It is easy to forget just how critical the role of President Isaias Afwerki has been in the war on Tigray.

This is not surprising: he says nothing and allows no independent journalist to report from Eritrea. We have little clear understanding of how many troops Eritrea has in the war, and only sad references to the deaths of young men and women in large numbers.

Yet his role has been critical – with Eritrean troops still holding large parts of Tigray’s northern border and western Tigray along the border with Sudan.

Key points to remember:

  1. There was a lengthy buildup to the Tigray war, which has been clearly documented, as the relationship between President Isaias and Prime Minister Abiy grew. You can find a timeline of this here.
  2. President Isaias hated Tigray for years: his motivation is little understood, but has been traced here.
  3. President Isaias laid out his war aims to his senior military leaders and political colleagues prior to the war. You can find this here.
  4. He planned for a possible federation with Ethiopia. You can find this here.

Ignoring this buildup to the war and the Eritrean war aims skews the understanding of how and why the war began.