Skirmishes flare up along Ethio-Eritrean border

An Ethiopian soldier mans an observation post on the Eritrean border on 19 November 2005. AFP/Marco Longari

ESAT News (July 19, 2017)

ESAT’s sources say there were skirmishes along the Ethiopia-Eritrea border this weekend in a place called Erob, Tigray. Both parties did not give official statements yet on the exchange of fires that sources say had also involved the use of heavy artillery.

Following the skirmishes, the TPLF-led government in Addis Ababa has reportedly placed more soldiers in the north on a standby.

While there is no official confirmation from both sides on the skirmishes that reportedly took place on Friday and Saturday, a blogger close to the ruling party in Addis Ababa accused the Eritrean army of being a provocateur and retreated after a few rounds of clashes.

On the day of the skirmish on Saturday, Eritrean president Isaias Afeworki was presiding over a ceremony of national service graduates.

This weekend’s skirmish came after a year of similar clashes along what is called the “Tsorena front” in June 2016. The two sides traded accusations and counter accusations as to which side fired the first shot.

The heavily militarized border between the two countries has been a no war no peace zone but analysts say that might change soon. There have been frequent saber rattling by Ethiopia’s current and former war generals in recent months.

Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a two year bloody border war in 1998-2000 in which an estimated 100,000 people died on both sides. The flash point of the war, an area called Badme, was awarded to Eritrea in a binding decision by a boundary commission set up to resolve the crises. After 17 years, that decision has yet to materialize, with Eritrea demanding strict implementation of the commission’s decision, while Ethiopia demands “normalization” before the implementation of the decision.