BY METKEL SEWRA | SHABAIT
The recent statement by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the Bundestag reeks of the shameful and destructive viewpoints that we had hoped were left behind – especially considering this new era of peace and enthusiasm over a bright future, a future earned by the people of this region and carved out into history with their own blood and sweat.
The statement is peppered with the usual buzzwords that give the semblance of “genuine care” for Eritrean political development, its “people’s human rights”, and issues of “good” governance. Luckily, only a fool would fall for such trappings. Indeed the statement makes no bones about the ill-intentions of the Ministry to interfere and meddle in the country’s internal affairs and even use “Its forthcoming seat at the UNSC” to that end.
What is most peculiar to note is that while the speaker admits that “political and social transformation cannot be achieved overnight”, referring to Germany’s own history and experience, he somehow chooses to apply a skewed measuring stick to Eritrea. This stick is clearly rooted in the “do as we say, not as we did” paradigm that the world over has come to recognize as erroneous and probably even deliberately misleading.
But before going any further, one must leave room for well-meaning and forward-looking actors within Germany and perhaps even within the Bundestag that genuinely want to understand and work with Eritrea. Unfortunately, this statement does not reflect these sober voices and instead it is a sad reflection of business as usual – the same hostility and shortsightedness we have come to expect from some political circles in Germany.
Having said all this, one would think that the need for change of attitudes and a nuanced foreign policy towards African states – rooted in respect and based on African states’ cultural context, historical development, economic situation, human capacity, etc – is a no-brainer.
In fact, if anyone in Europe, especially at this time, was serious about Eritreans’ rights and well-being, the starting questions would be: Where are they now? How did they get here? Where do they want to go? What are the gaps between where they are and where they want to go? What plans does their own government have to fill in those gaps? How can we help them – partnership based on respect and context – deliver on those plans?
But this judicious approach is routinely shrugged aside by those who harbor ulterior motives on Eritrea and the region as a whole.
It really is quite amusing to read diatribes of what Africans ought to be doing and how they should be doing it. No, forget amusing. It is 2018, right? Well this is actually quite frustrating – especially to those who genuinely want to move away from externally-forced, crisis-management scenarios, to internally-driven sustainable, political, economic, and social development planning and implementation – free of the constant threat of war and conflict.
As far as Eritrea, Ethiopia, and the wider Horn of Africa region is concerned, anyone willing to see beyond a glass half empty will recognize that the four months old peace has ushered in a new wave of hope and optimism, of camaraderie and solidarity, of respect for sovereignty and independence and a deep understanding and appreciation of a shared future. Read that again: four months.
Now juxtapose that to 20 painfully long years of lost opportunity due to TPLF’s shortsighted and destructive policies. It is worth repeating here – lest people like Minister Mass attempt to rewrite history – TPLF’s aim was clear: regional hegemony of which isolating, demonizing and destroying Eritrea was just one part of its game.
For 20 years, all forms of communication were cut off, diplomatic relations were sabotaged, people lived under constant fear of a renewed conflict, scarce resources were diverted away from national projects and plans, free movement of goods and people was made impossible and expensive due to baseless sanctions that have yet to be lifted, and the list goes on and on.
In fact, it is not only Eritrea and Eritreans that suffered – although probably they bore the brunt of this twisted and sick game. Every country and peoples in this region suffered immensely – one can even dare say that the only ones that did not were the few at the helm of the TPLF and those closely affiliated with them, from each country.
What is worse is that this suffering was prolonged by external powers, including many in Europe – and Germany played its role very well. The TPLF regime was in fact emboldened and encouraged to wreck havoc in the region through huge financial largess and other critical support from these powers. The people of Eritrea, on their part, may choose to forgive, as they always do, but will never forget.
All of the above considered, this new era of peace that is upon us is here to stay and the people of the region, most especially Eritreans, find it absolutely hypocritical and downright precarious for anyone to be raining on their parade.
As far as Eritrea is concerned, the majority of Eritreans – and, in the grand scheme of things, that and nothing else is what really matters – see that phenomenal accomplishments were made in a very – very – short period. They also know that this peace was a key requisite, and will probably soon prove to be the only requisite, to move every people and country in this region up the development ladder, economic and political.
Indeed, pronouncements of cooperation based on complementarity, and a declared vision of a region that wants to put an end to, inter alia, poverty, insecurity, ethnic and religious based divisions, catastrophic external interference, unsafe migration, are slowly but surely seeing the light of day. No one can deny this.
Obviously, those invested in crisis “management… conflict resolution… and preventive diplomacy”, whatever that means, are hell-bent on derailing this wave and they are apparently already busy crafting nefarious ways of trying to achieve this.
The good news is that the people of the Horn of Africa, in complete unison, have said: GAME OVER.
Game over to “influencing developments”. Game over to “maximum public pressure”. Game over to the politicization of human rights and democracy. Game over to petty threats. Game over to pretty much every prescription forced down our throats that guarantees nothing but conflict and mayhem.
In fact, just so we are clear: the Government of Eritrea owes no explanation to Germany or anyone else for that matter. Its strategy and trajectory of national development – in its broadest sense – is squarely a matter of a social compact with its own people; the sole proprietors of this country that was built on immeasurable sacrifice and an unwavering commitment to peace.