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Ethiopia/Eritrea: Another war?

By Aaron Maasho
April 14, 2011

Ethiopia is beating the war drums again. After a lull of more than a decade, the Horn of Africa giant is now threatening to attack its neighbour and foe Eritrea over claims it is working to destabilise the country.

When Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said his country would no longer take a passive stance towards Eritrea, it marked an escalation in the bitter war of words that has ensued since a devastating border spat ended in 2000.

Addis Ababa should “either work towards changing Eritrea’s policies or its government,” he told local media last month.

“This could be done diplomatically, politically or through other means.”

The two countries have a long history of animosity since a vicious conflict was sparked in 1961 when rebels in Eritrea (then an Ethiopian state) took up arms to win independence.

A rebel group led by Meles and others joined the Eritreans, led by current president Isaias Afewerki, in 1975 and finally ousted dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991.

Despite fighting tooth-and-nail alongside each other since they were barely out of their teens , the rebels-turned-statesmen have always had an uneasy relationship.

Just seven years after defeating Mengistu, the two famously stubborn men went to war over disputed border territory.

That conflict ended two years later with a U.N.-backed commission awarding the flashpoint town of Badme to Asmara. Ethiopia initially dismissed the ruling, before changing tack and accepting the finding.

Addis Ababa, however, is still calling for talks on its implementation, a stance rejected by Asmara.

Since then, the harsh rhetoric has come thick and fast over a stalemate wedged between two irreconcilable positions. Both sides have amassed large numbers of troops along their border, but there has been no flare up so far.

Ethiopia now accuses Eritrea of working to harm its interests and those of its allies. Apart from the conflict with Addis Ababa, the Red Sea state has also picked a fight with neighbour Djibouti, whose port landlocked Ethiopia relies on for almost all its external trade.

Asmara is also routinely accused of aiding insurgents in Ethiopia.

Some analysts say Asmara’s actions are meant to force the hand of the international community to stand up and notice Ethiopia’s “transgression” over its refusal to hand over the disputed territory, but nobody seems to buy the logic.

The United Nations has even slapped sanctions on the Red Sea state for its alleged support of Islamist insurgents in Somalia, a charge Eritrea vehemently denies.

Until now, Meles has ruled out direct confrontation, saying it was sufficient enough to ramp up security at home and deter “Eritrean government-coordinated terrorist attacks”.

Last month, however, he surprisingly announced that his country’s patience had run out.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Dina Mufti told Reuters that Eritrea tried to coordinate attacks inside Ethiopia during an African Union summit in February, and that Addis Ababa had asked the West to pressure Asmara into “refraining”.

Some diplomats say the planned attacks were of a sufficient scale to seriously worry Addis Ababa – Africa’s diplomatic hub.

“If they (international community) don’t heed, then we will take all measures necessary to defend ourselves,” Dina said.

Asmara has taken heed of the threats.

“I urge members of the U.N. Security Council to urgently deal with Ethiopia’s reckless threat to use force against Eritrea in a manner that is consistent with the Charter of the United Nations and the practices of the Security Council in similar situations,” Eritrea’s U.N. envoy Araya Desta said in a letter to the current chair of the Security Council.

While diplomats downplay the chances of an Ethiopian attack – Addis Ababa is one of the largest recipients of Western aid — rumours are rife in the capital that authorities are considering taking “strong measures” before the Ethiopian winter kicks in around June.

Some say, though, the posturing is only meant to scare the United Nations into tightening sanctions on Eritrea and to ensure the West continues to freeze the country out of the international community.

Meles’ detractors, however, claim he is trying to divert the attention of his countrymen to avoid North African-style unrest in a country were high living costs and unemployment are taking their toll.

So what do you think: Is another Horn of Africa war on the cards? Or is this just another round of rhetoric between the two foes?

Comments

Anything is possible. The two former rebels are relatives and know each other very well. But they are competing to be the best dog in the horn in the face of the Arabs in one side and the west (Israel) on the other side. Both prefer to be a closest ally for the west which Mr Aferworki lost and Mr Zenawi enjoyed unconditional support from the west.
Now that Egypt is swept by tempest, the West and the power in Tel Aviv are desperately in need of a device with which to intimidate Egypt so as to bring the new rulers to the accord table. There is the Nile again and that is why Meles is threatening Egypt deafening times and at every conference in the last few weeks.
The war with Eritrea is part of the game surrounding Nile , Mr Zenawi’s fear of uprising against his rule and the economy. But I believe strongly the west is behind Mr Zenawi’s suddent chang of policy on Eritrea and the Nile issues.
When the dust settles, the West, once again, will have secured Egypt ’s companionship and will be looking to produce evidence to Egypt by carving another Eritrea in the south out of Ethiopia

Posted by Goshua | Report as abusive
 

yet another sign that Zenawi’s diversion strategy is properly working. He at least managed to get the attention of western media. I think this guy is undoubtedly the most genius political strategist ever seen in African continent. Nevertheless, there is no need to assume that a conflict is coming sooner or later since Zenawi is just buying time from the Ethiopian people to prolong his grip on power, which would otherwise been shortened with North-African style uprising.

dessuko

Posted by dessuko | Report as abusive
 

Here is MZ him self in his own words telling you that it is purely diversionary to bring the war rhetoric front and center when in fact nothing substantial has changed on the ground that will trigger war or a war talk for that matter. FYI the Amharic version is also the same.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xYcR_7F5 Zk&feature=player_detailpage#t=34s

Posted by 3000Hope | Report as abusive
 

Zenawi’s trademark is taking multipronged action which often is intended to result in gradations of consequences. On this one, the timing of the threat from Zenawi indicates that he is mainly trying to divert the attention of the people from the fever of uprisings in North Africa. At the same time, Zenawi is also calculating in his paranoid mind that this threat will put Eritrea on the alert hence it will refrain from supporting Ethiopian rebels. He seems to be increasingly worried about the possibility of Eritrea-supported opposition groups somehow sparking an uprising in Ethiopia. Hence this warning is supposed to be a pre-emptive measure. The third objective could be to keep the Army occupied with the thought of an impending war. The role of the Army in Egypt, Yemen, and Libya in the public uprisings has given Zenawi a good reason to be concerned about the activities of the Army. Therefore, he could use such pretext to reorganize and undertake some internal operation in the Army which is almost totaly controlled by the combatant-turned-generals from his own ethnic groups. Otherwise, Zenawi will never start a war as he can not rely on the morale of the Ethiopian people for such confrontation with Eritrea at this time.

Posted by Menelik | Report as abusive
 

Whether or not there will be a war between Eritrea and Ethiopia, does not depend on Meles and certainly not on Issaias. Issaias has lost what little influence he had beyond Eritrea’s borders and Meles did not have it to begin with. Meles Zenawi has never been anything but a US puppet. Everything he does, is ordered directly by the US. If Meles makes Ethiopia wage a war on Eritrea or Somalia or any other place, it is on the orders of the US. If Meles refrains from waging any wars, this is on the orders of the US as well:) Stop giving Meles credit, give it to Obama instead lol. Also, the North African
revolutions, were organized by the USA through facebook (their latest tool of control). If Meles is overthrown by a facebook revolution, will you credit Meles’ amazing political strategic brilliance? Please wake up and smell the coffee:)

Posted by Zeragito | Report as abusive
 

I agree that “this guy is undoubtedly the most genius political strategist ever seen in African continent”. This time let alon face any uprising, he is getting the highest support he got ever because of the newly planned Millennium Dam. It seems that he has well prepred himself for the dam and any confrontation that might come from any direction. The proof is that he managed to convince the other upstream countries sign the new initiative. He has also successfully built his army in such away that can confront and any attack with less budget (around 1% of the GDP).

Posted by Bashay | Report as abusive
 

@ Goshua, I like how you write with such confidence as to give the illusion that you know what you are talking about.
You made the statement “The two former rebels are relatives and know each other very well. But they are competing to be the best dog in the horn in the face of the Arabs in one side and the west (Israel) on the other side. Both prefer to be a closest ally for the west which Mr Aferworki lost and Mr Zenawi enjoyed unconditional support from the west.”

First of all they are not Cousins (unlike Bush and Obama who are actual cousins), and you either know that or are intentionally lying or you are just ignorant and blelive any gossip you hear at your hair salon. They never even met each other until after the war for independence was over and they definitely do not know each other well (at least not personally, although I am sure they are well aware of each other now).
Secondly Mr Afeworki never had an intention of being the west’s closest ally although he did naively expect a mutually beneficial relationship. You speak about African leaders as though they are little kids and you write with absolutely know historical context in mind.
You might fool some, but you just lost one. You are an arrogant fool.

Posted by Wise1 | Report as abusive
 

Two issues here.One trivial,one serious.No,the two dictators are not relatives,but one`s dad from Adwa,and the others mum too.It gives a bad impression of a family/village-O`Cracy!Leaving this aside,there is no question M.Zenawi is beginning to feel the heat as an incogruous winner of an election by 97%-he cannot believe his bad luck as near neighbours with a largely unemployed & young population,(internet negligible,but satelite TV comparable to any major city)showing gusto,a rampant inflation at 25%/month…,stifiling regulations on the business cmmnty,introducing an excessive printing cost to muzzle the small “free press”and to top it off,to accusse all and sundry with another dim expletive such as businessmen,egypitans,his old TPLF comrades,oromo`s who d`nt agree with him,Issayas,the diaspora in general and the amhara in particular,the salafist muslim,..Oh not to forget the usual suspects-the somali_shabab…)as “RENT-SEEKERS”. No,my friends,Mr Zenawi is not a genius.If being a genius is to elongate the hold on power by any means necessary in our Country and Continent,certainly!I would also declare war not only on Erirea,but east,south and west-to tap into the limitless well of Ethiopian nationalism.I will also throw in the biggest Dam project,just in case!! Cynical Yes,Genius?absolute tosh,and he knows it.

Posted by democracynow | Report as abusive
 

@ Goshua:
“Anything is possible. The two former rebels are relatives and know each other very well. But they are competing to be the best dog in the horn in the face of the Arabs in one side and the west (Israel) on the other side. Both prefer to be a closest ally for the west which Mr Aferworki lost and Mr Zenawi enjoyed unconditional support from the west.”

Wise1: How did Mr Afeworki lose and how did Mr. Zenawi win? What game did they play to decide the winner? You really don’t know what you are talking about and people like you are always part of the problem. You are the reason why the westerner are easily manipulated and lack critical thinking skills. People in the west have become accustomed to using the “right” words to illicit desired “responses” and make themselves appear to be intelligent without actually having any substantive knowledge of the subject they are speaking of. I would also like to know why you are spreading gossip as fact on this site and I expect an answer ASAP.

Now that Egypt is swept by tempest, the West and the power in Tel Aviv are desperately in need of a device with which to intimidate Egypt so as to bring the new rulers to the accord table. There is the Nile again and that is why Meles is threatening Egypt deafening times and at every conference in the last few weeks.
What you

The war with Eritrea is part of the game surrounding Nile , Mr Zenawi’s fear of uprising against his rule and the economy. But I believe strongly the west is behind Mr Zenawi’s suddent chang of policy on Eritrea and the Nile issues.
When the dust settles, the West, once again, will have secured Egypt ’s companionship and will be looking to produce evidence to Egypt by carving another Eritrea in the south out of Ethiopia

Wise1: The only thing I agree with you on is the fact that if Ethiopia engages in war with Eritrea (which is highly unlikely) then Ethiopia will end up being fragmented and the Oromo will take control over the country. The decicion to go for independence will be the decision of the Southerners. Meles is no genius and he takes his queues from his western masters, therefore it is quite possible that they (the west) are playing him like the rook he is. I only agree that it is possible but the more probable reason for Meless war posturing is to deflect attention from the many Arab\North African like uprising which are imminent in Ethiopia. It is clear that both you and the writer of this article are limited in your understanding of the regional Politics in east Africa and even more so ignorant of the history of Eritrea and Ethiopia.

Posted by Wise1 | Report as abusive
 

Once the west braced these guys as African leaders of the new generation. There was aggressively a campaign to nominate both nations’ leaders for the Nobel Peace Prize. My simple message to both you: please feed your own people first and step down from power for heavens sake. Twenty years are too long to cling on power without accomplishing anything, other than famine and repression of your own people who brought you to ….

Posted by Hanan | Report as abusive
 

“From the point of view of justice, the opinions of the Eritrean people must receive consideration. Nevertheless, the strategic interests of the United States in the Red Sea Basin and? considerations of security and world peace make it necessary that the country? [Eritrea] be linked with our ally, Ethiopia”.
John Foster Dulles,
US Secretary of State,

In Dec. 2,1950, the UN voted 46 to 10 to federate Eritrea with Ethiopia. (UN resolution 390/V).

EVER SINCE, THE GRUESOME CYCLE GOES ON & ON, profiting the Western & Eastern “military industrial complex”, at the expense of the destitute Ethiopian & Eritrean people.

Posted by SELAM | Report as abusive
 

‘Meles he is trying to divert the attention of his countrymen to avoid North African-style unrest in a country were high living costs and unemployment are taking their toll.’ He is doing this nothing else.

Posted by Ethiopian21 | Report as abusive
 

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