Home > Chronology of Events > 1998

January 1998:
Ethiopia tried by military means to occupay sovereign Eritrean territory on the Burie area (Assab-Dessie road ). Unfortunately, Eritrean efforts to solve the problem amicably and bilaterally failed as the Government of Ethiopia continued to bring under its occupation the Eritrean territories that it had incorporated into its map.

May 6, 1998
Ethiopian troops, unprovoked, fired at an Eritrean patrol unit on routine duty along the border around Badme. Several of its members were killed. This triggered off a chain reaction on both sides.

May 13, 1998

The Ethiopian Parliament declared war on Eritrea. The next day, May 14, 1998, The Eritrean Government called for peace and invited neutral parties to examine the circumstances leading to the incident of May 6.

May 14, 1998
The Cabinet of Ministers of the Government of Eritrea proposed a five-points peace plan.
1. The Government of Eritrea condemns the logic of force as it firmly knows and upholds that border disputes of any kind can only be resolved through peaceful and legal means, and not through military means.
2. On the basis of this principle, each party shall publicly announce to the peoples of Eritrea, Ethiopia and the international community the territories that it claims--if any--and designate them on the political map with clear geographical coordinates. Each party shall also accept that the dispute cannot, and should not, be resolved by force, but through peaceful negotiations.
3. Both parties shall agree that all negotiations and understandings shall be carried out in the presence and through the mediation of a Third Party. The latter will act as a witness and guarantor.
4. Areas under "dispute" shall be demilitarized temporarily and be free from the presence of armies of both countries. The enforcement of this understanding shall be guaranteed by the Third Party.
5. If the above proposal for resolving the dispute through the involvement of a Third Party and without complications is not acceptable, the matter is to be referred to international adjudication.

May 15, 1998:
The Government of Eritrea expressed its readiness to accept an independent inspection by any third party to verify the facts of the matter on the ground.

June 4, 1998
Prime Minister Melles of Ethiopia declared that Ethiopia accepts the US-Rwanda peace agreement but also states that he has given orders to the defence forces of Ethiopia to take action: "Ethiopians who heard [the speech in Amharic] thought that he has declared war."

June 5, 1998:
At 1400 and 1430 hours local time, Ethiopian Air Force fighter planes launched an air-strike on Asmara, hitting the Asmara International Airport, killing and wounding 30 people, and damaging a Zambian cargo plane. About an hour later, Eritrean Air force plane hit military targets in Mekelle, Ethiopia--destroying five Ethiopian war planes. Unfortunately, they also hit a school yard killing and wounding 47 people.

June 6, 1998
At 09:40 hours local time, two Ethiopian Air Force fighter planes bombed the southern outskirts of Asmara; because of Ethiopia's imposition of indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets, most foreigners living in Asmara were evacuated. One of the Ethiopian fighter jets, a MiG 23, has been downed by Air Defense Units of the Eritrean Defense Forces. Its pilot,Colonel Bezabeh Petros, was captured. Colonel Bezabeh is a senior pilot in the Ethiopian Air Force. This is the second time that the Ethiopian pilot is being captured in Eritrea. Colonel Bezabeh was first captured fourteen years ago in May 1984 during the war for independence when he was bombing the liberated areas around Nakfa, in northern Eritrea. He remained a prisoner of war (POW) until 1989. After his release, he chose to remain with the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) until the liberation of Eritrea in May 1991; after which he was sent to Ethiopia. Eritrea captured about 120,000 Ethiopian POWs and treated them humanely and released them in 1991 to join their loved ones.
Ethiopia further imposed an air blockade and maritime access blockade to Eritrean ports through the threat of incessant and indiscriminate air bombing.

June 10, 1998:
In violation of the agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia that citizens of each country do not need visas to visit the other country, Ethiopia has told all carriers not to board Eritreans who do not have a valid visa to Ethiopia.

June 11, 1998
Eritrea has called on the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to take urgent measures to ensure the safety of international air and maritime navigation in the area. Meanwhile, the Ethiopian government is recruiting mercenary air force pilots from countries in Eastern Europe.

June 12, 1998:
Ethiopia announced that it was expelling unspecified number of civilian Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean heritage in the country under the sham of "security reasons".

June 12, 1998
Eritrean Air Force pilots bombed military targets in Adi Grat, a city that has been transformed into the main garrison for reinforcing the invading Ethiopian army and a center for army logistics.

June 13, 1998
The Government of Ethiopia ordered the deportation of thousands of Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean heritage from the country; it also fired thousands of others from their jobs.

June 14, 1998
The Governments of Eritrea and Ethiopia have accepted the proposal put forward by the United States Government on a total ban of air strikes by both sides. The agreement provides for Eritrea and Ethiopia to "halt immediately the further use of air strikes and the threat of air strikes in their present conflict."

June 17, 1998:
800 expelled Eritreans arrived at the Eritrean border town of Um Hajer in the southwestern tip of the country. They were sent through the most arduous and longest route to Eritrea.

June 20, 1998:
About a 100,000 residents of Asmara gave the first batch of Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin deported from Ethiopia "a thunderous and defiant welcome" as they arrived in Asmara.

June 25, 1998:
The Government of Ethiopia ordered the families of the deported to mortgage their businesses and property and leave the country within one month. By this time the number of deportees was about 1150, most of them were prominent businessmen and professionals.

June 26, 1998
The 11th Session of the National Assembly of Eritrea issued a statement underlining:
A. The root cause of the conflict was the violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty, as well as the naked aggression, perpetrated on Eritrea by the Ethiopian government".
B. The Ethiopian government had issued an official map that incorporates large swathes of Eritrean territory".
C. The Ethiopian government had been systematically employing its army to physically occupy the lands that it had incorporated on its map. It had thus put large areas under its control by destroying Eritrean homes and crops, dislodging the indigenous population and dismantling Eritrean administrations. It had even changed the names of Eritrean villages. The National Assembly also endorsed the Eritrean Government's peace proposal. It also had this to say about Ethiopian citizens in Eritrea:"the Eritrean government has not, and will not, take any hostile action against Ethiopians residing in the country. Their right to live and work in peace is guaranteed. If this right is infringed under any circumstances or by any institution, they have the full rights of redress. This policy that can see a horizon beyond the conflicts of today will not change even if the current crisis deteriorates to any degree."

June 26, 1998
The Security Council unanimously passed a resolution that condemned "the use of force" and demanded "both parties immediately cease hostilities and refrain from further use of force." Calling on Ethiopia and Eritrea to cooperate fully with the OAU and to avoid any steps that would aggravate the situation, it called on both countries to guarantee the rights and safety of each other's nationals. The resolution was submitted by the United States and co-sponsored by Britain, Costa Rica, Japan, Russia and Slovenia.

May 30-31, 1998-US-Rwanda Peace Plan presented to Eritrea and Ethiopia
The Governments of the United States and Rwanda, in an attempt to facilitate a peaceful resolution of the border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia, presented both parties a four-point peace plan.
June 1, 1998- While the US-Rwanda Peace Plan was still on the table, Ethiopia launched an attack on Eritrea
Instead of pursuing peace, Ethiopia opened another battlefront and tried to advance into Eritrea's territory along the Ambesete-Gleba area.
June 3, 1998- The US officially unveiled the 4-point US-Rwanda Peace Plan
The State Department issued the following statement: "the United States and Rwanda regret that these recommendations have not yet been accepted by both sides as the basis for a peaceful resolution of this dispute."
June 4-5, 1998- Ethiopia, while announcing acceptance of the US-Rwanda Peace Plan went ahead and bombed the Eritrean capital, Asmara.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, while announcing his government's "acceptance" of the US-Rwanda plan, ordered his troops to attack Eritrea. On the morning of June 5, 1998, the Eritrean Government issued the following statement: "The four-point recommendations that have evolved in the facilitation process address the paramount issues that the Government of Eritrea has been raising and are, therefore, not controversial at all to the Government of Eritrea. At the same time, the Government of Eritrea believes that the facilitation process has not been consummated and that there are still serious issues of detail and implementation that need to be worked out in the period ahead." Eritrean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, June 5, 1998.
On the same day, June 5, 1998 at 14:00 and 14:30 hours, local time, Ethiopian fighter planes launched an air strike on Asmara. They hit the Asmara International Airport, killing and wounding 30 people, and damaging a Zambian cargo plane that was parked on the runway. About an hour later, an Eritrean plane retaliated by hitting military targets in Makelle, Ethiopia--destroying several Ethiopian fighter-planes. Inadvertently, it also hit an elementary school near the airport killing and wounding 47 people. The Eritrean government officially apologized for this unfortunate incident.
June 10, 1998- OAU calls for a peaceful resolution to the conflict:
The Organization of African Unity (OAU), at its 34th Summit in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, called for a peaceful solution to the Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict.
June 14, 1998- In response to a US Brokered Air-Strike moratorium, Eritrea affirms its commitment to abide by it
The Government of Eritrea accepted an air strike moratorium brokered by President Bill Clinton at which time Ethiopia also announced its commitment to the agreement only to break it on February 6, 1999.

July 1, 1998:
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) Mrs Mary Robinson expressed her serious concern over Ethiopian expulsions of Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin from Ethiopia. The UN High Commissioner wrote " I am deeply concerned by the violation of human rights of Eritrean nationals being expelled from Ethiopia, and particularly by the fact that their passports are being stamped 'expelled, never to return.... These are serious violations of the rights and freedoms set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Ethiopia is party,"

July 1, 1998

Ambassadors from Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Rwanda and Zimbabwe held talks with Eritrean Officials as part of an initiative by the OAU, following the failed US-Rwanda Plan.

July 9, 1998:
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, in an interview with Ethiopian Television and in reaction to Mary Robinson's statement about Ethiopia's human rights violations, boasted that his government "has the unrestricted right to expel any foreigner from the country for any reason whatsoever... Any foreigner, whether Eritrean, Japanese, etc., lives in Ethiopia because of the goodwill of the Ethiopian government. If the Ethiopian government says 'Go, because we don't like the colour of your eyes,' they have to leave."

July 11, 1998:
Following Meles' speech that Ethiopia can deport even for not liking someone's color of eyes, by Ethiopian admission, more than 2400 Eritreans were rounded up, 1000 in Addis Ababa alone. These were deported from Addis Ababa the next day.

July 15-17, 1998:
Eritrean deportees were dumped by the Ethiopian government at the no man's land separating the Eritrean and Ethiopian armies on the Burie Front. The majority of the deportees were women and children, and had to walk four kilometres in a temperature of over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit. One person, an elderly man who was forced to travel during the heat, died of heat exhaustion and was buried in Assab. By this time the number of deportees has topped the 11,000 mark.

July 22, 1998:
Martyn Ngwenya, the UN Designated Official and UN Resident Coordinator, Pamela Delargy, the UNFPA Representative, and other UN officials stationed in Eritrea submmitted a report to Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello, the Under secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs in New York detailing "The deplorable and dehumanizing conditions" of the Eritreans who were deported from Ethiopia.

Aug 1-2, 1998:
The Organisation of African Unity Ministerial Committee met for two days of talks in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Its main aim was to resolve the border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
August 5, 1998: Eritrea said it was satisfied with the result of Aug. 1-2 Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Ministerial Committee meeting that discussed its border conflict with Eritrea. A Foreign Ministry official told Reuters that ``The OAU have reflected all our concerns and objectives,... They have got very good information from embassies, the U.N. and outside missions.''

August 6, 1998:
The US Department of State issued a statement condemning the detention and expulsion of Eritreans from Ethiopia and calling on the Ethiopian government to respect international human rights norms and standards.

August 6-12, 1998:
About three thousand Eritreans expelled from Ethiopia arrived in Eritrea. Some of these came through the border town of Zalambessa. They were forced to walk about 15 km in the middle of the night along a road that was mined with explosives left and right. They arrived in Zalambessa at 3:00 a.m. The number of Eritrean deportees from Ethiopia has reached over 16,000.

August 13, 1998:
Ethiopia gave Eritreans working for international organizations in Addis Ababa one month to leave the country. The Ethiopian government also admitted that it had served notice to some 87 Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean working in embassies, international organizations and non-governmental organizations. It is to be noted that The Organization of African Unity and the UN Economic Commission for Africa are both based in Addis Ababa and scores of NGOs have offices in Addis Ababa.

August 24, 1998:
The Ethiopian government begun dumping Eritreans on the borderlands Ethiopia shares with Kenya and Djibouti. At that time the Ethiopian government dumped 88 Eritreans in an isolated area between the Ethiopian-Kenyan borders. The Ethiopian government also dropped another 32 Eritrean children and women in the hostile Djibouti-Ethiopian borders.

August 28, 1998:
As a measure of goodwill and showing its interest for peace the Government of Eritrea, unilaterally, released 71 Ethiopian soldiers captive in the border conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia. It was later reported one POW who was freed to go, declined the offer and instead chose to stay in Eritrea.
September 8, 1998:
Ethiopian Rental Housing Department announced that houses belonging to deportees fell under the control of the Housing Department. With this announcement the Ethiopian government begun taking over houses occupied by the families of deportees.

September 9, 1998:
An independent report by Natalie Klein: "MASS EXPULSION FROM ETHIOPIA Report on the Deportation of Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean Origin from Ethiopia, June - August 1998" was released. The report detailed the nature of the deportations calling them "a mass violation of human rights".

September 9, 1998:
The Ethiopian government released thirty-one former high-ranking officers of the military regime of Colonel Mengistu. They were imprisoned for crimes they committed during the Communist regime. But news sources mentioned that the release was meant for the officers to help with the training of the armed forces. More than thirty other officers who were reported freed the previous week were already helping the regime in training its army.

September 16, 1998:
The US Government communicated to Eritrea its desire to launch a new initiative. This new initiative was to be led by Mr. Anthony Lake, the former National Security Advisor.

October 6, 1998:
U.S. special envoy Anthony Lake arrived in Eritrea to make a second attempt at finding a peaceful solution to the five-month border conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia. The first attempt was the US-Rwanda plan drafted by Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Susan Rice. It failed June 4, 1998.

October 9, 1998:
The arbitration tribunal set up to arbitrate the dispute between Eritrea and Yemen concerning islands in the Red Sea has announced its decision. The government of Eritrea, immediately announced that it will abide by the decision.

October 13, 1998
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Eritrea, in a statement, pointed out that Ethiopia in its deliberate attempt to confuse had begun circulating yet another map to the diplomatic community in Addis Abeba. This Map didn't match the Tigray Administrative Map that was issued in October 1997 carving out, illegally, large chunks of Eritrean territory. The curious snag in the "latest" map was that Badma village is inexplicably displaced and "located" inside Ethiopia.

October 29, 1998
Ethiopia shelled southwestern Eritrea (Badma area). Several villages were destroyed, more than a hundred crop fields burned, and a farmer and a child instantly killed. On the same day in the Senafe area, barrages of Ethiopian shelling similarly destroyed villages, burned crop fields and killed three peasants.

Nov. 1, 1998:
Following October nine's decision by an international court of arbitration to divide the disputed islands between Eritrea and Yemen, Eritrea officially handed over the Island of Hanish Kebir to Yemen.

Nov.2, 1998:
The United Nations "vigorously" protested Ethiopia's decision to expel some 30 U.N. staffers working for various U.N. agencies around Addis Ababa as "persona non grata".

Nov. 7-8, 1998:
The Ethiopia-Eritrea Peace Summit was held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. At this time the OAU presented a Framework of Agreement that had 11-points. Ethiopia immediately indicated it is satisfied by it, Eritrea said it will study it and will need clarifications. The OAU gave Eritrea until the end of December to respond to its proposals. The OAU document was almost identical to the US-Rwanda plan. Except that the latter had four points instead of eleven.

Nov. 11, 1998

Ethiopia formally announced that it had "accepted" the Organization of African Unity (OAU) proposal.

Nov. 18, 1998
Djibouti severed diplomatic ties with Eritrea. The charge was that Eritrea had asked the OAU to ask Djibouti to withdraw itself from the High Level Delegation that was seeking to mediate the Ethio-Eritrean war. Reason: Djibouti was openly helping Ethiopia in its war against Eritrea. An Eritrean official said "We have material evidence that Djibouti has turned into a conduit for war materials for Ethiopia."

Nov. 19, 1998
The U.N. Security Council in unanimous resolution urged nations to restrict arms sales to African countries embroiled in conflict.

Nov. 26, 1998:
On orders from the President of the Republic of Djibouti, Dr. Tekeste Ghebray, Executive Secretary of IGAD, was refused entry into Djibouti. Dr. Tekeste is an Eritrean citizen and Djibouti is where IGAD headquarters is. A week earlier the Secretary had been denied entry into Ethiopia, an IGAD member nation, that was hosting an IGAD donors meeting. Djibouti, in particular, which hosts the head office for the regional organization, was duty bound to facilitate the work of IGAD.

Dec 6, 1998
U.S. envoy Anthony Lake arrived in Asmara -- his third visit to Eritrea.

Dec.6, 1998
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Djiboutian President Hassan Gouled Aptidon signed a joint defense pact.

Dec. 12, 1998:
Eritrea submitted a list of questions on the OAU's Frame Work for Agreement seeking clarification.

Dec. 17, 1998:
Three people were killed and at least 24 wounded when Ethiopia shelled the Eritrean town of Tsorona.

Dec. 17, 1998
The Organisation of African Unity (OAU)'s Central Organ for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution began its meeting in Ouagadougou. About 20 Heads of State and Government attended the meeting. The meeting endorsed the High Level Delegation's 11-point proposal for solving the Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict.

Dec. 18, 1998:
Ethiopia formally announced that it has accepted the Proposal for a Framework Agreement as endorsed by the Central Organ of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Ouagadougou.

Dec. 21, 1998:
Mr. Haile Woldensae, Minister of Foreign Affairs, addressed the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to Eritrea. In his speech he underlined that "Eritrea subscribes to the three cardinal principles, namely peaceful resolution of disputes, rejection of the use of force and respect for colonial borders." In regard to the last principle, however, he brought to the attention of the diplomats and the OAU High-Level Delegation that "Eritrea requests that this principle be formulated in precise, legal language that does not brook any ambiguity and does not lend itself to differing interpretations, thereby impeding the technical work of demarcation." The Foreign Minister also said that the Sudan and Djibouti were providing military or logistical aid to Ethiopia. Mr. Haile Weldensae told reporters Djibouti was collaborating militarily with Ethiopia and the Sudan was allowing Ethiopia to import arms through Port Sudan.