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Eritrea’s National Security


0.0           Introduction


Eritrea has one of the largest armed forces in Africa. Though classified, intelligence reports reveal that the number of active personnel serving in the Eritrean Armed Forces exceeds 200,000 troops. This article will discuss the reason why Eritrea maintains such a large armed force in relation to its relatively small population of nearly four to five million. To tackle the issue, the article will touch upon the notions of secularization, militarization and national security within the Eritrean context. The article will first give a brief outlook on Eritrean Armed Forces and then will move to Eritrea’s foreign interventions to be explained in light of country’s security threat perception. Later on, the article will deal with Eritrea’s current national security implications considering the recently fought Tigray War. The aim of this article, therefore, is to explain Eritrea’s policy in external issues in pursuit of its national security agenda.



1.0           Defining Securitization and Militarization in Eritrean Context


As defined by the realist school of security, national security threats are external in their origin and militaristic in their nature(16). According to this approach, security is a phenomenon of war and the state is the only security provider. Nevertheless, critical schools of security extend the notion of security beyond the traditional boundaries, asserting that states themselves can turn violent against their citizens. The former traditional approach focuses on inner-state conflicts whereas the critical insight tackles issues related to human security, minority rights and migration. Nevertheless, this article will mainly focus on the former and traditional perception of security and will try to assess the Eritrean case in the light of a realistic approach. Hence, critical security is neglected in the study.

Militarization, on the other hand, goes hand in hand with the national security agenda. One can argue that militarization is a way in which the state responds to traditional security threats posed by other state or stateless entities. In this setting, militarization is an inseparable aspect of national security, though on different scales. Militarization index is a scale of measurement that determines the degree to which a country’s civilian composition is affected by the military and the extent to which the military is employed as a foreign policy tool. Despite the fact that there is no institutionalized way of measuring a country’s militarization index, given the numbers of active personnel serving in the Eritrean Army, one can assess that the armed forces are indeed deeply embedded within the modern Eritrean society. Militarization of everyday life in Eritrea is practiced through a strict conscription policy explained in the next chapter. As a natural consequence of the militaristic nature of its society, Eritrea follows a national security agenda where we encounter armed interventionism in its center. Within the Eritrean setting, concepts of securitization and militarization are deeply intertwined. Hence, the analysis of Eritrea’s national security threat perception shall incorporate a military analysis of the country, by also taking the situation in neighboring countries into account when necessary.


1.1       Eritrea’s Military Capabilities


Before analyzing Eritrea’s national security agenda, it is essential to discuss country’s military situation. First and foremost, one should note that the components of today’s Eritrean Army are irregular troops that were converted into regular forces following the bilateral conclusion of Eritrean War of Liberation in 1991. The chain of command is made of veterans from the liberation war that lasted for thirty years. Though the regular veterans are replaced by new recruits, the overall recruitable population of Eritrea still has considerable combat experience and the high-ranking officers hold expertise in irregular warfare. The transformation of irregular EPLF troops into a standing Eritrean Army, hence, is an integral process for the buildup of modern Eritrean military.

Equipment. Eritrea operates Soviet era military equipment. Due to the UN arms embargo imposed on Eritrea, Russia remained as country’s primary arms supplier to date. The limited acquisition of new military hardware makes necessary for Eritrea to invest in keeping existing equipment operational in long term. Russia’s 2022 war in Ukraine possibly led to cuts in Eritrea’s arms exports from its principal ally.

Conscription. Land forces are the largest branch of Eritrean Armed Forces with somewhere around 200.000 active personnel, according to CIA World Factbook(1). Composition of the land army remains classified, though it is estimated that some of the army divisions are mechanized. Air Force is made of Soviet-era fighter jets while the navy is composed of coastal patrol vessels mainly acquired from Ethiopian Navy. Land forces, as the largest branch, is central to the military planning. It is only branch of the armed forces that has a considerable capacity to engage armies from neighboring countries, especially from the largest neighbor, Ethiopia. Eritrean land forces rely on a strict conscription law for manpower, which was introduced in 1994. The conscription law asserts that all Eritreans aged between 18 and 40 have a compulsory national service for a totaling of 18 months (6 months of training and 12 months of active deployment)(2). The 1998 war with Ethiopia brought an additional 25.000 new conscripts into the army and no demobilization took place after the conclusion of the war. Currently, military service regulations of Eritrea remain indefinite.

Doctrine. From a military standpoint, Eritrea’s current military doctrine is formulated to accommodate a prolonged conflict with its neighbors, particularly Ethiopia. Although there is no official statement from the Eritrean Ministry of Defense regarding country’s military doctrine, observations from the 1998-2000 Ethiopia-Eritrea War lead to the assumption that the Eritrean Army is trained to keep enemy at bay for as long as possible. Putting into effect, the doctrine foresees the unrestricted usage of manpower and equipment necessary to keep the enemy force at the primary line of defense. During the 1998 war against Ethiopia, Eritrean Army employed “static defense”, which is based on concentrating units along a single line in order to create an impenetrable single line of defense. Nevertheless, military doctrine of the Eritrean armed forces may vary regarding the nature of the conflict. Eritrea’s topography makes an invasion alongside the Sudanese frontier from the mountainous highlands quite challenging, thus easy to defend by Eritrea. However, flat-rolling terrain of the southwest makes Assab port city vulnerable to invasion. Therefore, the employment of a variety of defensive tactics, including “defense in depth”, seems necessary. In addition, the execution of an airland warfare jointly by Eritrean army and air force remains unlikely due to the fact that the Eritrean Air Force lacks close air support aircraft. The main role of the Eritrean Air Force in a prolonged conflict would be maintaining aerial superiority and, most importantly, countering enemy air-to-ground missions.  


2.0           Eritrea’s Involvements


2.1           Involvement in Congo and Sudan


Eritrea has historically been involved militarily in several African countries and currently continues to be involved. During the immediate post-independence period(1991-1998), Eritrea got involved in the First Congo War and the Second Sudanese Civil War. The early Eritrean involvement in these conflicts is worth to highlight due to the fact that Eritrea and Ethiopia were supporting the same warring sides. This mutual support can be read as a reflection of improving Ethio-Eritrean relations during the TPLF-led government of Ethiopia under Meles Zenawi. The Ethio-Eritrean cooperation in external affairs, in broader terms, is a result of US president Clinton’s “new African leaders” political agenda(3). The Clinton administration, in 1990s, became involved in African affairs by fostering the cooperation among a new generation of African heads of states, including Uganda under Museweni and Rwanda under Kagame. Clinton’s list was also encompassing Ethiopia under Meles Zenawi and Afwerki’s Eritrea. Hence, Eritrea found itself involved in the First Congo War, which was launched by Congolese rebel forces aided by Ugandan and Rwandan armies to topple the Zairean dictator Mobutu. Eritrean Army sent a battalion-strong force to Congo to fight against the Zairean army. From the standpoint of Eritrean national security, though the war in Congo didn’t pose and direct or indirect threat to Eritrea’s territorial integrity and leadership, it was an important component of building healthy relations with its troublesome neighbors like Ethiopia under the US supervision.


The Eritrean involvement in the Second Sudanese Civil War of 1983-2005 follows the same pattern. In this conflict, we see the deployment of Eritrean troops in southern Sudan and frontier areas of Sudan-Eritrea border in support of South Sudan’s People’s Defense Forces (SPLA), fighting for the independence of Christian majority south Sudanese territories. In this context, the Eritrean involvement in relation to its national security agenda is more challenging to determine. In contrast with Christian Ethiopia supporting Christian south Sudanese fighters, Eritrea was rather hesitant in directly offering support to SPLA, due to the fact that Sudan had granted sanctuary to EPLF fighters in Kassala during the Eritrean struggle for independence. Nevertheless, Eritrea was a part of Clinton’s progressive coalition and was receiving “non-lethal” support from the US in return for their troop commitment to topple the dictatorial regimes of Mobutu and Omer Al-Bashir(4). During the conflict, Eritrea authorized several Sudanese rebel groups to seek refuge in its territory, allowing them to regroup and launch attacks against the Sudanese army from the Eritrean soil. Due to the close proximity of wartime operations in Sudan to Eritrea itself, the Eritrean Army became directly involved in fighting against the Sudanese armed forces in various engagements.


To summarize Eritrea’s early military ventures in Congo and Eritrea, the emphasis should be put on Clinton’s “new African leaders” political agenda and the subsequent US assistance to front-line countries of Uganda, Ethiopia and Eritrea. The US-initiated mutual cooperation and common foreign policy period between Eritrea and other African states addressed key concerns of the Eritrean ruling elite from the standpoint of national security. Firstly, the EPLF-led leadership of Isaias Afwerki asserted its authority over the national territory by getting recognized by the US as a progressive ally and most importantly by the historical enemy Ethiopia for a brief period of time. Secondly, though only valid for the war in Sudan, Eritrea was set free from a threat that may be posed by a strong and unified Sudan under the pan-Arab policies of Omar Al-Bashir, that may jeopardize Eritrea’s delicate religious balance between Christians and Muslims. Combined together, it can be said that the early foreign interventions by Eritrea are essential components that shaped Eritrea’s national security agenda during its post-independence.

2.2 Involvement in Ethiopia and Somalia


The Eritrean involvement in Ethiopia and Somalia makes the second phase of Eritrean military involvements abroad. Principally, the second phase of Eritrean foreign interventions occurred following the 1998-2000 Ethiopia-Eritrea war, which shook off the foundations of Clinton’s “new African leaders” agenda and undermined the Eritrean stance at the international stage on the path of improvement. The war with Ethiopia brought Eritrea an isolationism backboned by Addis Ababa, and a reduction from a principal US ally in the Horn from a peripheral partner state in the war against terror. The changing international stance of Eritrea amid isolationism forced Asmara to review its national security agenda. First of all, Ethiopia once more became the existential threat directed to the Eritrean statehood. The fact that Ethiopia had emerged as the principal threat against Eritrea was not alien to Eritrean policymakers, however, it was not central to the Eritrean national security planning up until the 1998 war. Up until 1998, Eritrea pursued no or limited interventions in Ethiopia. However, starting from 1998, we observe a phenomenon that may be called an “Ethiopia-Eritrea proxy war”(5). The ground where this proxy war takes place includes both Ethiopian federal territories and Somalia.

Eritrea is highly involved in inner-Ethiopian politics. The demographic composition of Eritrea is similar to those of Ethiopia’s, as people from the same ethnic groups are unevenly dispersed across two sides of the border in many occasions. Demographic similarities between two countries intertwin each other’s internal affairs as a result. In terms of Eritrean national security, the ethnic composition of Ethiopia offers a way for Eritrea to navigate Ethiopian politics to turn the power politics in its favor. The volatile situation caused by the setbacks of ethnic federalism in post-cold war Ethiopia leaves Eritrea with various militia groups that are inclined to align themselves with Eritrea in their fight against central government. The chain of alliances among different militia groups operating inside Ethiopia is a historical result of the Ethiopian Civil War of 1974-1991. During the civil war, Ethiopian central government under General Mengistu fell into the hands of a combined force of rebel armies from all over Ethiopia, including Eritrea’s EPLF together with Tigray’s People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), Oromo Liberation Front and a bunch of other militia armies. EPLF and the state of Eritrea as its successor, had strong connections established during the civil war with other liberation fronts. Therefore, one may argue that post-war Eritrea had strong connections with militia forces from all over Ethiopia’s federal regions that could be used as a foreign policy tool. One of the main pillars of Eritrea’s militia framework within Ethiopia is the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). Being one of the allies of EPLF during the civil war, the Eritrea-OLF cooperation culminated in 2006 when the commander of the Ethiopian Army’s 8th Infantry Division defected to OLF and crossed into Eritrea with some of its troops(6). Although in the beginning OLF and its armed wing OLA (Oromo Liberation Army) were not in the position of inflicting considerable damage to the Ethiopian Army rather than ambushing its units, their power is growing together with the recently deteriorated internal structure of Ethiopia by the Tigray War. Records provide us with the information that if OLA were to receive arms from Eritrea, the delivery could not be conducted across the Eritrean border due to the geographical distance of Oromo region from Eritrea. Therefore, Somalia would be the most feasible outpost for Eritrean arms shipped from Assab to Mogadishu to be utilized by the OLA forces(6). The Eritrean involvement in Somalia is therefore an integral part of Ethio-Eritrean proxy war across the Horn of Africa and should be analyzed separately.

Similar to the Eritrean collaboration with various other Ethiopian militia organizations, EPLF and Somalia were fighting against the common enemy Ethiopia during 1970s. When Somalia invaded Ethiopia’s Ogaden region in 1977, EPLF sought opportunity in gaining ground against distracted Ethiopian Army in Eritrea. Although Somalia was defeated by Ethiopia followed by a yearlong war, the EPLF-Somali cooperation against Ethiopia during the Eritrean war of liberation laid down the foundations of future cooperation between the two. The overlapping of Eritrean independence in 1991 with a decay in Somalia’s territorial integrity made Somalia the main ground of both Ethiopian and Eritrean interference. Eritrean national security apparatus perceives Somalia in two different manners. First of all, Somalia is a battleground that Ethiopia may be bogged in. Meaning that, dragging Ethiopia into the Somali Civil War may distract Ethiopia’s military attention focused on militia groups operating within its territory and lifting some of the pressure applied on Eritrea alongside the border. In broader terms, one could argue that the mitigation of Eritrea’s greatest security concern originating from Ethiopia could be done by dragging Ethiopia into a war in Somalia, possibly by using “war on terror” as a pretext. Gladly for Eritrea, Somalia was already undergoing a period of severe disarray starting from 1991. The breakup of country into warlord-controlled territories by mid 1990s left central government with no authority and Somali Army fragmented at the hands of local warlords. This lack of authority and insignificant governance prepared the ground for the rise of fundamental extremist groups within Somali national territory, with the most prominent being Al Shabab. The rapid rise of Al Shabab and its territorial gains triggered an Ethiopian invasion in 2006 that lasted for three years. Although Ethiopia didn’t encounter much of a military resistance from Al Shabab and the umbrella of other jihadist organizations that its operating under the name of “Islamic Courts Union”, Somalis started to turn against the Ethiopian invasion and population soon turned hostile at Ethiopia’s presence in Somalia(7). Throughout the course of Somali Civil War, Eritrea is being accused of allegedly arming Al Shabab. Despite the fact that Al Shabab plays a power breaker role in Somalia for Eritrea, the alleged support from Eritrea is a contested issue. Since the conflict is still in progress, it is highly challenging to access de-classified intelligence reports that may reveal Eritrean military support to Al Shabab. Reports from the UN Monitoring Team in Eritrea indicate that no trace of Eritrean shipments into Somalia was found by 2017(8), possibility leading to the assumption that Eritrea had ceased its alleged military support to the terrorist group by that time. Nevertheless, UN reports don’t necessarily rule out the fact that Al Shabab was the main protagonist in triggering 2006 Ethiopian intervention. Plus, since Al Shabab remained undefeated from 2009 onwards, Ethiopia was left with a need of constantly monitoring its border with Somalia amid frequent Al Shabab infiltrations into southern Ethiopia. These terrorist infiltrations indeed keep Ethiopia pinned down in Somali affairs, leaving more room for Eritrea to maneuver in other parts of the Horn.

Secondly, though not as significant as the alleged Eritrean support to Al Shabab, Somalia remains as a ground for Eritrean covert operations in arming and supplying rebel forces operating within Ethiopia. Essentially, the UN resolution(9) imposing an arms embargo on Somalia was also directed at Eritrean shipment of arms to Ethiopian rebel groups such as Oromo (OLA) and Ogaden (ONLF) liberation fronts. The centrality of Somalia for Eritrea as a hub for its covert operations has been lost following the UN sanctions. Yet, the aspect of Somalia being used as a hub by Eritrea can be regarded as an extension of Eritrea’s agenda in dragging Ethiopia into a prolonged and costly war in Somalia with no end in sight.

To summarize the second phase of Eritrean extraterritorial interventions, one should first observe the shift in Eritrean stance at the international arena from being member of a progressive faction of African leaders with US guidance to an alleged terror-sponsored state. The reason for this dramatic shift is born out of international isolationism of Eritrea following the 1998-2000 war with Ethiopia. During this period, the intensification of Ethio-Eritrean proxy war becomes clearer with Somalia being the main battleground. Nonetheless, it is also worthy to note that the recent Tigray War of 2022-2022 shifted the Eritrean national security agenda yet to another direction, with Somalia being no longer a battleground for the proxy war as the Eritrean Army became directly involved in northern Ethiopia.


2.4            Conclusions from Eritrea’s Involvements


This chapter discussed Eritrea’s military involvement in third countries with two separate phases. The initial post-independence involvements are characterized by the direct deployment of Eritrean Army troops in Congo and Sudan is followed by a two-year-long war between Eritrea and Ethiopia, which is then accompanied by the second phase of Eritrean involvements in forms of covert support to Ethiopian rebel groups via Somalia. In addition, the chapter briefly touched upon the phenomenon of “Ethiopia-Eritrea proxy war” which became more and more apparent during the second phase of Eritrean interventions. Least but not least, the chapter noted the changing features of Eritrean interventionism abroad, as the Tigray war fought from 2020 to 2022 saw the direct engagement of Eritrean Arny inside the Ethiopian national territory.


3.0.           Eritrea’s National Security


This chapter which is dedicated to Eritrea’s present national security issues will focus on post Tigray War developments. The war in Ethiopia’s northernmost province Tigray brought everlasting changes both to Ethiopia’s and Eritrea’s security implications. The conflict is highlighted by the direct engagement of Eritrean Army inside the Ethiopian territory, only seconded by the 1998 border war. With the direct Eritrean engagement, the phase of conflict has changed and the Eritrean national security agenda alongside with it. To better grasp the implications of the Tigray War for Eritrea, it is required to recall the 1998-2000 Ethiopia-Eritrea War.

The 1998-2000 war was significant for the Eritrean national security perception in many aspects. First, Eritrea recognized Ethiopia as its gravest national security concern. Secondly, the stance of military institution is praised as the only security guarantor for the existence of statehood. And finally, states and non-state entities are emerged as much-needed allies of Eritrea during times of war. It is with the 1998 war that Eritrea turned its attention back to the Horn and moved away from being a US partner in fight against terrorism and extremism in the Greater Horn region. The 1998-2000 war could be seen as a precursor for the Eritrean involvement in Tigray War in 2020 in two different manners. First aspect stems from the territorial dispute that remained unsolved following the Algiers Agreement which put an end to the 1998 war in 2000. In the aftermath of the conflict, even though UN had decided to hand back the disputed territories of Badme and various other contested border regions to Eritrea, Ethiopia kept Badme under occupation(12). The border demarcation commission, tasked with solving the border issue between the two countries, was rendered ineffective and the border dispute persisted up until 2020 with minor border skirmishes emerging from time to time. The unsolved border dispute evolved around Badme region and continued Ethiopian occupation was a pretext for the Eritrean involvement. Second aspect of the 1998 war that served as a pretext for 2020 Eritrean involvement in Northern Tigray is the enmity emerged between the TPLF and Afwerki regime of Eritrea as an outcome. The border dispute around Badme was indeed an extension of the TPLF-Eritrea conflict, given the fact that TPLF is considering Badme and other contested areas as a part of Tigray region rather than Eritrea.


Bearing in mind the implications of the 1998-2000 war, Eritrea’s involvement in Northern Tigray in 2020 came as a measure to put an end to the TPLF threat against its territorial integrity. After the 1998 war, Eritrean national security calculations were aimed at mitigating the TPLF threat by means of diminishing its dominance over Ethiopian politics. In mid 2010s, TPLF dominance in Addis Ababa was already in decline. The decline in Tigrayan influence in Ethiopian politics reached its peak following the election of Abid Ahmed in 2018, who tacitly caused the breakaway of TPLF from the Prosperity Party that rules Ethiopia(10). Nevertheless, from the Eritrean standpoint, the declining Tigrayan influence in Addis Ababa was not simply enough no ease the national security threats since TPLF was still in charge of the Tigrayan autonomous region, a situation that cannot be changed through peaceful means.


In November 2020, TPLF launched a civil war against Abid Ahmed’s federal forces. The outbreak of the armed conflict between Ethiopia and Tigray region then formalized the Ethiopian-Eritrean alliance against the TPLF. During the early stages of the war, TPLF forces gained momentum and liberated most of the Tigray region from the Ethiopian Army, capturing the regional capital Mekelle and advancing into bordering federal states (11). Eritrea also got involved in Northern Tigray as early as November 2020, when TPLF was marching southwards into the Amhara region(12). Yet, the Eritrean involvement in Northern Tigray remained limited and Eritrea never opened a second front against TPLF in full terms. On contrary, Eritrea gradually expanded its occupation zone in Northern Tigray throughout the course of the war, into an area including Badme in the east stretching to the north of cities of Axum and Adigrat in the west. In military terms, Eritrean Army’s incursion into Northern Tigray lifted some of the pressure on Ethiopian Army fighting in the south. Plus, Eritrea captured the contested Badre region from TPLF and further cleared its bordering areas from TPLF along roughly 500-km section of its frontier with Ethiopia(13). During the war, the Eritrean Army has being accused of committing war crimes as a part of its brutal campaign in parts of Northern Tigray(14). By mid-2021, Amhara militia got mobilized and involved in fighting against TPLF. The joint Ethiopian Army-Amhara militia counteroffensive in the southern front recaptured the territory lost to TPLF by November 2021. In the northern front, Eritrean and Ethiopian armies launched the Shire offensive a year later and captured the last strongholds of TPLF in the region. The Tigray War came to an end with the Pretoria Agreement of November 2022. Nevertheless, Eritrea continues to maintain its occupation of Northern Tigrayan regions still today. Eritrean refusal to honor the Pretoria Agreement and its continued armed presence in Northern Tigray, one may state, is to monitor the demobilization process of the TPLF fighters. As stated, the Eritrean involvement in Tigray was aiming both to capture the contested territories and to totally eradicate TPLF as a capable fighting force that poses a threat to Eritrea. It seems that the first objective is secured by Eritrea, and the country now enjoys full control of its claimed territories. Still, the continued presence of Eritrean Army in Northern Tigray demonstrates that the second objective of eradicating TPLF’s armed wing is still under process.


To summarize Eritrea’s involvement in Tigray War of 2020-2022, it is crucial to understand the implications of 1998-200 war that brought Eritrea-TPLF enmity into place and left an unsolved border dispute between the two countries. Furthermore, the chapter demonstrated that Eritrea’s post-1998 national security apparatus was aimed at removing Tigrayan political dominance at Addis Ababa and eradicating TPLF’s armed wing from the Tigray region bordering Eritrea. Eritrea’s agenda in removing TPLF both from Addis Ababa and Tigray found expression in the Tigray War of 2020-2022 and TPLF was defeated as a result of joint Ethio-Eritrean military effort. However, the eradication of TPLF from the Tigray region and the subsequent capture of contested territories by Eritrea don’t nullify Eritrea’s gravest national security concern originating from Ethiopia. It should be noted that the degree of demobilization that the TPLF forces are undergoing since the Pretoria Agreement of 2022 remains unclear. Plus, the continued armed presence of Eritrea grounded on the fact that Eritrea is assisting the demobilization of TPLF units, further complicates the road to peace in Tigray. Currently, Tigray region that was defeated during the war faces occupation both from the Amhara Fano militia that invaded the Western Tigray and from the Eritrean Army that occupied parts of the Northern Tigray(15). To make matters worse, the continued occupation of internationally recognized Ethiopian territory by Eritrea puts strains on Ethiopian-Eritrean alliance that jointly defeated the TPLF. In order to bring peace to the Tigray region and therefore to mitigate Eritrea’s national security concerns grounded on TPLF, both forces of the Amhara Fano militia and Eritrean Army should withdraw from their occupation zones. A step further to ensure peace in the region may be through handing the law enforcement role in the region back to the hands of federal Ethiopian forces. 


4.0.      Conclusions


Eritrea’s maintenance of its large armed forces relative to its small population stems from a highly militarized national security agenda in which armed interventions are an integral component in securitizing the county. The geopolitical landscape that Eritrea operates within is highly volatile and all of its neighbors are suffering from periodic infightings. Given such a geopolitical landscape defined by constant periods of warfare, Eritrea’s highly militarized national security agenda comes as no big surprise. As discussed in the first chapter of the article, Eritrean military ethos was shaped by 30-years-long struggle for independence and the conversion of irregular EPLF forces into a standing army. The following chapter on Eritrea’s foreign involvements in other states demonstrated that armed interventions are essential components in assuring country’s national security. The distinction between the first and second phases of Eritrean interventions abroad, marked by the 1998-2000 war, made clear how the country employs its armed forces in different ways regarding the nature of the conflict accompanied by security calculations. In the last chapter on Eritrean involvement in the Tigray War, the changing pattern of Eritrean involvement is marked, as the emphasis is put on the fact that Eritrea as of 2022 started to directly intervene into its neighbor’s conflicts rather than committing with an expeditionary force. 

To think of Tigray War and beyond requires more than the assessment of the conflict itself. As Eritrea’s lifelong leader Afwerki ages on and on, prospects of Eritrea’s future following his legacy remains unclear. The militarized national security apparatus is successful in keeping Eritrea defended from external threats so far. Yet, the same apparatus may come apart if a dramatic change happens in Eritrean leadership. The direction to which Eritrea will turn after Afwerki’s leadership requires a multifaceted study, though the article makes obvious that the armed forces will play a determinant role in shaping country’s future.

To close, the emphasis should be put once more on the demilitarization of Horn of African states. This is a highly challenging issue given the wars fought in the region in past decades. Disbandment of local militia forces within Ethiopia and a demobilization program for the Eritrean military are two main theoretical pillars for a longstanding peace in the Horn. Both go hand in hand. Nevertheless, current political situation both in Eritrea and Ethiopia rule out these possibilities. The insight provided by the latest Eritrean national security agenda of post-Tigray War points out that the path to peace in the Horn requires a simultaneous transformation of both Eritrea and Ethiopia into less militarized states. In turn, the path will be paved for the end of Ethio-Eritrean proxy war and a gradual peacebuilding in all Horn of African states will follow.  



5.0           Citations


1: CIA World Factbook, Eritrea, Military and Security

2: Aya Adel Abdelhady Elraei Metwaly, 2039442, Military Service in Eritrea: Why is it considered the primary push factor for Eritreans to leave their country and how the international community has reacted to the violations committed by Eritrean officials in the military service?, Università degli Studi di Padova

3: Peter Rosenblum, Irrational Exuberance: The Clinton Administration in Africa, Current History, Vol. 101, No. 655, Africa (May 2002), pp. 195-202 

4: The Clingendael Institute, The Sudanese Civil War, The Netherlands and Sudan: Dutch Policies and Interventions with respect to the Sudanese Civil War, Aug. 1, 2000, pp. 17-35

5: John Abbink, Ethiopia—Eritrea: proxy wars and prospects of peace in the horn of Africa, Journal of Contemporary African Studies, Volume 21, 2003 - Issue 3 

6: Martin Plaut, Ethiopia's Oromo Liberation Front, Review of African Political Economy, Vol. 33, No. 109, Mainstreaming the African Environment in Development (Sep., 2006), pp. 587-593

7: Ruan van der Walt and Hussein Solomon, Histories and Spaces of Terrorism in Africa: The Post-9/11 Strategic Challenge of Somalia’s al Shabab, MÜSİAD Afro Eurasian Studies, Spring 2014, Volume 3, Issues 1

8: United Nations Security Council, S/2017/925

9: United Nations Security Council, Resolution 733 (1992)

10: Romina Istratii, On the Conflict in Tigray, Public Orthodoxy, 2021

11: Government of Ethiopia & the Ethiopian National Defense Force, U.S. Security Partnerships and the Protection of Civilians, A Collaboration Between Brown University, Security Assistance Monitor, & InterAction, December 2021

12: Redie Bereketeab, The Complex Roots of the Second Eritrea-

Ethiopia War: Re-examining the Causes, African Journal of International Affairs, Vol.13, Numbers 1&2, 2010, pp.15–59

13: Government of the Netherlands, Thematic Country of Origin Information Report on Tigray 2021, August 2021

14: Kjetil Tronvoll, The Anatomy of Ethiopia’s Civil War, Current History (2022) 121 (835): 163–169 ,Volume 121, Issue 835, May 2022

15: Moses Tofa, Alagaw Ababu Kifle and Hubert Kinkoh, Political and Media Analysis on the Tigray Conflict in Ethiopia, European Institute of Peace, Jan/Feb 2022

16: Meressa Tsehaye Gebrewahd, Eritreas national security predicaments: Post-colonial African syndrome, African Journal of Political Science and International Relations 11(5):112-124, May 2017


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