Shabia Can’t Live in Peace, Without Lies and Hateful Campaigns

Mekelle:  3 May 2024 (Tigray Herald)

Shabia Can’t Live in Peace, Without Lies and Hateful Campaigns

By G.Amare.

“Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth,” is a law of propaganda often attributed to the Nazi Joseph Goebbels.
It wasn’t my intention to write this piece initially. However, the reactions that I observed in a group chat, in response to a recent piece, entitled “Why did the Algiers Agreement become an obstacle to the Pretoria Agreement? Let us talk about the border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia, posted on Tigray Herald, persuaded me to do so.

I found it relevant to refute the flawed assumptions of Shabia’s diehard supporters, as their lies can be accepted as truth by many when repeatedly told. As it is said, “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth.”

In an effort to contribute to the ongoing discussion sparked by the piece composed, presumably by a Shabia supporter, I have revisited my previously published articles and extracted relevant information and made edits to make relevant to the discourse. However, I found it unnecessary to offer a line-by-line critique on what is conferred by the author. Instead, I chose my piece to focus on describing the circumstances that led to the war, the Algiers agreement, and then to the establishment of the Boundary Commission with the purpose to help readers evaluate, judge, and navigate through the widespread propaganda machineries of the Eritrean government and its affiliates.

Aftermath of the Algiers Agreement
The United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) was put in place in July 2000 with the responsibility to monitor the ceasefire after the war that began in 1998 ended by creating a buffer zone 25 kilometers (15 miles) away from Ethiopia and inside the Eritrean side of the border. After the Governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea concluded the Algiers Agreement, a Boundary Commission was established with a mandate to delimit and demarcate the border based on pertinent colonial treaties (1900, 1902 and 1908) and applicable international law. Yes, the boundary commission had finalized its first mandate- its delimitation decision.

However, the second mandate of the Boundary Commission-demarcation- wasn’t implemented contrary to the claim of the author of the piece. Other than the establishment of field offices and start of the demarcation in the eastern part of the disputed border, the Eritrean government didn’t allow the Boundary Commission to commence demarcation in the central and western zones.

The UN mission was ended with effect from 31 July 2008 because Eritrea has ordered the expulsion of the UN peacekeeping mission. Military operations ended in February 2008 after Eritrea had restricted fuel supply and constrained the movement of ground patrols inside the buffer zone.

While this is being the truth, the Eritrean Government recently has started to disseminate lies and disinformation campaigns saying that the border is demarcated once and for all. In a press release, Eritrea’s Ministry of Information stated that “the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea is “demarcated for the last time in a way that will never be changed…based on the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission Decision.” The author of the piece seems to be echoing nothing more, nothing less than the illusory statements and dreams propagated by Eritrea’s Ministry of Information. Otherwise, the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea has remained closed until 2018 and it was only after Mr. Abiy Ahmed came to power that the two countries tried to create a short-lived agreement and relationship. And recently, the Eritrean government and its diehard supporters are widely engaged in creating illusory truth effect through nonstop lies and disinformation mechanisms that aim at blaming Meles and or cursing TPLF which will not result in meaningful solutions to this chronic matter.

Spreading lies and unfounded propaganda only exacerbates conflict and calamity. The most constructive approach is to grasp the realities on the ground and confront the situation with honesty and integrity. It is crucial to move beyond disinformation and concentrate on identifying common ground for constructive dialogue and resolution.

The truth that led to the war
Supporters of the Shabia/Eritrean government often mistakenly consider themselves politically shrewd as they persistently pump out their lies and propaganda without encountering any opposition from Tigray’s elites, politicians, and the people in general.

They consistently fail to recognize that Tigrayans are deliberately paying little attention to their ill-judged and hateful campaigns. They oftentimes undervalue the patience, cautiousness, and farsightedness traits of the people of Tigray: their preference has aways been to create and maintain a long-term relationship with the people of Eritrea over engaging with Shabia’s false narratives.

Shabia and its diehard supporters’ false campaigns are relentless and pervasive, disseminating disinformation and misinformation across various platforms and mediums. Their deceptive narratives aim to manipulate perceptions and distort the truth, attributing a range of issues to TPLF/WEYANE.

Shabia and stooges justify the mandatory and indefinite military service in Eritrea by placing blame on TPLF/WEYANE. They lie to the people of Eritrea that the lack of new industrial developments and infrastructure in Eritrea, and the ongoing exodus of Eritrean youth—often resulting in perilous journeys and loss of life in deserts and oceans—are all consequences of TPLF/WEYANE’s actions.

The war of 1998-2000 between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the failure to demarcate the contested border, international sanctions imposed on Eritrea by the US, EU, and UN, Eritrea’s suspension from IGAD, and a multitude of other issues are consistently blamed on this single entity—TPLF/WEYANE. Additionally, Eritrea’s involvement in the ongoing conflict aimed at exterminating the people of Tigray since 2020, as well as the government’s open interference in Ethiopia’s internal affairs, as outcomes of TPLF/WEYANE’s influence….and what have you.

Tigray/the TPLF government consistently seeks to foster relationships and refrains from highlighting Shabia’s true actions, negative contributions, and harsh actions. In contrast, the Eritrean government frequently boasts about minor accomplishments and actively engages in crafting propaganda to tarnish the reputation of the TPLF.

The people of Tigray and the TPLF continue to celebrate and acknowledge the successes of their collaborative efforts aimed at defeating and toppling the Derg regime from power. Conversely, the Eritrean government persists in ill-advised attempts to deny and falsify information to erase the TPLF’s pivotal role in Eritrea’s struggle for independence.

An illustrative example of this is the Eritrean government’s complete disregard for the TPLF’s involvement in the 1982 “Operation Red Star.” During this operation, the Derg regime mobilized significant forces and artillery in an attempt to eliminate the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF), a fact that the Eritrean government chose to dismiss. However, the late Colonel Fisseha Desta, former Vice-President of Ethiopia’s Derg government, revealed the truth that the TPLF played a decisive role in rescuing the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF), commonly referred to as Shabia, from the Derg’s major military campaign known as “Operation Red Star…Shabia was on the brink of annihilation, but the TPLF unexpectedly intervened to save it….”
Sadly, Shabia has consistently failed to acknowledge or appreciate the contributions of the TPLF. Instead, it has actively pursued malicious actions, fostering a climate of unwarranted animosity towards the TPLF.

Shabia, driven by his self-centered ambitions, tirelessly schemed to realize its long-held vindictive and malevolent agenda. Boarder Conflict, A Stalking-horse There is no single doubt that Shabia used the border town of Badme as the pretext to launch the 1998 war with Ethiopia. Back then, Shabia officially claimed that the war was triggered by unresolved boundary demarcations. However, information shared by a TPLF/EPRDF official during a televised conversation revealed that a commission had already been tasked with peacefully resolving the border issues. This border commission was established in November 1997.

Therefore, the argument that the war was solely a result of an unsettled border dispute appeared to lack coherence. Many believed that the boundary issue served as a pretext, while the true causes of the conflict were multifaceted. Factors contributing to the war included Shabia’s manipulation of economic matters, regional economic competition, Isaias Afwerki’s personal ambitions, and the complexities of post-liberation relations with Ethiopia’s EPRDF government.

These explanations underscore the intricate nature of the conflict and caution against oversimplification.
In 1997, Eritrea introduced the Nakfa as its currency. Simultaneously, Ethiopia issued a new Birr (Ethiopian currency) with distinct features, effectively replacing the existing Birr in circulation. The introduction of the Eritrean currency and the issuance of the new Ethiopian Birr played a role in the sequence of events that ultimately led to the conflict of 1998-2000.

Shabia put forward a proposition to establish a fixed exchange rate of 1:1 between the Ethiopian Birr and the Eritrean Nakfa. Ethiopia, however, rebuffed Eritrea’s proposal, asserting that the exchange rate should be determined by market forces.

Eritrea aimed to maintain business transactions between the two nations without requiring the use of a letter of credit. In contrast, Ethiopia maintained that, as two independent countries, their commercial relationship should adhere to international norms, akin to relationships with any neighboring nation.

Due to these and numerous other economic factors, the rift between Meles’s government and Isaias’s government deepened. Subsequently, Eritrea launched incursions into border towns, including Badme, and confiscated all Ethiopian goods and equipment at the Assab port. , Eritrea also conducted bombardments, such as the one on the Aider school, resulting in casualties among children, teachers, and residents in the school vicinity and so forth.

The EPRDF government made earnest appeals to Eritrea, urging it to abstain from provoking a war and to cease its unlawful aggressive actions. Ethiopia consistently requested Eritrea to withdraw its forces from areas it had illegitimately occupied. Concurrently, peace mediation negotiations were initiated by organizations such as the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the US/Rwanda. Regrettably, Eritrea rebuffed Ethiopia’s appeals and rejected all peace mediation efforts.

Shabia chose to address the border dispute through military means and disregarded Ethiopia’s call to pursue a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Eritrea persisted in digging and constructing a network of extensive trenches and openly boasted about its military prowess, proclaiming, “…surrendering Badme would be as unthinkable and doing so means the sun sets in the East….”

Under these circumstances, Ethiopia found itself with no alternative but to initiate a military operation to reclaim the areas that had been invaded. Eritrea ultimately suffered a humiliating defeat. Subsequently, Eritrea swiftly embraced peace mediation initiatives, culminating in the establishment of the Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission as per the Algiers Agreement.

The Final and Binding Verdict
Following Shabia’s crushing defeat, Eritrea and Ethiopia agreed to resolving the dispute through a “final and binding verdict” delivered by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

The notion of a “final and binding verdict” was met with significant opposition and criticism from many Ethiopians. One key reason for this opposition was the belief that it was unreasonable to engage in negotiations with Shabia, which had staunchly refused to withdraw its forces from the occupied areas. Some argued that it was only after Shabia had lost the war that it unwillingly agreed to mediation. Therefore, once Ethiopia had reclaimed its invaded territories through military means, there seemed to be no compelling reason for the EPRDF government to rush into mediation with a government perceived as rogue and irresponsible.

EPRDF’s The decision to accept a “final and binding verdict” left many perplexed. The handling of the matter by Meles’s government was viewed as imprudent and brought about disappointment among many Ethiopians. The idea of entering into a final and binding verdict without providing a legal right to appeal was seen as both unrealizable and legally unreasonable.

As feared, the verdict introduced certain irregularities and practical challenges, prompting Ethiopia to voice its concerns and present a five-point peace proposal. Neither the “final and binding verdict” nor Mele’s five-point peace proposal has proven to be effective.

Shabia as opposed to committing itself to peaceful resolution of the boarder conflict, embarked on a campaign of supporting and hosting various armed Ethiopian opposition groups, which included the Oromo Liberation Front, Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), Arbegnoch Ginbot 7, among others with aim to disrupt peace and security in Ethiopia and overthrow the TPLF/EPRDF government from power.
And Shabia started to utilize Somalia as a theater for the Ethiopia-Eritrea proxy war, with a sinister plan to incite conflict in Somalia and expand the sphere of destabilization into Ethiopia.

This eventually resulted in the imposition of an arms embargo on Eritrea by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). “Gravely concerned about findings that Eritrea had provided support to armed groups undermining peace and reconciliation in Somalia and that it had not withdrawn its forces following clashes with Djibouti in June 2008, the Security Council today imposed an arms embargo on that country, in addition to travel restrictions on and a freeze on the assets of its political and military leaders…. The Council demanded that all States, in particular Eritrea, cease arming, training, and equipping armed groups and their members, including Al-Shabaab, which aimed to destabilize the region or incite violence and civil strife in Djibouti….

Somalia’s representative said Eritrea had been a major negative factor in prolonging the conflict in his country. Eritrea had been giving refuge and safe haven to known terrorists, rebels, spoilers, and violators of human rights, whose purpose all along was to destabilize Somalia.

It had been providing, financing, and facilitating the flow of arms and other resources to the extremists and terrorist elements in Somalia, as well as economic, political, moral, and propaganda support to the armed insurgents and spoilers.”

Civilians in the Deportation Saga
Finding any element of truth in Shabia’s track record is nearly impossible. Shabia has embedded deception as a core principle, consistently using lies to shape its narratives. It systematically and consistently distorts facts and manipulates information, weaving a web of misinformation that blurs reality and confounds fact with fiction.

This persistent deceit fosters an atmosphere of uncertainty and distrust. Shabia’s unyielding pursuit of deception aims to sustain its hold on power, compromising truth and integrity. It shows a blatant disregard for peace, security, and the sanctity of human life. Instead of fostering stability and harmony, Shabia’s decisions frequently lead to conflict, instability, and human suffering. This lack of concern for peace and security undermines the fundamental rights and dignity of people, perpetuating a cycle of unrest and uncertainty.

The war that transpired from 1998 to 2000 was a regrettable event that should have been avoided altogether. It arose due to a miscalculation by Shabia, which attempted to invade Tigray after its unsuccessful attempts to enforce a delusional, manipulative, and irrational economic policy in Ethiopia had faltered. Shabia exploited the war as a pretext to incorporate the issue of border demarcation into its repertoire of oppressive schemes.

It launched incursions into regions bordering Tigray and Eritrea at a time when the TPLF/EPRDF government: i) was fully engrossed in the arduous task of rehabilitating Ethiopia’s war-torn economy; ii) had its ground defense forces dispersed and stretched thin, focusing on maintaining peace and security across Ethiopia; iii) had demobilized a substantial number of TPLF fighters who had participated in the 17-year armed struggle, as part of efforts to create a balanced and restructured National Defense Force with contributions from all of Ethiopia’s Nations and Nationalities; and iv) had its Air Force capabilities significantly diminished to a nonfunctional level.

These factors contributed to the opportunistic timing of Shabia’s actions of adopting a fictitious stance of war bravado to address border disputes through force, undermining ongoing efforts to peacefully resolve the issue. The war unfolded to result in tragic loss of nearly 100,000 lives from both Ethiopia and Eritrea.

The impact of the extended beyond the combatant forces on the war front. Unfortunately, many civilian Eritreans were forcibly deported from Ethiopia during this period which deeply angered numerous Eritreans, leading them to engage in a recurring blame game. They incessantly narrated and campaigned on these events as part of their routine hate and blame campaigns against TPLF and the people of Tigray.

For some Eritreans, this one-sided story served as a fuel to propagate negative narratives, tarnish the image of the TPLF and accused of starting the Badme war, despite the existence of irrefutable evidence that it was provoked and started by Shabia.

What many Eritreans, especially those staunchly supporting Shabia, deliberately concealed or chose not to acknowledge is the extensive and series of deportations instigated by Isaias Afwerki’s government soon after Eritreans achieved victory over the Derg regime. During this period, a disproportionate number of Ethiopians who had lived, been born, and raised in Eritrea were subjected to harsh treatment, public humiliation, property confiscation, and were forcibly deported to Ethiopia prior to Eritrea’s formal declaration of independence.

Surprisingly, very little has been said about this not only within Eritrean circles but also by the TPLF/EPRDF government.

However, staunch supporters of Shabia persistently accuse TPLF as if the Eritrean government bore no responsibility and committed no wrongs during this period. They consistently disseminate skewed information to sway their audiences and portray a one-sided narrative, giving the impression that Eritreans were the only victims of this regrettable deportation. They have chosen to remain willfully blind and deaf to any discourse of the other side of the story.

It was no secret that several hundred people displaced from Eritrea found themselves living on the streets of Addis Ababa, seeking shelter under makeshift plastic covers, exposed to the elements, vulnerable to diseases, and enduring unhygienic conditions in crowded spaces. These deported individuals were frequently seen staging rallies on the streets to voice their anger and frustration.

They consistently called on the TPLF/EPRDF government to provide them with assistance and facilitate their permanent resettlement.
Many criticized the TPLF/EPRDF government for what they saw as insufficient efforts to assist these vulnerable deportees.

The responses from TPLF/EPRDF officials often fell short of meeting the demands of the deportees, and at times, their statements only served to exacerbate the frustration and anger, not only among the deportees living on the streets of Addis Ababa but also among many Ethiopians.

In their attempt to preserve their relationship with the Eritrean government, TPLF/EPRDF officials worked to avoid actions that could strain relations and attempted to downplay the Eritrean government’s actions. I distinctly recall one TPLF official’s statement on television when questioned about the situation: “…we will not get into a squabble with the Eritrean government and spoil our relationship because some puppies of the Derg regime are deported From Eritrea….” This was unfortunate but was a reality, publicly aired on TV.

Furthermore, the TPLF/EPRDF government permitted Eritrean citizens in Ethiopia to work and engage in businesses without restrictions or discrimination. This policy encouraged Eritreans to openly say, “Ethiopia is a shared home for both Ethiopians and Eritreans, and Eritrea is our (Eritreans) private home.”

In contrast, a significant number of Eritreans held positions in government offices, corporations, and organizations. This discrepancy prompted many Ethiopians to voice their grievances and frustrations, perceiving it as unfair, especially since the Eritrean government did not reciprocate with a similar approach.

These grievances and frustrations intensified when Ethiopia began implementing the World Bank’s Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs).
As part of the regulations set forth by the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs), the TPLF/EPRDF government was mandated to downsize its workforce.

Consequently, numerous Ethiopian citizens were compelled to retire prematurely, often at the age or service year threshold of 45/25. This development prompted widespread complaints and questioning of the fairness and equity of the TPLF/EPRDF government’s actions. Many individuals began to inquire why the government did not terminate the employment of foreign workers (Eritreans) before enforcing early retirement for Ethiopians, which gave the impression of unequal treatment.

Many Ethiopians expressed strong opposition and raised objections to the government’s stance, especially considering that the Eritrean government did not permit Ethiopians to reside or work in Eritrea.

The TPLF/EPRDF’s defense of its decision to allow Eritreans to continue working in Ethiopia’s government offices was viewed by many as illogical and inconsistent, given the lack of reciprocity from the Eritrean side.

While the TPLF/EPRDF government may have acted with good intentions, displaying foresight, tolerance, and patience in an effort to foster a healthy and mutually beneficial relationship between Eritrea and Ethiopia, there was little evidence of reciprocal understanding from the Eritrean side.

Building a constructive relationship proved to be a challenging endeavor, as it requires the participation and cooperation of both parties. The Eritrean government appeared primarily focused on exerting full control over various aspects, including the economy, politics, and security, while also pursuing its ambitions to shape the TPLF/EPRDF government in its own image and have it served as a dutiful entity under Isaias’s manipulative rule.

A Rare Moment of Truth from Isaias Afwerki Isaias spoke a rare truth when he publicly stated in the media that the Badme border dispute was not the cause of the 1998-2000 war. This admission not only undermined his longstanding claims but also exposed his true motives behind his actions. Such remarks have further eroded his credibility and cast doubt on the integrity of his leadership.

Shabia’s unprincipled stance paved the way for Isaias Afwerki to form an unholy alliance with Abiy Ahmed, leading to their joint orchestration and execution of the genocidal war against the people of Tigray in November 2020. Isaias’s active involvement in this aggressive war can be attributed to several motivations: i) his deep-seated animosity towards the TPLF, stemming from longstanding political differences and conflicts; ii) his belief that Ethiopia, without the influence of the TPLF, would be more susceptible to manipulation and exploitation, benefiting Eritrea’s economy and access to resources; iii) his perception of Tigray and its people as significant barriers to his vision of shaping the concept of “Eritreanism”—a distorted and fantastical notion aimed at rewriting history by erasing the origins and identities of the Eritrean people.

This calculated alliance and aggressive war revealed the lengths to which Isaias Afwerki and Shabia will go to maintain control. Perfection is unattainable in the world. TPLF was not perfect in the past, is not perfect today, and will not be perfect in the future. Like any organization, TPLF has made mistakes and learned from them, recognizing that acknowledging imperfections is crucial for growth and improvement. This self-awareness and commitment to progress have strengthened TPLF over time.

In contrast, Shabia is nowhere close to TPLF in terms of moral compass, integrity, principles, and public trust. It cannot compare to TPLF on any level. Shabia is notorious for its deceitful practices and reluctance towards development. Rather than promoting peace and stability, Shabia thrives in environments rife with conflict and instability, perpetuating unrest for its own benefit. Unlike TPLF, which acknowledges its flaws and works towards improvement, Shabia’s deceptive strategies and neglect of its people’s well-being erode its credibility and integrity.

Question Why?

Given Shabia’s well-documented history of lying and deceitful behaviors, one might question why some diehard supporters continue to propagate falsehoods on its behalf. The answer, while seemingly straightforward, reveals deeper complexities. These supporters, driven by allegiance or perhaps misguided beliefs, find themselves ensnared in a web of misinformation and manipulation orchestrated by Shabia.

Their persistent dissemination of lies may result from various factors: a desire to maintain loyalty to the regime, fear of repercussions, or a misguided belief in Shabia’s fabricated narratives.

By perpetuating falsehoods, both Shabia and its supporters contribute to a climate of confusion, mistrust, and division, complicating efforts to uncover the truth and foster meaningful dialogue.

Additionally, it’s crucial to remember that… “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth,” is a law of propaganda often attributed to the Nazi Joebbels.

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