Ethiopia: Mekelle City Interim Mayor Admits Presence and Participation of Eritrean Forces in Tigray Conflict

Addis Abeba — Ataklti Haileselassie, Interim Mayor of Mekelle city who was appointed by the Tigray regional state interim administration, admitted the presence and participation Eritrean forces in the armed conflict in Tigray.

In a video televised by Tigray TV, which is currently under the control of the federal government appointed interim administration in Tigray, Ataklit responds to questions from community members participating in a meeting. According to Ataklit, the question of the presence of Eritrean forces in Tigray was "a daily question of the interim administration," and that "relevant military leaders have been asked to give explanations."

Tigray TV's YouTube channel is no longer uploading Tigray TV programs being televised locally. The video clip was therefore recorded from Tigray TV local broadcast and was released on Facebook.

"Why did they come in?" Ataklti asks and goes on to explain "the country's largest command [the Northern Command], which was supposed to protect the country, was stabbed on its back and they [Eritrean forces] entered because there was no other defense. But it was also announced that they were being withdrawn from the country in a short time. It is a mistake to associate this with the interim administration," he said.

The people of Tigray should not be harmed three or four times in "such unplanned and meaningless war," the interim mayor laments "we have had a lot of embarrassment. When will it be enough for Tigraway from entering an endless war and death? It is a shame that every ten years Tigraway dies due to war. We don't have a problem right now, so we don't have to ask why they came in now, but how to get them out. We are here to discuss what we can do to stabilize the situation outside our city."

Atakliti became the first senior government official to admit the presence and participation of Eritrean forces in the armed conflict in Tigray, which is categorically denied by officials both in Addis Abeba and Asmara despite growing evidences.

In a press briefing he held on December 09, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that he "confronted PM Abiy with that question, and he guaranteed to me that they have not entered Tigrayan territory. The only area where they are is corresponded to the disputed territory between the two countries that was decided to give back to Eritrea."

However, citing U.S. government sources, humanitarian agencies and satellite images, several leading international media including the New York Times, Reuters, and Bloomberg, have reported about the presence and involvement of Eritrean forces in the armed conflict in Tigray, which began exactly two months ago on Nov. 04/2020.

The Ethiopian government, continued referring to the conflict as "law enforcement operation in Tigray," and said it was completed on November 28 after its forces "captured" the city of Mekelle, the capital of Tigray. However, a latest report by Famine Early Warning Systems Network revealed the "conflict has been ongoing at relatively lower levels, predominately in some central and eastern areas."

The Network, which is a USAID founded leading provider of analysis on food insecurity, also warns "the conflict in the Tigray region resulted in a notable decline in food security among displaced, urban, and poor rural households despite the ongoing harvest." AS

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