Ethiopia: Peacekeepers Driven Out


August 5, 2008: The "mutual ceasefire" along the Djibouti-Eritrea border continues to hold. That's good. The UN fact finding team, tasked with assessing the big Eritrea-Djibouti firefight of June 2008, arrived in Ethiopia on July 30 and is deploying to Djibouti. The team expects to finish its initial assessment by August 6.

July 30, 2008: And it dies with a whimper. The UN Security Council voted to terminate the UNMEE operation (UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea). UNMEE lasted for eight years. The force had shrunk to 1700 soldiers who were tasked with watching the 620 mil long Temporary Security Zone (TSZ). The force had been largely ineffective since Eritrea ceased cooperating last year. Eritrea has impoverished itself to maintain a large enough army (nearly 200,000 troops) to match Ethiopia. Around ten percent of Eritrea's population is in the military (active duty or the reserves). Ethiopia has a much larger population (77 million versus five million). Eritrea relies on a "mobilized society" to confront Ethiopia. Even this is difficult to sustain, because Ethiopia has a GDP of $18 billion, versus $1.5 billion for Eritrea. Ethiopia gets aid from the United States, while Eritrea depends on Iran.

July 23, 2008: Eritrea has said that it will ignore the International Criminal Court's (ICC) probable indictment of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir. Eritrea called the prosecutor's request for an indictment "an insult." Actually, Eritrea is voicing what is an increasingly popular opinion of the ICC in Sub-Saharan Africa. Eritrea isn't exactly an ally of Sudan – the Grand Sahel alliances shift quickly—but Eritrea and Sudan have gotten chummier since Eritrea helped end the guerrilla war fought by Sudan's Eastern Front guerrilla group. Besides, Eritrea simply hates the UN for what it calls "favoritism" of Ethiopia in the Eritrea-Ethiopia border demarcation dispute.

July 15, 2008: Somali guerrillas claimed they shelled an Ethiopian camp in Somalia.

July 13, 2008: Ethiopia arrested eight men suspected of conducting several bomb attacks in Addis Ababa in April and May 2008. Six people were killed in one of the attacks (a bombed minibus). The Ethiopian claim the men were "trained by Eritrea" and belonged to the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).

July 7, 2008: Eritrea is shrugging off the African Union's condemnation of its short but very brutal attack on Djibouti in June. The Eritrean attack left 12 Djiboutian soldiers dead. France, Djibouti's primary ally, has beefed up its military forces in and around Djibouti,

Now this is bizarre—Sudan accused Ethiopia of launching an attack into Sudan's territory. The Sudan statement said Ethiopian forces struck a "police base" in the Mount Hantub area (Gedaref state). The Ethiopian forces killed 19 people (according to the Sudanese claim). An Ethiopian spokesman said "the incident was minor" – which confirmed something happened. Ethiopia's Oromo region borders Sudan and Ethiopia is fighting Oromor Liberation Front (OLF) guerrillas.


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