The Hypocrisy of the West: Eritrea & Crimea

4 mins read

by Messay Kebede
The West is deploring the referendum in Crimea and threatening to apply economic sanctions against Russia, believed to be the instigator of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis. Some Western politicians even go the extent of advocating direct military aid so that Ukraine can oppose military resistance to the Russian aggression. The referendum, which is supposed to lead to the reintegration of Crimea into the Russian Federation, is characterized by the West as illegal. From what I was able to gather, the reasons why the referendum is considered illegal include the followings. (1) Ukraine is an independent and sovereign country; (2) the referendum takes place with a strong presence of Russian military force in Crimea; (3) the referendum does not offer Crimea the choice of remaining within Ukraine.
What beats everything is that the West did not raise any concern about legality when Eritrea seceded from Ethiopia in 1993, even though all the reasons enumerated to contest the referendum in Crimea were also present in Ethiopia. Thus, ( 1) Ethiopia is an independent and sovereign nation; (2) the referendum was conducted in the presence of the victorious EPLF army; (3) The choice to remain part of Ethiopia under a new political arrangement was not offered to Eritreans, nor was Ethiopia given the opportunity defend its legitimate position and interests, except through the TPLF government. The latter had no legality other than the power of arms and was already dead set to expel Eritrea from Ethiopia as a dangerous rival to the TPLF hegemony in Ethiopia. Yet, though conducted under such faulty conditions and in direct violation of the sovereignty of Ethiopia, the referendum was declared “fair and free” by the UN Observer Mission.
One thing is sure: we Ethiopians should remember the Western condemnation of the Russian initiative. If, as says the West, the conduct of a referendum in a situation preventing free expression and in an independent and sovereign country is illegal, then undoubtedly the rejection of the referendum in Crimea equally questions the legality of the Eritrean secession. The flaws that make the secession of Crimea illegal are also those that disqualify the Eritrean referendum. This is not to say that Ethiopia should start a war to recover Eritrea, but that it is not compelled to accept its independence so long as it believes, now in accordance with the West, that the referendum was illegal.
Surprising as it may seem, the West is saying that the feeling of the concerned people does not matter as much as the legality of the process. Even if Crimeans in their majority want to be part of Russia, they cannot do it in violation of the national sovereignty of Ukraine. Of course, what explains the application of different criteria is that Russia is a rival superpower while Ethiopia is a poor and weak country. Everything must be done to stop the expansion of Russia. By contrast, nobody should lose sleep over the fragmentation, in direct violation of its national sovereignty, of a country as weak as Ethiopia.

Read Aloud:   Ethiopia: The Day After… the Firestorm (Alemayehu G. Mariam)


  1. Westerners have three favorite words.
    Concerned, very concerned, and gravely concerned. They utter those words geographically. With a little exaggeration, concerned is for Africa while very concerned is for the Arabs. Gravely concerned is reserved for conflict in Europe and often comes with action. Westerners are hypocrites alright.

  2. Mr. Kebede,
    Simply put, the condition under which Eritrea’s seceded from Ethiopia and the current secession underway in Ukraine CAN NOT be compared in a way you’re trying to portray it.
    Eritreans fought for over 30 years in quest of independence from Ethiopia. It’s crystal clear that the people who inhabit in Eritrea before the secession, had a strong resilience against the successive Ethiopian governments because they believed their land was occupied. No other government or country marched its troops and modern weaponry to help them gain independence.
    Although, the people who inhabit in that part of Ukraine are ethnic Russians, the land does belong to Ukraine. In fact until recent weeks, Russia never considered Crimea as its territory before the current situation came to surface. As we all know, Russia’s lame reasoning to go into Crimea was the safety of ethnic Russians living there. Last time I checked, the Ethnic Russians in Ukraine hold Ukranian citizenship and they choose to become Ukrainean they were not forced to do so. They could have moved back to Russian territory or reside in Crimea having Russian citizenship. In my opinion, if they didn’t like the current condition in Ukraine, they could move back to Russia and I’m sure Russia would accept them.
    What Russia did is TOTALLY in violation of a sovereignty of an independent country. Imagine if Omar Al-bashir sent his troops to Mathama (Gondar) saying the current condition in Ethiopia is dangerous for the ethnic Sudanesse who reside in Mathma and the surrounding. Therefore, I’ll send my troops there and hold a referendum in 15 or whatever days. Once they vote Mathama would be Sudan’s territory.
    Mr. Kebede,
    I draw a different conclusion from the situation in Ukraine and it’s different from that of yours:
    Some nations fight for freedom for decades just to get the right to run a vote (in this case referendum). These fights cost hundreds of thousands of lives, billions of dollars, destroy enormous amount of properties. Nation’s with military power can make this choice take place in a matter of days. As we’ve witnessed Russia wanted to expand its territory to protecting her interest and within no time achieved her goal.
    The lesson freedom loving peoples in every empire should learn from this is that unless they have a military power no one (U.N., E.U. U.S, O.A.U, etc) would listen to them. i.e. to gain freedom military strength is critical and may be even the only means to liberate from oppression.
    Thank you,

    • That is not what happened… you are just parroting what the west is saying. Crimeans themselves made the initiative, and called for a referendum to join Russia. It was already an autonomous region with its own Parliament.

  3. The world has never been fair. And it will never be. What we are witnessing in Crimean is the bigger the gun you carry the further you can go and do what you want. Eritrea is the creation of colonialism for their own end. When we were killing each other in the name of freedom, the Arabs and the powers to be were supplying us the firepower to eliminate each other. We the fools thought they were helping us out. That was not their intention. Eritrean freedom (separation from Ethiopia) did not brought the aspiration of the so called freedom fighters. Instead, it created one of the most repressive government of the world. As the Eritrean and the Ethiopia separation created so much misery and anguish among their people, Crimea’s joining of the gun toting Russian side will never bring peace and tranquility to either side. It was wrong when Eritrea seceded from Ethiopia, it wrong for Crimea to be lumped to the Russians side by intimidation and force.

  4. The West’s double standard… Time will come for rebalancing of our books on the question of Ethiopian sovereignty… I believe Russia will continue to expand to make up for the USSR tragedy… Why shouldn’t it as far it gets regions/countries that want to join their federation? It becomes very crucial when those regions are being threatened by extremists.
    The West is facing a very big challenge. Eritrea, Kosovo and many other tiny countries are creations of the West. As the Author is implying, how can they defend their double standard? Yes, how is the Eritrean referendum considered legitimate while Crimea’s is illegitimate?

  5. The author of this article is right in deed. The west remain hypocritical but also seems to forget that Eritrea was illegally annexed by Ethiopia after the Europeans left. Also, Ethiopia is the first country to accept Eritrea as a sovereign nation both in times of emperor Minilik ( when he signed the border with the Italians) and 1993 when Meles Zenawi’s government was the first to accept and congratulate the Eritrean independence. I’m not trying to justify Eritrean independence. I don’t need to. But Ethipians need to learn not to be bitter and try to work for the greater peace throughout the region. Trust me you don’t need any alternative. Ethiopia is not Russia (I’m almost laughing now). And Eritreans unlike the people of cremia don’t want to be with you. Learn to accept.


  7. Ato Messay
    Haileslasie broke the law and trust with the Help of the west specially USA and GB to colonize Eritrea in 1960 with out the wish of the Eritrean people you are compering two different things.

  8. the author of this article must be crazy or mad person because he said the people of Eritrea did not give a chose to remind with Ethiopia akkk this must be a joke if we want to stay with Ethiopa why we fought for 30 bloody years? and the referendum was about the interest of eritrean people and the people of eritrea chose 99.9% yes for freedom so what you guys bark now please leave us alone and we want to change our nation and land. enough because of ethiopia we lost a lot of time, money, effort above all we lost our brother and sisters mom and dad ok.

    • Thanks!! I agree with u. The only thing they need is Massawa or Asab. Let them keep dreaming voor ever.

  9. Dear Kebede:
    Please read more and get know more before writing an article. You see you endup comparing uncomparble things.

  10. This guy is, I think, getting insane. All his writings make only nonsense.
    How on earth one compares these absolutely different phenomenas?
    And what could be the purpose of such a feeble and misguided argument?
    I think this is rather a trivialisation of even Ethiopian political interest.
    Though a philosopher by profession, Messay is an absolutely blinded and a dog
    like opportunist. No trace of philosophical brilliance in all his writings except
    very common populist garbage of the Diaspora politics.

    • You are, as Gobena by name, one of those bunch os losers who failed to understand a clear thesis with simple and precise English written by the Gentleman Prof.Message K. Gobena, you better go soon to school to learn written and spoken English.

  11. Wedi Baheri – You must be one of those blind die hard EPLF sympathizers. All you see is blood and guns. You call an author of a fact based article a crazy man. Are you telling us the referendum was done fair and square? The fact we killed each other for 30 years does not justify anything that is currently on the ground in Eritrea. Neither your separation, nor TPLF’s take over of Ethiopia benefited anyone. The writers’ comparison of Eritrea and Crimea highlights how twisted the world we live in is. Your pride of 30 years of war and blind claim of 99.9% vote to secede from Ethiopia is formulated and drive by a gun. As the world knows Eritrea is still ruled by the barrel of the gun.

  12. It is so funny to see people who believe that Eritrea fought 30 years for “freedom”.
    Eritreans are now the number one migrants in the world, why do not you think about our brothers sisters who are being slaughters in the Sinai Desert, whose body parts is being chopped off by cruel barbaric Arabs (Egyptians, for that matter, who help the first Eritrean separatists open office in Cairo?).
    Do Eritreans still believe that they fought for freedom, and they achieved it?
    Could you (like that of Wedi Berhie) guys please show a little bit of humanism (forget that you are Eritrean) for those who are lost in the Arab Deserts?

  13. It is so sad to see people who still believe that Eritrea fought 30 years for “freedom”.
    Eritreans are now the number one migrants in the world, why do not you think about our brothers sisters who are being slaughters in the Sinai Desert, whose body parts is being chopped off by cruel barbaric Arabs (Egyptians, for that matter, who help the first Eritrean separatists open office in Cairo?).
    Do Eritreans still believe that they fought for freedom, and they achieved it?
    Could you (like that of Wedi Berhie) guys please show a little bit of humanism (forget that you are Eritrean) for those of your brothers and sisters who are lost in the Arab Deserts?

  14. Dear Kebede and another how graduate any major class you went to be recognize by saying sum thing stupid about you don’t now nothing. The information you buy it at Starbucks go and ask them to return your money back. And please leave to Eritrea problem to Eritrea n’s.

  15. Hello ,
    Don’t expect justice or fairness in the hands of westerns ,it is their interest & might that pushes behind all the judgment by the Europe & the USA .
    To start with,Russia & Ethiopia are not equivalent country in the eyes of westerns
    during referendum for Eritrean cessetion Ethiopia was betrayed by its leader or had no legitimate government hence everything was done by force & the world had ignored Ethiopia, so we can cot compare Ethiopia & Russia .
    It is not the first time Europe and the USA to have double standard on issues that would collide with their interest ,We can mention a number of instances like that of the cases of Syrian government & the opposition (more than hundred thousand people have already died & millions displaced still no action) take the Ruwanda massacre in 1994 (close to a million people had slaughtered) they were watching the chaos by TV ,look the Palestenian people struggle for their independence against Israel (still children are suffering/dying due lack of medicines as a result of blockage to the outside world ) would the westerns be silent if their citizens were in place of Syrian,Ruwandan or Palestenian people ?For them the rest of the world is still uncivilized or is not capable for democracy .

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