Is a Full Scale War Imminent Between Ethiopia and Eritrea?

_289111_eritrea_ethiopia2_300mapThe 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. Eritrea and Ethiopia—two of the world’s poorest countries—spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the war and suffered tens of thousands of casualties and over a million people were driven from their homes or into exile. Ethiopia and Eritrea ended the war in 2000 after talks in Algiers, where the two sides agreed to resolve disputes through international arbitration.

According to an op-ed written in October 2005 (Fpif.org), by Patrick Gilkes, an adviser to the Ethiopian Minister of Foreign Affairs since 2004, “despite claims to the contrary, Ethiopia and Eritrea have been fighting not over a border but over rival hegemonic claims in the Horn of Africa and over “national pride” and “territorial integrity.” Its neighbors see Eritrea as having deliberately chosen an aggressive foreign policy as a central element in its nation building strategy; Eritrea fears the threat of Ethiopian regional dominance.

It seems the tenuous “alliance” between leaders and fight for regional dominance have sparked renewed talks of war in 2016.

The government of Eritrea told the U.N. Human Rights Council that its neighbor Ethiopia is planning to launch a full scale war against its territory.

Eritrean and Ethiopian troops recently clashed along their border. The countries are blaming one another for starting recent hostilities that included heavy border fighting around the Tserona central front, an area located south of the Eritrean capital, Asmara.

ethiopian-famine
The current 2016 famine in Ethiopia is by some estimates as bad as the great famine of 1984 leaving many hungry and searching for food. This is among the many sociopolitical challenges the country faces as of late, including but not limited to internally displaced people, and migrants flooding into the war torn country of Yemen. Yemen is a common destination for African migrants fleeing economic hardship and war.

Eritrea accuses Ethiopia

Girma Asmerom Tesfay, Eritrea’s U.N. Permanent Representative, said that there is clear evidence that Ethiopia has adopted a hostile policy towards his country.

“The evidence is their own statement that they have made in their parliament, and a lot of [Ethiopian] officials have been saying… that they will attack Eritrea, they will take military action, they have changed their policy towards Eritrea, they will go for a regime change…support opposition armed groups to attack,” Ambassador Asmerom told VOA.

He said that the June 12th confrontation between the two countries is further evidence that Ethiopia is seeking regime change and seeks occupation of his country. “There was a major military engagement and aggression by Ethiopia using tanks, artilleries and ground forces,” he said.

Eritrea
An estimated 100,000 Eritreans are estimated to be living in refugee camps in Ethiopia. Ethiopia often serves as the starting point for Eritrean refugees making their way to Europe. Photo/Matilde Gattoni

Eritrea also accuses the US of being involved

Last week, Eritrea’s Foreign Ministry accused the United States of playing a role of instigating the attack on its territory. U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby dismissed the accusation and urged the two countries work towards a stable and peaceful region. “The United States, including our missions in both capitals and our mission to the U.N. in New York continues to engage with both Ethiopia and Eritrea, to urge restraint and to prevent escalation.”

But Ambassador Asmerom insists that the U.S. relationship with Ethiopia denotes a complicity in the attacks on his country.

“They have been supplying them with different equipment and ammunition in the name of fighting terrorism and they have been deploying [the weapons] around the border area, so that is a direct or indirect participation in the aggression against Eritrea,” he said.

Ethiopia denies Eritrean accusations

Ethiopian Ambassador to the U.N. Tekeda Alemu dismissed the allegations as ‘preposterous and without merit’. He told VOA that the accusations against his country did not warrant a response, adding that perhaps the government of Eritrea should worry more about addressing the concerns of the U.N. human rights court.

Eritrea’s Ambassador Asmerom denies that his country is trying to deflect attention from human rights reports that accuse his country of “systematic, widespread” human rights abuses. A United Nations commission of inquiry recommended that Eritrea be referred to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity that include enslavement of up to 400,000 people.

Asmerom also ruled out any possibilities for talks between the two countries:

“They are the ones who are aggressing… the ones who are threatening…so the aggressor has to be condemned, very simple” he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki moon recently met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in Brussels, where he called on the leaders of the two countries to seek “a peaceful resolution through political means.”

(With information from VOA News)