The Ethiopia-Eritrea war: who's to blame?

By , Selome Taddesse, Dula Abdulfatah, and Dula Abdulfatah

Your article "Leaders battling their 'creators'" (March 25), advancing a theory as to why Ethiopia is at war with Eritrea, not only trivializes Ethiopian history but historical processes in general.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia could not by himself commit Ethiopia's 60 million people to a war with Eritrea, even if he wanted to. There are elected federal parliaments and autonomous councils in each of Ethiopia's regions. The federal Army reflects Ethiopia's diversity of more than 80 ethnic groups.

The article says Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki "took in [Meles Zenawi, now Ethiopia's prime minister] as a fugitive and helped him build the rebel army that eventually overthrew the Marxist regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam in Ethiopia." The revolt in Tigre began in 1975; Meles was not elected chairman of the Tigre People's Liberation Front (TPLF) until 10 years later.

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Isaias' EPLF (Eritrean Peoples' Liberation Front) and the TPLF were tactical allies in the war against Mengistu, but there were fundamental political and ideological differences from the beginning.

The EPLF, fundamentally undemocratic as a movement, failed to transform itself to a peacetime political party at the end of the war; it allowed no opposition (there have been no elections since 1991), and it has gone to war with four of its neighbors since 1994. Its economic policies have failed and Eritrea subsists largely through remittances from the diaspora. Foreign wars have become a substitute for policy.

Tony Hickey Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

General manager, Village Ethiopia

To write that "Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi rebelled against Eritrea's President Isaias Afewerki" is inaccurate. And given Ethiopia's 3,000 years of history, it's absurd to call its head of state a "creation" of Isaias, president of the youngest state on the planet.

Far from being the result of rebellion by Ethiopia, the conflict was initiated by Eritrea when, in May 1998, its troops invaded and occupied sovereign Ethiopian territory. Eritrea's invasion of Ethiopia is only the latest act in a pattern of Eritrean aggression.

Selome Taddesse Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Spokesman

Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Your article was accurate but ominous for the people of Africa. War and bloodshed can be initiated at the drop of a hat, and tens of thousands of Africans are loosing their lives to appease so-called "creators" in Eritrea and Rwanda.

Unless the world pushes for democracy and human rights in the region, these problem will remain. Eritrea, unlike Rwanda, has engaged in conflict with various countries including Yemen, Sudan, Djibouti, and now with Ethiopia.

The biggest problem in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and most other African countries is the lack of democracy and the prevalence of one-party dictatorships.

Dula Abdulfatah Houston, Texas

Cable crunch

Americans have a right to fear cable-company rate increases; indeed, past performance has shown that they will increase, given the opportunity.

As chairman of two regional cable commissions, the first of 13 communities and the second of seven, I tried to attract competition, but was told by cable providers that no sane company would compete. Competition is based on price - not programming, which must be offered universally. The current provider can therefore lower prices to effectively eliminate a newcomer who needs 30 percent of the households to break even.

Bob Chernow River Hills, Wis.

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