A LEOPARD CAN’T ALTER ITS SPOTS

By Berhane Kahsay

Seasoned observers acquiesce that Isaias is finding the going tough, and this will get tougher as long as he remains in charge of the Pariah State. The tyrant is in the doldrums. He is desperately fighting for his life. The noose is tightening, and it won’t be too long before he is buried in the grave he dug for himself. When the inevitable becomes a reality, his epitaph will read :’’ HERE LIES ISAIAS AFWORKI, BRUTAL DICTATOR EXTRAORDINAIRE, WHO BOMED A SCHOOL IN BROAD DAY LIGHT AND SCORCHED INNOCENT CHILDREN.’’

The dictator’s days may be numbered but he is not down and out yet. It is not the right time to administer the coup de grace. But the desire to take him out of circulation all together is fast gathering momentum. His people are crying out loud for change. Thousands of them are leaving their country and entering Ethiopia to seek asylum. Neighbouring countries are coming together to devise ways and means of hastening his demise. The EU, USA and Amnesty International are breathing down his neck, and are trying to force him to release hundreds of political prisoners including the previous politburo members of the EPLF who are languishing in dungeons in various parts of the country. Some of them have been incommunicado for such a long time and nobody knows whether they are dead or alive. To top it all there is a massive draught in the country and over 70% of the population are in urgent need of food aid.

Foe and friends alike are unanimous in their desire to see the back of this unsavory individual. This incessant desire is becoming increasingly apparent and it has reached a feverish proportion. The danger of this is that irrationality may set in, and this in turn may lead to the impairment of one’s judgement. To circumvent this one has to be sober, calm, collected and levelheaded. Taking impulsive actions will lead to failure and this can exacerbate the already volatile situation. Direct and indirect actions intended to facilitate the departure of the dictator must be carefully thought out.

At present Eritrean opposition groups who are trying to wrestle power from the dictator are receiving support from the Ethiopian government. They go in and out of country at will. They seem to have the freedom of the country. The Sudanese government has granted them similar privileges. What have they done to deserve the accolades bestowed on them? Why are they receiving a VIP treatment? Has anyone bothered to scrutinize their credentials? What is the scale of their caliber? How do they differ from the man they are trying to dispose of? More than anyone else the mongrel himself is doing everything possible to facilitate his demise. Is it feasible that a collection of weak, tired and lightweight opposition groups can dislodge the dictator from power? The secretary general of the so-called Alliance has publicly admitted the weakness and ineffectiveness of the opposition. What is the main reason for this? Has this got anything to do with the fact that they don’t have the support of the vast majority of the Eritrean people?

If they are weak and incapable of bringing change in Eritrea, why is the Ethiopian government supporting them? Is Ethiopia that desperate and is prepared to join hands with anyone who opposes the tyrant? Ethiopia is in a much stronger position, militarily and economically, and there is no need for her to appear desperate. Ethiopia is in pole position and can pick and choose when to throw the decisive punch. Eritrea on the other hand is in a precarious situation and is not capable of mounting another serious challenge now or in the foreseeable future. The country is under a military rule and is in a terrible state. The tyrant has lost the trust and confidence of his own people. His grip on power and the burning ambition to be the leading player of the region is diminishing day by day. The dictator’s ability to destabilize the region is almost negligible. He is in a straight jacket and it is difficult to imagine how he can wriggle out of it. Ethiopia and no one else has placed him in such a predicament. The alliances’ contribution so far has been in insignificant and most people find it difficult to see the raison d’ etre.

Many Eritreans will see the opposition’s close association with the Ethiopia government as collaboration with the enemy. Consequently it will be a monumental task for them to make in roads with their own people. They may also find it difficult to earn the trust of the Ethiopian people although they seem to have secured the support of the government. The reason for this is that most members of the alliance have been involved in Eritrean politics for a long time, and their track record is not that impressive. As leaders of the ELF they were renowned for harassing and mistreating Ethiopian liberation movements who were struggling to remove the junta from power. They were arrogant, contemptuous and derived great satisfaction by looking down on them. They used every thing at their disposal to assert their authority over the budding movements. Permission to pass through the liberated areas of Eritrea was flatly refused. The leaders of the ELF were constantly tussling to control and influence the movements. They made relentless attempts to shape the direction of the struggle. Divide and rule was their trademark, and every trick in the book was used to place a wedge between the liberation movements that were operating in the northern part of Ethiopia. They showed scant respect for those who were fighting to destroy the common enemy. The enemy of my enemy is my friend did not mean anything to the ELF leadership. All they were interested in was gaining supremacy over others and making them their lapdogs.

As if this was not enough, the ELF leadership used to routinely order its combatants to encroach into Tigray. They refused to leave the area as they wanted to utilize the land they forcibly occupied for farming and grazing. The inhabitants were subjected to the most unspeakable atrocities. Their homes were ransacked and whatever possessions they had were snatched away from them. Over the years the number of livestock taken from the area were too numerous to mention. The leadership was told in no uncertain terms to stop the hideous atrocities they were perpetuating but they refused to heed. They stretched the patience of the people and that of the TPLF to a break point. It reached a moment where it was impossible to tolerate and leave things as they were. A decisive action had to be taken and this spectacular and mesmerizing action lead to the dissolution of the ELF.

Most of the defunct leadership of the ELF made it to the Middle East, Europe and America, whereas the rank and file members could only make it to the refugee camps of the Sudan, Kenya and Djibouti. No one else is responsible for this debacle except the leadership of the organization. Blaming others for the death of the ELF as a guerilla is simply a blatant attempt to abrogate responsibility. Not only are they responsible for the total disintegration of the ELF, they are also responsible for what is happening to the Eritrean people at this juncture. They poisoned the minds of their own citizens and unnecessarily rose their expectations. They brain washed them into believing that they were invincible and superior to others. The people thought that come independence their country would be turned into the tiger economy of Eastern Africa overnight. They seriously believed the garbage they were fed on, and look where it has got them. After all the suffering what they have got today is much worse than what they had years ago. Look the other way and see how much Ethiopia, the country they despised, has forged ahead since it washed its hands of Eritrea.

Now the very same people who used to curse the Ethiopian people are re-grouping, and they want Ethiopia to help them topple their former comrade. Shame on you ! If you want to win the hearts and minds of the Ethiopian people, you need to publicly apologize for all the crimes you committed. REPENT! No apology, no support. With out the support of the Ethiopian people you will not go very far. In any case why should we support a bunch of losers. If these people come to power what is the guarantee that they will not go back to their nasty old habits and repeat the same mistakes all over again. A Leopard can’t alter its spots. We are not prepared to take risks. One would be hard pressed to place a cigarette paper between the leaders of the EPLF and ELF. We have had a very unpleasant experience with the former and this should last us a lifetime. Who wants another EPLF in a different name and a new package? The government of Ethiopia should damp this no hopers, and search for decent and broad-minded Eritreans who are willing to work for the same cause. When the dictator goes, they can very easily take over from him, unite the people and prevent the country from fracturing along religious and regional lines. They are around, let us find them and give them our discrete support.