Exclusive Conversations

Eritrean Perspective on the Ethiopian Conflict

Dr. Elshafie Khidir Saeid – Khartoum

I think, If we want to understand & analyze the present Ethiopian internal war correctly, one should approach the issue by clearly stating that it is not just a security issue or simple action to ‘restore law and order’ in Tigray.

To me, as well as to many others, this is a clear political issue that requires political solution. Since he came to power, Mr. Abiy Ahmed has been calling for a political reform of the ethno-federalism system.

However, his effort & measures taken have been projected, by many, as a push for a unitary centralized state, and this raises concerns about political autonomy in other Ethiopian regions.

At the end of the last year, he replaced the four-party EPRDF with his own single Prosperity Party. Its structure is organized to run a centralized state rather than the current ethnic-federal system.

On how the recent war was erupted, I thought it is worthy to get the views of Eritrea on the issue.

In this regard, I do encourage everyone to see the comprehensive & very educative, as well as informative talk of the Eritrean president, Isaias Afwerki, in an exclusive interview with the Eritrean media.

In his talk, President Isaias Afwerki elaborated at length the genesis and current situation of the conflict in Tigray Region in Ethiopia; the simmering border dispute between Sudan and Ethiopia; the controversy between key riparian States on the use of the waters of Nile River; and, Eritrea’s ties with its partners in the Gulf and Red Sea Region.

He also addressed key domestic issues including Eritrea’s current preventive approach and road map for controlling the COVID-19 pandemic, GOE’s development priorities for 2021, programs of expansion of the country’s power generation, as well as progress in the implementation of salary increments in the Civil Service.

President Afwerki on the Ethiopian Crisis

On the crisis in Ethiopia, President Isaias Afwerki highlighted many important points, starting by stressing that the Joint Declaration on Peace and Friendship signed between Ethiopia and Eritrea in July 2018 had ushered in a new era of peace and optimism, and Eritrea did not push for prompt implementation of the border decision as stipulated in the Agreement since the consolidation of the peace process was its utmost priority.

On the contrary, Mr. Afwerki stated, the TPLF regime, which had used the border dispute as a trump card for incessant destabilization, went into commotion, kept the population hostage, and ramped up its war preparations.

He said that he had asked Mr. Debretzion, the acting President of the Tigray Region – in the brief meeting in Omhager- why the TPLF was making huge preparations for a senseless war.

Against this backdrop, said Mr. Afwerki, no-body had imagined that the TPLF would resort to such unprecedented and reckless move to attack the Northern Command of the Ethiopian Defense Forces (EDF) in early November.

This was inexplicable and mind boggling but borne out of miscalculation as is often the case with most wars. TPLF plan was to neutralize the 32,000 Contingent – one-third of which were affiliated with the TPLF and topple the Federal Government.

Mr. Afwerki insisted that part of this plan was the subsequent invasion of Eritrea! He affirmed that this TPLF historic blunder was rooted in its policy of ethnic polarization enshrined in the 1994 Constitution it imposed on Ethiopia.

The plan was to sow the seeds – plant landmines as it were – for interminable division and conflict in Ethiopia.

Events in Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq demonstrate the perils of policies rooted in ethnic and religious polarization. For Eritrea, cooperation with Ethiopia is not a matter of choice but an obligation.

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