Ambassador Dr. Kassa Kebede could not be a stranger for many Ethiopians but for Eritreans, only few recall him when he was part of the faction of government officials who advised Mengistu Hailemariam in the negotiations with the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in London.
The abortive London conference of mid 1991 was intended to broker an end to the disastrous war and save Ethiopia from possible disintegration. As a Minister and a civilian high-ranking diplomat, Dr. Kassa Kebede was instrumental in urging Mengistu to compromise with the Eritreans and the Tigray Liberation Fronts for the sake of saving Ethiopia from disintegration during those numerous closed door negotiations and backdoor meetings in London.
Besides that, the conference had given Ambassador Kassa Kebede several exclusive opportunities to personally meet and do some candid conversations with the then Chairman of the EPLF, Isaias Afwerki and TPLF, Meles Zenawi.
Let alone Eritreans, many Ethiopians do not have the details of those closed door crisis meetings. But when Ambassador Kassa started to spill the beans last year in a Washington Conference, he caught the attention of many Eritreans. On top of his political ingenuity, he is a kind of person that never backs down from calling a spade a spade. He argued for the first time in public that, believe it or not, “President Isaias has an unbending belief in the existence of a United Ethiopia“.
Ambassador Kassa told the audience that even if there are a lot to say about the good, the bad and the ugly out of President Isaias, but when it comes to the struggle for the existence of a united Ethiopia, he believes President Isaias stands out higher than the current TPLF government, and he said, he is a living witness for that.
This might sound ludicrous to some but if they stop and think for a moment what could possibly stop President Isaias from letting Ethiopia disintegrate after he liberated Eritrea and helped TPLF freed Tigray? Nothing! except his strong aspiration of seeing a united and peaceful Ethiopia as his neighbor than a chaotic one.
As a matter of fact, Isaias only needs to pull a handful of strings at that time if he had the slightest intention to dismember Ethiopia. It could be endorsing and supporting for the success of the “Greater Tigray” manifesto and at the end giving an automatic recognition for the newly independent Tigray republic. This alone could be enough to bring Ethiopia to its knees as it will send a precedent to the Oromo, Ogaden and other affected ethnic groups to follow suit. Or it could also be by giving unreserved support to article 39 of the Ethiopian constitution. Or by forging peace with the TPLF-led government and lend its utmost support to its policy of “Ethnic Federalism” and the division of Ethiopian people and land along ethnic lines, etc… But he chose none of that.
25 years later, his vision of a peaceful and united Ethiopia co-existing side by side with a newly independent state of Eritrea still not a total failure since, at least, Ethiopia is saved from the worst even though at a greater expense of Eritrea’s hard earned independence, peace and territorial integrity. Some could still argue, had Isaias chose the later option, Eritrea wouldn’t be stuck in the current problem.