As seven African leaders met in the Nigerian capital of Abuja over the weekend to discuss ways of moving their continent forward, Ethiopia and Eritrea had troops amassed on their borders. Amongst the leaders meeting at Abuja was the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. An Ethiopian-Eritrean conflict is something to be dreaded. Both countries fought a bitter war over a border dispute from 1998 to 2000 in which tens of thousands of lives were lost. The Organization of African Unity (OAU) and United Nations mediated and a peace agreement was signed on 12 December 2002 in Algiers, six months after a ceasefire was agreed. An Ethiopian-Eritrean Boundary Commission was set up and its recommendation was accepted and made binding by the United Nations Security Council on 13 April 2002.
The general perception in the blogosphere on the reasons why Ethiopia may want to go to war with Eritrea appears to be one of skepticism. Ethiopundit, for instance makes it clear that there can be “absolutely no justification for another single drop of blood, sweat or tears to be shed or wasted by anyone in any possible disagreement the two may yet have.” It sees the war as a farce on both sides. The Eritrean government, it says, needs Western attention “because it is going broke and facing rising internal opposition.” The Ethiopian government on the other hand would like to divert Western attention from the collapse of the pretense of democracy (a reference to the Ethiopian elections held in May 2005, the fairness of which was hotly disputed by the opposition).
Greg's Africa Thoughts, the blog of Greg Fischer, a Christian missionary based in Entebbe, Uganda also speaks about the Ethiopian-Eritrean dispute. He states:
“I make several trips each year into the region where Ethiopia and Eritrea share a common border. Many times from my hotel room I have heard the distant ‘boom-boom’ of heavy artillery fire. The airport is often the scene of jet fighters roaring off to Eritrea.”
Greg Fisher also appears deeply concerned about the persecution of evangelical Christians by the Eritrean government.
African Bullets and Honey, in an article authored by Akinyi Arunga who was recently in Addis Ababa tells about
“…a young women whose brother was arrested [for joining in street protests against the ruling government], feared that his punishment might be getting forced to the frontline should war between Ethiopia and Eritrea break out as is seeming[ly] more likely by the day. She told me that her mother was in tears daily, dreading the worst for her child…”
On most Ethiopian blogs I came across in the blogosphere, the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi appeared to have no support. The mainstream media also continues to follow the Ethiopian-Eritrean conflict closely. For now, we should hope that the voice of reason prevails and that the governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea are able to resolve their disputes peacefully, adhering to United Nations Security Council resolutions.