One of the founders of the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF), Abay Tsehaye has made a desperate plea to Eritrean leader Isaias Afwerki to transcend what he called old enmities and join in an alliance with the rank and file of TPLF.
Saying TPLF from the time of its establishment has had unwavering support for the liberation struggles and Eritrean independence, Abay has urged the Eritrean president to forget rancour and to heal wounds with Tigray region’s leadership.
“TPLF has forgotten it (old animosity). EPRDF has forgotten it. President Isaias has also to forget it,” Abay said speaking in Tigrinya in video recordedby BBC Tigrinya.
He said: “TPLF from the very start has taken a favourable position to the burgeoning cause of Eritrean liberation movement, after having studied and examined the situation and concluded it was a legitimate question that should be solved in a peaceful and democratic manner through a referendum.”
“Even when there were tensions and rows between TPLF and EPLF (the EritreanPeople’s Liberation Front) during the armed revolt, TPLF never put into question the legitimacy of Eritrean independence. TPLF sent fighters to support EPLF in Eritrean soil, and paid heavy sacrifices. The Eritrean people are well aware of this, the Eritrean fighters are aware of this. The Eritrean fighters were mobilized to help TPLF in Tigray, that was how we defeated the Derg,” he said referring to the regime that came to power in Ethiopia after ousting Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974 and ruled the country until 1991.
The TPLF, a group that began guerrilla movement for the autonomy of Tigray, had been a close ally of the EPLF. It would later form an ethnic-based coalition of opposition forces and would continue advancing farther south and assume state power in 1991. The EPLF assumed complete control of Eritrea and a separation was effected. However, five years later fighting sparked, which was widely believed to be as a conflict of interest triggered by fierce competitions between Tigray and Eritrea as each scrambled to develop its respective regions through the resources of other parts of Ethiopia.
Even after the establishment bilateral relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea after the coming Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the subsequent visits of President Isaias to the capital and others parts of Ethiopia three times, TPLF old guards felt snubbed by lack of bilateral meeting. The Eritrean leader also continued to make disparaging references about TPLF leaders.
Abay Tsehaye, whose name is often associated with corruption scandal in his former role as director-general of the Ethiopian Sugar Corporation is based in Mekele, the Tigrayan capital which many say have become an untouchable enclave for former power TPLF officials. The region has refused to hand down ex-spychief, Getachew Assefa wanted for his role in alleged human rights abuses.
In the media interview, Abay has taken a softer line towards Isaias, inviting the President to visit the region and sit for dialogue, stressing the “common language spoken by the two people”. He also made a call for the opening of the border crossing through Badme and Humera and the use of Port Massawa. For the moment only the main road between Zalambessa and the Eritrean town of Serha is accessible.