My personal reflections on NYT article on Abiy Ahmed’s planned war

Today’s NYT article on how the Ethiopia Tigray war really started when Abiy Ahmed and Isaias hatched their plan months before November 2020

Having lived and worked at Mekelle University since 2015 and in Ethiopia since 2012 I am some reflections on the New York Times article today which stated the war began before the Northern Command action by the Tigray Defense Force and what may lay ahead.

In the year prior to November 2020 the relations between Mekelle University and the Federal Ministries of Science and Higher Education as well as Health were deteriorating. Instead of the usual budget increases of about 13% there were discussions that Mekelle University had always gotten “too much” and that it was going to be downscaled even though what the University received was an appropriate amount for the population it served the same as the others. University Department heads and administers were suddenly no longer invited to be part of major discussions at the Federal level.

Several times Federal police showed up in Mekelle unannounced in violation of the Ethiopian constitution leading to tense moments on the streets in Mekelle and at the airport. Security was removed from leading Tigray military officers and Tigray People Liberation Front party leaders leading to the assassination of two generals in Addis Ababa.  We all had the feeling that things were going to get violent eventually even if we prayed they would not.

Following the occupation of Mekelle, the Ethiopian Federal government never lived up to its promise to restore or rebuild society when the TDF looked all but defeated. The University was in effect deconstructed and unbudgeted for education and Ayder Hospital was abandoned by the Federal government as if it did not exist. The Tigray were less than human, they did not deserve healthcare, education, protection, or even food said the self-righteous religious cleric0-fascists directing the mob supporters of the Prosperity Party.

I still have flashblacks about the many hundreds of civilian patients we saw at Ayder Comprehensive Specialized Hospital especially as the Eritrean and Ethiopian forces where coming south from Adigrat through Wucro. Mutilated babies and mothers. Grotesque injuries to women. Many civilians shot in the back trying to flee combat areas. There was an intentional genocide to not just control Tigray but to wipe them out. I am convinced that eventually outside reviews will show the scope of this horror we have seen is just the tip of the iceberg of the mass murder committed. Apart from the Armenian genocide suffered in the early part of the 20th century genocide has never been successfully hidden for a long period of time. The truth will come out. 

Ethiopia’s financial resources are quite diminished now. Some estimate their reserves are less than $150 million as it is reportedly spent $ 150 million in just the past two months for drones and weapons. As a result in every region of Ethiopia there is no money for education, health care, or infrastructure. The supplying “dogs of war” have eaten their fill and not left much left to plunder. Some might even argue that Ethiopia was a demonstration run for Turkey to convince other countries to buy it’s drone weapons which Ethiopia nicely paid for. Now in return for not giving more weapons they will use their new sphere of influence to get new deals from the West. That was a part of the plan no doubt along. They got paid to get in and they will get paid to get out. Like a confidence game criminal they will move on to the next victim when they have exhausted Ethiopia’s treasures. Whatever wealth Ethiopia had has been transferred to the puppet masters who controlled Abiy Ahmed. 

Ethiopia was always the pawn in a larger power game between Arab states wanting to expand their sphere of influence, Russia, China, Europe and the USA. This is not about colonialism or African independence. I do not see how being $80 billion in debt to a foreign country for weapons is a step in the direction of self sufficiency. 

The only winners in this disaster were the weapons dealers and loan providers. Ethiopian development is probably been knocked backwards 10 to 30 years at least even if the war stops now. So much hate has been generated between Tigray, Amhara, Oromo, and other peoples the idea of Ethiopia going forward as a united people seems more remote then ever.

The African Union is quietly abandoning Addis Ababa. Addis Ababa premier investment group Cepheus Capital which promised great investment rewards in a land of milk and honey cannot continue the false promises of high growth and stability. Ethiopia may default on its junk rated bonds in the next quarter. Ethiopia will come out of this most likely more divided or in a state of chronic war. With a primitive quality of living comparable to the times the prosecutors of the war like to fantasize about.  Unfortunately the old saying TIA, this is Africa, which former President Obama warned us about is still true. The never ending cycle of self-destruction continues.



Why Eritrean forces have not left Ethiopia?

Ethiopia’s story about Eritrean troop involvement changes every day. Currently they say they have left but if they were there it would be reasonable to assist their allies in Ethiopia claims Ethiopian MFA.

Why has Eritrea not left Ethiopia? No one believes the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs notice this week stating this lie. Multiple sources report that Isaias Afwerki is controlling Ethiopian intelligence services as well placing commanders with Amhara militia and the Ethiopian National Defense Force. Why has Afwerki not left the basically defeated Ethiopian state?

Going back to 1991 it has been well documented that Afwerki wanted to unite Eritrea and Ethiopia into a confederation. This would give him access to the Ethiopian economy, a more stable currency, hosting the African Union, and legitimacy on the world scene.  Being the second worst nation in terms of human rights violations and lack of any election since he came to power would be placed aside by a new confederation with the naïve Abiy Ahmed.

Although political integration under the larger Ethiopian state had been discussed since 1952 the rise to power of Afwerki made it more of an realizable idea. His stalemate with the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front in the 1990s over the Eritrea Tigray border and subsequent hostility that remained rendered this idea mute until the Abiy Ahmed became Prime Minister of Ethiopia causing the TPLF to recede from national power.

Here was the perfect situation. The master schemer manipulated the young inexperienced Abiy Ahmed into a secret pact ostensibly as far as the world was concerned creating peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea but in reality a war plan to dominate Tigray once and for all. This would pave the way for Isaias Afwerki to become the de facto leader of the new Ethiopia Eritrean state.

Even though the military confrontation with Tigray has failed there is still hope that international heavy weights and the United Nations concerned with severe famine, refugees potentially streaming to Europe, and a failed Ethiopian state leading to chaos in the Horn of Africa will push hard for some immediate ceasefire. With this ceasefire a promise of food and medical aid will be allowed into Tigray but Tigray will have to withdraw into its borders. Both Esaias and Abiy Ahmed are counting on the international call to be strong to end any further fighting thus preventing capture of Addis Ababa or Asmara.

No doubt this pause will give Isaias time to strengthen his armed forces and those of Ethiopia as well with a plan to reinvade Tigray. Of course the leaders of the Tigray National State realize this is exactly what will happen. They know Ethiopia will only let a trickle of aid come in while complaining all the while that everyone bringing aid is really plotting to help the Tigray. Many more months will go by until Ethiopia and Eritrea can once again attack in force. This is why the Tigray Defense Force and the Oromo Liberation Army must continue to march on.

Why is the world not holding Isaias Afwerki accountable for the Ethiopian crisis?

Passive support even admiration of the cruel tyrant Isaias Afwerki does not help the cause of African development

When will Africa learn that protecting evil dictatorships like Eritrea will always be an impediment to building a better and stronger Africa? Passing the one year mark of the human caused catastrophe of the Ethiopian war what most strikes me is the lack of discussion of the role Eritrea has played. 

The 1995 movie, The Usual Suspects, has a quote that has become iconic  “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist “. This most aptly describes the tyrant of Eritrea. While we hear constant commentary about Ethiopia and Tigray we hear next to nothing on how the most notorious master manipulator Esaias Afwerki masterminded not only what is going in Ethiopia but adding to chaos in Sudan.

Even though Eritrea competes with North Korea as to who is most egregious violator of human rights among the countries of the world it shamefully was elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council mostly by endorsement of other African nations. The faulty notion that protecting African sovereignty and prominence in international affairs means accepting cruel and vicious leadership is allowable contributes significantly to much of Africa’s human rights struggles.  The situation is so bad in Eritrea that a special envoy to follow it was created by the UN.  Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, presenting his oral update, said this year he had seen no concrete evidence of progress or actual improvement in the human rights situation in Eritrea. 

If one wants to be generous to Abiy Ahmed that initially he had better intentions toward building Ethiopia this assumption can only be defended by pointing the finger to his naivete to the mal-intentions of the diaspora clerico-fascists and Isaias Afwerki. Yet these two entities remain obscured  in the discussions of how this cataclysm developed. 

Unexpected consequences of Tigray Ethiopia conflict for Eritrea and Isaias Afwerki

The Isaias Afwerki Abiy Ahmed partnership has not brought them the results they expected

Unexpected consequences of the Tigray Ethiopian conflict may be making  Isaias Afwerki rethink his decision to commit military forces in support of the Ethiopian National Defense Force. The war has brought about changes in the relationship with not only Ethiopia but also the Arab states and Sudan. Rather than securing his position of power, Afwerki may have weakened his position.

Why did Isaias Afwerki, dictator of Eritrea, enter the Tigray Ethiopian conflict? Some say it was to permanently crush his long term adversary the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front. Others say it was to create a new partnership with Ethiopia that would bolster the Eritrean economy. However these explanations overlook the evil genius that has allowed Afwerki to survive since his rise to power in 1991.

It is now known that Eritrea has a debt burden of $3.87 billion with one of the poorest poor capita incomes of $587 annually. Over 45% of its food needs need to be imported for the population of only a little over 3 million. Almost every professional has left the country. There is a minimal health care and university system which combined with one of the most repressive governments, often compared with North Korea, which limits potential for development.

For the past few years Eritrea has sought to gain income from mining interests. It gave 60% interest to Chinese mining companies to develop and export gold, copper, zinc, and more recently has been looking at potash. Loans in excess of $300 million are in default to Arab states with the largest to Qatar . Bloomberg reports that in fact Qatar interests have filed suits in American courts to reclaim losses from Eritrean assets in foreign banks. The large Bina Mine had been built and run by the Canadian company, Nevsun. But a lawsuit on behalf of Eritrean workers was allowed in the Canadian courts leading to a settlement which revealed that workers at the mine were basically slaves. The Canadian interest except for a bout 10% was sold to the Chinese company, Zijin, in 2020.

The friendliness of Arab interests to finance the high cost of the Chinese partnership is waning fast. Eritrea had hoped to gain Arab favor and forgiveness by allowing Arab military ports and airbases to support their efforts in the Yemen conflict in which they fighting a proxy war against Iran. However the Arabs definitely see a conflict of interest as they have sided with Egypt and Sudan against Ethiopia in the rapid filling of the Grand Renaissance Dam. No doubt they expected Afwerki to be speaking loudly in support of the Arab united view rather than being mute. 

The United States and United Nations have clearly not wanted to alienate the delicate relationship they have with the Arab alliance. Clearly pressure from the United States played a role in the withdrawal of United Arab Emirates forces out of Eritrea and the use of their assets by Afwerki. The United States and Western democracies have been recognizant of Egyptian interests towards the use of the Nile River no doubt seeing Middle East interests of importance. 

For Afwerki economic realities which must be taking priority more than any concern about “friendship” with Abiy Ahmed. Afwerki has a keen sense of survival. No doubt he was surprised by the resurgence of the Tigray Defense Force, the growing world condemnation of the Ethiopian “law enforcement action” with its associated atrocities, and finally by its unforeseen consequence of economic chaos in Ethiopia which will not help Eritrea.

Recent transport of gold reserves by high ranking Prosperity Party officials of Ethiopia to Dubai as well the maintenance of secrecy about what is exactly contained in the document of the peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea are raising new questions. Is it likely that Abiy Ahmed is in fact been making payments to Afwerki for his mercenaries to function in Ethiopia? Now that the Ethiopian state is at risk and its resources depleted is Afwerki rethinking his strategy. If the payments or promises of payments have stopped then reasonably one would expect Eritrea to disengage.

Afwerki based upon the promises of Abiy Ahmed never expected that the Tigray Defense Force would resurge to threaten his own survival. Now that there is beginning to be realignment of Sudanese interests with Tigray  interests and the fact that the Khartoum is the now with the Sudanese government’s blessing the headquarters of opposition to the Eritrean government. Before the Tigray conflict Afwerki had been wooing Sudanese interests after a long history of distrust. Perhaps this is another reason Afwerki may be deciding he may need to withdrawal to protect his own interests.