The Geopolitical Repercussions of the Formation of Eritrea
INTRODUCTION BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY The birth of Eritrea as a newly independent state in the post Cold War era has had significant impact on its relations with neighboring countries especially Ethiopia. From historical point of view, the existing Ethio-Eritrea problem has direct relation to the internal factors, which contributed to the formation of ‘a separate Eritrean identity. ’ In this regard, almost all regimes of Ethiopia, including the existing regime, have played their own role that negatively affected the people of Eritrea and the Eritrean ‘issues’ in different times and in different degrees.
Therefore, the root cause of the problem of Eritrea, from the internal point of view, has to do with the failure of Emperor Yohaness IV in relation to the Hewett or Adwa Peace Treaty in which Britain betrayed him while he took enmity with the Sudanese Mahdists (Bahru, 1991:54-55). This resulted in the loss of Mareb Melash (in Tegre, a term indicating the land to the north of the Mareb River, Ibid: 12), without resistance and his life as well.
Emperor Menilek II’s power ambition and consolidation in the South, South West and East appeased the Mareb Melash, which enabled Italy to take over it without much resistance. Furthermore, Menilek II, in May 1889, through the Treaty of Wechale, Article III, granted the Italians considerable territory in the north (Ibid: 75).
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Italy thereby renamed the territory and established a colony over Eritrea in 1890 by detaching the ancient northern Abyssinian kingdom, which for a long time had been socially, economically, religiously and ethnically part of Ethiopia.
Emperor Haile Selassie’s denial of the democracy in Ethiopia in general and Eritrea in particular, after he unified Eritrea with ‘mother land’ Ethiopia with the termination of the Federation, was followed by the emergence of armed resistances. the Dergueue’s (Provisional Military Administration Committee) military responses for the ‘armed resistance’ and its brutality in the ‘war of independence’ had enlarged and strengthened the ‘armed resistance’ and thereby created, as Medhane(2007) says, ‘the need for collective security and the mentality of independence’ among the people of Eritrea. The collaboration of TPLF/EPRDF ith the EPLF during the ‘liberation struggle’, and the TPLF/EPRDF consideration of the ‘quest for independence of Eritrea’ as legitimate are some of the factors which paved the way for the emergence of the ‘State of Eritrea’ and ‘Eritrean nationalism. ’ In regard to the role of external powers, fascist Italy takes the biggest share in injecting and propagating Eritrean self-identification through a policy of divide and rule inculcated by fascist propaganda which paved the way for the birth of supremacist sentiment among the Tigrigna-speaking Eritrean urban elite vis-a-vis Tigray and other Ethiopian nationalities.
Particularly in the 1930s, the fascist authorities worked hard to make Eritreans feel different and superior to the people of Ethiopia at large and Tigray in particular. Furthermore, Italy as initiator and Britain during its military administration had also cultivated a political strategy of what they called ‘politica Tigrina versus ‘politica Sociona’ in order to create and aggravate differences among Ethiopians (Ibid). Therefore, both countries played a catalyst role.
Belete (2007) says “this has got a unique political repercussion in the minds of some historians as well as extreme nationalists of the north. It has triggered the thinking of non-Ethiopianism among nationalist in the North, while the opposite goes true to Shewa politicians. ” This later became a fertile ground for the hatred sentiment and politics between and among the Tigrigna speakers especially Eritreans and the central government which was considered as Amharan, especially composed of ‘Shewa’s elites. ’ Indeed, there was nothing which could be called as Eritrean nationalism before the colonial period.
Rather strong ties were there between the northern part of Abyssinia/Eritrea/ and the present Tigray province of Ethiopia in particular. As Medhane(2007) says, “Even after Italian 60 years of colonization, there was no Eritrean nationalism. The Italians made their efforts to create a new identity, a kind of Eritrean identity different from Ethiopia, different from Tigray, in fact some times superior to Ethiopia. They tried their best but even the Italians did not succeed to create an identity or nationalism as Eritrean identity.
This is due to the facts that even after all years of Italian colonial rule; Eritreans struggled to unite with what they called their ‘mother country. ” All these, however, might have had far reaching repercussion on the psychology of the Eritrean people. The separate Eritrean national consciousness, therefore, has a shorter history. Colonial rule and subjugation on the one hand ‘had left behind a negative socio-psychological context in Eritrea which led to change in the behavior of the Eritrean urban population towards Ethiopians.
On the other hand, the internal political problems of Ethiopia, specially the war perpetuated by the Dergue, had served as a means and reactive phenomena for the development of ‘Eritrean nationalism’ and its self image. The Eritrean nationalism, with its own self image and perception towards Ethiopia, stands against Ethiopia and seems to employ ‘hatred nationalism’ which is presently affecting Ethiopia. The ‘Eritrean nationalism,’ its incipient stage, had focused on developing a kind of political and military strategy aimed against Ethiopia as a strengthening factor.
In other words, it is Ethiopia which has become an excuse for the development of ‘Eritrean nationalism,’ that raised the banner to secede from Ethiopia. The political strategy deals with much broader categories like political, economic, scientific technological and military force. As a result the military-political strategy is referred to as Grand strategy. The military strategy is defined as the art or science of employing the armed forces of a nation to secure the objective of the national goal by application of forces or threat of use of forces.
Therefore, this paper would try to asses and thereby consider how ‘Eritrean nationalism’ and its political strategy have an impact on Ethiopian politics. STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM Behind the sources of ‘Eritrean nationalism’ there were external interests in addition to internal problems. Such factors had given a birth to ‘Eritrean Nationalist sentiment’ and paved the way for the quest for Independence of Eritrea which has a far reaching repercussion on Ethiopian politics.
Besides the role of Italy and Britain, the Arab Countries, for fear of the existence of a ‘Strong Christian’ state and due to the perception that Ethiopia is an ally of Israel, neighboring countries specially Sudan and Egypt, for fear of a strong Ethiopia that may block the Nile, and also Sudan’s perception of some connection and cooperation between Ethiopia and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A); Somalia’s ambitious ‘Land Quest’ on Eastern Ethiopia , had all been behind the Liberation Movements of Eritrea and backing the ‘Eritrean quest for secession.
Therefore, Eritrean nationalist movements, being a by product of external and internal factors, challenged Ethiopia directly through armed struggle and indirectly by manipulating Ethiopian political elements as well as mercenaries as agents and means to weaken Ethiopia. RESEARCH QUESTIONS This thesis would engage in answering the following questions: What were/are the internal factors as well as the role of external powers contributing to ‘Eritrean nationalism’ that affect Ethiopian politics?
How EPLF, the leadership of Eritrea, was able to manipulate Ethiopian political elements which are pro and anti-Ethiopian, ethnic-based secessionists and multi-ethnic groups, for the achievement and maintenance of its interests? Why the leadership of Eritrea always needs a state of war to unify the people of Eritrea as well as to secure its power through antagonizing its people with Ethiopia? HYPOTHESIS The unfriendly bilateral relation that exists today between Ethiopia and Eritrea is primarily due to the “Eritrean Nationalism” which thrives on the supportive elements from within Ethiopian political groups as well as xternal sources. OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY The main objective of this research is to analyze how ‘Eritrea’s nationalism’ and Eritrean self image as a State has been affecting Ethiopian politics. With regard to specific objectives, it aims to find out the main reasons and factors why Ethiopian politics has been used as an instrument by the Eritrean elites to achieve their own political and economic interests. SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The significance of this study could be seen from the fact that ‘Eritrean nationalism’ during the ‘war of independence’ as well as after independence has been affecting the Ethiopian politics to the extent of structuring today’s Ethiopian Politics. This thesis, hence, could be significant in showing how external interests injected and promoted the idea of independent Eritrea and how this later came to be the problem child of Ethiopia.
Besides, the significance of this study rests in its attempt to show how ‘Eritrean nationalism’ and the Eritrea’s political elites have been manipulating the Ethiopian political elements; thereby indicating how distorted history and its machineries have implicit and explicit impacts on both sides. It may also show how Eritrean elites, being backed by external forces, have been working to weaken the Ethiopian political harmony and unity. This study, moreover, could be significant, as it may show how Eritrea is a problem of Ethiopia and in so doing it may enable to realize the hidden agenda and interests of Eritrea’s elite.
METHODOLOGY AND METHOD The thesis employs qualitative strategy as its methodology trying to describe and analyze the dynamics of Eritrean nationalism and its impacts on Ethiopian politics. To do this, it tries to evaluate the historical, political situations and facts that gave birth to ‘Eritrean nationalism; and its consequent and impacts through obtaining various kinds of data-both primary and secondary. Secondary sources would include books, magazines, news papers, unpublished documents, and internet sources. The primary sources would be obtained through interviews.
Besides, sources like agreements, treaties and proclamations that have general and particular relevance to the thesis will be used. THE SCOPE AND LIMITATIONS OF THE THESIS The scope of this thesis in terms of subject and period includes the sources of ‘Eritrean nationalism’ and its impacts on Ethiopian politics following the establishment of EPLF (Eritrean People’s Liberation Front) as well as the 1991 defacto and the 1993 dejure independence of Eritrea after the referendum. This is because of the fact that EPLF has been a determining force/element in the politics of Eritrea as well as Ethiopia.
However, as this study mainly emphasizes on Eritrea’s impacts on post 1991 Ethiopian politics, it might seem that it will not show the over all socio-political and economic problems of the country that could have connection to the ‘Eritrean nationalism. ’ But, it will be less than complete to attribute the ‘Eritrean nationalism’ sentiment to be purely a by-product of external developments and situations. Therefore, assessment and analysis of the national environment that had led to the development of ‘Eritrean nationalism’ has been dealt.
In fact, with there has been some sort of time as well as financial constraints. ORGANIZATION OF THE THESIS The thesis comprises six chapters. Chapter one tries to describe some concepts and theoretical frameworks as it serves for the description, synthesizing and analysis of the forth coming issues in the thesis. Here, the conceptual definitions of ‘Nation-Nationalism, political strategy and impacts, colonialism as well as the theoretical base of conspiracy shall be addressed. Chapter two describes the historical background of the Eritrean issues.
Particularly it tries to asses briefly Ethiopian history in relation to its ex-northern part, Mareb Melash /Medri-Bahri/. The creation of Eritrea as colonial land and in the post World War II, the interests and impacts of external powers in the issue of Eritrea, the establishment and the end of the Federation as well as the impacts of the abrogation of the Federation shall be dealt in this chapter. Chapter three explains the sources of ‘Eritrean nationalism’ and its political impacts on the politics of Ethiopia before the independence of Eritrea. In relation to this, this chapter has four parts.
The first part shall cover the emergence and development of Eritrean ‘nationalism’ and nationalist ‘movements’/ ‘Fronts’ and their links and sources. The second part describes the background, objectives, links and the sources of Eritrean People’s Liberation Front /EPLF / and its domination in the ‘struggle for independence’. The third part shall cover the ‘pre independence’ relations of EPLF with Ethiopian political groups’. The fourth part shall see the end of the ‘war of independence’ as well as the referendum. Chapter four covers the ‘post Independence’ Eritrea and its political impacts on Ethiopia.
Particularly Eritrea’s role and impacts on ethnic and multi-ethnic Ethiopian political elements such as Oromo Liberation Front /OLF/, Ogaden National Liberation Front /ONLF/, Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front /EPPF/, Alliance For Democracy /AFD/ as well as the role and impacts of Eritrea behind the Union of Islamic Courts of Somalia /UICS/ shall be discussed. Chapter Five tries to come up with synthesis and analysis on the basis of the findings of the previous chapters. It’s in this chapter that the synthesis of and analysis on the sources and development of ‘Eritrean nationalism’, the links and sources of the ‘fronts’ and the roles of xternal powers; the ‘pre independence’ EPLF’s political impacts and its strategy of using EPRP, TPLF/EPRDF, OLF shall be done. This chapter shall cover ‘Ethio-Eritrea early relations and the war’; the role and impacts of ‘Eritrean government’ behind and in manipulating ethnic and multi ethnic Ethiopian political elements as well as the so called ‘Union of Islamic Court of Somalia. ’ Chapter six comes with conclusion as a way of summarizing major issues and the possible future positive actions which should be taken by Ethiopian political elites. CHAPTER ONE
I. CONCEPTUAL AND THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK Definitions and Sources of Nationalism and Nationhood “Nation”, according to Stalin, is defined as: “a historically evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life, and psychological make up manifested in a community of culture” (Davis, 1967:163). ‘Nation,’ according to (IGOUSoSS, 2005:128), is a human group conscious of forming a community, sharing a common culture, attached to clearly demarcated territory, having a common past and a common project for the future and claiming the right to rule itself.
A nation includes five dimensions: psychological (consciousness of forming a group), cultural, territorial, political and historical. By the term ‘nation-state’, is meant the ‘formation of a kind of state which has the monopoly of legitimate use of force and which seeks to unite its people by means of homogenization creating a common culture, symbols, values, traditions and myth of origin’. Nationalism is a sentiment of belonging to a community whose members identify with a set of symbols, beliefs and ways of life, and have the will to decide upon their common political destiny.
Nationalism theories, (Ibid: 111-12), can be divided into two broad categories: ‘Perennialism’ and ‘Modernism’. Perennialism concentrates on the history of nations which is described as ancient and immemorial. They see nation as a cultural community, immemorial, rooted, organic (natural based on languages) seamless (i. e. they see society as a whole), and as a popular community that reflects the needs and ideals of the people. Ancestral ties and culture are of great importance to the advocates of this theory.
On the other hand, modernists see the nation as a political community-modern, social construct and social creation, designed for an age of revolution and mass mobilization. The nation is seen as a creation of the elite in order to control and influence the thought and actions of the masses. They see nations as divided, different social groups representing religion, gender and class, having different needs and therefore, split into separate groupings. The theories are: A) Perennial Theories
Primordialist Socio-biological B) Modernization Theories Social Communication Theories Economistic Theories-Marxist and Non-Marxist Political-Ideological Theories The Dictionary meaning of the term, nation and nationalism, (The American Political Dictionary, 1966:10), is a sociological force which springs from unique cultural and historical factors which provide unity and aspiration to a given people through a sense of belonging together and shared values.
Nationalism binds together people who posses common cultural, linguistic, racial, historical or geographical characteristics or experiences and who give their loyalty to the same political group. Nation is any sizable group of people who are united by common bonds of geography, religion, language, race, custom and tradition, and through shared experiences and common aspirations. The term is often used interchangeably with state, but not all national groups have achieved statehood, although they all aspire to it (Ibid). Nationalism, (Wikipedia (2006), is an ideology that holds that a nation s the fundamental unit for human social life, and takes precedence over any other social and political principles. Nationalism typically makes certain political claims based upon this belief. Above all, it claims that the nation is the only fully legitimate basis for a state. Each nation is entitled to its own state, and that the borders of the state should be congruent with the borders of the nation. Nationalism refers to both a political doctrine and any collective action by political and social movements on behalf of specific nations.
The starting point of nationalism is the existence of nations which it takes as a given. Nations are typically seen as entities with a long history; therefore, most nationalists do not believe a nation can be created artificially. Nationalist movements see themselves as the representative of an existing, centuries-old nation. However, some theories of nationalism imply the reverse order – that the nationalist movements created the sense of national identity, and then a political unit corresponding to it, or that an existing state promoted a ‘national’ identity for itself. . 2 POLITICAL STRATEGY Strategy is a means to achieve certain goals and is not an end in itself. Political strategy can be defined as the mode the ruling class of a given country has chosen to attain its foreign policy objective in a given historical period including the choice of the form and method of operation on scene through the use of economic, political, psychological or military means (Alemayhu, 1988:9). Politico-military strategy is superior to military strategy. Military strategy deals with the raw physical military force.
In this armed force is used directly to destroy the enemy’s sprit of resistance and its armed forces to achieve victory. On the other hand, political, strategy deals with much broader categories like: political economic, scientific technological and military force, hence military political strategy is refereed to as “Grand Strategy”. Military strategy is defined as the art of science of employing the armed force of a nation to secure the objective of the national goal by application of forces or threat of use of forces (Ibid). . THEORIES OF CONSPIRACY Conspiracy theory, (Wikipedia, July 2006) is a theory that explains the ultimate cause of an event (usually a political, social, historical event) as a secret, and often deceptive, plot by a covert alliance of powerful people or organizations rather than as an overt activity or as natural occurrence. Advocates of conspiratorial views claim that most major events in history have been dominated by conspirators who manipulate political happenings from behind the scenes.
The term “conspiracy theory” is usually used by mainstream scholars and in popular culture to identify a type of folklore similar to an urban legend, especially an explanatory narrative which is constructed with methodological flaws. The term is also used pejoratively to dismiss claims that are alleged by critics to be misconceived, paranoid, unfounded, outlandish, irrational, or otherwise unworthy of serious consideration. For example “conspiracy nut” and “conspiracy theorist” are used as pejorative terms.
Some people who have their theory or speculation labeled a “conspiracy theory” reject the term as prejudicial. On the other hand, when conspiracy theories are offered as official claims (e. g. originating from a governmental authority, such as an intelligence agency) they are not usually considered as conspiracy theories. Accordingly Popper’s introduction of the term, “conspiracy theory”, in his two volume work, The Open Society and Its Enemies, 1938-43, used the term “conspiracy theory” to criticize the ideologies driving Fascism, Nazism and Communism.
Popper argued that totalitarianism was founded on “conspiracy theories” which drew on imaginary plots driven by paranoid scenarios predicated on tribalism, racism or class-ism. He even uses the term “conspiracy” to describe ordinary political activity in the classical Athens of Plato (who was the principal target of his attack in The Open Society and Its Enemies). A) An Integral Approach to Conspiracy Theory (or: “A Conspiracy Theory of Everything Wilber’s integral model, takes an “All-Quadrant” approach to whatever actions are advocated.
This means that not one of these quadrants ought to really super cede any of the others. The four quadrants in Integral Conspiracy Theory system is broken down as follows: 1) Interior-Individual-Motivations & Intuition (Psychology); 2) Interior-Collective-Cultural Meaning (Sociological): Conspiracy theorists often talk about things propaganda and disinformation campaigns. What they are really talking about on a deeper level is how meaning and value is understood and transmitted within a culture. The main way that people understand things is through creating and telling stories. Some stories are based in reality.
Some stories are rooted in reality, but become distorted through transmission (others are changed on purpose). Still other stories are invented almost out of thin air; 3) Exterior-Individual-Empirical Evidence (logical) and 4) Exterior-Collective-Complex System (ecological): Thinking in this quadrant deals heavily with following connections and understanding networks through looking at organizations and institutions. When theorists have evidence about a particular person who may be involved in a conspiracy, they often spend a great deal of time sifting through associations in that person’s life.
These may be corporate, political, religious, social, family, business-based or many others. The very definition of conspiracy entail multiple people coming together to perform some sinister or illegal act. Thus, no conspiracy ever occurs inside vacuum; there will be multiple members, though everyone may not be involved in precisely the same way. Following through on personal connections and contacts will help ground any conspiracy theory in a “bigger picture” and will also help to understand motives and justifications for various events. B) System Levels
In addition to the quadrant system, the system level might help to understand how various groups of people relate and react to events which make up the back bone of conspiracy theory. This system tries to understand how it would work with a real-life example: 1) Beige: Archaic/Instinctual-this level is mainly concerned with safety and security; 2) Purple: Magical/Animistic-One of the biggest elements at this level is Kinship and tribal bonds. Besides the obvious safety and security needs of the Beige level, the Purple level promotes an “us versus them” mentality; 3) Red: Power Gods- A tribe vs. ribe mentality eventually must erupt into military action. Warfare helps keep people at that difficult-to-maintain level of tension for a long time; 4) Blue: Mythic Order-This level introduces strict morality and clear codes of right and wrong conduct. Good and evil are sharply articulated (think “Axis of Evil”) as are law and order. This level is built very much on punishments and rewards for violating or following the strict codes of conduct; 5) Orange: Scientific Achievement-One of the phrases frequently linked to this level of thinking is chessboard.
In this level, actions are based on rational, calculated mechanistic manipulation. It results in scientific achievement, but also in materialistic attitudes; 6) Green: Sensitive Self-The green level is concerned with overcoming cold rational thinking, tempering it with emotion and empathy. It generally is concerned with egalitarianism, democracy, human rights, resistance to dogma and cultural dialogue. In short, it is the liberal response to the conservative ways of the blue level. 1. DEFINITION OF COLONY AND COLONIALISM The term Colony, (A Dictionary of Politics, 1971:98), is an area of land which, with its inhabitants, is entirely subject to the rule of an independent state, of which it does not form an integral part. It is not itself an independent state, though it may, according to its degree of political maturity, be given some self government and of a representative legislature does not prevent the ruling state from disallowing any legislation of which it may disapprove.
Colonies have usually originated in settlements by traders or explorers of territories unoccupied by any other independent states, or in conquests of territories already occupied by other states. The term Colonialism, (Encarta Electronic Encyclopedia, 2004), is one country’s domination of another country or people through the use of aggressive, military actions and thereby acquire territory. Both colonialism and imperialism might be used interchangeably; however, scholars usually distinguish the two terms.
For scholars, colonialism means when one country assumes political control over another, but imperialism broadly refers to political or economic control exercised formally or informally. Before the occurrences of Colonialism, there must be a pre-condition phenomenon known as ‘Industrial Revolution. ’ Colonialism, according to A Dictionary of Politics (1971: 104), strictly refers to the policies and methods by which an imperial power maintained or extended its control over other territories or peoples; now more frequently used in a pejorative sense, often synonymous with imperialism.
Resentment of their colonial status has been an important factor in the growth of nationalist and independence movements of the Third World. CHAPTER TWO 2. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND 2. 1 Mareb Melash as the Northern Part of Abyssinia / Ethiopia Ethiopia, also known as Abyssinia, is a historical land that has a history of statehood as Empire even before the birth of Christ. The name Ethiopia, before the birth of Christ, included the areas in Africa, South of Egypt and South-Western part of Asia. However, after the birth of Christ, i. e. in the 4th century, the first Ethiopian Christian king was the Axumite King Ezana. Thereafter, Emperor Kaleb and the descendents followed the same path (Bahru, 1989). In the 6th century, during the reign of Emperor Kaleb, the book which was written by the Messengers’ Team of the Byzantine (the current Greek and Turks who were then super powers) stated that Emperor Kaleb was the Ethiopian King. And also Kozmass, who had visited Ethiopia, wrote that Axum was an “Ethiopian city,” this indicates the fact that Axum was the core of Ethiopia (Bahru, 1992:9, with author’s translation).
Besides extending Ethiopian history back to the Axumite era, the ports of Adulis and Zula were the key naval stations controlled by the Axumite kings of Ethiopia. These are situated in present day Eritrea; it was part of Tigray province. Massawa and Assab were not developed as Harbors and are hardly referred to in Ethiopian history except in the later period (Addis, 1998:61). In fact, according to Henze (2001), the present Eritrea, or most of it, had been an integral part of Ethiopian history and culture prior to 1890, which is before the Italian take over of the land.
In regard to local leadership, before Italy colonized Mareb Melash, which is the name of the present day Eritrea, there were various political officers with their own local titles like the Tegre Mekonen, Bahrenegash, Neubreid, Shum Agame, and Shum Indereta, Shum Amba Senayti who were all important up to the beginning of Zemene Mesafint /the Era of princes/. However, their appointment and removal appeared to have been the sole mandate of the king who ruled Gondar.
According to historical facts, even after Zemene Mesafint, Hailu Toweldemedin of Hamasien and Kassa Sebagadise of Agame were supporters of Emperor Tewodros II. Nevertheless it was only Hailu of Hamasien, among all the lords of Ethiopia, who remained loyal to Emperor Tewodros II up to the eve of the collapse of Tewodros II that forced him to join the newly emerging powerful lord, Kassa Mircha (who later was renamed Yohannes IV) of Tigray (Medhane, 1999; Lapiso, 1985 with author’s translation).
To support the fact that Mareb Melash was part and parcel of Ethiopia during the reign of Tewodros II, the following table indicates the then tribute of the area to the central government: Descriptions of Mareb Melash /Eritrean/ Taxes /Tribute/ to Emperor Tewodros II (1855-1868) |No |Name of Awe rajas |Tributaries’ Kebeles |Tributes amount in Birr |Tributes’ Quantity in Cattles | |1. |Hamassien |37 |11,400 |441 | |2. Seraye |40 |10,586 |563 | |3. |Akalegozay |28 |15,146 |117 | | |Sum |105 |46,132 |1,121 | Source: Lapisso G. Delibo, 1985:109 (author’s translation; emphasis added)
There are also historical places, events and wars which indicate that, Mareb Melash was part of Ethiopia. Among historical events and places, Debre Bizen “was a place where a religious community was founded by the priest Filipos” in Hamasien about 1390-91 by followers of Ewostatewos who dedicated themselves for the observance of the two Sabbaths, Saturday and Sunday. By the time of Zara Yaqob (1434-68) it consisted of eight monasteries and three convents (with more than eleven hundred nuns’ resident”) (Prouty, 1994:84).
Hamasien the northern district, together with Seraye and Akaele Guzay, makes up the central area of Eritrea. Tigrigna is the language of the two most prominent tribes, the Mensa and Marya. It was part of Aksumite empire until the 8th century (Ibid: 157). Historical facts reveal that the movement of Ewostatewos, as opposed to the house of Teklehaimanot (dominant among the speakers of Amharic), could have been considered at least geographically, as part of the Tigrean church intellectuals.
The bases of the followers of Ewostatewos were mainly found in Debre Bizen (Hamasien), Qohain (Seraye) and Ger’alta (Enderta) (Medhane, 1999). By the same token, the different wars that took place in different times also serve as evidence that Mareb Melash was part of Ethiopia. Among such wars, the Battle of Dogali was a major event in the history of Ethiopia’s coping with late 19th century imperialism. Two years prior to the battle, the Italians had occupied the port of Massawa and started interfering in Ethiopian affairs.
The area still bore the name Mareb Melash. It was governed from Asmara by Ras Alula, and was long conceived as the gate of Ethiopia and the key to its independence (Erlich, 1988:113). There were also the battles of Ethiopia against the Egyptian expansionist force, under Kheadve Ismail, at the battle of Gura 1875; Gundet 1876, there was the battle of Kufit against the Maddists, where victories were on the hands of Ethiopians (Husein, 1987).
Moreover, it is a fact that most Eritreans understand about their historical ties and affiliations with Ethiopia in general and the people of Tigray in particular. In relation to this, Tekeste & etal, (2000:95) say: The strenuous efforts of the Eritrean political leadership to the contrary, most ordinary Eritreans (here reference is made to the Tigrinya-speakers who constitute at least 60 percent of the population) believe they are one and the same with the people of Tigray.
They speak the same language, and they have the same history and tradition. As a matter of fact, even President Issaias Afewarki, who is from Tembiyan and Adigrat on his father side and Adwa on his mother’s side (Getachew A, 2007), in the long interview that he gave in March-April 1998 reminded his readers that culture, history and geography bind the Eritrean and Ethiopian peoples and that their destinies are intertwined (Tekeste & etal, 2000: 92).
Therefore, historical facts and events, the socio-political ties, the geographical position of the Mareb Melash indicates the fact that Eritrea and Ethiopia were one and the same since the Axumite period until the 1890 Italian encroachment. 2. 2 Eritrea as a Colonial Land The Italian private company named the Societa di Navigazione Rubbatino considered the significance of buying the port of Assab from a local Sultan in view of the importance of the Red Sea due to the opening of the Suez Canal (McEwan, 1968:352).
A Lazarist Priest Guiseppe Sapeto, a catholic missionary and naturalist, bought Assab from the local Sultan in 1879 on behalf of Rubbatino Shipping Company. However, the Italian government officially declared that Assab is an Italian colony in 1882 (Kebrea, 1987:91). With the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, the Red Sea and its adjacent areas became important in the eyes of the then Super Powers, Britain and France, as well as by the newly unified new comers like Germany and Italy. Therefore, there were clash of interests among these powers, especially between Britain and France.
In fact, it was Britain that helped Italy to gain a foothold in Massawa, violating Hewet/ Adwa Treaty of 1885 by which Britain agreed with Emperor Yohanes IV, to return Massawa and other coastal areas to Ethiopia as far as Ethiopia set free the encircled Anglo-Egyptian Army, from the threat of Sudan Mahdists resistance (McEwan, 1968:352). Although Yohanes IV had kept the sprit of the agreement by freeing Anglo-Egyptian troops controlled by the Mahadists, he did not get what he was promised, the transfer of Massawa, Bogos and other coastal areas in Mareb Melash. Rather these areas were given to Italy by Britain.
Yohanes IV’s act of freeing the hostages had resulted in his bitter enemity with the Mahadists which ultimately took his life at Mettama in March 1889. This enabled Italy to capture the Mareb Melash without much resistance. Indeed, on 1 January 1890, Italy united all its possessions in the Red Sea area into a single colony, and named it Eritrea (Right, 1987; Zewede, 2000 with author’s translation) However, “the fall of Mareb Mellash was not due to Italian Military might, but again due to Ethiopia’s highly personified socio-politics of the period” (Erlich, 1987:119).
Further more; Erlich stated the then situation as follows: With Alula’s departure, Ethiopian administration over Mareb Melash crumbled. When the Ras was with Yohannes in Gojjam, Dabbab captured Asmara, killing Alula’s lieutenant. In February 1889, Yohannes and Ras Alula were about to meet the Mahdists in Metemma, Dabbab opened the gates of Asmara to the Italians. Another Shifta and an old rival of Alula, Balambaras Kifle Eyasus welcomed them to Keren. When Yohannes was killed by a stray Mahadist bullet, the Italian flag was hoisted on the bank of the River Mareb (Ibid: 121).
In fact, the aforementioned situations were also addressed by Mamo (1987: 239) in which he has stated how power seeking individuals helped the Italians. In this regard, Dejazmach Welde Mikael, Fitawrari Debeb Araya, Kifle Yesus and Bahata Hagos had gone over to the Egyptians and had rebelled in the low lands and high lands of the Mareb Melash because of their ambition for the throne of Yohannes. Moreover, Debeb Araya, Kifle Yesus and Bahta Hagos became Italian stooges and showed the Italians the way up to Mareb Melash.
Regarding the colonial policy, Italy adopted the ‘divide and rule policy’ of the British, as Italy was a newly emerged colonial power with the backing of Britain with the intention to weaken France which was the strongest competitor by then. In relation to Italian policy Medhane(1999:20-21) says: The Italian authorities came up with a political strategy of what they called as ‘political Tigrigna’ versus ‘political Shewana’. The major aim of ‘political Tigrigna’ was to create a rift between the lords of Tigray and Menelik of Shewa so as to advance Italian interest.
Nevertheless, ‘politica Tigrina’ or the Tigrigna factor will continue to have a disturbing effect on the established Ethiopian identity of the Tigray. The vanity of using the Tigrigna factor to destabilize the Ethiopian state was to be the centre stage of the policy-makers in Asmara, i. e. the Italian. 2. 3 ERITREAN ISSUE IN POST WWII The end of World War II and the defeat of the Fascist Italy raised the fate of ex-colonial lands of Italy as an issue of the global concern.
As mentioned earlier, before World War II, Britain supported Italy when it gave Massawa in 1882 and preferred a policy of appeasement thereby encouraging Italy to invade Ethiopia in 1890s as well as 1930s. However, the British support for the Italian invasion of 1930s was a short lived one. The strong patriotic resistance on the part of Ethiopia shifted against Italy. Britain in view of Italian siding with Nazi-Germany turned the table against Italy. These historical events enabled British forces to be involved in the war against Italy and thereby to support Emperor Haile Selassie in his war against the fascist.
In relation to this, Britain disseminated pamphlets calling the people of Eritrea to stand with “their Ethiopian brothers and their motherland Ethiopia, to fight the fascist (Zewede, 2000 with author’s translation and added emphasis). However, British motives and acts changed as the victory over Italy enabled them to exercise their power, both in Eritrea and in Ethiopia. Therefore, the Eritrean issue became mainly a by product of this important historical time. As Tekesete (1987:158) says it: Between1941-45, the British unsure of the fate of the Italian colonies, tried to preserve the colonial system inherited from Italians.
However, because of the basic differences between the British and Italian colonial systems and because of the British desire to restructure the map of the Horn of Africa, it was clear to the Eritrean that a new era was in the offing. However, as Britain realized that it could not undermine Ethiopia’s interest as well as the Eritreans interest towards unity with Ethiopia, it preferred to take up the Eritrean issues to UN platform where the West, the East and the Arab Countries developed their own interests, which affected the Eritrea’s issue and the fate of Eritrea and the politics of Ethiopia (Zewede, 2000 with author’s translation). . 3. 1 The Role of Western Powers The replacement of Italian colonialism by the British Military Administration (BMA) in Eritrea faced resistance from Ethiopia as well as Eritrea. Britain tried to establish political parties which reflected its interests by backing the movements which stood against the unification of Eritrea with Ethiopia. Medhane(1999:33-34), states the interest of Britain as follows: In fact up to 1952 the British military in Eritrea could freely work to promote the plan (Tigreanism, a Tigray State) as a basis for the strategic rearrangement of the whole region.
The plan also made it clear that the Tigray chiefs were to be Greater Tigray State leaders. But it was in Eritrea and not in Tigray that the idea received a warm welcome. A small group of enlightened Eritrean-Tigreans expressed their support for the plan in the name of the Liberal Progressive Party (LPP). Written as well as oral sources attest, the LPP founded in 1943 by Ras Tessema Asmerom, had its political center stage the ‘Tigray-Tigigni’ or Greater Tigray Movement.
Although it was the British who backed the Greater Tigray strategy, they were also the one who destroyed the 1943 Woyane rebellion as the strategy was opposed by the British Foreign Office against the dream and intention of the military command in the region. The Emperor’s ambition to convince Churchill to quit this policy had significant contribution in keeping the rebellions under control by the use of British Air planes based at Aden. On the other hand, United States of America, as a newly emerging power, had a different view over the Eritrean issue. The U. S. A. ad an interest in the Horn of Africa as part of its larger policy of containing the expansion of Communism, particularly in these areas and the Middle East where it had economic and political interests. Therefore, U. S. A. had developed its own solutions to the Eritrea issue. The interests and the options of U. S. A. , in relation to the Eritrean issue, were stated by Marcus (1995:83), as follows: The National Security Council advised the White House “to prevent any potentially hostile power from obtaining a hold in the Middle East, the Mediterranean area, or in Africa. This policy precluded independence for Eritrea, inevitably a “weak state…. exposed to Soviet aggression infiltration. ” Russia and world communism were viewed as the collective enemy, a world wide threat which made Radio Marihona an increasingly valuable asset. The State Department therefore recommended against an Italian trusteeship in Eritrea, not only because the Rome Government might fall to Marxists but also because it’s fascist history would lead the General Assembly “severely” to restrict “the use of the territory for military purposes. Finally, the State Department considered Massawa to be Ethiopia’s “only satisfactory outlet,” whose cession would also yield control over Asmara, the adjacent high lands, and over the Islamic areas to the north: thus, “to give this area to Ethiopia. Italy, a defeated country, was also allowed to participate on the issue of Eritrea in the UN General Assembly. Therefore, Italy got the chance even to be nominee to administer Eritrea under the ‘trusteeship’ which could not be admitted by the majority. Italy, however, was restless in relation to the Eritrean issue, be it in the UN General Assembly or inside Eritrea.
Therefore, Italy lobbied the diplomats, specially the South Americans, the Arabs and Asians diplomats in the international platform. In Eritrea also Italy was able to lobby individuals like, Ibrhaim Sultan to establish ‘Pro-Italian Party’-‘ BLOCCO INDIPENDENTE’ that stands for the interests of Italy and against Ethiopia and unionists inside Eritrea (Zewede, 2000:228 with author’s translation; emphasis added). The Western Power, particularly the British and USA, tried to settle the Eritrean issue according to their interests and due to this there were a number of alternatives brought as a solution.
The suggested solutions were: to incorporate the western lowlands intothe so called Anglo-Egyptian Sudan and the Christian plateau and the eastern lowlands with the Ethiopian empire; to incorporate the western lowlands intoAnglo-Egyptian Sudan while creating an independent Tigray state, uniting the Tigreans of the Eritrean plateau and the Tigreans of northern Ethiopia; to incorporate Eritrea as a whole intoEthiopia under the pro-western regime of Emperor Haile Sellassie; to make Eritrea an independent state (Melaku, 1994:53). 2. 3. The Role of the Arab, non Arab Islamic and Socialist Countries The Arabs, especially Egypt, and other Muslim countries like Pakistan were behind the Eritrea’s issue, with different interests based on their political as well as religious perceptions towards Ethiopia. These counties considered Ethiopia as a land of Christianity, while, they considered Eritrean as Muslim, in extreme case as Arabs, and based on such misguided and distorted orientation they backed and harbored Eritrean fighters to the level of endorsing their quest for secession (Ibid).
However, the Arab consideration of the Eritrean issue as ‘anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist struggle, on the UN platform in between 1946-1952, was advantageous to Ethiopia. Marcus (1995:82) states that “the anti-imperialist Arab-Asian bloc came to consider the Eritrean case as some how or other symbolic of the anti-colonialist struggle. ” This thinking helped Ethiopia in its diplomatic campaign to regain Eritrea, through a diplomatic campaign.
Regarding, the interests of the East, the former USSR and the socialist group advocated the independence of Eritrea, having considered the case as the decolonization of colonized lands for the sake of expansion of communism. Therefore, the Eastern group advocated the independence of Eritrea (Zewede, 2000 with author’s translation; emphasis added). USSR, in the General Assembly platform of 10 May 1946, had suggested that Eritrea, Somalia and Libya to be given to Italian trust-ship administration for specified time (Ibid: 107).
On the same platform of 19 November 1949, however, USSR with its socialist allies, advocated the independence of Eritrea to be given after five years ‘UN trusteeship administration and suggested that the Port of Assab should be given for Ethiopia as an outlet to the Sea (Ibid: 260-261). 2. 4 The Emperor’s Efforts and the Responses The emperor of Ethiopia had strong interest to unify Eritrea and Eritreans with the ‘Mother-Land’, Ethiopia.
Therefore, the Ethiopian Foreign Minister had been addressing the Eritrean issue in a way that the diplomatic solution would give fruits for unification. However, there were differences in interests and efforts of the Eritrean peoples, as there were those who stood for the unity as well as for independence and or in favor of the Italian or the Britain interests (Zewede, 2000 with author’s translation; emphasis added). Regarding Eritreans who stood in favor for unity, Spencer (1984:196) put his observations as follows:
From 1942, the Abuna (archbishop) Marqos of Eritrea had headed up the movement or union with Ethiopia through the Mahiber Fiqre Hager (Love of Country Association). In 1945, the Unionist Party was formally organized, basically around the large Christian majority in the highlands, but with a sprinkling of Muslim elements. Gebere Mesqel Habte Mariam (later, Dedjazmatch), an Eritrean and a middle level official of the Ethiopian government, was placed in charge of the campaigns of the Unionist Party in Eritrea and Ethiopia.
According to Zewede (2000: 78-79) Mahbri Fikri Hagger (Unionist Party) was established by Eritreans in April 1941 as immediate as the defeat of Italy. As the UN general Assembly decided on the Eritrea’s case to be investigated by representatives of the four Super Powers, in 1941 in Paris, BMA having considered the capabilities of this movement to unify the Christians as well as Muslims of Eritrean, it tried to weaken the movement before the arrival of the UN Investigation Team.
With this, BMA was behind the establishment of Muslim League( Al Rabita Islamyia/ in January 1947 in Keren City, through the use of Saide Abubeker al Mougani as President and Ismaile Sultan as Secretary; LLP with the use of Ras Tesema and his son Dejazmach Abra and Wold Abe Wold Mariam. Similarly Italy was behind the establishment of Pro-Italy as well as BLOCCO INDIPENDENTE Party. The Emperor invested almost all of its diplomatic efforts for the return of Eritrea to Ethiopia.
As there were different interests among the then members of the UN, the General Assembly passed a Resolution number 390 V on 2 December 1950. In fact the Emperor accepted the resolution as there was not other option. However the emperor and the Forging Minister of Ethiopian tried to convince the UN Commissioner Edoardo Anze Matienzo that the interpretation of the federation does not mean a federation of two different countries, rather it is for the provision of internal administration rights excluding International recognition (Ibid: 336) .
As in the UN resolution had sum loophole in relation to the appointment of the leadership of Eritrea and about the official language and the use of flag, the Emperor with the Unionists tried to address such issues to be incorporated in the constitution of Eritrea as it was underway, thereby the Federal Government to have the right to appoint the leadership, for the exclusion of Arabic and Italic language rather Tigrigna and Amharic to be included as official and working language, the use of one Ethiopian flag (Ibid: 349).
The Commissioner, however did not take into consideration those ideas, except the exclusion of Italian language from the list, provided provisions which makes the Federal Government not to have a right to appoint the leader, Arabic to be a language and the Eritrea to have its flag as the Commissioner was under the Italian and Britain influence(Ibid: 349 ,352 ) 2. 5 The UN Resolution and the Federation of Eritrea with Ethiopia The UN General Assembly debated on the issue and as the four super powers came with different resolution, the UN General Assembly, in1949, decided further investigation to be conducted.
The UN General Assembly established a committee that consisted of Norway, Guatemala, Pakistan, South Africa and Burma; investigate the issue (Zewede, 2000: 264,292-294 with author’s translation; emphasis added). After the investigation was undertaken, as Melaku, (1994:54), stated that in 1950, The UN Commission of Enquiry was divided in its findings. The majority report advised that Eritrea to be federated with Ethiopia, while the minority advised independence after a period of UN trusteeship.
By 1950 both USA and Britain shifted their positions and supported the majority opinion, i. e. that Eritrea should be federated with Ethiopia. Consequently, the UN General Assembly voted to that effect in 1950, and Eritrea was federated with Ethiopia in 1952. Addis Ababa accepted the resolution, according to which Eritrea would have its own government, parliament and prime minister, a national flag, two official languages (Tigrigna and Arabic) and its own police under the sovereignty of the Ethiopian crown.
The federal government would be responsible for foreign affairs, foreign and interstate trade, communications, currency and finance. The UN General Assembly passed Resolution No 390 V on 2nd December 1950 the Federation of Eritrea with Ethiopia, under the sovereignty of the Ethiopian Crown with the provision of self administration. The provisions of the resolution gave issues of National Defense, Foreign Policy, Domestic and International Trade, securing Internal Security and Taxation, Media, Finance nd Port Administration to the Federal Government; on the other hand, authority on taxation and budgeting for internal administration, and parliamentary system having its own legislator, executive and judiciary with autonomy to the government of Eritrea (Zewede, 2000: 320), author’s translation; emphasis added). 2. 5. 1 The Rise and Fall of the Federation As Ethiopia accepted the UN resolution, Emperor Haile Sellasie ratified the constitution and the Federal Act, and Eritrea was federated with Ethiopia, with effect from 11 September 1952 (Ibid: 55).
According to the federal act, elections took place in Eritrea in September 1952, the first elected Eritrea’s Chief Executive established his cabinet on 13 September 1952, but the Chief Executive, ‘up on his own will’ resigned as of 29 July 1955 and thereby the Eritrean Parliament elected a new chief executive for the remaining one year (Zewede, 2000: 445-6, 453 with author’s translation; emphasis added).
The second elections took place, in 1956, and the elected chief executive, decided to abandon the ‘Eritrean Flag,’ in May 1960, the parliamentarians amended the ‘Federal Act’ with the unanimous vote thereby the terms of ‘Government of Eritrea’ and ‘Chief Executive’ in the federal act article 4, were replaced by the Administration of Eritrea and Administrator of Eritrea respectively (Ibid: 488-89). Thereafter, the ‘Administrator of Eritrea’ with the use of unanimous vote of the parliamentarians, declared the dissolution of the Federation on 15th November 1962” (Ibid: 2000: 505).
With this the Emperor did unify Eritrea with Ethiopia, the ‘annexation’ of Eritrea, with its Ethiopia, was announced by Haile Sellasie (Melaku, 1994). The Ethiopian government, with Order No. 27 of 1962, passed An Order to provide for the termination of the Federal Status of Eritrea and the Application to Eritrea of the System of Unitary Administration of the Empire of Ethiopia. 2. 5. 2 The Repercussion of the Dissolution of the Federation
Although, the end of the federation was supported by the Eritreans whose interests was the unification of Eritrea with Ethiopia, the subsequent Ethiopian administration which was a mix of feudal, autocratic and royal regime did not give room for political democracy. This pushed Eritreans including the supporters of the unity to become oppositions of unification. This was well stated by Melaku (1994:56), as follows: First, the immediate political consequence of the annexation was the abolition of political democracy and the introduction of Ethiopian autocratic rule.
This antagonized almost all the political organizations and the entire Eritrean people. Although the Unionist Party and the Tigrean population of Eritrea had unequivocally opted for unity with Ethiopia, they had not chosen autocracy over democracy. This scenario opened the gate for unanimous opposition of the Eritreans against the regime that abolished the pre existing fundamental human and political rights. In this way, Haile Sellasie broke the previous barrier between the bulk of Unionist Party Membership and the independence bloc, only to unite them against the annexation.
For the first time, Eritreans, both the advanced elements and the population at large, who had hitherto been divided on political, religious and regional lines, found a common ground: opposition to annexation and the affirmation of the Eritrean identity. A feeling of mutual interest was thus created, which Eritrean politicians called ‘Eritrean nationalism. ’ Indeed, according to Erlich (1994: 180) the dissolution of the Eritrean-Ethiopian autonomy, by Haile Selassie, led the province to become a potential bridgehead of pan-Arabism.
The dissolution of the Federation, however, deprived Ethiopians the chance of having political openness that might affect the Ethiopian politics. CHAPTER THREE 3. The Eritrean Nationalism and Its Political Impacts on Ethiopia pre- Independence Although, Italy was responsible for the creation of Eritrea, but the politics and the political movements of Eritrean began with the “liberation” or “decolonization” of Eritrea by the British with their long reputation and experience in the “divide and rule system”.
The contradictions between Eritrea and Ethiopia was implanted with different extremist organizations inciting nationalist and religious fanaticism, as those of ‘Pro-Independence’-Liberal Progressive Party as well as ‘al Rabita al Islamiya’ respectively, which emerged to spreading hatred against Ethiopia-all in the name of “democracy” for a people, who had been under the yoke of fascism and never exercised their rights (Zewede, 2000: 78-79 with author’s translation and added emphasis).
The “al Rabita al Islamiya” was archetype that started misleading its supporters and campaigning against Ethiopia by disgracing Ethiopia as a land of Christians, despite the fact that Muslims also inhabited in Ethiopia. On the other hand, Britain together with the Italian government paved the way for the establishment of the pro-Italian groups to reinstate and bring back the Italians and thereby re-colonize and live a parasitic life. This group had compared ‘modern and model’ Italy with the ‘primitive and feudal’ Ethiopia.
By the same token, the ‘independence group’ (Eritrea for Eritreans) was a small group which described Ethiopia as backward, not worthy for cooperation or co-existence. Moreover, there was also another pro-British group, which wanted to be under the administration of Britain. All these groups were intentionally created by Britain in its endeavor to gain control over the Anglo-Egyptian-Sudan territory and incorporate the newly granted protectorate of Eritrea.
In another attempt, the British started organizing interest groups of “Tigrai-Tigregn” occupying large tracts of today’s Ethiopia including Tigrai, parts of Wollo and Begemidr to stay within the British administration for a time span of 25 years. However, the strongest group was the Unionist Party (Mahber Hadnet) comprising of all members of the Eritrean society that genuinely wanted to be reunited with Ethiopia, having their own slogan of “mother Ethiopia or death”(Zewede, 2000: 76,78-79? 240).
Founded in 1941, immediately after the Italians were kicked out of Eritrea, the members of Mahber Hadnet willingly and consciously began organizing themselves into mass organizations, such as the Patriots’, Women’s and Youth Associations. While the patriots’ were carrying out their political work among the people, the youth was waging an armed struggle attacking and sabotaging the new British occupation army in different locations of Eritrea (Girma, 2006:11). According to historical and political factors, in Eritrea there was no strong nationalism and nationalist group.
In this regard, Henze, (2001: IX) stated that “A true nation has not yet developed. Eritrea is, at best, a nation in the process of formation. A democratic system in Eritrea would recognize diversity and respect difference of opinion. The EPLF craves uniformity. It has tried to impose uniformity by rigid controls and ceaseless propaganda. ” Therefore, it was the Britain’s ‘divide and rule’ policy together with planted political movements’ which stood against unity in general and Unionist Party in particular.
Among such political groups, al Rabita al Isalamyia that considered Ethiopia as the land of Christians only tried to affiliate itself with the Arab countries at large, and tried to develop some sort of Identity-‘Eritrean nationalism’ with the core factor of Islam. In this regard, according to Addis (1998:43), some of the major historical causes of the current conflict include the neglect of the lowland and its affinity to the Islamic world that has hindered the development of a genuine sense of ‘Eritrean nationalism’; as well as the need of securing Eritrea’s sovereignty at the expense of the instability of Ethiopia. . 1 The Emergence of Eritrean Nationalism and Nationalist Movements Under Italian colonization of Eritrea, between 1890 and 1941, ‘Eritrean nationalism’ and nationalist movements did not exist. The political movements and the ‘Eritrean nationalism’ were, some how and to some extent emerged during the British Military Administration. But the collapse of the Federation in general and the Military response of the previous two Ethiopian governments, particularly the forceful measures of the Dergue aggravated the situation and thereby contributed to the development of what they preferred to call ‘Eritrean nationalism. As Henze (2001:53) says it “Dergue brutality eventually left the Eritrean population no choice but to side with the EPLF”. Indeed, this is confirmed by Eritreans like Zemhret (1996:157-58) who states: The national liberation movement spread ‘Eritrean nationalism’ to all corners of the country. Thousands of Eritreans of both genders, from every ethnic and religious group, and every part of the country, were mobilized intothe ranks of EPLF’s Liberation Army and front’s mass organizations.
The army of liberation developed intonot only a formidable fighting force, but also a political force with strong national awareness and commitment to nationhood. Furthermore, Zemhret (1996:159) argues that one of the greatest contributions the armed struggle made to the process of nation-building in Eritrea was the development of a national unity of the Eritrean people. That means the liberation struggle has laid the foundation for nation building.
Therefore, all of the aforementioned factors as well as the historical facts indicate that the ‘Eritrean nationalism’ has no deep root base apart from the prolonged war of ‘independence. ’ This is proved by the fact that when the UN investigation conducted, in 1940s, there was no ‘Eritrean nationalism’ sentiment. According to Tekesete (1987:161), the findings of the commission can only be taken as an indicator of trends which suffice to answer the question about the extent of Italy impact on the Eritrean national consciousness.
In relation to this, among the interviewees of 3336 delegates there was no one in a position to explain ‘Eritrean national sentiment. ’ However, the leaders of Muslim League thought about the independence of Eritrea as Muslim country where Muslim constituted the majority of the territory. On the other hand, there was a movement and struggle for the unity of Eritrea with Ethiopia as the Unionist Party campaigned from 1942 until the arrival of the Commission. These show that the fifty years of colonial rule had not brought any new unity to the colony. 3. 1. The Establishments of Eritrean Political Movements The Britain Military Administration, with its own interests, paved the way for political democracy which enabled the Eritreans to establish different political movements and parties which have never been there before. Britain was behind most of them. Britain applied the divide and rule policy, but most of the movements /parties emerged during the British Administration while the two main fronts, Eritrean Liberation Front /ELF/ and Eritrean People’s Liberation Front /EPLF/, were established after the end of the British Administration.
In regard to the establishment of ELF, Erlich (1994:132, 133), says: In Cairo, in July 1960, the ELF was established by Idris Adam, Ibrahim Sultan, and a group student, prominent among them was Idris Uthman Qaladiyos (Galadewos). They established their base in Kassala (the head quarters of the Mirghaniyya) and began gaining momentum after the November 1962 annexation of Eritrea by Ethiopia. According to Erlich, among the founders of ELF eight members were graduates of al-Azhar, two were trained by the Syrian in Aleppo, two were ex-servicemen of the Sudanese army and one was trained in Iraq (Ibid).
In regard to the establishment of EPLF, Erlich (1994:155-156) says: After a complicated series of political in-fighting Sabbe and some of his associates founded an organization that rivaled the ELF, called the Popular Liberation Forces (PLF) in a PLF camp in Amman, in November 1969. From these beginnings, the Eritrean Popular Liberation Forces (EPLF) was born in 1972, comprising field commanders such as Ramadan Muhammad Nur, the Christian Issayas Afewrqi