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Does Eritrea Really Need Ethiopia to Use Assab Port?

Container Crane unloading Nevsun containers in the port of Massawa - Credit: Nevsun 

Does Eritrea Really Need Ethiopia to Use Assab Port?


There is this lingering misconception among Ethiopians and a few regional analysts that Eritrea was financially gaining from Ethiopia when it used the port of Assab between 1991-1997. They also believe the port's economic viability hinges on whether Ethiopia uses it at a future date.

These narratives are even more prevalent among the so-called opposition. For example, Awate.com, an Ethiopian-backed extremist website, said:

For Asseb to make any significance as a source of revenue for Eritrea, it has to sell its services to its neighborhood customers. Djibouti doesn’t need that service, Sudan doesn’t. Somalia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and anyone and his stepfather doesn’t need that service. Ethiopia does and it is not buying that service.

Similarly, In 2000, Meles Zenawi, the late Ethiopian Prime Minister, said:

So if we use the Port of Assab, the benefit is not only for us, but for Eritrea, too. On the other hand, if we decide against using Assab, then the fate of Assab would remain to be a mere source of drinking water for camels. I made this clear to the diplomats. No more, no less. If we do not use the port of Assab, then the Eritrean government won't get a single cent from Assab.

Both these quotes suggest Eritrea needs Ethiopia to use its ports as a source of revenue or else, as Meles puts it, it will be a mere source of drinking water for camels. Ignoring the fact that animals can not drink sea water, Meles' point is simple: without Ethiopia, Assab port will be nothing. But is this claim accurate?

Not quite.

When we compare the year Ethiopia stopped using Eritrea's port (1998) with the year it used it (1997), we only see a 48% decline in the number of vessels docking in the port of Assab, which isn't bad when you take into consideration Eritrea's small population, and the fact that Assab is not the country's main port.

As a result of the conflict, activity at Assab port declined markedly: some 322 vessels docked at the port in 1998, compared with 628 in the previous year.1

Another important fact that is conveniently left out by Meles and his ilk is when Ethiopia did use the port of Assab between 1991-1997, they were paying Eritrea nothing from a profit standpoint, let alone a 'single cent'. As the IMF quote below shows, Ethiopia was using the port of Assab for free.

As stipulated under an intergovernmental transit and port services agreement as well as a customs arrangement (amended annually), the port of Assab is a free port for Ethiopia, with its own Ethiopian customs branch office, and goods shipped to or from Ethiopia remain exempt from the Eritrean customs duties and related charges.

Now, for those who continue to insist Eritrea needs Ethiopia to use its Assab port, on what grounds are they basing this off of? It certainly can not be based from an economical standpoint since Eritrea was not financially gaining from Ethiopia when they did use the port.

The truth is, whether Ethiopia uses Assab port or not has little to no bearing on Eritrea's overall economy. Providing a port free of charge isn't an indication a country is seeking to generate revenue from it; it's a move a nation makes to show empathy for its landlocked neighbor.

Since Ethiopia stubbornly stopped using Eritrea's port, it has payed dearly. According to Teferi Asfaw, deputy secretary-general of the Addis Ababa Chambers of Commerce and Sectoral Association, Ethiopia pays Djibouti a total of US$722.5 million per annum and additional $22.6 million in port tariffs.

But it doesn't have to be this way. Eritrea is more than willing to offer its port free of charge if Ethiopia vacates from sovereign Eritrean territories. For Eritrea, the port of Assab's economic potential was never tied to a neighboring country using its services for profit. The leadership in Asmara understands certain things like good neighborly relations are more important than financially gaining from a country's misfortune.

In conclusion, it's not Eritrea that needs Ethiopia to use its ports for free; it's Ethiopia that needs Eritrea to generously offer those free services. The notion that Ethiopia is hurting Eritrea economically because it irrationally decided to stop using their free port to pay Djibouti nearly US$750 million per annum is absurd. Even today, with all that has gone on, Eritrea is still ready to offer its port without charge if Ethiopia decides to respect international law and end its occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories.

Peace!

_____________________
Notes:
[1] Africa South of the Sahara, by EUR,  p. 371

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Does Eritrea Really Need Ethiopia to Use Assab Port? Reviewed by Admin on 10:15 AM Rating: 5

44 comments:

  1. Ethiopia is a very big country with close to 90 million people and without a port. Eritrea is relatively a small country with a population of about 5 million. According to Paul collier a country without access to the sea is doomed for failure in terms of development. Eritrea is situated at a prime location in terms of manufacturing goods and shipping it middle eastern countries. For this to happen, Eritrea needs sustained peace with Ethiopia. The only solution we have is to live in harmony. Let them use the port for free at the same time Eritrea should be compensated with electric energy and free movements of goods bw the two country. There is no other solution. Arms race, no peace no war, living in fear, are some of the prerequisites for failure. We have to discuss these issues openly.

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  2. Thank you Madote´s Admin for the light you bring to the shadow, many people think opposite about what you write down, is because of false propoganda spread by western media, in reality it´s shame ecologicaly and economicaly, unsustainable in all terms. Think about a single vehicle that do all the time about 400 km extra one-way just because of UNCONCIOUS though not using OUR PORTS.

    Manuele from Rome

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  3. "Eritrea is more than willing to offer its port free of charge if Ethiopia"

    Since when did we start giving things free of charge???

    Ethiopia will pay a fair rate for the use of Asseb. Eritrea is not in the charity business.

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  4. I am with you on this one . Not only will they pay , there should No longer be the usage of local currency as a means of transaction. the should pay with hard currency .

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  5. Great article , Good point made especially for those who seem to think Assab is the Only Eritrean Lifeline and Ethiopians Usage of it our salvation. But As I have mentioned earlier, I strongly disagree with letting them use it for free or even with Nakfa or birr from now on. They Should pay and should pay with Hard Currency only.

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  6. Look what happen lately in their deal with Djibouti here down:

    http://allafrica.com/stories/201312170206.html

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  7. We should only allow them to use it for free if they can give us access to Ethiopian markets for free. That would be a mutually beneficial relationship.

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  8. i totally agree, business is business and we the eritrean people need to make this fact clear not just to the world but also to our government... lets not our government ever forget the values they've passed on to us.."we do not take what isn't ours and we do not give what is not ours" its inevitable that they'll use our ports...some reasons: easy transportations, two big ports with a third/4th/5th easly build easy access to them, easy in reaching the whole country with less cost in transportation.... so to expect or even contemplate that ethiopia to have free or cheap access to our wealth is beyond logic and just compensation us with freedom of movement & goods ( i bet more ethiopian will use this even moving to eritrea throught it..so they benefit more + their number) and compensate with just electricity.. come on now we need to be self sufficient and not dependent on anyone especially them... lets use the power of our sun, wind and waves... business is business.

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  9. As this article points out correctly, Eritrea did not benefit financially from providing Ethiopia with free access to the port of Assab or Massawa for that matter. It was done in a spirit of cooperation to heel the wounds of 30 year war. However, the Ethiopians under TPLF chose not to use Assab for free hoping to capture it and call it Ethiopian. In the process many lives were lost, maimed and disrupted. In light of this development I have reservations about Eritrea allowing its ports to be used freely by Ethiopia regardless of whether Ethiopia is led by the current regime or otherwise. Its legal obligations to vacate sovereign Eritrean territories can not be related to port usage.

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  10. @erilion : Yes Sir . 100% agreed. we have to support our selves especially when it comes to enegry , shouldn't even be a matter of discussion.

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  11. I think that we should bear in mind the past mistakes made by both sides before entertaining any possible scenario. Personally, I believe that Eritrea should offer Ethiopia a sort of preferential deal for two reasons; 1) in order to create an amicable relation after so much bitterness 2) To beat the competition. I would not want get anything for free from them I only want a NORMAL/WARM relation with our neighbour!! I am sure if our economic-political-diplomatic relations with Ethiopia are more led by institutions rather than single individuals, things will eventually follow a regular and mutual beneficial course.

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  12. For free ??? R u kidding man, we won't use that even for free lol , let the camels enjoy there ...

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  13. It is a nice article with a very good analysis. However, it failed to shed some light what the government is planning to do with Assab port in the future. From the information I have, Eritrea's main focus on the use of Assab will no longer be to serve Ethiopia. The plan is to develop Assab port as a transit and duty free port, where ships exchange their cargos and receive services and supplies. The very strategic location of Assab, being at the busiest maritime route, and at the gate of the Red sea and Indian ocean, makes it favorable to use it as a transit port. Though this needs heavy investment, with dedication and hardworking, enshalah we will be there.

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  14. It is a nice article with a very good analysis. However, it failed to shed some light what the government is planning to do with Assab port in the future. From the information I have, Eritrea's main focus on the use of Assab will no longer be to serve Ethiopia. The plan is to develop Assab port as a transit and duty free port, where ships exchange their cargos and receive services and supplies. The very strategic location of Assab, being at the busiest maritime route, and at the gate of the Red sea and Indian ocean, makes it favorable to use it as a transit port. Though this needs heavy investment, with dedication and hardworking, enshalah we will be there..

    ReplyDelete
  15. It is a nice article with a very good analysis. However, it failed to shed some light what the government is planning to do with Assab port in the future. From the information I have, Eritrea's main focus on the use of Assab will no longer be to serve Ethiopia. The plan is to develop Assab port as a transit and duty free port, where ships exchange their cargos and receive services and supplies. The very strategic location of Assab, being at the busiest maritime route, and at the gate of the Red sea and Indian ocean, makes it favorable to use it as a transit port. Though this needs heavy investment, with dedication and hardworking, enshalah we will be there....

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  16. Thanks madote for your very educational article. Like you stated at the Ethiopia need to respect the rule of law. When eritrea become stronger Ethiopia behavior will change let's keep our unity, determination like yesterday in struggle stronger and steadfast . Support our people back home.

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  17. Well thank you in deed, but no thank you, Eitrea is indpendent country so is Ethiopia and others, as a matter of business all should be looked at from that point of view. What one has is its and if the one that does not have it desire it, its completley at the will of the owner. Eritrea does not and will not barter land or sea to appease or please any one, including Ethiopia, not because Eritrea fought ethiopia but that is how bussiness is conducted and Eritrea will not expect anything from eyhiopia, as far as trading one thing for another, we are in the 21 century now and we do not really care who runs ethiopia any more. Ethiopia should have peace with itself and develope and chart its own path as we are doing that, the only neibourly thing is good relation based on mutual respect and benefits any thing short of that is really not even worth entertaining. Asab is Eritrean and will always be and if they( ethiopia) chose to use it or not is uptp them, based on their crediy we shall determine how business is conducted. If they wanna export electricity, eventhough water is a good conduit, we do not recommand it. Light your country first and save some for rainy days, we are practical people with real vision and expectations. Thank you

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  18. TPLF has effectively destroyed any good will that may have existed. I don't think majority of Eritreans wish to deal with Ethiopia in any capacity whatsoever.

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  19. Thank you, booby. Free ...my a..since when our blood is lost in vain. My dear, writer we won't and we will never give a free service. Our land will demarcate no matter what. The only solution that saves TPLFs last breath. Wait and see what comes next after lifting the unwarranted and ill spirited SANCTION.

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  20. WE ETHIOPIANS WILL NEVER USE assaB AS LONG AS IT IS IN THE HANDS OF ERITREANS.iT IE NOT NECESSARY.

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  21. uSING ASSab FOR ETHIOPIANS IS NOT FEASIBLE,ECONOMICALLY,SOCIALLY AND POLITICALLY.

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  22. pLEASE ERITREANS YOU HEVE BEEN SLEPT FOR 22 YEARS,TALKING TO MUCH.PLEASE SHOW US YOUR BRAVITY IF YOU ARE ,JUST NOW.TALKING TO MUCH HAS NO USE ANY MORE.

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  23. eritrean dictator and eritreans, please try to look your future path based up on your shoulder.Donot refer ethiopia and ethiopians in any of your case.in any of your case,that is to live,to die,to develop,to be stagnant...etc you are not referring kenya,south africa,zimbabwe...etc.SO plase donot mention ethiopia and ethiopians in any of your case.to exist or not to exist is up to you if you can try it and show it to the world.you have talked and bosted for 22 years.But nothing.other than poverity,immigration,disaster...etcTo develop or not is up to you.Not the ethiopian case.Here after donot mention ethiopia and ethiopians.If you can try ,make and show it to the real world based up on your shoulder.DONOT THINK TO DEVELOP USING ETHIOPIA!THIS IS A FULLISH THINKING.

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  24. DO you people know what the southern red sea afar Movement is doing now in canada,europe and USA? WHY is it sloganing to be independent from Eritrea.

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  25. So its economically socially and politically feasible for 28 MILLION Ethiopians to suffer from goitre?

    "In Ethiopia, around 28 million people suffer from goitre, and more than 35 million people are at risk of iodine deficiency. More importantly, 50,000 perinatal deaths are related to iodine deficiency each year in Ethiopia."
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2980888

    "But Ethiopia is landlocked and its soil is iodine-poor. The country used to get its salt from the Eritrean port of Aseb, where iodization factories added the nutrient. But since the war, most Ethiopian salt comes uniodized from the salt flats of northern Ethiopia."
    http://www.cumberlandnewsnow.com/Living/2008-03-27/article-374203/Lack-of-iodine-from-distant-war-causes-health-problems/1

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  26. 3000 year old aid-addicted Ethiopia can't even export HALF as much as 20 year old self-reliant Eritrea #Facts

    Eritrea Exports Per Capita (2012): $69
    Population: 6.23 Million
    Exports: 434 Million
    (Total Exports/Population=EPC)
    (434 Million/6.23 Million=69.66)
    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/er.html

    Ethiopia Exports Per Capita (2012): $33
    Population: 93.87 Million
    Exports: 3.1 Billion
    (Total Exports/Population=EPC)
    (3.1 Billion/93.87 Million=33.02)
    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/et.html

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  27. Vijay Kumar ThangellapaliDecember 28, 2013 at 8:11 AM

    Such type of wonderful offers can reduce the tensions and antagonisms between the countries. If Ethiopia accepts the generous offer of Eritrea and compensates it by evacuating (or settling with Eritrea) the disputed areas, providing electricity, free trade between the countries will definitely boost the both countries economies. We shall not think about the past mistakes at this point of time as the economy of both the countries are in very bad shape.

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  28. Ok, if this is some kind of monkey-business, a bait, to let "Ethiopia withdraw from the occupied sovereign Eritrean territory/Badme and to demarcate the border according to the binding treaty so that in return Ethiopia can legitimately get its shipment through Assab, well my friends, if our Shaebia folks are smart, they should imediately demarcate/land-mine the border after Ethiopia withdraws and make it impenetrable with the mother of all modern weapons. Then let's talk about the new contract for Ethiopia to use the Port of Assab, ....what port ??? Hell NO. Let those sons of bitches burn in hell. Let us play those Bantu monkeys to the fullest this time and make them weep blood. NO Assab for monkey Ethiopia.

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  29. Withdraw from Eritrea's sovereign territories/Badme, demarcate the border. By the way, No Assab for Ethiopia. Let those Bantu monkeys weep blood.

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  30. Withdraw from Eritrea's sovereign territories/Badme, demarcate the border. By the way, No Assab for Ethiopia. Let Ethiopia weep blood.

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  31. Eba zmichael assab belong to eritrea now and forever,you bull head.

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  32. The woyanes used our ports for free. That was a big mistake, now they have to vacate our territories before they disintegrate.
    What they brought to Assab was only AIDS.

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  33. You see Eritrawi, we don´t need to use this words, "dem yenbeu", just we keep our ports, until there will be a convineance to ALL of us, we´ll let them use, it´s a matter of TEKMI (BUSINESS), kullu be AGEBAB MALETEY IYU.

    Manuele kab Roma

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  34. Dany arkey komeu aytebel, Tarik nemessalie nay Debub Afrika enteda a riekayo, netom ne newih ametat be APHERTAID zesakeywom, Nelson Mandela nay YEKRE melekti nehezbu hatitu..bekomu dema ne Alem Abi mesekeren tariken koynom..Anehna kea, endeher da a lomi negho kabti meriet na wetziom, dehri ketri ab nay selam tawla kenezareb ina iluwom "ambasader Germa Asmerom"..izi wo dehanka
    Manuele kab Roma

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  35. eritrawi, It is Inappropriate comment, We are aiming for peace and win- win economical scenario for both countries.

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  36. I speak as a man who has witnessed and endured so much suffering. We have survived for more than a decade without doing business with those monkeys, so we don't need their dirty money, they deserve to be ignored as insignificant piece of dirt. All we need is to demarcate the border once for all, then pave it with infinite landmines and lift this nonsense sanction that has been imposed on Eritrea by those bastards and their CIA masters. Well then, if they still have a dream to use Assab, they need to pay 1 Trillion dollar in restitution for centuries of atrocities committed on Eritrean people, oh by the way, make that payment in pure gold. The first thing that got us in this mess was flirting with those Bantu monkeys. Let them wash our feet and have them drink the dirty water, wake up people, put on your conservative face and DON'T EVER monkey around with those piece of shiiiit.

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  37. We souhern Afrar people demand and struggle to Isolate from eritrea.we have never get a ny thing except poverity,immigatration suffering from eritrea.

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  38. As long as Ethiopia defied to the EEBC final and binding verdict, it will not deserve a free sea outlet.

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  39. I smell secret negotiation brewing behind the curtains Badme for free Assab.

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  40. No way my friend...this's a port they ( their late leader & some arrogant ethiopians) stopped using it just for the sake to harm Eritrea economically...therefore now ( i'm not a decision maker) but if i would, i would defintly charge them and very dearly..."k'zihleken b'idkin, k'weyiekin b'manka"..

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  41. Bobby, it's well explained above...Ethiopians have been using the port for free...just for the sake of neighborhood

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  42. To dream of economic integration with Ethiopia is to be foolish. In the words of Issayas " it is one thing to have a dream, its another to realize that drea". Ertirea is a failed experiment. The golden days of EPLF reaping from Ethiopian economy is gone. I wonder what happened to your export of coffee, hives, and other commodities. If I recall in the early 90s Eritrea was one of the top exporters of coffee in the world.
    Ethiopia does need Eritrea to allow it to use Assab. Historically Asab has always been Ethiopian. Just ask the Afari's that live in the area.

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  43. There is a reason why most of you want economic integration. It is clear that Eritrea will gain financially from having a larger market to compete in.
    This reminds of the child that wants to have his independence and move out of his home, yet wants to have open door at his parents home to come and consume their food.
    you want your independence, well you got it . That includes economically.
    As far as a port for Ethiopia is concerned. That will be solved with time.

    ReplyDelete

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