A Conversation With Adhanom Gebremariam
By Awate Team
Jun 28, 2004, 20:21 PST

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Adhanom Gebremariam is a veteran of the liberation struggle and a military commander. After the independence of Eritrea he served as governor of Seraye province [now part of the "Debub" Zone]; as an attorney general and as Eritrean ambassador to the Scandinavian countries and to Nigeria, which was his last assignment. He was a member of the G-15 who escaped jail because he was outside Eritrea when his colleagues from the leadership were arrested. In February, Adhanom left EPLF-DP (now EDP), which he, along with his colleagues, had co-founded.

Along with Abdella Adem, a veteran military commander and ex-ambassador of Eritrea to the Sudan, and Mohammed Ibrahim "Secretaire", a veteran of the liberation struggle of the ELF who had been living in exile in Sweden, Adhanom founded the Eritrean Popular Movement (EPM). The three are the transitional leaders of the new movement. EPM is considered a "cross over organization" because it is comprised of the poliarized camps of ELF and EPLF. Awate.com met Adhanom Gebremariam in Emeryville, California during his tour of the Bay Area. The interview was conducted by Saleh Gadi (in Tigrigna) and translated to English.

1- Let me first ask you about your abandoning the EPLF-DP (now Eritrean Democratic Party, EDP). Many people I spoke to who have read the program of both EDP and EPM report that they couldn’t find a difference between the two programs. They think the separation from your former colleagues was not a difference of views but a personality clash. They also say that if that is the case, he (meaning you) should have been patient for the sake of the unity of the organization -- even if you had valid reasons for wanting to leave. How would you reply to that?

I was patient and carried through, for a long time. The problem is that I was excluded. We couldn’t get any work done. I couldn’t work. We couldn’t work together. We failed to decide [on issues] together. Our activities lacked transparency. While a few people consulted among themselves, the rest of us were left out of the consultations.

2- But you were very few to begin with?

Yes, though we were few, a few of us were left out of the few. I have seen it before. The transitional leadership included Mesfin [Hagos], Assefaw [Tekheste], Hebret [Berhe], Berekhet [Habteselasse] and myself. Mesfin was the chairman; I was considered [his] deputy. Now, we have differences in some fundamental issues such as those concerning the opposition organization, concerning the war, the hows and whats, the weyanes’ agenda, the culture of the EPLF. There were points of differences among us; but I was taking that as a difference of views and never thought it would reach to the extent of isolation. We were excluded. They started to take decisions without our knowledge…

3- For example?

For example, a contact with Ethiopia was established and we were not told. And when I asked why we were not establishing relations with Ethiopia, I was getting other unrealistic replies [explanations].

4- Like what, for example?

Such as what was allegedly said by other people, about [the] popular front or about us, and there were talks that the people in power [PFDJ] having negative views about us, and that estabslishing contacts with Ethiopia is not popular at this time, things like that. The information was… other people were relaying this information. In the end, since I can know that through other means, they told me after they met [with Ethiopian authorities.] That is my conclusion.

5- Who met whom?

Mesfin [Hagos] and Paulos [Tesfaghergis] met with officials from the Ethiopian government.

6- But Paulos is not a leader of the EPLF-DP?

He was not..

7- And he is not a member of EPLF-DP either?

No, that is not true. He is a member.

8- But I have asked him myself and he told me he was not?

You can see that in two ways. It is natural to say he is not a member in relation to his work (do you think this should be published?). He works for an NGO and cannot declare he is a member of political party, because he runs an NGO with his colleagues, but then, he runs Eritrea1.org. Don’t worry; he is everywhere. So… Paulos is a member.

9- Then, can we take his statements and views as representing the EDP?

Yes. What else? I take it that way.

10- All right, you said Mesfin and Paulos met with Ethiopian authorities. Do you know what they talked about, what was discussed or agreed upon?

Up to this time, I haven’t seen a written report. They met in the first week of Gunbot [May] 2002 and we have not read any report. It was verbal and verbal is not reliable. Normally…look I also met [with Ethiopian officials] but I presented written reports.

11- But there is also a complaint against you that you were having a meeting and you were not telling the others about it?

Where? This is a lie. This is being said for defamation. There is written [material] how we should meet them. It is all written; I met them in Khartoum. When I met them in Khartoum, it was the Sudanese who arranged the meeting for me with Ethiopian and Yemeni foreign ministers. I met them. The newspapers reported it. Not only were they informed, but the public at large was also informed. It was in the papers. And that can't be a secret.

12- So you are saying you haven’t conducted secret meetings?

No, I haven’t.

13- Was it all transparent?

It was open.

14- Then did the topics you discuss have any difference from the topics they (Mesfin & Paulos) discussed?

What they discussed, apart from discussing it verbally, there is no written material about it. There is nothing you can quote except that they [Ethiopians] hate the PFDJ and that they say, "you have to distance yourselves from the views of Isaias and from the views of PFDJ"…This was said in the congress. And I responded by saying that this is what we are struggling for. Other than that, I haven’t heard a word detailing what they [Ethiopians] or if they tried to exert any pressure on us. But in the congress, Mesfin related this as an act of pressure.

15- So do you think this "pressure" is hindering the movement from getting involved in regional politics?

We have devised a strategy. A strategy to meet with Ethiopia, Sudan and Yemen. But then they met and made it a secret. Why should it be hidden from us?

16- What do you mean when you say "us"?

Me and Hibret.

17- Was Dr. Tesfai Germatsion with you?