On Ethiopia-Eritrea frontline, anger at Addis’ olive branch

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BADME, Ethiopia-Eritrea border – For the residents of Badme, a desolate border town in the war-scarred badlands between Ethiopia and Eritrea, new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s peace overtures to Asmara, Addis Ababa’s sworn enemy, are an insult to the living and the dead.

The local anger is in stark contrast to the international plaudits Abiy has won for appearing keen to defuse one of the most intractable diplomatic disputes in the Horn of Africa.

An Ethiopian military officer stands guard in the outskirts of Badme, a territorial dispute town between Eritrea and Ethiopia currently occupied by Ethiopia June 8, 2018. Photo: Reuters

Many of Badme’s 15,000 people are veterans of a 1998-2000 conflict that drew comparisons to the First World War, with waves of conscripts forced to march through minefields towards Eritrean trenches, where they were cut down by machinegun fire.

Far from being an olive branch that might ease tensions between the two nations, locals said ceding Badme to Eritrea, which Abiy said Addis would finally do in accordance with a 2000 peace deal, is an act of betrayal.

“Why did we fight for it then to just give it away? All this sacrifice for nothing? For this?” said Dubale Getu, a wounded veteran who has lived in Badme since his deployment during the war.

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As he spoke, he gestured toward the entrance of the town and the spacious cemetery where dozens of tombs lie, marking the symbolic final resting place of the 50,000 Ethiopian rank-and-file who perished in the war.

On the Eritrean side, 20,000 men are thought to have died.

Despite Badme’s centrality to what was, on the surface at least, a border conflict, nobody in the town was told about Abiy’s plans.

The first word Badme was to be ceded to Ethiopia’s bitter foe on the shores of the Red Sea came via state radio and television.

“The thought of moving these bodies from where they were sacrificed is desecration of their honour,” said unemployed 35-year-old Habtom Shiferaw, whose family members fought in the war.

Locals, he added, would not go quietly – a rare threat against the authority of the state in one of Africa’s most tightly controlled countries.

“They should not expect peace here if they force us to leave,” he said. “There will be violence.”

Others agreed.

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“We have no issues over reconciling with our Eritrean brothers. But we will not leave Badme. We do not want peace by giving away this land after all the sacrifice,” said Teklit Girmay, a local government official.

Trouble in Tigray

In a worrying sign for Abiy, a 41-year-old who has embarked on a radical economic and political reform drive since taking over in March, anger is rippling beyond Badme across Tigray, the northeast region that borders Eritrea.

Some Tigrayans, who have long been the leading ethnic group in the EPRDF coalition which has run the nation of 100 million for more than two decades, are concerned their interests will be hurt if Badme is surrendered.

Residents told Reuters that a protest had already taken place in the Irob district in Tigray, and there are signs in the region of friction over the decision by Abiy, a member of the Oromo ethnic group, Ethiopia’s largest.

Abiy was appointed after three years of unrelated unrest in the Oromo area but he needs the support of all members of the ruling coalition to push through sweeping changes including partial privatisation of the national airline and telecoms firm.

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After his Badme bombshell, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, a regional political party that had dominated the EPRDF until Abiy took office in April, came out swinging against any concessions to Asmara.

“The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front will not take part in any process that harms the interests of the people of Tigray,” it said in a statement, demanding that any withdrawal be linked to additional concessions from Eritrea.

Eritrea’s government has not responded publicly to Addis Ababa’s offer nearly a week ago.

Eritrea has long said it wants Ethiopia to pull its troops out from Badme before normalising ties, citing a decision by a boundary commission at The Hague which awarded the town to Eritrea in 2002.

There are no signs yet in Badme of withdrawal of the Ethiopian forces stationed there.

Ethiopia’s government has said tens of thousands of troops are posted in the border outpost. When Reuters visited Badme on Friday, military trucks mounted with soldiers circulated through the town throughout the day.

Reuters

3 Comments

  1. Dear Ethiopians,

    Please do not go with the wind. To know the truth, dig dip!

    Bademe was given to Erteria when the Moron Seyum Mesfin, who could not read and understand the ruling at his hand was representative of tbe Tigre governmet.

    Why the ruling was not implemented all this time? Simple! America did not want to because Eysas refused to be a puppet of America unlike Melese Zenawi.

    America tried to break the back of Eysas with Economical and political sunction. But Eysas survived all these like Mugabe did.

    America needs Ertrea more than Ethiopia to control the middle East. Therefore, America changed its strategy and told the new puppet Abiy Ahemed (the guy who prays with senator Infole) to give bademe to Eysas. The puppet Agreed immedaitely.

    You have to remember why Cohon made Abiy get elected and why Yamamoto was in Ethiopia and Eritrea. The surrender of former OLFities and G7 is also the result of this strategy.

    Abiy ahmed is nothing but a trojan horse of Santor infole and his government.

  2. It was Meles who deliberately gave away Badme and the other contested towns to your uncle Isaias.
    Seyoum Mesfin is a moron, no question about that, but he did what he was told to do. He was sent by Meles deliberately with inadequately representative colonial treaties when there were other documents that were more supportive were neglected.
    The fact of the matter is there was no need for that kind of arbitration as equals between Ethiopia and your country in the first place. THe simple math is:
    1)Ertra invaded Ethiopia.
    2)Ethiopia defended itself and won the war decisively.
    This left no room for any bargain. Yet again it was Meles and the US who saved your uncle Isaias and Shabiya when Ethiopian troops were marching to take Asmara and Assab.
    President Clinton even suggested for Ethiopia to use its leverage by winning the war to take back the illegally annexed port of Assab from Ertra. You see, your benefactor Meles (the pig puppet) refused to do all of these and decided to stand with Isaias (the fox puppet).
    Neither man were men who can stand alone without the support of the enemies of Ethiopia,such was then, so it is now.
    Lastly the US already controls the mideast with out the need for support or base in Ertra, as a matter of fact there are about 8 nations, some super powers ans some wannabes, that have encircled the waters of Ertra and Ethiopia at this minute. The US concern over Ertra is to keep it from being a haven for jihadist staging and training camp when the your old polpot dictator leader Isaias dies or removed from power.

  3. WE HAVE TO SHOW OUR STAND & BE CLEAR ENOUGH
    One can see how the people of Tigray and Ethiopia are languishing under the dictatorial rule of the 2nd command of Shaebia. For over three decades, after sacrificing the ultimate gift of life the light is blinking far away for our brothers and sisters.We are in rush hour & we don’t have time. We have to show our stand. We must avoid the attitude of “I know it all”.
    It has been proven that the enemy of the people, TPLF (the puppet of EPLF) completely failed to define democracy and didn’t even try to exploit the principles of democracy for the benefit of its own survival. It only barks Democracy when it is time for the hand out, to squeeze money from donors in the name of Democracy.
    The fundamental formation of TPLF (Pro-Eritrean) is to create an independent Eritrea and to defend it at the expense of Tigreans (as a whole Ethiopians) blood and to live by sucking up the wealth of poor Ethiopia and create havoc and mistrust between Ethiopians and dismantle the fabric of our survival, which had prevailed the calamities for centuries. Last but by no means least, right now TPLF (the formulated pro-Eritrean party) is highly engaged in drawing covert actions & strategies that go against us ( we Ethiopians) & Dr. Abiy Ahmed. This can be backed by its proposal to provide the sacrificed land to Eritrea and then meanwhile when it saw great anger from the Tigreans, it draws a pseudo-statement that states as though the decision was made by Dr. Abiy Ahmed alone. Posted by Awetahegn Hagos

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