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Eritrea: Is the "medemer" agenda the new Trojan Horse?

Is the medemer agenda the new Trojan Horse?

According to Greek mythology, prince Paris of Troy stole Helen from her husband king Menelaus of Sparta.  When the Spartans demanded her return, king Priam of Troy refused to give Helen back. As a result, the Greeks and the people of Troy fought a bloody war known as The Trojan War for ten years. Many people died only because the two sides were so stubborn to back down.  To break the stalemate, the Greeks came up with a brilliant idea. They built a giant wooden horse in which many soldiers can hide. Later, the Greek soldiers pretended as if they have given up on the war and sailed away from the city of Troy, leaving behind a messenger and the wooden horse with many soldiers hidden inside. Cunningly persuaded by the messenger and totally ignoring the warnings of princess Cassandra and that of a Trojan priest, the Trojans pulled the wooden horse into their well-fortified city. Overwhelmed with joy, the Trojans then gathered around smoldering bonfires and celebrated the end of the atrocious war. That same night, when every poor soul in the great city of Troy was in deep sleep, the Greek soldiers crept out of the horse, opened the gates of Troy, brought in the remaining Greek soldiers and finally took control of the entire city. End of story. In this day and age, Trojan Horse is normally used in computing and the name refers to malicious computer programs that attempt to gain control of affected computers or systems and steal personal information of unsuspecting users.   

Now, let’s draw a comparison between the Trojan horse story and the current Ethio-Eritrean situation. Before we start comparing however, I would like to make it clear for the readers that my intentions are not to accuse the Abiy government of deceit, advocate against peace or downplay the Abiymenia but to reflect on the latest relationship between the Eritrean and Ethiopian governments, how so many Eritreans and Ethiopians may be getting wrong impressions of the situation and the potential consequences of the approach taken for peace. Currently, we have no clear answers as to why PM Abiy Ahmed would consider President Isaias of Eritrea as a trusted partner for peace. Obviously, the gross human rights violations in Eritrea can’t be PM Abiy’s primary concern. However, if sustainable peace and economic integration between the peoples of Eritrea and Ethiopia is what he is seeking for then before poking a hornet's nest with a stick he needs to have the vision to see beyond a temporary gain and foresee what an Abiy-Isaias relationship will most likely turn out to be. As one adage rightfully states, all roads lead to Rome and with Isaias still in the game, any type of peace agreement the dictator is a part of may take a wrong turn and eventually lead to further bloodshed.  Some people may argue why we should worry about a renewed bloodshed when the peoples of Asmara and Addis have welcomed PM Abiy and President Isaias in large numbers and embraced the medemer message unequivocally. I must say hold tight, it may become clear as we dissect the Trojan horse story and relate it to the current realities.      

Once more, this article seeks to reflect on the latest actions of the Eritrean and Ethiopian governments, how people’s perceptions may be forming based on the latest developments in the region and the potential consequences. In general, Eritreans and Ethiopians are known for being proud, modest and peace-loving people with similar cultural, spiritual and social values and traditions. Despite the similarities of their backgrounds and the love they have for one another, bad governments have been preying on the naivete of Eritreans and Ethiopians to ignite wars and animosities between them. The fact that PM Abiy has finally taken a different route and made significant efforts to end long years of conflict and tension between the two countries was indeed encouraging. Till Isaias took the center stage. This brings us to the question how do Eritreans and Ethiopians currently perceive peace and how is that related to the word medemer, an Amharic word that has become PM Abiy’s signature term. To answer this question, I will use the Trojan story to highlight the perspectives, understandings and attitudes of many Eritreans and Ethiopians based on my personal observations.   

From the Ethiopian perspective, the war for Badme may be perceived as prince Paris of Troy Helen stealing from her husband king Menelaus. As such, the bloody Trojan War can be compared to the Ethio-Eritrean border war except the latter was much deadly. The way Isaias Afwerki has isolated Eritrea and Eritreans can also be compared to king Priam keeping the people of Troy within the fortified city and isolating them from the rest of the world. In this scenario, PM Abiy Ahmed represents the messenger of peace bringing with him the wooden horse (medemer) to win the war with Eritrea through fekr yashenfal (love wins) message. Incidentally, many Ethiopians who have embraced the medemer agenda seem to have forgotten about Helen (Badme) and they are overwhelmed with joy thinking messenger Abiy has reintegrated the city of Troy (Eritrea) with the Greek empire (Ethiopia).      

Like the people of Troy once did, most Eritreans are welcoming the messenger and the message of peace. What they are not sure about is the giant horse, the medemer agenda. Why this giant thing is coming into their city is still a mystery to many Eritreans. Consequently, the opinions of Eritreans on the medemer agenda are quite different. For illustration purposes, if Eritreans were to be asked to guess what’s inside that giant horse, each person’s answer would fall in one of the following: 

  • Ethiopians who want nothing but peaceful and friendly coexistence with Eritreans  
     
  • Ethiopians who want to dominate Eritrea again
     
  • Ethiopians who want access to the Red Sea by claiming Asab as an Ethiopian port
     
  • Nothing inside the horse which means empty promises on both sides
     
  • The horse may be transporting Eritrean security agents to Ethiopia to safeguard PM Abiy from TPLF

In general, many Eritreans are suspicious of this peace agreement between the two governments for good reasons and they trust neither Isaias nor the medemer agenda. What is also concerning to many Eritreans is Ethiopian love for Isaias or as PM Abiy put it wedi afie (I wish Abiy knew wedi afie is one of those sarcastic names some Eritreans use to present Isaias as someone who’s above the law). Many Ethiopians are also completely oblivious of the fact that embracing a brutal dictator and a psychopath is the same as ignoring the suffering of a people they claim they love. Deliberately or not, they are cheering for a dictator who has being persecuting Eritreans for almost three decades. If it is the people of Eritrean they are in love with, perhaps it is not too late to embrace Eritreans by rejecting the dictator and standing on the side of the victimized people. 

Tragically, many Ethiopians have also started to believe there is a magic medemer formula that can be used for adding all fractions to get a whole number. In the case of Eritrea, they are assuming the medemer agenda will work because Isaias has finally opened the gates or the parentheses. To validate their assumptions, references are made about the excitement of thousands of Eritreans when PM Abiy visited Asmara. The fundamental flaws in these assertions include their views of Isaias as a man of peace and their interpretations of the excitement of Eritreans as an acceptance for reunification of Eritrea with Ethiopia. To begin with, Isaias was, still is and will continue to be a blood thirsty man who can’t even keep a small country of 4 million people at peace with itself. He visited Ethiopia to celebrate the defeat of TPLF, to get credit for it and to strengthen his tattering regime at any cost. Period. In the coming few months, if Ethiopia takes a wrong turn and suddenly plunges itself into a major conflict between Ethiopian nationalities or administrative regions, it is highly likely Isaias will be involved to aggravate the situation by supporting one side and antagonizing the other. He would carry out such a wicked act hoping to come out as victorious and to become the most powerful man in the horn. In addition, thriving in conflicts is all that he knows and that’s the only environment he can operate under. To know where he is going with Ethiopia, understanding how he came about and how he attempts to benefit from other conflicts in the region may be helpful. The manner in which he took advantage of the ongoing Arab conflict is a good reference. Now, as Ethiopia passes through a delicate transition period, Isaias will continue his adventures, take significant risks and make outrageous promises to steer any unfortunate situation in Ethiopia towards his own advantage. Using the excitement of thousands of Asmara residents to validate PM Abiy’s medemer agenda is also flawed. It would be helpful to remember the thousands of Eritreans in Asmara, just like the people of Troy were excited about the end of war, not the Trojan horse (the medemer agenda). Therefore, it’s helpful to remember that it’s highly likely the gimmickries of Isaias and the medemer agenda will be major hindrances for building peace and friendship between the peoples of Eritrea and Ethiopia. After all, peace and friendship will always require representative and progressive parties on both ends and putting the people’s interests at the forefront.    

For now, many Eritreans seem to be giving PM Abiy the benefit of the doubt hoping his calls for peace are genuine. However, after the honeymoon is over, people will start to question how Eritreans and Ethiopians have benefited from the Abiy-Isaias relationship, if at all. At this critical time, PM Abiy has a choice to make. Along with his messages of peace and friendship he can address the core issues, main causes and the underlying dynamics which fostered the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia. If he takes this approach, the likelihood that Eritreans and Ethiopians will march together towards sustainable peace and friendship is very high. 

If the two countries are doomed to repeat past mistakes however, PM Abiy may continue his appeasement policy towards Eritrea and specifically towards Isaias. In return, the Prime Minister may ask significant help from Isaias to put out political fires in Ethiopia. In several of his speeches Isaias has already indicated his concurrence by saying “we are in this together”, meaning how would go all the way with Abiy. The Prime Minister may also allow Isaias to push him to take risky political adventures. In any case, the outcome will be very disastrous. 

PM Abiy may also attempt to be a life support for an aging Eritrean dictator and by doing so he may try to fulfill the expansionist mentality of some Ethiopians. If that’s what the Prime minister is going after, the truth will be revealed sooner than expected and it will become abundantly clear PM Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia is in fact the Trojan horse himself, this time acting as a malicious computer program attempting to control the controller of a system and to steal something that is very personal to all Eritreans. In this case, Eritreans will not only be required to fix a malfunctioning system but also implement a strong anti-malware defenses.              

May the peoples of Eritrea and Ethiopia be given the opportunity to build a genuine, sustainable and durable peace and friendship within their countries and with one another.   

Thomas Solomon     

 
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