News: Eritrea admits presence and involvement of its forces in Tigray war, pledges to withdraw

PM Abiy and Presidet Isaias Afwerki on March 26 after a visit by PM Abiy to Asmara.
Picture: Yemane G. Meskel

Addis Standard staff

Addis Abeba, April 17/2021– In a letter sent to Ambassador Dang Dinh Quy, the current President of the U.N. Security Council, Eritrea’s Ambassador to the U.N. Sophia Tesfamariam said “Eritrea and Ethiopia have agreed – at the highest levels – to embark on the withdrawal of Eritrean forces and the simultaneous redeployment of Ethiopian contingents along the international boundary.”

This is the first official admission by Eritrea of the presence and involvement of its forces in the war in Tigray region, where widely corroborated reports of war crimes including, sexual slavery, extrajudicial killings, deliberate starvation of civilians as well as pillaging and deliberate destruction of civilian infrastructure have been coming in since the war began in November last year.

The Ambassador’s letter says the withdrawal follows “as the looming grave threat has been largely thwarted,” another admission that Eritrea’s troops are in Tigray to fight alongside the Ethiopian federal defense forces.

However, it’s not clear which “highest levels” agreement the Ambassador’s letter was referring to. The statement released by Eritrea’s Ministry of Information on March 26, the same day that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed claimed Eritrea has agreed to withdraw its forces, did not mention reference to any agreement of the withdrawal of its forces.

Since then, Eritrea’s forces are accused continuing to commit atrocities against civilians in Tigray. In the latest such report came from Amnesty International in which it said it has confirmed that Eritrean “troops killed three people and injured at least 19 in an unprovoked attack on civilians in the centre of Adwa town on 12 April.”

Page two of Ambassador Sophia’s letter where the withdrawal of Eritrean forces is mentioned

Ambassador Sophia’s letter denies such reports. “The allegations of rape and other crimes lodged against Eritrean soldiers is not just outrageous, but also a vicious attack on the culture and history of our people.”

Eritrea’s admission followed the latest meeting at the UNSC on Tigray in which Mark Lowcock, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, delivered a remark. Mr Lowcock said despite promises by PM Abiy, “neither the U.N. nor any of the humanitarian agencies we work with have seen proof of Eritrean withdrawal,” He also said that the UN agencies have “heard some reports of Eritrean soldiers now wearing Ethiopian Defense Force uniforms.”

Similarly, a statement delivered by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., cites “credible reports that Eritrean forces are re-uniforming as Ethiopian military in order to remain in Tigray indefinitely.” The U.S. Has once more called on the Eritrean government to “withdraw its forces from Ethiopia immediately.” AS

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