Read Mike Woldemariam’s, assistant professor at Boston University, new post at African Arguments about the origins of the simmering conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Mike argues that the conflict between the fraternal parties ruling in Ethiopia and Eritrea traces its origins to the sense of betrayal felt by each party, as well as, differing recollections of the ways in which Eritrea’s partition was won.
For several years, combat along the tense Eritrean-Ethiopian frontier has been entirely rhetorical. This changed on March 16th, 2012 when the Ethiopian government boldly announced that it had crossed into Eritrean territory in an attack on three military installations. Citing Asmara’s role in the January death and abduction of European tourists in Ethiopia’s Afar region, Ethiopia’s retaliation represented the first direct military confrontation between Eritrea and Ethiopia since the 1998-2000 border war.
Coincidentally, these events came one month before the 10th anniversary of the delimitation decision of the Eritrean Ethiopian Boundary Commission. The EEBC was the product of the Algiers Accord, which formally ended the Eritrean-Ethiopian war by referring the border dispute to arbitration. The EEBC’s findings should have been the final chapter in the bloody border row between the two countries, but instead, gave the dispute new momentum. The crux of the problem was that Ethiopia rejected the EEBC’s decision when it realized that Badme, the small piece of disputed territory that triggered the border war, and which it had acquired at a high human cost, had been awarded to Eritrea. Addis later accepted the decision “in principle,” but demanded negotiations on the normalization of relations before it would permit the disputed border to be demarcated (and return Badme to Eritrea).
In early December of last year, the UN Security Council passed a resolution strengthening existing sanctions on the State of Eritrea. UNSC 2023, which passed by a vote of 13-0 with two abstentions, was the direct outcome of a scathing report published by the UN’s Somalia Monitoring Group in July of 2011. The report chronicled, in some detail, the full gambit of Eritrea’s destabilizing activity in the Horn of Africa, including Eritrea’s material assistance to Somalia’s Al-Shabaab.
Critics of the resolution have focused their attention on the veracity of the SMG’s claims, and by extension, the fairness of the UNSC 2023. While the truth of Eritrea’s activity in the HOA remains difficult to discern, it is clear that the UNSC resolution was somewhat arbitrary: Al-Shabaab has a number of external supporters, of whom Eritrea is likely the most marginal. But the discussion of “fairness” is beside the point, as such principles, though often invoked in international politics, are rarely of consequence. Power matters on the international stage, and for Eritrea, it is a commodity in short supply. Continue reading →
Just when we thought the Somali crisis couldn’t get any more complicated, it did.
The effects of Kenya’s recent intervention in Somalia – both for Kenya, and the Somalis themselves – remains the subject of much speculation. Some question whether Kenya will achieve its war aims. Others ask if military intervention can stabilize the desperate political and humanitarian situation in southern Somalia. Many more openly ponder whether Al-Shabaab will respond by striking targets within Kenya’s major metropolitan centers, thereby widening the regional stakes of a conflict that is already deeply complex. Continue reading →