A Note from the Editorial Team
We launch this maiden issue of DISCOURSE with a distinct focus on a region that we all know best. That the lead topic canvasses Ethiopia and Eritrea; and a bit beyond as relates to both, should not come as a surprise. The conflict between the two counties, bearing various shades and colors is, shall we say, raging. It is a stalemate, to say the least; one of the longest we have ever known. And that, as one astute observer of the Ethio-Eritrean dynamics- at the cost of being perhaps too simplistic- once sur-mised, is because ‘there is so much shared history.’
Well, shared history and the outstanding range of issues waiting to be ex-plained and solved are what prompted this great collection of essays cover-ing the two countries. Note here these essays are considerably brand new. Yosief Ghebrehiwet, and Saleh Johar, two prominent Eritrean émigrés from the American west demand a rigorous reexamination of a policy per-ception that otherwise has already hit a massive wall. That is what they pre-cisely think it has. Their bold arguments analyze cryptic attitudes into their barest minimum and predict a situation that could assume apocalyptic pro-portions if the Ethiopians fail to act. Nursing their pain from a notoriously disquieting distance, and all the odds in between, they do not lament; they rather subtly articulate their strong observations calling for action before it is too late; something- for those who care to see-they believe is indeed not that far. One doesn’t let a sinking ship fend for itself; lest, in the melee to stay afloat, it takes all down with it. For Yosief, no country other than Ethiopia shoulders the greatest responsibility in bringing the state of affairs in Eritrea, arguably the sinking ship, to its logical end. Looking at the flip side, as the African adage goes, hawks go away for the nesting season and the fools think they have gone forever.
Shared history that might have thus helped the discord to endure shall be put to quick use to find the means to solve it, that is. The authors are not pen-ning obituaries for the subject long before the news of passing. They are rather debunking established notions of common sense that in large meas-ure seem to have outlived their usefulness. They are bold; they are incisive; and they lay to rest a dialogue that this far has been a ‘no-go’ zone.
But, with broader ramifications, the argument continues to persist. While the disturbing ‘waiting’ in fixing the Ethio-Eritrean discord continues, new factors and the volatility that accompanies them are meandering into the discourse; argue Alex de Waal, David Shinn and Mehari Taddele Maru in their separate essays. Remarkable writers and scholars in their own right, the authors link the Horn of Africa region and the Red Sea with the trou-bling developments along that stretch which occasionally provide clues for hope to be acted upon. That is a no-brainer. A fresh understanding of the cobweb of relations warrants brand new tools for action.
Assefa Fisseha, one of the leading experts on the Ethiopian federal ar-rangement, explores whether the system is working. With angular scrutiny of a narrative that defined Ethiopian polity for well over two decades, his investigation also taps into the unrest and riots of the last one and a half years. Goitom Gebreluel, meanwhile, insists on a quick revision of the Ethiopian Foreign Policy and National Security Strategy that has been in place for some time now. The strategy needs to take into account the new actors- near and far- with diverse agendas that have jumped into the geo-political equation, he argues. Our Editor Dade Desta and Medhane Tadesse, one of the leading experts on conflict resolution in the sub-region, delve into a remarkable Ethiopian story to appraise state-building at its core and investigate the nuts and bolts of making the Ethiopian state durable. They don’t claim to have discovered the answer but they have tried to explore in reaching at one.
Zeresenay AlemSeged, a distinguished paleoanthropologist known for the discovery of Selam, a 3.3 million years old baby skeleton in the badlands of the Ethiopian northeast, banks on his meeting with (President) Barack Obama when he visited Ethiopia in July 2016, for a revealing essay on race and the peripheries of racism. And, oh yes, what is color?! He has in mind the unfinished business in the American electoral swamp. Yet, Getachew Reda, also a critical writer, picks on where Zeresenay has left as he discuss-es the present in American politics- taking it along a different direction. Remember? Africa didn’t figure out in the presidential debates for the highest office in the USA. Now that it is over, Getachew argues that the election of Donald Trump may offer an opportunity for America to shelf the one-way traffic in the US-Africa corridors of conversation and embark on a binary one. To sum it all and partly explore the subject, Peter Pham of the The Atlantic Council, sits for a Q&A with our Editor.
The DISCOURSE menu also recommends two issues of interest for the continent. Our Deputy Editor Michael Minassie counts on his six years of life as a journalist in South Sudan to explore the shocking details in state building (and power sharing) attempts in that country where hopes for peace are dashed in quick succession. Melaku Mulualem, an expert at Ethi-opian Foreign Relations Strategic Studies Institute (EFRSSI) goes East and looks into what China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative has to offer for Africa. Should Africa be better prepared for post conflict situations and an offer that seems to come on a silver platter? You bet it should!
In a historical footnote, Chester Higgins, a former New York Times staff photographer, and Betsy Kissam travel far back in time- into the monu-ments the Aksumite civilization produced and try to make sense out of those markers of time. In their note lavished with great pictures, they em-bark on one big attempt at bridging space and time and give meaning from their vantage point. The historian Ayele Bekerie (author of the must read, ETHIOPIC: An African Writing System), also our Contributing Editor, goes into that time period and declares that ancient Ethiopians had superb dip-lomatic skills to boot. And, yes, he has the data to prove it.
Plenty to read in this maiden edition that has been three years in the mak-ing. From soliciting diverse contributions to the intricacies of publishing, the journey was quite exciting; and challenging too as far as first editions go. But the mix is so boundless that we hope you will sail with us in read-ing these well researched essays- hopefully, cover to cover. Yet, beyond just a good read, we are making this happen because we believe the venture should also help provide some new perspectives for public policy in the African continent. The line to destination is not necessarily straight.
The articles in Discourse do not reflect any consensus of beliefs nor necessarily Discourse’s positions. We do not expect that readers will sympathize with all the sentiments they find here, for some of our writers will flatly disagree with others. It is our job to keep clear of mere nonsensical crotchets. We hope the variety of opinions will help contribute to the ongoing conversation on African issues. We do not accept responsibility for the views expressed in any article that appear here.
The contents of Discourse are copyrighted. No part of the journal may be reproduced, hosted or distributed in any form or by any means without prior written permission from Discourse. To obtain permission, contact the editorial team.
Discourse Editorial Team has few and simple considerations applied during soliciting and selecting articles for publication in Discourse Journal:
Discourse covers mainly security and peace, development and governance, and heritage and culture promotions of Africa with a focus on the Horn. Thematic issues can be com-missioned to capable contributors by the Team or articles can be proposed or forwarded to the Team by the authors themselves. Articles must be written with a journalistic style and an academic depth. Articles must not be longer than 4000 words; 12 point font size, all 0.5pts spaced, and Garamond font face. Pictures or art works (original) can be included as part of the story in the article. Articles submitted should be clean and simple grammati-cally and message wise. The Editorial Team tasks itself to edit articles for beauty, language and factuality. The Editorial Team believes the ultimate owners of the ideas expressed as part of the articles are the authors themselves. Except on matters of maintaining the right length and language, the Editorial Team does not interfere to shape or alter the views and opinions of the authors.