Recently Dr. Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, made a speech to his parliament that threatened the sovereignty and territorial integrity of neighboring countries, including Eritrea. More importantly, the Prime Minister’s speech disturbed the fragile peace in the war-prone Horn of Africa. His prior secret meetings with businessmen, journalists, and other Ethiopian interest groups coupled with his persistent effort to establish a navy were clear indicators that PM Abiy was into something. But no one imagined he would make a very dangerous speech that would lead to endless conflict among neighboring countries especially between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The arguments PM Abiy thought would support his claim of ownership of the seaport and corridor to the sea were confused, illogical and unreasonable, to say the least. Here is why.
- Historical Context.
With full recognition of Ethiopia, Eritrea became an independent country and member of the United Nations and African Union, 30 years ago, on May 24th, 1993. Any argument based on historical claim has been closed the day Eritrea became an independent country. Also, the Eritrea and Ethiopia boundary commission has delimited the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed accepted it without preconditions. Therefore, the Prime Minister’s argument which is supposed to be based on historical context is invalid and has no foundation at all. But it can serve for the Prime Minister to instigate war against neighboring countries and more likely against Eritrea. Expansionists do not need a valid reason to invade other countries.
- Population Size and Ethnicity.
His other argument was even more illogical and invalid. Because you failed to control your population growth, it does not mean you are going to invade other countries to take their resources. The easiest way to align your population growth with your resources is introducing family planning. China’s one-child policy could be a good example of how to control explosive population growth in Ethiopia. Also, countries often augment their economy through the division of labor, international trade, and acceptable diplomatic norms. Ethiopian problem is lack of peace. As to the ethnicity argument international borders in Africa are drawn by colonizers and the African Union headquartered less than a couple of miles from PM Abiy’s office accepted and ratified it many years ago.
- UN Convention on Land Locked Countries and Access to the Sea.
Dr. Abiy also mentioned the UN convention on access of landlocked countries to the sea, which is often called the law of the Sea 1982. It is true that the convention provided land locked countries with the right of access to and from the seas and freedom of transit. That is what PM Abiy is currently getting from Djibouti’s Port. One thing that the PM did not mention in his speech was that the UN Convention is related to access to the sea not ownership of a port or the corridor. Also United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 states “Transit states shall have the right to take all measures necessary to ensure that the rights and facilities provided for in this Part for land-locked states shall in no way infringe their legitimate interests”. PM Abiy’s request for complete ownership of a port and its corridor to the sea contradicts with the law of the sea 1982. Accordingly, neighboring countries including Eritrea have the right to reject PM Abiy’s request to talk about port and corridor ownership out rightly.
- Abiy’s Other Countries claim the right to the Abay/Nile River Logic.
His argument refers to Egypt’s and Sudan’s claim to the Abay/Nile water. Well PM Abiy was comparing Apples and Oranges. The UN convention on transboundary rivers is different from the UN convention on the law of the sea.
Overall, Dr. Abiy’s request to own a port and a corridor to the Sea is unreasonable, threatening, and illegal. One major and relevant question that was not addressed by PM Abiy was why did Ethiopia not want to get a standard port service from Eritrean ports like it currently does in Djibouti, Port Sudan, and Kenyan ports? The answer to this question exposes PM Abiy’s and his predecessors’ sinister agenda against Eritrea.
- Ethiopia Wants to Weaken Eritrea.
When Eritrea was liberated in 1991 and became an independent country in 1993, Ethiopia used Eritrea’s ports in exchange for a very nominal service fee paid in Birr. Currently, Ethiopia pays Djibouti for Port Service in hard currency. When the border war between Eritrea and Ethiopia started in 1998, Ethiopia abandoned Eritrean ports. Despite repeated offers by the Eritrean government for Ethiopia to use Eritrean ports for humanitarian aid to severely drought-affected regions in Ethiopia the then Ethiopian government rejected the offer. When asked about the issue the late PM of Ethiopia Melese Zenawi said he did not want to use the Eritrean Ports because he did not want Eritrea to get any revenue from port use by Ethiopia. In fact, his famous characterization of the situation was “Eritrea could use its ports to drink water for its camels”. Accordingly, PM Abiy not only is promoting the same policy as his predecessors but also threatening to annex Eritrean ports.
- PM Abiy’s Speech Creates Mistrust and Complicates Ethiopian possible future use of Eritrean ports.
Dr. Abiy’s speech created an uproar among Eritreans and most Ethiopians. His speech has come a few months after Ethiopia and Eritrean soldiers gave their life to save his government from being toppled by the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front. PM Abiy’s speech increases suspicion and more likely shuts the door for Ethiopia to use standard Eritrean port service in line with the UN convention or law of the Sea. His speech denies Ethiopia an alternative and affordable port service and possibly could lead to deadly conflict with neighboring countries, especially Eritrea.
Almost all observers agree that PM Abiy’s arguments are meant to prepare a ground for a future war with neighboring countries, especially with Eritrea. We all know how PM Abiy makes wars in Ethiopia. First, he Leaks his intentions to his confidants and the media and makes them speak about it, orders his cadres to propagate it to his supporters and finally moves to implementation. The question is why PM Abiy wanted to make such an outlandish and dangerous speech at this time. Well, the security problems and economic pressures in Ethiopia are increasing and he may be looking for a diversion. Often leaders who are in trouble tend to work hard to externalize their problems. A second possible reason is his ambition to be seen as a great leader. Meles dared the Nile and Abiy dared the Red Sea kind of parallel. Fortunately, not only PM Abiy is looking for greatness at a wrong place, but also his speech was not received well by both Ethiopian and Eritrean audiences. It backfired and failed to create the impact PM Abiy expected it to create. Accordingly, any war instigated by PM Abiy not only will not be successful but also could have severe consequences for Ethiopia and its neighboring countries. As to Eritrea, it knows how to defend itself even under very challenging and difficult situations. If PM Abiy instigates war against Eritrea that is what Eritrea will do, just defend itself.
Victory to the Masses and Eternal Glory to our Martyrs.
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The views and opinions expressed in " Dr. Abiy Ahmed’s Speech is A Prelude to War. " are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Setit Media.
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