The war in Tigray is by no means over, with fighting continuing as the Tigray Defense Forces attempt to drive Ethiopia and Eritrean forces from their soil, as well as the Amhara militia. But with rising pressure for Eritreans to leave, it is important to ask what will an apparent withdrawal from Tigray mean, when there’s evidence of the integration of Eritrean troops into the Ethiopian military.
The United States has demanded repeatedly that Eritrean troops be withdrawn. A statement on 29 June from the State Department said:
“We continue to call for the immediate, verifiable withdrawal of all Eritrean forces from Ethiopian territory, a necessary step for an effective, sustainable ceasefire and in accordance with the Ethiopian government’s March commitment to do so.”
But how could Eritrean “verified withdrawal” be undertaken if President Isaias’s troops are now part of the Ethiopian army?
Since March 2021 we have known that Eritrean and Ethiopian forced have been integrated. Eritrean troops have been seen wearing Ethiopian uniforms, as Bloomberg reported as early as 8 December 2020.More recently CNN reported on 13 May 2021: “A CNN team traveling through Tigray’s central zone witnessed Eritrean soldiers, some disguising themselves in old Ethiopian military uniforms, manning checkpoints, obstructing and occupying critical aid routes, roaming the halls of one of the region’s few operating hospitals and threatening medical staff.”
Eritrean troops in Ethiopian uniforms is policy
The appearance of Eritreans in Ethiopian uniforms and their integration into the Ethiopian military is no accident.
From an Ethiopian Ministry of Defense internal source: “Details are coming out from insiders on the deal made by Abiy & Isayas on the so called “Army withdrawal from Tigray.” In fact, the idea/agreement has many components. The key once are:
1. To integrate 100-150k Eritrean forces (mainly the senior & middle commanders, trainers & mechanized & some infantry personnel) into ENDF, filling the gap of lost army during the war in Tigray. Ethiopian MOD Dr. Kenea Yaddeta & B/G Abraha Kassa will work on the details ASAP.
2. Eritrea will train its own new forces (some are already in Camps) but Ethiopia will finance the whole training cost, so that it doesn’t need to employ & train new force in Ethiopia due to the “unwillingness of the youth” & fear they will not do the work. Eritrea’s Chief of Staff G. Philipos supported by Birhanu Jula will do the task.
3. Among the Tegaru Army members who are excluded from the ENDF & detained in several unknown camps, some selected low ranking officers & ordinary members who went through the new PP indoctrination program will get back to the Army. Dr. Abraham supported by Dr. Arkebe & G. Mohammd Tessema will do the task ASAP.
4. Leaders of the Amhara PP (Temesgen & Demeke) agreed to allow 80-90% of the Amhara Leyu Hayle to be integrated into ENDF. The remaining will stay in the region financed by the regional gov’t. This way, they wanted to solve the potential internal problem & bypass the existence of Eritrean & Amhara forces from Tigray demanded by the UN, EU & US.
Technically there is no exit but instead a redeployment, change of uniform & budgeting.
Rapid developments in the Horn of Africa
Several developments which have taken place over the last week, all of which are significant.
How they will play out is difficult to say, but consider these:
- The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spokesman Dina Mufti made some critical remarks. “By the way if Eritreans were asked they do not like and celebrate the day they left Ethiopia and those abroad says this. There is also the same feeling from the Ethiopian side. Let alone Eritrea, it would be good if we could be one nation our neighbouring countries. The relationship we had with Eritrea, we are one people and one country. This is the result of cold War politics cold.” This statement needs checking, but if it is accurate it would appear to be important. When did an Ethiopian government spokesman last talk about the possibility of Eritrea and Ethiopia being “One people and one country?” The Eritrean diaspora is deeply worried by what this may mean for the independence of Eritrea, for which they fought for 30 years.
- Rashid Abdi, the well regarded Somali commentator, put out this Tweet BREAKING: Credible sources reporting Farmajo plans to head to Addis Ababa where three Horn states – Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea plan to sign a mutual security and defence pact.
- Assena TV reports that a delegation led by General Filipos Woldeyohannes, Eritrean Chief of Staff, is due to visit Addis to discuss issues including the opening of Assab port to Ethiopia.
- A week ago the Bloomberg news agency reported that the UN was warning that Eritrean forces had crossed into the al-Fashaga triangle, which is disputed between Sudan and Ethiopia. #Eritrea‘s forces are present inside the al-Fashqa triangle, which straddles the border between #Ethiopia and #Sudan, the UN says. Armaments including tanks and anti-aircraft batteries have recently been deployed to the border region.
- Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said today that there would be severe regional consequences if Egypt’s water supply was impacted by the giant hydropower dam being built by Ethiopia on the Nile. “I’m not threatening anyone here, our dialogue is always reasonable and rational,” Sisi said in a response to a question about any risk to Egypt. “I say once again no one can take a drop from Egypt’s water and if it happens there will be inconceivable instability in the region.”
What appears to be about to take place is a meeting in Addis between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia at which important defence and military agreements could be signed.
This may include a deal allowing the Ethiopian navy to resume its activities from Eritrean ports. A defence pact would strengthen Ethiopia in its negotiations with Egypt, which appear to be coming to a head.
Below is the background to these events.
“Eritrean troops to be integrated into Ethiopian army and talks on Federation to commence soon” – report
The following report has been received from inside Eritrea. It is reproduced verbatim, with analysis below.
“1. No plans to pull Eritrean troops from Ethiopia – the press release by the Ethiopian government is propaganda and far from the truth. Eritrean forces will not leave Tigray.
2. What has been agreed is for 12 Division currently in Tigray to be assimilated with Ethiopian Defence Force immediately. This will be followed by the rest of Eritrean forces coming under Ethiopian command.
3. All Eritrean army uniforms in Tigray will change to Ethiopian Defence Force immediately.
4. One of Abiy’s delegates was Dr Abraham, security and spy expert, who will be responsible for the operations of both countries. He will align the necessary technological and satellite infrastructure of both countries.
5. On the Eritrean side, Brigadier General Simon Gebredingel has been assigned to work with Dr Abraham.
6. Current Eritrean Army Generals will be forced into retirement and replaced by Ethiopians.
7. Federation talks are said to start soon.”