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Audio: Sophia Tesfamariam and Elias Amare on Taylor Report

By Yared Tesfay

Sophia Tesfamariam and Elias Amare On CIUT 89.5 FM - the Taylor Report, discussing the passing of Ethiopia’s tyrant Meles Zenawi and its effect on the Horn of Africa. Sophia and Elias in this eloquent interview also discuss developments in Eritrea and Eritrea’s development model, as well as the hegemon’s and its imperial poodles response to it. This is a must listen interview for all…

Sophia Tesfamariam and Elias Amare On CIUT 89.5 FM - the Taylor Report
Gezai T Asg

Awramba Times (Addis Ababa) – Ambassador Biniam Berhe, Political attaché, at the office of Eritrean Permanent Mission to the African Union in Addis Ababa has paid tribute to the late Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi yesterday.

The young Eritrean diplomat has arrived to view the coffin of the Prime Minister and to sign the book of condolence with various African diplomats at Meles’ official residence of the national palace where his body was lying.

Upon assuming power in 1991, Meles boldly confronted the Eritrean question and in the teeth of fierce opposition within his own party, he decided to organize a referendum to give the people of Eritrea the opportunity to decide between remaining in Ethiopia and secession. The referendum took place in 1993, and the new State of Eritrea was established.

Biniam Berhe (R), Political attaché, at the office of Eritrean Permanent Mission to the AU in Addis Ababa (Photo credit- MCC)

By allowing Eritrea to move to independence, Ethiopia became a landlocked state as the port of Assab, through which it conducted the bulk of its external trade became situated in the independent state of Eritrea.

Gezai T Asg


Asmara’s entirely state run media appears to have made no mention of the death of their old enemy/FILE

NAIROBI, Aug 31 – As Ethiopia prepares to bury their late leader Meles Zenawi, former rebel comrades turned arch-foes in neighbouring Eritrea have remained silent on the death of the regional strongman.


Almost two weeks since Meles died after a long illness, Asmara’s entirely state run media appears to have made no mention of the death of their old enemy, while Eritrean officials have not replied to telephone calls.


In contrast, Meles’s death dominates opposition or diaspora-run websites, criticising Asmara’s “media blackout” and calling for open debate on how new leaders in Addis Ababa could change relations with Asmara.

Eritrean media “has conspicuously remained silent as if nothing has happened in the Horn (of Africa)”, an article on the opposition Asmarino website read.

Eritrea, which won independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after one of the continents longest and most bitter rebellions, returned to war in a bloody 1998-2000 border conflict in which at least 70,000 died.

A peace deal led to a tense standoff, with tens of thousands of troops on both sides of the border in heavily fortified trenches, but some had hoped the death of Meles could see a possible shift in the neighbours’ frozen relations.

Meles refused to pull troops from the border town of Badme, even after an international court ruled the town belonged to Eritrea, a source of festering discontent between the two nations ever since.

But it is not clear if Meles’s death has been broadcast inside the secretive Red Sea state, which has no independent media and ranks worst in the world for press freedom, according to the rights group Reporters without Borders.

Meles is due to be buried in a state funeral on Sunday.

“Acknowledging the death of the late prime minister, whose country’s fate is still intertwined with the lives of Eritreans, is the right thing to do,” the Asmarino site added.

The opposition website Awate fears Meles’s death heralds “uncertain times”.

“One of the most pressing issues for Eritreans in this scenario is the reassessment of their options,” it read.

Many analysts have pointed to the deep personal rivalry between Meles and Eritrean President Issaias Afeworki, both former rebel comrades from the same ethnic group.

The pair both led allied rebel groups who overthrew the regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991.

“This episode should not be a personal matter between two intransigent personalities,” the Asmarino website added. “It is to do with devising ways that bring divided people together.”

The government’s Eritrea Profile newspaper has largely focused its recent reporting on Issaias’s speech at an investment conference, cultural festivals and agricultural successes.

Issaias, like Meles, was also reported to have been sick in recent months, claims Asmara quashed as “demonising campaigns” by the United States spy agency
Gezai T Asg

While his sickness did not give Prime Minister Meles Zenawi time to prepare for his succession, he was nevertheless able to sow the seeds of it in the ministerial reshuffle that followed the general election in May 2010. At the time, he promoted the Southerner Haile Mariam Desalegn to the posts of deputy chairman of the EPRDF (ruling coalition), minister for foreign affairs and Deputy Prime Minister. Desalegn has now taken over as acting Prime Minister, possibly until the election in 2015, provided that he can impose his will on the executives of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF, hard core of the EPRDF). You can find out more in our special report “Zenawi’s death leaves a ticking time-bomb” on

Haile Mariam Desalegn, the temp

A qualified engineer who did not participate in the EPRDF’s armed struggle to gain power, Haile Mariam Desalegn symbolises a generation break in the Ethiopian leadership. But he has neither the historical legitimacy nor the political experience of a Meles Zenawi who purged the TPLF of its extreme nationalists in 2000, forcibly sidelined the opposition and won the 2010 election, before promoting Haile Mariam Desalegn as his potential successor.

All this while keeping tabs on him and maintaining the TPLF’s hold on the army and the security organs. Meles therefore appointed a colleague to Haile Mariam Desalegn to do this, namely a Tigrayan as Secretary of State for foreign affairs, in the person of the former ambassador Berhane Gebre-Kristos. Today, Meles’s partisans should do likewise, in backing the appointment of Haile Mariam Desalegn as EPRDF chairman and Prime Minister, but in taking Berhane Gebre-Kristos or another Tigrayan as vice president of the governing coalition and Deputy Prime Minister.

Azeb Mesfin in a bad position

 The scenario above, which aims to better guarantee the interests of the Tigrayan elite (a minority in the country), hits against the ambitions of certain TPLF leaders who want the post of Prime Minister and EPRDF chairman to remain in the hands of one of their number. Several TPLF leaders could be attracted by this idea and could well see themselves as potential candidates to succeed Meles Zenawi, namely Arkebe Okubai, Abay Tsehaye, Tsegay Berhe and the minister for health, Tewodros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. But splits in the TPLF risk neutralising their possible attempts to do so.

The main looser in the new situation will be Meles Zenawi’s widow, Azeb Mesfin, a Member of Parliament and member of the TPLF executive. She underwent a rapid political rise during her husband’s lifetime, but since he was hospitalised in July, the Ethiopian senior civil servants have not been quite so servile towards her. A sign that does not lie! Close to army high command, General Samora Younis and other senior officers promoted by her late husband, Azeb Mesfin will have to fight hard to not be sidelined from power. But her positions are ultimately under threat, because she is little appreciated by the grass roots TPLF activists and hated by certain TPLF veterans like Sebhat Nega (see p.3) who will be tempted to make her pay the time they have spent in the long grass.

More collegiate leadership?

Meles Zenawi’s level of involvement in the country’s day to day government and security activity has been too substantial for it to be taken over by any single successor. Not even Haile Mariam Desalegn would have the required calibre. His appointment as acting Prime Minister last week by the EPRDF was intended mainly to calm down the coalition’s internal divergence and to pull the rug from under the feet of the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation (OPDO, member of the EPRDF) which wanted a new Prime Minister to be chosen from among their number.

During the two decades that Meles Zenawi reigned politically, the Oromo (OPDO) and Amhara (ANDM) parties in the ruling coalition have been systematically kept at arm’s length and brought to heel by the TPLF, even though their ethnic communities are the largest in the country. Unless the new Prime Minister is drawn from among their ranks, these two parties will apply pressure for political and economic power to be shared in a manner better balanced to their advantage. The TPLF leaders will have to find a way of complying with this aspiration and remain unscathed. A difficult tightrope!

Source: Indian Ocean Newsletter

Gezai T Asg

Gezai T Asg

The ‘miracle revolution’ | September 15th, 2012

With selection of Hailemariam Desalegn from Wolaita and Demeke Mekonnen from Amhara as prime minister and deputy prime minister, Meles Zenawi’s and TPLF’s dream of ruling Ethiopia for at least 50 years has ended today.

Meles Zenawi had never intended for this to happen. His intention was to retire in 2015, after making his wife the prime minister and continue to rule behind the scene while residing at the 100-million-birr residence he built inside the National Palace. The family dynasty he plotted to establish went into flames when he was hit with an ‘unknown’ illness some time in May or June this year.

Nevertheless, what has happened in Ethiopia today is a ‘miracle revolution,’ because for the regime’s two most visible figures, the prime minister and his hand-picked patriarch, to die in a period of two weeks is nothing short of a miracle. Their death is now creating opportunities for positive changes in the country. We will soon know if there are going to be changes by the kind of actions that Hailemariam will take in the coming few days and weeks — primary among them are the immediate release of all political prisoners.

In ceding power, the TPLF, the leading party in the 4-party coalition (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front [EPRDF]), had been out-maneuvered and out-played by Bereket Simon in the absence of Sebhat Nega and other more experienced leaders who were purged by Meles Zenawi from the TPLF politburo. Their attempt to return to the TPLF leadership was blocked by Bereket’s allies in the TPLF in 2010.

Most of what has transpired inside the regime since the death of Meles in July, including the 12-day zombified funeral, was managed and orchestrated by Bereket. He promoted Hailemariam from SEPDM and Demeke (his protege) from ANDM to save his own skin, because if the hardliners in the TPLF hold on to power, his fate could be ugly. Until the inexperienced Hailemariam is situated in his new position and develops leadership skills, he will depend on Bereket, who will remain the most powerful person in the regime.

On the TPLF side, they all know Bereket, who is an Eritrean, is behind their demise, and the TPLF cadres are now saying that they have been pushed aside by the Eritrean wing of TPLF/EPRDF. They argue that without the Eritreans in the TPLF, namely Berhane Gebrekiristos, Teodros Adhanom, Neway Gebreab, Isayas Woldegiorgis (the deputy chief of security) and others, TPLF would have fought to keep the premiership for itself. Bereket was able to build a coalition of ANDM, SEPDM, some from OPDO and the Eritrean wing of the TPLF to get Hailemariam elected.

The U.S. Gov’t, particularly the Africom, also played a key role in the selection of Hailemariam. The Africom made sure that the corrupt TPLF generals remain quite, or else they will loose all the properties they bought in the US. The family of many of the TPLF generals, such as Seare Mekonnen and Tadesse Werede, live and attend school the U.S.

The influence of Eritreans in the TPLF/EPRDF cannot be discounted, but the TPLF presents an immediate threat to Ethiopia and thus it must be quashed and obliterated for there to be any chance of real change. Let’s not forget that it is TPLF that has a plot to dismember Ethiopia and create Greater Tigray.

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23 Responses to “The ‘miracle revolution’”

  1. Alemu says:

    it’s indeed a miracle. I have never thought in my wildest dream this day would come.


  2. boozz says:

    something fishy is happening.
    Tigre people liberation front has promoted its 46 ‘tegadalay’ to be generals and major generals recently, out of the 52 that received promotion.
    What is all this about.


    guar Reply:

    ask elias


    Altaye Reply:

    Ayeeee Bereket Simeon nefsu aymarim. He made Tigreans busy crying for Meles while he pulled the rug from under them. I am starting to like Bereket.


  3. Yekistanegosh says:

    Chaos! Weyannie!


  4. quaregnaw says:

    the TPLF demise is virtual and happy to see them helpless as power slips from them infront of their least for now the thug is done within the political elites where as a lot more needs to be done in the security and military unit.


  5. Anonymous says:

    Elias< Today is a new bright day in Ethiopian politics. TPLF is no more and that is a very good thing for the future of Ethiopia.


  6. Girmay says:

    I can’t believe these dedeb tegrayan’s are saying they won the war and they led the country. If it was not for us you are blind. But we are still on top of you and the others.


  7. quaregnaw says:

    Boozz: that means the “old generals” will be pushed out in retirement very soon.


  8. Woy Ya Ne says:

    Eritreans destroyed TPLF from within. I love it!!


  9. below says:

    weyane is always weyane we know how to fight and we know also how to fight alone. our tigrai people at this moment are in well position to have peresperious life. we have the base and money and power. who ever come we excute the constitusion in adirection that met our gool for ever and ever for the benefit of these galent people of gaint tigray.


    Anonymous Reply:

    Haha, you think all the money you looted from the country is going to come to rescue you all from demise. Go and secede. We will see if you get something to eat from that land. Go!!!!


    Tinbit Reply:

    You know how to fight becase you do not have nothing to develop. That is why you find Tigres every where in the part of Ethiopia. You do not have enough resources to be self-sufficient. “Tigrena landrover yemaygebabet bota yelem.” Do you remeber the saying. Still working. you better shut your big mouth and see patiently what is going to happen in the recent future, not now. You so not know how to fight alone. Recent example is the war between Ethiopia and Eriterea. Another long time example is the BATTLE Of ADWA. Who fought more in these two battles. Do you think only Tigreans. Even you didi not won the war against DERGE to liberate Tigre that is you went to find parteners on behalf of Orommo and Amhara and others.


    betti Reply:

    Go then separate Tigray from the rest of the country, and you will see how you go hungry within three months. Tigre can’t servive a singel day without the rest of Ethiopia.


  10. Anonymous says:

    How is this a miracle? Because they put a puppet at the PM position doesn’t mean that he has a real power. This is TPLF morphing itself to do the dirty work behind the scene. Down with TPLF and all its associates!!! I think the people is getting foolish by the day!!!!


    Anonymous Reply:

    Yes.Yes this is TPLF changing skin as usual.


  11. Yifru Hailu says:

    Surely the news is a music to my ears, lets not relax yet. As long as the snakes are alive, sooner or later they try to strike back by spiting venom. Elias your perseverance is staring to bear fruit. Keep on pushing, you are doing a superb job.


  12. Wagshum says:

    Chane always creates opportunities. Let’s take advantage of this unexpected turn of events. I am hopeful.


  13. Tinbit says:

    Better to see and say something after the change. We do not forget one of the Ethiopian proverb, “GULICHA BIKEYAYERE, WET AYATAFETEME.” One thing every body should take in to account is ,this is not democracy. This is just one party leader is substitued by another party member. We say democracy whenever the people elects its own representative. One thing I have to say regarding Haile is, he is not as agressive as his master Setan and Devil Melese whose body and soul has started to rot in the grave.


  14. Hayelom says:

    Elias don’t open the champagne bottle yet. We will come back swinging. Mark my word.


  15. Abay says:

    Elias when Eritreans start to loot Ethiopia once again you may wake up one day and start appreciating TPLF if you really love Ethiopia. Look what Eritreans are doing to their own country… and please do not forget for one minute that Tigayans have always been first line defense for Ethiopia!!!!


  16. Amare says:

    Elias how come almost all the recently promoted Generals from Tigrai?
    I think woyane is playing games!
    The military is controlled by Tigreans.
    we should focus on that, rather than Hailemariam.
    These hardcore TPLFites may undermine his orders.

    Every Colonel and Generals are from Tigrai.

    Lets fight instead of calling these phoney election.

    Elias Keep fighting. And focus on the the Military, BECAUSE THATS WHERE THE REAL POWER IS.

    Elias you are a real fighter so keep fighting!!!!!


  17. Kokeb says:

    Note that Demeke Mekonnen is not Amhara. He is Agaw with a passionate hate to the Amhara.


Leave a Reply


Gezai T Asg
Abdi Ismail Samatar
Abdi Ismail Samatar is professor of geography at the University of Minnesota and a fellow at the University of Pretoria.

Meles Zenawi's legacy for the Horn of Africa

Zenawi's regime will be remembered for holding Ethiopia together as one country even under the centripetal ethnic order.
Last Modified: 17 Nov 2012 17:13
There is little doubt that Meles Zenawi's political architecture gave modest advantages to most ethnic groups in the country who were the subjects of the empire [EPA]

Any recent visitor to Ethiopia would be struck by the ubiquitous billboards commemorating the late Prime Minister's life, two months after his demise. Meles Zenawi's photo form the backdrop to the TV screens and adorns the streets of all the major towns and villages.

These sights were supplemented by the chorus of Africa leaders that attended the PM's funeral and who lavished praise on this "dedicated son of African soil". He was depicted as the untiring leader who toiled for the upliftment of the indigent peoples of Ethiopia and Africa.

Among this choir were African presidents and prime ministers whose own policies have degraded the lives of their people. The least distinguished of these visitors were the former President and Prime Minister of Somalia whose tenure in power was marred by their total subservience to the Ethiopia regime.

One wonders if this orchestrated and well managed public love of the late Zenawi reflects the thoughts and feeling of the peoples of Ethiopia and the neighbouring states where the PM's policies had the greatest footprint.

Putting aside the propaganda of the Ethiopian governing party, the admiration of his cohort of political friends and partisan Ethiopian critics, most objective analysts would agree that, unlike the visiting African leaders, Zenawi left behind a record that deserves critical scrutiny.

Zenawi's legacy

Zenawi's legacy can be viewed through two analytical lenses: a) his domestic footprint; (b) and his regional impact.

To assess the PM's legacy, we need to understand the political and economic context of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa when Zenawi and his party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), came to power in 1991.

Ethiopians mourn Meles Zenawi

First, Ethiopia was devastated by a brutal military dictatorship that massacred hundreds of thousands of people, while it also presided over the catastrophic famine of 1984 that devastated several regions of the country.

Additionally, the military regime wasted Ethiopia's meagre and precious resources to oppress the legitimate struggle of the Eritrean people, as well as others inside Ethiopia, such as Tigray, Somali and the Oromos, to mention a few. War, famine and oppression were the hallmark of Ethiopia in 1990, and the regime was exhausted and had run out of ideas and energy to move the country beyond multiple calamities.

Then came the last drive of the Eritrean resistance against the regime since they already controlled the entire countryside and surrounded the capital Asmara. Their ally in Ethiopia (TPLF) then pushed towards Addis Ababa and within a couple of months, it became clear that the regime's days were numbered.

Given the ethnic character of the TPLF, it was not clear whether its takeover of the capital will induce a new civil war with the Oromo liberation Front and other communities. Concerned about the possibility of having another failed state in the region, with all the attendant problems such as a tidal wave of refugees, the United States brokered an agreement between the regime and the TPLF. This pact allowed for a "peaceful" takeover of the capital and Mengistu's departure for exile.

The TPLF brought with it a client group of ethnic political parties, the so-called PDOs (People's Democratic Organisations), who jointly formed what became known as EPRDF. But there has never been any doubt that TPLF controlled the levers of power in the country.

The junior partners of the "coalition" were supposed to provide national legitimacy for the new ethnic authority, however, the Ethiopian public largely considered the PDOs as lackeys. The independent Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which initially joined the ruling coalition, failed to understand TPLF's militarist agenda and paid the ultimate price as the latter swiftly destroyed its military base.

After this defeat, OLF went underground where it has virtually become inconsequential. Establishing the new order and consolidating TPLF's power took nearly a decade after which the regime turned more of its attention to other matters.

After 21 years in power, we can emphatically state that Zenawi's regime has been a Janus-faced order. Its political rhetoric exuded democracy, peace, national harmony and development, but behind that façade was a determined security apparatus that crushed even the most democratic attempts to challenge its authority.

This rhetoric proved seductive enough for outsiders, but all indications are that it has failed to sway a majority of the population. It is these two faces of the regime that the remaining section of this brief will focus on.

But I must first provide an explanatory note about the nationalist character of the regime. I can categorically state that the late Premier Zenawi was an Ethiopian nationalist, despite the claims of some of the opponents that he was building Tigray for an eventual secession, if needs be.

Many critics of the TPLF regime claim that it exploited the resources of most regions in Ethiopia to develop its home province. There is a grain of truth to this assertion, but I would suggest that to be a nationalist does not exclude a regime from internally differentiating regions by privileging some over others.

Most critics do not understand that there are two kinds of nationalists: civic and sectarian nationalists. Civic nationalists genuinely try to treat all regions and citizens alike and fairly. In contrast, sectarian nationalists protect the territorial integrity of the country but also establish a hierarchy of power which privileges certain groups and political factions.

Zenawi and his regime represented the latter version of nationalism and are not alone in this regard in the developing world.

Domestic footprint

Zenawi's group and those they invited to take part in the political conference in the early 1990s produced a constitution which nominally privileged ethnic identity. They subsequently divided the country into ethnic provinces.

Inside Story - Life after Ethiopia's
Meles Zenawi

There is little doubt that this political architecture gave modest advantages to most ethnic groups in the country who were the subjects of the empire, but such gains belied the fact that Addis Ababa remained the decisive power centre of the country.

More critically, a small group of TPLF cadre and the security establishment they strategically controlled have had the final say about all the major issues. Even when the affiliates of the TPLF became senior ministers, they remained pliant cadre without a backbone.

I have witnessed the humiliation that comes with such status. The absence of any degree of autonomy on the part of those affiliates manifestly demonstrates that belonging to EPRDF has been like George Orwell's Animal Farm where "All animals are created equal, but some animals are created more equal than others".

Despite cowering their partners and most of the population, Zenawi and his regime can legitimately claim several major accomplishments. First, the regime has created a physical infrastructure for the country that is better than what was left behind by all the previous regimes combined. The road network that spans to most regions of the country can facilitate national integration and development if progressively used.

Second, the number of public universities has increased substantially over the last decade and this has allowed many young Ethiopians to gain access to some form of higher education.

Third, the electrically grid of the country has been expanded and more hydroelectric dams have been built or are under construction and this has expanded the country's energy supply. Some of these dams were initiated illegally because other riparian countries that have a stake in the rivers were not consulted and no agreements were reached to satisfy all parties. Despite such illegal and unethical preemptions, the growth in electric production bodes well for the country's economic growth.

Fourth, an intensive regime of mineral exploration has been put in place which could deliver dividends for the country in the long run.

Fifth, Zenawi and his team have not ameliorated the population's vulnerability to famine, but fortunately the country has avoided the catastrophic famines that used to take hundreds of thousands of lives.

Finally, there has been an increase in the volume of foreign investment in the country and the rate of economic growth has been substantial despite starting from a very low base.

The regime's liabilities are also numerous, but here is a sample of the major ones. First, in spite of the seemingly smooth transfer of authority to the Deputy Prime Minister, power is still wielded by individuals without legitimate institutional anchors. As such, authority in Ethiopia is extremely concentrated in two nodes that completely overlap: the TPLF core and the security establishment.

The ultimate anchor of power is the security apparatus which has been loyal to the TPLF rather than the country and the constitution. Such concentration of power has enfeebled all other institutions and has created a political culture and society deeply marooned in fear rather than genuine loyalty and respect for national institutions. The political and social consequences of this republic of fear are far reaching.

Second, although the economic sphere has been somewhat more liberalised, loyalty to the regime is still central to an entrepreneur's ability to succeed. In many instances, party connections are essential to start a major business, and important sectors of the economy are dominated by the party and its friends.

Third, the republic of fear has suffocated the entire political spectrum through its unwillingness to tolerate even a minor political opposition. By claiming to win over 95 per cent of the votes in the last election, the regime has created a make-believe world where it is adored by all.

Fourth, in some parts of the developing world, academics are not free to present their ideas/work regarding their countries' ailments, and Ethiopia appears to be the model of academic unfreedom. This has been accomplished through the elimination of tenure or long-term contracts for faculty and the appointment of political loyalists to top academic positions.

If a professor indulges in critical analysis of the political and development affairs of the country, there is little chance that his or her contract will be renewed. Fear is the life blood of this system and compels productive academics to either leave the country if they can, or languish in the margins, or simply become sycophants of the regime to maintain their livelihoods. Nevertheless, there are a few courageous scholars who have stayed true to the ethos of the academy and still remain in the country against incredible odds.

Fifth, poor people dominate the landscape of Ethiopian cities and towns, and the UN has reported that over 80 per cent of the building structures of the capital are of slum quality.

Mindful of this image, the regime has embarked on urban renewal that will ultimately remove most of the poor from the city and allocate the "freed" spaces to shopping malls and investors. It intends to house the indigents removed from those areas in apartments built on the outskirts of the city without examining alternative schemes that will keep these residents in their neighbourhoods.

Power vacuum fears engulf Ethiopia

Finally, the collective effect of these liabilities is that public institutions in the country are beholden to the individuals in power rather that embodying national ethos. The shameless use of the security forces to retain power or intimidate the political opposition, and the culture of fear this engenders means that Premier Zenawi and his regime reinforced institutions the public fears but they have failed to create legitimacy for the post-1991institutions.

Without legitimate institutions that are autonomous from particular leaders, the country remains in danger of fully sliding into an ethnic political strife.

The regional impact

The "winds of change" in the Horn of Africa in 1990/1991 created opportunities which could have produced a bright future for all. Post-1991, Eritrean and Ethiopian leaders were cut from the same political cloth since they closely collaborated in the battle field to dislodge the Mengistu regime.

Nevertheless, one major factor separated the two movements: one was mainly a national liberation movement while the other was primarily an ethnic liberation project. On the Eastern front, Somalia provided material and diplomatic support for the leadership of both the Eritrean and Ethiopian liberation fronts, and the Somali people keenly followed the advances of the two fronts against Mengisu's military while they also hoped for the fall of the Somali dictator.

I remember visiting the border regions of Ethiopia and Somalia after the fall of Siyaad and Mengistu where I saw the population relish their new freedoms on either side of the border. The hope was that a new and more progressive political chapter for the region was in the offing.

But the new lords of Ethiopia were steeped in a sanitised imperial orthodoxy. During the first decade in power, Zenawi and his subordinates adopted the same ethnic political logic, tested in Ethiopia's ethnic provinces, to manipulate Somali affairs in the old Republic.

The authorities in Addis Ababa made no effort to reach out to Somali civics, but instead chose warlords and sectarian political actors as their best collaborators. Once the Somali people realised Ethiopia's new strategy of "divide and rule", old animosities resurfaced and the Ethiopian occupation of parts of the Somali Republic and its invasion of their country and capital in 2006-08 dashed the last residue of good well. Nearly all Somali civic nationalists now see Ethiopia as an enduring enemy.

In the north, the Ethiopian and Eritrean leaders who claimed to be the best of friends slowly drifted towards conflict and imposed a horrible, costly and unnecessary war on the population. The goodwill which has been nurtured in the battlefield of liberation vanished.

After a devastating war which wasted over 100,000 lives, the two regimes consented to arbitration. An international boundary commission was set and both governments guaranteed to accept the commission's findings.

Eritrea immediately embraced the findings once the commission rendered its verdict. Unfortunately, Ethiopia is yet to honour its commitment as it introduced new conditions to the process and the international community has failed to enforce the commission's ruling. Consequently and unfortunately, the two countries remain in a virtual state of war.

The verdict

There is little doubt that history will judge Premier Zenawi as one of the two major leaders in Ethiopian history. His regime will be remembered for holding Ethiopia together as one country even under the centripetal ethnic order which his regime officially introduced.

"There is little doubt that history will judge Premier Zenawi as one of the two major leaders in Ethiopian history."

Second, Ethiopian nationalists will celebrate him as the man who invaded Somalia and occupied Mogadishu. Third, his government will be regarded for developing the country's physical and educational infrastructure, and for refreshingly having the ambition of becoming a developmental state.

What Ethiopian democrats will not forgive is the regime's failing to establish a political order and national institutions that have earned the loyalty and respect of the people. The conflation of the regime's interests with the national cause and the use of the security forces to domesticate the population is not a sustainable strategy if Ethiopia is to ever evolve into a vibrant democracy. The republic of fear must give way to the rule of law to thwart a more foreboding future.

On the regional front, posterity will not be kind to the Zenawi regime as it has totally squandered the opportunity to forge a more peaceful and collaborative relations with Eritrea and Somalia given the goodwill of these two peoples.

Allowing Somalis the opportunity to rebuild their government and society in a democratic fashion would have eliminated traditional hostilities between the two countries and boosted their mutuality. Further, this approach would have shifted hundreds of millions of dollars from the war machine to development which is desperately needed.

Instead of building on that goodwill, the regime embarked on a reign of terror to destabilise Eritrea and keep Somalia in its catastrophic condition. Sadly, the attempt to impose regional tyranny will ricochet on Ethiopia and shall perpetuate the misery of all the peoples in the region. It is not too late to change course and anchor developments on the significant and positive elements of the last two decades, but will there be the wisdom and the will in Addis Ababa?

Abdi Ismail Samatar is professor of geography at the University of Minnesota and a research fellow at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.


The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

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Gezai T Asg