Crimes and Malice in the Horn of Africa 
by Thomas C. Mountain © 2000  US Eritrean Peoples Friendship Association 

As I write this at the end of August, 2000, in the tiny African country of Eritrea, population 3 and 1/2 million, almost one half (47%) of the people are refugees, many with little or no shelter. Of these almost half are children under the age of 5. An invasion by Ethiopia, population 60 million, caused this calamity, now taking place in the middle of the rainy season, with that infamous baby killer, malaria, beginning its grim harvest. 

Over a million and and a half Eritreans, whose homes, businesses and farms, those which have not been looted or destroyed, are now part of Ethiopian Occupied Eritrea. Or what is almost as bad, within artillery range of the Ethiopian army. 

If this isn¹¹t depressing enough, every day seems to bring postings about Eritrean refugees with new reports of killings, rapes and wanton destruction by the Ethiopian army in Occupied Eritrea. Every mornings¹¹ email seems to bring more reports of the continuing ethnic cleansing in Ethiopia, as Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean ancestry are arbitrarily arrested and deported by the ethnic minority Tigrayan regime in power. Try justifying deporting a former Ethiopian Supreme Court Justice, claiming he was never an Ethiopian citizen? 

Last week saw the abandonment of the recent US policy of ³³depraved indifference²² for one of ³³breathtaking prevarication²², throwing US support behind claims of ³³ethnic cleansing²², except this time the evil doer is...Eritrea? 

Yes, the US has once again turned reality upside down, condemning ³³the dangerous and uncoordinated manner in which civilians detained by Eritrea are being deported or repatriated to Ethiopia...²² echoing the Ethiopian regimes fabrications ³³that its nationals in Eritrea were being persecuted in the aftermath of war between the two countries and warned of serious consequences unless the abuses stopped.²² Finishing their declaration with the BIG LIE, the Ethiopians stated ³³

In the light of the foregoing, Ethiopia appeals for the last time to the international community to save Ethiopians from a regime [Eritrea] that is committing war crimes in this day and age against innocent and unprotected civilians." 

You have to admire their brazenness as they beat their war drums, their confidence in the western press not challenging any of this horse manure. But then, with the likes of Patrick Gilkes, Peter Biles, and Nitta Bhalla reporting from Addis Ababa for the BBC African Service, eagerly parroting Ethiopian claims as ³³credible²², why should they worry? What, question the word of Ethiopian P.M. Meles Zenawi? The man who when questioned about what reason he had for the deportation of his own citizens said ³³if we don't like the color of your eyes we can deport you²², all 72,000 and counting? 

Of course, some would say the BBC has come a long way for it wasn't that long ago that the Eritrean independence movement was being called ³³bandits²² by the BBC and other western media. 

Some do ask ³³are the Eritreans mistreating the Ethiopians in Eritrea?²² My answer is ³³don't ask me, ask Amnesty International, The International Committee for the Red Cross, World Food Program, Save the Children...²², they have all admitted that the Eritreans are doing as much as can be expected for internally displaced Ethiopians in Eritrea in the face of enormous difficulties, what with half their population being refugees. 

Should we be viewing these increasingly strident war drums as the prelude to another invasion attempt of Eritrea by Ethiopia? I hope not, but my better judgment tells me it could very well be. What else could explain this sudden blast of aggression by Ethiopia and the support for it by the US? 

But why would Ethiopia want to continue this invasionary war, especially considering how desperate things are in Ethiopia? With the latest news from Addis Ababa reporting 16 hour long power cuts every three days, articles such as this from the Ethiopian Monitor of Aug. 15 are increasingly common, ³³ The economic and social situation in Ethiopia today is in shambles. People are finding it hard to make both ends meet...²² 

As the economy crumbles in the capital, famine continues to stalk over 10 million Ethiopians in the countryside, with the rains coming for many to little to late. The next crops seeds are already a memory, eaten weeks ago. Deja Vu? 1985 Ethiopian Famine, ³³We Are the World²², , ³³Live Aid²², does this ring a bell? Do you wonder how could this be happening, again? 

How did Eritrea, whose people fought and suffered longer than any other in modern Africa to win their freedom and independence, come to have so much of her land occupied by Ethiopia , again. How did Eritrea, with her people so proud and self sufficient, find herself once again at the mercy of western donors for so much of her daily bread? 

And most importantly, why is the US continuing to support this latest round of insanity by an Ethiopian regime? 

To try and put it simply; 1)Eritrea, born after thirty years of armed struggle, one of the smallest, resource poor countries in Africa, is the only country in Africa not in debt to/under economic control by the IMF or World Bank. 2) Eritrea, until the Ethiopian invasion, had the fastest growing economy in Africa. 

In other words, Eritrea is a role model of revolutionary independence and self sufficiency, and as such is a threat to the system of neo-colonialism which dominates Africa (and much of the rest of the world) so ruthlessly. 

Many may laugh at this claim, ridiculing the idea that this little country so far away is a threat to the undisputed champion of the world, the USA and her partners in the west. 

My answer to that is it isn¹¹t Eritrea so much as the example Eritrea sets that is the threat. Once the people in the rest of Africa, and other parts of the world, begin to find out about the ³³Little Country that Could²², what is to stop them from challenging the status quo in their own backyard? If Eritrea can do it what is holding South Africa, Nigeria, Brazil, Argentina or even Mexico back? 

The USA has never hesitated to crush upstart countries before, why should the leopard change its spots now? Especially a country of such proud, strong BLACK people like Eritrea. 

The bottom line is ³³show me the money²² and I will show you who is behind this invasion. Preliminary reports dating to June 26, 99 in Africa Analysis (by no means a ³³left wing²² publication) tell of the diversion of US aid to Ethiopia to arms purchases from Russia and the Ukraine to the tune of $300 million. 

The investigation of this money trail leads to an international labyrinth which has not been sorted out as of yet. But one thing is clear and that is Ethiopia has spent at least $1 billion on the invasion of Eritrea since the beginning of 1999 and she didn't get that amount of cash selling coffee (what else does Ethiopia have to earn hard cash with?). 

I hope I am wrong about this. Unfortunately, being an historian, I am all to aware of how history is full of criminal acts of aggression committed by regimes desperate to divert domestic discontent by attacking an external ³³enemy²². In this case, Ethiopia is a willing proxy, whose crimes are made possible by the money and support of the worlds only superpower, the USA.

Thomas C. Mountain can be contacted at Mr. Mountain is an anti-racist educator and activist. In 1982 he was the founding V.P. of the Hawaii Alliance for Peace and Justice in the Middle East, 1985 founding co-chair of the Hawaii Black History Committee,co-Editor of the Ambedkar Journal on India's Dalits or Black Untouchables and chair of the Hawaii chapter of the Crack the CIA Coalition. (Footnotes available upon request.)