Rome Was Not Built in a Day

BY HAILESELASSIE GIRMAY

Rome was not built in a day, so the Italians say. However, unlike the masters, the progenies the Italians invented at the gateway of the Horn of Africa have got the opposite notion in mind. They can build a country overnight, if only the people they call contemptuously the “Agames” obsequiously truckle down, doing manual jobs for little pay, while the Eritreans do the engineering and construction work to build wonders in the middle of nowhere. If only the coffee trees from afar grew tall enough, not vertically but diagonally, in the direction of the new Nation to suspend their beans over the hillsides of Eritrean highlands, Rome, sorry I tell a lie, Eritrea could be built in a day.

Better yet, this story tells more about neighbours: one sister was extremely beautiful. It did not matter how offensive her manners were; she had the aura of attracting not only admirers but also detractors. Many did not mind her foul mouth and vaunted gestures; they groveled and bowed to the knees to get her attention. The other sister, well, you guessed it, one would not like to breakfast in her presence. And yet she too had her beauty that brought equal numbers if not more people than her sisters did, into her presence. Of two friends talking about the two sisters around coffee (real coffee not the coffee we are told grows in Eritrea), one had to ruefully say this, “I wish if so and so was as beautiful as her sister, I would, I could have....” The other retorted and did not allow his friend to finish what was in his mind, “`you have got to be out of your mind! If the woman was as half beautiful as her sister is, the whole world would fight and kill each other over her. No, this can’t be right! It wouldn’t be a perfect world, balance would be missed!”

Oh, yes, if coffee were to grow as the Eritreans wanted it to be (diagonally and tall enough, not only the beans but you could use the bough as a tunnel to run trains), and if only the flesh of the Ethiopians could be exploited and their lands easily taken away, without them raising their voice let alone their arms, the smooth talking Eritreans in the boulevards of Europe and North America could convince the gullible masters that Eritrea could be built in a day. If the Eritreans have had the resources and the means, as they have the smooth and deceptive mouths, that talk volumes about themselves but are dastardly scant about their neighbours, yes, Rome, sorry Eritrea, could have been built in a day.

However, that is not to be in a day or years. Why? Because of their own making. An impulsive hyena bit the horn of his prey only to get impaled and be found dead some days later, a saying that I remember well. If you grab an animal by the horn you run on a two-way ticket. You can break his neck or you get impaled. True to his carnivore nature, the hyena has however left a mark on his prey that would make the prey distinct from the other herds. The Eritreans could have their country built as they marvelled it to be, at least give or take many years of arduous labour, had they not been impulsive and taken their prey by the horn. But fortunately for the Ethiopians, they did grab us by the horn only to expose their evil design, for the Ethiopians stood up to the challenge. Yes, we are scarred and the imprints will remain for a long time.

The way things were going, what would have prevented the Eritreans from taking a free ride on Ethiopian human and material resources? Nothing.  But the Eritreans could not patiently enjoy God given windfall opportunities that came blowing in their direction. No, they wanted the whole thing in one go. Little did they know, like a gourmand who had taken in too much, his system could not hold, would have to disgorge not only the excess, but the ones which should have been kept.

Now, Ethiopia is on her feet and there is no way it can be dismantled - not in the way the Eritreans wanted it and at the speed they had hoped they would get the job done. Thus now they want to pull out of the mess they created. But the pulling out also had to come with preconditions in the past. They were preconditions not seriously considered, but put as a ploy. If you remember in the past the stuff they put out, looking grand only to raise false hopes by those affected? “All Deportees should be compensated.” This was blown out and about through the mass media with the sole intention to wrong foot Ethiopia, never mind hurting the feelings of their own captive followers. Now the core thing they desperately wanted Ethiopia to do is to sign what someone has rightly called the Technical Derangement (Arrangements). They would continue to argue that Ethiopia should sign the Arrangements even if they were to withdraw from Badme, which they took by force and which was never theirs in the first place, and all other occupied areas.

The preconditions for negotiating the status of the so-called disputed areas can and should be seen as a ploy which Eritreans, when push comes to shove, would give up if Ethiopia were to agree to International cartographers drawing a line between Ethiopia and Eritrea. This is so because in the absence of the backyard bread basket - that is Ethiopia, from which they have been enjoying feasting until they sumptuously kicked the basket, they need legally legitimised international boundaries either to lease (in a worst scenario to sell) the whole or some of the land - such as Asab etc to other countries to use as a stage either to monitor and destabilise Ethiopia or for a genuine commercial return. Keep this in mind; who in his right mind would invest in another land whose borders and legitimacy as shaky as those of Eritrea.