Increased tension in border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The BBC reports that Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has confirmed that he had moved thousands of extra troops to the north of the country, to prevent an invasion by Eritrea. Ethiopia is estimated to have nearly half its armoured units in the area. Sapa-AFP reports however, "It is not true at all that there is an Eritrean troop movement," and, "Eritrea is only engaged in its development projects and agricultural revolution," as stated by the Eritrean Information Minister.

"We will not provoke the other side, nor will we be provoked by the other side," Information Minister Ali Abdu told Reuters in Nairobi by telephone from the Eritrea[n] capital Asmara.

As frustration grows on both sides, some fear that recent Ethiopian troop movements to the frontier while the domestic political situation worsens could lead to renewed conflict. AFP reports that "Ethiopia[n] police on Monday accused Eritrea of fuelling deadly street violence that rocked the country early this month and claimed the lives of at least 48 people."

At the close of a 3-year war over their common border, Eritrea and Ethiopia decided to settle their differences in court. The Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague in the Netherlands presided over the Border Commission. Its decision in 2002 was hoped to be the conclusion to this long conflict.

Instead the stalemate has drawn on for three years. One of the modalities of the Agreement was that the decision would be 'final and binding.' In essence, both parties agreed to the decision in advance. At the announcement of the decision both parties lauded the decision as being fair and on the side of justice.

Since that time however, the border between these two countries remains unmarked. The Ethiopian Government refuses to allow the marking of the boundary, saying that there must be allowance for the shifting of the border. On the other hand the Eritrean Government has recently curtailed the movements of the UN peacekeeping mission.

This Cold War has been cool for years, but as frustration mounts the conflict simmers and sparks have already begun to fly.