Scope of Eritrea’s Involvement in the Tigray War

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Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has called Eritrea a “relative standing by Ethiopians on a tough day.” The premier’s utterance clearly portrays Eritrea’s role in helping Ethiopian federal forces during the Tigray war.

In his address to the Ethiopian Parliament, Mr. Abiy made public that Eritrea had clothed, fed, and armed retreating federal soldiers when Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces attacked their Tigray bases.

Eritrea’s Involvement

Ethiopia’s Tigray region borders Eritrea. The proximity with the area eased Eritrea’s involvement in Mr. Abiy’s military action against TPLF.

Importantly, TPLF has been a long term enemy of Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki. Using the principle of “the enemy of your enemy is your friend,” Mr. Isaias offered the Ethiopian government a hand to overpower TPLF forces.

According to Gaim Kibreab, a UK-based Eritrean academic, Mr. Isaias has been looking to liquidate TPLF since the 1998 -2000 border war. The ongoing war has provided the head of state a perfect chance to settle his scores.

Eritrean troops in Tigray

TPLF, civilians fleeing the conflict, and Eritreans inside and outside the country have made claims of Eritrean troops’ presence in Tigray.

An Eritrean human rights campaigner, Paulos Tesfagiorgis, has accused Isaias of “sending young Eritreans to die in Tigray.” He adds that the Eritrean head of state makes people fight for survival to prevent them from fighting for their freedom.

Other Eritreans claim that Eritrean soldiers are fighting in Tigray camouflaged with Ethiopian military ware. These Eritreans have also said that their relatives are part of the troops in Tigray.

According to a US state department spokesperson, there are “credible reports” that show Eritrean troops’ presence in Tigray.

However, both governments have opposed the allegations of Eritrean troops’ involvement in Tigray. Moreover, Osman Saleh Mohammed, Eritrea’s foreign minister, has dismissed the claims as propaganda. Osman has maintained that Eritrean forces are not involved in the war

UN Chief Antonio Gueterres says that Mr. Abiy has assured him of the absence of Eritrean troops in Tigray, except in Ethiopia’s territory earlier handed over to Eritrea in a peace agreement.

Eritrean Accused of Shelling and Looting

United Nations Human Rights High Commissioner alleged that shells that hit residential areas and a hospital in Tigray were launched from Eritrea. The allegations are drawn from interviews with several people from the town who saw what transpired.

Also, Alex de Waal, a US-based analyst, said that he had learned from reliable sources, including clerics, that the Eritrean troops took part in the looting. He added that the soldiers went to the extent of stealing doors and bathroom fittings.

A fight in Darkness

Rashid Abdi, a Kenya-based Horn of Africa analyst, has termed the Tigray war as one “fought in absolute darkness.”

Abdi’s remarks are drawn from the fact that the Ethiopian government has greatly restricted the Tigray region from the media, UN agencies, and other human rights bodies. Consequently, gauging the Tigray situation can be likened to finding a needle in a haystack.

In conclusion, Eritrea’s involvement in the Tigray battle is based on secondary information. The region’s inaccessibility has made it difficult to fully ascertain the scope of the Eritrean government’s participation in the ongoing war.

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