Ethiopia: Eritrea Must Be Rearranged


May 9, 2011:  Eritrea’s regime just keeps keeping on. Ethiopia’s failure to fulfill its commitment to binding arbitration over their disputed border provides the fire. The ceasefire agreement that ended the Ethiopia-Eritrea War in 2000 led to the binding arbitration pact. The war left from 70,000 to 80,000 people dead, no one is quite sure of the exact figure. The key problem was (and still is) the town of Badme. Who gets it? In 2002, the border demarcation commission decided in Eritrea’s favor. Ethiopia reneged on its binding agreement to abide by the decision of the commission. Another attempt to reach a permanent settlement was made in 2007 but that, too, failed. Since then Eritrea has openly pursued an anti-UN policy because it believes the United Nations favors Ethiopia. But well before that, Eritrea was a maverick, supporting various guerrilla groups, especially militant Islamists in Somalia, and providing a meeting place (some say safe haven) for terrorist groups (including militant Islamist terrorists in Somalia). Now several Ethiopian politicians are once again bemoaning Ethiopia's loss of the port of Assab (in Eritrea). Ethiopia’s MEDREK opposition coalition has made access to Assab a major political goal. MEDREK claims that Ethiopia has had access to the sea through Assab for millennia – and that is likely true. No one is predicting another war, but the emotional elements and strategic interests that lead to war remain very much in place.

May 3, 2011: Tribal fighting along the Ethiopia-Kenya border left 19 people dead in Kenya and four dead in Ethiopia. The fights crossed the border. Kenya reinforced its police units in the area. Several months ago Ethiopia and Kenya agreed to send more security forces to the region.

April 30, 2011: Eritrea claimed that four former British Royal Marines arrested in December 2010 had possession of numerous weapons. The former marines claim they were serving as a defense force on a merchant vessel when an Eritrean naval ship bordered the merchant vessel and arrested them.

April 29, 2011: Eritrea accused Ethiopia of plotting a new war against it. Eritrea said that the Ethiopian statement that Ethiopia would support Eritrean rebels who want to overthrow the Eritrean government was a declaration of war.

April 21, 2011: The Ethiopian government said that it intends to help Eritrean rebel groups overthrow the Eritrean regime of President Isaias Afwerki. The government said that terrorist attacks in Ethiopia had been sponsored or encouraged by the Eritrean government. The Ethiopian statement said that Ethiopia would end Afwerki’s regime not by a military invasion but by supporting Eritrean opposition groups.

April 20, 2011: A crowd of several hundred Eritrean refugees demonstrated in Addis Ababa in favor of toppling Eritrea’s current regime. Around 60,000 Eritrean refugees are inside Ethiopia. The crowd’s appearance was too convenient, as its gathering coincides with new calls for regime change in Eritrea by the Ethiopian government.

April 15, 2011: Ethiopia’s annual inflation rate hit 25 percent. Rising food prices were the biggest cause. NGOs are already concerned about what they call food instability in Ethiopia.

April 12, 2011: Ethiopia has hired an Italian company to help build what the government calls Africa’s largest hydro-electric project. The Great Millennium Dam will cost five billion dollars. The dam is welcome in Ethiopia, but not downstream in Sudan and Egypt. The dam will be built on the Nile River about 40 kilometers from the Sudan border. In the last few weeks, Ethiopia has been trying to assuage Sudanese and Egyptian worries about taking too much water from the river. The government has suggested possibly providing electrical power to the downstream countries.

April 11, 2011: The Ethiopian government is warning its domestic opposition that it must avoid Egypt-like demonstrations. The government claims that the opposition intends to launch a peoples revolt similar to that which toppled the Egyptian government earlier this spring. The opposition in turn claims the last election was rigged.

April 7, 2011: Around 100 of the 120 alleged members of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) who were arrested in March and will be tried for terrorism. The Ethiopian government is disputing claims that the arrests were a thinly disguised crackdown on the government’s domestic opponents. The government contends that the OLF is an illegal organization. Ethiopia has a population of some 80 million. Around 27 million are ethnic Oromo.


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