NOVEMBER 6, 2020 ERITREA HUB ETHIOPIA, NEWS

 

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Eritrea has seen unconfirmed reports that people in Eritrean military uniform have been seen participating in the conflict in Tigray. This is extremely concerning, and we call for Eritrea to restrain from entering into conflict. Every effort must be taken to avoid the situation escalating into a regional conflict.

The APPG is extremely concerned by the growing hostilities in Tigray and calls on all sides to show restraint and work to de-escalate the situation. The future of Ethiopia and all its regions must be decided at the ballot box and not on the battlefield. Additionally, it is deeply concerning that people are being denied access to information by cutting telecommunications networks.

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For clarity, the APPG was referring to the BBC report which said: “Mr Abiy’s office also accused the TPLF of dressing its soldiers in uniforms resembling those of the army of neighbouring Eritrea to ‘implicate the Eritrean government in false claims of aggression against the people of Tigray'”.

“Our country has entered into unexpected war... the war will not come to the centre, it will end there (in Tigray),” the deputy chief of the army, Birhanu Jula, said on state television.

Troops were being mustered from around the country and dispatched to Tigray, he said. The announcement followed clashes on Wednesday between government forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), after Abiy ordered retaliation for what the government described as a TPLF attack on its troops.

Tigray regional president Debretsion Gebremichael said its forces had foiled a plan by the federal troops to use artillery and arms stationed there to attack the region.

“We will use the artillery to defend Tigray. We will use them to destroy an attack from any direction,” he said on Tigray TV.

A humanitarian source in Tigray said shelling and shooting had been heard in the area since the early hours of Thursday, and nearly two dozen soldiers had been treated at a clinic near the border with the Amhara region. The source did not say which side of the conflict the injured troops were drawn from.

“At 5:20 a.m. we started to hear heavy shelling. Since then it has only stopped for an hour, but as of 2:00 p.m. you could still hear shooting, bombing and shelling,” the source said.

“So far nearly two dozens injured - all military, no civilians - were treated in the health centre of Abdurafi, located near the Tigray-Amhara border.”

The conflict pits government troops against the TPLF, for decades the dominant political force in the country’s multi-ethnic ruling coalition, until Abiy, a member of the Oromo ethnic group, took office two years ago.

Abiy, who has tried to open up what has long been one of the most restrictive economic and political systems in Africa, reorganised the ruling coalition into a single party which the TPLF refused to join.

Countries in the region fear that the crisis could escalate into all-out war under Abiy, who won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for ending a decades-old conflict with neighbouring Eritrea but has failed to prevent outbreaks of ethnic unrest. 

 
FILE PHOTO: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed speaks during a media conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, October 29, 2018. Michel Euler/Pool via REUTERS//File Photo

GOVERNMENT RESISTS TALKS, DIPLOMATS SAY

Tensions with the TPLF have been escalating since September, when Tigray held regional elections which the federal government called illegal. In recent days, both sides accused each other of plotting a military conflict.

Sources said efforts were under way behind the scenes to encourage talks, pushed by the African Union. But the initiative was being resisted by the government which insists it has to eliminate a threat posed by the TPLF.

“The Ethiopians are saying it is an internal matter and they will handle it. They are saying it (TPLF) is a rogue element within their border and this is about the rule of law,” said a diplomatic source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Redwan Hussein, spokesman for a newly-established State of Emergency Task Force, told Reuters on Wednesday that the option for talks was not yet on the table.

Dozens of federal troops were killed during the first day of fighting, one diplomat told Reuters, adding that the death toll could be higher. There was no word on casualties suffered by the TPLF. The government has cut all phone and internet communication in the region.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared to back Abiy in a tweet, which urged immediate action to restore peace and de-escalate the situation, while backing the government account that the TPLF was responsible for violence.

“We are deeply concerned by reports that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front carried out attacks on Ethiopian National Defense Force bases in Ethiopia’s Tigray region,” Pompeo wrote.

Ethiopia has suffered multiple outbreaks of violence since Abiy took office. At the weekend, gunmen killed 32 people and torched more than 20 houses in another part of the country, in the west.

Additional reporting by David Lewis in Nairobi; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Peter Graff

NOVEMBER 4, 2020  ETHIOPIANEWS

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, ordered his forces to launch an offensive against the rebellious northern province of Tigray.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed

These are key points:

  • Prime Minister Abiy accused the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) of attempting to steal artillery and other equipment from federal forces stationed there. “The last red line has been crossed with this morning’s attacks and the federal government is therefore forced into a military confrontation,” Abiy’s office said in a statement. The Ethiopian National Defence Forces have been ordered to carry out “their mission to save the country and the region from spiralling into instability”, the statement said.
  • +
  • Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s statement in full is posted below
  • There is a report that Ethiopia’s Northern Command is resisting the Prime Minister’s order to attack TigrayEthiopia's northern command

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PM Abiy's statement

NOVEMBER 4, 2020  ETHIOPIANEWS

The basic story is clear: Prime Minister Abiy has ordered his troops into action in Tigray.

This came after months of escalating tension between Tigray and Addis Ababa.

The Tigrayans held an election which the centre refused to countenance.

At the same time Tigray was refusing to allow the re-deployment of federal troops away from the north.

Prime Minister Abiy claimed the ruling party in Tigray, the TPLF “took measures” and “tried to rob the Northern Command.” The Northern Command is based  in Mekelle.

“The government tried to avoid war, but war can’t not be avoided by one side,” Prime Minister Abiy said.

“Led by a Command Post, our National Defense Forces (ENDF) is given order to discharge its responsibility to save the country. The last point of the red line is crossed; to save the country the use of force has become the last alternative.” The Prime Minister called on the Ethiopian people “to follow the situation calmly, monitor possible localized flare ups, and to stand with the national army.”

“Fake uniforms”

In his official statement Prime Minister Abiy went further. He suggested that any troops found killed in the area of conflict who appeared to be in Eritrean uniforms were fakes.

Why was this included? Does it suggest that Eritrean forces might intervene – attacking Tigray from the North, while Ethiopian Federal Forces attack from the South?

This strategy could fall foul of reported conflicts within the Ethiopian military – as reported by the Horn analyst, Rashid Abdi.

Ethiopia's northern command

The report that the Northern Command has gone over to Tigray is also reported by Reuters newsagency, but is still not confirmed.

Others point to different problems.

As Professor Nick Cheesman, of Birmingham University  Tweeted:

Nick Cheesman

An Eritrean-Ethiopian Axis?

We know that Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia have met on several occasions in recent weeks to co-ordinate their strategy.

Prime Minister Abiy is the only Ethiopian Prime Minister to visit Eritrea’s military training camp at Sawa.

How far this relationship will go is hard to predict.

But given President Isaias’s enthusiasm for his relationship with Prime Minister Abiy, it is hard to see the President abandoning his colleague at such a critical moment.

All the warnings from the international community have failed to prevent this conflict – which could rock the Horn of Africa to its core.

It could lead to a collapse of a system of states that goes back to the nineteenth century, when Emperor Menelik II swept down and captured vast areas of what is today southern and eastern Ethiopia.

Ordering his troops into Tigray  might prove to be the least of Prime Minister Abiy’s problems.

Press Release

Wednesday, 04 November 2020 23:00 Written by

 

NOVEMBER 4, 2020  ETHIOPIANEWS

This statement has been issued by the U.K. All Party Group in Parliament.

The Chair is Kate Osamor, MP

 

The Eritrean president loathes the TPLF. His enmity dates to the 1998-2000 war between Eritrea and Ethiopia which left 70 000 people dead.

This element of the story is inaccurate: the enmity between President Isaias and the TPLF goes back much further

Source: Mail & Guardian

Zecharias Zelalem 4 Nov 2020

Even as the prime minister was being feted in Oslo last year, the seeds of this conflict were being sewn. (Kumera Gemechu/Reuters)

Source: Mail & Guardian

At about 2am Ethiopian time on Wednesday morning, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took to his Facebook page to make a grave announcement. “The Ethiopian Defense Forces, run by a command post, have been tasked with saving the country,” he said. He said that the regional government of Tigray, a northern province, was guilty of “crossing a red line” and that Ethiopian troops had been ordered to take action. “I call on Ethiopians to remain calm, be on high alert and back the military effort.”

Several commentators have described this as tantamount to a declaration of war against one of Ethiopia’s own regional states.

About an hour later — still in the early hours of the morning — Abiy appeared on state television. He said that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the party that governs the Tigray region, was guilty of “treason”. According to Abiy, Tigray regional security forces had assaulted Ethiopian military bases in the towns of Mekelle and Dansha, killing and injuring soldiers based there. 

The Ethiopian army’s Northern Command, one of four regional commands, is based in Mekelle, the Tigrayan regional capital which is more than 700km north of the country’s capital, Addis Ababa. Tigray’s regional government has announced an airspace closure, according to AFP, and has claimed that the Northern Command will “stand with the Tigray people and the regional government”.

Tigray is home to about six million of Ethiopia’s population of 110-million people, and is located in the north-east of the country, along the border with Eritrea.

Tensions between the federal government in Addis Ababa and Tigray’s regional government have been running high for some time, and relations had soured considerably in recent months. Although this escalation remains shocking, analysts have warned for months that conflict loomed large.

Efforts by the Mail & Guardian to contact residents in Tigray were fruitless, because internet and phone lines were not functioning. Later, internet-service-tracking organisation Netblocks revealed that there was a considerable drop in Ethiopia’s internet usage that began about an hour before the prime minister’s announcement. As such, the Abiy’s claims remain difficult to authenticate, and the region is virtually cut off from the outside world.

BBC journalist Desta Gebremedhin, from the BBC’s Tigrigna language desk, was able to make contact with a relative in Mekelle. “My cousin in Mekelle could hear the raging gun battles,” he said. This indicates that the fighting is within the vicinity of a major urban centre.

Despite the prime minister’s claims that his soldiers were ambushed and pushed into the war, preparations for the eventual escalation had been made at least days in advance. Large-scale movements of Ethiopian troops heading northwards were reported in recent days. Meanwhile, on Sunday, Tigray regional president Debretsion Gebremichael announced that his forces were prepared for conflict, stating that “if war is imminent, we are prepared not just to resist but to win”.

A year ago, few could have predicted today’s events, when the prime minister of Ethiopia posed for cameras in Oslo at the award ceremony after receiving the 2019 Nobel peace prize. Hailed for bringing two decades of military hostility with neighbouring Eritrea to an end, the peace deal in 2018 sparked wild celebrations in both countries and was a rare feel-good story from the often conflict-ridden region. Yet already the seeds of conflict with Tigray had been sewn.

A widening rift

Prior to Abiy’s appointment as prime minister in 2018, the TPLF led a governing coalition that had monopolised power in Ethiopia for 27 years, ever since its armed wing helped to overthrow Ethiopia’s brutal communist junta in 1991. The coalition was called the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Party (EPRDF), and it ruled Ethiopia largely uncontested for three decades. This included the 21-year-rule of Meles Zenawi, who was himself from Tigray and a TPLF leader.

But the TPLF-led government’s authoritarian rule precipitated popular protests that began in 2015, and eventually led to upheaval within the governing coalition. In 2018, Abiy Ahmed — a relatively unknown leader from the Oromia region — and his allies usurped the ruling clique and took control of the EPRDF.

This was bad news for the TPLF. It lost its grip on power in Addis Ababa, and many of its former strongmen were declared persona non grataand detained or forced to flee the capital. But it remained in control of its home base in Tigray, where its armed wing is based. Initially, it also remained part of the country’s coalition government, but no longer enjoyed political dominance. 

The rift between the TPLF and Abiy’s federal government in Addis Ababa widened, with officials in Mekelle openly expressing dismay with decisions made by the federal government. In late 2019, Abiy dissolved the EPRDF and merged its constituent entities into a single party he dubbed the Prosperity Party. The TPLF criticised the merger and decided against joining the new party, severing ties with Abiy and his allies — leaving the TPLF outside national government for the first time in three decades.

Officials from the two sides have since regularly traded barbs and accusations. Federal government officials accuse the TPLF of attempting to assassinate the prime minister at a rally in Addis Ababa in July 2018. A grenade was thrown near a podium where Abiy had been addressing a crowd, the explosion left five people dead and more than 140 injured. Abiy escaped unharmed. TPLF officials, meanwhile, have accused the federal government of discrimination against ethnic Tigrayans. 

Tigray’s elections: the point of no return

In June, Ethiopia’s parliament confirmed that the national elections scheduled for August 2020 would be postponed for up to a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The decision was heavily criticised by opposition critics, with many accusing the prime minister of using the pandemic as an excuse to unlawfully extend his mandate. The TPLF in Tigray denounced the decision, labelling it “unconstitutional”, and declared that it would unilaterally hold its own regional elections as scheduled.

In the meantime, a war of words broke out: state media outlets regularly broadcast anti-TPLF material to audiences nationwide, and the TPLF pushed its own line with its own broadcasters. Both sides also held military parades, which were interpreted as thinly veiled attempts at antagonising or intimidating each other.

In addition to the propaganda effort, Abiy’s friendship with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki has been contentious. The Eritrean president loathes the TPLF. His enmity dates to the 1998-2000 war between Eritrea and Ethiopia which left 70 000 people dead. TPLF officials now accused Afwerki and Abiy of conspiring to destabilise Tigray. In February, one irate Tigrayan official accused Eritrea of meddling in Ethiopia’s internal affairs, going as far as threatening to “cut off [the president’s] hands” if Eritrea’s long-time dictator refused to refrain.

Last month, a televised broadcast showed Abiy giving his Eritrean counterpart a tour of Ethiopian air-force base installations. This only served to exacerbate tensions, which were not helped a few days ago when the Eritrean embassy in Ethiopia taunted the Tigray state leadership in a Facebook post, stating that it was “game over” for them. This led to suggestions that Eritrea could intervene militarily on Abiy’s behalf. The social media war of words continued with TPLF party official Getachew Reda tweeting on Tuesday that his party would prevail over the governments in Addis Ababa and the Eritrean capital Asmara, who he labelled “terrorists”. 

The regional election in Tigray eventually went ahead on schedule, in defiance of the federal government, with the TPLF overwhelmingly defeating domestic opposition in Tigray. Abiy mocked the elections, calling them “hollow”, but at the time stated he did not intend to send troops to Tigray. Instead, the Ethiopian government stated it would not recognise the newly elected regional government and retaliated by slashing the budget allocated to the Tigray region. 

For its part, Tigray announced that as of 5 October it would consider Abiy’s rule as illegitimate. This is the date that Abiy’s term would have ended if the national elections had gone ahead as planned.

On 30 October, perhaps with potential hostilities in mind, Abiy ordered Brigadier-General Jemal Mohammed to take up a post as deputy commander of the Northern Command at its base in Mekelle. But the brigadier-general never reached his new office: he was intercepted by Tigray regional government officials on arrival, and told to return to Addis Ababa.

Getachew Reda, the adviser to the Tigray state president, later clarified in a tweet that the officer was told to return because “any appointment after October 5th is unacceptable in Tigray”.

Grave implications

The consequences of conflict between Addis and Tigray are already being felt in the rest of the country. On Sunday, 54 ethnic Amhara civilians were brutally massacred at a school compound in Oromia. The Ethiopian government promptly accused the TPLF of involvement in the massacre, although it is yet to present evidence. The killings happened a day after Ethiopian soldiers based in the district suddenly vacated the region on Saturday, leaving residents at the mercy of armed militants. Some reports suggest that those soldiers were headed towards Tigray, giving weight to claims that the war was planned well in advance and not triggered by incidents that took place on Tuesday night. 

These reports are difficult to confirm. Given the internet shutdowns across the region in which war is suspected of breaking out, and the government’s increasingly thin tolerance for independent journalism, verifying what has transpired in recent hours in Tigray is virtually impossible. 

Neither side has heeded calls from both the African Union and the European Union to commence dialogue that would de-escalate the situation.

One of the poorest countries in the world, already struggling to contain the Covid-19 pandemic and grappling with deadly outbreaks of communal violence, is now on a war footing.

#eritrea, #ethiopia, #prime-minister-abiy-ahmed, #tigray

NOVEMBER 3, 2020  ETHIOPIANEWS

Debretsion Gebremichael – President of Tigray Region – has gone on television to warn his people to prepare for a looming war.

Debretsion Gebremichael

He says repeatedly that the Tigrayan people want peace but if war is waged against them, they are prepare to fight and to win.

Tigray President’s speech

This war, he adds, is being waged by the Federal Governmentt of Ethiopia and a foreign power, i. e. the Eritrean regime. He calls on Eritrea’s armed forces and its people to work hard to prevent this war.

The people of the region have had costly wars in the past, he says, and have no need for further conflicts. Instead they should be working to end the poverty of their people. President Debretsion pleads repeatedly for all differences to be amicably and peacefully resolved.

The tone of the President’s speech was measured, dignified and eloquent.

NOVEMBER 3, 2020  NEWS

Source: Washington Examiner

by Michael Rubin

The greater Washington area has become a refuge for Eritreans fleeing one of the world’s most brutal dictatorships.
While great hope accompanied Eritrea’s independence almost three decades ago, freedom fighter-turned-independence leader Isaias Afwerki imposed a regime that rivals only North Korea and Turkmenistan in the level of its totalitarianism. In the latest Freedom House rankings, Eritrea even slipped behind Kim Jong Un’s hermit kingdom.
To escape mandatory and indefinite conscription (essentially state-sanctioned, lifelong slavery), many Eritreans flee and make the hazardous journey across desert and sea to Europe and, if lucky, eventually to the United States. Given the economic ruin that Isaias has wrought upon his homeland, he has long been willing to turn a blind eye toward this flight given how the remittances sent back to their family members helped Eritrea stay afloat.

The problem with dictators, whether Isaias, Kim, or Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is that they are seldom satiated by their own wealth: There is always something more they want, and they waste no effort trying to extract it from their own citizenry.

So, too, it has become with Isaias. Not content to wait for remittances to come from abroad, Isaias has sought to use the long arms of his dictatorship to levy a “diaspora tax” on Eritreans abroad, including those who now call themselves Americans. Within Eritrea, Isaias is the law. He bases demands for a “rehabilitation and recovery tax” on proclamations he issued in 1991 and 1995. Eritrean court journalists and regime apologists can say that the tax is legal, but the nature of law in Isaias’s Eritrea is akin to Louis XIV’s famous quip, “L’etat, c’est moi.” In short, the law is only the word of an absolute dictator and nothing more.

Imposing the tax inside the U.S. would be illegal on Eritrea’s part, but it would not be the first time countries have used their embassies for purposes that violate diplomatic protocols. President Jimmy Carter, for example, closed the Iranian Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue not because student radicals loyal to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran but rather because the new Iranian regime had run an operation from the property to kill a former Iranian diplomat living in Bethesda. Turkey, likewise, now uses its embassy just up the street to spy on political opponents real or imagined.

The State Department and U.S. law enforcement should neither ignore the evidence that Eritrea is abusing its diplomatic missions nor the precedent. In December 2011, U.N. Security Council Resolution 2023 called on Eritrea to “cease using extortion, threats of violence, fraud and other illicit means to collect taxes outside of Eritrea from its nationals or other individuals of Eritrean descent.” Isaias has simply ignored the call, and flagrantly so.

In 2013, for example, Canada expelled Eritrea’s consul-general after he ignored warnings to stop extorting, harassing, and threatening Eritrean emigres unless they forfeited 2% of their earnings to the government. The move had no discernible impact on Isaias, as a subsequent investigation showed that the consulate continued its extortion scheme. In 2018, the Dutch Foreign Ministry expelled Eritrea’s top diplomat in the Netherlands after he too ignored calls to stop the embassy’s taxation of the Eritrean community as a prerequisite for access to any goods and services, and the Dutch government may soon do it again. The United Kingdom has likewise investigated Eritrea for allegedly using its diplomats to threaten and coerce Eritreans living there to remit money directly to the government. A study conducted jointly by the DSP-groep, Tilburg University, and European External Policy Advisors found that Eritrean diplomats or unofficial government intermediaries also collected funds in Belgium, Italy, Norway, and Sweden and that the Eritrean government made collection of its levy part of its broader surveillance and intimidation scheme.

The problem appears to be worsening. The Eritrean government has defined Eritreans as “any person born to a father or mother of Eritrean origin in Eritrea or abroad,” imposing citizenship and its obligations on naturalized citizens, including Americans who have never stepped foot in Eritrea and have neither the desire nor the intention to do so. Survey respondents report at least some taxation of state welfare benefits paid by their new countries to those of Eritrean origin. While some Eritreans refuse to pay the tax in the belief they will never return to Eritrea, should they need to engage the embassy, they must first pay the tax levied and accumulated from the time they fled the country. If, for example, they must register a power of attorney, they might need first to pay tens of thousands of dollars in back diaspora tax assessments. Likewise, if they need documents such as marriage certificate copies to support emigration and asylum claims, they will find themselves blocked until they pay accumulated diaspora tax.

Eritrean diplomats, for their part, deny that the diaspora tax is illegal and liken it to U.S. taxation of its citizens living abroad, something to which European countries do not subject their citizens. U.S. double taxation is bad policy on Washington’s part, but the American analogy is simply inaccurate. The U.S. negotiates double taxation treaties with various governments. That the Eritrean regime will threaten the family members of its nationals abroad to compel diaspora tax payments likewise places it firmly in the camp not of the U.S. but rather of North Korea, Turkmenistan, or, in the past, Moammar Gadhafi’s Libya or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

The Eritrean violation in Washington both of normal diplomatic protocols and U.N. Security Council Resolution 2023 is unapologetic. The Eritrean Embassy in Washington might be temporarily closed, but its website solicits diaspora tax payments and states simply, “Eritreans who live abroad contribute 2% of their net income to rebuilding Eritrea.” It demands Eritreans turn over documents such as W-2s, U.S. tax returns, and Social Security statements so that Eritrean officials can calculate the tax owed. The Eritrean Mission in New York, however, remains open.

Ending illicit Eritrean activity on U.S. soil would be both easy and is necessary. For the State Department, the issue should not only be Eritrea but the fact that ignoring such violations gives a green light to other countries (from China to Turkey to Iran) to violate diplomatic norms at their U.N. missions and Washington embassies or interests’ sections. The European approach of simply expelling diplomats does not work because Isaias and his government simply rotate new officials in to continue the old practices. Instead, it might be time to shutter the embassy and U.N. mission if demonstrably in violation until such a time as Isaias commits both to canceling the diaspora tax and refunding the money extorted from Eritrean immigrants to the U.S.

Michael Rubin (@Mrubin1971) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon official.