The absence of peace is ruining the life of Eritreans and the neighbouring people.
Time to start peace movement.
By Petros Tesfagiorgis 04-08-18
The absence of peace is ruining the life of the people of Eritreans. The people express their longings for peace at funerals during New Year celebrations and at religious events. The people of Eritrea are crying out for peace. But their voice has remained unheard. The people inside Eritrea cannot organise a campaign for peace, other than express their wishes and pray. There is no freedom of expression, let alone the right to demonstrate for peace. But the Diaspora can do it. If they do, it will give energy to their activities for unity and justice. So far most of the activities are reactive and short term. Peace movements are proactive with a proper action plan. For the religious leaders it will be a spiritual journey.
To initiate a peace dialogue with the people of Ethiopia is a priority because no-peace, no war has served the Eritrean regime as an escape goat to hold the Eritrean youth hostage under the programme of indefinite national service/forced labour, which gave rise to the influx of huge number of refugees to exile, as well as other forms of human rights violations. Today Eritrean refugees are part of “Europe’s Refugee Crises”. Because of this, Western countries has a stake in peace in the Horn.
Peace with the people of Ethiopia is not as difficult as people may think. There is deep rooted historical and cultural link between our peoples. Co-operation in the fight against the Military Junta that deposed Emperor Haile Selassie in February 1974 built strong bonds of solidarity and trust. In the middle of the 1998-2000 war concerned Eritreans have formed an organisation called “Citizens for Peace in Eritrea” of which I was a founding member. Unity among Eritreans and peace with the people of Ethiopia. When it organised the first peace conference in Keren and Asmara – the support it got from the people was amazing. That experience has convinced me that peace movement will work. (I will write about CPE separately).
In late 60 th the Haile Sellasie 1 University students were extremely concerned of the poverty and lack of development that prevailed in Ethiopia. Progressive Ethiopian University students were inspired by the teachings of Marx and Lenin and started to see the socialist ideology as a way out of poverty and oppression. Slowly the socialist leaning, progressive university students got the upper hand in the students union and began exposing the feudal regime for mismanaging the people and the economy in their newspapers and in debates. They also organised demonstrations – condemning the Imperial government for ignoring the 1972 famine in Ethiopia and the unfair land holding system which deprived the Oromo population of their ancestral lands. The rallying cry was “Land to the tiller.” Land was at the centre of the uprising of the Oromo people, the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia: about 45% of the population. It was the 1972 famine and the unfair land holding system that led the downfall of Emperor Haile Sellasie.
The Ethiopian University students were the most radical students in Africa. They managed to influence the high school students – and created a revolutionary climate in Addis Ababa and in the provinces.
The reaction of Eritrean Students: The Eritrean progressive students came to realize that if the oppressive feudal system was replaced by a socialist Government the problem in Eritrea could be solved peacefully based on the right of people to self-determination. At that time an armed struggle was raging in the lowland of Eritrea that stated in 1961 by Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF). This was labelled as the mother of the Eritrean Revolution.
The Eritrean university students saw a light at the end of the tunnel and became very active in the Ethiopian students’ movement. Thus the Addis Ababa University has become the melting pot of revolutionaries. It brought together students from different nationalities to get to know each other.
The Eritrean students were encouraged to involve more when, for the first time, the question of the right to self-determination of the oppressed nationals was raised by an outspoken activist, Walelegn Mekonen (1). After that the question of Eritrea was being discussed openly, but informally between Eritreans and Ethiopians and this worried the Imperial Government.