2. During the Eritrean liberation movement, none of the Eritrean fronts have ever controlled or even conducted any type of movement in the Irob region. The two movements that were active in Irob region during that time were Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP) and Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) until TPLF was able to defeat the EPRP and became the sole movement in Irob region.
3. More importantly, during the Eritrean referendum for independence, not a single person from the Eritrean government showed up in Irob region to conduct referendum because the Eritreans knew very well that Irob has never been part of their country.
4. If peace is the ultimate goal and it should be, giving Irob land and people on silver plate as a pacifying gift to President Isayas will not bring peace. Peace is never brought by pushing a minority group against their will and forcing them to accept an artificial national identity without listening to their opinion. Against all the above facts, there is a question that I keep hearing from my Eritrean friends saying; “But the international court has decided that Irob is part of Eritrea and you should accept a legal verdict; you are going against the law”! This argument coming from people who belong to a nation that doesn’t even have a constitution; a law by which governments govern their subjects, and the founders of the nation who broke every possible existing law during their struggle for a more just society does not pass muster. Let me touch on this idea that the Irobs are going against the law by rejecting the sale of their identity. The leaders of both the Eritrean Liberation movements and the Tigrayan Liberation Fronts were some of the most known law breakers during their initial startup in our country. They broke the existing Ethiopian laws left and right starting with the formation of their movement. Therefore, they themselves were “illegal” in their existence. We can assume that they broke those laws because they felt the laws at that time were unjust and unfair, but now, they want to be “more Catholic than the Pope”? The Irobs belief that the verdict by the western personalities who have never stepped foot in our land and as usual, felt that they know best for Africa, started with a wrong premise and the result of their verdict is an unjust at its core and therefore it must be rejected. Why should the Irobs then accept their own death verdict for the crime that they have never been part of? Who agrees to be evicted from their own house that they have built on their own land to be thrown into the street and become homeless? I have said this before but let me remind my esteemed readers again that President Isayas reminds me of one of the two women who ended up going to the wise King Solomon for judgement over who was the right mother of a child between the two women. King Solomon (unfortunately none of our kings seem to have this wisdom today) asked to bring the child and the two women to court. He then announced that he would cut the child into two and give each of the two women their part of the child. Right then the one who was not the real mother shouted “yes, give me my piece”, but the real mother said “no, your majesty, give the child to her I can’t handle my child getting cut into two”. Then King Solomon realized who was the real mother and ended up giving the child to the true mother. President Isayas is saying “just give me what was judged to be mine, even if there are some Eritrean land and people that was unjustly given to Ethiopia, and even if there will be families split into two countries. He wants to be given whatever was given to him irrelevant of what a horrific pain it will bring to the people on both sides of the border. I will let the Eritrean people be the judge of this decision and mainly those Eritreans who will lose their land and identity to Ethiopia.
The Irob community would be the prime beneficiary of peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea. They want to live in peace with their Eritrean brothers and sisters, but they are not for sale. The Irob community has been pleading with both governments to talk to each other and resolve the issue of the return of around one hundred of innocent Irobs abducted by Eritrea during the war. Unfortunately, neither authority has ever dealt with this issue directly or indirectly. If I am not mistaken, I have never heard Dr. Debretsion mention the word Irob in any of the talks on the issue of border before. Now we are hearing our name that sounds similar to that of the gift to Herodotus deciding to give the head of St. John the Baptist’s head on a plate to his step daughter. I hope the VOA Tigrigna interpreter from Don Connell’s interview got it wrong, but I doubt it. If anyone would have taken time and asked us, we would have some practical ideas that would have helped the two countries resolve this issue that by their own admittance was never the cause for conflict and yet keeps creeping up every time we get closer to dialogue. The Eritrean president accepted the Prime minister of Ethiopia’s invitation to make peace. They both visited each other’s capitals; they spoke each other’s languages so that the general public could understand what was being said, although nothing substantial was ever said except that they will no longer fight. Just as the cause of the war was mysterious, the peace agreement is mysterious as well. While there is nothing wrong that the two seem to get along; (God know what they have in common), there is more that is needed. It is critical that these two leaders go beyond their personal relationship into representing all their respective people of the two countries and include directly or indirectly the leaders of Tigray and Afar states into the dialogue. While they are at it, they might as well encourage people to people dialogue of those on the border areas. There are several steps that would help move us towards sustainable peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea, I will just mention three areas to start with. Create a combined Peace Council elected in each country by the people to help the two countries’ policy makers. General membership would include: Elders from different ethnic communities in both countries, former male and female guerilla fighters, faith leaders from all the major religious organizations, as well as known individuals of faith, athletes, academics, and last but not least known warriors from both countries who understand war and already have earned respect for conducting the war. The general membership would also be divided into different subcommittees to tackle all the issues that become obstacles to peace between the two countries and work as advisory council to the relevant ministries in both countries. A core group of leaders that represent all the subcommittees within these groups should be selected by the larger group and represent the group to submit their recommendations to a combined Ethiopian Eritrean policy maker.
Conduct Mourning not only for those innocent souls that perished, but also for all other loses or perceived loses by both countries. One of the historically recognizable public acts in both Ethiopia and Eritrea is the way they mourn. It is one of the many cultural commonalities they share. They both have combined losses exceeding one hundred thousand fighters during the guerilla war. They also lost combined eighty thousand (80,000) or more fighting each other between 1998 and 2000. The first and most important step that they both should take therefore is recognizing their pain in a public in an official national mourning. There are two different mourning rituals that should take place. The Eritreans and Tigreans should have a united/common mourning day on the border towns. The two guerilla groups have fought together and against each other in many battles and in many places. They could bring their former fighters who obviously know each other and show solidarity and recognize the sacrifices they both paid. This is what binds them more than anything.