WASHINGTON, DC – The government of Meles Zenawi in Addis Ababa is ready to receive thousands of Eritrean refugees “stranded in Egypt and scheduled for deportation,” an Eritrean opposition website reported on Saturday.
“The Ethiopian government has communicated to the Eritrean Democratic Alliance (EDA) and to the Eritrean Global Solidarity (EGS) its willingness to receive Eritrean refugees stranded in Egypt and scheduled for deportation,” according to awate.com, a website relatively reliable for its reports.
The source also confirmed that the Meles Zenawi regime has asked Cairo to send the Eritrean refugees to Addis than to Asmara, where fleeing refugees await severe persecution. News that the Zenawi regime has approached the Egyptian government over the issue was confirmed by Semere Habtemariam, director of EGS, according to the same source.
Libya, another country which, like Egypt, has been deporting Eritreans back to the fold of Eritrean strongman Isaias Afwerki, is also along with Israel about to deport the Eritreans back to their homeland, although Israel has offered financial initiatives to any African country that would receive the Eritrean refugees, the source said.
News that Ethiopia, which is seen by the outside world being on war-footing with Eritrea, is willing to serve as shelter to thousands of Eritrean refugees being deported from Egypt, Libya and Israel may surprise foreign observers but not Ethiopian and Eritrean nationals.
How is that possible that Ethiopia, which a few years ago deported thousands of Eritreans, is now willing to receive thousands of Eritrean refugees?
Eritrea began deporting Ethiopians in 1991, shortly after rebels under Isaias Afwerki seized power and declared independence from Ethiopia. Deportation was massive throughout Eritrea, but particularly striking was the deportation of Ethiopians from the Port City of Assab, which was predominantly inhabited by Ethiopians. The Port of Massawa firmly in their grip, the Eritreans focused on changing the look of Assab, which was predominantly inhabited by Ethiopians.
The Eritrean regime launched wholesale deportation of Ethiopian families in their thousands. Where were the Ethiopian families being dumped? How about the mothers and the children? There was no compassion both sides – Meles and Isaias. The project aimed at stripping Assab off any Ethiopian presence was also aimed at forestalling any legal claims of ownership Ethiopia may raise in the future.
Ethiopians erupted with anger and uproar. Appeals to Meles Zenawi to stop the criminal activities of the Eritrean regime fell on deaf ears. To add insult to injury, Meles told Ethiopians that Eritreans had every right to seek compensations for the war damages Ethiopia caused during the 30 years of war. “We should rather be thankful to Eritrea,” Meles said, “Who knew Ethiopia is poor and hasn’t asked for war damages.”
About seven years later in 1998, Eritrea invaded Ethiopia. In retaliation, Ethiopia used the unprovoked aggression, previous deportation of Ethiopians from Eritrean towns, as well as the security risks Eritreans who were living in Ethiopia posed to national security as legal precedents for the deportation of tens of thousands of Eritreans.
But were such actions, i.e. the deportation of Eritreans from Ethiopia, measures taken by Meles?
In a recent interview which appeared on the same website, an Eritrean journalist asked Meles why he allowed the deportation of Eritreans from Ethiopia. “The circumstances were beyond my control,” a sympathizing Meles assured the reporter, “There were angry men in power.”
By “angry men,” Zenawi was refering to TPLF dissidents like former defense minister Siye Abraha, and former Tigrai regional governor Gebru Asrat who were later arrested and purged along with their thousands of supporters after they accused the prime minister of being an Eritrean mercenary but failed to inform the Ethiopian people about their actions, which the people could have happily supported them anyway. The dissidents went on working in the dark, and failed to take swift measures to remove the man they knew was an ‘enemy in the palace.’
Ethiopia lost the war in a court Meles deliberately helped set up to legalize Eritrea’s wild territorial claims from Ethiopia. Previously Meles strongly lobbied for UN recognition of Eritrea as an independent nation with sovereignty rights over the entire Red Sea littoral despite the full knowledge that such act would deprive Ethiopia of her right to claim the Red Sea Port of Assab, which has historically and legally been Ethiopian.
In other words, Meles campaigned single-handedly for UN recognition of Ethiopia as a landlocked country, the largest in the world at that.
Senior US officials, including former US President Jimmy Carter, who learned Meles was about to cede both Red Sea ports to Eritrea, had expressed their concern over his suspicious activities.
Mr. Carter who, assuming Meles was Ethiopian, seriously advised him that he was “punishing his country and the coming generations of Ethiopians.” Meles not only ignored Carter’s advice, but also reversed the situation and warned his TPLF colleagues that if Ethiopia captured Assab, the US would punish Ethiopia the way they treated Iraq for invading Quwait.
An important piece of advice from the US Administration similar to Carter’s also surfacd years later when Ethiopian forces were closing in on Asmara and the Port of Assab in 2000, and the demise of the Eritrean regime was imminent.
Fielding the questions from London, Reuters asked Herman Cohen, a senior US State Department official of the time, what would the victory-bound Ethiopian government demand as a precondition to signing a peace agreement with the defeated Eritrean side.
A confident Herman Cohen told Reuters, ad verbatim, I think the Ethiopians would re-claim the Port of Assab (as they have suffered what it means to be landlocked for the last seven or so years since Eritrea ceded from Ethiopia).
Exactly the next day, Meles Zenawi called a news conference in Addis Ababa, and the purpose was clear: kill Herman Cohen’s words.
Meles said Ethiopia has no interest in seizing even an inch of what is a sovereign Eritrean territory. “If the Eritreans want,” he added, “they can use Assab as a watering hole for their camels.”
Many Ethiopian scholars have written extensively over the legal and historical rights of Ethiopia over the Red Sea Afar coast, including the Port of Assab. An excerpt from a journal by Belai Abai and Zeru Kehishen reads:
Meles has repeatedly stated in a number of interviews that Assab belongs to Eritrea, even before the negotiations on boundary demarcation had begun. The purpose of such statements is to pre-empt any further discussion of Ethiopia’s claim to Assab and her right to a sea outlet. The purpose is designed to kill any debate on the issue and to set the tone and parameters for the negotiations in a manner that pre-determines its outcome in advance. This constitutes an unambiguous message to the Eritrean government, the UN, the OAU, the EU and the US that Ethiopia’s demands concerning the boundary demarcation will not include Assab… In effect Meles is once again ensuring that Ethiopia remain a landlocked country, legitimizing a goal that the colonialists and the historical enemies of the country had failed to achieve by war.
More mercenary activities
Recently, Ethiopians suffered another blow by the same regime when news reports made public a secret deal Meles had struck with the Al-Bashir regime in Khartoum.
In the deal, Ethiopia had ceded very fertile and lush-green areas along the entire length of its western border to Sudan. Initially, the regime tried to discredit the reports as the works of the ‘extremist diaspora,’ but thanks to Sudanese officials and their media, the reports were honest, and large swathes of Ethiopian territories have already been given away in the same fashion Meles Zenawi awarded Eritrea the Red Sea and the once-bustling Port of Assab.
“The areas belong to Sudan,” said Meles in a recent interview. “The Sudanese are generous and friendly they have been patient despite Ethiopia’s occupation of their land for a long time.”
In the meantime, Prof. Mesfin Woldemariam, who along with other Ethiopian scholars had completed a study in the ’80s about the border with Sudan, discredited Meles Zenawi’s statement as a lie.
During an interview with the Voice of America (VOA) Amharic Service, the 78-year-old human rights activist discarded Meles Zenawi’s pro-Sudan statement as a lie. In Amharic, he asserted: “Wushet Naw.”
On July 3rd, a huge protest rally organized by the Ethio-Sudanese Border Affairs Committee, is planned in Washington, DC over the secret transfer of Ethiopian areas to Sudan, and the complicity of Zenawi’s forces with Sudanese troops in uprooting Ethiopians from their ancestral lands. A hospital in the northern city of Gondar is already nursing Ethiopian patriots wounded while fighting an enemy from within and a new enemy from without.