Ethiopia: Silent Nights Along the Border


December 24, 2005: The UN observer force along the Ethiopia-Eritrea border is apparently discounting reports that Ethiopia and Eritrea are "on the verge of war." Those reports have been cropping up for the last two weeks. However, the UN missions says that the border area remains "tense." The UN Security Council threatened economic and political sanctions against Ethiopia and Eritrea. Ethiopia had to let the boundary commission begin marking the new border. Eritrea had to permit UN helicopter recon and support flights. The deadline for compliance was December 23, but as with most UN deadlines, there's wriggle room. UN observers have until the first week of January to assess compliance. That gives Ethiopia and Eritrea time to claim they have stood up to international pressure (domestic politics) and yet substantially meet the UN's requirements (international politics).

Meanwhile, both countries are becoming unstable, and their governments are cracking down on dissent. In Ethiopia, 40,000 people were arrested after recent political demonstrations. Most were soon released, but about 3,000 are still held, and 131 politicians, journalists and other activists are being tried on criminal charges. Eritrea is turning into a police state, with the government using the threat of attack by Ethiopia as the reason for such authoritarian measures.

December 23, 2005: Ethiopian and Eritrean troops pulled away from the border. The Ethiopian "pull back" was termed "significant." Each side is believed to have about 100,000 troops (8-10 divisions) at the border. There have been reported of two or more Ethiopian moving back from the border.

December 19, 2005: The Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission (EECC) at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, has found Ethiopia guilty of destroying Eritrean property along the border. Ethiopian claims against Eritrea were dismissed.


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