Home > 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.

June 1997
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 begun."
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 this understanding.

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 Ethiopian domain.

November 1997
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.