• The Second Request Of The TPLF To Restore Relations
As was outlined in the past issues of this article, the leadership of the TPLF by thwarting its relations with the EPLF and suspending the military operations it waged against the Derg regime in Tigray became involved in drawing the EPLF in to conflict by raising irrelevant matters like the border issue and other trivial arguments. However, due to the tolerant and mature leadership of the EPLF this never escalated into a situation which could have led both the people into unnecessary confrontation. The TPLF plot to weaken the military power of the EPLF was also not realized. Contrary to this, EPLF fighters decimated the huge colonial army the “Wukaw Iz” in 1984 which had been building up a huge garrison for about five years in the North -eastern Sahel front. And by conducting fast and coordinated counter-offensives around the towns of Tessenei and Barentu the EPLF army repulsed the extensive enemy assault of the so called “Operation Bahri Negash”. And in areas that lay behind enemy lines including Asmara Airport, the EPLF undertook a number of hit and run operations that eventually weakened the Derg regime. And in March, 1988 the EPLF encircled and destroyed the “Nadew Iz” a colonial military command alleged to own special and strong army that had been stationed around the Nakfa Front.
The TPLF, which is accustomed to political acrobatics and capricious behavior, after observing that out of its expectation the balance of power is shifting to the advantage of the EPLF in a very short period, without any shame or disdain once again officially expressed its intent to make peace with the EPLF through its own radio broadcast. And it also requested that a meeting of both leaderships be held to restore relations back to normal. In line with this, a meeting was held on April 1988 between the two leaderships in Khartoum, Sudan. And some of the points which gained consensus in that meeting include:
-The two organizations to focus more on working together at the current situation instead of looking back on their differences and problems so as to promote the aspirations of the peoples of Eritrea and Ethiopia;
-Develop extensive military cooperation between the two organizations and also augment their information exchange;
-The leadership of the TPLF to reawaken its military operation that it had deliberately stalled and the EPLF to extend the necessary military assistance, including tanks, ammunitions, mobile workshops for weapons and vehicles maintenance to the TPLF fighters;
-Coordination between both organizations in the domains of politics and diplomacy to be strengthened;
After this meeting a new atmosphere of partnership emerged. And continuous meetings that consummated in mutual understanding gained momentum. These had the agenda of how to untangle Ethiopia’s political problems, respect the right of the people of Tigray to self-determination and other nationalities of Ethiopia, on how to unite the different opposition forces, on the transitional government that would be established after the fall of the Derg that will have to include all opposition organizations in Ethiopia, on how to resolve the Eritrean question and other many issues.
Under this new understanding, both organizations’ individual and joint military operations continued with increased momentum. The EPLF mechanized unit as well as the special commando units, armed with tanks, artilleries, anti-tank and anti-air missiles had fought along with TPLF soldiers in the battles ranging from liberating the town of Shire(Tigray) to the final battle in Addis Ababa. The martyrdom of Eritreans in these battles had been not only to secure peace in Eritrea but also to establish stability in Ethiopia so as to create an atmosphere in which both peoples can embark upon a new chapter of history.
In keeping with this noble initiative, the EPLF as well as Eritreans residing in Ethiopia who were later to be expelled from that country on a mere accusation of “we don’t like the color of your eyes” by the TPLF, had done all they can to reinforce the government which the TPLF had established. When Eritrea achieved its sovereignty after a popular referendum in 1993 and became a member of the international community, H.E. President Isaias Afwerki made an official visit in Addis-Ababa from 28-30 July, 1993. In this historical visit, agreements were signed to promote a bilateral cooperation in different fields between the Eritrean and Ethiopian Governments including political, economic and cultural domains taking into consideration the historical and brotherly ties between the people of the two countries. And the ports of Massawa and Assab, which the people and Government of Ethiopia were using freely starting from the independence of Eritrea, were once again officially declared to remain open to Ethiopia.
These agreements that were intended to promote good neighborliness and strong bilateral relations by closing the chapter of conflict and healing the wounds of war sustained by the two peoples represented a positive development in our region which was lauded not only by the peoples of Eritrea and Ethiopia but also by the people of the world at large. Despite this however, the TPLF clique even at this stage was welcoming bankrupt groups that claim opposition to the Eritrean government, and secondly through its minor cadres it was engaged in obstructing the major agreements by instigating confrontations especially in the border areas of the two countries. .