Ethiopia announces that Eritrean troops will leave Tigray – what might an end to the war look like?

After a two day visit to Asmara, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has issued this announcement.

But how should we interpret it?

First: it will not result in a ceasefire in Tigray

This has been ruled out by PM Abiy.

Reuters reported that Senator Chris Coons, whom President Joe Biden sent as an emissary to Ethiopia, said he urged Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to declare a cease-fire in the embattled Tigray region, but his appeal was rejected.

“I pressed for a unilateral declaration of a cease-fire, something the prime minister did not agree to, and pressed for a rapid move towards a full political dialogue on Tigray’s future political structure,” Senator Chris Coons told reporters during a briefing call Thursday.

Second: it is unlikely to see Eritrean forces withdraw from all of Tigray

The borders of what should be recognised as Tigray is disputed.

For a start, areas along the border with Eritrea were awarded to Eritrea by the International Boundary Commission established at the end of the 1998 – 2000 border war. Some areas were awarded to Ethiopia, but key areas like Badme, Zalambessa and Irob were declared to be part of Eritrea.

This is where the internationally recognised border runs, even if they were held by Ethiopia until the November 2020 war with Tigray erupted.

It’s not clear just how much of what was Tigray before November 2020 the Tigrayan forces now hold.

This is one estimate, by Ethiopia Map.

If this is accurate, then it might result in re-defining Tigray, which could look like this.

This interpretation would allow Eritrean forces to remain in areas to the West of Shire, which were previously part of Tigray.

Already the Amhara are calling areas north of the Tekeze river the “New Zone” – Wolqait, Tsegede and Setit-Humera. It would, of course, cut off Tigray from Sudan.

It was no coincidence that some of the earliest offensives by the Eritreans when the war broke out was around Humera – where the borders of Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia meet.

Would Tigrayans accept this? Unlikely, and the war might not end on these terms, but this is hard to predict.

Third: The Abiy-Isaias agreement says nothing about a Commission of Inquiry into human rights abuses

Earlier this month the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights agreed to a joint Inquiry with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission.

“United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has agreed to an Ethiopian request for a joint investigation in the country’s northern Tigray region, where Bachelet says possible war crimes may have been committed.

The United Nations has raised concerns about atrocities being committed in Tigray, while U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has described acts carried out in the region as ethnic cleansing. Ethiopia has rejected Blinken’s allegation.

Bachelet “responded positively” to a request from the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) for joint investigations in Tigray, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesman Jonathan Fowler said. “The U.N. Human Rights Office and the EHRC are now developing an investigation plan, which includes resources needed and practical modalities, in order to launch the missions as soon as possible,” Fowler said.

Will this now quietly be dropped? Or will President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken, supported by the European Union, insist that Eritrean and Ethiopian forces (together with Tigrayan forces) had to be held to account.

Finally: Will the withdrawal be a prelude to a peace agreement in Tigray?

Peace would require a number of steps.

Here are some that might be involved:

  • Opening talks with the TPLF leadership who won the 2020 election in Tigray by a landslide. This would mean dropping talk (in the communique above) of them being a “criminal clique” and accepting them as legitimate partners.
  • The involvement of the African Union in talks. The AU has already appointed mediators, who were then rejected by PM Abiy.
  • An end to the dispute with Sudan over the al-Fashaga triangle. The UN reported that Eritrean troops were involved in the conflict.
  • A resolution of the dispute over the waters of the Nile between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, since the building of the Great Renaissance Dam
  • Reparations and reconstruction in Tigray, together with a return of the looted historic treasures which have been taken by the Eritrean troops.

These are only some of the issues that will have to be resolved.

Even a glance at this list shows how difficult it will be.

Might the UAE play a role in bringing the dispute to an end? They were involved in the 2018 peace agreement between Abiy and Isaias. And they have offered to mediate in the Nile dispute over the GERD. 

But the alternative to “jaw-jaw” is “war-war” and that could continue for years, if this opportunity is not grasped.

 

4 comments

  1. The war started because the TPLF attacked the Northern command is a fabrication and fake. Abiy, the Amhara leadership and Eritrea spent time, money and energy to attack Tigray before that.
    How is it possible Abiy was able to muster the coordination of Eritrea, Amhara, special forces and the Ethiopian Defense force within 3 days to attack Tigray. It is a fantasy.

  2. It is only a ruse! The predator regimes of Ethiopia and Eritrea are already feeling the diplomatic and economic pressures. They, therefore, want to forestall any contemplated genocide inquiry and chance of punitive military action from the west. Their plan is more likely to constitute a reconfigured Vichy Tigray, under a new Ethio-Eritrea regime.

  3. This means nothing. Abiy and Isaias are the least trustworthy people in the world. This is a game for the gallery, a filibustering to win time. I have no hope from these two.

  4. Re-defining ( Tigray territory obliteration ) Tigre is not a consequence but the main agenda of the war from the start. We haven’t seen the end yet. More and more minimization on its way.
    The territories of the long marginalized people’s like Oromo and Somalis will flow suit. While the eyes of the world is on the genocide of Tigre people, an almost equal sinister atrocities are waged in the regions of long marginalized peoples. Way beyond divide and rule tactics are perpetrated in every region – tribalism ( the disease of the Somali culture ) being used to a perfection in the Somali Ethiopian region; to a point were Madamar win is assured plus 100% in the coming fraudulent election.
    According to Madamar, federalism was wrong and regions should be restructured. That is when Oromo and Somali region will be taken care – their regions power minimized beyond recognitions.
    Then it will be Amara majority and Amarization all over again – a monster rule we got a 3 decade reprieve from: the sole agenda of Abiy and his string puppeteers – the Amara-elites.

    A Somali Ethiopian

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