While the TPLF army is trying to take control of Mile, a strategic city in Ethiopia as a junction of the railway that connects Addis Ababa to the port of Djibouti providing important supplies with the aim of cutting off supplies to the capital in order to speed up its surrender, the clash between the government and the Tigrinya returns to the Eritrean issue.
Eritrea in fact has actively participated in the war in Tigray allying itself with Abiy Ahmed and the federal forces, an interference that has often been criticized by international actors and that, after months of denials by Asmara and Addis Ababa, was admitted at the end of spring together with the promise of a rapid retreat of the Eritrean forces.
The advance of the TDF, since the ouster of federal forces last June, then shifted the media attention to the Eritrean role in the conflict, but to date it is still uncertain if indeed the Eritrean troops have abandoned Tigray. Surely the Tigrian forces, after having broken the encirclement, have dealt more with the federal forces than with the Eritrean ones but, as anticipated on these pages by Nicola Pedde last week, with the capitulation of Addis Ababa could trigger the second war between Eritrea and Ethiopia.
At the end of last week, the U.S. government has also issued harsh sanctions against the Eritrean government for the violation of human rights occurred during the conflict in Tigray: this has then provoked two distinct reactions from Addis Ababa and Macallè. The press releases of the two governments followed each other with a bitter back and forth.
The Ethiopian government, in its November 13 response to the U.S. sanctions, responded in five points in which it accused the TPLF of being the author of the fuse that provoked the Eritrean intervention, which was simply a military response of a sovereign entity to an attack on its soil and, moreover, that it sees Eritrea not as an impediment to a sustainable peace in Ethiopia (which is prevented by the TPLF) and, finally, that it has never complained about the Eritrean intervention on its soil.
The TPLF’s response the next day was peremptory. Abiy Ahmed is initially criticized for colluding with a foreign government – Eritrea – in the conduct of what the Tigrinya people describe as a premeditated genocidal campaign. According to the TPLF leadership, the Prime Minister has delegitimized Ethiopian national sovereignty, and his nationalistic statements are therefore meaningless. The TPLF also claims that the Eritrean army is still present on the territory of Tigray, lying about the retreat that should have taken place last June. EDF forces are still firmly in control of some territories in the west, northwest and east of Tigray. Abiy Ahmed is also accused by the TPLF of bowing to demands and impositions dictated by Eritrea, having provided Asmara with its own means, intelligence and Ethiopian security forces. With this act of reverence towards Eritrea, says the TPLF, the shaky Abiy regime tries to invoke an Eritrean military intervention in the north of the country in order to decrease the pressure on Addis Ababa that would surely precipitate its fall.
It is unclear at this point what might happen and especially if Afwerki will agree to intervene again, although the fact that the Afwerki and Abiy regimes have been described by the TPLF as “inextricably linked” suggests that an intervention against Eritrea is more than just a possibility.