A week after reaching an agreement with the Ethiopian prime minister to withdraw from the country’s Tigray region, the Eritrean forces haven’t showed signs of leaving.
The forces haven’t vacated the area or shown any intention to leave, according to Getachew Reda, spokesperson for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, whose forces have been fighting against a coalition of Ethiopian federal forces, Amhara regional and Eritrean forces in Tigray for the past five months.
“They haven’t left,” Getachew said in an interview with Al Jazeera. “In fact, there is no intention on the part of the Eritrean regime to withdraw its forces.”
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced last week that Eritrea had agreed to withdraw its troops, days after he stated their presence in the region. The announcement followed increased diplomatic pressure as well as accusations relating to crimes committed in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
“In fact, since the announcement of Abiy’s tweet about Isaias’ agreement to withdraw its forces, Eritrea has been increasing the influx of its forces into Tigray by leaps and bounds,” Getachew said, referring to Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki. Withdrawing is “unthinkable” for Abiy and the Eritrean president’s survival, Getachew said, and that tens of thousands of Ethiopian forces have died.
Abiy, who won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to resolve a longstanding border conflict with Eritrea, ordered an incursion into Tigray after the region’s administrators, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front’s forces, attacked a federal military camp in the region. The descent into violence followed months of tensions between federal and regional authorities.
European Union and United Nations have condemned the reported atrocities in Tigray, and the latest came from G-7 foreign ministers, which issued a statement Friday saying “we condemn the killing of civilians, sexual and gender-based violence, indiscriminate shelling and the forced displacement of residents of Tigray and Eritrean refugees.”
The months of fighting have caused at least $1 billion of damage to the infrastructure in Tigray, according to the Ethiopian government.
Eritrean and Ethiopian authorities have not confirmed the withdrawal. The Eritrean Ministry of Information and the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s Office didn’t immediately respond to queries.