Getachew Reda, spokesperson for the TPLF, with an article in The Africa Report this March 15 expresses the TPLF’s position on the war in Ukraine and reads the events in Tigray under this lens, offering an interesting point of debate.
Reda’s argument starts from the analysis of the vote of Eritrea and Ethiopia on the resolution condemning Russia for the aggression against Ukraine, passed by 141 votes and in which Eritrea was against (along with four other nations) while Ethiopia abstained by not participating directly in the session.
The TPLF spokesperson then goes on to highlight how the historical trajectory of Eritrea under Isaias Afewerki has led the country to be a pariah of the international community for most of its existence, with two brief interludes, after independence from Ethiopia and after the signing of peace with Abiy. Then, he highlights some characteristics of this autocratic regime: the ruthless dictatorship, the predilection for a policy of aggression in the region both militarily and diplomatically, and finally condemning it for the, supposed, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Tigray in the recent conflict.
At the same time Abiy is criticized for his unclear position: the Ethiopian Prime Minister has in fact called the two belligerents to moderation, highlighting the virtues of peace and the costs of war. Getachew Reda then goes on to say that “it is ironic that the man who has single-handedly brought Ethiopia to the brink of catastrophic breakup”, along with his allies, is instead calling for moderation regarding Ukraine. In fact, as Reda points out, Abiy’s choice was dictated by two considerations of realpolitik: he cannot antagonize Putin, who is one of his protectors, and he cannot risk a conflict with the West.
However, these considerations by the TPLF spokesman are not surprising, they are more to be considered propaganda, given the conflict, than anything else. The TPLF however condemns the Russian action in Ukraine with no ifs or buts, as it violates two of the basic organizing principles of the international system: state sovereignty and, Article 2 paragraph 4 of the UN Charter which prohibits the use of force in international relations unless in self-defense, to which Article 51 echoes reaffirming the natural right to individual or collective self-defense. Getachew Reda goes on to define the two leaders as “the chief architects of the genocidal war in Tigray”, who have violated the fundamental principles of international law and international humanitarian law and created a precedent that could undermine the international architecture of global governance, if in fact “tyrants are allowed to violate the fundamental rules of international order, the system begins to fall apart at the seams”.
Russia, as a result of this erosion, is trying to deprive Ukraine of its sovereignty “simply because its people decided to take a different path from that which Russia chose for them”. The endorsement of this conflict, which could undermine the peace foundations of the post-Cold War order, by Abiy and Isaias, as well as the – alleged – crimes committed in the Tigray conflict, according to Reda, should make them consider the two leaders as authoritarian as Putin and deserving of the same treatment.
Beyond the strong positions of condemnation of Eritrea and Ethiopia, what we find interesting to underline is the difference in the treatment of the conflict in Ukraine and the one in Tigray: in one the international community has moved quickly and decisively, in the other – which was the most brutal conflict in the world in 2021 – it is still timid. Of course, it must be stressed that Tigray unlike Ukraine is not a sovereign state, although being the Republic of Ethiopia a federal state has its autonomy. In any case Abiy Ahmed has not responded, as usual, not to mention Afewerki, to the Tigrayan accusations but nevertheless the question arises: years after these events, will this or another be the reading of the current events?