Atse Yohannes Would Turn in his Grave
Surrendering EthiopianTerritories to Sudan , for what?
I heard about Sudan’s claim over Ethiopian territory about a year ago. Though I had a fear at the back of my mind, I didn’t expect the Ethiopia government to accept such a demand particularly after rude awakening of the May 2005 election and the subsequent declaration that EPRDF has learnt from its mistakes, including that of the Eritrean issue, to be a listening party.
I also thought the funfair celebration of “Ethiopian renaissance” (የኢትዮጵያ ህዳሴ) in the 3rd Millennium, flag waving and dancing at the Millennium Hall as a beginning of a new politics, where the interest of the Ethiopian people lies at the heart of the government.
Even a week ago, I dismissed the Ethio-Sudan Boarder Committee’s appeal to sign petitions to highlight this issue as scaremongering and the usual exaggeration of the electronic media. Now an official from the Sudan Embassy in Ethiopia gave an interview on German Radio confirming our worst fear, that the Ethiopian government had indeed surrendered a large chunk of Ethiopian territory to Sudan through a backdoor deal, while displacing our own people.
This is not about playing politics or scoring points. But it is about expressing the deep hurt I and millions of Ethiopians have felt by such a bombshell and backdoor political trading of sovereignty of Ethiopia with “jam tomorrow” promise of economic cooperation and peace with Sudan. According to Sudanese news sources 100 years of dispute has been settled without Ethiopians aware of what was going on. I think, Atse Yohannes who gave his life defending the same territory would definitely turn in his grave when he hears the news, wouldn’t he?
After 70,000 people sacrificed their lives to defend a “barren land” called Badema and Ethiopian tax payers spending billions of birr every year to protect this plot of land from Eritrean invasion, nobody in his right mind expected the Ethiopian government to handover Ethiopian fertile territory to anyone. To make matter worse, who would have expected such a thing after Ethiopian soldiers were sent to Somalia to shed their blood under the banner of defending the national interest?
How did we get it so wrong? The least we expected from EPRDF leaders was to respect the Constitution and seek authorisation from its own Parliament, which we were told to be the supreme body to make decisions on such matters.
Now, of course, it seems obvious that EPRDF officials will try to degenerate this legitimate question of the people into partisan political game or a blatant defensive posturing of “what are you going to do about it?”. May be they are right; there may not be much that the people can do about it, in situation where their own government stand against their sovereignty. But that doesn’t make it right. Does it? One thing we cannot underestimate is the inward pain that people would feel deep right to their bones and the resentment they would have towards the government that made such a bad decision. Put simply, this is a decision which will have a very adverse implication on the government itself, for the people and the future generation.
I sometimes wonder what is going on in the minds of the people who make decision that would undermine the interest of their own people, their children and grand children. Isn’t this a zero-sum politics? In one hand, a government claming to build roads and bridges to win the hearts and minds of the people and on the other hand plunging a sharp dagger into the heart and psychic of the people. What else can it be, a multiple of zero? A political party that has not yet recovered from the adverse effects of its support for EPLF should have known the gravity of such a decision on issues related to sovereignty.
Of course, we all know the old adage of “ወደሽ ነው ቆማጢት ንጉስ ትመርቂ”. But, we should be careful enough not to make mistake as we are living in a new era where the people know that they are the one who pass judgement on performance of their rulers.
No matter how much we spin it or defend it, this unwise decision is nothing but a time bomb which is planted on current and future generation of Ethiopians.
First, the agreement is not legally binding unless it is ratified by the supreme body; the Parliament that has a mandate to make such decisions. No one has mandate to negotiate on sovereignty of the country.
Of course the agreement reinforces the Sudan ’s desire to expand towards Nile source and set a bad precedent for future territorial claims, notably the whole Gambela next round.
As Sudan has taken advantage of Ethiopia ’s weakness to grab Ethiopian territory through backdoor deal, Ethiopia too must reserve the right to reclaim its territory in future time probably at much higher cost.
Second, the duty of any government is to defend and protect the sovereignty and interest of its own people. Often people are helpless and have no power to influence the policy of their rulers and have to take everything as it is handed down. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that they see, feel the pain, take notes. They don’t easily forget. When the chance comes, it is the Ethiopian people not Sudanese farmers who pass the verdict!! That is why the Ethiopia people deserve explanation. It is not a political spin, but a bare truth.
The news of territorial transfer to Sudan is a bombshell to all, including to supporters of EPRDF and its critics. It is high time that the government stops any further transfer of Ethiopian territories and come clean to explain why and how this decision was passed.