italy military cooperation ethiopia
Italian Defense minister Lorenzo Guerini (Ansa).
italy military cooperation ethiopia

Italy suspends military cooperation with Ethiopia

Defense minister Lorenzo Guerini has announced the suspension of the deal. Satisfaction in the Tigrayan community.

Five months after the parliamentary question on the Italian military agreement with Ethiopia presented by MP Piera Aiello, Minister of Defense Lorenzo Guerini answered. «In light of the degenerating situation in Tigray» he announced on January 28, «I represent that the Ministry has ceased any type of activity foreseen in the Cooperation Agreement».

Guerini also pointed out that «when the conflict broke out, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, gave a negative opinion to the requests for authorization received by the National Authority Uama - Unit for the authorization of armament materials - regarding the export of any armament or dual use material to Ethiopia, as it could not exclude the risk of use in the context of the hostilities in progress».

Rome has therefore interrupted the military cooperation with Addis Ababa and has also blocked the arms trade in the country devastated by a bloody civil war that in a year and three months has claimed tens if not hundreds of thousands of victims.

The Italian-Ethiopian military agreement was highlighted by Panorama on September 22 with an article entitled «Italian Tigrayans: "Financing and military agreement between Rome and Addis Ababa"», it reported the dangerous relations between the Italian and Ethiopian governments. After the article came out, on October 6, 2021, MP Aiello submitted a written parliamentary question.

The Sicilian witness of justice, consecrated in 2019 by BBC as «one of the 100 most influential women in the world», pressured Lorenzo Guerini and Luigi Di Maio with uncomfortable questions on Italian-Ethiopian relations. In essence, she asked «whether the agreement has been implemented by supplying weapons to the Ethiopian army», «whether they intend to openly condemn the actions of human rights violations and crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Ethiopian army and their allies in Tigray» and «whether they intend to give a clear political signal, by suspending the validity of the agreement on cooperation in the field of Defense between Italy and Ethiopia».

At 9.30 a.m. on January 28, 2022, Minister Guerini replied. In his written respose, he also wrote that «Italy strongly supports the full and immediate suspension of hostilities and the total withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Ethiopian soil».

The Italian Young Tigrayans welcomed his words. «We have been waiting for months for a response» they wrote in a tweet thanking the Minister. The activists remain puzzled, however, on one point: «If the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had blocked the export of weapons at the beginning of the conflict, how come that after seven months of genocide it financed the sham elections of Abiy Ahmed with 400,000 euros?».

Also Guerini's predecessor Elisabetta Trenta expresses perplexity. «A de facto suspension is not an official suspension» notes the former Defense Minister, who in 2019 had signed the military agreement. «The suspension could have been made official, also by giving it a communicative relevance, to make sure that the country's position was clear». Indeed, when France suspended its military agreement with Ethiopia on August 13, 2021, the news immediately became public knowledge around the world.

«Absolutely» comments Elisabetta Trenta. «Italy's attitude towards the conflict in Ethiopia has always been lukewarm. In my opinion, with regard to the military agreement, it was necessary a formal act, an official formal interruption, to put stronger pressure on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. By the way, I would also like to know how the agreement was suspended. Was Ethiopia informed about it? Or was it simply put on hold, pending developments? Let's say that Italy has not taken strong actions». Other countries have. Starting with the United States, who imposed sanctions, but also cancelled economic and military agreements.

Nonetheless, for the first time Italy has taken a position. And the Tigrayan community in the world has warmly appreciated it. Youtube channel is, for istance, running a video whose cover shows a picture of the Italian minister amid other current affairs characters.

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