In his recent interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Tigrigna Program, the former President of the Tigray Regional Government of Ethiopia and current de facto leader of the Tigray Liberation Front (TPLF), warned Eritrea to withdraw its army from sovereign Eritrean territories, such as Badme and parts of Irob, which were awarded to Eritrea by the Eritrea and Ethiopia Boundary commission. During the interview, he clearly stated that his party would work to expel the Eritrean forces from the mentioned Sovereign Eritrean Territories.
When the TPLF attacked the Ethiopian Northern Command and started hurling missiles at the world heritage site and capital city of Eritrea, Asmara, Eritrea took military action against the TPLF. During that time, Eritrea explained its action to the international community, stating that it had incriminating evidence showing that, after attacking the Northern command, TPLF aimed to take power in Addis Ababa and then launch an attack on Eritrea. Eritrea’s action against TPLF was an act of self-defense. Debretison’s recent warning to Eritrea to withdraw its army from sovereign Eritrean territories, or else, clearly indicates his party’s intention to continue waging war against Eritrea. Such a warning not only validates Eritrea’s claim of self-defense but also forms the basis for any future military actions Eritrea might take to diminish TPLF’s capability of waging war against Eritrea.
Going back to history, after the 1998-2000 border war, Eritrea and Ethiopia signed a binding arbitration agreement on December 12, 2000, to resolve the border dispute in the court of law once and for all. “The Boundary Commission was mandated to delimit and demarcate the colonial treaty border based on pertinent colonial treaties (1900, 1902, and 1908) and applicable international law.” After deliberating for about two years, it “set out its description of the boundary as so determined in a unanimous decision dated April 13, 2002.” Despite the clear GPS-based boundary coordinates provided by the boundary commission, TPLF not only continued to occupy Eritrean sovereign territories that were awarded to Eritrea but also used them as a stepping ground to attack deep inside Eritrea.
After the TPLF was expelled from its power in the Federal Government that it held for 27 brutal years by a popular uprising and fled to the capital city of the Tigray regional government, Mekelle, the new Ethiopian leader, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, traveled to Eritrea on July 8, 2018. During his colorful landmark visit to Eritrea, he conducted a bilateral summit with his counterpart, President Isaias Afeworki of Eritrea, aimed at repairing relations between the two countries. During the visit, Prime Minister Abiy announced that Ethiopia accepted the Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary decision without preconditions and promised to take concrete steps towards demarcation. Following up on his promise, on January 1, 2019, he initiated a withdrawal of Ethiopian forces from the border town of Zalambessa. However, the TPLF sent women and children to block the army from withdrawing. A similar attempt to withdraw the Ethiopian Army from Badme was also blocked by the TPLF. TPLF’s action was described by an Ethiopian Army General as “an attempt to sling mud at the peaceful relationship between Ethiopia and Eritrea.”
On November 4, 2020, the TPLF militia and Tigrayans, who accounted for about 25% of the Ethiopian Federal Army, attacked the Northern command that was stationed in Tigray for two decades. The attack ignited a two-year bloody war between the TPLF and the Federal government, supported by the Eritrean Army. On November 3, 2022, the TPLF was defeated by the Allied forces and signed an agreement to surrender its arms and demobilize its army. The Eritrean Army withdrew from Tigray to the boundary set by the Ethiopia and Eritrea boundary commission dated December 13, 2002.
The historical facts described above indicate that TPLF never intended to vacate Eritrean sovereign territories and hand them over to Eritrea. It obstructed the Ethiopian and Eritrean border commission’s effort to put pillars on the ground. In a flagrant violation of international law, it occupied sovereign Eritrean territories for twenty years. Using Ethiopian federal government resources and political clout, TPLF worked hard to alienate Eritrea and deplete its human resources. It hindered Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s initiative to repair the relationship with Eritrea. Therefore, Debretsion’s warning to Eritrea to withdraw its Army from sovereign Eritrean territories should not come as a surprise. It is a continuation of its past antagonistic policies against Eritrea and its intention to turn the region into a battleground for years to come. Accordingly, Debretsion’s threat justifies Eritrea’s past and future actions against the TPLF. Eritrea has the right to take preemptive actions on the TPLF to neutralize any threat to its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Awet Ne Hafash and Eternal Glory to Our Martyrs.