Ethiopia, a staunch ally of the United States, will have its work cut out to contain the hostility of its Eritrean and Egyptian neighbors, who in turn have support from certain Arab countries, namely Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Meanwhile, it has to contend with the mainly Oromo internal revolts ( ION 1422). We publish here our exclusive disclosures about the underlying factors of a war that is as much diplomatic as it is military.
UAE and Egypt are behind the latest Eritrean push – On 12 June, the brother-enemies of the Horn of Africa accused each other of starting the recent deadly fighting with over 300 dead on their border in the Tsorona region. After saying nothing for two days, Addis Ababa finally gave the green light to its government spokesman, Getachew Reda, to warn the Eritrean regime of Issayas Afewroki that Ethiopia could go so far as to wage all-out war. Eritrea was emboldened by its support from the Gulf States and the security and military partnership contract it signed in April with the Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud ( ION 1403). So it did not stop at merely making noises against Addis Ababa and has even inflicted heavy casualties on the Ethiopian army. But Egypt is in reality behind the Eritrean assault, with support from Abu Dhabi.
The Indian Ocean Newsletter has learnt that on 12 June, Mohamed Dahlan, the PLO former head of Preventive Security in Gaza and current advisor to Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohamed bin Zayed, was at a meeting in Cairo with the Egyptian Minister for Irrigation, Hossam Moughazi, and also attended by representatives of Mukhabarat (Egyptian general intelligence directorate).
On the agenda was the Egypt-Ethiopia tension over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). This was when Mohamed Dahlan decided to play the Eritrea card to apply pressure on Ethiopia, by urging Issayas Afeworki to instigate hostilities against Ethiopia on its border. He then went to Asmara on 16 June.
His visit to Eritrea was prepared by a member of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) who lives in Cairo and Asmara, Omgita Sharo. Meanwhile Saudi Arabia and UAE, fearing that the conflict could escalate, sent a memo to Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, asking him to recall the 2,000 or so soldiers posted at Dankalie, a stone’s throw from the Eritrean port of Assab which is the home of a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) base and which Saudi Arabia and UAE have refurbished to the tune of $50 million. But Ethiopia immediately replied to these recommendations firmly in the negative.
Washington behind Addis Ababa – Ethiopia is far from isolated in this crisis. Its US and Israeli allies ensured it was elected a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for 2017-2018 on 28 June. Furthermore, on 8 June, Ethiopia was guest of honour at the White House. At a unique meeting, held at the behest of Reuben Brigety, the US Ambassador to the African Union with the agreement of the State Department, Ethiopian-American businessman, US ambassador to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and former CEO of Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), Daniel W. Yohannes was invited to talk about Ethiopian fears of threats from its neighbours. Since then, the United States has largely closed its eyes over Addis Ababa’s military manoeuvres in Djibouti, where a large number of soldiers are stationed on the Eritrean border, North West of the Tadjourah district.