Ethiopia: Even A Warrior State Suffers Combat Fatigue


November 10, 2011: The Kenyan government continues to argue that Eritrea is arming Al Shabaab Islamist guerrillas. Everyone in eastern Africa believes the charge. So do several members of the UN Security Council, which is why Eritrea is worried about a new and much tougher batch of economic and political sanctions. Kenya is essentially fighting a shadow war with Eritrea, in Kenya’s case through a proxy (Al Shabaab). Kenya isn’t alone. Uganda and Djibouti can make the same claim. The Ethiopia-Eritrea border remains tense, and is a frozen battle front. That’s the major reason the UN is once again pushing Eritrea and Ethiopia to implement the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission’s (EEBC) border demarcation decision (the Final and Binding Delimitation and Demarcation decision). However, that isn’t likely. Ethiopia refuses to accept the EEBC recommendation that ceded the border town of Badme to Eritrea.

November 8, 2011: Kenya claims that three airplanes carrying weapons for Al Shabaab fighters landed near the town of Baidoa, Somalia. The implication is that the airplanes flew into Somalia from Eritrea.

November 6, 2011: Ethiopia stated that its peacekeeping brigade in Abyei (a disputed region between Sudan and South Sudan) is attempting to carry out the UN mandate. Sudan and South Sudan were supposed to pull their forces back from the Abyei region but neither side has fully complied with the pullback agreement. The Ethiopian brigade is charged with monitoring the Abyei region. It is the only unit assigned to the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA).

November 5, 2011: Ethiopia continues to use anti-terrorism laws as a pretext for attempting to silence journalists and free reporting. The Ethiopian government has cracked down on reporters and aid groups before, particularly in the Ogaden region. The government says the aid organizations are really providing support to the rebels. In June the government arrested a half-dozen reporters and charged them with consorting with terrorist organizations.

November 2, 2011: In the wake of Kenya’s offensive into Somalia, Eritrea is denying that it supports Al Shabaab and other radical Islamist organizations in Somalia. Kenya has accused Somali Islamist organizations of launching attacks in Kenya and attempting to stir up trouble with border tribes.

Djibouti told the African Union (AU) that it will contribute 850 soldiers to the AU’s peacekeeping operation in Somalia.

October 31, 2011: Ethiopia announced that China will help it build a new railroad line to Djibouti. The railroad will improve Ethiopia’s access to Djibouti’s seaport. The current rail link dates from early in the 20th century. Ethiopia is also improving the highway to the port of Berbera, in the Somaliland Republic, the breakaway statelet in northern Somalia.

October 29, 2011: Nearly 30,000 Sudanese refugees have crossed the Sudan border and are seeking shelter in Ethiopia. The refugees report that Sudanese government forces have shelled their home towns in Blue Nile state.

October 21, 2011: Two Eritrean rebel groups, the Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization (RSADO) and the Eritrean National Salvation Front (ENSF) claimed that their guerrilla fighters killed 12 Eritrean Army soldiers and wounded 15 more in an attack in southern Eritrea. RSADO has made similar claims in the last 12 months. The Eritrean government claims RSADO is backed by Ethiopia.

October 15, 2011: Members of MEDREK, the Ethiopian umbrella opposition group, accused the government of using accusations of terrorist activity to jail political opponents. The government denied the charge.

October 14, 2011: Ethiopia has now deployed 1,800 troops to the disputed Abyei region in Sudan (Sudan-South Sudan border area).

October 6, 2011: The Eritrean economy is a mess and on a daily basis neighboring nations report that more Eritrean refugees cross the border. Ethiopia claims that several hundred new refugees from Eritrea enter Ethiopia every week or so. Yet Eritrea manages to continue to confront Ethiopia and supply several guerrilla organizations with weapons and financial aid. How does Eritrea manage to do it? One of the wikileaks cables (March 2009) addresses that. The US diplomatic cable noted that Eritrea has a very strong national identity, the result of four decades of war. The Eritrean people are also tough. They can handle short rations and deprivation. You have to wonder why the cable was ever classified. Eritrea has been called a nation that is an army. However, fighting Ethiopia for independence is one thing, but fighting everybody in East Africa is something else. Eritrea isn’t about to crack, but the steady trickle of refugees indicates that even a warrior state can start to suffer combat fatigue.

September 29, 2011: Ethiopia confirmed that it will eventually deploy 4,250 troops to Abyei (Sudan-South Sudan disputed zone), to serve with the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). A police contingent will also deploy. UNISFA is a UN Chapter VIII peacekeeping mission.

September 18, 2011: Global shippers have noticed an increase in pirate activity off the coast of Eritrea. In the past, pirate attacks have increased in the southern Red Sea area during the monsoon season, but maritime shipping analysts also believe that more pirate groups are operating in the Red Sea and in the Bab al Mandaab (the strait connecting the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden). Shippers reported pirate speedboat swarm attacks off Eritrea in mid-August. The major worry is that the Eritrean government, which is at odds with just about everyone except Sudan and Iran, is encouraging pirate operations or is at least permitting the operations.

September 16, 2011: The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) accused the Ethiopian government of preventing international relief agencies from delivering food aid to the starving people of Ogaden. The Ogaden region is suffering from an extended drought. Essentially, the ONLF is accusing Ethiopia of using mass starvation as a weapon against ONLF guerrillas.

September 5, 2011: Eritrea’s president visited Uganda, and in terms of Eritrean diplomacy, that is a bit unusual. Uganda has peacekeeping troops in Somalia. Eritrea supports several Somali Islamist guerrilla movements, including Al Shabaab, which launched terror attacks inside Uganda. Eritrea typically shuns African nations which support Ethiopia (which Uganda tends to do). However, Eritrea is also looking for ways to avoid a new round of economic and political sanctions.



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