Ethiopia: Clash Of Tyrants


April 14,2008: Ethiopia held national elections for parliament and local offices. Both Ethiopia and Eritrea have "one party democracies" where the government in power uses all means available to stifle any political opposition. Elections are still held, but the people in charge are never voted out of office, no matter how poor their performance.

April 13, 2008: In the wake of a report that the UN may withdraw its border monitoring force, Eritrea and Ethiopia are once again trading allegations that the other is preparing for war. For the last few weeks Ethiopia has been trying to use Eritrea's decision to cut supplies to UN peacekeepers as a diplomatic "wedge." So far it has not been a successful ploy. That said, the UN is wrestling with what to do about the remnant UNMEE operation. On April 11 the UN released a report that considered several possible actions, among them "terminating" the mission entirely. Another alternative: a "small observer mission" that would essentially be a bare-bones border monitoring operation. The UN study also considered running liaison offices in Asmara (Eritrea's capital) and in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia's capital). The liaison offices would operate as a diplomatic conduit for Eritrea and Ethiopia. The problem is "the deterrence factor." Armed UN peacekeepers deployed as border observers are a "brake" on renewed conflict. A small incident can always escalate into a bigger battle, but the UN teams mean that the UN diplomats have their own source of information and can immediately bring diplomatic and media influence to bear on both governments.

April 1, 2008: For the past week Ethiopia and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) have both claimed "successes" in their war in Ethiopia's Ogaden region. Ethiopia claimed that it had arrested eight ONLF fighters who were involved in the 2007 attack on a Chinese oil exploration project in the area. The ONLF denied that the men arrested had been involved in that operation, which took place on April 24, 2007 and left 65 Ethiopians and nine Chinese workers dead. The Ethiopian army force in Somalia is considered an adjunct to the pacification operation in Ogaden.

March 30, 2008: The US State Departments issued a warning to US citizens about traveling to Eritrea. The warning mentioned Eritrean restrictions on travel outside of Asmara. It also referred to "heightened tensions" on the Eritrea-Ethiopia border.

March 18, 2008: Two "armed incidents" occurred on March 17 and March 18 on the Eritrea-Ethiopia border near Zalambesa. There were no reports of casualties nor were other details available. Zalambesa is one of the key disputed border towns, along with Bada and Badme. It is a place where a shootout could readily occur.


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