What about the regime’s handling of the just and legitimate cause of the Eritrean people? The colonialist Dergue, just like the Haile Selassie regime, did not fail to recognize that the main threat to its expansionist and imperial ambition came from Eritrea. It also realized from the start that it would not crush the Eritrean people’s struggle with the weakened state apparatus of Haile Selassie. As the Eritrean case was a burning issue, whose peaceful solution was demanded by the Eritrean people and the people of Ethiopia, the Dergue, as in all other question, hypocritically declared its “readiness” to solve the problem.
As the regime classified 1975 document reveals, however, the corner stone of its policy was to engage in peace maneuvers until such time as it consolidate its power. As it realized that if the Eritrean case with its solid legal grounds was raised on the international agenda “Ethiopia” was bound to loose, the main objective of its foreign policy was one of isolating the Eritrean people’s case in the international as well as regional levels. In the event, it set up peace delegations and committees and met with the EPLF and ELF in an attempt at misleading the Eritrean people and the world. And although this initiative raised the hopes of the Eritrean People, who have always struggled for peace, and their organizations, it did not in any way deceive them. Parallel with its feigned peace pronouncements, the Dergue was conducting an extensive and brutal campaign of terror in the cities and rural areas, involving summary executions of innocent civilians by shooting and strangulation and the burning of villages. Even under this circumstance, the Eritrean revolution demonstrated its readiness to inter into dialogue for peace. Furthermore the EPLF sought to find out the Dergue’s views on peace so it could also present its proposals and create the conditions for face to face talks. The Dergue, however, was not prepared. When the challenge become so strong as to deny it room for maneuver, the regime resorted to the one solution it envisages for Eritrea and launched its “Red March” offensive. After the failure of this campaign, it proclaimed its Nine Point Policy which was rejected. The Dergue’s aim was to engage in hypocritical peace initiatives for public consumption while simultaneously carrying out military preparations to crush the Eritrean revolution.
Consequently the Dergue raised the alarm on a bogus “foreign threat” to induce the Ethiopian people to take up arms to fight in a war they didn’t even understood. A second objective of the campaign was to divert the Ethiopian people’s attention from its internal opposition. The sharpening of the Ethio-Somali conflict at that time facilitated the deception. The remaining question, that of the acquisition of arms, as solved through Soviet intervention and largesse. The Dergue was, therefore, highly confident, that it would crash the Eritrean revolution. To prepare the grounds that would serve as a pretext for the military offensive, brief, farcical peace talks were conducted in Berlin through Soviet initiative and East German orchestration. When the talks demonstrated that the EPLF would not succumb to pressure and intimidation or betray its cause, the Dergue initiated its large scale offensive. After almost ten years of heavy destruction and blood shade, it became clear that the regime’s goals and plans have failed. The experience accumulated in this respect was one among many other things which expose the nature of the Dergue.
The Dergue has trampled on the Ethiopian people’s fundamental rights those of speech, movement and organization- and denied them the opportunity to exercise popular power by prohibiting the formation of democratic institutions, and worked to strengthen a “Workers Party” based on the army and the dictatorial police authority or the Kebeles. As a result opposition to the regime and desertion from it had been growing. Since the Dergue does not even trust its main repressive machinery- the military institution and was afraid the army might conduct mutiny or carry out a coup, it emasculated the army’s role by miring it in continuous positional warfare in Eritrea and brutally crushing any signs of opposition. The much rehearsed scenario which the Dergue had been enacting as a prelude to proclaiming a “Republic” did not hold anything new. It did not lead to the exercise of the right of nationalities and the establishment of broad popular democracy in Ethiopia, or a political solution to the Eritrean issue. All these clearly show that there was nothing in the nature of the regime to differentiate it from that of Haile Selassie.