Opinion: Our Soldiers across the Border

Radio Erena: 02 February 2021

US administration in a strongly worded statement ‘pressed’ Eritrean officials to immediately withdraw forces from Tigray amid accusations of widespread looting and hunting down of civilians. Third-party confirmations prove that the Eritrean forces are engaged in grave human rights violations. The first to appear were the abuses against Eritrea refugees in the refugee camps in Tigray. Tens of refugees were rounded up and taken back to Eritrea by Eritrean security forces as eyewitnesses have said upon arrival to Sudan.

Moreover, the American statement clearly refers to extensive looting and hunting down of civilians; this is ostensibly the very reason behind the participation of the Eritrean forces in the war.
Abiy Ahmed has intelligently capitalized on the hatred of Eritrea’s dictator of the TPLF leaders and practically used the Eritrean forces as hit squads because of their guerilla training and orientation compared to the Ethiopian professional army which is poorly trained in such warfare. The need for the Eritrean soldier’s warfare experience combined with the vengeful spirit of its leaders proved essential to winning the war in Tigray for Addis Ababa. The two allies Abiy Ahmed and Isias Afwerki have their reasons for going into the war; the Eritrean excuse is seldom expressed as the government is trying to hide the presence and actions of its army in Tigray. The Eritrean hit-list expresses the psychological aim behind the war. Eritrean commando units are diligently searching for general Tsadkan Gebretensae the ex-chief of staff of the Ethiopian army, whom Asmara considers as the chief engineer of the 1998-2000 war known in Eritrean as the ‘Woyani War’; along with other generals including the chief of the Ethiopian intelligence at the same time period. These two and other generals might turn to be a bigger catch than the previously killed former foreign minister Seyoum Mesfin and Abay Tsehay.

The war of vendetta between the Eritrean dictator and the TPLF leaders has been raging for two decades; as Eritrea listed its grievances in a letter to the American ambassador in Addis Ababa. Aside from the political gimmicks of Asmara’s dictator and his blind supporters abroad, the question still looms large: Whose war the Eritrean army is fighting in Tigray?

It’s the war of everything except the Eritrean national interest. The Eritrean forces’ atrocities have already started to backfire as eyewitness statements started to surface. The defenders of Eritrea’s military involvement in Tigray, who have utterly denied it at the beginning, are now desperately trying to dress it in acceptable justifications. Some Eritreans erroneously believe that what overwhelmed the Tigrayans is justified within the context of the past conflicts, and the Eritrean forces are legitimately dealing with the situation across the border not to allow any future resurgence of any threat even it meant killing the children and youth who may be potential recruits in such feared future threat.

All of these justifications aren’t only pitiable, but they are a manifestation of pure evil. Eritreans have already started to reap the seeds of this outrageous war: some Eritrean ethnic groups are now singled out for committing atrocities in Tigray; this and similar accusations have maliciously diverted the attention of the main question at stake: Why the Eritrean forces are fighting in Tigray? And for whose interests the Eritrean youth are dying in a foreign land?

The dictator’s days are no doubt numbered, but what the Eritrean people are reaping of his wrathful wars will last for a long time. This claim is in no way a defense or belittling of the atrocities committed by the Ethiopian forces in Eritrea in 1998-2000; it rather a call not to repeat them today; and to ensure that the Eritrean forces have full sovereign control of the national territory; a matter which was essentially done and wrongly transgressed to some other hostile agenda that only serves the ill intentions of the Supreme Commander of the Eritrean Defense Forces.

By Fathi Osman

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