In a written note, in response to a parliamentary request issued by Hon. Aiello, the Italian Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini announced on January 28 the suspension of the military cooperation agreement with Ethiopia signed last April 10, 2019. This was revealed by the weekly magazine Panorama, publishing the text of the response of the Minister of Defense.
The reasons for the suspension clearly stem from the evolution of the conflict and the continuing tension in the north of the country, which make it impossible for Italy to continue its cooperation commitments
In the Minister’s reply it is also specified how Italy “strongly supports the full and immediate cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Ethiopian soil, as well as the full, safe and unconditional humanitarian access to the regions most affected by the conflict, the respect of international humanitarian law, the conclusion of transparent and independent investigations on the serious violations and abuses of human rights and, last but not least, the urgent start of a process of national, effective and inclusive dialogue”.
The communiqué, in this way, formalizes the full adhesion of Italy to the positions of most European countries and the United States, officially recognizing the presence of Eritrean armed forces on the territory of Tigray, as well as the request for an independent investigation to shed light on the serious crimes committed during the conflict.
In addition to the suspension of the cooperation agreement, Defence Minister Guerini has also pointed out that any request for armaments received by the Unit for the Authorization of Armament Materials (Uama) has been refused for some time, “since the risk of possible use in the context of the hostilities in progress cannot be excluded”.
Minister Guerini’s reply thus constitutes one of the first elements of official clarity regarding the Italian position on the conflict in Ethiopia, reaffirming the position long expressed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at diplomatic and bilateral level.
In Addis Ababa, on the other hand, on January 4, at the opening of the 35th Summit of the African Union, held February 4-6, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed thanked African nations in his speech for having supported and protected Ethiopia from the risk of dissolution.
Abiy Ahmed continued his speech by arguing that the serious crisis affecting Tigray was internal to the country; a crisis that resulted in the need for what he described as a police operation.
In addition, according to Abiy Ahmed, the international media offers a representation of Africa built on negative stereotypes, which end up conditioning African society itself. For this reason, according to the Ethiopian premier, it would be necessary to build within the African Union what he has defined as a Continental Media House, responsible for producing and spreading different and more truthful information about Africa.
Although in complete secrecy, informal talks seem to be continuing between the federal authorities and the Tigrinya government – or their intermediaries – despite a climate of continuing instability in the northern regions of the country.
After last week’s border clashes between Tigrinya and Afar militias, no particular developments have been recorded in the last few days, and it is not clear if TDF forces continue to occupy all the territories they have intervened in the last few days.
On January 31 a large demonstration was organized in Samara, capital of the regional state of Afar, to protest against what is locally denounced as last week’s aggression by Tigrinya forces along a wide border strip.
During the protest, however, numerous slogans were also shouted against the federal government in Addis Ababa, accused of not having defended the borders of Afar with its air force and, in fact, having allowed Tigray to conduct the attack undisturbed.
Finally, on December 29, parliament approved the establishment of the National Dialogue Commission, which will be led by publicly selected experts, and a shortlist of 42 names was published in early February on the parliament’s website. Some political groups have made it known that they are not interested in participating in the work of the commission, considering it unbiased and unrepresentative. Among these forces, in particular, the Oromo Federalist Congress, the Oromo Liberation Front and the Ogaden National Liberation Front.
The president of the House of People’s Representatives, Tagesse Chafo, after having convened for February 4 representatives of the main political forces called to compose the Commission for National Dialogue, had to find the abstention of some political groups who complain about the lack of impartiality of the Commission itself, as it is supervised by the Parliament composed for its majority by MPs of the Prosperity Party.