When listening to the condemnatory announcement of the Italian foreign Ministry two weeks ago about the Ethiopian limited military operation against Eritrea, I didn’t find it a confusing stand. It sounds like Italy’s position was based on the obvious reasoning, from their old principles. If they reason from reality, based on facts on the ground I don’t think they (Italians) would say what they said.
The fact on the ground is that Eritrea has been involved in continuous violent acts of destabilization in the sub-region, Eritrea supports terrorist activities in the sub region which over the years have caused the loss of civilian lives including very many tourists.
Plus, Eritrea is a small country with limited natural and agricultural resources that barely earns its means of survival, but thinks much bigger than its size. Militarily Eritrea has an over 350 thousand strong force that is capable of putting the population well under control of the dictator President Isayas Afeworki.
Ethiopia with a population of 80 million has rich natural resource and agricultural potential. With a strong growing economy capable of feeding both the Eritreans and Ethiopians, it has a capacity to attract huge international investment. This is not to deny that recurrent drought coupled with the lack of good governance brought food assistance time and again. In terms of military Ethiopia has a real strong army that can easily punish rogue states like Eritrea and Somalia.
With long history, Ethiopia has always remained loyal and respectful to the international law and order. When foreign forces intruded its territory it has thwarted consecutive invaders. Egypt, Turkey and Italy were among the few invading powers that tasted the heroic resistance of the Ethiopian people. What was odd in the case of Italy was that its attempt to subdue Ethiopia two times in the space of 40 years. In the first attempt in 1896 on March 2, the Italians were trounced in a half day battle at Adwa. That was indeed a humiliating defeat for a European power at the time. In fact it was the first big win of the black power over the Europeans. The second attempt took place in May 1936. The Italians had a brief success for occupying Ethiopia for five years.
Eritrea remained under Italian rule for nearly 60 years before it was reunited with Ethiopia in 1952. The long stay of Italians in Eritrea gave them (Italians) the belief that it is theirs. Based on the old principles it is natural for Italians to be inclined to side with Eritrea. The recent condemnatory Italian announcement could possibly emerge from this old principle.
Considering the evil did of Isayas Afeworki, the latest military action of the Ethiopian government on three military camps, Ramid, Gelahbe and Gimbi, located some 18Km, was a genuine and accepted act. As an Ethiopian from the centre, the limited Ethiopian military mission is much less than the expected target. Unseating Isayas not to repeat his heinous act may be the ultimate. In light of this the announcement of the Italian Foreign Ministry really upset me. To share my feeling read the words of Italy’s Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi: “The foreign ministry is monitoring reports of an armed Ethiopian attack on Eritrean soil with deep concern, and firmly condemns all recourse to violence as a means for resolving disputes.”
The government of Ethiopia was quick to react. It said Italy lacks the will to play a constructive role in the Horn of Africa following Rome’s remarks that condemns Ethiopia’s latest incursion which destroyed three military camps inside Eritrea. The aim of this attack is only at wiping out military camps that have been used to train militants destined to destabilize Ethiopia. To further elaborate the purpose of the operation, the Ethiopian government said the attacks are limited to securing border security against militants that used the Eritrean camps to launch attacks inside Ethiopia’s borders including one that killed five European tourists in January this year. That was, in fact, a huge embarrassment for he government.
Well, the big international powers like the United States of America and France also asked for both sides to show restraint. In their case it is understandable. They don’t want the repeat of the atrocious war that claimed close to a hundred thousand lives some 12 years ago. What they have forgotten is that Isayas now doesn’t have a military power to stand the Ethiopian mighty force. The first war broke their backbone and now the army’s major duty is to keep the people under the foot of the tyrant.
That is why Eritrea announced that it will not retaliate and preached that it stands for peace. This has never been the behavior of Isayas for years. Literally there has been no neighbor on whom Eritrea didn’t wage full scale war or at the very least incursion of the territory. Sudan was the first victim of border incursion in the early days of their separation from Ethiopia. War was waged on Yemen. Djibouti was time and again invaded by Eritrean forces. They have been meddling in the internal affairs of Somalia all through. Then the big war was declared by Isayas on Ethiopia in 1998. The consequence of this bloody conflict has shown Eritrea’s proper size.
Knowing all these facts, Italy should have never hesitated to support the limited Ethiopian military operation had it not been the old principle. All facts on the ground show that a punitive and collective action is necessary to take measure against the tyrant.
The architect of disturbance, Isayas, has a very special survival instinct. During his struggle to separate from Ethiopia he acted as a democrat to appeal for the western powers. At times he was acting like a communist to get ammunition from China and the former Soviet Union. When he thinks the time is fit to be an Arab, he requested to be the member of the Arab league. At other times he is inclined as strong supporter of Israel. For many years he was sharing breath with the Libyan dictator Muammer Gaddafi. After Gaddafi got the price that he deserved, Isayas sat down with empty hand.
I think at this crucial time he (Isayas) found out the former colonial master as the only savior. If we give all the benefit of the doubt to the Italians, assuming that they understand what is on the ground, we may conclude that they are manipulated by this cunning character of Issayas. Don’t bet that dictators don’t manipulate the big powers. We have seen in our eyes that the Korean leader Kim Il Sung brought the two big powers, the Soviet Union and China, to his side during the Korean war that ended with the separation of Korea in to two, South and north Korea. Cuba was close to draw the U.S.A and the Soviet Union in to war during the missile crises in 1962.
Keeping this in mind Italy is also known for changing sides. During the Second World War Italy unexpectedly changed side favoring the German Nazis. In recent Arab uprising they were inclined to give support to Gaddafi of Libya. But swiftly changed side with the international allied force. It is also possible to change mind considering the facts on the ground that disfavor Isayas Afeworki.