Capital Ethiopia Newspaper

Do not allow another attack

The past year has been filled with tumultuous events with neighboring Eritrea. A ‘Baghdad-style’ car bomb attack was planned in Addis Ababa during the African Union summit in January 2011. That completely foiled incident led the United Nations Security Council to pass another stern sanction. But that didn’t stop them from engaging in another terrorist act a year after the terror attack “that was designed to “make Addis Ababa look like Baghdad.
On Tuesday, January 17, five European tourists – two Germans, two Hungarians and an Austrian – were killed, four injured – an Italian and a Hungarian and two Ethiopians – and two tourists and two Ethiopians were kidnapped out of 27 tourists who were visiting  the Afar Regional State. The gunmen were not caught.
A couple of days after this incident, the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a strong statement that the Eritrean government is to blame for this heinous act. “It will face the consequences,” the statement added. The statement didn’t specify the act that the Ethiopian government will take. The Eritrean government as usual categorically denied any involvement in the incident. Instead the Afar Revolutionary Democratic United Front (ARDUF) that opposes the Ethiopian ruling party took responsibility for that act. This is a group that is fully supported by the Eritrean government. 
The coincidence is surprising. The foiled plot last year was intended to take place during the AU summit. This time the act of the insurgents took place a week from the AU summit. Though the Eritrean leadership denied any involvement in this act, the timing tells the continental leaders ‘don’t go to Addis Ababa for the summit. The security situation in the country is uncertain. Proof: the incident in Afar over the tourists.
By now everyone knows that the heinous striking trend of Isayas is unabated. It will persist in 2012 unless strong action is taken. The United Nations Security Council that is a vital instrument in reshaping the globe has sanctioned the state of Eritrea. Yet if the act of the insurgents against five tourists in Afar region demonstrated anything, it was the inability of the UN to stop Isayas from engaging in such destabilizing and inhuman acts.
Let’s start with sanctions. This was the second time the UN imposed  sanctions on Eritrea in the space of two years. The recent one was in October 2011. Though clearly the Eritrean government is worried about the UN’s sanction, the regime is an expert in dealing with these kind of challenges. Eritrea faces no transfer of power threats nor does it have a succession schema. About 95 percent of the country’s top leadership has been in power for the last 20 years. We don’t officially observe any faction developing in Eritrea except the emergence of splitters in the wake of the Ethio-Eritrea war 12 years ago. The existing senior leadership is the first generation that are personally selected and blessed by Isayas Afewerki, the architect of Eritrea.
Its foreign policy assertiveness over the last 18 years including territorial issues has provoked war with almost all neighboring countries; Sudan, Yemen, Ethiopia and Djibouti. Right after Eritrea invaded the Ethiopian border town, Badme in May 1998 that ensued a two-year war that cost tens of thousands of lives, the eastern African countries stood up to Eritrea through IGAD, the regional association, and band together more closely and ask openly for common action in the region. It is now time for the IGAD and the Ethiopian government to take action as the State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Birhane Gerbre Kirstos puts it ‘making Isayas out of play.’
The result is that Eritrea is now quieter in the region than it was before the pre-Badme era. This shows that the leadership of Eritrea knows only one language to prevent it from this heinous act: to stand up together.
So what is next? The top leadership persisted in vicious and destabilizing activities. We know from long experience that sanctions against rogue states have never been effective for years. These are manipulative personalities who cannot be persuaded to accept the international rule of law and order. As Prime Minister Meles Zenawi once put it, this is the leadership ruled by the law of the rebellious temperament.
Considering this the State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Birhane Gerbre Kirstos a month ago stated that if the Eritrean leadership tries to wage war against Ethiopia for the second time, it will be the final resort. “We take action that will make Isayas out of play for the third attempt.” Killing five tourists may not be considered waging war. But it is an act of aggression. It is also a confrontation through a force that it has organized, trained and armed for its proxy war.
Well, the Eritrean leadership has been sponsoring a proxy war in Ethiopia. Ethiopian rebel groups such as the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) have been under the sponsorship of Eritrea. So is the terrorist group, Al-Shabab, in Somalia. Eritrea’s continuing relationship with Al-Shabab “appears designed to legitimize and embolden the group rather than to curb its extremist orientation or encourage its participation in a political process.”
“Moreover, Eritrean involvement in Somalia reflects a broader pattern of intelligence and special operations activity, including training, financial and logistical support to armed opposition groups in Djibouti, Ethiopia, the Sudan and possibly Uganda,” as the UN corroborated.
After having sufficient evidence is it not the time for the Ethiopian government and IGAD to take action that will make the Eritrean President out of play?
From the strong statement given by the Ministry of Ethiopian Foreign Affairs it seems this is the time to punish members of the abnormal leadership in Eritrea including President Isayas Afewerki who only understands one primal language: violence. IGAD also decided this unruly behavior of Eritrea shouldn’t continue.  These are important decisions and a sign of better understanding of that leadership.
We have seen the international community punish dictators in Africa and elsewhere in the world such as the Libyan dictator Mohamed Gaddafi and the late Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia. These were leaders who could not understand soft words. Negotiations and persuasions are not found in their vocabularies. Knowing this the worlds superpowers treated them in a language they understand most. That language put Milosevic in the dock of The Hague International Criminal Court (ICC) though he died before the final verdict was handed.  The demise of the Libyan dictator brought an end of a 42-year era in Libya.
As one of the longest serving brutal dictators, Isayas should be treated in the same manner. Patience leads to another killing and kidnapping. We should not allow a dictator to repeat these kinds of barbaric acts time and again. It is now time for the IGAD and the Ethiopian government to take action as the State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Birhane Gerbre Kirstos puts it ‘making Isayas out of play.’