The Ethiopian-Eritrean War: Manmade Catastrophes Often Prevail

Category: World Affairs Topics: Conflicts And War, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Foreign Policy Views: 1050

As the governments of Eritrea and Ethiopia ceaselessly bragged about the thousands of deaths each side inflicted on the other in recent combat, independence and governmental reports in both countries show that millions are potential victims of a threatening famine. The situation becomes more appalling when one learns that millions of dollars are poured into the border-war everyday, while the total annual budget for Ethiopia barely exceeds one billion dollars.

Poverty and homelessness soar in two of the world's poorest nations, as the former warlords continue to lead the once unified nation into imminent doom. After Eritrea seized the border Badme area in May 1998, images that portrayed happy faces of victory were displayed on television stations around the country and the world. Very similar images were also seen as Ethiopian troops danced in circles after Ethiopia retook the area and more territories in recent weeks. Yet the victory dance was nothing but the deceptive imaging of an ugly reality, especially when misery needs no official reports to document its magnitude or intensity. Entire Eritrean villages and towns were forced to flee to neighboring Sudan to join the already heavily populated camps of Eritrean refugees. In addition to the more than half million Eritrean refugees displaced in the recent fighting, fierce fighting near the city of Mendefera threatens to uproot 200,000 more.

In recent years, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Eritrean leader Isaias Aferworki were repeatedly applauded by western governments and the United Nations for being a "new breed of African leaders," for opening up their economies and introducing democracy. The two leaders, former minority warlords, have also enjoyed plenty of international aid, long term loans and promises of more aid. Millions of US dollars were poured into the two government's accounts. But much more than economic aid was arriving, especially from the US. Ethiopia, Eritrea and Uganda were generously rewarded for their hostilities toward the Sudanese government and support of the Sudanese rebels in the south and the east, by shipments of US weapons, military aid and training.

In addition to their role in the Sudan, Eritrea's capture of the Yemenis Hanish Islands in the Red Sea, and Ethiopia's intervention in Somali affairs have shown that the two countries' leaders are power hungry.

Ethiopia's plan to build over a dozen dams on the Nile, in cooperation with Israel, left no doubt that foreign influences were the real governor of the situation and that policing the Sub-Saharan region was evidently the new mission of both countries

But while they were busy feeding unrealistic and shortsighted ambitions, the rulers of Eritrea and Ethiopia failed to search for the real challenges faced by their people, who despite all, remain victims. The independence of Eritrea from Ethiopia in 1993 was hardly enough to redefine and adjust the scarred relationship between the two, and to solve all remaining problems. War mentality prevails, as the border war resumes with more towns destroyed and plenty of arms to the worn out armies.

Aferworki and Zenawi's proud proclamations that democracy and human rights have flourished under their leadership can finally be proven false. The tens of thousands of deaths, hundreds of thousands of uprooted civilians and dozens of destroyed towns and villages expose the hypocrisy of such utterances that were used for the purpose of generating foreign aid. Moreover, the war demonstrated the gross failure of the two leaderships to prioritize their duties properly, as they helplessly sought to please outside forces, which have had rising interests in the strategic region.

The human catastrophe developing right now as a result of the war leaves little time for lessons to be pondered. The fact they that the unwise rulers of Eritrea and Ethiopia have prolonged the suffering of their already impoverished nations by no means implies that the international community should turn a blind eye to their suffering as well. African as well as international diplomacy must be employed in bringing an end to the savage war, and working thereafter to ease future tensions. Additionally, the masses of refugees in Sudan and elsewhere must receive proper care, even after the war is over, for the end of war has never meant the end of suffering.

  Category: World Affairs
  Topics: Conflicts And War, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Foreign Policy
Views: 1050

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