Baby Samuel Ferenji
Wikipedia gives us different translations of the Red Sea in different languages. In Greek, Red Sea means Erythraean Sea. The Greek translation of a Red Sea sounds like the country Eritrea spelled differently. Recently, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia has proposed for Ethiopians to discuss and come up with a plan for Ethiopia to have a seaport at the Red Coastline. Some Eritreans wrongly believe Ethiopia’s quest for the Red Sea is a quest for Eritrean land.
Dr. Abiy Ahmed has clearly stated Eritrea is one choice among the choices Ethiopia has, and he made it clear that Ethiopia does not want war with anyone to achieve this objective. This seems to fall on deaf ears and some in the Eritrean camp and the Ethiopian opposition camp have been beating the war drum making unnecessary noise in various Social Media outlets. Most of these critics are angry with Dr. Abiy because he did not destroy the Tigray region as they wanted it. It is an enigma to this writer why these imbeciles are beating the war drum after both Ethiopia and Eritrea went through a horrible war.
As a native Eritrean and a proud Ethiopian, this writer would like for the Eritrean government to make some sort of agreement with the Ethiopian government for the mutual benefit of both countries. If there is any wisdom in the Eritrean part, working with the Ethiopian government on this burning issue would have amazing economic, political, and social benefits for the Eritrean people since both people share many common things. Sadly, this writer does not sense any wisdom on the part of the Eritrean leadership so far. Dr. Abiy Ahmed has proven to be not only a visionary leader but a leader who translates his vision into reality. Great and visionary leaders are not without their shortcomings; but, visionary leaders like Dr. Abiy’s good deeds outweigh their shortcomings. Like any leader, such leaders have their detractors, haters, and those who relentlessly work to pull them down.
Since Dr. Abiy took power in Ethiopia, he has done an amazing job to transform Ethiopia in all sectors. He inherited a weak military, security apparatus, educational system, economy, and corrupt bureaucracy. Within five years, he changed all that and made Ethiopia one of the strongest nations in Africa.
Although some of his critics believe Abiy to be “an accidental Prime Minister” of Ethiopia, nothing can’t be further from the truth. Dr. Abiy planned to be a Prime Minister since he was very young and worked hard to be a Prime Minister. As he shaped his journey to become Ethiopia’s leader, he also formulated a plan and a vision of how he would lead the nation to greatness. Among his visions was to get Ethiopia a piece of real estate at the coastline of the Red Sea.
Although many were not listening, Dr. Abiy was talking about the need for Ethiopia to have not just access to the Red Sea but to have a port that Ethiopia could control. About 15 years ago, Dr. Abiy shared his vision with the then-government officials about Ethiopia’s need for a port. When Dr. Abiy was part of the EPRDF cabinet, he was not allowed to do many things that he proposed. Now he is at the helm of power, he has translated many of his visions into reality.
Recently, Dr. Abiy shared his vision with Ethiopians and the rest of the world for Ethiopia to own part of the Red Sea coastline so Ethiopia could build her port. Although many Ethiopians including those in the opposition have been talking about the need for Ethiopia to have access to the Red Sea, almost all have been talking about Eritrea’s ports for years, particularly Assab and Massawa ports have been the center of discussions. Many Ethiopian politicians and scholars wholeheartedly believe Assab belongs to Ethiopia and that Ethiopia should take back Assab by any means necessary.
Despite this strong belief; no one has a realistic plan of action to achieve such a desire. Recently, When Dr. Abiy shared his vision about Ethiopia’s need for a Red Sea coastline port ownership and for Ethiopians to discuss the possible roadmap to achieve this objective, he laid down his plan and many of Ethiopia’s choices. Some of his ideas are new and were never raised by any of our scholars or politicians.
What is unfortunate in this episode, some Ethiopian scholars and politicians who have been advocating for the return of Assab to Ethiopia have been quick to oppose and condemn the Prime Minister’s proposal. Some of our scholars and politicians are duty-bound to oppose anything that Abiy does and plans to do. These contrarians began beating the war drum and falsely accused the PM of declaring war on Eritrea hoping to deter the Prime Minister from moving forward with this agenda.
What is also unfortunate is the response from the Eritrean side including Ambassador Estifanos Habtemariam, Eritrea’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, and Ambassador Girma Asmerom, Eritrea’s ambassador to the UN. These old guards seem to be frozen in time and still thinking about the Ethio-Eritrean war that devastated both nations. It is clear from their statements, that the ambassadors are still in their “old glory” and empty bravado mindset.
Regardless of hateful propaganda, the Prime Minister is moving Ethiopia forward and Ethiopia can’t wait for the Eritrean leadership to make up its mind. Eritrea seems happy with the status quo and it seems time is standing still in Asmara. There is no vision and no change in the Eritrean leadership mindset. The old guards in Eritrea see Ethiopia as an “invading force” always wanting a piece of land in Eritrea. This paranoia psyche has set in the Eritrean political landscape shackled the Eritrean leadership holding it back making it difficult to move forward. Although Ethiopia’s quest for the Red Sea is filled with many choices, it is not clear to this writer that Eritreans believe that they are the “chosen targets”.
According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) enacted in 1982, landlocked countries have legal rights and obligations regarding their access to the sea under international law. The United Nations recognizes the special needs and circumstances of landlocked countries and provides a framework for addressing their rights and obligations. However, this law does not give land-locked countries like Ethiopia absolute rights. The law makes it clear that access to the sea depends on mutual agreement with other nations.
Although Ethiopia’s quest for the Red Sea coastline proposal is pursuant to this law and in the spirit of cooperation with the neighboring countries, Prime Minister Abiy has gone further. His desire is not just access to the sea but ownership of a port in the Red Sea coastline. There is a valid reason for this. Only having access to the sea without ownership does not give Ethiopia complete security. As we have witnessed in our history, when the Ethio-Eritrean war started, Ethiopia’s access to the sea through Eritrea was denied. Fortunately, Djibouti has been used as an alternative port. Such a challenge is not unique to Ethiopia. Recently Uganda has denied access to Rwanda to travel to Mombasa port because of political conflict between the two nations. In 2015, India denied Nepal access to the sea in response to Nepal’s new constitution passage. Just having access to the sea without ownership of a port has an enormous challenge for the political, military, and economic security of a nation.
Ethiopia’s desire for seaport ownership on a Red Sea coastline depends on the bilateral or multilateral agreement with its neighbors. If Eritrea does not want an agreement with Ethiopia, Eritrea has the right to do so. There is no reason for the Eritrean officials or citizens of Eritrea to engage in diatribe or demonize the Prime Minister of Ethiopia. Such foolishness may have unintended consequences. Eritreans should focus on their internal affairs instead of trying to pull Ethiopia into unnecessary verbal or military conflict.
Sooner or later, Ethiopia will make an agreement with one of the countries in her neighborhood. When that happens Eritreans should be ready for another rude awakening. Once Ethiopia signs an agreement with another country, Eritrea will lose its chance. Unlike in Eritrea, time is moving very fast in Ethiopia. Eritreans seem to be prisoners of their past and immersed in their self-aggrandizement propaganda. I would like to advise “my Eritrean cousins” to stop spewing their dangerous venom and move on with time. Ethiopia has made tremendous progress since Eritrea’s separation from Ethiopia. There is no reason for Ethiopia to engage in any form of conflict with Eritrea. Eritreans should learn from the 1998 Ethio-Eritrean conflict and put “their house in order” instead of trying to provoke Ethiopia.
The opposition to Ethiopia’s access to the seaport is not just coming from some brainless Eritreans, it is also from Ethiopian opposition. These gullibles are condemning the Prime Minister as delusional and some idiots claim the Prime Minister’s proposal is a “diplomatic Fiasco”. It is such derivative thinkers who always create obstacles and make it difficult for visionary leaders to translate their visions into reality. Fortunately, they may make it difficult but not impossible. Ethiopia can learn from many landlocked countries that acquired ownership of a sea coastline to build their port. The PM detractors don’t seem to know about such practice.
According to many credible accounts, there are 44 landlocked countries in the world and Ethiopia is the world’s most populous landlocked country. Many economists agree being a landlocked country has a tremendous disadvantage in the economic development of that nation. Paul Collier in his book, The Bottom Billion, argues that being landlocked in a poor geographical neighborhood is one of four major development “traps” by which a country can be held back. To break this kind of trap, countries like Moldova have made a bilateral agreement by swapping land for seaports. According to the International Water Governance document, Moldova was able to get a sea coastline from Ukraine in 2005 with territorial exchange.
Moreover, the 1885 Berlin Conference gave the Democratic Republic of Congo a narrow piece of land in Angola which gave the DRC access to the sea. The Versailles treaty also gave a “corridor” to Poland known as the “Polish Corridor” which gave Poland access to the Baltic Sea. Thus, there are great examples that Ethiopia could use when making a deal with other nations.
The notion that Ethiopia’s quest for the Red Sea coastline is a desire to annex Eritrea’s territory is false and concocted by some delusional Eritrean and Ethiopian politicians who are unable to escape their war-mongering mentality. It is worth mentioning that some anti-Issaias Afeworki Eritrean politicians are angry with Dr. Abiy because he made peace with Eritrea. These politicians lost their base in Ethiopia to “fight against the Issaias regime” when the TPLF lost its governing power in the federal government. These political dwarfs are trying to provoke Ethiopia into a war with Eritrea hoping to weaken Issaias. With all due respect to my Eritrean cousins, I will tell you in no uncertain terms, Ethiopia will not clean your mess, Ethiopia will not interfere in your internal affairs, and Ethiopia will not be used as a springboard in your quest to change the regime in Eritrea. Find another way and stop provoking Ethiopia.
Dr. Abiy’s opponents” false narratives, designed to disrupt Ethiopia’s progress, will not work. Dr. Abiy is a man of his word and action; he has proven this to the world time and again. He does what he says he would. His detractors and haters can make all the noise in the world hoping to isolate Ethiopia, however, those of us who care about Ethiopia and our people will stand with him and do our part to make sure Ethiopia continues in sustainable development and continues to build and refine the democratic system of government for generations to come.
May God Protect Ethiopia and the people of Ethiopia.
Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of borkena.com
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