ACCORDING to government sources for African Intelligence desk, opinions within the ruling coalition Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) are divided about the possibility of a return to war or some kind of intervention against Eritrea – evidenced by the contradictions between Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, and the spokesman for the government, Getachew Reda.
Speaking to parliament on July 7th, PM Desalegn stated that if Eritrea did not cease its destabilizing activity, Ethiopia would be obliged to take direct military measures against the country.
The previous day, the government spokesman, who opposes intervening in Eritrea, had denied reports from the diaspora based Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) concerning military operations against government troops in Tigray (northern Ethiopia) carried out in early July by combatants of an armed opposition movement based in Eritrea, known as the Arbegnoch Ginbot 7 for Unity and Democratic Movement (AGUDM).
The escalation of tension comes ahead of President Obama’s visit to Ethiopia by the end of this week. Since the announcement of the visit, Ethiopia have started to take some face saving measures that it consider would appease the Obama administration. Such includes the unexpected release of journalists and bloggers previously convicted of terrorism charges and the re-sending of a few thousand soldiers into Somalia in the name of fighting Al-Shabab terorrists.
However, the reckless remarks on Eritrea by the PM may not please the U.S. as it used to. As Prof. Terrence Lyons of the George Mason University recently put it at a panel discussion organized by Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), any escalation of conflict between the two countries at this time is against U.S. interest and Washington should oppose it outright. Prof. Terrence said,
“The recent really quiet astonishing bellicose statement made by PM Hailemariam Desalegn against Eritrea are really the ground work for what could be an escalation of that conflict (the Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict). And that it would be very useful for the United States and President Obama to say directly to the highest levels of officials in Ethiopia that the U.S. won’t be on board with them on that. Crossing the border into Eritrea would be a catastrophe and shouldn’t do it to make sure there is no ambiguity on that point.”
The U.S. thus far successfully blocked the implementation of the legally resolved border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea by letting Ethiopia off the hook to continue occupy, with impunity, sovereign Eritrean territories.
In his assessment of the damage to U.S. credibility as a result of such action, the Chairman of the House subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher described Washington’s behavior as ‘disgraceful’ that undermined U.S. ability to arbitrate other disputes. He said,
“Let’s just note that, we did convince the Ethiopians at one point to agree to arbitration of a major dispute that they were in with Eritrea. When the decision of the arbiters went against Ethiopia … we extracted some kind of other deal with them to help us with some sort of defense related deal [invasion of Somalia]…and let them off the hook, basically said they didn’t have to follow their arbitration.”
With tacit support from the U.S., Ethiopia repeatedly announced it is diligently working for regime change in Eritrea. Taking it’s capacity aside, such reckless saber-rattling against Eritrea should be condemned as failure to do so could have serious regional ramifications.