I was sceptical when I first saw a blog by Russom Mesfun [below] but I have since seen a press release from the Eritrean government, issued today, which appears to underline his concerns.

Tension increased following Ethiopian accusations, on Thursday, that Eritrea was stoking Oromo protests over plans to expand Addis Ababa [below]

“We have concrete evidence that some of the people… involved and instigating violence in these particular localities… have their origins from Asmara,” the capital of Eritrea, said government spokesman Getachew Reda.

One can only hope that sense prevails and that another disastrous conflict is avoided.


Eritrean warning

Rumors of War: Ethiopia v. Eritrea

Could it be that the Horn of Africa is about to be aflame again? Recent developments in the Ethio-Eritrean no war-no peace stalemate have certainly escalated into a potential confrontation, with Ethiopia accusing its northern neighbor of kidnapping at least 80 of its citizens who were engaged in gold mining in the Tigray region.

The PFDJ has neither officially acknowledged the accusations nor reacted to statements from Ethiopia that it plans to retaliate.

Subsequent to the border and Badme dispute in 1998, the Eritrean regime claims to have been in a state of heightened alert for fear that Ethiopia might attack at anytime.

Only these days, Eritrea might have gained a welcome breather due to the recent Oromo uprisings, which Ethiopia claims has PFDJ hands.

Suspecting a possible crack in Addis Ababa’s edifice, Asmara might be attempting to take advantage of an opportunity to cause mischief, complementing Oromo efforts and thus helping destabilize its arch enemy while the iron is still hot.

Although the Ethiopians are not bound to take the bait and engage in a major escalation over incidents that they have downplayed as typical of Eritrea’s bad behavior, it does not necessarily follow that they will not retaliate in kind.

By minimizing the conflict, the Ethiopian leadership perhaps aims to manage public opinion and, in effect, lessen, if not totally avoid, persistent calls for a decisive action against Eritrea. Conversely, the measured reactions might have also been intended to buy more time to allow a meaningful military response.

Meanwhile, crippled by UN sanctions and internationally isolated — and with an army ravaged by defections and endless National Service — Eritrea would be at a serious disadvantage to counter an all-out Ethiopian assault.

Fiercely nationalist and once one of the mightiest and most effective fighting machines in the continent, the Eritrean army has long since lost its aura of invincibility, nowadays subsisting on fomenting border skirmishes and sponsoring opposition groups to fight wars by proxy.

Pay or no pay, the failure of the regime to shorten or cancel altogether the much dreaded national service will only weaken an army whose numbers have been drastically shrinking, its rank and file fleeing to the borders in the tens of thousands.

That being said, the no war-no peace state of affairs will remain intact, as both nations fully grasp the military and political realities on the ground. Too focused on dealing with current domestic crisis and reluctant to trip on Eritrea’s provocations, it’s highly unlikely that Ethiopia will go nuclear at this time, perhaps opting instead a proportionate yet significant surgical attack of PFDJ assets.

Ethiopia accuses Eritrea

Source: AFP

Addis Ababa (AFP) – Ethiopia accused arch-rival Eritrea on Thursday of being behind anti-government protests in the Oromia region last year which led to a violent clampdown by the government in Addis Ababa.

The two countries fought a bloody conflict from 1998-2000, but tensions are never far from the surface and were fuelled by protests which erupted last November.

“We have concrete evidence that some of the people… involved and instigating violence in these particular localities… have their origins from Asmara,” the capital of Eritrea, said government spokesman Getachew Reda.

Home to some 27 million people, Oromia encircles Addis Ababa and stretches over large parts of the rest of the country. It has its own language, Oromo, distinct from Amharic, the language of Ethiopia’s government.

Demonstrations erupted last November in Oromia to protest against a government plan to expand the Ethiopian capital.

The so-called Master Plan, which was eventually abandoned in January, fuelled land-grab fears among Oromo farmers, from the country’s biggest ethnic group.

Reda accused Eritrea of working in concert with two Ethiopian movements, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) rebel group and the Ginbot 7 opposition group exiled in the United States and categorised as terrorists by Addis Ababa.

“The Eritrean government is not only working with OLF’s leftovers in Asmara but also with Ginbot 7, and they want to infiltrate all troublemakers into Ethiopia,” Reda said.

He added: “The protests that were being expressed by the people were based on legitimate concerns. But at a certain point, there were political elements involved in hijacking the process.

“What transpired… is an absolutely despicable case of criminal gangs roaming village after village and causing innumerable loss in lives.”

There was a brutal crackdown on the protests, which left over 140 people dead and thousands arrested, according to figures released in January by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

In a report published Monday, HRW said the crackdown is still ongoing, asserting that killings and arbitrary arrests were still being reported almost daily.

Eritrea separated from Ethiopia in 1991 after a 20-year independence war. The two countries have remained on a war footing since the open conflict around the turn of the Millennium, notably over their 1,000 km-long (620- mile) common border.