Isaias Afeworki is winning in the no-war no-peace stalemate

This article attempts to analyze a post Isaias Afeworki’s Eritrea and about the revenge-oriented policy of President Isaias Afeworki against both Ethiopian and Eritrean Highlanders.


In the last 20 years, nothing good is heard of Eritrea except frustrating and saddening stories that are featured in the international Media. 

A hero for some and a pariah for others, Eritrean president Isaias Afeworki has almost completely isolated the tiny red sea state from the globalized world and ruled it with iron fist since its independence in 1991. Eritrea graduated as rogue state and is listed in the book of failed states.

It has been repeatedly said and analyzed that the country is ruled by fear not by rule of law since there is no constitution, no political and no economic policy which directs the path of the state.

Hence, there is no actual government but the liberation front still governing it. Scholars rightly argued that process of statehood of the country is not yet started and the practice of democracy is either denied or postponed indefinitely as well.

The country is perceived as belligerent to the horn and beyond. Thus, its foreign policy spearheaded by the president who is personally is unpredictable to anyone, especially to neighboring countries.

The indefinite forced conscription, the extra judiciary acts, poverty, torture, lack of freedom and the right to work are the driving factors for migration. As a result, Eritrea is the largest refugee producing country after the war torn Syria in the world. The UNHCR reports show that 5000 Eritreans flee every month.

This number shows that 60,000 Eritreans out of the approximately 6 million populations become refugee every year. This indicates that the country donated 25% of its population to the world refugee crisis so far.

Photo - Eritrean President Isaias Afeworki, May 28, 2017
Photo – Eritrean President Isaias Afeworki, May 28, 2017

Current political development inside Eritrea

The regime is losing its popular legitimacy (the only card it had to rule) very fast and is reaching to the point of no return. Hence, the only tactics which Isaias used to stay in power was that of popular legitimacy.

Now, every Eritrean is accusing him of infidelity and organizing to fight the regime at any cost. Threatened by the development, Isaias has responded by extreme use of force to the extent executing genocide acts, banning private Medias, jailing top party and government officials, forcing youngsters to leave the country, jailing religious leaders and even expelling diplomats.

Expectedly, the measures taken could not stop the growing pressure from its own people. Additionally, it has established more than 10,000 torturing and jailing cells which are said to have sheltered hundreds of thousand political prisoners. Any form of measures could not, however, stop the anger of the people.

At times, Isaias employed Ethiopian opposition groups based on Eritrea to monitor the security situation and spying Eritreans. This did not bring any meaningful results though. Hence, Isaias continued employing foreign mercenaries to silence his own people.

The ‘No War No Peace Policy’ how did it go?

The ‘no war no peace policy’ that has existed between Ethiopia and Eritrea after the devastating war in 2000 onwards has truly weakened the state of Eritrea and partially Ethiopian north part. It could be said that the policy damaged more to Eritrea than Ethiopia. However, arguably enough, it did benefited Isaias personally to stay in power untouched. We should differentiate the people, state, and Isaias Afeworki’s personal interest.

Following the policy, the state becomes weak and fragile while the people of Eritrea become poor and hostage. They are pushed to flee at intimidating number. However, Isaias continued to rule the country at will, no matter what happened to his people and his country.

We should not be puzzled here. The aim of the policy was not to create fragile state and social crisis in Eritrea. To my best understanding, it was aimed at containing and eventual demise of Isaias.

The Ethiopian Foreign Policy and the rhetoric of the Ethiopian leaders usually treat the Eritrean people as brothers and favor them positively even more than their own leader does. However contrary to this rhetoric, the no war no peace policy missed its target and went awry.

Isaias personally is happy of it and is living comfortably with it, no matter what. What was the ultimate goal of Isaias? Very clear! To stay in power at any cost and he did it, he won it.

Who is suffering from the “no war no peace policy”? Surely, not Isaias! It is rather the Ethiopians residing in the northern part and the whole of Eritreans.

The most horrifying thing is that Eritrea itself is sinking into the hands of Arab countries’ incursion. Who is to be disadvantaged if the State of Eritrea is dominated by the Arab storming? You may not say it is Isaias? Not at all! Isaias by now is above 75 years old and is done with power. He showed us practically that he did not come to power to save or create democratic, developed and sovereign Eritrea. He did come to simply sit in power and rule at will. He did it so.

Therefore, it is none of Isaias business whether Eritrea is drifting to the hands of extremists after him. Nor does he care if the “no peace no war” policy disadvantaged Eritrea or Ethiopia. He could calculate it that did the policy go against my power or not.

Calculated from this, Isaias emerged victorious no matter what as far as his stay in power so long. What was to be considered as defeat for him was that if the Ethiopian leaders together with Eritrean forces intended to shorten his power.

The no peace and no war policy applied for the last 16 years much helped Isaias to stay in power and execute so many ugly acts against the Eritrea state, the people of Eritrea, Ethiopians, and the horn at large. Isaias got plentiful time and confidence to train, finance, and arm all forms of terrorists to sabotage Ethiopia which is a partial successful project.

For example, Ethiopia is busy in Somalia situation as Isaias projected rightly. He also attempted to bomb inside Ethiopia and able to divert the mind of Ethiopian leaders from focusing at domestic politics. Using the prolonged “no peace and no war” policy, Isaias played destructive role in Ethiopia.

He organized and financed the Ethiopian toxic Diasporas owned Medias to daily create mistrust among Ethiopians. Isaias dreams to disintegrate Ethiopia and is on the way to do so. The future will hold the truth regarding who is wining against whom. 

He kept the organization of OLF, ONLF, Ginbot 7, and so many Ethiopian outlawed groups alive inside Eritrea and helped them spread toxic and decisive propaganda which ultimately produced the last protests and put the continuity of the state at crossroad.

 If Ethiopia had coordinated and supported the helpless and frustrated Eritrean people and advanced or used any means possible to avoid Isaias, the policy could have been acknowledged as successful and historical in both peoples. Eritrea would have a new responsible leader by now and the two brotherly people could have lived peacefully.

However, Isaias stayed happily and the two people go migration and risked their lives on the course. Hunger and uncertainty prevailed in both peoples. Hence, what is the point of prolonging the “peace no war policy” when measured from both peoples’ benefit? I do not see anything positive of it personally.

What kind of Eritrea post-Isaias would be?

Currently, Isaias is busy contracting Eritrea to Egypt, UAE, and Saudi Arabia. Egypt is reportedly gained military bases in the islands of red sea, UAE owns Assab port for both military and logistics purposes, Saudi is also stationing in the coastal areas of Massawa ports. The Brotherhood and Wahabists are swimming deep inside Eritrea and busy doing their usual business.

It should not be forgotten that the tiny Qatar and Saudi are the leading countries in sponsoring and spreading Wahabism in the horn of Africa. Ignored by the west, Isaias turned his back to the oil rich gulf countries.

The Arabs are allowed to teach Wahabism, financing and training Eritrean Muslims in the coastal areas. In exchange, Isaias gets financial and military support. Good business to him! The vast border with Sudan is also left unchecked giving opportunities for Sudanese, Qataris, and Saudi Wahhabis to conduct anything they want.

What kind of Eritrea will be after Isaias so? It is unpredictable but the current Eritrea will either be possibly fall apart or it will be totally at the hands of Arab direct influence. More ironically, the Christian highlanders are becoming too divided following the conflict-ridden policy of Isaias.

The Seraye, Akloguzai, and Hamassen are becoming hostile even in dealing against the common enemy-Isaias. The mistrust developed among them is beyond words and very dangerous. Additionally, it is these people fleeing the country at considerable rate. Contrary to this, the Muslims lowlands and coastal areas are becoming very integrated and armed with the help of the stated foreign Arab countries.

Thus, it is simply to predict what kind of Eritrea will be post Isaias. Eritrea will be engulfed by civil war among the highlanders and Arab supported lowlanders. The Arabs have military bases inside Eritrea and it is very predictable who win the civil war.

It is the jihadists who can win with military presence of the Arabs. Eritrea, rightly, will be Arab forces dominated state which closes the chapter of integration policy or any aspirations towards to it.

Let’s say that if Eritrea is dominated by Wahabists or jihadists supported by Egypt, Saudi and Qatar, what will the Ethiopian security issue look like? Ethiopia will be trapped by sworn enemies. The Wahabism project will not stop there. They will work hard to export directly to Ethiopia. Confrontation will be the game of the day. Egypt will jump and take advantage of it. The rest will be history.


The “no peace no war” policy gave Isaias the advantaged to project successful tactics to bleed Ethiopia. One of which is: he could maintain forces inside Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea. These forces are still engaging Ethiopian in all war fronts.

Be it hybrid war; color revolution and direct war, Ethiopia tastes the bitter fruit the policy it used to claim weakened Isaias. Isaias again has invented to revenge Ethiopia: he gave military and other bases to the stated counties intentionally to make Ethiopia suffered from in the future.

Failed Eritrea, South Sudan, and Somalia are all headache to Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian leaders should pay attention to scholars on the subject and design sound policies to predict and prevent Eritrea from falling into sworn Enemies.

However, leaving Eritrea to the hands of enemies will cost us much later. What should be done now? Gather scholars and consult with them. They have curing medicines for this, I assure you!


Zeray hailemariam Abebe is a scholar of International Relations and is researcher in the horn of Africa’s conflict, inter-state relations and cooperation. He blogs at HornAffairs and can be reached at [email protected]

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