Sudan lured into TPLF’s defense: Joint forces to operate under single command along common border By Keffyalew Gebremedhin
In the last few days, the media in Ethiopia and Sudan reported about Ethiopia and the Sudan concluding agreement to establish a joint military force under single command along the common border, which would become operational in a few weeks time.
Without discussing the purported nature of the threat faced by the two countries, Sudanese defense officials repeatedly stressed that the joint force was a necessity dictated by the security needs of the two countries, adding that their latest effort was outcome of an earlier understandings between officials of the two sides.
This latest agreement was concluded in Addis Abeba at the 11th session of defense officials of the two nations, whose realization would be marked by the deployment of the defense forces of the two countries on eight fronts along the common border in September.
Perceptible in the carefully expressed words at the official press conference of the two sides is their awareness of the existing public distrust of any arrangements between the TPLF and the Al-Bashir regime. This had especially kept Sudanese officials hard at work in emphasizing the importance of their joint security arrangements for respective nation’s defense, economic development and cooperation.
Unlike the Sudanese officials, however, the emphasis by the TPLF representatives has betrayed their longstanding mortal fears of Sudanese territory being used as staging ground for operations against the regime, as they themselves had utilized it before coming to power. While not wanting to give out in public that indeed is their concern, they did not manage to disguise that they have been bracing up for sometime for an alleged danger coming from Egypt.
Regarding this matter, a Sudan Tribune‘s TPLF insider and himself a member quotes the Front’s officials who reportedly pointed out to him that the latest agreement with the Sudan is a “key part of their defense strategy”, aiming “to avert any possible sabotage of a controversial dam project [under construction] on the Nile, some 40km from the Sudanese border.”
In more explicit language, according to the paper, this military pact is described by TPLF insiders as insurance against any hostile action, especially in the event of a direct “air strike backing Ethiopian rebels to destroy the $ 4.6 billion power plant project.”
Is the TPLF working to protect itself in power or Ethiopia’s interests?
The irony surrounding the above defense agreement with the Sudan is that no Ethiopian in his right mind would ever think and believe that the Sudan could be Ethiopia’s defender and its long-term interests. If the pretense of this transaction were to be genuine, which cannot be under any circumstances, it means that the Sudan must be making humongous sacrifices on Ethiopia’s behalf.
That is why the news story about the new defense arrangement is received by cross-sections of Ethiopians, if the comments heretofore on various web pages have served as any guide, with either fingers in their ears or nose between thumb and index finger.
The irony of the present defense arrangement is the fact of the TPLF presenting the Sudan as protector of Ethiopia’s interests, among others, on the mighty Nile River.
Most puzzling, however, is why the Sudan must be doing this, especially when this brings it into clash with Egypt – its coreligionist, a fellow member of the Islamic Conference Organization (ICO) and an Arab League partner, among others. Why must Khartoum so intimately ally with largely an ‘infidel nation’ (Ethiopia) – in their views – when such action is also presenting it in the eyes of the Middle East as traitor to its brethren in faith, their shared sentiments and the conspiracies they have all along loved to hatch against Ethiopia for several decades now?
That is why this claim about the latest defense agreement does not hold any water, especially when one recalls that in his June 8, 2014 inaugural speech President Abdulfatah El-Sisi had made it abundantly clear that Egypt’s security is linked to that of the Gulf states and the rest of the Arab region. He in fact said, “any attempt to threaten their national security would be the crossing of a “ red line.””
Such a claim by Egypt in public must also have reverse corollary. Therefore, what must the Gulf States do in return as payback to Egypt?
To start with, most of the Gulf States have welcomed Egypt into the ‘Arab fold’, which was sufficiently demonstrated during El-Sisi’s presidential inauguration. There is also the billions that followed following his inauguration.
If this is the reality, why should the Sudan try to undermine Egypt, especially on Ethiopia’s behalf? If not real, then this could also be looked from the point of the capacity of the Sudan to do deliver that. Suffice to recall that a few years ago the Sudan could not defend even Khartoum and Omdurman from forces that easily crossed over with machine gun mounted pick-up trucks from Chad, who were enraged by Al-Beshir’s mistreatment of Darfurians they see as family members?
Yet in a remote way serving as signal to confirm the self-serving interests of the TPLF is the composition of the list of Middle Eastern top guests attending Sisi’s swearing ceremony. Experience in diplomacy tells any reader of the situation, it is an outcome of hard diplomatic horsetrading, which would not bode well for any interest external, including the Sudan’s. As evidence of the new harmony, in attendance of the inaugural ceremony were Gulf chiefs, ranging from the Saudi and Abu Dhabi’s crown princes to Kuwaiti emir and the monarchs of Bahrain and Jordan, among others.
Why should the Sudan go against Egypt and such an array of powers to serve Ethiopia’s interests, when those are known for their political, economic and financial might that can easily squish Khartoum?
Moreover, if anything, the reality speaks of the ghastly role Al-Bashir has played in undermining his own country during his years in power. He has neither done what a true leader must do to promote and advance the Sudan’s interests. Instead, he has managed to reduce its wonderful people and that country into a pariah state in the eyes of the wider international community.
Today, for the international community synonymous with the Sudan’s name is the human rights violations, the crimes against humanity and terrorism by the Bashir regime. How could the Sudan defend Ethiopia, a nation that very well knows itself?
It is in fact the TPLF that has utilized Ethiopia’s name and honor and its influences in Africa, a derivative of it being the headquarters of the African Union to protect Al-Bashir from international justice. This happened, when the world – including many in Africa – have been of the persuasion that he along with his top officials belong to the docks because of various crimes against the Sudanese people and their obnoxious actions against neighboring states, if one looks to the east to Ethiopia, in the west to Chad and in the south Uganda.
That is why the question arises, why and how such people who have been committing crimes against their own people and nation – the Sudan – should be expected to do any good by Ethiopia. After all, for all what history has recorded, Sudanese leaders since independence in mid-1950s have been plotting all sorts of hostile actions against our nation.
Indeed, already we are living witnesses to the fact that they succeeded in the early 1990s in injuring Ethiopia’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity, with the TPLF as the sharp end of their spear.
As if that were not enough, we have also heard sordid stories about the Sudan’s operations against helpless Ethiopian refugees fleeing their country due to TPLF’s persecution since the TPLF came to power in 1991. That is an action constituting a clear violation of international human rights and humanitarian laws. Therefore, to this day the number of those Ethiopians the Sudan handed over to the gallows in Addis Abeba remains unknown.
That is why Ethiopians strongly feel and believe that these crimes against those Ethiopians be included in the list of the many other crimes by Al-Bashir and his lieutenants to be held accountable under international law.
On several occasions, the UNHCR had also voiced its concerns such Sudanese concerns.
That was years ago, before the High Commissioner began turning blind anywhere and everywhere about any crimes against Ethiopian refugees and asylum seekers, especially in Djibouti, Kenya and Uganda. The members of the anti-democracy mafia, organized under the umbrella of the so-called Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which since the 2005 election in Ethiopia has been reduced to a TPLF fulcrum for silencing dissent under the guise of fighting terrorism in the Horn and East Africa, about which the United States and a number of Western states have full awareness.
Post-election 2005 redux
To sum up, this latest TPLF defense arrangement is reminiscent to many Ethiopians why in the first place in the morrow of the 2005 election the TPLF leaders went out on limbs to the Sudan in search of assurances that no Ethiopian opposition group would ever use Sudanese territory – as the TPLF had done in the past to unseat the regime in Addis Abeba. In return, they pledged their friendship and loyalty to the interests of the Sudan, whose initial deal, as revealed by Sebhat Nega in March 2007, was sealed with pledge to Omar Al-Bashir to end on Ethiopia’s part its claim to the area under dispute between the two nations for over a century.
It has been reported that Meles assured Al-Bashir with expedited border demarcation, as TPLF’s tribute. The idea was for the Sudan to claim the fertile agricultural lands under dispute and that it has so much wanted.
Its outcome has now been massive dislocation of tens and thousands of Ethiopian farmers from their traditional lands along the Sudanese border. This has also sowed the seeds of future conflicts. Recently, anger was reported to have caused spontaneous armed conflict between dislocated farmers from the Ethiopian side with Sudanese border people, the latter supported by both Sudan’s and TPLF armed forces.
At this point, Ethiopians have no need need for a lesson who and what Al-Bashir and TPLF leaders are all about. These past years have been generous in helping Ethiopians in that regard; they have offered them sufficient education about the identities of the jugglers in both Addis Abeba and Khartoum, their short- and long-term needs and goals.
In fact, what is learnt about them is how much early on Meles Zenawi – now his generals and security chiefs and their minions in the other ethnic fronts – and their counterparts in the Sudan – have as much benefited at the expense of the two peoples and their nations.
Because of that, Addis Abeba and Khartoum may for now have created bonds; what they cannot realize is that they both belong to the past of our nations and the sub-region.
Both Omar Al-Bashir and the TPLF have finally reached the end of their roads, after 25 years and the TPLF after 23 years in power, respectively. Most importantly, they have become a spit the public has totally rejected, especially the corrupt and morally bankrupt TPLF.
Left for the people now is to begin to clean the mess, picking up the pieces after the heartless dictators. It would also take long for the people of the Sudan to learn why it would initially become difficult to create good neighborly relations with the people of Ethiopia, until amends are offered for the grievous crimes of the collaboration between TPLF and Sudanese leaders.
Joint or dis-joined their repressive defense forces, at this point what the world witnesses is a futile exercise and, as far as the TPLF is concerned, it might also be the first step toward realizing its long-term objective, aiming to ensure fulfillment of Meles Zenawi’s dream of bringing together Eritrea, Tigray and the Sudan to create new country, presumably another market, possibly music to the ears of international capital.
In truth, lurking behind this present effort and its objective could be TPLF’s desire to administer a further beating to historic Ethiopia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. They have amassed stolen monies in these past years from Ethiopia’s economic opportunities that compels them to find new place to unpack them for a new beginning, if at all, possibly without fear of an angry nation ready to rise against them.
History has recorded that many of the ancestors of TPLF leaders were allies of colonialist Italy that invaded Ethiopia on two occasions in its efforts to subjugate and occupy the country: not only once but twice: the first time in the 19th century where their new master Italy was dealt massive humiliation at the Battle of Adowa and in the 20th century at prelude to World War II, again where Italy’s imperialist and colonialist ambitions were terribly shattered, along with the traitors dreams.
Who could think it was mere ignorance on their part, or forget or ignore TPLF leaders’ constant attacks against Ethiopian history and culture? It was part of the TPLF’s grand plan to undermine Ethiopia, as they aim to realize their dream of elevating Tigray in the long run as separate state and that hide out they have in mind. I would like to think and believe that there still are as many self-respecting honorable people of goodwill, who think and believe in their Ethiopian origin and identity, unlike the sellouts!
It is in the light of this that may wonder how could it make any sense for any Ethiopian that the latest defense arrangement is thus in the interest of the Ethiopian people. Many Ethiopian parents are aware that their children who fled their country through the Sudan have lost their lives or are still languish as prisoners in that country.
Who would dare tell those parents, save the TPLF, that the Sudan is both protector of their country and bulwark for their children, when in reality the Sudan has been the first country to hand many of them over to be executed in secret in any of the marked and unmarked TPLF prisons around Ethiopia?
*Updated with added material.