Chairman of the newly launched Union of Tigrians for Democracy and Sovereignty party, Gebru Asrat expressed regret over his former party’s (TPLF) handling of the Ethio-Eritrean border conflict that claimed the lives of more than one hundred thousand people on both sides.
Gebru says when Eritrea became an independent state in 1993, his party made grave mistakes that kept snowballing, leading to a border conflict that erupted between the two countries in 1998.
Clear boundary demarcations and economic ties with Eritrea were not well defined by what Gebru calls his party’s temporary “marriage of convenience” with its Eritrean counterpart. “The main reason behind the internal crackup of the party emanate from the basic fact that Ethiopian interests were compromised when Eritrea became independent,” Gebru said.
He believes Ethiopian interests shouldn’t have been put on the negotiation table. “Most importantly, Ethiopia’s access to a port was not determined. Other undefined relations include economic and political ties with Eritrea as a state. Even borders were not properly demarcated.”
Gebru says his newly formed party UTDS gives the people of Tigray a chance to be directly involved in regional issues in a way that ensures its political, economic, and social interests. “Our political movement is not confined to the people of Tigray. This is where we begin, but we are aspirating to create a political platform that nurtures a strong political opposition in Ethiopia.”
He says, since the party leadership split, Ethiopia’s political arena has become a one man show for the most part.
Gebru’s comments came at a time of heightened concern about the possibility of a border conflict between the two countries.
A weak UN peacekeeping mission patrols the disputed borders between the two countries since the signing of the Algiers agreement. A boundary commission mandated by the international community is expected to demarcate the borders the two countries share at the end of this month.