ADDIS ABABA, 8 January 2021 – A senior Ethiopian military commander has contradicted denials by Addis Ababa that Eritrean forces were not deployed to the northern region of Tigray.
“An alien army, we didn’t want, came in,” said Maj. Gen. Belay Seyoum in remarks published by Ethioopian media outlets.
“We know know the problems that are being raised. It’s painful, but who let them in?” the senior officer is quoted as asking.
Eritrean forces were not welcome, Maj. Gen. Seoum added.
“My conscience does not allow me to say, ‘Eritrean army, come and help us!” We can solve our problems on our own,” he stressed.
Ethiopian federal forces have been fighting forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) since last November 4.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed accused the TPLF of killing 50 soldiers in an attack on a military base during which, Addis Ababa also said, the TPLF stole weapons.
The TPLF was an important player in the political alliance that governed Ethopia until Abiy Ahmed became Prime Minister.
The alliance went sour, as tensions rose over PM Abiy Ahmed’s decision to postpone elections in other to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.
The TPLF opposed the postponement and, in September 2020, defied Prime Minister Anbiy Ahmed by organizing the ballot.
The TPLF won 98 percent of the vote and all 152 seats that were contested, with PM Abiy Ahmed calling the ballot an “illegal” election.
Thousands of people have been killed in the fighting in Tigray which has driven over 60,000 people into refugee camps in neighboring Sudan and left millions internally displaced.
The US government had said Eritrean forces were deployed to Tigray but Ethiopian officials repeatedly denied the accusation.
Eritrea is a longtime rival of the TPLF, a far left political party that previously held the majority in the Ethiopian government.
The TPLF still has majority support in the Tigray region.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has called for the investigation of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Tigray..
“We have received allegations concerning violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law, including artillery strikes on populated areas, the deliberate targeting of civilians, extrajudicial killings and widespread looting”, the High Commissioner said.
Bachelet challenged Addis Ababa to prove that it is open to scrutiny on humanitarian and human rights basis by allowing the U.N. experts to determine what exactly is going on.
“Without access, it remains challenging to verify these allegations,” Bachelet said.
The United Nations rights chief has notably blamed the forces in Tigray for alleged mass killing of several hundred people, mainly Amharans, in the western Tigray town of Mai Kadra, on 9 November.