What was behind Ethiopia-Eritrea border clash?

The governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea are blaming each other in the weekend's deadly border skirmish that threatens a return to open war between the regional rivals. Ethiopia's Information Minister Getachew Reda described the clashes as "an Eritrean initiative." In a short statement, the Eritrean regime said Ethiopia had "unleashed an attack against Eritrea on the Tsorona Central Front. The purpose and ramifications of this attack are not clear." (BBC News) The independent exile-based Gedab News, which covers Eritrea, says it has received "credible information" that the battle was triggered when a group of Eritrean conscripted soldiers crossed the border to Ethiopia in an attempt to desert, and were shot at by Eritrean troops. Members of an armed Eritrean opposition group hosted by Ethiopia returned fire before Ethiopian soldiers then entered the fray. (Awate.com)

The new fighting comes near the contested town of Badme, which was the scene of 1998 clashes that sparked a two-year war between the two countries. The war left some 250,000 Eritreans displaced and led to the deaths of an estimated 80,000 people from both sides. In 2000, Addis Ababa and Asmara signed a peace agreement brokered by the Organization of African Unity, calling for both sides to withdraw to the positions held before the start of the war and establishing a Border Commission to resolve the conflict. However, when the boundary commission in 2003 ruled that Badme lies in Eritrean territory, Ethiopia refused to recognize the decsion. (Eritrea.be, Global Policy Forum)

  1. UN sees ‘crimes against humanity’ in Eritrea

    The UN Human Rights Council on July 1 called on the African Union (AU) [official website] Friday to respond to a report (PDF) that detailed gross human rights violations in Eritrea. The report found that systemic and widespread gross violations in the detention facilities and military camps may even amounts to crimes against humanity. The call was welcomed by activists, human rights groups and Eritreans who see the resolution as a necessary first step in addressing the issues. Eritrea denies all allegations that it has committed crimes against humanity.

    Eritrea has faced much criticism from the international community for continued abuses of human rights. In 2013 the UN called for an end to human rights abuses in Eritrea and appealed to the international community to increase scrutiny of the nation. The UN also pleaded aid for Eritrean refugees, as denial of asylum would most likely condemn them to death, based on the country's shoot to kill order (PDF) for anyone attempting to leave the country illegally. In late 2013 a report from Dutch and Swedish researchers discovered that officers of the Eritrean military were kidnapping children and smuggling them into Sudan. In March 2015 another UN commission released a report that found that the various human rights abuses found in Eritrea included torture, a large number of detentions, and paltry wages insufficient for an adequate standard of living. (Jurist)