Ethiopia: February 20, 2005


UN peace monitors are reporting troop movements and troop reinforcements in the disputed Ethiopian-Eritrean border region around the town of Badme. On February 17 a UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) report called the situation "fragile." A spokesman said that the massing of troops "threatened stability." That's diplo-speak for walking to the brink of war. A subsequent report said that Ethiopia had positioned its reinforcements 20 to 40 kilometers from the border. Ethiopia stated that is troop movements were defensive. As of February 18 there had been no "counter build-up" by Eritrea-- or at least none detected. The Ethiopian build-up was triggered by an incident that occurred February 1-- or at least an alleged incident. Ethiopia claimed it killed two Eritrean soldiers and captured five near the town of Manda, some 20 kilometers from the border. Eritrea called the Ethiopian charge an "attempt to defame Eritrea." The Ethiopian-Eritrean War sputtered on and off from May 1998 to December 2000. An estimated 70,000 people died in the fighting. In 2003 Eritrea said that it had lost 19,000 soldiers during the 2 1/2 years of fighting.


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