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.”
Other reports of no withdrawal
This is not the only report suggesting that this is the strategy hammered out during Prime Minister Abiy’s two day visit to Asmara and his talks with President Isaias on 25 and 26th March.
During the visit the Prime Minister tweeted a statement that: “Eritrea has agreed to withdraw its forces out of the Ethiopian border.”
A Tigrayan – Hailu Kebede – posted this message questioning Prime Minister’s statement:
“The genocidal war being undertaken on the people of Tigray will continue in an intensified manner the coming days.1. An Eritrean diplomat stationed in Addis Ababa, in a side talk with an African diplomat regarding the statement that was given yesterday, has been heard saying “its to distract the westerners until we accomplish our main objectives”.2. Information from trusted sources indicates that reparations are underway for Amhara special forces to be brought under ENDF and having been assigned a general is to travel along the border areas between Tigray and Eritrea (to send out a message that Ethiopia is reclaiming its borders) and engage in fighting on that side; Eritrean soldiers, on the other hand, are to fully engage in fighting inside Tigray and Amhara.Our people should realize that complete genocide is waged on it and make the necessary preparations accordingly.”
“You are our leader!”
It is important to remember that when President Isaias made his first visit to Addis Ababa in July 2018 to meet Prime Minister Abiy he made remarks that left most Eritreans speechless.
He told Abiy “you are our leader” and announced happily to the crowd: “I’ve given him all responsibility of leadership and power”.
But how did this come about? How did Eritrea, which fought from 1961 – 1991 for its freedom and independence from Ethiopia, come to consider a federation with its former enemy?
Towards an Ethiopian-Eritrean Federation
On 8–9 July 2018 Prime Minister Abiy visited Asmara to seal the peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia.
In just over two years President Isaias and Prime Minister Abiy made nine official visits to each other’s capitals, or went on joint delegations to other states – Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Other meetings were held by senior officials from both countries.
Critical meetings took place in the run-up to the outbreak of war in Tigray:
- Prime Minister Abiy made a rare visit to the Eritrea main training base at Sawa in July 2020.
- Somali President Farmajo arrived in Asmara on 4 October.
- President Isaias went to Ethiopia on 14-15 October. This trip included seeing the Ethiopian air-force base at Bishofu.
On 4 November 2020, just three weeks after Isaias’s visit to Bishofu, the Tigray war broke out.
President Isaias gathered his closest confidants to discuss Federation before the Tigray war began
Just prior to the conflict erupting in Tigray President Isaias brought his closest political and military advisers together for an intense discussion on how to proceed.
The president told them that the country had to accept that it has a small and not very viable economy and a lengthy Red Sea coast, which Eritrean cannot patrol on its own.
He is reported to have suggested that some sort of “union” with Ethiopia might be possible, at least in terms of economic co-operation and maritime security.
In so doing Isaias echoed Prime Minister Abiy’s grandiose dream of re-establishing the old empire-state of Ethiopia. Part of this vision involved a potential Ethiopian Navy.
Re-establishing the Ethiopian Navy in Eritrea
In Marcy 2019 France signed an agreement to re-build the Ethiopian navy, as Reuters reported.
“On a four-day visit to the Horn of Africa, President Emmanuel Macron is looking to break from France’s colonial history on the continent and nurture relationships in a region where it has lagged behind in recent years.
Macron wants to leverage a mixture of Paris’ soft power in culture and education and its military know-how to give it a foothold at a time when Ethiopia is opening up.
“This unprecedented defence cooperation agreement provides a framework… and notably opens the way for France to assist in establishing an Ethiopian naval component,” Macron told a news conference alongside Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.”
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on state TV: “We built one of the strongest ground and air force in Africa… we should build our naval force capacity in the future.”
In 1955, the Imperial Ethiopian Navy was founded, with its primary base—the Haile Selassie I Naval Base—in the Eritrean port of Massawa. By the early 1960s workshops and other facilities were under construction at Massawa to give it complete naval base capabilities.
The Imperial Ethiopian Navy established four bases: Massawa was the site of the naval headquarters and enlisted training facilities; the naval air station and naval academy were at Asmara; Assab was the site of a naval station, enlisted training facilities, and a repair dock; and there was a naval station and communications station on the Dahlak Islands in the Red Sea near Massawa.
Former Ethiopian diplomat Birhanemeskel Abebe speculated that strategic and geopolitical security concerns could be driving the navy plan.
“Ethiopia’s right to use international waters demands it has a naval base,” he told the BBC’s Newsday programme. The plan, Mr Birhanemeskel said, was to push for the “unification of the Horn of Africa as an economic bloc and the navy is part of that project”.
Economic benefits of Federation
If Tigray can be defeated then President Isaias could reopen the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia once more.
Re-opening the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea did take place after the peace deal was signed in 2018, to the enormous economic benefit of both nations. But it was soon closed again – as it benefitted the President’s sworn enemies, the Tigrayans, and allowed Eritreans to escape much more easily to UN refugee camps in Tigray that was home to nearly 100,000 Eritrean refugees.
If Tigray can be defeated then President Isaias could reopen the border once more. At the moment this is far from being achieved.
Federation would also facilitate the development of the Danakali potash deposit – one of the world’s largest.
The trade magazine, Mining. Com provided this analysis of the scheme in January 2019.
“The project location has its pros and cons. On one hand, being so close to the Red Sea coast, makes it one of the world’s most accessible potash deposits, with mineralization beginning at 16 metres, which also makes it the world’s shallowest. Additionally, its proximity to ports will provide easy access to Asian markets.
Colluli is also by the border with Ethiopia, with which Eritrea held one of Africa’s deadliest border wars. In June 2018, the ruling coalition of Ethiopia (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front), headed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, agreed to fully implement the peace treaty signed with Eritrea in 2000, with peace declared by both parties in July 2018.
Colluli contains at least 1.1 billion tonnes of potash, enough for at least 200 years of production, according to the latest figures published by the company.”
Developing this resource would naturally be of enormous benefit to both Eritrea and Ethiopia. But establishing a new port in the Anfile bay area would be very costly. A federation of the two countries would make this much easier.
It is too soon to be certain that Eritrean forces will remain inside Ethiopia and that Federation is on the cards.
But the evidence above indicates that such developments would be in line with plans laid in the run-up to the Tigray war. There would also be direct benefits for the governments of both Ethiopia and Eritrea.
At the same time, it is worth asking whether the Ethiopian military would wish to see Eritreans integrated into their armed forces, given the atrocities associated with the Eritrean troops. And Federation with Ethiopia would horrify many Eritreans.
The Tigray war could see the transformation of the Horn of Africa.
“The president told them that the country had to accept that it has a small and not very viable economy and a lengthy Red Sea coast, which Eritrean cannot patrol on its own.”
What kind of close advisors did this crazy leader bring to his closed door meeting? We know this crazy leader has mental illness – by the way a real one. But who are these close confidant that are selling the blood of the nation because Eritreans cannot patrol the Red Sea? A nation of Eritrea failed economically as what has been stated in this article then – the question i who has been leading Eritrea for the last 30 years? The same mentally ill Isayas and should this man be the one removed from power instead of trashing the whole nation of Eritrea? Perhaps it is time for his doctor’s visit to check his head.
Ethiopia is collapsing and the king makers are shuttling back and forth from Asmara to Addis to play the cards. This is all to cover their crimes. Here are the facts:
1: This war is not Eritrean war.
2: Crime has been committed and Abiy and Isayas will pay. There will be no way out mark my word
3: Abiy is desperate and even the Almighty will not intervene but Isayas has fallen deeper and deeper in to the Abyss and the only to save face is to stay in Ethiopia. There will be no other option.
4: Staying in Ethiopia means the death of Eritreans. History is clear with what happens to invaders
5: Eritreans did not sacrifice the soul and blood just to patrol the Ports. So if Isayas needs a doctor visit perhaps he could do that and leave the country to be lead by those who voted 99% to be free. The story of federation was put to bed a long time ago this is a story and game to avoid Criminal court.
6: Isayas is highly guarded now so his time is absolutely shortened. Like a wild animal in a cage.
7: Ethiopia is disintegrating as we see it right in front of our eyes
The stage keeps expanding and for nothing but because of this inept leader of one African state. The state of Eritrea
Seek justice and Peace
I can’t agree more. These two criminals are trying to hide the atrocities they committed in the name of federation to save their rear ends.
With mountains of evidence on genocide, they are heading no where but the ICC.
Yes that’s the truth
I think your analysis is just off the chart. Pres. Isayas want to join ethiopia to see more prosperous & developed Eritrea.
This is all to confuse the international community. I think that the said federation is not feasible.
As an idea a federal arrangement between Ethiopia and Eritrea is good. But goodness requires enabling circumstances. The current condition is a most disagreeable. Here are some of my objections.
1. Tigray is being decimated by Eritreans. Why should Ethiopia sacrifice Tigray to federate with Eritrea? It is a criminal basis for federation.
2. There is war in Oromia in which Eritreans are suspected of involvement.
3. Both Abiy and Iseyas are dictatorial
4. Iseyas wants to dictate what Ethiopian constitution should be. Why should Ethiopians give upon their freedoms just to federate with Eritrea? Ethiopians know now that they can live without Eritrea.
5. A true federation requires an open discussion of the pros and cons by the people of both
6. It also requires referendum based approval in both countries to be accepted
7. Developing the potash does not require federalism. It can be done with a sectoral economic cooperation agreement between the two countries. All you need is genuine peace between the two countries.
In short, federalism under current circumstances can only lead to more disaster.
Isayas may dream but it is unacceptable for Eritreans to join with Ethiopia in a federal form. We have paid a heavy price to gain our freedom and we will keep it whatever price it demands!
It’s irony the main strategy to tackle Tplf but they could not it until now .Esayase is old enemy for Tplf dismantle federalism from Tigray people and Ethiopian nation and nationality it’s impossible cause every nation has taste self autonomy . We need badly democratization not dictatorship what lesson from Isayase nothing the only things take lessons is undemocratic, money laundering, terror sponsor , unconstitutional and poor mismanaged golden opportunity and so on I wish Ethiopia to be attractive for all nation and nationality unfortunately it’s gone be like New yogosilavia Sooner or later
The illegal totalitarian regime and the Queensland tyrant in Eritrea has no legal authority to Federate Eritrea with Ethiopia again. To repeat the old grave historical mistake is an act of immaturity and naievity.
Whatever happens, the Eritrean people should decide their fate.
We, the Eritrean people together with the oppressed Otomo, Ogaden, Tigray etc… people are able to launch new armed struggle to get rid of dictatorship and oppression.
The Eritrean prople paid dearly and costly to liberate their land and today they are not ready for any plots of annexation or defecation with Ethiopia.
We, as Eritrean people believe in friendly relationships with all our neighbouring countries based on mutual benefit, respect especially sovereignty and freedom.
Afewerq does not represent Eritrean people and Whatever agreements he signs are nill and void and are not proper and legal.
Ethiopia existed for 3000 years more than most countries or any other ountry without being colonized except during the 1935-41 Italian conflict So to assume that it will collapse is rather naive. All enemies of Ethiopia don’t have the will power or the resource to fight Ethiopia and defeat it.
I also the benefit of integreating the two economies and opening borders and sharing resources to make life better for both Eritrea and Ethiopia. Whether they unite or not is immaterial as long as they focus on econmics.
It might be important to unite the army to defeat TPLF, a common enemy for the people of Tigray, Ethiopoia and Eritrea. TPLF brought misery and division and death to the people of Tigray since its inception and everyone will be better of if TPLF outlawed and defeated.
I think federation better for both countries for optimal use of resources based on their mutual benefit!