His excellency President Isaias Afwerki conducted an extensive interview with the local media from 27 to 30 of December, 2011, regarding global, regional as well as local issues. Excerpts of the third part of the interview follows:
In its Press Statement dated August 04, 2011, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs underscored: “The Government of Eritrea does not support a two-state solution for the Palestinian question nor does it subscribe to the notion of an accomplished fact.” Likewise, in your address to the 66th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, you unequivocally keynoted: “…Eritrea reaffirms its long-standing support to the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and an independent, sovereign state. It also upholds the right of Israel to live in peace and security within internationally recognized boundaries.” President, how can these two statements be reconciled? What does the existence of a sovereign, independent Palestine without a two-state solution mean?
The ultimate goal of such visions can never escape any sensible mind. Whether they are desirable or not is by no means a subject of debate. Neither is this same issue a breakthrough. The Palestinian people, as any other peoples, is entitled to inalienable rights, which even Israel itself would not deny. Indeed, no Israeli may defeat Palestine’s legitimate right to self-determination. In spite of Eritrea’s Geo-political location, the Eritrean people and Government have had no doubt whatsoever on Palestinian issue. Talking about whether the current or erstwhile organizations become representative of the Palestinian people is a different issue. Without delving deep into the history, the Palestinian question and legitimate rights of the people has nothing to do with the organizations. Thus, Eritrea’s support to the said fundamental popular question indubitably stems from the sovereign and inalienable nature of those rights. Also, the existence of the state of Israel within defined boundaries is not a matter of personal will.
As stated time and again in our official statements, subsequent to the derailment from the major question, the notion of ‘accomplished fact’ might appear for Israel applicable on the ground. But for how long such a psyche can sustain? Irrespective of the stance officials from the governments or political forces of both sides maintain, the Oslo Accords is deemed at fault for all the beating around the bush to no end. Whatever the vision, goal or the legitimate rights of the people, if the proposition put forward for the realization of the ballons d’essai culminates in prevaricating the roundtable, it simply ends up in taking the wind out of the sails, thereby abandoning the main issue.
Despite great expectations and the grave political faux pas committed by all parties–including the so-called facilitators or experts of negotiation–Eritrea has never wavered in its stance. Although the Oslo Accords in essence contributed to the derailment from the major issue yielding to the notion of ‘accomplished fact’, the Palestinian leadership, which has had recourse to public relations exercise and global support, has been utterly disorientated. Whether Palestine be capable or not, political process or armed struggle to achieve the right to self-determination is but a means not an end in itself to rectify internal, regional and international state of affairs. The legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, however, now remains absolutely deranged, provided that a number of Israeli political leaders and that of Palestinian organizations have as yet failed to reverse gears once they entered into a darkest tunnel. Any Palestinian, who adheres to the Oslo Accord and accepts the status quo in West Bank or Gaza, is only misleading its own people over the likelihood of the formation of a Palestinian nation within geographically defined territory; so is the case with any Israeli, who proposes to forestall the Palestinian legitimate rights under such circumstances.
The creation of a fragmented territory on the basis of such a formula is tantamount to defying the legitimate rights indefinitely. At simplest, the current geography will have to be set right and all the previous agreements need to be rendered null and void; hence, the Palestinians ought to have an internationally recognized nation that translates the legitimate right to self-determination into practice. For many, this is more often than not a taboo, which is usually taken for satisfying the trans-Jordania concept. If you happen to propose for the establishment of two mutually respectful nations, countless are the outcries against the fulfillment of an Israeli nationhood and the Palestinian legitimate right to self-determination. The Palestinian drive at the 66th U.N. Session for the statehood of Palestine per se has helped the nation gain nothing but PR advantages. We all deserve to have a clear understanding of the conflict between the prescribed solution of winning full membership in the U.N. organs and the realization of the legitimate rights.
On regional issues, with Djibouti hosting two external forces, the chaotic Somalia and destabilized Yemen, popular uprising freshening in Egypt, the vulnerable Kenyan government, the dichotomy of north Sudan with access to the sea, Saudi Arabia being affected by the status quo in Yemen and Bahrain vis-à-vis the sole stable Eritrea are countries along the coastlines of the Red sea, Gulf of Eden and the Indian Ocean. How can the Red Sea and the Gulf of Eden guarantee implementation of the legal instruments of International Maritime Law, preservation of natural resources, as well as secure its stability? In light of this fact, does Eritrea have a well thought-out strategic mechanism?
The overall oil reserves in the Middle East account for more than 65 percent of the oil fields across the globe. Needless to say, such a potential reserve provide with strategic significance to the region. But why has this same region become so volatile? The potential reserve in the Middle East has obviously made the region center of gravity for the major powers. Above all, with the emerging and reemerging Asian nations, the Middle East adjoining the Red Sea through the Strait of Bab el Mandeb with the Gulf of Eden and through the Mediterranean Sea to Europe and Americas, however volatile the region might be, is a significant nerve linking the Orient with the Occident.
There are a number of other factors that have contributed to the instability of the region. We have witnessed the aftermath of the Iran-Iraq War that was subsequently followed by the invasion of Iraq over Kuwait. As a result, the situation has for long been put into stalemate merely exacerbating the problem. Over the past two decades, engagement of these two neighboring countries, which boast a considerable share of the oil reserves in the Middle East, in such an unstable state of play has remarkably affected the Arabian Peninsula. The meddling by the forces mentioned above in the region can be viewed in two ways. Most of these forces have, for the past three or four decades, been pursuing a doctrine of ‘justifying’ their hegemony over the sought after resources through fostering crises for micromanagement. During the Iran-Iraq War, these same forces had a poignant position for both countries to slay each other and those fomenting the war to sell their weaponry. Later on, new pretexts such as WMD–weapons of mass destruction–among others were manufactured.
The confrontation between the former USSR and the United States not only created a breeding ground for the west to spawn al-Qaeda in Afghanistan with a view to stalling USSR’s expansion, but this very outcome of the systematic chaos has also been serving during and in the post-Cold War era as a pretext in many parts of the world for a set of circumstances and military interventions with its impact being felt to date. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, popular uprising in Egypt and the situation in the Sudan during the first half of 1990s constitute the sum total of the consequences of reawakening and micromanagement of crises with the ultimate goal of monopolizing the resources in the region.
Current attempts resorting to coming up with a new alternative energy source coupled with the rising oil costs and financial meltdown have all the more made the Middle East region of paramount significance. At a time when the existing economic crisis in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere continuously goes downhill, oil increasingly becomes a strategic non-renewable energy source. Consequently, it has been and remains the root cause for many of the regional and international crises. Even within the Horn of Africa–a region that espouses crises and precariousness–and prior to the unfolding of recent phenomenon, Eritrea resolutely upheld an invariable policy of lasting internal stability. Any given nation will have to secure internal stability foremost. Internal stability comprises various socio-economic, cultural and political dimensions.
Not a single nation can ensure stability through external factors short of this elemental component. The strategy Eritrea has been pursuing for the past 20 years is but an ever-refining policy of internal stability. Internal stability incorporates ensuring social justice, harmonious and peaceful coexistence of the people, domestic political administration as well as equitable distribution of resources throughout the nation. With the constantly narrowing and intertwining globe, however, Eritrea has maintained within the volatile Horn region a consistent policy of secure and reliable neighborhood so as to ensure regional economic growth, development and tranquility. Through good neighborly complementarities, nations in the Horn of Africa can jointly work to ward off threats, or, can interlink their resources in the effort to lay requisite infrastructure for an advancing economic growth and development in a tranquil region.
Once all nations in the neighborhood reach a common consensus with tangible programs to implement, a working mechanism will have to get underway in order for the regional cooperation to meet the desired goals. Several attempts have in the past 20 years been made on bilateral and multilateral levels to deal with problems in IGAD, Somalia, and the Sudan, the Red Sea, piracy and so forth. But the creator of systematic chaos–a global force that seeks to benefit from constant volatility and crisis–is reluctant to yield to such end. If the Red Sea region–including the Arabian Peninsula, the entire Horn of Africa and the northeastern part of the region–were to craft all on their own a mechanism or establish an organization tailored to take advantage of their resources and prevail over internal and external common threats, this hypothetical proposition should practically go hand in hand with the stark global reality.
On the contrary, creators of systematic chaos have, with the ultimate aim of micromanaging polarization, been fostering divides within and among peoples through destabilizing those nations by means of numerous ruses. A meticulous look at the bigger picture of the various ploys for nurturing extremist factions everywhere and precariousness would lead us to external intervention. There is no historical, geographic or even economic bone of contention whatsoever amongst the peoples of the Horn region. As conflicts between the interests of the political systems by the minority and aspirations of the majority give rise to a rift, nevertheless, they eventually end up in internal crises. In order for the entire region to reach the summit of development it aspires, therefore, it should first map out a clear-cut constructive dynamism that stems from a critical mass of sound domestic managements and equitable distribution of resources.
Whereas Eritrea as a small nation–small in total area and population size among other factors–has drawn important lesson from the 30 years liberation struggle, the country, taking the region it is situated into account, deserves to prove well edified. Thus, Eritrea’s mindset ever since and prior to its independence has been tuned to this same stance in the face of decades-long external interventions, proxy wars as well as regional and international miscarriages of justice.
How do you describe Eritrea’s strategy in the Red Sea?
This topic is not to be cited differently from the realm of what I have been saying. But we can take Yemen as a first example. Yet again, it is an inseparable subject if we even include Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Sudan, Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia and even the Gulf of Arabia. If you look at these countries from their historical background and resources in connection with their strategic location, the importance within each of these nations is unparalleled. It could have been said that problems in relation with piracy, terrorism, as well as illegal arms and drug trafficking are becoming hunchback in the area. But, what is hampering these countries to revere each other and come to terms? Do they lack the resources? Or is it because there is no willingness from either side? Would there be a need for NATO’s naval and air force bases in the Gulf of Aden? Besides, why is this region becoming a base and army camp for forces far from the area? If we sum up all these questions, we would only come to the logic I came up with earlier. Just because they want to serve their interest in the region, they tell us, “You lack the capacity, you don’t have the technology, you lack the system as well and you don’t have the institutions for these; so we look after you and we make sure peace prevails in the area. Besides, because the region is our international maritime line, it is a great strategic importance to us. For that reason, we have to be around”. So in the absence of regional harmony, their company is inevitable and it is them who hamper the prevalence of regional stability. Accordingly, they uphold crisis management strategic philosophy to ensure their existence and what we are witnessing is the upshot of their plans. There exist a number of tribulations among these countries. If we take Israel for instance, it is a part of the Red Sea. It possesses the needed military might including naval force, air force and others. Apart from Egypt and Jordan however, the rest of the Arab states in the area don’t recognize Israel as a country, so it cannot be a part of the coalition.
This way or the other, if we even say we need to leave our differences aside and work collectively for the prevalence of stability in the Red Sea, there is no party to bring you together. Even if we left Israel out of this, what about the rest of the countries? They all have separate military and security alliances with powers outside the neighborhood, so it wouldn’t be practical to endorse the essence of coalition among each other. Practically speaking however, unless each region maintains respective regional brotherhood for peace and stability, it would be absurd to think that foreign powers could bring stability to the Red Sea. The tension among the ones who genuinely believe in the stability of the region and those who don’t should come to an end. But it requires a struggle to assure this goal, even raising arms is important if need be or intensely identifying the targets that need to be hit and raise popular awareness in accordance. Yet, each party needs to ensure proper local administration to achieve this goal. Still, the foreign powers have induced the mentality for the regional states to accept the world system as the only practical way and that without the technology and military advancement of theirs; there is no other way to survive. The prevailing system doesn’t consider popular needs other than its own interest. Achieving those goals, while intending to go along looking up to those foreign forces at the same time is impossible, but it is the only practical way and it needs to be endorsed. Indeed, such mentalities have surfaced and dissolved in the Red Sea region time and again. Considering the prevailing circumstances and the importance of the region however, unless the Gulf of Arabia as well as boarders of the Horn of Africa with the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea assume their own independent coalition, to whose advantage is having these outsiders swarm in the area? The people of the region need to be aware for what is prevailing is not to their benefit.
In various occasions during your meetings, you said that Africa has the potential resources for its renaissance although it has come 50 despairing years. But how do you think this can be realistic with the given current affairs? How can African renaissance be realized while it is being known as a cesspool of corruption, tribal and racial conflicts as well as its economy being submitting to the mercy of foreign aid? And what should be the role of AU to be attuned with the said reawakening?
The history of colonialism may seem like it is a forgotten matter because decades have went by, but the brunt they left behind is not simple. Although the peoples of Africa have been relieved from colonialism, the mentality of being an underdog and considering the other parties as superiors still remains in many parts of the continent. People may not say it out loud, but colonialism has availed it self in its other version. If we look at the situation and the leaders put in power in the 60s when most of the African states were freed, they were stranded in the mix of the Cold War and the psychological leftovers of colonialism. Hence, the need to copy the colonial system institutionally made way to the return of colonialism through the backdoor. When we say colonialism here however, it is not like the partition of Africa among the European states as it was, but the force of the cold war politics is directly related with colonialism. By far, it is safe to say that the eastern bloc under the Soviet Union was struggling for liberation and sovereignty. But the other one brought back colonialism to many countries in its other version.
During the initial stage where most African nations were freed, the founding fathers of Africa initiated the pan African movement as an aspiration to establish ‘Organization of African Unity’, so as to consolidate the independence of those countries. The fanfares reached their pick during the cold war stage. This may look like a fight between two blocs at some point in time, but many from the founders represented their peoples and established the OAU. After around 30 years however, the backlash of psychological scum started to appear because of those reasons I mentioned. The economy and the socio economic status couldn’t reach its goal as well, because colonialism did nothing apart from exploiting material resources. Educational infrastructures and other social service institutions couldn’t nurture the willpower of the populations. The people couldn’t stand on their feet to coordinate themselves at an African level. Their own domestic issues summed up with the intervention of the other side of colonialism disbanded the ambition after 30 years. Following this, questions such us; “What do we do now? How long will we uphold like this?” have been continually raised. But the means have not yet been extracted. 12 years have elapsed beating around the bush and wandering, “The dream of the African fathers couldn’t work, we need to strengthen Africa, we need to reinforce our ties, we need to loud our voices and we need to form a united Africa”. However, the problem emanates from the very strategy that the leading powers tend to take control of international and regional organizations. If we ask our selves why the Organization for African Unity couldn’t be operational unlike its decent beginning, the answer lies in what I have been mentioning earlier. When we say the world is going fast forward, Africa to the contrary is by all standards the marginalized continent. It is not among the world economy, not the technology, not the industry and of course not in the infrastructure. Also if we take the peoples’ living standard in the continent, apart from the few mentionable ones, most people in Africa live hunger and poverty. But the most shocking part about this case is that the colonial time dehumanization of Africans is being echoed through the advanced media technology at these times which portray the worst parts of Africa. Pictures of hunger, massacre as well as tribal conflicts. If you add up all these issues, although Africa has come over half a century, we can simply describe Africa’s picture as it is now. But there need to be a way to come out of this, because it is over one billion people we are talking about. Even the area it covers as a continent is not to be overlooked. All the most, the natural resources this continent possesses is so massive that it cannot simply be defined. But why is Africa as a continent fully marginalized in the 21st century? Why are the peoples living in vain? Is there no other way? Why were all the attempts for the unification or may be reinforcement of Africa a failure? There are lots of questions that need to be answered. This brings us all to the point that there is no other choice. You cannot be marginalized at times of globalization where the world is going fast. You need to catch-up with the rest of the world. For that reason, Africa has to choose the only better way out.
Your Excellency, are there any other African countries that follow an independent line like what Eritrea does? And what do they say?
It’s of two things. There is no one who totally contends to my agreement saying “no, this is not good thing; it is unacceptable.” Even those who otherwise, spend their time bowing for their lords day and night, talk on stages about the freedom and unity of Africa, sovereignty of countries and peoples’ dignity. They speak, “our economic benefits and resources are being exploited.” But on the ground they do otherwise. Instead of being the owner of your resources and working to improve the livelihood of your people, you order your dish from “Paris Restaurants”, you buy houses there, you open Bank Accounts there…, while letting your land and belongings to be robbed, and as a result your people live in handouts. All you can say is that why, in the last 30-40 years of the Cold War, many African leaders were said to save hundreds of billions in the Swiss Banks and other European Banks; where did they bring that much amount of money? Or who gave them? Why didn’t they invest it for their peoples’ benefits? Who backed them to steal this innumerable amount of money and save it in Banks? How did they use to govern their peoples? Why did they let them live in destitute? Or why did they inflict such monotonous torments to their own people? Anyway, with the ever-changing world in mind, this will have its own time. Because, how long this unfair treatment of people will continue on? For how long could their resilience be sustained? A lot of questions could be raised but the good thing here is we known we are in the situation where: on one side peoples are tortured and on the other side the few sub-servants of external powers and their benefits are mocking in the name of their peoples. As long as this situation sustains without any change that represents the true self of these peoples, it is meaningless of talking about peace, complacence and stability in Africa. This has been described in different occasions and many have been written about it, even books have been published. The world’s present situation itself is not the same with that of the past. Before World War II, information of one environment used to take days, weeks, even months to reach another environment or community; to date, it is instant, and as such, there is nobody who doesn’t know on what level Africa is. Above all, Africans know about their live situations much better than anyone else. It is not, therefore, necessary to lament on the externally inherited complex issues that caused to their present mishaps. The peoples, as their major objectives, thus have to control and supervise their resources and benefits so as to be able to cope up with the present world. The present situation will never sustain long.
How is Africa being administered? There are many new and dominant documents published in 2000. These documents might have many things in side; nevertheless, the theme is all about American National Security Strategy. This document elucidates that Africa is administered through the so called “Anchor Representatives”. Although the issue of North Africa is not clearly explained so far, it is crystal clear in the other regions. You can administer these regions with some, they say, representatives as Nigeria to the West Africa, South Africa to the Southern Region, and Kenya and Ethiopia to East Africa. This is their constant strategy. It means nothing but dividing the continent into regions and sub-regions so as to administer it through representatives. Despite dangerous, it is a strategy engineered for the purpose of National Security. Although this document was issued in 2000, the idea had passed through many years of development. We dare say that “it was existent before the end of Cold War.” This huge strategic external interference is thus one of the factors that smashed down the continent of Africa. It has been operating under different pretexts of National Security and many others. Such a representative system of administration that put the regions and sub-regions into crisis has been a crystal clear observation, in the yet unable to exploit its resources and didn’t realize the fulfillment of its development infrastructures, to disturb the internal management system through inflicting such unjust strategies. It was also an explicit experience how much this strategy itself, when it was first introduced to Africa as an extension of the already existed colonialism or as a new one, had affected to the objective plan of the Pan Africanism. Why did the AU paralyzed? Was it only because of the internal weaknesses or it had external interferences? Why also did the last AU meetings that took 12 years of discussions fail in the end? There is a need to revise these strategies. What is the strategy of Europe on this regard? There are A.C.P.U. relations run under the European Union. There are different European Aid Organizations and NGOs, big mining companies, different multinationals under the pretext of investment activities, but what have they been doing on the ground? There still needs a careful internal and external inspection to better understand how the existing issue of Africa has been introduced.
Your Excellency, as you have said earlier, the Horn of Africa where, Eritrea is included, is a very fragile region in which its true image goes worse and worse. Also in accordance with your words in the New York Forum that says, “…Eritrea is committed to economic development and integration in the wider Horn of Africa and Red Sea regions. We are convinced that no country can succeed in a turbulent environment…” supports it is apparent that the situation would influence Eritrea too. When and how could, therefore, the Horn of Africa be an unprejudiced region? Could you explain on the possible measures to normalize the region in accordance with their priority? And what about the role of IGAD?
You always have to use the bigger picture as a reference. We already have discussed about the major issues that could reveal clear pictures; but for us, we need to first assess if the end of the Cold War was positive or not. And we can measure this in reference to history. One great change was scored in Sudan in 1989. However announced in 1991, Eritrea’s struggle for independence was about to conclude. We can also say that the people of Ethiopia was almost transferred into a new stage of history; either being independent or moved into a new chapter of their own people. Siad Barre’s rule failed and Somalia fall in to crisis and dis-integrity. If we see all those peoples’ power together in addition to our own situation, their each other’s historical relations, when you see it in relation to their geographical, economic and security interests, the end of Cold Was, indeed, a great advantage to this region. But now, if we are to see the last 20 years, we can say it is the lost chance, however, the chances existed in the early ‘90s were incomparable. Peoples of the region have had good relations among each other that extend for thousands of years. These peoples are not to be seen lightly; they outmaneuver to one another. As these peoples had many factors in common that help them integrate to each other with huge amount of resources and, are located in the most strategic corner of the world, it was natural for them to use the opportunity. And everybody was on the same idea. If you see to our own case, why, despite those many years of struggle, did we continue making relations with different peoples of this region? That was not for the sake of “relations” only. During the Cold War, all the interferences of the American represented ‘Western Bloc’ and the Soviet Union’s ‘Eastern Bloc’ in this region and their scar was not an easy experience. All the process along with the peoples’ road map for multilateral relations and their implementation policies was a self-evident itself. But, for this dream to be realized, there still needs a ground for its implementation. There was nothing hindrance for its possibility, if you look back through the process. Over time, the condition came to IGAD. What was the reason behind the establishment of IGAD? Why did then it changed name? Why did it revived along with the rise of new opportunities? Of course it was natural thing. Where is IGAD today? It is a long history. It had its own domestic problems. We can see it issue by issue. But most importantly, it was the destructive external interference that interrupted it. We can take the issue of Somalia for example. There is also our own issue that they call boarder conflict; how was it developed at first, how it then became this much complicated, and in what stage is its present condition? This is another elucidation. What are all the commotions surged in Sudan within the past 20 years? How did all these prevailing new external military bases enter to our region? Where did the existing piracy come from? Where did the issue of ‘terrorism’ come from? To see it collectively, the opportunity is interrupted before it begins—basically due to external interferences. You cannot say that this entire prevalent crisis among peoples, countries, even peoples against their own countries is caused only because of the weaknesses of the indigenous peoples. It is, indeed, the root cause of the external interferences that disrupted this opportunity by engineering such turbulent crisis and distress. But for us, what was our policy in the past, what is in the present and what will be in the future? Everything is developed through history. No brilliant peoples have engineered it and it is must. In the ever-accelerating world, it is impossible to bypass such an opportunity without paying due attention for the creation of coherent integrity. But why, with all these opportunities and ambitions, did the journey-not only ours but the whole region’s- interrupted? We should not jump them under the pretext of new developments of the past 20 year, but rather, if we are to outline a new roadmap, we need to carefully access all the 20-year developments one by one. But instead of despairing that our dreams remained unachieved and our opportunities went sporadic, we need to learn from our past experiences so as to progress forward with more redoubled perseverance and hard work. There is nothing substitute for the irreversible common goal stronghold. Do you think there could be a substitution for the ideology and friendship pre the end of Cold War as well as the yet unachieved basic interests of these peoples? Not only Africa but also all regions of the world which, have faced many problems and their opportunities have been interposed like what is happening in Africa, need to exert strives for further securing their dreams. The situations in all parts of the continent of Africa, therefore, could be normalized and the peoples of the continent would realize their dreams with ease, and thereby would extend to the realization of the whole continent, as a result of the entire process.