Why Isaias broke the coronavirus lockdown and travelled to Addis Abeba

2020-05-11 07:19:31 Written by  Yaseen Mohmad Abdalla Published in English Articles Read 497 times

Since the Coronavirus turned into a global pandemic, heads of state and leaders of international and regional organizations have turned to conference calls rather than direct meetings. However, Isaias Afwerki travelled on May 3 to Ethiopia for a face to face meeting with the Ethiopian prime minister Abu Ahmed. So, what is the important matter that forced him to break the coronavirus lockdown? I think it was the state of hostility between him and the TIGRAY People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the developments related to this hostility.

The differences between the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) (now known as People’s Front for Democracy and Justice) and the TPLF date back to the 1970s, but they escalated in 1985 specially in the ideological aspects. The most prominent ideological disagreement was related to the policy of recognizing the right to self-determination of the nationalities adopted by TPLF, which they wanted the EPLF to adopt, as Eritrea is a multi-national country. When the latter rejected it, the TPLF accused it of not being democratic. Both organizations launched media campaigns against each other and deployed armed organizations in each other’s country.

The estrangement between the two organizations continued until April 1988, when they reconciled for practical reasons, at meetings held in Khartoum. At that time, they needed each other in the face of Mengistu Haile Mariam's army, and they agreed to coordinate their military operations, but they didn’t resolve their ideological differences

In a television interview in February 7, when Isaias Afwerki claimed that ethnic federalism had failed in Ethiopia, he was sending a message to the TPLF that the dispute over this issue had been resolved in his favour. He also said he had warned them in 1992 against implementing ethnic federalism. He added that the current situation in Ethiopia was of concern to Eritrea, and the upcoming Ethiopian elections were not particularly significant.

On March 31, the Ethiopian National Electoral Board announced that the elections could not be held as scheduled in August. On April 29, the prime minister met with the political parties to discuss how to avert the impending constitutional crisis due to the lack of provision in the Constitution for the deferral of the elections. The government presented four options: dissolving parliament; declaring a state of emergency; amending the Constitution; or seeking alternative legal interpretations of the Constitution.

On May 4, the TPLF’s Executive Committee, which did not participate in the meeting, decided to hold regional elections on time, in defiance of the National Electoral Board which is responsible for both national and regional elections.

On May 5, the Ethiopian parliament met and approved the government’s fourth option, as it seemed that was what the government wanted. Isaias returned to Asmara on May 5.

From this narrative, I think it is clear that, that although the two leaders may discussed other issues, the main aim of Isaias’s journey to Ethiopia was to support Abu Ahmed in the battle over the elections and how to deal with their postponement.

The turn round was in favour of Abu Ahmed (read Isaias), but the battle is not yet over.

Yaseen Mohmad Abdalla

Edited by Peter Riddell

Last modified on Monday, 11 May 2020 09:21