Ethiopians are divided into two camps on Aseb’s port issue: Which camp are you in?

By Magn Nyang
September 20, 2006

A final limitation on the role of the public is its relatively low level of political information.  Some citizens pay close attention to politics, but most do not, and some people pay hardly any attention at all.  As a result, most people are poorly informed about politics.  How many Ethiopians can name all fourteen regions correctly? 

Although people with lower education levels are more likely to be uninformed, many college-educated people also lack basic information.  However, public’s lack of information is not as significant a factor as might seem the case.  Citizens do not necessarily have to be well informed about a situation to have a reasonable opinion about it.   

There is a debate going on among Ethiopians concerning the future of Aseb’s port.  Ethiopia is a multi-national state and all are entitled to their opinions on Aseb’s issue.    

Opponents of another war between Ethiopia and Eritrea argued that war will further damage the prospect of economic growth for Ethiopia.  They also argued that Eritrea’s sovereignty must be respected by all nations, including Ethiopia.

Supporters of war responded by asserting that the last arbiter of conflicts has always been power.  They argued that a more powerful country like Ethiopia should not be stopped from having a port of its own by a tinny neighbor like Eritrea.  They dismissed the notion of Eritrea’s sovereignty.  They argued that what sovereignty means is that nations live under international anarchy.  And this international anarchy can be easily broken when needed. They argued that any powerful nation can always violate the sovereignty of a weaker or a smaller country with out fearing the international community.  They pointed to former Soviet Union nations such as Georgia and Ukraine.  These nations, they said, were sovereign before annexation by the Soviet Union.   Therefore, they said, Ethiopia should attack Eritrea to get Aseb’s port back.

Some readers may want to know which camp I (the author) belong to.  My camp is with those who want nothing but peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia.  I do believe that war will destroy both countries economically.  Remember the war between these two countries between 1998 and 2000?  That war cost one million dollars for each country per day, according to UN observers.  Do you know what a million dollar a day means for Ethiopia or Eritrea in economic term?  It is too much of a waste for two poor countries. 

Personally, I do believe in international rules and regulations.  Therefore, I do strongly believe in respecting the sovereignty of all countries.  Just because you are stronger and more powerful does not mean that you go around breaking international rules by violating the sovereignty of weaker and smaller countries. 

Lesson needs to be learnt from what is now happening to the most powerful country on the face of the earth, the United States.  The United States brook the international laws and violated the sovereignty of a weaker and a smaller country, Iraq.   Now it is paying for it politically and economically.

For me the argument that Ethiopia needs a port to grow economically does not hold water.  There are landlocked countries in Europe with very powerful economies.  Educated manpower and economically oriented leadership are enough to make a country grow economically. 

Some Ethiopians also go as far as wanting to get the whole Eritrea back by use of force.  This is not a realistic goal.  Eritrea is a sovereign country recognized by the world community.  No country would annex Eritrea by force without loosing face with the world community.   

 If there must be a reunification between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Eritreans are the only one who will make it happen.  They can have a referendum to vote themselves back to Ethiopia. There fore, the thought of war with Eritrea to force her back is just a day dream.

I know that some Ethiopians pride themselves on being warriors and heroes and they may question my lack of heroism.  However, I want them to know that heroism has no room in today’s world.  You no longer need to be a warrior or a hero to win wars or to earn respect.  The best wars are now fought around tables with pens, not with live ammunitions.  It is not about being a warrior any more.  It is about how you present and sell yourself to the world community that earn you respect and get what you want.

Ethiopia needs a period of peace and prosperity.  Any attempt toward regaining the port of Aseb must be through negotiations.

The writer is a son of Gambella and lives in the United States and can be reached by writing to                                  













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