Eritrea at a Crossroads

(Tigrinya ኤርትራ ኣብ ቃራና መንገዲ)

Eritrea as a nation waged a hard struggle and made enormous sacrifices for the liberation, reconstruction and development of the country and the freedom, progress and prosperity of the people. It is thus very painful to witness, and quite unbearable to admit, that things have gone awry in independent Eritrea. However, there exists no viable alternative to confronting and striving to change this unpalatable reality.

 

What went wrong and why? How can it be rectified?

 

Eritrea at a Crossroads: A Narrative of Triumph, Betrayal and Hope traces the historical evolution of Eritrea from pre-colonial times to post independence. It attempts to locate Eritrea in its historical and geopolitical context, contributing to a better grasp of the ‘root causes and key drivers’ of the status quo and the challenges facing democratic State reconstitution. Furthermore, it aspires to provide the basis for an objective understanding of the current state of affairs and point the way forward.

 

At the same time, www.eri-platform.org serves as a forum for greater outreach via informed, inclusive dialogue towards national reconstitution and revival. In this context, the objective of serialising Eritrea at a Crossroads, in the form of short chapter summaries, is to convey the essence of the work. This aims to stimulate a deeper interest in the narrative as a whole and encourage engagement, commentary and feedback. 

 

In facilitating group sessions, seminars, conferences and online discussions, the overarching goal is to stimulate constructive dialogue, grounded on basic knowledge of the salient features of modern Eritrean history and a common understanding of the current situation in the country. This would help cultivate a shared vision of a State of Eritrea based on constitutional order and democratic principles, committed to the rule of law and respect for human rights. The ultimate purpose is to contribute to a realignment of the present reality with the original ideals that powered the struggle for self-determination: freedom, justice, democracy and prosperity for all.

“Eritrea at a Crossroads: A Narrative of Triumph, Betrayal and Hope”

The chapter summaries below are available in English and Tigrinya.

Hover over the chapter for a preview, and click to read more.

Press Release – Released 05.12.2016

The History of Eritrea Tells of Heroic Struggle, Constant Betrayal, Abiding Hope   Eritrea at a Crossroads: A Narrative of Triumph, Betrayal and Hope outlines the making of modern Eritrea in East Africa via the colonial system and its long journey to self-determination. The country’s development is complicated by constant external intervention impacting the evolution of its modern history. Contemporary Eritrea’s is a story of heroic triumph in struggle, of…

Foreword by Glenys Kinnock – Released 12.12.2016

In 1991, the Eritrean liberation forces marched into Asmera, the capital of Eritrea, ending three decades of a war aged against Ethiopia. Two years later, the triumphant freedom fighters conducted an internationally-monitored referendum, the outcome of which formalised Eritrea’s status as an independent sovereign state.   This was a time of hope and of anticipation of a better future by the people who, as I saw for myself when I…

Preface – Released 19.12.2016

The inspiration for this book stems from a desire to contribute to the existing body of knowledge about Eritrea and the Eritrean people, both historical and contemporary, as well as to the internal debate on the future of Eritrea, from the perspective of an Eritrean freedom fighter. I had initially wanted to write about the Eritrean experience of self-reliance in waging armed struggle for self-determination and in the pursuit of…

About the Author – Released 27.12.2016

Ambassador Andebrhan Welde Giorgis is a member of the Board and Senior Adviser of the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), Senior Expert in the Peace and Security Section of the Global Governance Institute (GGI) and an Adjunct Professor of Diplomacy, African Politics and International Relations at Vesalius College, Free University of Brussels (VUB) where he is also a research fellow. He has extensive experience as a freedom fighter, scholar,…

Ch 1. Introduction መላለዪ – Released 16.02.2017

Eritrea, a small country with a strategic location in the volatile Horn of Africa, won liberation in 1991 through an armed struggle that had lasted 30 years, and declared independence in 1993 following a referendum. Having waged an epic struggle however, Eritrea today is littered with the shards of broken expectations, broken promises and broken hopes of freedom, justice, and progress. Twenty-two years past de facto independence, the Eritrean people…

Ch 2. The Making of Eritrea – Released 23.02.2017

This chapter presents a brief profile of the land and the people of Eritrea, taking a glimpse at the ancient history of the region, and asserts that the Eritreans, like other African peoples, existed in history before the moment of their contact with Europe and the Europeans. It provides a bird’s eye view of the evolution of the region’s pre-colonial and traces the matrix of constant invasions, pollution movements, migrations and…

Ch 3. A Plan to Dismember Eritrea – Released 02.03.2017

The plan to partition Eritrea, divide its people and destroy its identity, and the plunder of its productive assets that retarded its development, under the British Military Administration are covered in Chapter 3: A Plan to Dismember Eritrea. The chapter describes the awakening of the Eritrean people’s aspirations for self-determination, the chain of events that unfolded, and the resultant turbulence whose severe ‘stresses and strains’ brought Eritrea to the brink…

Ch 4. European to African Colonialism – Released 13.03.2017

The interplay of geopolitical factors and the ambitions and rivalry of the Big Powers that blocked Eritrea’s quest for decolonisation while appeasing Ethiopia’s claims by using the UN to impose a federal union with Ethiopia against the wishes of the Eritrean people, are considered in Chapter 4: Transition From European to African Colonialism. The chapter describes how the UN violated the principle of self-determination, facilitated Eritrea’s continued domination by an…

Ch 5. The Struggle for Self-Determination – Released 20.03.2017

The legitimacy in international law of the right of self-determination, in the dual sense of the right of a nation and the right of a people, and the applicability of the principle to the case of Eritrea as such, are outlined in Chapter 5: The Arduous Struggle for Self-Determination. This chapter bares the UN failure to uphold its own Charter and declarations with respect to Eritrea’s legitimate claim to, and…

Ch 6. State Construction & Development – Released 11.04.2017

This chapter depicts the initial commitment of the nascent state to construct a democratic government based on the rule of law as the ‘foundation of economic growth, social harmony and progress’. It hails the pledge to establish a constitutional political system that respects democratic principles, human rights and civil liberties.   Further, the chapter features the promise to rehabilitate and develop a ‘modern, technologically advanced, and internationally competitive economy within the…

Ch 7. Self-Reliance & the Coupon Economy – Released 11.05.2017

The indelible link between Eritrea’s domestic and foreign policy and its impact on the evolution of the state are featured in Chapter 7: Self-Reliance and the Coupon Economy. The chapter notes the positive external environment and the outpouring of international goodwill and support that greeted the advent of independent Eritrea, appreciates the great opportunity that this offered for constructive engagement, and appraises the regime’s imprudent and counterproductive policy responses to…

Ch 8. Scourge of Indefinite National Service – Released 18.05.2017

The Scourge of Indefinite National Service affirms the importance of rules-based, duration-specific and well-applied programme of national service to build a reliable reserve force as an element of national defence strategy. It lauds the role of a reserve force, as an alternative to a large standing army, to supplement a small professional army in the event of need and to participate at times in meaningful development projects implemented in accordance…

Ch.9 Resort to Force as a Default Mode – Released 02.06.2017

Disagreements and disputes in the internal relations of an organisation are normal and should be treated as such through dialogue. That is the focus of Chapter 9: Resort to Force as a Default Mode. The chapter analyses the historical and structural causes of the resort to force as a default mode and the recurrent use of coercion, in the form of suspension, demotion, transfer, detention, torture or elimination, as an arbiter…

Ch. 10 Disconnect between Policy & Practice – Released 09.06.2017

Disconnect between Policy and Practice contrasts the policies and practices of the government in terms of the establishment of a constitutional, democratic and developmental state capable of promoting political participation, gender equality, and religious freedom. Using the policy instruments provided by the National Charter, the Macro-Policy paper and the ratified Constitution as benchmarks, the chapter exposes the existence of an enormous disparity between the stated policies and actual practices of the…

Ch. 11 The African State in Crisis – Released 20.06.2017

Some of the recent literature on the nature of the postcolonial state in Africa is reviewed in Chapter 11: The African State in Crisis in order to ground the Eritrean experience in state construction and development in the African setting. The chapter highlights the European heritage of the state system in Africa and interrogates its suitability to the socio-economic conditions of African society. It notes the impacts of slavery, colonialism…

Ch. 12 Eritrea: The Future of Africa that Works – Released 26.06.2017

Chapter 12: Eritrea: The Future of Africa that Works contrasts the historical colonialist and nationalist narratives, on the one hand, and the official and dissenting perspectives within the nationalist narrative, on the other. It contends that Eritrea’s record has not borne out the optimism of sympathetic observers, like Abdulrahman Babu, that independent Eritrea would deliver democratic development and prosperity where other African states had failed. The chapter asserts that the…

Ch. 13 Engaging the Eritrean Diaspora – Released 17.07.2017

The origins, formation national role of the Eritrean diaspora are described in Chapter 13: Engaging the Diaspora. It explains how interstate conflicts and domestic repression have driven more and more people out of the country to join the diaspora since the start of the border war with Ethiopia in 1998 and the government’s crackdown in September 2001. It also describes how the relative size, wealth, educational attainment and close attachment…

Ch. 14 In the Service of Eritrea – Released 20.07.2017

The writer speaks of the formative influences on his political perspective and dedication to the cause of the liberation, reconstruction and development of Eritrea and the progress, prosperity and wellbeing of the people in Chapter 14: In the Service of Eritrea. The chapter highlights his efforts to revitalise the University of Asmera as a centre of higher learning and applied research and institute the Bank of Eritrea as a functional…

Ch. 15 An Avoidable War – Released 09.08.2017

Post-independence issues of war and peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia are covered in Chapter 15: An Avoidable War. The chapter notes the various missed opportunities, during and after the war, to agree on the colonial treaty border and secure durable peace. It traces the slide towards an unnecessary war between former allies, the human tragedy of the deportations, the evolution and devastation of the war, and the international effort to…

Ch. 16 An Uneasy Truce – Released 16.08.2017

The role of the writer as Commissioner and the UN Mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia (UNMEE) in the effort to implement the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities is described in Chapter 16: An Uneasy Truce. The chapter notes the failure of the parties to resolve key operational issues, of the UN Security Council to address them, and of the UN and the AU to honour their commitment to enforce the…

Ch. 17 Securing the Peace Between Eritrea and Ethiopia – Released 22.08.2017

Chapter 17: Securing the Peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia crystallises the key provisions of, and the effort to implement, the Algiers Agreement. It notes the omission of the Inquiry Commission and the creation of the Claims and Boundary commissions. It summarises the final damage awards of the Claims Commission, the territorial significance of the delimitation decision of the Boundary Commission, and its virtual demarcation of the boundary. In addition, it…

Ch. 18 We Didn’t Do It for This – Released 30.08.2017

The concluding chapter, Chapter 18: We Didn’t Do It for This expresses the author’s sense of profound deception and disappointment, shared by many veterans of the independence war, at the present predicament of Eritrea and the Eritrean people. It decries the betrayal of the Eritrean people by their own government, the desertion of the promises of freedom, democracy, justice, and prosperity, for which the armed struggle was fought and great…

Ch 1. Introduction  

Ch 2. The Making of Eritrea  

2.1 The Land and the People

2.2 A Glimpse at Pre-Colonial History

2.3 Advent of Italian Colonial Rule

2.4 The Colonial Legacy

2.5 Fall of Italian Colonial Rule



Ch 3. The Plan to Dismember Eritrea  

3.1 British Military Occupation

3.2 The British Partition Plan

3.3 British Policy of Destabilisation

3.4 British Pillage of Eritrea

3.5 Imperial Ethiopian Interference

3.6 Eritrean Aspirations for Freedom

3.7 Formation of Political Parties

3.8 British Intrigues and Ethiopian Subversion



Ch 4. Transition from European to African Colonialism  

4.1 Maritime Access as a Pillar of Cooperation

4.2 The Geopolitical Setting

4.3 Federation of Eritrea with Ethiopia

4.4 Abrogation of the Federation



Ch 5. The Arduous Struggle for Self-Determination  

5.1 The Right to Self-Determination in International Law

5.2 The Dialectics of Repression and Resistance

5.3 Armed Struggle as Political Resistance

5.4 Choosing between Bad and Worse

5.5 A New Shift in the Military Balance

5.6 Solidarity Amidst Isolation

5.7 Eritrea Independent at Last



Ch 6. State Construction and State Development  

6.1 Essential Policy Instruments

6.2 A Unitary Eritrean State

6.3 Land and Internal Mobility

6.4 A Secular Eritrean State

6.5 A United Eritrean State

6.6 A Democratic Eritrean State

6.7 Gender Equality

6.8 A Developmental Eritrean State



Ch 7. Self-Reliance and the Coupon Economy  

7.1 Imprudent Policy Responses

7.2 Self-Reliance as a Euphemism for Isolation

7.3 Foreign Policy as an Extension of Self-Reliance

7.4 Eritrea-US Relations

7.5 Eritrea-EU Cooperation

7.6 The Shame of the Coupon Economy

7.7 A Contracting Economy in Crisis



Ch 8.The Scourge of Indefinite National Service  

8.1 Voluntary versus Forced Service

8.2 Proclamation of National Service

8.3 Erosion of Legitimacy

8.4 The waste of Student Summer Work Camps

8.5 Linking Infrastructure to Development

8.6 Opportunity Cost of National Service

8.7 The Silent Crisis of Mass Exodus

8.8 Open-Ended National Service



Ch 9. Resort to Force as a Default Mode  

9.1 Force as an Arbiter of Discord

9.2 The Historical Setting

9.3 The Confrontation

9.4 Detention to Suppress Dissent

9.5 Concentration of Power



Ch 10. Disconnect Between Policy and Practice  

10.1 Establishing a Constitutional State

10.2 Building a Democratic System of Government

10.3 Instituting Participatory Politics

10.4 Ensuring Gender Equality

10.5 Constructing a Secular state

10.6 Constituting a Developmental State

10.7 Divergent Policy and Practice



Ch 11. The African State in Crisis  

11.1 Snafus of Africa’s Development

11.2 The African Nation-State as a European Graft

11.3 A Dysfunctional Predatory State

11.4 Challenges of the African State

11.5 A State in Crisis



Ch 12. Eritrea: The Future of Africa that Works?  

12.1 The Colonial Narrative

12.2 The Eritrean Narrative

12.3 The Eritrean Counter-Narrative

12.4 Eritrea: The Future of Africa that Works!

12.5 Golden Opportunity to Blaze a New trail

12.6 False Hopes and Thwarted Expectations

12.7 A Prototype Authoritarian State



Ch 13.Engaging the Eritrean Diaspora  

13.1 The Evolution of the Eritrean Diaspora

13.2 The Diaspora as a Global Player

13.3 The Eritrean Diaspora as a National Actor

13.4 A Diaspora in Search of Engagement



Ch 14. In the Service of Eritrea  

14.1 The Formative Years

14.2 Dedication to the Eritrean Cause

14.3 Revitalising the University of Asmera

14.4 Building a Functional Central Bank



Ch 15. An Avoidable War  

15.1 An Amicable Divorce

15.2 Missed Opportunities

15.3 Allies at War

15.4 The Deportations

15.5 The Evolution of the War



Ch 16. An Uneasy Truce  

16.1 Implementing the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities

16.2 Humanitarian Mine Action

16.3 Pending Operational Issues



CH 17. Securing the Peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia  

17.1 Delimitation of the Boundary

17.2 Virtual Demarcation of the Boundary

17.3 Imperative of Durable Peace



Ch 18. We Did Not Do It For This!  

18.1 So Much for So Little!

18.2 Serenading in the Past

18.3 On a Personal Note

18.4 Crossing the Rubicon

18.5 Towards a Functional State



Bibliography