BY DANIEL WEDI KORBARIA | L’ANTI DIPLOMATICO *
The Nobel Prize was supposed to arrive in the Horn of Africa as early as four years ago when Kristian Berg Harpiken, director of the Oslo International Peace Research Institute, had the bad idea of nominating Don Mussie Zerai for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize.
Yes, for what are said to be the absurdities of life, a former drug dealer was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, just defined by the Italian mainstream media “the angel of the refugees”, while he was under investigation by the prosecutor’s office of Trapani for “aiding and abetting the ‘clandestine immigration”.
Otherwise, in recent months, all of us Eritreans have cheered for Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali and seeing him today awarded the Nobel Peace Prize has really cheered our hearts. In fact, our most sincere wishes and testimonies of appreciation run on social media, twitter in the first place.
And while we are aware that we cannot applause with one hand alone, our President Isaias Afwerki would have jointly deserved the Nobel Prize jointly with Abiy, we feel that this is our honor. The Norwegian Nobel Committee, which writes in its announcement, also believes this:
“Peace does not come from the actions of one party. When Prime Minister Abiy reached out, President Afwerki grabbed it and helped him formalize the peace process between the two countries.”
Abiy had the courage to stretch out his hand in peace as that met that of the Eritrean President who warmly embraced it. On June 20, 2018, the day of commemoration of the Eritrean Martyrs, President Isaias Afwerki in his speech to the Nation announced that Eritrea had welcomed the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s initiative. News that had moved and filled our hearts with joy.
Abiy’s predecessor, Hailemariam Desalegn, had also attempted an approach in 2012, telling to Al Jazeera that he wanted to go to Asmara to negotiate with Isaias Afwerki. His attempt, however, did not go through because the Eritrean government argued that Ethiopia should first unconditionally comply the EEBC (United Nations Border Commission) verdict, which in April 2002 established the disputed territories belonging to Eritrea, including the town of Badme, casus belli of that absurd border war between 1998 and 2000 which claimed about 100,000 lives on both sides.
Initially, Ethiopia had accepted it believing that Badme had been assigned to her, but when it discovered that Badme was on the Eritrean side instead, about 1.7 km from the border, it refused to accept the final verdict and occupied these Eritrean territories militarily for 16 years.
In 2018, unlike Hailemariam Desalegn, the newly elected Abiy Ahmed declared to his Parliament that he would accept the verdict of international arbitration without preconditions, thus returning to us Eritreans the coveted hope of reconciliation after twenty years of no-war, no-peace. And so, as it were a newborn, peace immediately began to crawl and, slowly, to stand up and walk on two legs until it reached that historic month of June when it blossomed like a summer flower.
In Asmara and Addis Ababa the two leaders were greeted by a jubilant crowd. The respective embassies were opened afterward and Ethiopian Airlines began flying loaded with tourists from both countries, shuttling between the two capitals. Borders were also reopened to feed even the comings and goings of trade on wheels. And so far so good.
But there’s a problem. A serious problem that threatens peace and the Italian mainstream media cannot identify.
The Advert, the Newspaper, the Press, the Messenger and a dozen small newspapers copy and paste without in any way verifying, wrongly writing even the name of President Isaias, the news published by the press agency Adnkrons:
“The embrace with the Eritrean president Isais Afewerki and reciprocal visits in the two capitals, the resumption of diplomatic relations and air flights between Addis Ababa and Asmara have raised great enthusiasms, even though the dictatorship in Eritrea has since closed the borders, leaving the process in the middle.”
I discover that the disease of so-called “copy & paste” journalists has taken over and has become as endemic like typhoid or cholera.
But what did Adnkronos mean with that ” the dictatorship in Eritrea then closed the borders, leaving the process halfway?” Why does he accuse the Eritrean government of broking the peace? What is the point of awarding the Nobel Prize to one of the protagonists when peace in the Horn of Africa has been broken?
Obviously nothing more false. Peace is alive and well and continues to make its leaps of life. Cooperation is growing between the two countries to make up for the lost time. In Eritrea, for example, there is quite a lot of excitement. New roads are being built that will connect the port of Massaua and Assab with Addis Ababa across the border between Bure and Debay Sima, meanwhile, the ports are being modernized to accommodate large commercial ships.
We should make a lectio magistralis to all these gentlemen who improvise themselves in geopolitics and misinform Italians by copying far-reaching and superficial news in full.
The current situation in Ethiopia is very difficult because 27 years of politics based on divide and rule and American-style federalism have fragmented the Ethiopian society by confining it to “Kilil” (zones) where the integration of other ethnic groups is almost impossible. Unfortunately, almost daily, there are reports of deaths and refugees within the country and all that ethnic hatred cannot be erased with Abiy’s magic wand and his philosophy of the “Medemer“, ie of the Union. It will take some time to take root and it won’t be an immediate process. The Prime Minister himself has so far suffered several attacks and some members of his government have been assassinated.
But who are the authors of this disorder?
Here, no journalist has to ask himself: “What happened to the Woyane, that is, the Tigreyans of the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi who having been in power for 27 years, were ousted by Abiy Ahmed?” That they dissolved into thin air? Of course not.
The Woyane have locked themselves up in their Tigray, a region bordering Eritrea, and since they lost power they continue to destabilize this peace and the two countries as they have always done in the last twenty years. And, after almost a year and a half since the signing of the peace, they persist in militarily occupying the city of Badme and the other Eritrean territories and do not intend to return them to their rightful owner despite the Addis Ababa Government accepting the EEBC verdict.
Practically “Tigray kilil” is disobeying his Prime Minister by refusing even to cooperate with the federal government and hand over some former regime figures accused of crimes and human rights violations such as the famous torturer Getachew Assefa, former head of TPLF intelligence now hidden in the city of Mekelle, capital of Tigray.
Abiy is cautious and awaits the results of the 2020 elections to decide what to do as the Woyane are armed to the teeth and any initiative could plunge the country into a civil war. Meanwhile, even the Amharas, as the Kero Oromo had done before the rise of Abiy, also blockade trade by closing the roads to trucks bound for Tigray.
“Shortly after the borders were reopened, controls and conditions imposed on Ethiopian citizens in transit resumed, arbitrarily and without explanation, on the Eritrean side. And it is only one of the signs of the Eritrean regime’s lack of goodwill,” writes the Daily Fact without even a shred of analysis, as if democratic Europe had not accustomed us to such situations when there are problems related to security. Two weights and two measures!
It is obvious that Eritrea, in agreement with Ethiopia, had to close the border, first the border between Zalambesa and Serha in Tigray and then the one between Humera and Omahajer. And it has a good reason. In this last year, the Woyane have attempted to infiltrate their armed agents into Eritrea to carry out attacks. And if that wasn’t enough, to create further disorder online, the “Digital Woyane” was created, a large group of social network activists who use fake Eritrean profiles in order to spread daily fake news about Eritrea. This very well-funded organization enjoys the cooperation of some Western journalists abroad, if not an entire editorial staff. The most striking example is the BBC Tigrigna, where Eritrea is demonized in Tigrinya language.
In unsuspecting times, in January 2018, three months after the election of Abiy Ahmed, as if he had already foreseen everything, the Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki during an interview on State television ERI-TV said: “Woyane, Game over!” a phrase that has become viral throughout the Horn of Africa.
Like it or not, this peace process between Ethiopia and Eritrea is unstoppable and irreversible, there is no turning back. And no one will be allowed to put the sticks in the wheels, as the Eritrean President himself had declared in the Millennium Hall in Addis Ababa, a speech given to Ethiopians for the first time in Amharic:
“We will not allow anyone to ruin and destroy our love and our agreement, to terrorize and attack our harmony, to slow down and hinder our development and progress.”
The upcoming elections in Ethiopia will most likely see the victory of Abiy Ahmed and therefore this Nobel Prize is welcome as it will give further legitimacy and strength to the Prime Minister to advance the stability of Ethiopia and to all of us the hope of living a peaceful future and prosperity throughout the Horn of Africa, despite the Woyane. (* software translation from Italian)
Daniel Wedi Korbaria, an Eritrean writer, has published numerous articles in Italian then translated into several languages. In April 2018 he published his first novel “Mother Eritrea”.