The leader of the federal state of Tigray, Debretsion Gebremichael, gave a lengthy interview to the online magazine The Africa Report on January 20, explaining the reasons for the conflict from the Tigrinya perspective and, especially, providing the TPLF’s point of view on Eritrea’s role.
According to Debretsion Gebremichael, Eritrea has inspired and supported the conflict in Tigray in pursuit of a precise political design of President Isaias Afwerki, who harbours an aversion towards Tigray and its governing party TPLF as a result of what he defined as the “perception of a wrong suffered” (referring in all likelihood to the long territorial dispute that has divided the two countries since 1991), but also because he sees Tigray as an obstacle in the pursuit of Asmara’s regional ambitions.
The interview went on to denounce the Eritrean role in the human rights violations and violence perpetrated during the conflict, also referring to the responsibilities of the federal government and the Amhara militias.
According to Debretsion Gebremichael, Eritrea is inspired by the desire to weaken Ethiopia through a policy capable of creating divisions between its different components, with the aim of destabilizing its national unity and its political and economic capacity.
Among the many paradoxes of this conflict, according to the Tigrinya leader, the alliance between the Amharas and Eritreans stands out in all its evidence, where the former have always blamed the TPLF for allowing the independence of Eritrea, after the long civil war ended in 1991.
The Amhara, continued the Tigrinya leader, are driven by the desire to destroy the balance of ethnic federalism in Ethiopia, in order to consolidate a unitary model under their rule, and have always seen in the TPLF an obstacle in this direction.
The alliance between Abiy Ahmed and Isaias Afwerki, in the Tigrinya view, had little to do with peace between the two countries and regional stability and much, on the contrary, with the goal of eliminating a common enemy and an obstacle to each other’s ambitions. A “marriage of convenience” that the international community did not understand, even awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Aby Ahmed, and thus legitimizing him in his war plan against Tigray.
Any hypothesis of negotiation towards pacification, continued Debretsion Gebremichael, “today passes through Asmara”, which has become an integral part of the crisis and arbiter of Ethiopia’s choices. The problem, continued the Tigrinya leader, is that every pacification hypothesis represents a threat for Isaias Afwerki, who in this way hinders any possible solution and any attempt of the international community to promote a peaceful outcome of the conflict.
Abiy Ahmed has difficulty in freeing himself from Isaias Afwerki and from the alliance with Eritrea, as well as from that with the Amhara, and therefore has little room for manoeuvre precisely because he is “hostage” to these ties.
The solution to the Ethiopian crisis, in this way, transits according to the Tigrinya leader through the interruption of this link between the federal government and the Eritrean regime of Isaias Afwerki, and what he defines as the alteration of “the cost-benefit calculation” of the Eritrean president, referring to the need for the international community to adopt measures that are really able to affect the interests of the Asmara government, which for years has a consolidated experience in “navigating on a treacherous international diplomatic terrain”.
In this way, “only sufficiently solid actions that create disincentives to the regime of Isaias against the continued involvement in the Ethiopian conflict have a reasonable chance to contribute to a peaceful resolution of the current conflict”, concludes Debretsion Gebremichael in his interview, suggesting that the international community must adopt sanctioning and coercive measures against Eritrea much more substantial than those adopted so far against the country.
The publication of the interview has caused irritation in Eritrea, as evidenced by the comments made by the Minister of Information in Asmara, Yemane Meskel, who called the magazine The African Report as “one of the peddlers of the ‘revisionist narrative’ to pursue the vain purpose of the absolution of the TPLF and its war crimes,” in an unfair and inappropriate comment to a prestigious magazine.