Eritrea’s role in the Ethiopian conflict

Eritrea's role in the Ethiopian conflict
Eritrea’s leader, Isaias Afwerki, and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed

In a sign of the shifting political fortunes of a man who was once outcast, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki has proven to be a staunch ally of the Nobel Peace Prize winner and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, providing his forces with much-needed support to fight the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in Tigray .

In a recent speech to the Ethiopian Parliament, the Nobel laureate revealed that Eritrea, a heavily armed one-party country, had fed, dressed and armed retreating Ethiopian soldiers when the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigrayans attacked them and seized their bases in Tigray, an Ethiopian region. On the border with Eritrea.

This enabled them to return to fight the People’s Liberation Front for the Liberation of Tigrayans, Mr. Abe said, a former guerrilla movement with around 250,000 soldiers, until it was ousted from power in the region on November 28.

“The Eritrean people have shown us … that they are our relatives who are standing next to us on a difficult day,” he added.

Addis Ceesay, 49, walks past his destroyed home in the village of Besoper, in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, December 9, 2020
The conflict in Tigray has ruined many people’s lives

This was an important admission by Mr. Abiy, although it did not go so far as to acknowledge claims that Mr. Isaias, had also sent troops to help defeat the TPLF, a long-standing enemy of the Eritrean leader who has been in power since 1993..

The hospital was bombed

The claim that Eritrean forces are fighting in Tigray was made by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigrayans, civilians fleeing the conflict, and Eritreans inside and outside the country.

“Isaias is sending young Eritreans to die in Tigray. The war will weaken the economy further. But Isaias will stay in power for a long time. He allows people to fight for their survival so that they do not fight for their freedom.” Paulos Tesfagiorges, Eritrean human rights activist forced into exile by the regime in Asmara.

A US State Department spokesman also said that there were “credible reports.” On the presence of Eritrean forces in Tigray, describing it as a “dangerous development”.

Both governments deny these reports, along with Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Salih Muhammad. He described it as “propaganda.”.

a map
a map

As for the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, he said that Abe assured him that there were no Eritrean forces in Tigray, with the exception of the territories that Ethiopia agreed to hand over after a historic peace agreement between the two countries in 2018.

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The deal ended the “no war and no peace” status quo that had existed between the two countries since their 1998-2000 border wars, which left up to 100,000 people dead. Mr. Abiy was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, even though the area had not been transferred to Eritrea by the time the conflict began in Tigray in early November.

Abe’s government severely restricted media, UN agencies, and human rights bodies’ access to Tigray, making it difficult to verify reports or investigate allegations of atrocities against all parties to the conflict – including the bombing of a hospital from Eritrean soil.

Eritrea did not comment on the alleged bombing In a statement issued by the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights. My father denies that his forces killed one civilian in Tigray.

“This war was fought in total darkness. Nobody knows the true size of the conflict or its impact,” said Rashid Abdi, an analyst in the Horn of Africa region based in Kenya.

Eritrean forces were accused of plunder

US-based analyst Alex de Waal said he was told by a United Nations source that the conflict had caused a “massive displacement” of people in the region, which is the poorest population of Ethiopia, which has a population of about five million.

“If this continues, there will be mass starvation in Tigray, and the population will be bitter and angry,” said de Waal.

He added that he also learned from reliable sources in Tigray, including clerics, that Eritrean forces were involved in looting.

We hear they are stealing the doors [and] Bathroom fittings. “

More on the Tigrayan crisis:

Other Eritreans said that the soldiers, including their relatives, were fighting the TPLF forces on several fronts, and some were even wearing Ethiopian camouflage clothing.

Eritrea insists that it does not have forces in Tigray, while its foreign minister was quoted as saying: “We are not involved.”

However, exiled Eritrean diplomat Abdullah Adam said he personally knew the soldiers who were wounded in the fighting, while a source at the General Hospital in the town of Senafi in southern Eritrea told the BBC that Eritrean and Ethiopian forces were treated there.

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‘Isaias seeks to liquidate the People’s Liberation Front for the Liberation of Tigrayans’

Other sources in Eritrea said that the Ethiopian forces were seen gathering around the central town of Hijaz and transporting their wounded to the nearby Gilas Military Hospital.

UK-based Eritrean academic Jaime Keprib said he believed Mr. Isaias sent troops to Tigray to pursue the “liquidation” of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which, he said, has been the Eritrean leader’s main target since the 1998-2000 border war.

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front was in power at that time in the Federal Government of Ethiopia and the Tigrayan Regional Government.

Military tank cemetery, Central Region, Asmara, Eritrea, August 22, 2019 in Asmara, Eritrea.
A military tank cemetery was built in Eritrea in the aftermath of the 1961-1991 Independence War

“In the 1998-2000 war, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front humiliated the President of the Republic [Mr Isaias] Take control of the small village of Badme. Even when an international court ruled that the village belonged to Eritrea, the TPLF refused to withdraw from the occupied place for 18 years.

“The president was waiting for this moment, and the TPLF reduced his ingenuity and patience at its own responsibility,” Jaime added.

Missiles were fired at Eritrea

Supporters of Mr. Isaias insist that the Eritrean forces did not cross the border into Tigray, saying they only pursued the goal of reclaiming sovereign territory by capturing Badme and its surrounding areas, without causing casualties.

Expressing a different view, Polos said, “Badme is back in Eritrea’s hands, but there has been no public announcement about it as this is not Isaias’ main concern. It is still pushing to crush the TPLF.

My father started out as a peacemaker and reformer, but then fell into the trap of seeking revenge on the TPLF, which Isaias wanted.

Women waving and smiling
Celebrations erupted on the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea when it reopened in 2018

Mr. Abiy says he tried to peacefully resolve differences with the TPLF, but was forced to act against it after it seized military bases in a night raid on November 3, which convinced him that it wanted to overthrow his government.

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Although Mr. Isaias had rallied to help him at the time, Eritrean state media kept their audience in the dark about the conflict, failing even to report the missiles fired by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front that landed on the outskirts of the capital Asmara in early November, causing In a bustle. Explosions that residents heard.

“Eritrean television is talking about bombings in Syria, but when the rockets landed in Asmara, it didn’t say anything,” said Dawit Fisehaye, a former government official in Eritrea.

In a tweetEritrean Information Minister Yamani Meskel said that “it is pointless to exaggerate it.” [the TPLF’s] The last trench, which is predictable, albeit illogical. “

Refugee kidnapping

Internet access is limited in Eritrea and there are no independent media outlets and no opposition parties – The fate of 11 politicians and 17 journalists detained for nearly 20 years remains unknown.

Moreover, military conscription is mandatory while employment opportunities are limited, which has resulted in many people – especially young people – fleeing the country. About 100,000 people have been living for years in the UN camps in Tigray.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said it had received “an overwhelming number of credible reports” of killings, kidnappings and their forcible return to a one-party state during the current conflict.

Although it was not clear who was responsible for the kidnappings, a refugee told the BBC that it was Eritrean soldiers who loaded them on trucks in the town of Adigrat and took them across the border to the town of Adi Qula.

Eritrea has not commented on its alleged involvement, but has previously accused the United Nations agency of committing “smear campaigns” and attempting to evacuate the country from the population.

Dawitt said he did not believe the system would ever fix.

He said, “There has been no change in Eritrea so far because the leadership did not want it and the demise of the TPLF will not change that. Expecting reform is a false dream.”

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