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Abiy Ahmed’s Parliamentary Briefing on Tigray: Fact and Reality Check

Part II

Isaac M. 27.03.21

Part i was dedicated to fact and reality check on mass crimes. In this second and final part, Mr Ahmed’s ‘admission’ of Eritrea’s ‘border crossing’, the deployment of Amhara forces into Tigray and the question of withdrawal of both actors from Tigray are probed in light of subsequent ‘developments.

On Eritrean involvement

7. After months of utter denial, including knowingly misleading the UN Secretary General, about the involvement of Eritrea in the Tigray war, Abiy Ahmed admits, even if vaguely, that the Eritrean army has crossed into the Ethiopian border . He previously told the Secretary General that Eritrean troops were within their territory as per the award made to them by the Hague Commission. From this, what he appears to have said now is that the Eritreans have crossed to the former defence lines of the Ethiopian army ‘to protect their national security’. This is not factually accurate admission: the Eritrean army participated in the war from the very beginning along the federal and Amhara forces, and its several infantry and mechanised divisions are still fighting Tigray forces deep inside Tigray and from the Amhara region bordering Tigray. This is confirmed by credible reports, including a recent report from titled:  ‘Ethiopia's Tigray conflict: The 'twisted joke' of denial in the violence is finally laid bare’. This is corroborated by the Ethiopian Human Rights on 26 March that he and his partner in crime, Mr Afewerki, have agreed that the Eritrean army will withdraw from the Ethiopian ‘border’. This deliberately ambiguous account tries to hide the fact that the primary force battling Tigray forces is now the Eritrean army.

On the causes for Eritrean involvement

8. He claimed that Eritrea got involved after being attacked by TPLF rockets .

This is a fabricated fact. As mentioned earlier, the Eritrean army was part of the preparation, planning and the start of the war. Rockets were fired to Eritrea after the Tigray state government accused Eritrea of its involvement from the very beginning and because of the use of Eritrea’s airports and territory by the federal and Amhara forces to launch attacks on Tigray.

On Eritrea’s non (-withdrawal)

10. The leader claims that Eritrea entered into Ethiopia’s territory for fear of being attacked by the TPLF and to protect their national security . He also vows that they won’t leave Tigray as that is not a breach of international laws .

The national security justification for Eritrea’s presence in Tigray is a fully fabricated story by Mr Ahmed

The Eritrean army has also occupied and forcefully annexed many Tigray towns and villages deep inside the Ethiopian territory; Eritrean troops are deployed to western, central and southern Tigray to encircle Tigray forces and leadership from day one. Until now, the Eritrean, federal and Amhara forces are on the offensive. The truth of the matter is thus the Eritrean army entered Tigray to help defeat the TPLF and collectively punish Tigrayans. That is what they are trying to do until now, albeit with a limited success.

Waging a war and committing gross crimes in partnership with a foreign dictator against your own people is not lawful under Ethiopian, African and global laws. Inviting a foreign country to intervene into a civil war situation to help suppress dissent constitutes both an illegal intervention into the affairs of Ethiopia and a breach of human rights and freedoms of the Tigray people.  This is why the US and the EU countries are calling for withdrawal of Eritrea from Ethiopian territory.  Even if one endorses his weak policy and legal argument, Eritrea is still denying its intervention, and he told the world that they are not there and that no one invited them to intervene.

11. Now, in less than two days of his announcement of defending the presence of Eritrean forces inside Ethiopia, Abiy turned 360 degree , and told the world that he concluded an agreement with the Eritrean dictator to withdraw the latter’s forces from the ‘border’ .

This is factually untrue and also not realistic for three main reasons: first, the Eritrean army is not at the border of Ethiopia-Eritrea; its fighting in southern, western, central and northern Tigray. All Tigrayans, aid workers, the media , the UN, foreign governments and research i nstitutions know this fact very well. At the time of finalising this fact and reality check, there are reports that 28 trucks full of Eritrean soldiers have entered Adwa, one of the towns of Tigray. This is just a few hours, if not minutes, following Ahmed’s announcement of Eritrean withdrawal.

Secondly, the Eritrean and Ethiopian armies are fighting the Tigray battle under a unified command and sharing military, logistical and military uniforms . The Eritrean army’s presence is not limited to Tigray, they are in the Amhara and Oromiya regional states and now have presence close to the Sudanese border from the Ethiopian side as reported by the UN .

Thirdly, despite Abiy Ahmed’s announcement that the Eritrean army positions at the ‘border’ will be replaced by the Ethiopian army, the latter is neither capable of covering the current Eritrean positions nor does it have the required manpower, leadership and conviction to sustain the fight. Abiy Ahmed’s plea for more recruits to the army during his parliamentary speech and his increased reliance on the Amhara and Eritrean forces confirm this.

The instant ‘change of policy’ is therefore clearly a tactic to defuse the international pressure on both dictators which may well lead to military or other forms of enforcement measures against one or both regimes. The very fact that both have not admitted the scale of intervention and presence of Eritrean forces is sufficient reason to not trust what they are now saying.  The international community should not be trapped in the Ahmed-Afewerki tactic of getting away with their mass atrocities, starvation and using rape as a weapon in Tigray.

If the two dictators insist that they have committed to ensure Eritrea’s withdrawal, they should also commit to a fully and independently monitored and verifiable withdrawal of the forces from Tigray. And such verification and monitoring should not be just one-off event –it has to be regularly and permanently overseen and consequences of breaches set out until a full peace is restored in the region.
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