Home > 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 Addis.

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 5, 1999.

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 were captured.

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 ostrich''.

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 wounded.

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 with Ethiopia.

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 dispute.

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.