Chronology of Events > 1997
April 20-21, 1997
A meeting to discuss border issues that had surfaced in the course
of the previous year was held in Shire, Tigray, Ethiopia between
the vice president of the Tigray Region of Ethiopia, and the deputy
administrator of the Gash-Barka Region of Eritrea.
June 22-27, 1997
A sub-committee, designated in accordance with the Shire decisions,
met to make a tour of the "demarcations," a length it
determined at about 40 kms. It was established then that, not
just one, but a set of at least three demarcations, each creeping
deeper into Eritrea had been laid on the ground. This was, naturally,
highly objectionable to the Eritrean representatives.
Tigrean authorities ordered that no Eritrean farmer was to plough
fields or build houses or sheds beyond the "unilaterally
demarcated" line and that the inhabitants of Eritrean villages
were to be evacuated.
July 18-19, 1997
"Three truckloads of Ethiopian troops entered the Badme area
and planted radio communications equipment. Eritrean territory
inside the "unilaterally demarcated" area was, thus,
put under patrol. Subsequently to these massive expulsion of Eritreans
On the same day, a potentially more dangerous situation developed
at Adi Murug (Badda), at the northern tip of the former Denkalia,
but now within the North Red Sea Region of Eritrea. Historically,
Adi Murug has figured as the fourth village of the Badda district
- Boleli, Li'en and Irimali are the three remaining and there
was an Eritrean administrative unit at Adi Murug. On July 19,
two battalions of the Ethiopian army came to Adi Murug and its
commander met with representatives of the Eritrean army in the
area. The Ethiopians explained that they were there to chase armed
Ethiopian opposition elements that they believed to be in the
Badda area, and requested entry. The battalions were let in on
July 24, 1997
Ethiopian administrators instructed the Eritrean administrators
to disband -- they were taking over. They declared Adi Murug Ethiopian
territory and appointed their own administrative committee.
August 8, 1997
Two Eritrean officials traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to discuss
the matter with their counterparts in Ethiopia. They tried to
register their protest on what was happening at Adi Murug and
in Badme and that it was inconsistent with the friendly relationship
between the two sides. They argued that using force to create
facts on the ground was not acceptable. They also asked that the
Ethiopian government reverse the steps it had taken. Any outstanding
matters, they maintained, could be handled in a spirit of understanding
and taking the welfare of the border population into consideration.
August 16, 1997.
Less than a month after the Adi Murug and Badme incidents of July
19, President Isaias Afeworki wrote a letter to Prime Minister
Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia formally protesting Ethiopia's actions
and calling the Prime Minister to take all necessary measures
to put a stop to Ethiopia's border incursions.
August 25, 1997
President Isaias Afeworki wrote another letter to Prime Minister
Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia. This time suggesting that a joint border
commission be set up -- the Eritrean side to be led by General
Sebhat Efrem, Minister of Defense. The first meeting for this
commission was scheduled for November 1997.
October 17, 1997
Weyin, the official organ of the TPLF, printed a new map of Tigray
Region, which for the first time, in almost a hundred years, altered
Eritrea's colonial border with Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Mapping
Authority also officially printed this "illegal" map
of the Tigray Region. Here, the straight line linking the Setit
(Tekezze) river to the Mereb river at its confluence with the
Mai Anbessa had disappeared and was replaced by an oblique line
entering deep into Eritrean territory. Not only the "demarcated"
area that was causing concern, but large chunks of other Eritrean
land had also been included. Besides this, Eritrean territories
around Irob, Badda and Tserona were also illegally delimited as
The Joint High Commission met in Asmara, Eritrea and agreed to
meet again within three months. There was no discussion on substantive
matters. In the meantime, in January 1998, Ethiopian troops were
deployed to the border on the Assab line to demand that the Eritrean
border post situated on the Assab-Addis Ababa road move several
kilometers towards Assab, as the area was being claimed by Ethiopia.
A patient handling and quiet diplomacy on the part of Eritrea
averted what could have been a dangerous confrontation.