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Eritrean–Ethiopian War

Eritrean–Ethiopian War
Part of the conflicts in the Horn of Africa

Eritrean artillery firing on the border
Date 6 May 1998 – 25 May 2000
(2 years, 2 weeks and 5 days)
Location Eritrean–Ethiopian border

Ethiopian military victory,[1]
Eritrean international court victory[2]

 Eritrea  Ethiopia
Commanders and leaders
Isaias Afewerki[3]
Sebhat Ephrem
Negasso Gidada
Meles Zenawi[3]
Tsadkan Gebre-Tensae[4]
Casualties and losses
19,000 killed[5][6]
(Eritrean claim)
67,000 killed[7]
(Ethiopian claim)
20,000–50,000[8] or 150,000[9] killed
(other estimates)
34,000[10]–60,000[11] killed (Ethiopian claim)
123,000 killed[12][13]
(Ethiopian clandestine opposition claim)
150,000 killed[9]
(other estimates)
70,000[14]–100,000[15] killed on both sides
(ICG estimate)
300,000 killed on both sides[9]
(other estimates)

The Eritrean–Ethiopian War took place from May 1998 to June 2000 between Ethiopia and Eritrea, forming one of the conflicts in the Horn of Africa. While Eritrea and Ethiopia—two of the world's poorest countries—spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the war[16][17][18] and suffered tens of thousands of casualties as a direct consequence of the conflict,[19] only minor border changes resulted.

According to a ruling by an international commission in The Hague, Eritrea broke international law and triggered the war by invading Ethiopia.[20]

At the end of the war, Ethiopia held all of the disputed territory and had advanced into Eritrea.[21] After the war ended, the Eritrea–Ethiopia Boundary Commission, a body founded by the UN, established that Badme, the disputed territory at the heart of the conflict, belongs to Eritrea.[22] As of 2015, Ethiopia still occupies the territory.


  • Prelude 1
  • War 2
    • Chronology 2.1
    • Regional destabilisation 2.2
    • Casualties, displacement and economic disruption 2.3
  • Aftermath 3
    • Cessation of hostilities 3.1
    • Continued tensions 3.2
    • Arbitration through the Permanent Court of Arbitration 3.3
  • Continuing border conflicts 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7


From 1961 until 1991, Eritrea had fought a long war of independence against Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Civil War began on 12 September 1974 when the Marxist Derg staged a coup d'état against Emperor Haile Selassie.[23] It lasted until 1991 when the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF)—a coalition of rebel groups led by the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF)—overthrew the Derg government and installed a transitional government in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.[23] The Derg government had been weakened by their loss of support due to the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.[23]

During the civil war, the groups fighting the Derg government had a common enemy, so the TPLF allied itself with the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF). In 1991 as part of the United Nations-facilitated transition of power to the transitional government, it was agreed that the EPLF should set up an autonomous transitional government in Eritrea and that a referendum would be held in Eritrea to find out if Eritreans wanted to secede from Ethiopia. The referendum was held and the vote was overwhelmingly in favour of independence. In April 1993 independence was achieved and the new state joined the United Nations.[3][24][25]

In 1991 the EPLF-backed transitional government of Eritrea and the TPLF-backed transitional government of Ethiopia, agreed to set up a commission to look into any problems that arose between the two former wartime allies over the foreseen independence of Eritrea.[26] This commission was not successful and during the following years relations between the governments of the two sovereign states deteriorated.[24]

The border between the two states became a major irritant, and in November 1997 a border committee was set up to try to resolve that specific dispute. After federation and before independence the line of the border had been of minor importance because it was only a demarcation line between federated provinces and initially the two governments tacitly agreed that the border should remain as it had been immediately before independence. However, on independence the border became an international frontier, and the two governments could not agree on the line that the border should take along its entire length,[24] and they looked back to the colonial period treaties between Italy and Ethiopia for a basis in international law for the precise line of the frontier between the states. Problems then arose because they could not agree on the interpretation of those agreements and treaties,[27] and it was not clear under international law how binding colonial treaties were on the two states.[28][29]

Writing after the war had finished Jon Abbink postulates that President Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea, realising that his influence over the government in Ethiopia was slipping and given that "the facts on the ground, in the absence of a concrete border being marked—which anyhow lost much of its relevance after 1962 when Eritrea was absorbed by Ethiopia—have eminent relevance to any borderline decision of today" calculated that Eritrea could annex Badme.[30][31] If successful this acquisition could be used to enhance his reputation and help maintain Eritrea's privileged economic relationship with Ethiopia. However, because Badme was in the province of Tigray, the region from which many of the members of the Ethiopian government originate (including Meles Zenawi the former Ethiopian prime minister), the Ethiopian government came under political pressure from within the EPRDF as well as from the wider Ethiopian public to meet force with force.[30]



After a series of armed incidents in which several Eritrean officials were killed near Badme,[32] on 6 May 1998,[33] a large Eritrean mechanized force entered the Badme region along the border of Eritrea and Ethiopia's northern Tigray Region, resulting in a firefight between the Eritrean soldiers and the Tigrayan militia and security police they encountered.[32][34][35]

On 13 May 1998 Ethiopia, in what Eritrean radio described as a "total war" policy, mobilized its forces for a full assault against Eritrea.[37] The Claims Commission found that this was in essence an affirmation of the existence of a state of war between belligerents, not a declaration of war, and that Ethiopia also notified the United Nations Security Council, as required under Article 51 of the UN Charter.[38]

The fighting quickly escalated to exchanges of artillery and tank fire, leading to four weeks of intense fighting. Ground troops fought on three fronts. On 5 June 1998, the Ethiopians launched air attacks on the airport in Asmara and the Eritreans retaliated by attacking the airport of Mekele. These raids caused civilian casualties and deaths on both sides of the border.[39][40][41] The United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1177 condemning the use of force and welcomed statements from both sides to end the air strikes.

There was then a lull as both sides mobilized huge forces along their common border and dug extensive trenches.[42] Both countries spent several hundred million dollars on new military equipment.[16] This was despite the peace mediation efforts by the

  • Books
    • Brothers at War: Making Sense of the Eritrean-Ethiopian War (Eastern African Series) by T. Negash, K. Tronvoll, Ohio University Press ISBN 0-8214-1372-4.
  • News reports
    • Ethiopia Eritrea Conflict Archive: News and Article Archive Day to day coverage of war.
    • Armed Conflict Events Data: Ethiopian-Eritrean Border War 1999 (Present)
    • BBC: War blocks Ethiopia's lifeline 13 April 2000
    • BBC:Eritrea and Ethiopia at war 16 May 2000
    • BBC: Ethiopia's next move 22 May 2000
    • BBC: Horn peace boost 30 March 2001
    • BBC: Eritrean PoWs return home 29 November 2002
    • BBC: Peace 'undermined' by Ethiopia 10 March 2003
    • Crisis briefing and news on simmering tensions over the Eritrea-Ethiopia border from Reuters AlertNet, 6 March 2008
  • Summary
    • Ethiopia / Eritrea War 2000-2005
    • Eritrea - Ethiopia Conflict Page This site is developed and maintained by Denden LLC and The site was initially developed by the Eritrean Media and Information Task Force (Badme Task Force), a volunteer group of Eritrean-Americans in the Washington Metropolitan Area.
    • Tom Cooper & Jonathan Kyzer. II Ethiopian Eritrean War, 1998 - 2000 website of ACIG.ORG 2 September 2003. Details the use of air power during the war.
  • Analysis
    • Connell, Dan Eritrea-Ethiopia War Looms, Foreign Policy in Focus 21 January 2004
    • Gilkes, Patrick and Plaut, Martin. The War Between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Foreign Policy in Focus Volume 5, Number 25 August 2000
    • Guest, Alasdair. Preliminary Analysis of Eritrean-Ethiopian War in the International Socialist Forum October 1998, Vol. 1, No. 3
    • Hamilton, Kevin Analysis of the Ethio-Eritrean conflict and international mediation efforts in the Princeton Journal of Public and International Affairs, Volume 11 Spring 2000
    • Reid, Richard Africa: Journal of the International African Institute"Old Problems in New Conflicts: Some Observations on Eritrea and Its Relations with Tigray, from Liberation Struggle to Inter-State War", , 73 (2003), pp. 369–401
    • Staff. Eritrea - Ethiopia Conflict Analysis Page This site is developed and maintained by Denden LLC and The site was initially developed by the Eritrean Media and Information Task Force (Badme Task Force), a volunteer group of Eritrean-Americans in the Washington Metropolitan Area. It includes documents from non-Eritrean sources as well as analysis by Eritreans.
    • Vann, Bill. Historical and social issues behind the Eritrean-Ethiopian border war on the World Socialist Web Site, 11 June 1998
  • Other
    • Demarcation Watch. A list of articles on the demarcation dispute. This site is developed and maintained by Denden LLC and The site was initially developed by the Eritrean Media and Information Task Force (Badme Task Force), a volunteer group of Eritrean-Americans in the Washington Metropolitan Area.
    • Brothers at Arms - Eritrea. A news clip filmed by Journeyman Pictures during the war.

Further reading

  • Abbink, Jon (2003). "Badme and the Ethio-Eritrean Border: The challenge of demarcation in the Post-war period" (PDF). Africa: rivista trimestrale di studi e documentazione: 58 (1-4): 219–231. 
  • Banks, Arthur; Muller, Thomas; and Overstreet, William, ed. Political Handbook of the World 2005-6 (A Division of Congressional Quarterly, Inc.: Washington, D.C., 2005), p. 366. 156802952-7


  1. ^ a b BBC staff (31 May 2000). "'"Ethiopia says 'war is over. BBC. 
  2. ^ a b c d Zane, Damian. Ethiopia regrets Badme ruling, BBC, 3 April 2003.
  3. ^ a b c Abbink 2003, p. 221.
  4. ^ David Hamilton Shinn, Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia. The Scarecrow Press, inc.: Lanham, Maryland; Toronto; Oxford, 2004, pp. 387–8.
  5. ^ Claimed by President Isaias Afeworki, 2001. Shinn, Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia, p.149
  6. ^ "Eritrea reveals human cost of war". BBC News. 20 June 2001. Retrieved 2007-03-12. 
  7. ^ Claimed by Chief of Staffs of ENDF, Tsadkan Gebre-Tensae. Shinn, Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia, p. 149.
  8. ^ Banks, Arthur; Muller, Thomas; and Overstreet, William, ed. Political Handbook of the World 2005–6 (A Division of Congressional Quarterly, Inc.: Washington, D.C., 2005), p.366. 156802952-7
  9. ^ a b c Former U.S. Ambassador: Eritrea and Ethiopia Unlikely To Resume War
  10. ^ Claimed by Chief of Staffs Tsadkan Gebre-Tensae. Shinn, Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia, p. 149.
  11. ^ Claimed by Major General Samora Yunis. Shinn, Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia, p. 149.
  12. ^ Claimed on 8 April 2002 by the Voice of the Democratic Path of Ethiopian Unity, an Ethiopian clandestine opposition group operating from Germany. The claim also stated that each family that lost a member in the war would receive $350 in indemnity, but this number has not been verified, although it has been often cited by other groups (see Number of war dead soldiers reportedly 123,000 – internet news message; and audio button), and no indemnities have been paid as of 2007. Shinn, Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia, p. 149
  13. ^ "Ethiopia: Number of war dead soldiers reportedly 123,000" (in Amharic). Wonchif. 2001-04-10. 
  14. ^ a b Xan Rice, east Africa correspondent (31 October 2006). "Annan warns of another war between Ethiopia and Eritrea". London: Guardian. Retrieved November 2012. 
  15. ^ a b Ethiopia: Nation on verge of war with Eritrea, report says
  16. ^ a b Will arms ban slow war? BBC 18 May 2000
  17. ^ Winfield, Nicole ( 
  18. ^ Staff. Ethiopia rejects war criticism, BBC, 14 April 2000
  19. ^ a b Tens of thousands
    • Eritrea: Final deal with Ethiopia BBC 4 December 2000
    • Eritrea orders Westerners in UN mission out in 10 days, International Herald Tribune, 7 December 2005
  20. ^ "International commission: Eritrea triggered the border war with Ethiopia". BBC News. 2005-12-21. Retrieved November 2012. 
  21. ^ Andrew England (Associated Press). 500,000 flee as Ethiopian troops storm Eritrea, The Independent, 18 May 2000.
  22. ^ "Annex I. Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission. Sixteenth report on the work of the Commission. (S/2005/142)" (PDF). 2005. p. 5 § 20. Retrieved November 2012. 
  23. ^ a b c Benjamin, A. Valentino (2004). "Final Solutions: Mass Killing and Genocide in the Twentieth Century". p. 196. 
  24. ^ a b c Briggs, Philip; Blatt, Brian (2009). Ethiopia. Bradt Guides (5, illustrated ed.). Bradt Travel Guides. pp. 28,29.  
  25. ^ "Timeline: Eritrea". BBC. 7 May 2011. Retrieved August 2011. 
  26. ^ Tesfai, Alemseged. "The Cause of the Eritrean–Ethiopian Border Conflict". Retrieved 2006-08-02. 
  27. ^ Mussie, Tesfagiorgis G. (2010). "Eritrean colonial boundaries". Eritrea. Africa in Focus (illustrated ed.). ABC-CLIO. pp. 53–54.  
  28. ^ Shapland, Greg (1997). Rivers of discord: international water disputes in the Middle East. C. Hurst & Co. p. 71.  
  29. ^ Degefu, Gebre Tsadik (2003). The Nile: Historical, Legal and Developmental Perspectives (illustrated ed.). Trafford Publishing. pp. 94–99.  
  30. ^ a b Abbink 2003, p. 221,226.
  31. ^ "Issaias believed that Meles was weak and that war would result in his overthrow. He was wrong." (Dowden, Richard (2 June 2000). "There are no winners in this insane and destructive war".  )
  32. ^ a b Connell, Dan (2 October 2005). Woods, Emira, ed. "Eritrea/Ethiopia War Looms". [2]Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF). ]
  33. ^ Hans van der Splinter,"Border conflict with Ethiopia". Retrieved May 2015. 
  34. ^ Dowden, Richard (2 June 2000). "There are no winners in this insane and destructive war".  
  35. ^ The Eritrans describe the start of the war thus: "...after a series of armed incidents during which several Eritrean officials were murdered near the disputed village of Badme, Ethiopia declared total war as on 13 May and mobilized its armed forces for a full-scale assault on Eritrea." (Staff. "history". Embassy of the State of Eritrea, New Delhi, India. Archived from the original on 9 February 2015. )
  36. ^ a b "Jus Ad Bellum Ethiopia’s Claims 1–8(pdf)". Eritrea Ethiopia Claims Commission. p. 5. Retrieved 2013-02-02. 
  37. ^ BBC staff (6 June 1998). "'"World: Africa Eritrea: 'Ethiopia pursues total war. BBC Monitoring service. 
  38. ^ Jus Ad Bellum Ethiopia’s Claims 1–8(pdf) Eritrea Ethiopia Claims Commission Page 6. Paragraph 17 ("A commentary on Eritrea Ethiopia Claims Commission findings". )
  39. ^ Ethiopia's War on Eritrea. Asmara: Sabur Printing Services. 1999. 
  40. ^ Patricia Scotland, Baroness Scotland of Asthal, speaking for the British government in the Eritrea and Ethiopia debate, House of Lords, (Hansard) 30 November 1999 : Column 802
  41. ^ Eritrea Ethiopia Claims Commission. PARTIAL AWARD Central Front - Ethiopia's Claim 2 "J. Aerial Bombardment of Mekele" Paragraphs 101-113
  42. ^ a b Biles, Peter (20 May 2000). "Ethiopia's push north". BBC. 
  43. ^ Ali-Dinar, Dr. Ali B. (3 July 1998). "Ethiopia-Eritrea: New peace efforts, claims of rights abuse". University of Pennsylvania – African Studies Center received from "IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit". Retrieved March 2007. 
  44. ^ "HRW World Report 1999: Ethiopia: The Role of the International Community". Archived from the original on 14 November 2008. 
  45. ^ Visafric (7 February 1999). "'"Ethiopian Leader admits allegation of Eritrean air strike based 'on wrong information. Retrieved February 2007. 
  46. ^ Tareke, Gebru (2009). The Ethiopian Revolution: War in the Horn of Africa. New Haven: Yale University. p. 345.  
  47. ^ BBC staff (1 March 1999). "Ethiopia declares victory". BBC. 
  48. ^ CNN staff (27 February 1999). "Eritrea accepts peace deal after Ethiopian incursion". CNN. Retrieved March 2007. 
  49. ^ BBC staff (15 July 1999). "World: Africa Ethiopian-Eritrean war of words continues". BBC World Service. 
  50. ^ Last, Alex (16 March 1999). "World: Africa Hundreds killed in Horn". BBC. 
  51. ^ Laeke, Mariam Demassie (23 July 1999). "Touring the Ethiopian front". BBC. 
  52. ^ Jenkins, Cathy (22 July 1999). "Eritrea's women fighters: A quarter of Eritrean soldiers are women". BBC. 
  53. ^ Pearce, Justin (12 May 2000). "Diplomats fail to bridge the gap". BBC News. 
  54. ^ a b BBC staff (23 May 2000). "Ethiopia says war nearly over".  
  55. ^ Gilkes, Patrick (19 May 2000). "Ethiopia's war strategy". BBC. 
  56. ^ Lortan, Fiona (2000). "The Ethiopia-Eritrea Conflict: A Fragile Peace". African Security Review 9 (4). Archived from the original on 5 March 2012. 
  57. ^ "Ethiopia and Eritrea Border Conflict". London: Embassy of The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Archived from the original on 13 October 2013. 
  58. ^ ODS Team. "UN SC Resolution 1298" (PDF). Retrieved November 2012. 
  59. ^ Hannan, Lucy (27 May 2000). "Stubborn Eritrea denies defeat but seeks peace". The Independent. Archived from the original on 15 February 2001. 
  60. ^ Last, Alex (26 May 2000). "'"Eritrea's 'tactical retreat. BBC. 
  61. ^ Plaut, Martin; Gilkes, Patrick (31 Mar 1999). "Conflict in the Horn: Why Eritrea and Ethiopia are at War". Chatham House on the website of ReliefWeb. 
  62. ^ BBC staff (1 June 2000). "Ethiopia's victory statement". BBC world monitoring service. 
  63. ^ Tran, Mark (25 May 2000). "Ethiopia declares victory over Eritrea". he  
  64. ^ CNN staff (23 December 2000). "Eritrean, Ethiopian exchange of POWs begins". CNN. Archived from the original on 16 April 2009. 
  65. ^ Fisher, Ian (23 August 1999). "Peace Deal May Be Near for Ethiopia and Eritrea". New York Times. 
  66. ^ CNN staff and wire reporters (22 May 2000). "Eritrean independence celebrations muted as Ethiopian troops advance". CNN. Archived from the original on 18 June 2008. 
  67. ^ a b Staff. Human Rights Developments, World report 2001 Human Rights Watch (2001).
  68. ^ Ethiopia and Eritrea in UN & Conflict Monitor Issue 4, Africa E-S. On website of Bradford University citing The Financial Times 9 June 1999
  69. ^ The Somali connection BBC 23 July 1999
  70. ^ Angel Rabasa, et al., Beyond al-Qaeda: Part 2, The Outer Rings of the Terrorist Universe RAND Project AIR FORCE RAND Corporation pp. 82–85 online pp. 44–47 hardcopy
  71. ^ Eritrean KIA
    • Eritrea reveals human cost of war BBC, 20 June 2001
    • A Statistical Report of Eritrea's Casualties in the Eritrea–Ethiopia Border War (1998–2000) published by Awate Foundation, P.O. Box 580312, Elk Grove, CA, 95758-0006 U.S.A.
  72. ^ "Total war casualties on both sides". Retrieved November 2012. 
  73. ^ Total number of troops dead in the Eritrea-Ethiopia war
  74. ^ "70,000 killed during the border war". 2007-01-24. Retrieved November 2012. 
  75. ^ "As many as 70,000 soldiers killed during Eritrea-Ethiopia war". Retrieved November 2012. 
  76. ^ "Total number of soldiers dead from the border conflict". 2005-03-27. Retrieved November 2012. 
  77. ^ Peter Biles, Eritrean disaster looms as a million flee from rapidly advancing Ethiopian forces, The Independent, 20 May 2000.
  78. ^ Staff. Human Rights Developments, World report 1999 Human Rights Watch (1999).Accessed 2007-02-19
  79. ^ "A critical look into the Ethiopian elections". Archived from the original on 2006-11-29. Retrieved 2007-02-19. 
  80. ^ Natalie S. Klein Mass expulsion from Ethiopia: Report on the Deportation of Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin from Ethiopia, June – August, 1998 "NOTE: This report is being reproduced, with the author's permission, by the Embassy of Eritrea, Washington DC, USA. The text is identical to the original. It has been reformatted and therefore pagination is not the same." — This website site is developed and maintained by Denden LLC and The site was initially developed by the Eritrean Media and Information Task Force (Badme Task Force), a volunteer group of Eritrean-Americans in the Washington Metropolitan Area.
  81. ^ "Eritrea expels over 800 Ethiopians home – official".  
  82. ^ Tadesse, Zenbeworke. "The Ethiopian-Eritrean Conflict" (PDF). Calx Proclivia. pp. . Retrieved November 2012. 
  83. ^ Staff. Horn peace deal: Full text BBC, 11 December 2000. "Agreement between the Government of the State of Eritrea and the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia"
  84. ^ a b Eritrea–Ethiopia Boundary Commission, website of the United Nations
  85. ^ Astill, James (2002-04-15). "Ethiopia and Eritrea claim border victory". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-01-07. 
  86. ^ Bhalla, Nita. Badme: Village in no man's land, BBC, 22 April 2002
  87. ^ Ethiopian official wants border clarification ,BBC, 23 April 2002
  88. ^ Plaut, Martin. Crucial Horn border talks, BBC, 17 September 2003
  89. ^ a b Staff. Eritrea firm over disputed border ruling BBC, 25 September 2003
  90. ^ Staff. Ethiopia backs down over border, BBC, 25 November 2004
  91. ^ "Ethiopia 'to reduce' border force" BBC 10 December 2005
  92. ^ "Some UN Staff to Relocate to Ethiopia From Eritrea", Voice of America, 15 December 2005
  93. ^ " Ruling: Eritrea broke international law in Ethiopia attack" CNN 21 December 2005
  94. ^ UN: Ethiopia–Eritrea Stalemate Could Spark Renewed War article by Voice of America 31 March 2005
  95. ^ Horn border tense before deadline BBC 23 December 2005
  96. ^ Eritrea orders Westerners in UN mission out in 10 days, International Herald Tribune, 7 December 2005
  97. ^ Staff. Horn rivals reject border plans, BBC, 21 November 2006
  98. ^ Young, John (November 2007). Armed groups along the Ethiopia–Sudan–Eritrea frontier (PDF). Geneva: Small Arms Survey, Graduate Institute of International Studies. p. 32 (PDF 17).  
  99. ^ "Free rein for Eritrean opposition". BBC News. 23 May 2000. Retrieved 2007-11-26. 
  100. ^ a b c Peter Heinlein. On the possibility of war restarting, Voice of America, 17 December 2007
  101. ^ Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission, a constituent of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague
  102. ^ Decision regarding the "Request for interpretation, correction and consultation" Submitted by the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia on 13 May 2002, by the Eritrea–Ethiopia Boundary Commission, 24 June 2002
  103. ^ a b Eritrea–Ethiopia Claims Commission, a constituent of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague
  104. ^ Gray, Christine. "The Eritrea/Ethiopia Claims Commission Oversteps Its Boundaries: A Partial Award?". The European Journal of International Law 17 (4). 
  105. ^ a b c d "Eritrea profile: A chronology of key events". BBC. 18 January 2012 [2008]. 
  106. ^ BBC staff (28 July 2011). "UN report accuses Eritrea of plotting to bomb AU summit". BBC. 
  107. ^  


In January 2012, five European tourists were killed and another two were kidnapped close to the border with Eritrea in the remote Afar Region in Ethiopia. In early March the kidnappers announced that they had released the two kidnapped Germans. On 15 March, Ethiopian ground forces attacked Eritrean military posts that they stated were bases in which Ethiopian rebels, including those involved in the January kidnappings, were trained by the Eritreans.[105][107]

In March 2011, Ethiopia accused Eritrea of sending bombers across the border. In April, Ethiopia acknowledged that it was supporting rebel groups inside Eritrea.[105] In July, a United Nations Monitoring Group accused Eritrea of being behind a plot to attack an African Union summit in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, in January 2011. Eritrea stated the accusation was a total fabrication.[106]

In August 2009, Eritrea and Ethiopia were ordered to pay each other compensation for the war.[105]

  • 2007 September – War could resume between Ethiopia and Eritrea over their border conflict, warns United Nations special envoy to the Horn of Africa, Kjell Magne Bondevik.
  • 2007 November – Eritrea accepts border line demarcated by international boundary commission. Ethiopia rejects it.
  • 2008 January – UN extends mandate of peacekeepers on Ethiopia–Eritrea border for six months. UN Security Council demands Eritrea lift fuel restrictions imposed on UN peacekeepers at the Eritrea–Ethiopia border area. Eritrea declines, saying troops must leave border.
  • 2008 February – UN begins pulling 1,700-strong peacekeeper force out due to lack of fuel supplies following Eritrean government restrictions.
  • 2008 April – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon warns of likelihood of new war between Ethiopia and Eritrea if peacekeeping mission withdraws completely. Outlines options for the future of the UN mission in the two countries.
  • Djibouti accuses Eritrean troops of digging trenches at disputed Ras Doumeira border area and infiltrating Djiboutian territory. Eritrea denies charge.
  • 2008 May – Eritrea calls on UN to terminate peacekeeping mission.
  • 2008 June – Fighting breaks out between Eritrean and Djiboutian troops.
— BBC[105]

On 19 June 2008 the BBC published a time line (which they update periodically) of the conflict and reported that the "Border dispute rumbles on":

Continuing border conflicts

Christine Gray in an article in the European Journal of International Law (2006), questioned the jurisdiction of the Commission making such an award, because "there were many factors which suggested that the Commission should have abstained from giving judgment". For example, the hearing of this claim, according to the Algiers agreement was to be heard by a separate commission and to be an investigation of exclusively factual concern not compensation.[104]

The Ethiopia–Eritrean claim committee ruled that:

In July 2001 the Commission sat to decide its jurisdiction, procedures and possible remedies. The result of this sitting was issued on August 2001. In October 2001, following consultations with the Parties, the Commission adopted its Rules of Procedure. In December 2001 the Parties filed their claims with the Commission. The claims filed by the Parties relate to such matters as the conduct of military operations in the front zones, the treatment of POWs and of civilians and their property, diplomatic immunities and the economic impact of certain government actions during the conflict. At the end of 2005 final awards have been issued on claims on Pensions, and Ports. Partial awards have been issued for claims about: Prisoners of War, the Central Front, Civilians Claims, the Western and Eastern Fronts, Diplomatic, Economic and property losses, and Jus Ad Bellum.

2. Eritrea–Ethiopia Claims Commission[103]

Eritrea–Ethiopia Boundary Commission ruled that Badme lies in Eritrea.[2][84]

1. Eritrea–Ethiopia Boundary Commission[101]

As decided in the Algiers Agreement, the two parties presented their cases at the Permanent Court of Arbitration to two different Commissions:

Arbitration through the Permanent Court of Arbitration

At the November 2007 deadline, some analysts feared the restart of the border war but the date passed without any conflict.[100] There were many reasons why war didn't resume. Former U.S. Ambassador [100] But he stated Ethiopia is not interested in war because America would condemn Ethiopia if it initiated the war saying "I don't think even the US could sit by and condone an Ethiopian initiated attack on Eritrea."[100]

Both nations have been accused of supporting dissidents and armed opposition groups against each other. John Young, a Canadian analyst and researcher for IRIN, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs news agency, reported that "the military victory of the EPRDF (Ethiopia) that ended the Ethiopia–Eritrea War, and its occupation of a swath of Eritrean territory, brought yet another change to the configuration of armed groups in the borderlands between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Asmara replaced Khartoum as the leading supporter of anti-EPRDF armed groups operating along the frontier".[98] However, Ethiopia is also accused of supporting rebels opposed to the Eritrean government.[99]

Ethiopia and Eritrea subsequently remobilized troops along the border, leading to fears that the two countries could return to war.[94][95] On 7 December 2005, Eritrea banned UN helicopter flights and ordered Western members (particularly from the United States, Canada, Europe and Russia) of the UN peacekeeping mission on its border with Ethiopia to leave within 10 days, sparking concerns of further conflict with its neighbour.[96] In November 2006 Ethiopia and Eritrea boycotted an Eritrea–Ethiopia Boundary Commission meeting at The Hague which would have demarcated their disputed border using UN maps. Ethiopia was not there because it does not accept the decision and as it will not allow physical demarcation it will not accept map demarcation, and Eritrea was not there because although it backs the commission's proposals, it insists that the border should be physically marked out.[97]

United Nations soldiers, part of the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea, monitoring Eritrea–Ethiopia boundary (2005).

On 21 December 2005, a commission at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that Eritrea broke international law when it attacked Ethiopia in 1998, triggering the broader conflict.[93]

On 10 December 2005, Ethiopia announced it was withdrawing some of its forces from the Eritrean border "in the interests of peace".[91] Then, on 15 December the United Nations began to withdraw peacekeepers from Eritrea in response to a UN resolution passed the previous day.[92]

On 13 April 2002, the Eritrea–Ethiopia Boundary Commission that was established under the Algiers Agreement in collaboration with Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague agreed upon a "final and binding" verdict. The ruling awarded some territory to each side, but Badme (the flash point of the conflict) was awarded to Eritrea.[2][84] Both countries vowed to accept the decision wholeheartedly the day after the ruling was made official.[85] A few months later Ethiopia requested clarifications, then stated it was deeply dissatisfied with the ruling.[86][87][88] In September 2003 Eritrea refused to agree to a new commission,[89] which they would have had to agree to if the old binding agreement was to be set aside,[2] and asked the international community to put pressure on Ethiopia to accept the ruling.[89] In November 2004, Ethiopia accepted the ruling "in principle".[90]

Continued tensions

On 18 June 2000, the parties agreed to a comprehensive peace agreement and binding arbitration of their disputes under the Algiers Agreement. A 25-kilometer-wide Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) was established within Eritrea, patrolled by United Nations peacekeeping forces from over 60 countries (the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE). On 12 December 2000 a peace agreement was signed by the two governments.[83]

Cessation of hostilities


The economies of both countries were already weak as a result of decades of cold war politics, civil war and drought. The war exacerbated these problems, resulting in food shortages. Prior to the war, much of Eritrea's trade was with Ethiopia, and much of Ethiopia's foreign trade relied on Eritrean roads and ports.[82]

The fighting led to massive internal displacement in both countries as civilians fled the war zone. Ethiopia expelled 77,000 Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin it deemed a security risk, thus compounding Eritrea's refugee problem.[67][78][79] The majority of the 77,000 Eritrean and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin were considered well off by the Ethiopian standard of living. They were deported after their belongings had been confiscated.[80] On the Eritrean side, around 7,500 Ethiopians living in Eritrea were interned, and thousands of others were deported. Thousands more remain in Eritrea, many of whom are unable to pay the 1,000 Birr tax on Ethiopians relocating to Ethiopia. According to Human Rights Watch, detainees on both sides were subject in some cases to torture, rape, or other degrading treatment.[81]

Eritrea claimed that 19,000 Eritrean soldiers were killed during the conflict;[71] most reports put the total war casualties from both sides as being around 70,000.[14][72][73][74][75][76] All these figures have been contested and other news reports simply state that "tens of thousands" or "as many as 100,000" were killed in the war.[15][19] Eritrea accused Ethiopia of using "human waves" to defeat Eritrean trenches. But according to a report by The Independent, there were no "human waves" because Ethiopia instead outmanoeuvred and overpowered the Eritrean trenches.[77]

Casualties, displacement and economic disruption

The fighting also spread to Somalia as both governments tried to outflank one another. The Eritrean government began supporting the Oromo Liberation Front,[67] a rebel group seeking independence of Oromia from Ethiopia that was based in a part of Somalia controlled by Mohamed Farrah Aidid.[68] Ethiopia retaliated by supporting groups in southern Somalia who were opposed to Aidid, and by renewing relations with the Islamic regime in Sudan—which is accused of supporting the Eritrean Islamic Salvation, a Sudan-based group that had launched attacks in the Eritrea–Sudan border region—while also lending support to various Eritrean rebel groups including a group known as the Eritrean Islamic Jihad.[69][70]

Regional destabilisation

The widespread use of trenches has resulted in comparisons of the conflict to the trench warfare of World War I.[42] This trench warfare led to the loss of "thousands of young lives in human-wave assaults on Eritrea's positions"[65] The Eritrean defences were eventually overtaken by a surprise Ethiopian pincer movement on the Western front, attacking a mined, but lightly defended mountain (without trenches), resulting in the capture of Barentu and an Eritrean retreat. The element of surprise in the attack involved the use of donkeys as pack animals as well as being a solely infantry affair, with tanks coming in afterwards only to secure the area.[66]

By 23 May Ethiopia claimed that its "troops had seized vital command posts in the heavily defended Zalambessa area, about 100km (60 miles) south of the Eritrean capital, Asmara".[54] But the Eritreans claimed they withdrew from the disputed border town of Zalambessa and other disputed areas on the central front as a "...'goodwill' gesture to revive peace talks"[59] while Ethiopia claimed it was a 'tactical retreat' to take away one of Ethiopia's last remaining excuses for continuing the war;[60] a report from Chatham House observes, "the scale of Eritrean defeat was apparent when Eritrea unexpectedly accepted the OAU peace framework."[61] Having recaptured most of the contested territories—and having heard that the Eritrean government would withdraw from any other territories it occupied at the start of fighting in accordance with a request from the OAU—on 25 May 2000, Ethiopia declared the war was over.[1][62][63] By the end of May 2000, Ethiopia occupied about a quarter of Eritrea's territory, displacing 650,000 people[64] and destroying key components of Eritrea's infrastructure.

Ethiopian sources state that on 16 May Ethiopian aircraft all returned to their bases after attacking targets between Areza and Maidema, and between Barentu and Omohager, while heavy ground fighting continued in the Dass and Barentu area and in Maidema. The next day Ethiopian ground forces with air support captured Das. Eritrean forces evacuated Barentu and fighting continued in Maidema.[57] Also on 17 May, due to the continuing hostilities, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1298 imposing an arms embargo on both countries.[58]

"Proximity talks" broke down in early May 2000 "with Ethiopia accusing Eritrea of imposing unacceptable conditions".[53][54] On 12 May the Ethiopians launched an offensive that broke through the Eritrean lines between Shambuko and Mendefera, crossed the Mareb River, and cut the road between Barentu and Mendefera, the main supply line for Eritrean troops on the western front of the fighting.[55][56]

On 16 May the BBC reported that, after a lull of two weeks, the Ethiopians had attacked at Velessa on the Tsorona front-line, south of Eritrea's capital Asmara and that after two days of heavy fighting the Eritreans had beaten back the attack claiming to have destroyed more than forty-five Ethiopian tanks; although not able to verify the claim, which the Ethiopian Government dismissed as ridiculous, the BBC reporter did see more than 300 dead Ethiopians and more than 20 destroyed Ethiopian tanks.[50] In June 1999 the fighting continued with both sides in entrenched positions.[51] About a quarter of Eritrean soldiers were women.[52]

Following the first five days of heavy fighting at Badme, by which time Ethiopia had broken through Eritrea's fortified front and was 10 kilometers (six miles) deep into Eritrean territory, Eritrea accepted the OAU peace plan on 27 February 1999.[47][48] While both states said that they accepted the OAU peace plan, Ethiopia did not immediately stop its advance because it demanded that peace talks be contingent on an Eritrean withdrawal from territory occupied since the first outbreak of fighting.[49]

With Eritrea's refusal to accept the US/Rwanda peace plan, on 22 February 1999 Ethiopia launched a massive military offensive to recapture Badme. Tension had been high since 6 February 1999, when Ethiopia claimed that Eritrea had violated the moratorium on air raids by bombing Adigrat, a claim it later withdrew.[45] Surveying the extensive trenches the Eritreans had constructed, Ethiopian General Samora Yunis observed, "The Eritreans are good at digging trenches and we are good at converting trenches into graves. They, too, know this. We know each other very well".[46]


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