Territorial Integrity and National Sovereignty: At the Highest Risk than Ever
by Tadesse yimer
It is an ABC of modern politics that a state is a state with three basic criteria: with permanent population, defined territory, and a government that protects its self-preservation or independence as an alienable political entity. This does not however, mean that there has never been or would never be disputes between or among states which may arise either from wrongly perceived or actual threats. This is particularly true to states that share common borders that could lead to serious disputes which in its turn could cause deadly conflicts. Although these kinds of problems and deadly confrontations are not uncommon in Africa of which her boundaries were drawn arbitrarily by the former colonial powers, the Eastern and the Horn of Africa are the most vulnerable not only because of the arbitrarily drawn boundaries but also the very geopolitics of the sub region. And I think this has made us (Ethiopia) one of the countries with the history of instability and war. What happened to us from the east (directly from Somalia or via Somalia) , the west (directly from Sudan or via Sudan) and recently from the north (from Eritrea or via Eritrea) are very vivid and typical examples.
The very purpose of my view point is not to discuss the very historical background of arbitrarily drawn boundaries and their negatively lingering consequences. I rather want to express my view points on one of the most criteria of a state, a government (the legislative, the executive and the judicial) not only for mere survival but most importantly for moving forward with great achievements in all aspects of national interests. Needless to say, without the existence of a government that governs with the consent of the people who are the ultimate of sources of the sovereign power and consequently the beneficiaries of that power, its territorial integrity and Sovergniety remain vulnerable leave alone registering great achievements. And that is exactly what is happening in our country at this moment in time.
I am well aware about arguments that emanate from our being of nostalgic for the past because of the worst we face at present. For example, because of the brutality of the military regime, we had become victims of the very unhelpful nostalgia for the monarchy. And because of a very hypocritically designed ethnic politics , the continuation of applying the political killing machine of the former military regime ,and most terribly the danger of losing territorial integrity and national Sovergniety for the last two decades, we have once again become victims of nostalgia for the miserable past ( the Derg time). What is extremely clumsy about our excuses for being helplessly nostalgic is when we try to argue as if those past despotic and dictatorial regimes did not contribute to the present general crises we are facing. We simply try to praise those regimes that had stayed in power by not only treating their own people as their simple subjects but also with ruthless oppression, if not with the use of the very dehumanizing political machines. I understand these kinds of paradoxically puzzling arguments go to the extent of praising those past rulers as patriotically heroic for the simple reason that they had tried to keep the territorial integrity of (mere survival) of the state while they grossly violated the basic rights of citizens by employing a very hypocritical and ruthless state machineries. I do not know how a regime that dehumanizes its own people who are the very source of the sovereign power of a state can genuinely be considered as patriotically heroic. Yes, if the people (citizens) are one of the most critical pillars of a state to be a state, the idea of preserving the integrity and Sovergniety of a state by crashing the rights of the people does not make sense in a real sense of the term, especially in this 21stcentury.
I am not saying that all past regimes were equally and absolutely bad when it comes to keeping the state (territory and Sovergniety) intact by any means. What I am trying to say is that regimes who ruled without a real sense of respecting citizens’ fundamental rights had a very considerable contribution to the present general crises we are facing. Yes, I strongly argue that the horrible national disgrace of the last two decades and which is getting worse and worse cannot be analyzed and comprehend without bringing what our past rulers had done into the bigger picture. And if we do not strive hard to get out of the vicious circle of being nostalgic for the past ill-guided and evil- driven political behaviors and practices; and develop a forward –looking attitude/ action, I am afraid we will be continuing being victims of nostalgia for any miserable political and socio-economic situation even with demise of the current highly poisonous political system.
The challenge we have faced for the last 20 years in general and at this moment in time (the danger of losing our territorial integrity and sovereignty) in particular has reached its highest alarming stage, and so has the shock we have to face. Why and how? It is because we (as a people and political and civic groups) have been victims of the political culture of being organized and disorganized, reorganized and re-disorganized, collaboration and dis-collaboration, unity and disunity, mere rhetoric without effective walk, expressing our serious concerns without meaningful deeds ,and so on and so forth. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that the ruling elites who have designed ethnic and linguistic- based politics as their main weapon for their staying in power have arguably been successful as far as keeping us disunited/disorganized and ridiculously ineffective. Now, we are decrying the serious threat on the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country which is being orchestrated behind the scene or without any knowledge of the people of Ethiopia. I am referring to the large territorial portion of western Ethiopia (Ethio-Sudan border).
Let me highlight the following cases just to show how the very territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ethiopia has reached at this dangerous stage and why:
- Although it was not and is not as serious as giving away the large portion of our land to another country, we have witnessed the re-allocation of large portion of land from north Gondar to north –west of Tigray based on a well- orchestrated/planned politics of ethnicity . It goes without saying that the people of that area have no any problem with coexisting in peace and cordially for a long period of our political history. What was extremely outrageous was not only the act itself but also the way it was done. It was done with the total disregard of the interests and consents of the people. It was done through a very dirty political orchestration and using the political machination of silence, if not terror. The same politically-motivated dirty action was taken in the northern part of Wollo too. I am well aware that some may argue that this internal boundary redrawing does not matter much as it remains part of Ethiopian Sovergniety. I do not think the issue is as simple as we perceive it. This argument could have made sense if it was done under a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” It was done under the ruling circle whose very nature and political agenda are characterized by ethnic prejudice and ethnic favoritism which are of course the greatest enemies of the process of national consensus and fairly shared prosperity.
- We have witnessed how we became landlocked when Assab was gone with a “magnanimous blessing” of the late Ato Meles Zenawi. Yes, it was him (the late Ato Meles) who unequivocally told those foreign powers who played a critical role in bringing him to Art kilo and the international community that Ethiopia has no any ground to claim Assab, and it should be off the table.
- We were congratulated by the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ato Seyoum Mesfin that based on the Algeris Agreement, the Ethio-Eritrean boundary tribunal had ruled that Badme , the very epicenter of the deadly conflict belonged to Ethiopia. Yes, the people of Ethiopia was told to express rejoice with “unprecedented” demonstrations. We have learnt to what extent the ruling party (TPLF/EPRDF) was and is seriously infected with a deadly disease of an outright lie not only about its ugly political game but also about the very survival of the country.
- When it comes to the ongoing huge and extremely challenging situation we are facing in the western part of our country, once again it was the late Ato Meles Zenawi who unequivocally declared right before his “raise your hands political cadres- people’s representatives” that Sudan has been generously tolerant and patient about demanding for its large tract of land under Ethiopia; and he re-declared that Sudan cannot afford to be patient and tolerant endlessly. Sadly enough, the severe danger he set-forth has not gone with his natural death. It has become one of “the great legacy of the great leader” to be accomplished. And that is exactly what “the living brain- children of the late great leader” are doing currently.
- It is a very common knowledge that the very purpose of diplomatic mission and foreign policy is protecting, promoting or advancing the national interests of the people of a given country. It is not deniable that our diplomatic mission and foreign policy history have been driven in most instances by the will and interest of the rulers. However, the challenge we are facing since 1991 and particularly at this moment in time is extraordinarily serious. Running a diplomatic mission which is supposed to be an instrument for implementing the foreign policy that should aim at advancing national interest with either incompetent political cadres, or those who do not care about national interests but satisfying their voraciously beast-like self-interests is disastrous. It is through these highly incompetent and deadly parasitic “diplomats “that the ruling elites are trying to convince foreign powers and international community that what they are doing in the western part of the country ( giving away Ethiopian lands to Sudan) is serving justice to the Sudanese government. And believe or not, other countries and the international community are not expected to question the ruling party leave alone help us stop this political madness. I am not saying that there is no need to make our voices heard and to send a strong message throughout the world about planting the deadly bomb that may cause incalculable consequences to the people of both countries (Ethiopia and Sudan). What I am saying is that it is we and only we who can and should stop this kind of idiotic and deadly political madness. Absolutely nobody else!
We are heard coming up with one very clumsy, if not nonsensical excuse for our terrible failure to come together ,act together and subsequently get rid of the root cause of our national disgrace that has gone to the extent of watching when our own soil in which our patriotic fathers /mothers have fallen is being compromised (being given away) . That clumsy argument (excuse) says that everything that has been messed up by the current ruling circle will be sorted out and be bring back to its right track when a truly representative democracy is realized. Yes, there are so many things that can and should be bring to the right direction when that type of system becomes a reality. However, it must be noted that if do not stop certain politically –motivated madness such as the giving away of our territorial integrity and national sovereignty sooner, not later by getting rid of “our” anti- Ethiopian political gangsterism, bringing things back to the right track will never be as easy as we think or wish. For example, once the border deal is done between the ruthless ruling elites of the two countries; and once that deal is accepted by other countries and international bodies and once it starts becoming the thing of the very past, it will be extremely difficult to reverse its ugly course, and if it should be reversed by hook or crook, the consequences would be another history of devastation. Believe or not, if we do not stop our politics of tug of war among opposition groups and make the balance of power of the ruling circle shakable and unsustainable, there is no any reason why we should not face the worst.
I know many genuinely concerned political groups and movements and of course individual citizens decry the worsening situation in our country. Back home, the efforts being made by UDJ and Semayawi in this regard (territorial integrity and sovereignty) are truly encouraging.
I have also to say that those opposition forces who have picked up arms because they are convinced that they are forced to do so by the anti- democratic and anti-dialogue and anti- reconciliation ruling party have their contribution to bring this madness to its end. As a young student of the 1970s who had personal experience how it is horrible to see the bloodshed of innocent citizens in the name of radical revolution, I am not necessarily an advocate of armed struggle. But I do not think a human being could and should have an endless tolerance to those who are determined to stay in power with sheer and deadly force.
Let me sum up by saying that if this highest stage of political madness of the ruling elites cannot make us change the way we used to do politics sooner, not later, there is no any reason why we should not expect the worst. To this end, we should talk and walk; integrate and act together; control the harmful egoism; be critical and constructive; act aggressively but rationally; learn from what went wrong and move forward; talk to the point not dwell on all kinds of rhetoric and nasty stuff; stay focused on the issue of how to shorten our untold sufferings and an incredible level of national disgrace; stay forward-looking (what is our desired destination and how it should be reached), and so on and so forth. I strongly believe that there is no any reason for being pessimists as long as we are willing and able to convince ourselves that the very few ruling elites and their cronies are playing with our weaknesses and repeated failure, not because of their strength.
Long live Ethiopia!!
posted by Tadesse Yimer