By Fessehaye Kidane
As a result of the TPLF’s agenda of hegemony, the people of Tigray also were divorced from the people of Eritrea. In history, Eritrea has never been an enemy of Ethiopia or Tigray. The TPLF since it came into power in 19991, under the guise of the Ethiopian government, however, has attempted to drag and hoodwink including the rest of the Ethiopian people for animosity with the people of Eritrea. As a case in point, the bloody war of 1998-2000 between Eritrea and Ethiopia under the pretext of a border issue is a creation of the junta at the blessing of its western angels. However, to the credit of Premier Dr. Abiy Ahmed, when the TPLF was toppled from power through a peaceful mob of Ethiopians and a tacit coup from within the EPRDF party in 2018, the reconciliation and relation of the two peoples came back to the record of history.
In hindsight, it is worth refreshing the mind of Eritreans and Ethiopians including other spectators at the eve of the Ethio-Eritrea reconciliation time. Just a month before the official ceremony of the Peace Accord of Eritrea and Ethiopia, what the Eritrean President, Issaias Afewerki, said may be a reminiscent of many observers of the Horn of Africa markedly associating his prescient remarks with what happened to the TPLF junta after four years. At that point in time, apart from announcing that Eritrea was ready for the reconciliation of both countries and an Eritrean high-ranking delegation of peace would visit Ethiopia, he also boldly said that ‘the game is over,’ notably targeting and singling the TPLF. Besides, in one of his next interviews, he added that ‘what remained is whitewashing the TPLF’. Why he said so was clear: he well knew that the TPLF, while it was a coalition party of the Government of Ethiopia, would not be happy with the Peace Deal. In fact, no one can forget that the TPLF was not in favor of the relations and the course of the rapid events of the peace process. At the moment, apart from campaigning against the reconciliation of Ethiopia and Eritrea, it has even gone on to officially condemn through a statement of its political bureau.
Moreover, the TPLF gang also further organized, including mass demonstrations in the major towns of its region tempting and mystifying the people of Tigray against the rapprochement of Eritrea and Ethiopia. As far as its capacity allowed to hinder the peace accord of the two neighboring states, it blatantly showed its arrogance and thereby decided to block all paths of the peace door; but it was in vain. Far beyond that, even after the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia was opened for a brief period of three months, the conspiracy theory of the TPLF protagonists continued to undermine the stalemate of the peace environment. Some cases in point were that under the so-called ‘people to people dialogue,’ the TPLF leadership did not stop from organizing ‘public forums’ and sending elderly villagers to Eritrean neighboring villages besides hosting unauthorized cultural shows. Such attempts were old tactics which were meant to undermine and replace the government with government communications. All such activities of the TPLF were spontaneous and not centralized by official Ethiopian or Eritrean state machineries and institutions. Nonetheless, when the free movement, social communication and trade of the respective peoples across the borders stopped, the TPLF’s policy and political tone of language soon shifted unabatedly towards another adventure.
To begin with, why the TPLF leadership was not happy with the peace accord of Ethiopia and Eritrea was obvious. In a word, it seemed that the TPLF feared that the political trajectory of Ethiopia was going out of its hands. In other words, unlike his predecessors, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia seemed to opt and pursue an independent political line that could shape the political landscape of his country: the TPLF took no time to thwart his Grand Vision of Making Ethiopia Great Again (MEDEMER or MEGA Vision) and the Horn Region. According to the TPLF’s miscalculation, however, bringing Eritrea at the forefront of the diplomacy of Ethiopia was taken as a suicidal move against its offences and existence. Likewise, when the team of other African Horn countries such as Somalia and South Sudan joined the dividend of the peace accord, it added another frustration not only to the TPLF protagonists, but also to other Western countries as well. That’s why the TPLF further conspired with its western allies to abort the smooth course of the development and security pacts.
First of all, soon afterward the Peace Accord of 2018 between Eritrea and Ethiopia, in the first instance, the TPLF leadership became victims of Eritrea’s messages of peace and prosperity. In particular, it was at loggerheads with the political phrases of Eritrea’s President. When the President of Eritrea said, ‘Game over and wipe out the dirt of the TPLF politics of animosity and polarization,” the Tigray junta could not sleep in peace even for a minute. Moreover, after the Head of State of Eritrea advised and warned the TPLF leader that Eritrea was in close watch to their war preparations and thus need to agree with their government not to pursue such policy, the TPLF elite mistranslated and even started to tease with the wisdom and approach of Eritrea’s president. To the contrary, such phrases and approach were thus construed as bombshells to its political survival. As a result, from such words and stance of Eritrea, the TPLF took homework for its war project. In other words, whether explicitly or implicitly, it seemed that the words of Eritrea’s President in particular tested and challenged the political naivety of the TPLF political elite. That’s why it turned all sorts of stones that could suit its war drum.
Finally, the TPLF found a crack to delegitimize the Federal Government of Ethiopia for the fact that the political election was postponed just because of the Covid Pandemic which was in fact a common phenomenon at the time in most parts of the world. Afterwards, it conducted its own illegal election under the vision of creating a Greater Republic of Tigray. For the Tigray governing party, it seemed high time to give a flesh to its long-standing ‘vision and ideology’ which was only a province of a small elite of Tigray. Even when the Prime Minister of Ethiopia warned the TPLF party that its election would have serious consequences, it gave a deaf ear. In contrast, soon after the message of the Prime Minister, two of the TPLF ideologues, namely Ghetachew Reda, spokesperson as well as Asmelash, one of the shakers and movers of its political bureau member, took no time to respond to his warning and even went to tease ‘about the gut’ of the premier. Later on, the TPLF rushed to attack the nearby Ethiopian National Army which had been stationed in Tigray for over decades in order to safeguard the Ethiopian international border with Eritrea besides supporting the people of Tigray.
The Ethiopian government then had no option except to retaliate and save its army and the Tigrayan people from the atrocities of the junta. That’s why a ‘Law Enforcement Operation’ was declared against the invasion of the TPLF. Eritrea, on the other hand, has to defend its borders since the TPLF junta was also in its rush to control the contested areas of Eritrea after attacking the Ethiopian army. In fact, Eritrea has not rushed only to keep its interest just because of the vicious attack, it also sided with the Ethiopian government through giving a safe-haven to the escaping Ethiopian soldiers besides deterring the TPLF invasion of Eritrea as soon as it could. Indeed, why Eritrea joined and involved in the civil war of Ethiopia is guaranteed both by an international law and the Security Protocol and Agreement of 2018 between the two states.
Be as it may, after three rounds of TPLF-instigated bitter war in Northern Ethiopia, now the TPLF junta is punished and eviscerated by any means necessary. No matter what it said to justify its defeat, the Peace Deal of Ethiopia and the TPLF is a cover up to its humiliating defeat. Nonetheless, unless the Peace Deals did not guarantee Eritrea’s interest, it seemed crystal clear that it would not be complete. For sure, what Eritrea paid being on the side of Ethiopia must have a meaningful result as far as the TPLF’s existential threat for Eritrea is totally eliminated.
Even from a lay man’s Eritrean perspective, the TPLF leadership was the main stumbling block of all Eritrean social, political and economic developments. No one denies the fact that Eritrea’s national development is suspended just because the TPLF created a ‘war shadow and no-war-no peace situation’ since 1998. Moreover, apart from the junta’s intrigue and naked move against the peaceful coexistence of Eritrea and Ethiopia, when it shot missiles to Eritrea, there seemed no option except to give hands to Ethiopia aiming for the total demise of the clique. In other words, the only vested interest of Eritrea is either to weaken or to unseat the junta since it is an existential threat to any sort of cooperation between the two countries. Besides, the junta’s refusal to leave Eritrean legally demarcated areas also obliged Eritrea to be party to the civil war. Hence, after the TPLF resorted to a war course both through attacking Ethiopian army and tempting Eritrea’s invasion, it was a blessing in disguise for Eritrea to cooperate with Ethiopia. The only purpose is nothing but to eradicate the TPLF’s threat of peace and cooperation.
In the final analysis, the prescience of Eritrea’s president is now materialized; his predictions spoke volumes when one now happened to review and analyze it thoroughly from retrospect. The broadminded veteran politician and strategist of Eritrea has never been challenged ever since, let alone by the wisdom and gut of the TPLF, even by super powers’ intrigues and agendas. There is no doubt that The TPLF’s defeat is a fait accompli both in the military arena and peace deal outcome. In effect, what the history of the TPLF, even in a case of peace dealing showed, is always a loser. A point in case is, for instance, the TPLF-dominated government of Ethiopia instigated the war with Eritrea with the pretext of a small village of Badme, but the border verdict of Eritrea and Ethiopia awarded the flash point of the cause to Eritrea. This time round, the game seems to be over but the whitewashing of TPLF leaders still remains as a project both for Eritrea and Ethiopia. Unless the TPLF leadership is wiped out from the political map of Ethiopia, the people of both countries could not stride for strategic development and prosperity.
By and large, though the Peace Accord seemed to end the conflict, yet Eritrea needs close watching and inspecting as to whether its interests would be guaranteed. Thanks to the Ethiopian government and peace facilitators, the fact that Eritrea’s intervention and so-called misconducts didn’t appear to the forefront in the Peace Accord may be taken as a step forward. Primarily, Eritrea needs assurances and verification of its international border with Ethiopia. As a matter of fact, such assurances must start as a precondition right from the implementation process of the TPLF’s army disarmament. The reason is that Eritrea, as a coalition party of the war theatre in Northern Ethiopia, ought to observe and reaffirm itself whether the disarmament process is right on track as per the letter and spirit of Article 6 (Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration: …undertaking the disarmament of heavy armaments…and finalizing the overall disarmament of the TPLF combatants including light weapons) and Article 7 (which is on Confidence-Building Measures) respectively. In other words, Eritrea apparently has a political obligation to keep and ensure its strategic interest as part of the ‘Transitional Measures’ in accordance with Article 10 not least Article 11 (on Monitoring, Verification and Compliance) too. For instance, in reference to the later Article, the AU through the High-Level Panel is mandated to appoint a team of around 10 African experts to monitor the implementation of the permanent cessation of hostilities agreed upon article 3. Regardless of the argument that Eritrea may be portrayed as a sympathizer and supporter of the Ethiopian government, Eritrea can be mandated as a watchdog guard to rectify issues of ground in cases ‘instances of violations of cessation of hostilities (with reference to Article 11: 8)’ happen to the fore. Besides, the disarmament and monitoring processes could be beyond Ethiopia’s capacity as such both armies could easily help each other like hand and glove.
Above all, according to the Ethiopian recent press release (Redwan Hussien), currently Ethiopia is able to control 70% of the Tigray region prior to the Peace Deal. In other words, by default, the majority of the TPLF combatants seemingly have laid their arms and weapons by force. However, by design, what the US and the EU purportedly leveraged the AU is just to give inhalation to the TPLF political leaders. There is no doubt that such military gain is as a result of Ethiopian and Eritrean costs of life. As such, unless Eritrea works and verifies the actual percentage of the disarmament reality, what it paid could be meaningless besides not keeping its vested-interest. Secondly, Eritrea expects for the expedition of the delineation of its borders with Ethiopia. In other words, such border settlement with Ethiopia must be closed as a chapter without leaving the homework for other generations. In this case, it is worth noting that ‘the Final and Binding EECB ruling’ which the UN at the pressure of US attempted to reverse in 2004 via appointing a special envoy, Canadian expert Llyod Axworthy, is still pending mainly due to the obstruction of the TPLF-led government of Ethiopia. Even after the reconciliation of Eritrea and Ethiopia on July 9, 2018, the TPLF was not obedient to its government to leave from the occupied territory of Eritrea. Yet, if the TPLF was allowed as a political entity, Eritrea never trusts the presence and provocation of such an organization.
In brief, it is important to note that Eritrea was obliged to intervene in the conflict of Northern Ethiopia mainly so as to keep its own interest. In the first place, it paid a cost in order to reduce the existential threat of the TPLF agenda towards Eritrea. Secondly, it has a strategic interest from the stability of Ethiopia which doesn’t entertain a hegemonic threat of its neighboring countries. Thirdly, Eritrea has a mandate of regaining its hijacked territories such that Ethiopian and Eritrean future generations will be free of blame-game accusations and rationally ungrounded violations or each other’s’ invasions at the pretext of territories. Accordingly, if the Eritrean people are to live in peace and cooperation with their neighboring Ethiopian people, the only way out that Eritrea may demand is that a federal army to be deployed in its borders with Ethiopia. To this effect, what Article 8 of the Peace Deal enshrines, the Ethiopian National Defenses Forces to be deployed along the international boundaries of Ethiopia, seems to suffice. In brief, Ethiopia is supposedly expected to argue on behalf of its ally Eritrea to give it a leeway for its support such that if Eritrean strategic interest is kept, it is not only for a sake of a ‘badge of honor,’ but it is for a lasting peace in the fragile horn region particularly Ethiopia.
Writer’s Brief Note:
Fessehaye Kidane Melaky is based in Asmara. He is a cadre of education in the Eritrean Ministry of Education at the Office of the Minister. Besides being an author of one book in English (entitled Star Reader), he has also written dozens of articles both in English and Tigrigna (mother-tongue language) versions in the State-owned Newspapers namely Eritrea Profile and New Eritrea. As a case in point, the writer’s recent publications in Eritrea Profile and Hadas Eritrea respectively include ‘From Home Song’ to ‘Family in an Ordeal’ (Shabait.com, Feb 16, 2019) and (መጕስዕ ኲናት ስነ-ልቦና ኽሳዕ መኣስ፧ ጋዜጣ ሓዳስ ኤርትራ፣ ሚያዝያ 2022 or ‘Regurgitation of Psychological Warfare: For How Long Will It Last?’). Prior to that, he has contributed various articles regarding education, linguistics, book reviews and political history of Eritrea.
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