Eritrean–Ethiopian border conflict

Eritrean–Ethiopian border conflict
Part of the conflicts in the Horn of Africa
Eritrean–Ethiopian War Map 1998.png
Territory claimed by both sides of the conflict
Date6 May 1998 – 9 July 2018
(20 years, 2 months and 3 days)[1]
LocationEritreaEthiopia border

Eritrean victory

Badme ceded to Eritrea
 Eritrea  Ethiopia
Casualties and losses

The Eritrean–Ethiopian border conflict was a violent standoff between Eritrea and Ethiopia as part of the violence in the Horn of Africa. This included sporadic clashes of their militaries, some of which took part in the larger Second Afar Insurgency. The border conflict had been ongoing since the Eritrean–Ethiopian War of 1998–2000, and included multiple clashes with numerous casualties, such as the 2016 Tserona clashes. Ethiopia eventually stated in 2018 that it would cede Badme to Eritrea, which effectively ended the twenty-year conflict. The two countries formally ended the conflict at the 2018 Eritrea–Ethiopia summit on 9 July 2018, by signing a joint agreement to resume peaceful diplomatic relations.[3][4]


Colonisation and border conflict[]

Italian prisoners of war waiting for repatriation in the First Italo-Ethiopian War.

By March 1870, a shipping company from Italy had thus become claimant to territory at the northern end of Assab Bay, a deserted but spacious bay about half-way between Annesley Bay to the north and Obock to the south.[5] However, the area, — which had been long dominated by the Ottoman Empire and Egypt[6]— was not settled by the Italians until 1880.[7] In 1884, the Hewett Treaty was signed, by the British Empire and Ethiopia under reign of Emperor Yohannes IV (r. 1871–1889). The British Empire promised the highlands of modern Eritrea—and free access to the Massawan coast to Ethiopia in exchange for its help evacuating garrisons from the Sudan, in the then-ongoing Mahdist's War.[8] In 1889, the disorder that followed the death of Emperor Yohannes IV, General Oreste Baratieri occupied the highlands along the Eritrean coast and Italy proclaimed the establishment of a new colony of Eritrea (from the Latin name for the Red Sea), with capital Asmara in substitution of Massawa.[9] On 2 May 1889, The peace and friendship treaty in Wuchale was signed between Italy and Ethiopia, which made Italian Eritrea officially recognised by Ethiopia as part of Italy.[10]

However Article 17 of the treaty was disputed in the Italian version stated that Ethiopia was obliged to conduct all foreign affairs through Italian authorities, in effect making Ethiopia an Italian protectorate, while the Amharic version gave Ethiopia considerable autonomy, with the option of communicating with third powers through the Italians.[11][12][13] This resulted in a war called the First Italo-Ethiopian War,[14] the war resulted in favour of the Ethiopians. In October 1896, a new peace treaty was signed. Italy pay an indemnity of 10 million Italian liras for their upkeep. Most surprisingly, the Italians would retain most, if not all, of the territories beyond the Mareb-Belessa and May/Muni rivers they had taken; According Abyssinian monarchists' Menelik gave away a sizable portion of Tigray which had been treated as part of the Ethiopian empire since time immemorial.[15][16]

Decades later on 2 August 1928, Ethiopia and Italy signed a new friendship treaty.[17] This relationship deeped again six years later, on 22 November 1934, when Italy claimed that a force of 1,000 Ethiopian militia with three fitaurari (Ethiopian military-political commanders) arrived near Walwal and formally asked the Dubats garrison stationed there (comprising about 60 soldiers) to withdraw from the area.[18] The Somali NCO leading the garrison refused to withdraw and alerted Captain Cimmaruta, commander of the garrison of Uarder, 20 kilometres (12 mi) away, to what had happened.[19]

Italian artillery in Tembien, Ethiopia (1936).

Ethiopia under Italian rule[]

East Africa Campaign northern front: Allied advances in 1941.

Between 5 and 7 December, for reasons which have never been clearly determined, there was a skirmish between the garrison of Somalis, who were in Italian service, and a force of armed Ethiopians. According to the Italians, the Ethiopians attacked the Somalis with rifle and machine-gun fire.[20] According to the Ethiopians, the Italians attacked them, supported by two tanks and three aircraft.[21] In the end, approximately 107 Ethiopians[nb 1] and 50 Italians and Somalis were killed.[nb 2] By 3 October 1935, the Italian Army led by General Emilio De Bono launched an assault against Ethiopia at 5 a.m. in the morning by crossing the Mareb River without any Italian "Declaration of war". This was the start of a new war called the Second Italo-Ethiopian War.[24] By May 1936, the Italian Royal Army occupied the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, soon after the fall of the Ethiopian capital the officially Ethiopian Government and Emperor Haile Selassie I (r. 1930–1936 and 1941–1974) goes into exile.[25] The occupied country was annexed into the Italian East African colony together with the other Italian east African colonies.[26] The war ended in the year 1939, according by some historians Denis Mack Smith, Gerrit Jan Abbink, Mirjam De Bruijn and Klaas Van Walraven due the 10,000 Ethiopian troops whom still fighting against their occupiers under their Commander Aberra Kassa, until his death.[27][28][29] On 10 June 1940, Mussolini declared war on Britain and France,[30] but less a year later in March Britain started an invasion against the Italians in the region.[31] In November, that year Britain occupied the whole Italian East Africa colony, however thousands Italian soldiers started a guerrilla warfare in their fomer colony.[32] Until October 1943, when the last Italian soldiers surrenerd to Britain,[33] Ethiopians did get their independent back and Eritrea was under Britain military administration until the 1950s.[34]


Eritrea as part of Ethiopia[]

After the war there was a question who would get Eritrea between the Italians, Soviets and the Ethiopians. After the Italian communists' victory in the 1946 Italian general election and the republic's establishment they supported a returning Eritrea to Italy under trusteeship or as a colony. The Soviets had the same idea to make it their trustee, and tried, by Soviets diplomats led by Maxim Litvinov and backed by Ivan Maisky and Vyacheslav Molotov, but they failled.[35] Ethiopian Emporor Haile Selassie I claimed Eritrea too, in 1952 the United Nations decided that Eritrea would become part of the Ethiopian Empire. This made Eritrea a special autonomy and Ethiopia became a federale country.[36] In 1958, a group of Eritreans founded the Eritrean Liberation Movement (ELM). The organisation mainly consisted of Eritrean students, professionals and intellectuals. It engaged in clandestine political activities intended to cultivate resistance to the centralising policies of the imperial Ethiopian state.[37] In the next dacade the Emperor decided to disolve the federation between Ethiopia and Eritrea and annexed the special region.[36] This rulted in an almost thirty-year long armed struggle called the Eritrean War of Independence.[38][36] The organisation called the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) fought in its war against the Ethiopian Government since 1 September 1961, in 1970 a spilter group from ELF was made called the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF),[39] their rivalry started the grow and in February 1972, they had their 1st inter-rebel conflict.[40] Their rivalry paused in 1974, and calls for the conflict to stop were finally heeded. These calls for peace came from local villagers at a time when the independence movement was close to victory over Ethiopia.[40] On 12 September 1974, a succesfull coup d'état was made against the Emporor led by Lieutenant General Aman Andom the Emporor was later imprisoned after his overthrew. The govermnent was led by the pro-Soviet's Ethiopian soldiers which establish an almost 7-year long military junta.[41]

Eritrea achieved independence from Ethiopia in 1993, following a long armed struggle.[38] The two countries fought again between 1998 and 2000 over the disputed territory of Badme, costing an estimated 70,000[38] to 80,000 lives.[42]


War Era[]

On 8 May 1998, sporadic clashes over the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea which killed several Eritrean officials near the former disputed town Badme.[43][44] A great force of Eritrean mechanised entered the former disputed town, as result there was a firefight between the Eritrean soldiers and the Tigrayan militia and security police they encountered.[43][45][46] On 13 May 1998, 5 days after the incidents the Eritrean radio which described the incidents as a "total war" policy from Ethopia, also claimed that the Ethopian Army was mobilising for a full assault against Eritrea.[47] The organisation Claims Commission found that this was in essence an affirmation of the existence of a state of war between belligerents, not a declaration of war, and that Ethiopia also notified the United Nations Security Council, as required under Article 51 of the UN Charter.[48]

Post-war Era[]

After the ceasefire was launched on 18 June 2000, both parties agreed to have a 25 kilometres (16 mi) wide demilitarised zone called Temporary Security Zone (TSZ). Within Eritrea, patrolled by the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) an organisation for the border stabilising for future conflicts between the countries. On 31 July 2000, UNMEE was official launched and started patrolling the border.[49] Half year later on 12 December, a peace agreement was signed in Algiers, Algeria by both countries.[50]

In September 2007, Kjell Bondevik a United Nations' official warned that a new war could resume as a border conflict.[42] On 16 January 2008, the Eritrean Government give up all of its claims in Ethiopia.[2] By February 2008, UNMEE pulling its peacekeepers out Eritrea due Eritrean Government restrictions of fual supplies.[42] On 30 July 2008, the Security Council hold a vote to end the UN mission the next day the UN mission has ended.[51]

Signing Ceremony of the Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

Ethiopia declared in April 2011, openly it will support Eritrean rebel groups.[42] Conflict deepened in 2012, when Ethiopia launched an offensive into Eritrean-held territory. Three camps were attacked, and a number of people were killed or captured in the process.[42] Several weeks prior to the offensive, Ethiopia blamed Eritrea for supporting the Ethiopian rebels, who staged a January 2012 raid in the northern Afar Region that killed five Western tourists.[42] In June 2016, Eritrea claimed 200 Ethiopian soldiers were killed and 300 wounded in a Battle at Tsorona.[38] On 10 October 2016, the Ethiopian Government claimed that Eritrea and Egypt were behind the Oromo protests.[52]

On 8 July 2018, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed arrived in Asmara, Eritrea. Where his counterpart President Isaias Afwerki greeted him at Asmara International Airport,[53] the day after both leaders signed a five-point Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship declaring that "the state of war between Ethiopia and Eritrea has come to an end; a new era of peace and friendship has been opened" and ceded Badme to Eritrea.[54]


After the Eritrea–Ethiopia peace summit in July, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy requested to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres to lift the United Nations' sanctions on Eritrea imposed largely due to the efforts of Ethiopian diplomacy—on Eritrea.[55] The airline company Ethiopian Airlines announced that it would resume flights to Asmara on Monday 16 July 2018.[56]

Later in July, between 14–16 July President Isaias visited Ethiopia and its President Mulatu Teshome. Isaias affirmed the unity of Eritrea and Ethiopia, saying "henceforth, anyone who says Eritreans and Ethiopians are two different peoples is one that doesn't know the truth."[57] He visited an industrial park in Awasa and presided over the reopening of the Eritrean Embassy.[58] On 6 September, an Ethiopian embassy was reopened in the Eritrean capital Asmara.[59] On 11 September for the first time in 20 years the Eritrea–Ethiopia border crossing was reopened.[60] Five days later, both leaders signed an official new peace agreement in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.[61]

Between 70,000 and 98,217 people were killed.[38][62]

See also[]


  1. ^ According to Mockler, 107 Ethiopians were killed and 40 wounded.[22]
  2. ^ According to Time Magazine, 110 Ethiopians were killed and 30 Italians were killed.[23]



  1. ^ "Ethiopia, Eritrea officially end war". Deutsche Welle. July 9, 2018. Retrieved July 9, 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Eritrea accepts 'virtual' border with Ethiopia". ABC News. 16 January 2008. Retrieved 23 September 2018.
  3. ^ "Ethiopia, Eritrea officially end war". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 9 July 2018.
  4. ^ "Ethiopia's Abiy and Eritrea's Afewerki declare end of war". BBC News. BBC. 2018-07-09. Retrieved 9 July 2018.
  5. ^ Agatha Ramm, "Great Britain and the Planting of Italian Power in the Red Sea, 1868-1885", The English Historical Review, Vol. 59, No. 234 (May, 1944), p. 214–215.
  6. ^ Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Egypt: Section III: History". Encyclopædia Britannica. 9 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 90–119.
  7. ^ Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Eritrea". Encyclopædia Britannica. 9 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 747.
  8. ^ Wylde, Augustus B. Modern Abyssinia, pp. 35 ff. Methuen (London), 1901.
  9. ^ Asmara italiana
  10. ^ "Treaty of Wuchale" (PDF). African Legends. Retrieved 11 October 2018.
  11. ^ Prouty 1986, pp. 70–99.
  12. ^ Marcus 1995, pp. 111–134.
  13. ^ Elliesie 2008, pp. 235-244.
  14. ^ Prouty 1986, p. 143.
  15. ^ Perham 1948, p. 58.
  16. ^ Marcus 1995, p. 175.
  17. ^ Marcus 2002, p. 126.
  18. ^ Quirico 2002, p. 267.
  19. ^ Quirico 2002, p. 271.
  20. ^ Quirico 2002, p. 272.
  21. ^ Barker 2002, p. 17.
  22. ^ Mockler, p.46.
  23. ^ Time Magazine, Provocations.
  24. ^ Barker 2002, p. 33.
  25. ^ "Ethiopia 1935-36: mustard gas and attacks on the Red Cross". International Committee of the Red Cross. 13 August 2003. Archived from the original on 1 December 2006. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  26. ^ "Ethiopia – Italian East Africa". World States Men. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  27. ^ Mockler 2003, p. 171.
  28. ^ Mack Smith 1983, pp. 232–233.
  29. ^ Abbink, De Bruijn & Van Walraven 2003, p. 97.
  30. ^ Playfair 1954, pp. 6–7.
  31. ^ Rohwer & Hümmelchen 1992, p. 54.
  32. ^ "How Italy Was Defeated In East Africa In 1941". Imperial War Museums. 18 June 2018. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  33. ^ Cernuschi 1994, p. 5.
  34. ^ Zolber, Aguayo & Suhrke 1992, p. 106.
  35. ^ Vojtech Mastny, The Cold War and Soviet Insecurity: The Stalin Years (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 23–24; Vladimir O. Pechatnov, "The Big Three After World War II: New Documents on Soviet Thinking about Post-War Relations with the United States and Great Britain" (Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Cold War International History Project Working Paper 13, May 1995), pp. 19–21.
  36. ^ a b c "Ethiopia and Eritrea". Global Policy Forum. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  37. ^ Ofcansky, TP Berry, L (2004) Ethiopia, a country study, Kessinger Publishing, p. 69
  38. ^ a b c d e Samuel Gebre (June 16, 2016). "Eritrea Says It Killed 200 Ethiopian Troops in Border Clash". Retrieved July 9, 2018.
  39. ^ "Eritrean People's Liberation Front". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 1 November 2018.
  40. ^ a b "Eritrea: A Small War in Africa Volume 10 - Issue 7". Dehai. October 1998. Retrieved 1 November 2018.
  41. ^ Wrong 2005, p. 244.
  42. ^ a b c d e f "Ethiopia 'launches military attack inside Eritrea'". BBC News. BBC. March 15, 2012. Retrieved July 9, 2018.
  43. ^ a b "Eritrea/Ethiopia War Looms". Foreign Policy in Focus. 2 October 2005. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  44. ^ "Border conflict with Ethiopia". Eritrea. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  45. ^ "There are no winners in this insane and destructive war". The Independent. 2 June 2000. Archived from the original on 12 December 2008. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  46. ^ The Eritreans describe the start of the war thus: "after a series of armed incidents during which several Eritrean officials were murdered near the disputed village of Badme, Ethiopia declared total war as on 13 May and mobilised its armed forces for a full-scale assault on Eritrea." ("history". Embassy of the State of Eritrea, New Delhi, India. Archived from the original on 9 February 2015. Retrieved 13 September 2018.)
  47. ^ "World: Africa Eritrea: 'Ethiopia pursues total war'". BBC News. 6 June 1998. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  48. ^ "A commentary on Eritrea Ethiopia Claims Commission findings". From Peace to Justice. 31 March 2006. Archived from the original on 9 October 2007. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  49. ^ United Nations Security Council Resolution 1312. S/RES/1312(2000) 31 July 2000. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  50. ^ "Peace Agreements Digital Collection" (PDF). United States Institute of Peace. 12 December 2000. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  51. ^ "Security Council ends UN monitoring of Eritrea-Ethiopia row". 30 July 2008. Archived from the original on 20 May 2011. Retrieved 23 September 2018.
  52. ^ "Ethiopia blames Egypt and Eritrea over unrest". BBC News. 16 October 2016. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  53. ^ "Ethiopia's PM Abiy Ahmed in Eritrea for landmark visit". Al-Jazeera English. 8 July 2018. Retrieved 9 July 2018.
  54. ^ "Ethiopia, Eritrea sign statement declaring end of war". France 24. 9 July 2018. Retrieved 9 July 2018.
  55. ^ "Ethiopia and Eritrea Declare an End to Their War". The New York Times. 9 July 2018. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  56. ^ "Ethiopian to resume flights to Asmara next week". Fana News. 9 July 2018. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  57. ^ "State Lunch in honor of President Isaias". Shabait. 15 July 2018. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  58. ^ "At concert, Ethiopia, Eritrea leaders preach peace, love, unity". Reuters. 15 July 2018. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  59. ^ "Ethiopia reopens embassy in Eritrea amid thaw in ties". al-Jazeera. 6 September 2018. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  60. ^ "Ethiopia-Eritrea Border Opens for First Time in 20 Years". The New York Times. 11 September 2018. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  61. ^ "Ethiopian, Eritrean leaders sign peace agreement in Jeddah". Reuters. 16 September 2018. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  62. ^ "Government of Eritrea - Government of Ethiopia". Uppsala Conflict Data Program. Retrieved 19 September 2018.