Eritrea as an Historical Project
With the pronouncement of the International Court of Le Hague Eritrea is again in front of the International Community, of which this court is part. According to the International Law Eritrea has got good and solid arguments.
This pronouncement of Le Hague defines the areas object of the controversy from a geopolitical point of view. This is an event that opens a new and different phase, we hope, in the relationship between Eritrea and the International Jurisdiction.
On this waited event there are still the signs of the past that for Eritrea hasn't still passed.
Putting aside for a moment the weight of the colonial domination (argument that is necessary to face now or later) how hard is the relationship between Eritrea and the International Community is known by everybody who is acquainted with the political and social history of this country.
The Failed Decolonization has been a doomed event that in the post war rush to power has denied to Eritrea the deserved independence while, on the other hand, the UN were successfully disposing the decolonization and the independence of the emerging countries ( when they weren't obstructed by greater powers) establishing the right of untouchability and the bond to the ex-colonial boundaries for the geopolitical delimitation of the new countries.
Opposed interests then prevented Eritrea to obtain such independence and made possible a federation between the ex Italian colony and Ethiopia. The 390 (V) UN resolution, first act of a sort of kneeling, obliged Eritrea to "an autonomous unity in federation with Ethiopia". Such denial was in contradiction with the post-colonial rights made and applied by the just born United Nations. Ambiguously they formally gave homage to the principle of the decolonization, on one hand, while on the other hand they took off all its political and legal meaning.
So Eritrea was assigned to Ethiopia and became neglected. The Eritrean assembly had no choice, for every decision they had to ask the assent of the enderasiè, the representative of his majesty the emperor of Ethiopia. In 1962 at the top of a gradual and progressive loss of the Eritrean autonomy, the same RautonomyS that the UN had stated without doing anything to maintain it, the Ethiopian negus Hailè Selassiè unilaterally annexed Eritrea so its entity as a "federal autonomous" country was turned into the fourteenth Ethiopian province.
Eritrea was again the land beyond the Mareb as it used to be before the Italian intrusion in this country that after the opening of the Suez Channel had soon became a strategic call. The International Community didn't do anything.
The negligence turned into betrayal.
It was then, at the beginning of the 60s, that the Eritrean resistance started and became more and more organised and active till it became a real war of national liberation. Thirty years of blood, the longest African independence war.
The International Community went on with its pronouncements in favour of the ex-colonial countries whose effect was denied only to Eritrea. In 1960 the 1514 resolution established (without any ambiguity) the right of independence to the colonial peoples; in 1970 the 2625 resolution recommended the cooperation with these peoples.
But such pronouncements don't concern that little country of Eastern Africa already destroyed by an endless war. This was the destiny that the International community reserved to Eritrea. A replied destiny.
After the failed decolonization and the "federation" with Ethiopia there was the progressive loss of autonomy made by Hail_ Selassi_ from '50 to '62 with the self-suspension of the UN and the indifference of the world. Then there was the war of liberation. During this struggle Eritrea saw alternatively the opposition of the various countries of the international scene allied around the dominant poles of the post-war world.
For Eritrea the name and the group one belonged to was of little importance. The result was always political diplomatic and military hostility coming from different fronts but with the same motivations. The final victory of the Eritrean forces came against every prediction and expectation.
Well known on this subject are the reports of the Italian diplomacy in Addis Abeba, where Italy is the strategic core of Nato in the Mediterranean Sea, that foretold the inevitable victory of the negus Mengistu "red" and pro-Soviet. The Italian diplomatic delegation recommended, without embarrassment, to develop the friendship with the future winners.
It is useless to remember aids, money and diplomatic support given notwithstanding the difference between the two countries: the atlantic and 'democristian' Italy and the pro-Soviet Ethiopia of Mengistu Haile Mariam.
The Eritean war entered in the annals of the wars of liberation for its military intensity, duration and extension of the scenery. The battles won by the Eritrean forces will be part of the modern military history and will be remembered, as concerns human resources and cost, of higher degree compared to the wars of decolonization of the south-east Asia, countries on which the attention of the world was greater.
The forces of liberation that at the beginning of the 90s entered in Asmara interpreted with severity (sometimes with rigour) the national anti-colonial heritage on which they rooted.
The country is to be rebuilt, the way to follow is to be invented, the global scenario is changed, the 60s and decolonization are very far away, and the arm is to be converted to civil life. The refugees towards Sudan are innumerable and Eritrea underwent a big dispersion of his population in the four corners of the earth.
The war of liberation has provoked an internal facing between a traditional component, of oriental inspiration and east centred, and another force, that of the final victory. The latter soon experimented its project looking for a fusion between the independence and a difficult social reform, and a mediation between self-determination and laicism of the country in a difficult balance between the tradition of customs and the different corresponding sensibilities.
In the process of constitution of the state there was the agricultural reformation. The project wasn't perfect ( who is perfect and can criticise the others?), maybe there is an hard feeling animating the winners of this atrocious conflict, but this happened in a period in which the world didn't support the nation development.
The Eritrean independence was born under a unitary national dimension, based on pride, but the intention was to create a way to come out from the underdevelopment against the neocolonialism and dependence.
It wasn't an easy project. In the 90s all over the world was happening the precise contrary. In order to judge we have to historicize and know the relationship between the forces and their real nature. Who try to do it know that is not so easy.
The Eritrean national project maybe hasn't always perfect. But everyone know that the accomplishment of an historical project is not always easy.
From an historical point of view this consideration is worth for everybody not only for Eritrea. The European awareness made up by colonial wars, state plots, corruption and disruptive opposing forces teaches that policy is not like maths. Italy knows all this very well when it was on the brink of a communist armed insurrection soon after the liberation from fascism, when it was engaged in purges, divided into feuds and revenges, divided into two parts, "two Italies" one characterized by a conservative pre-modern catholicism rooted in latinity and the other one based on the greatest and best organized communist party of Europe. Also Germany knows how critical is a national palingenesis when it was obliged to the universal awareness of the guilt but on the other hand tried to recycle to impunity many ex-nazi functionaries; or France when was prostrated by collaborationism and soon after ready to actuate genocide in Indo-China and Algeria, or the victorious England but reduced in territories and still occupier in Ireland; or Spain that will come out from the longest form of fascism in Europe and mined by the seed of the armed secessionism and by the post-franchist revanchism. Therefore we can't say that old Europe is perfect. The continent heir of the hebraic-christian sacrality and rooted on the historical imperial continuity of the romanity hasn't generated peace and progress.
Europe (the West) is the place where the colonial imperialism and nazi-fascism were born, it hasn't the moral and historical title to give license of civilization.
The process of transition can't erase a heritage all at once, the past is always present and operating, the historical dialectic is always substanced by shadowy forces, the relationship between a political project and its accomplishment is not so direct.
If somebody requires perfection, Eritrea isn't perfect.
The oscillations that it is experiencing aren't greater or worse than the crisis of the European countries that came out from a world war and are unable to face their recent past.
In 1945 to face their recent past wasn't a matter of topical interest for european (and western) countries. What was important was to give a contribution to the division of the international market and its fields of influence.
When the Eritrean armed forces entered in Asmara the world was rebuilding its geopolitic asset in every latitude. The policy is the art of the historical project. The project is accomplished in condition of no choice.
The conflict with Ethiopia started in May 1998, after years of attempts of federation and cooperation between the two countries, with the universally recognized accusation of aggression on behalf of Eritrea. Eritrea has universally been accused to be responsible for this war attacking Ethiopia on the front of Badme. Such an assertion doesn't consider the succession of the events before the war nor the circumstancial elements.
According to the world Eritrea was the aggressor and therefore it had to withdraw. But silence was observed when the Ethiopian troops in May 2000 occupied the south-west lowlands around Barentu devastating the country and putting Eritrea in a situation of humanitarian emergency. No accuses were done against Ethiopia only silence.
If the court of Le Hague has international jurisditional power, the accusation against Eritrea to have attacked Ethiopia on the front of Badme, casus belli of the conflict, has to be overturned. As it was said in other times, it was Etiopia, in the hands of a Tigrin elite, that had already upset the map of the surrounding Etiopian regions in favour of Tigray, to occupy lands that weren't its own.
Eritrea, after years of military provocations, re-occupied the lands within the colonial boundaries that had been traced during the Italian presence by the colonizers.
According to the principles of decolonization stated by the UN at the end of the '40s and by the constituent act of the Union for African Unity in 1964, the ex-colonial countries are delimited considering the colonial boundaries. Badme was within those boundaries.
From a formal point of view the accusation of aggression against Ethiopia made by Eritrea is upturned and deprived of every fundament of truth.
With the exception of the referendum of 1993 that, after the victory of Eritrea, formalized its political importance with the independence, the sentence of Le Hague starts, we hope, a new course in the relationship with the International Community.
Such a sentence creates a precedent and makes international law.
Peace has come back to the Horn of Africa. The Popular Eritrean Front entered in Asmara in 1991 with an historical project. It was the difficult result of a bloody struggle. It had to be the seed of a national and popular process of modernization.
It is a delicate, vulnerable and contradictory process, as every progressive impulse. A process very difficult to manage for a country that pays for the enormous sacrifice of a war of liberation too long and experienced in solitude.
A process whose heritage has to be nourished and introduced in the ever operating relationship between experience and memory.
nowadays represent the new path.