Chronology of Events > 1999
Jan. 03, 1999: One thousand three hundred sixty seven
(1367) Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin expelled from
various places in Ethiopia arrived in Assab. The deportees included
infants and very elderly Eritreans with health problems. By this
date over 47,000 Eritreans had been deported from Ethiopia.
Jan. 05, 1999: Ethiopian Foreign Minister, Seyoum Mesfin,
told the Diplomatic Community in Ethiopia "Put economic pressure
on Eritrea. They [Eritreans] might listen and they will listen
if there are clear indications that... their pockets would be
affected.... Otherwise, the peace effort can be considered as
good as dead.."
Jan. 09, 1999: One of the main banks in Ethiopia said it
will be auctioning property, vehicles and factories belonging
to two-hundred Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin who
had been expelled from Ethiopia. The bank claimed they had used
the property as collateral for loans.
Jan. 12, 1999: The Eritrean government said it had received
intelligence reports that Ethiopia was planning to launch fresh
attacks between mid-January and mid-February.
Jan. 18, 1999: Anthony Lake, President Bill Clinton's former
national security advisor, once again shuttled between Addis Ababa
and Asmara and held a fourth round of talks with Eritrean officials.
His first round was in October 1998.
Jan. 20, 1999: The US Department of State warned U.S. citizens
against travel to Eritrea. It gave the excuse "given the
continuing tensions, and [the fact that] there is the possibility
of renewed hostilities",
Jan. 26, 1999: The OAU gave a reply to the 29 questions Eritrea
raised on the framework agreement on Dec. 12, 1998. The OAU took
forty five (45) days to reply. According to this clarification
the questions "What is meant by Badme and environs? Which
areas does it include?" were answered as "Environs refer
to the area surrounding Badme Town".
Jan. 27, 1999: Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi called upon
all member states of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to
stand by the side of Ethiopia for the implementation of the OAU
peace plan and to support him when his country attacks Eritrea.
He made this plea in the speech he gave to the OAU diplomats in
Jan. 29, 1999: The UN Security Council voted unanimously
to support efforts made by the Organization of African Unity to
end the border war between Eritrea and Ethiopia. The Security
Council expressed "its strong support for the mediation efforts
of the Organization of African Unity."
Jan. 29, 1999: Amnesty International released an indicting document
on Ethiopia's gross human rights violations of Eritreans and Ethiopians
of Eritrean origin. While exposing Ethiopia's violations this
AI report exonerated Eritrea of virtually all the accusations
that were coming from Ethiopia.
Feb. 02, 1999: Mohammed Sahnoun, UN special envoy, arrived
in Asmara for talks with President Isaias Afewerki.
Feb. 05, 1999: The Ethiopian government alleged Eritrean
fighter planes bombed the northern town of Adigrat. This was proved
to be false by independent reporters, and foreign governments
including recently by Susan Rice. In her May 25, 1999 testimony
to House Africa Subcommittee she said " These initial missions
also resulted in agreement by the two parties to the air strike
moratorium, which remained in effect until February 6, 1999."
February 6, 1999: Ethiopia breaks the US-brokered air moratorium
and bombs Eritrean towns and villages.
Under the pretext of a fictitious Eritrean air strike against
Adi-Grat, Ethiopia launched a massive offensive on the Badme front
on February 6, 1999 and February 8, 1999 on the Tserona front.
AFP and Reuters confirmed the untruthfulness of Ethiopia's allegations
as follows: "The alleged bombing by Eritrean war planes of
Adigrat could not be independently confirmed. Several people staying
in Adigrat, contacted by phone have said they were unaware of
any raid." AFP, Feb 5, 1999 "A hotel guest in the town
[Adi Grat] said he had not heard any sound of explosion. 'there
is peace in Adigrat,' he said by telephone." Reuters February
Feb. 06, 1999: The Ethiopian government launched a large-scale
attack against Eritrea on the Mereb-Setit front. By the end of
the day two Ethiopian brigades were totally routed while another
two brigades had suffered severe casualties. Over 100 soldiers
Feb. 07, 1999: The Ethiopian government shelled the town
of Adi Quala killing eight and wounding 23 civilians.
Feb. 08, 1999: Blaise Compaore, president of Burkina Faso
and OAU chairman for 1998-99, called on Eritrea and Ethiopia to
put an end to their fighting, "immediately and without conditions".
Salim Ahmed Salim, Secretary General of the Organization of African
Unity (OAU), urged "both Eritrea and Ethiopia to immediately
put an end to the current fighting and recommit themselves to
a peaceful solution to the dispute".
Feb. 08, 1999: Ethiopia bombed the Eritrean town of Tsorena
and the Eritrean Village of Lalai Dieda. Five civilians (two women,
two men and an infant; all members of the same family) were killed.
Feb. 09, 1999: President Clinton released a statement saying
"I urge both parties to halt the fighting immediately...
I am particularly alarmed by the recent use of air power, which
escalates the conflict and violates the agreed air strike moratorium.
I urge the Ethiopian government to refrain from further use of
its aircraft as currently employed along the border, and I ask
both sides to renew their commitment to the moratorium. For the
sake of their people, the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea must
immediately halt the fighting and recommit themselves to diplomatic
efforts to secure a peaceful settlement."
Feb. 09, 1999: The Ethiopian government declared Eritrea's
Ambassador to Ethiopia, Ghirma Asmerom, "persona non grata"
and asked him to leave Ethiopia immediately.
Feb. 10, 1999: The UN Security Council passed a US-drafted
resolution that demanded an immediate halt to the fighting and
strongly urged all states to end immediately all sales of arms
and munitions to Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Feb. 11, 1999: Ethiopia shelled Eritrean villages around
Zalambessa killing 12 civilians and destroying 30 homes.
Feb. 12, 1999: Ethiopian authorities ordered troops who
had surrounded the Eritrean ambassador's residence to break into
the residence. These actions violated Article 22 of the Vienna
Convention which guarantees the inviolability and immunity of
premises and property of diplomats and diplomatic missions.
Feb. 14-15, 1999: The Ethiopian regime started an offensive
along the Burie front. The front is at about the 71 km mark on
the road from Assab to Dessie. The attack was accompanied by air
bombardment of the environs of the frontline by Antonov 130 planes.
During this Ethiopian offensive Eritrean defense forces shot down
one MI-24 helicopter gunship. Ethiopian bombers had also attempted
to bomb a water reservoir near Assab but they missed their target.
Feb. 15, 1999: Eritrea filed a claim against Ethiopia in
the International Court of Justice (the World Court), accusing
Ethiopian security forces of taking over the Eritrean embassy
residence in Addis Ababa and detaining Eritrean embassy personnel.
The case cited violations of well-established international legal
rules protecting diplomatic premises and embassy personnel.
Feb. 16, 1999: Three Ethiopian fighter-bombers for the
second time attempted to attack a water reservoir 20 kilometers
(12 miles) from Assab but the three Mig 23 jets missed their targets.
It was at this time that Lieutenant-Colonel Alem Seged told Reuters
"they could not kill anything...except maybe a wandering
Feb. 17, 1999: Ethiopia attempted for the third time to
attack water reservoir that it missed twice. This time its Antonov
planes dropped six bombs in the area of the reservoir. According
to reporters they missed wondering ostriches as well.
Feb. 17, 1999: The Organization of African Unity (OAU)
High-Level Delegation urged both Ethiopia and Eritrea to put an
immediate end to the fighting and to re-commit themselves to a
peaceful resolution of the dispute based on the OAU proposals
for a framework agreement.
Feb. 21, 1999: Ethiopia's antonov bombers targeted the
airstrip in Asab dropping 12 bombs. All of the bombs missed their
target. The nearest bomb however fell about 200 meters from the
runway. On the same day Ethiopian antonovs bombed the village
of Mai Aini near Tsorena. They destroyed homes and property in
the village killing four (4) civilians and leaving several others
Feb. 22, 1999: The U.S. Department of State released a
statement saying: "The United States Government deeply regrets
the use of air power by Ethiopia in the current conflict, in particular
against economic targets and near civilian population centers.
We urge the government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
to resume the moratorium immediately. We also urge the Eritrean
authorities to continue to uphold their commitment to the terms
of the moratorium."
Feb. 23, 1999: Ethiopia launched yet another offensive
on the Mareb-Setit (Badme) front. On this day Eritrea reported
that it destroyed nine tanks and captured two.
Feb. 23, 1999: The Organisation of African Unity (OAU)
had planed to send a high-powered delegation to Eritrea. This
delegation was in place of the committee of ambassadors from Burkina
Faso, Djibouti and Zimbabwe that was originally due in Asmara.
Eritrean refused to allow the committee into Eritrea because of
the presence of Dileita Mohamed Dileita, the Djiboutian ambassador.
It is to be remembered that Djibouti had broken diplomatic ties
with Eritrea in November and had already signed a defense pact
Feb. 24, 1999: Intense fighting continued on the Mereb-Setit
front. Ethiopian forces backed by heavy artillery, mechanized
units and aircraft attempted, for a second day, to dislodge Eritrean
forces from their positions. By the end of the day an MI-24 helicopter
Gunship was shot down, in addition 31 Ethiopian tanks were destroyed;
and three others were captured.
Feb. 26, 1999: Eritrea announced to the world that Ethiopia,
through sheer weight of numbers and repetitive assaults of human
waves, had broken through its defense lines at one point on the
Badma front. Since this made Eritrea's fixed defense lines vulnerable
Eritrean armed forces withdrew and re-established a new frontline.
This time west of "Badme and its environs". This meant
the thorny issue of the OAU proposal., that of withdrawing from
"Badme and its environs" was accomplished. To gain Badme
village, in three days, Ethiopia suffered 9,000 dead, 12,000 wounded
and captured 170 soldiers. At the same time 41 Ethiopian tanks
were destroyed, three captured, and an MI-24 helicopter gunship
was shot down. In what one reporter wrote the Ethiopian gain in
Badme was at a cost of over two people for every meter of distance.
On the other hand Eritrean Defense Ministry announced that Eritrean
human losses were "minimal" and had only left behind
two tanks that were burned and two others which were broken down.
Feb. 27, 1999: Eritrea informed the UN Security Council
that it had accepted the OAU peace plan and was ready to implement
it. The Plan was submitted Nov. 8. The UN Security Council welcomed
Eritrea's decision to accept the Organization of African Unity
(OAU) peace plan previously agreed to by Ethiopia.
Feb. 28, 1999: Ethiopia launched a fresh offensive in the
Badme region. This was on the same day Ethiopia declared "total
victory" and 24 hours after Eritrea accepted the peace plan
drawn up by the Organization of African Unity. In fact Ethiopia
declared that "the chances of an immediate cease-fire in
the border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea were minimal".
July 14, 1999: Eritrea accepted, on the spot, the Modalities
for the Implementation of the OAU Framework Agreement that was
endorsed and tabled by the 35th Regular Session of the OAU Heads
of States and Governments
African leaders meeting in Algiers, Algeria for the 35th OAU Summit
unanimously adopted the seven-point Modalities for the Implementation
of the OAU Framework Agreement. Eritrea announced there and then
that it had accepted the plan. Algeria's President Abdulaziz Bouteflika
assumed the OAU chairmanship and appointed former Prime Minister
Ahmed Ouyahiya as OAU's special envoy to handle the OAU mediation
efforts. Ethiopia on the other hand prevaricated. On July 21,
1999 Ethiopia said it has accepted the OAU Modalities after a
week of prevarication and denying that Eritrea had accepted the
OAU Modalities, Ethiopia announced its acceptance of the OAU's
Modalities for the implementation of the peace plan.
August 5-6, 1999- The OAU presented the Technical Arrangements
for the Implementation of the peace plan to Eritrea and Ethiopia
on August 5 and August 6 respectively.
The document sets out the detailed procedures and time-line for
the implementation of the OAU Framework Agreement. Experts from
the OAU, the UN, the US and Algeria drew up the Technical Arrangements
in consultation with both Ethiopia and Eritrea. At that time,
Ethiopia requested that the Technical Arrangements be non-amendable
and was written accordingly. Both countries were expected to send
formal replies to President Abdulaziz Bouteflika, the OAU Chairman.
August 7, 1999- Eritrea officially accepted the Technical Arrangements
in its entirety, and commits to its full implementation.
Eritrea officially accepted the detailed proposals (Technical
Arrangements) drawn up by the Organization of African Unity (OAU)
to end the war with Ethiopia. Eritrea also pledged its full co-operation
with the OAU and the United Nations in implementing the three
agreements -- the framework agreement, the modalities, and the
technical arrangements -- as the sole basis for resolving the
August 11, 1999- Ethiopia seeks clarification on the OAU's
"unamendable" Technical Arrangements
Ethiopia said it had requested clarification from the Organization
of African Unity on the Technical Arrangements. Eritrea had accepted
the OAU's detailed peace plan on August 7. The document calls
for a cease-fire, a withdrawal of troops to positions held prior
to May 6, 1998, and then demarcation of the border.
August 23, 1999- OAU gives clarifications to Ethiopia
Ahmed Ouyahiya OAU's special envoy delivered the OAU's clarification
on the Technical Arrangements to Ethiopia. The OAU gave a 13-page
clarification to Ethiopia's more than 40 questions. The OAU clarification,
stressing an earlier understanding between the OAU special envoy
and both Ethiopia and Eritrea, affirmed that "the document
containing the Technical Arrangements is not open to amendment."
December 6, 1999--Prime Minister Meles Zenawi officially
rejected the Technical Arrangements stating, on national TV, "Ethiopia
will not kneel down to any pressure imposed on the country to
accept the technical arrangements, unless the document is prepared
to guarantee its sovereignty" over the entire disputed territories,
prior to demarcation.