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Ethio-Eritrean War

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The Eritrean-Ethiopian War was a border conflict that took place from May 1998 to June 2000. On May 8, a platoon of Eritreans soldier deployed into Badme region.

Fighting escalated to artillery and tank fire leading to four weeks of intense fighting. Ground troops fought on three fronts.

Eritrea claims Ethiopia launched air strikes against Eritrea’s capital Asmara while Ethiopia accused Eritrea of striking first.

The fighting led to huge internal displacement in both countries as civilians fled the war zone. The conflict ended in stalemate and deployment of UNMEE

Following independence, the two neighbours disagreed over currency and trade issues, and both laid claim to several border regions including Badme, Tsorona-Zalambessa, and Bure.

Nevertheless, since the two governments were close allies they agreed to set up a commission to look into their common border and disputed places. Since early 1991 they had agreed to set up a commission to look into each others’ claims.

Of particular issue was the border through the Badme Plain. As a result of the Treaty of 1902 the Badme Plain is bisected by the border which runs in a straight line between the Gash and Setit (Tekezé) Rivers.

The development of the war: On 6 May 1998, a few Eritrean soldiers entered the Badme region, a borderline zone, along the border of Eritrea and Ethiopia’s northern Tigray Region, resulting in a fire fight between the Eritrean soldiers and the Tigrayan militia and security police they encountered.

The evidence illustrated that, at about 5:30 a.m. on May 12, 1998, Eritrean armed forces, consisted of at least two brigades of regular soldiers, supported by tanks and artillery, attacked the town of Badme and other border areas in Ethiopia’s Tahtay Adiabo Wereda, as well as at least two places in its neighboring Laelay Adiabo Wereda.

On that day and in the days instantly following, Eritrean armed forces then pushed across the flat Badme plain to higher ground in the east.

Although the evidence regarding the nature of Ethiopian armed forces in the area conflicted, the weight of the evidence indicated that the Ethiopian defenders were composed merely of militia and some police, who were swiftly forced to move back by the invading Eritrean forces.

Given the absence of an armed attack against Eritrea, the attack that began on May 12 cannot be justified as lawful self-defense under the UN Charter.

The areas initially invaded by Eritrean forces on that day were all either within undisputed Ethiopian territory or within territory that was quietly administered by Ethiopia and that later would be on the Ethiopian side of the line to which Ethiopian armed forces were compelled to withdraw in 2000 under the Cease-Fire Agreement of June 18, 2000.

On May 13, 1998 Ethiopia, in what Eritrean radio described as a “total war” policy, mobilized its forces for a full assault against Eritrea.

The Claims Commission established that this was in essence an pronouncement 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.

The fighting rapidly 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 retaliate by attacking the Ethiopian town of Mekele. These raids caused civilian casualties and deaths on both sides of the border.

There was then a quiet period as both sides mobilized huge forces along their common border and dug extensive trenches.

Both countries used up several hundred million dollars on new military equipment. This was despite the peace mediation efforts by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the US/Rwanda peace plan that was in the works.

The US/Rwanda was a four point peace plan that called for withdrawal of both forces to pre-June 1998 positions.

Eritrea rejected and instead demanded for demilitarization of all disputed areas along the common border overseen by a neutral monitoring force and direct talks.

With Eritrea’s refusal to accept the US/Rwanda peace plan, on 22 February 1999, Ethiopia launched a huge military offensive to bring back Badme.

Tension had been elevated since February 6, 1999, When Ethiopia claimed that Eritrea had violated the moratorium on air raids by bombing Adigrat, a claim it later withdrew.

Following the first five days of military set back at Badme, by which time Ethiopia 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.

Ethiopia did not at once stop its advance because it demanded that peace talks be contingent on an Eritrean withdrawal from territory occupied since the first outbreak of fighting.

Ethiopia commenced 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.

By May 2000, Ethiopia occupied about a quarter of Eritrea’s territory, displacing 650,000 people and wiping out key components of Eritrea’s infrastructure.

The Eritreans withdrawn from the disputed border town of Zalambessa and other disputed areas on the central front saying it was a ‘tactical retreat’ to take away one of Ethiopia’s last remaining excuses for continuing the war.

Having recaptured the most of the contested territories — and heard that Eritrean government in accordance with a request from the Organisation of African Unity would withdraw from any other territories it occupied at the start of fighting — on 25 May 2000, Ethiopia affirmed the war was over.

Results of the war: Eritrea claimed that 19,000 Eritrean soldiers were killed during the clash, while the number of Ethiopian soldiers dead is most likely around 50,000 as the total war casualties from both countries is reported worldwide as being around 70,000.

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.

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 believed to be security risk, hence compounding Eritrea’s refugee problem.

Many of the 77,000 Eritrean and Ethiopians of Eritrean origins were considered well off by the standard of Ethiopian standard living and deporteeing them all after confiscating their belonging was a cruel act of human rights violations.

The economies of these countries were already weak as a result of decades of cold war politics, civil war and drought.

The war intensified these problems, resulting in food shortages. Before the war, much of Eritrea’s trade was with Ethiopia, and much of Ethiopia’s foreign trade relied on Eritrean roads and ports.

Keywords: Eritrea, Ethiopia, UNMEE, Badme region, Tsorona, Zalambessa, Bure, Gash, Setit, Tigrayan militia, Tahtay Adiabo Wereda, Laelay Adiabo Wereda, Mekele, OAU, Adigrat, Shambuko, Mendefera, Mareb River, Barentu,

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15 Comments so far ↓

  • wain

    I am very happy for the decline of Eritreans

  • gats

    The figures make sense since eritrea was on the defensive and was already mobilized for war. Reporters estimate that 70,00-100,000 ethiopians lost thier lives while only 19,000 eritreans died. The disputed town badme was awarded to eritrea, and the war was declared a stalemate.

  • prashant

    Dear sir

    sir i request this information please secrate, you office lavel watching, this guy buy now one usd 12.50 bir and sold 14 bir per usd dolar

    sir you chek this all company account and last years havemuch income tax and vat diposit this guy not paid income tax and vat after show loss. and all money save this cheating with ethio goverment you asking havemany company there and asking you import your shop items but not give bill who give this vat and income tax, asking havemany company with you business all is cliear,

    this very secret information important FINANCIAL AND REVENUE CRIME WITH ETHIOPIA COUNTRY,

    sir one indian nationalty man BHARAT SHAH daily milion dolar and other foreign currency exchange and transfer out of country unofficialy,

    sir this man somany company format in ethiopia and import this man all import under invoice and revenue loss ethiopian goverment, this man last maybe 40 years in ethiopia,

    sir i give you parsonal leval this information but you official lavel invastigation, and recovery goverment money i think minimum 2 milion dolar recovery,

    becouset\ this man long time this business, allredy bilions dolar this man tranfer and revenue loss ethio goverment, now u send parsonal leval any froeigner exchange money then u first arrested after asking all question,

    bharat shah one indian food items shop in addis near mariden hotel bole road,

    i also business ethio long time, this information truely,

    i proud ethiopia

    prashant

  • W

    It was a war between lions and hares. Ethiopians may suffer because they lost their ports, but Eritreans will die because they lost Ethiopia.
    Isaias shall never think of defeating the Ethiopian forces.
    Before anyone thinks of waging war against another country, 4 things should be considered.
    1. Psychological make-up of the people
    2. Resourses that the country has to continue the war.
    3. Population of the country, if the war continues for long time, and the country needs more power to continue the war.
    4. Militery power, The ability of the officers and men to use the armaments and guns.
    Ethiopia fulfils all these criteria while Eritrea doesnot.
    Longlive the Ethiopian forces and people.

  • W

    It is better for the Eritreans to unite with their motherland.

  • tdd

    eytreans should swallow thier pride and ask the motherland for pardon and return to thier rightful place in Ethiopia!!! the erytrean people have the responsibility to do away with thier tyrannical, megalomaniac rulers and elites and return to thier motherland ethiopia!!love is all we need and eritrea and ethiopia can prosper fast together but alone they would find it hard and difficult. we need to learn from the european union, at least let us unite economically, socially and culturally as we have always been!!!!

  • stalin

    I proud by the corge of the froemer red army this all victory came by the red army offencive attak it not amater of sojor did but it is the amter of free dom EPRDf desorgnised the stronges army mde the cauntry diffenceless but this corages soljors fouth to for freedom. actually we didn’t losed the asseb but meles gave the asseb to shabia becuse he meles affread of isayas mele sop the ethiopian army fro intering to asmara it is anly 60 km left for ethiopian army to make eritria like somalia like mengistu did for somali any way I’d see any importance of the war between us becuse we losed our money our family herd tha rushi and ukrin tested thie wepon on us for avertisement I hate Meles and Isayas

  • Wondime Yacob

    The Ethiopian army is still strong and has participated in many peace keeping missions in places like Burundi, Liberia and Ivory Coast, and also major force operations like kicking Al Qaeda out of Somalia in 2007. This proves we are still strong. The Eritreans however were badly crushed in the Ethio Eri war, and troop moral and army strength has never been the same since. They have the highest defection rate of any military in Africa, and they were even defeated in a 2 day conflict in 2008 by little Djibouti. For Eritrea, a renewed war against Ethiopia today wouldbe suicidal.

  • girma

    ahahahahahha who is the mother land of eritrea we eritrean never deffited and never will be u may be dreaming

  • G-yesus

    FOREVER VICTORY TO THE MUSESS
    WE NEVER FORGATE OUR MARTYRS
    FOREVER WITH PFDJ

  • Sahlu

    I think the deathtol on the Ethiopian side is infilated. What matter is not the number why a single person should die b/c of political difference created not by the people? but only by the political elites. Hope one day the people will realise they are one and the same. No people in the world are blood ties to the Ethiopian people than Eritrians so the Vise versa. We should come to our sense and stop moving and being derived by the sensless agitation of the political leaders of both side

  • Ali mohamed

    Eritrea is free now and it is very stronger than ethiopians because eriteans decided to help the peaple under the colonialism of Addis Ababa . I am somali and my town is jijiga . Ogadania government will be soon free fully from Addis Ababa. The upcoming 20 years their will be an amissing change in ethiopia because oromia , ogadania and afarland will completely get indepedency from ethiopia.

  • Mess

    The conflict b/n the two country is unfortumate, but in every angle and evidence the Ertrian gov’t to priper in war the the only and only truth. The ocupation of bademe by Ertrian force awaking Ethiopian Strongness in many ways 1/ the Ethiopian civil and militery industry grow dramatically 2/ gov’t focus economic,social and political developments 3/ in many aras investments increse in fast way 4/ Infrastructure coverage increse in dramatically 5/ gov’t forigne policy more clear and strong in international relation ships and othe many rezenes the war is a red Light to the Ethiopians. Any one two investgate the real truth. Ethiopians National Defence Force one of strong army in war time and in UN peace keeping. AMEBESHW WETADER.

  • abel

    i love ethiops militar&air force

  • alebel asmare

    im live in gondar town (ethiopia) , i blive that ethiopia &eritran people go on ware only the two mane ( meles anad esayas),so we are an abisiniyan( eri and erit)

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