Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has finally admitted that Eritrean forces were present during the war in Tigray. He also admitted that rape and other atrocities were committed during the fighting. This admission is the first of its kind after months of denial by both the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments.
The Abiy-led Ethiopian government had sent troops into the northern region of Tigray on November 4 after blaming the region’s once-dominant ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), for attacks on army camps.
Addressing the TPLF leaders as rebels and enemies of the state, Abiy’s mission to unseat them has led to a drawn-out conflict that has seen brutal atrocities carried out against civilians.
In a wide-ranging speech to parliament, Abiy said the “Eritrean people and government did a lasting favor to our soldiers”, during the conflict, without giving more details.
“However, after the Eritrean army crossed the border and was operating in Ethiopia, any damage it did to our people was unacceptable,” he said. “We don’t accept it because it is the Eritrean army, and we would not accept it if it were our soldiers. The military campaign was against our clearly targeted enemies, not against the people. We have discussed this four or five times with the Eritrean government.”
The Eritrean government, according to Abiy, said its soldiers had taken over trenches on the border which had been dug during the 1998-2000 border war between the two nations after they were abandoned by Ethiopian soldiers.
“Eritrea told us it had national security issues and as a result had seized areas on the border, but had vowed to leave if Ethiopian soldiers returned to the trenches.
He said Eritrea argued the TPLF pushed them to enter the battle “by ring rockets” across the border. “The Eritrean government has severely condemned alleged abuses and has said it will take measures against any of its soldiers accused of such.”
Abiy also accused the TPLF’s leaders of drumming “a war narrative” while the area faced challenges such as a destructive invasion of locusts and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This was misplaced and untimely arrogance,” he said.
Critics of the government say a continuing federal inquiry is not enough because the government cannot effectively investigate itself.
On Monday, the heads of nine UN agencies and other officials demanded a halt to attacks against civilians in Tigray, “including rape and other horrific forms of sexual violence”.
Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch reported that Eritrean forces shot dead hundreds of children and civilians in a November massacre in Tigray.
An Amnesty International investigation into the same events detailed how Eritrean troops “went on a rampage and systematically killed hundreds of civilians in cold blood”.
More critics have continued to question the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Abiy in 2019 over Eritrea peace efforts, as he has unfeelingly fanned the flames of war in Ethiopia’s sister state of Tigray.
NEWS/PHOTO SOURCE: AFP | DW | News Agencies