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Local Media Interviewwith President Isaias Afwerki: Excerpts Part V & FINAL

  • “The primary doctrine of our foreign policy is to create an enabling environment characterized by stability, cooperation, mutual respect and partnership in our region at large”
  • -With regard to regional issues, there have been popular protests that broke out in Ethiopia in 2016. The Ethiopian government has declared a state of emergence to undo or control such protests and command posts have been established for this purpose. How effective are these measures when judged in terms of their effect to restore stability in the country? Where is the situation in general heading to? Further, whenever there is such a crisis in Ethiopia, it has been a norm to blame and defame Eritrea and use such an excuse to demonize Eritrea. How do you assess these issues?

The root cause of this problem is basically linked to the motives of creating and sustaining a hegemonic and unipolar world order. We need to be aware of the untold damage that has been caused because of hegemonic motives in the last 25 years. It is very unfortunate that the Ethiopian people have been considerably victimized due to hegemonic motives and policies. It is good for such issues to be retrospectively analyzed as the problems raised in the question are the symptoms of some other basic problems. For example, nobody should be too naïve to believe the claim or allegation that Eritrea is behind the protests in Ethiopia or that Egypt has contributed in fueling such a crisis.

The claim against Eritrea has been used by the decision-makers in Washington to substantiate or cover-up their intentions to discipline Eritrea so that it can eventually be a subservient state that serves their presumed interests. Tremendous support has been provided to the Ethiopian regime to coddle and overprotect Ethiopia such that it serves as an anchor state fulfilling hegemonic motives and interests. If we also take the case of Iraq, Libya and other similar cases, the Washington policy makers manipulate the internal situations of such states in order to eventually make them subservient of their interests; creating cleavages along ethnic and religious lines such that the states may be manipulated into serving hegemonic motives.

For instance, if we look at the substance of the 1994-1995 constitution of Ethiopia, it is not primarily meant to make Ethiopia a federally democratic state. Instead, it was a divide-and-rule policy instrument used to manipulate the Ethiopian people. The problem in this case, or rationale, was that the Woyane regime [Tigray People’s Liberation Front] was not confident enough about its capacity to effectively govern Ethiopia. According to such a mindset, the divide-and-rule governance policy instrument was regarded as the most viable option. At the beginning, such issues were discussed overtly. To add insult to an injury, the motive was also shared by the patrons of the Woyane regime. Consequently, the fact that Ethiopia would be a model of federal democracy was being outwardly complimented in a manner that was not real and genuine.

I can say that I was among the first individuals who were able to look at the constitution of Ethiopia. What came to my mind when I came across article 39 of the constitution was that such a situation could not be helpful at all for building a state. How sensible is it to include a provision granting the right to self-determination to the various regions in the country? It was clear that such a situation would certainly lead to cleavages and disintegration within the society. We voiced our concerns—on the record—about these issues at that time, but the Woyane regime was heedless and claimed that this strategy was the only option available to them for ruling Ethiopia. The primary victim of such a policy is the people of Tigray. As a reaction of the said policy applied over the last 25 years, untold hatred has been harbored in different parts of Ethiopia against the people of Tigray. While the people of Tigray are innocent, the misguided policy was implemented in their name, instilling historical hostility against them.

In 1992, there was a conference organized before the constitution was drafted and all the discussions and concerns I am talking about have been documented. The process of “federal democracy” was a charade as it was not intended to be genuinely representative. Just one to two were included in the Woyane leadership from the other nationalities of Ethiopia. This was done to mislead the general public. As a consequence of such misguided historical background, the Woyane regime has been severely threatened.

There are three areas that have been targeted by the Woyane regime and its patrons to control the resources of Ethiopia and the citizenry. The first is ruling Ethiopia through a strategy of divide and rule. Hence, all the problems prevailing in Ethiopia are not caused by either Eritrea or Egypt. They were initially engineered by the Woyane regime. As a consequence, the Ethiopian people are experiencing a situation that is worse than what they experienced during the previous two regimes of the country.

The second target is the Ethiopian economy. Many may tend to think that the people of Tigray were economically favored and advantaged within the last 25 years of the Woyane rule. A lot is also propagated about a double digit economic growth in Ethiopia. However, if we inquire about who is enjoying the benefits associated with the economic growth in Ethiopia, where the money has been deposited and by which company, we can easily realize that the Ethiopian economy is controlled by the Woyane clique and its external patrons and partners. The Woyane regime along with its patrons and partners has been looting the resources of Ethiopia in the name of “investment.” The serious popular protests of the Ethiopian people are just a natural reaction to such manipulative political and economic policies experienced by the citizens in the last 25 years. The fact that various companies and investment areas are being targeted by the protesters also indicates the furious popular reactions to manipulative economic policies.

The third target area is security. Threatening and terrorizing the people militarily is also considered an important policy instrument. Nevertheless, such a strategy is likely to be futile in the long term and that is why the army has not been able to stop the popular protests. This situation has threatened not only the Woyane regime but also—and to a greater degree—has threatened the patrons of the regime. That is why there has been considerable efforts exerted in the last few months by the patrons of the regime, located in the US and Europe, so as to protect the regime from eventual collapse.

Such endeavors, military and foreign interventions, are unlikely to solve the problem prevailing in Ethiopia. Coddling Ethiopia militarily, economically and politically is unlikely to bear fruit. To ultimately address this challenge, the basic strategy needs to be reformed first. Instead of attributing their own problems to either Eritrea or Egypt, the regime should pay attention to the historical lessons associated with its policy choices. Cover-ups need to be avoided.

It is also claimed that opposition groups that are supported by Eritrea played a role in organizing the protests. However, if we carefully look into the nature of the protests, it is purely publicly initiated and sustained by individual citizens. It is spontaneous in nature and no one is behind it apart from the ordinary citizens.

Similarly, the Woyane regime is also serving as an agent of external intervention in Somalia. This situation has seriously victimized the Somali people. Primarily, it is not the Woyane regime that has victimized the Somali people. The Somali people have become victims mainly due to the motives of the patrons of the Woyane regime. Creating cleavages and polarization—for example, consider the widened divisions among Somalis who speak the same language and belong to the same religion—is a major doctrine or policy instrument of the Woyane regime and its patrons.

  • -You talked about the role of Eritrea in the anti-terrorism alliance that is led by Saudi Arabia in our previous interview. What new developments are there in relation to this issue? What is the prospect of this relationship in the foreseeable future?

We need to look at this issue from the perspective of a broader context. The primary doctrine of our foreign policy is to create an enabling environment characterized by stability, cooperation, mutual respect and partnership in our region at large. This is our established and unchangeable policy.

It is good to look at the developments in our region during the last 25 years—the Red Sea region, the Horn of Africa, the Nile region and the Gulf region. In the last 25 years, there have been serious problems affecting our region that are basically associated with the attempts of creating and sustaining hegemonic and unipolar world order. To create stability, mutual respect and partnerships in our region, first and foremost, we need to overcome the challenges we are experiencing.

With regard to the developments during the last 25 years, let us start with the case of Afghanistan. Consider the emergence of Taliban. This issue is linked to the demise of the cold war and the collapse of the Soviet Union. There were considerable policy shortcomings that caused this problem and subsequently serious blowback emerged in Afghanistan and the world. While it can be claimed that Afghanistan is far away from our region, the problems in Afghanistan do influence the situation in our region.

If we consider Iraq, one can hardly claim that Iraq as a state exists at this moment. It has been divided into different polities among Sunni, Shia and Kurds. While it has among the world’s largest oil reserves, Iraq has not been able to experience peace and stability within the last 25 years. Foreign intervention has created turmoil in the country. Regardless of the distance away from Eritrea, the effects our region cannot be underestimated.

For the last 30 years—during the Mubarak era—Egypt was inactive and failed to play the roles it was expected to play in our region. Egypt’s lack of action had a negative effect on our region. It was being claimed that Egypt, as the largest and strongest state in the region, had to play its respective role. Fortunately, now it has started to play its appropriate role.

The situation of Somalia has also had a major negative effect on the region. The crisis in the nation is ongoing. The unceasing crisis that was being experienced in Sudan in the last 25 years and the partition of Sudan into the North and South has also caused negative effects on the region. The Arab Spring also brought with it new challenges. For example, Libya has been seriously destabilized.

The countries that are experiencing relative peace and stability are the Gulf States. In general terms, however, the effect of the polarizations created within the aforementioned states in our region cannot be underestimated. All these problems have created fertile grounds for ISIS and other terrorist groups. And this is fundamentally linked to the hegemonic and unipolar system. Consider how and by whom Al-Qaida were created in Afghanistan. Who initially equipped it to be a strong group? Those recently emerged groups such as ISIS and other fundamentalist groups have nothing to do with the Muslims. These groups may be associated with other religious fundamentalists. The central point is that fundamentalism has become a policy instrument. Creating fundamentalist groups started in Afghanistan as it was believed that doing so would be a useful policy instrument for attacking the Soviet-led block. The same is also true with the case of Al-Qaida and Boko Haram.

Given this background, the role of Gulf States and particularly that of Saudi Arabia is very important and their roles should not be confined only to addressing the problems caused by Arab Spring. It is for this reason, we have been aware about the roles of Saudi Arabia and we used to insist on the fact that Saudi Arabia, as an important actor the region, is capable of playing tremendous roles in addressing the aforesaid concerns taking into account its relatively better resources. With respect to the roles of Saudi Arabia, we can say that it was passive until King Salman became a leader. He scaled-up the role of Saudi Arabia in the region. We had been talking about this issue Saudi Arabia by sending delegations. In this case, we are not requesting Saudi Arabia favor and protect Eritrea to achieve expedient goals. Rather the concern is that Saudi Arabia should constructively play the roles it is expected to play in the region as it has relatively better resources and capacity. The same applies to Egypt and other states in the region.

All actors in the region should play their respective roles— constructively. This is basically associated with the doctrine of our foreign policy. For our efforts to ultimately promote stability and for the cooperation in the region to be fruitful, every actor in the region should shoulder its respective responsibility. Achieving these goals should be looked at from different dimensions such as economic, security, political and diplomatic dimensions. To create an enabling environment for the achievement of the collaborative goals, first we need to create a common understanding. All such issues were raised in our first meeting with King Salman and we agreed about the aforementioned concerns. The concerns of making our region a peaceful and stable one characterized by cooperation cannot be dealt with separately and independently. Rather, it is our collective endeavors and investment that will make our region a safe, prosperous and peaceful one.

We cannot look at various issues in our neighborhood in isolation of others. We should create mechanism in which we could be able to contribute our share. Obviously, we do not have common views on all regional issues. However, at the end of the day we have same objective: peace and stability of our neighborhood. We have to strengthen cooperation in order to bring about development and equitable distribution of our resources.

We hold the same approach with Egypt, the Sudan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The situation in Yemen is different. There are complicated problems there. That is the reality in our neighborhood. There are forces responsible for complicating the situation in our region for the past 25 years. We could mention them by name and location. They are not alone. There are some that are dreaming to become regional powers that are further complicating the situation. We could not take correctional measures without understanding the damage they could create. There are also internal elements who entertain their misguided agendas in creating chaos in the region.

We should have to correlate our reading and understanding in order to properly address the issues. Then we generate cooperation based on that, which would be a win-win situation. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Egypt should have their right place in the region. We also contribute our due responsibility in accordance with our capacity. Our region is sensitive and the contribution and cooperation we create will have significant effects beyond our region. The type of security, economic and diplomatic cooperation we aspire to create is based on this thinking. The regular dialogue and understanding we began from 2015-2016 with Saudi Arabia and others are the only way out for the peace and stability in our region and we need to strengthen these efforts.

  • -According to news reports, a surprising result was witnessed in the US presidential elections: Donald Trump came to power. Is there the possibility of policy change with the coming of Donald Trump vis-à-vis the global developments? In connection with that, with Britain leaving the EU and with conservative elements coming to power in Europe, what influence that could have on Eritrea?

We should not be governed by emotional and hysterical readings into the outcome of the US election. There is a strong media campaign there. We should carefully follow the situation so that we do not err in our actions, policies and programs. The issue here is not the coming of Mr. Trump to power. Instead, the more relevant issue is the failure of the US initiative to create a unipolar world system. Hence, the coming of Mr. Trump to power was the result of that policy in the past 25 years.

The containment policy the successive US administrations pursued in the last 25 years on developed countries and especially on Russia and China failed. The scenario we are witnessing to date is the result of that failed policy that was in place for the last 25 years. The new US president’s rhetoric to strengthen the American economy and to “Make America Great Again” is not his individual viewpoint. The unipolar world system they tried to create was counterproductive and what change the new president will bring remains to be seen and will require careful following.

  • -Mr. President, could you elaborate on our future prospect and the opportunities it holds?

The drawn out road map under the PFDJ will address all pertinent national issues. The international development could also influence us. However, the deciding factor is our internal situation. The basic foundation is our internal integration, commitment and development. We should also carefully read the international situation and the situation in our region to refine our action plans. In the past 25 years we have passed through many challenges and conspiracies. And we are entering a new phase. The road map that I mentioned will help us strengthen our internal situation and reinforce our relation with our neighborhood in terms of mutual cooperation, economic development and capacity of implementation. We have also charted out strategy of engagement that will enable us due role in the regional and international issues. We also know that we need to be cautious, alert and ready in all our engagements. We have accumulated a wealth of experience over the years and we have auspicious prospects ahead of us.

  • -Mr. President, do you have any message you want to convey to the Eritrean people in general and to the youth in particular?

I would like to say we should develop the culture of work. We should give utmost priority to education and reinforce commitment. All the development programs we are talking about mainly target the youth. Frankly, we have strong youth. If you question the future of Eritrea, it will be decided by the diligence, commitment, knowledge and skill, culture of work and discipline of the youth. Families, associations and the different PFDJ organizations should also work to that end. Naturally, it is normal and expected to commit some mistakes along the way. There nothing that cannot be corrected and improved. At the end of the day, the youth have to develop themselves through education and work for the better future of themselves and their country.

  • -Thank you very much Mr. President


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