooperation.
While the Horn was on the cusp of this promising era, other powers began formulating plans to manipulate the situation to their advantage and promptly glided into the region like paratroopers. Their motives were spurred by the post-Cold War ideology of a new global order aimed at controlling the world; the Horn of Africa was also a part of this plan. Thus, they set to recruiting their agents, first among individual officials and slowly towards controlling the whole government. While some submitted to their plans and adapted their policies, others stayed out of it. As a result, the promising bright future that had begun to shine for the people of the Horn of Africa began to dim out. Their attempts to establish mercenary governments to promote their agenda in this region have been relatively successful when we look at the events that transpired in the last 20 years. The success may be short-lived but the plan worked nonetheless. We do not even need to mention the names of the governments that have been employed as mercenaries as they are well known to all. And we have observed the turmoil that has gripped Sudan and Somalia as a result of these interferences.
In that respect, Eritrea has historically enjoyed unique political experiences that make it impossible for the country to be owned by one or a few individuals. The people of Eritrea paid heavy sacrifices to achieve independence. Thus, after 50 years of struggle and hardship, Eritrea cannot be a pawn in the grand sinister schemes of others. Every official has been a part of the national struggle and, therefore, cannot be an instrument for external forces. Recruiting mercenaries in this country is no easy matter. This is not credit to the government officials alone, but to the society as a whole. Our unique history, our long struggle and our national identity affords us a strength that few others enjoy. This fact has not deterred the agencies from seeking for recruits but, in Eritrea, it would be a fool’s errand.
Mr. President, Eritrea has remained a country where very few NGOs are operating. There are few ‘Civil Societies.’ And it is said that the remaining few will be closed shortly. What is the reason for the decision? There are some suggestions from some parts that we embrace them and use every coin we get out of them to our advantage. How do you see this?
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Civil Societies continue to be a hot issue in current times. However, we cannot speak of these organizations with mere good will. We must ask what the real meaning of Civil Societies is. We must question where Civil Societies are generally intended to operate and whether it is only Africa and the Third World countries that require Civil Societies. These questions similarly apply to NGOs. A society may set up organizations or unions for its own purposes. There may be unions for workers, women, the youth etc. These unions present no problems as they are purposeful and based on real social needs. The problem arises when external forces impose unions and organizations, whose sole aim is espionage, on a society.
The driving powers behind the Civil Societies and NGOs suffer from a pathological compulsion for espionage. And a spy does not come and introduce himself as a spy, rather various covers are employed to hide his identity. And one of these covers is provided by the NGOs and the Civil Societies. If we look at many African countries, we see that the NGOs and Civil Societies supplant the government and end up becoming parallel or substitute governments on their own. Granted that the government as whole or critical higher officials have been recruited, and then the NGOs and Civil Societies can continue their operations without any fear of the police or security services. At the same time, these organizations try to control the social, cultural, economic and political affairs of the host country. This helps them to control events and to foment uprisings at any time they want. The western agencies give different missions and operations to these organizations. There is irrefutable evidence in Africa or any other part of the world as to the source of support and funding for the Civil Societies. Who funds the cars, the offices and the facilities that sustain the Civil Societies? Under what banner is all the support given to the Civil Societies? And who is the beneficiary of the Civil Societies? Moreover, what are the underlying objectives? What is the nature of the uprisings that they foment? The answers to all these questions are very obvious. In some places, there may be genuine “Civil Societies”, however, they, too, are not free from infiltration by agents who collect intelligence. And these agents then report their findings courtesy of the cutting edge technology being made available.
Earlier, there were innocent initiatives in the form of religious organization, charitable foundations and others which provided humanitarian assistance. These organizations harbored nothing but good will and righteousness. However, in time, the intelligence agencies have manipulated these organizations wholly or partially. These days, NGOs and Civil Societies are not only serving intelligence agencies but also becoming profitable business ventures. The agencies use them to pay retirement benefits or to secure pensions for their agents.
Despite the nature, objective and mode of operation of the organizations in Africa, we have nothing to worry about and nothing to fear. We have eyes and ears and we are vigilant. If an organization comes to give us money, we welcome it. We would still welcome it even if it came with a single bill or penny. If the organization wants to help enhance the capabilities of the government, the people and the country, then it is welcome. However, if that organization has any assumptions about substituting the government and its duties, and if that organization presumes that it is more concerned about the welfare of the people than the government it is absolutely unacceptable. There is nothing to be gained by allowing organizations to interfere in the government’s strategy, plans, programs and projects. At the same time, we refuse to be spoon-fed by anyone. We want to work hard and to reap the benefits of our toil. Spoon-feeding would only paralyze us. We must affirm that we will not accept any substitute or alternative that will debilitate and paralyze our efforts at nation-building and establishing efficient government institutions.
Similar experiences of other African countries in that regard have many lessons to impart. The question should not be about how many pennies or how many millions you can manage to glean out of these organizations. We have our goal, which is to build our country and to improve our quality of life. We want to live by the sweat of our brows rather than be dependent on charities. It is not our political culture to take whatever is thrown at us. The dignity of a country and its people is predicated in the work that they accomplish and the self-reliance that they possess. And a functioning government is that which provides gainful employment for its people and enhances their ability. Otherwise, the government is insignificant. And the people cannot look after themselves.
Turning to regional events, it seems that the situation is precarious in the Horn of Africa. We can mention the border conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia; the pending issues with regard to the secession of South Sudan and the unsolved Darfur problem; the worsening situation in Somalia; the transformation of Djibouti into a big military camp; the continuous breach of security in the Red Sea; and the intensifying acts of piracy. What could be the consequences and trajectories of this regional setting in the international scene?
– Prior to 1991, we have fostered a program of not only achieving Eritrean independence but also working towards building a stable and secure neighborhood. This was not wishful thinking on our part rather it was based on a prudent and realistic assessment of the overall situation in the Horn of Africa and the world. Eritrea’s independence coincided with the end of the Cold War. The decades-long struggle between the capitalist and communist blocs had had an unforgettable historical impact on Eritreans; thus, its end spelt the beginning of a new era of freedom and peace undisturbed by the blowout of superpower struggles. After 50-60 years of political stagnation, the fall of the Derg regime in Ethiopia was also one of the factors that helped project a brighter picture. Earlier in 1989 there had been political transformation in the Sudan; Somalia too had witnessed change in the early 90’s. Although we may not be able to exaggerate the hopes generated by these changes, nonetheless, we can say that, around that time, the region as a whole had the best chances for recovery and progress.
One of the primary objectives of our foreign policy at that time was helping to turn a new chapter of peace and cooperation among the peoples of the Horn of Africa, where relations would be based on a fresh and new vitalization of brotherly spirit. The security of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean was also part and parcel of our aspirations for a “stable neighborhood”. This policy is not only favorable for Eritrea but equally rewarding for all countries and peoples in the Horn. While that was our realistic assessment at that time, we cannot say that we foresaw the turn of events as they developed later on.
Historically, it had been the legacy of a bi-polar world that prevented regional peace and stability. We cannot forget how the East-West conundrum confounded Eritrea’s legitimate right for independence resulting in a prolonged bloody struggle. However, the advent of a uni-polar system after the fall of the Berlin Wall has proved to be more dangerous. At least, the Cold War had clearly identifiable lines and we can say that some sort of balance was maintained. In its aftermath, there arose a New World Order. The political paradigms advocated by thinkers like Fukuyama and others that were guiding the establishment of this New World Order were dangerous. These paradigms maintained that “the world has been conquered and there were no rivals to match and there should be no scope for any rivals to rise; military power, economic domination, intervention, technology and culture have all combined to put the whole world under control; thus, the world should be carved up into zones of influence to consolidate hegemonic control.”
To better understand the events in the last 20 years, we must take these paradigms into account. There were profound hopes and aspirations for peace and cooperation in the region prevailed in the early 90’s, especially the first 5 years of that decade had many promises under the banner of “Greater Horn of Africa”. At the same time, the agenda of global domination and control that spurred the New World Order pervaded the Horn of Africa and sought to exploit the region’s strategic importance in alignment with the grand scheme that was being put in place. It was impossible to reconcile the regional interests with this grand global scheme for domination. In spite of this, for a short time, it was attempted to find compromises and a way forward.
It may be recalled that at that time, IGAD had been a working group established to prevent or control desertification. But it was elevated to a regional organization so as to become a vehicle for cooperation and economic harmonization. On a continental basis, there was the forum provided by the former Organization for African Unity (OAU). The potential benefits of regional cooperation encompassing the Red Sea and beyond were great. Its success, however, would be determined by the creation of a conducive atmosphere and the contribution of constructive factors. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
The proponents of the uni-polar system, not only in America but also in Europe and other parts of the world, had set out to put the whole globe under their domination and control. And, indeed, the Horn of Africa was not excluded from their grand scheme. Their designs would be better exposed if we look at the situation on a country-by-country basis. The negative trends in each country can be glued together to portray a mosaic of the uni-polar forces at play in the Horn of Africa.
The problem is no more evident than in Somalia. To better explain the descent of Somalia into its fractious polity with incessant inter-clan fighting, we should assess the situation in that country since the days of Siad Barre. We should also attempt to decipher the meaning of the five-point star in the Somali flag and other longstanding issues in the country.
Of course, the current Somali situation cannot be blamed solely on the failures of the Siad Barre regime. Indeed, the positive developments that appeared after his rule began in 1960 cannot be denied either. Somalia’s twin states were united into a single country and there was subsequent progress in general. In those early days, the Somali’s showed their passionate opposition to clan-politics by symbolically burying coffins with the word “clan” written on them. Somalis were united in the belief that loyalty to the clan is a weakness and ultimately useless in building a nation. This national unity and the economic progress that accompanied it won the praise of friends and foes alike. Even the regime of Mengistu Hailemariam, which was hostile to Somalia, could not hide its amazement at the positive trends that appeared in Somalia. But apparently affected by the legacy of the Cold War, the country slowly began sliding backwards until it reached an untenable state and Barre’s regime suffered from the common shortcomings that afflicted African countries. Especially in the late 1980’s the situation went from bad to worse.
The end of the Cold War had laid a better opportunity for the region and it was hoped that the situation in Somalia would improve. However, those hopes could not materialize. American interference, which came in many forms, further exacerbated the situation in Somalia. The extent of American involvement in Somalia was illustrated by the popular Hollywood film titled “Black Hawk Down”. America’s direct military involvement in Somalia was an offshoot of the domineering principles that constituted the ideological base of the New World Order.
As mentioned earlier, the Horn of Africa and Somalia were all included in the grand scheme to compartmentalize the world into regions of influence. Nonetheless, direct military involvement proved too costly and embarrassing to the US. Thus, ‘warlords’ were hired as pawns in the chessboard further plunging Somalia into a situation far worse than that in the early 90’s. At the same time, the Somaliland issue that had been brewing since the days of Siad Barre began to ferment. In time, the external interference in Somali affairs increased in magnitude. Regional control was not the only thing high on the agenda with regards to involvement in Somalia. There were profound concerns about irredentist sentiments seeking to establish a Greater Somalia, a theoretical vestige of the Cold War.
The Greater Somalia concept was based on the premise that historically Somali territories that had been divided by colonial powers should be reintegrated. As such the borders of Greater Somalia encompassed the former Italian Somaliland, British Somalia, Djibouti, Ogaden and parts of northeastern Kenya. Indeed, the emblematic five-point star on the Somali flag represents these constituent territories of the Greater Somalia. Thus, since the cold war Ethiopia, Kenya and to some extent Djibouti, which was a relatively newcomer in the scene, were considerably concerned about the matter.
However, the open hostility was with Ethiopia. We can recall the clashes that occurred between the two countries during the Cold War. The hostilities only gathered momentum with time regardless of the camp to which each country was aligned. The new hopes for the region that were heralded with the fall of the Communist bloc did nothing to diminish the antipathy. On the contrary, the distrust and animosity were further magnified. Coupled with the machinations of the New World Order, the concerns that Somalia’s neighbors had about the Greater Somalia agenda contributed to the devolvement of the situation in Somalia we see today. This has proven to be one of the major setbacks to the prospects of prosperity and cooperation in the Horn of Africa.
On Sudan, the developments in that country cannot be divorced from the rise of Islam to prominence in different regions of the world in the post-Cold War era. The Palestine question, the Arab cause, petrol-politics, and the divisions in the Middle East that were created by the struggle of powers for world domination, had gradually diminished in relevance with the end of the Cold War. Communist parties, socialist parties, progressive parties, leftists, Baathists under the banner of “Pan Arabism” no longer dominated the political arena. As these causes failed to succeed, they dwindled and gave way to the rise of extremist sentiments. If we enquire as to the origins of these extremist elements, the evidence all points to America. In the epic struggle with the Soviet Union, the US tried to employ Islam as an instrument to defeat the proliferation of communism. Islam was not considered a religion but misconceived as a solution to a political problem.
Political, economic or social problems cannot be countered with religion. There are other ways and means to deal with them. Religion is not a solution; rather it is a source of consolation or solace for people suffering from all sorts of problems, social, economic, political or otherwise. Thus, the historical US miscalculation in the instrumentation of Islam compounded with the absence of substitutes for political causes in the Arab world especially “Pan Arabism” (popularized by Gamal Abdelnasser of Egypt) caused complications in our region after the Cold War. Extremism made an appearance in Somalia. And despite our good relations with Sudan after the “Inqath” movement in 1989, extremism played its role in straining relations in the early 1990s. This development seriously dented the possibilities for harmonizing the peoples of the Horn of Africa towards the goal of ensuring stability and fresh relations.
In Ethiopia, developments did not depart from the trends that were prevalent during the Cold War. Instead of effecting positive change that promoted the genuine interests of the people and the country, Ethiopia followed policies that were characteristic of the former Haileslassie and Menghistu regime. Domestically, a divide and rule policy based on ethnic discrimination brought one group to supremacy while marginalizing another. The Ethiopian foreign policy was based on a special alliance with superpowers to ensure regional domination, which was a practice also derived from previous regimes in that country. These policies put the country on the wrong track and the central cause of the problem is a misguided mentality. Of course, the desire of external forces to recruit a regional proxy to do their bidding was also factored into the equation.
The misconceived mentality has prevailed for a long time, surviving in all settings and remaining unchanged no matter which camp the country belonged to. The people continued to be divided according to ethnic groups they belonged to; there was discrimination among Amharas, Oromos, Tigrayans, Somalis, Afars, etc. Domestic instability and restlessness were deliberately stoked and instigated to weaken the society and make the country the property of one group or family. This development went hand in hand with the aims and designs of external powers.
In the early 90’s the historical relations that developed during the struggle raised hopes that “Eritrea and Ethiopia are entering a new stage in bilateral relations and this can bring about positive change.” On top of the complications in Somalia and Sudan, the last 20 years has seen Ethiopia not only relapsing to its old destructive habits but further devolving into a much worse state. In a nutshell, the strategy has been the control the country and its economy by the minority and securing power by colluding with external powers. The border conflict that arose between us cannot be seen differently from other malicious fabrications and concoctions essentially aimed at layering and blanketing the real problems caused by their misguided policies. And this is another facet of the obstacles that stand in the way of better opportunity and prospects for the Horn of Africa.
I do not wish to dwell on the issue of Djibouti more than is necessary. It is more or less a similar case to those already discussed. If we raise the issue of regional stability, growth and development, it should be within the scope of Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea and Djibouti. The discourse must not stray from this circle. The Red Sea plus the Gulf of Aden, Kenya and Uganda do not belong in this classification for many reasons.
I feel that one of the reasons why regional aspirations and objectives have not been realized is the surfacing of a singular economy in the New World Order. The philosophy that underpins the singular economy and its subsequent blunders is responsible for suffocating the opportunities of peoples in the region. Yet, we must remember that its success has depended on the respective domestic situations of the countries. Thus, the strife goes on with no end in sight.
This comparative perspective cannot be substituted because the interests of people are inextricably intertwined with global and regional developments. The future of this region depends on the solution of this glaring predicament. But before we attempt to solve the problems in Darfur or Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea or Djibouti piecemeal we must equip ourselves with an adequate historical understanding and appreciation particularly with regards to the last 20 years. This is not an issue that we can afford to neglect. We cannot elect to fix domestic problems while remaining oblivious to events unraveling in our surrounding. We cannot survive as islands isolated from each other. The dictates of this postulation considerably expand our horizon and we are compelled to engage issues about the Horn of Africa in the wider context of the Red Sea, the Middle East and the Indian Ocean.
We need to foster a wider perspective because the issues of the Horn of Africa are not isolated from the general trends and developments in the world at large. If we assess the general situation and the events that have unfolded in the past 20 years from objectively as well as from the point of view of Eritrean interests and national security, we can conclude that there is still scope and opportunity for progress. We have learnt many lessons along the way and we should not relent or submit in the face of any obstacles that block the path ahead.