Chronology of Events > 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
May 30-31, 1998-US-Rwanda Peace Plan presented to Eritrea
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
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
June 3, 1998- The US officially unveiled the 4-point US-Rwanda
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,
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
The Organization of African Unity (OAU), at its 34th Summit in
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, called for a peaceful solution to the
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,
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
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"
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
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
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