The Ethiopian government, under intense pressure from the United States, finally admitted this week, after months of exile, to the deployment of Eritrean forces in the country in support of a military offensive launched in November on the rebel province of Tigray.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who met Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki on Thursday to discuss the situation, confirmed Friday that his counterpart had agreed to quickly bring his soldiers home amid allegations of mounting violations against them.
Abi Ahmed confirmed that the forces were only deployed near the borders between the two countries to prevent Eritrean lands from being a target for the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front attacks in an open war with the Ethiopian regime.
Martin Plott, a district specialist attached to the University of London, notes that Eritrean soldiers have in fact been called in as reinforcements by Addis Ababa to try to overcome the independence tendencies of the Tigrayan leaders and reduce the risks of the country’s balkanization. . A country that suffers from ethnic tensions. “They played a central role in the fighting in Tigray,” the expert said.
Prime Minister Abe, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for his efforts to reconcile with Eritrea after years of civil war, launched the attack on Tigray after the Tigray People’s Liberation Front challenged his authority by holding unauthorized local elections.
In addition to seeking support from a large group of Eritrean soldiers whom Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have accused of killing hundreds of civilians, the government requested the help of the Amhara, an ethnic group with a long history of conflict. He left with the Tigrayans on regional issues.
Thousands of fighters are ready
The National Army and its allies advanced rapidly and took control of the capital, Tigray, with relative ease, allowing the Prime Minister to declare victory at the end of November.
The announcement was misleading, however, since the TPLF, which had thousands of heavily armed fighters, withdrew much of its forces to the nearby mountains to wage an ongoing guerrilla war.
They can strike government supply convoys that move through the area almost as they wish without incurring any losses. Mr Plot notes, who is concerned that the conflict could fuel ethnic tensions in Ethiopia and lead to Balkanism.
The researcher explains that the model of “ethnic federalism” that was developed in Ethiopia in the early 1990s, after the fall of the military junta that had ruled for a long time in terrorism, is now showing its potentially devastating effects.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which was part of the coalition of disparate movements that brought down the army, played a crucial role in the new central government, while allowing many minorities to establish their own administration and regional forces.
The Tigrayans’ grip on the country fueled the discontent of many elected regional officials in favor of Abiy Ahmed’s rise to power in 2018, which accelerated the political marginalization of this ethnic group and exacerbated the same. In November, a new military conflict broke out and the arrival of Eritrean forces.
Before admitting their presence on the national territory and promising to prosecute those responsible for violations against the civilian population, including in the ranks of the Ethiopian military, Prime Minister Abe had maintained a rigid position, ruling out any negotiated solution. With “terrorists” from TPLF.
Washington Precision met
Increasing pressure from the new US President Joe Biden’s administration to demand a ceasefire and an end to human rights violations, however, has changed the rules of the game for the Ethiopian government, Mr. Plott said.
The researcher asserts that “Ethiopia cannot bear the loss of US support,” which is particularly evocative of the fact that Addis Ababa is in conflict with Sudan regarding the development of a large hydropower project.
Reuters reported that Prime Minister Abe assured parliament on Tuesday that his country already has “a lot of problems” and does not want war with its neighbor.
“It is better to settle the crisis in a peaceful way,” he said.