Facts in the Face of Fiction: No. 1
On Historical Account and Source of the Conflict
FICTION:"The areas [Badme and surrounding] had never been part of the territory under an Eritrean Jurisdiction during the Italian colonial period, during the British administration or during the time of the armed struggle, not even for an hour." Ethiopian Foreign Ministry Statement, August 12, 1998.
FACT:"First, to this day Ethiopians have not officially produced any map. In order to find a solution to the problem the cause to the dispute should be made clear. The government of Eritrea is talking about treaties and colonial boundariesI This has not been made possible because Ethiopia has not to-date come up with the definition of borders. Secondly, there has been talks about Badme. This place has to be put on the map and we have to find out where this place lies exactly. Is it on the Eritrean or on the Ethiopian border? IAccording to measurements conducted lately, it is clear that Badme is inside Eritrea and Shiraro inside Ethiopia. Hence, if we have crossed border, as is claimed, where along the demarcation did we cross inside Ethiopian territory? This is a question that we would like to put." President Isaias - Eritrean Profile, May 1998.
FICTION:"First of all, it is a fact that the borders between Ethiopia and Eritrea are not fully delimited and demarcated, this despite a series of Agreements between Ethiopia and Italy, the then colonial power in Eritrea." Seyoum Mesfin, Statement To The Diplomatic Community In Addis Ababa.
FACT 1:Eritrea's international boundary along the Ethiopian border July 10, 1900. The area from the confluence of the Mereb river with Mai Ambessa (on the west) to Mai Muna (around Altiena) in the east. Annex from May 15, 1902. This is the treaty that sets the border around Badme. Starting from the Ethio-Eritreo-Sudanes border (near Om Hajer, or the confluence of the Khor Om Hajer with the Setit River)heading eastward along the Setit River and then from the junction of Setit with Maiteb (on the south) on a straight line to the junction of Mereb with Mai Ambessa (on the north). May 16, 1908. This sets the boundary from where the July 10, 1900 treaty left all the way to the border of Djibouti. Map of Africa by Treaty, 1909.
FACT 2:"On paper, the Eritreans have a better case. In the declarations of 14 and 20 May 1998 they are only claiming the colonial border, in other words the line drawn at the beginning of this century between the kingdom of Italy and the Ethiopian empire. There is no indication that the Ethiopian government is disputing this line, which has remained unchanged since 1902. The Eritreans, however, are accusing the Tigrean local authorities of using another map published in the Tigrean capital, Mekele, in 1997. In this map, small enclaves to the north of the Belessa-Muna line (Tserona, Belissa, Alitenia) and a larger enclave to the west of the straight line between Tekezze and Mareb, in Badme, are shown as part of Ethiopia. It was here that the trouble flared early in May. When the United Nations federated Eritrea with Ethiopia in 1952, the 1902 line became irrelevant. Ras Mengesha, the Tigrean ruler, paid very little attention to it, developing agricultural settlements administered by the Tigrean district of Shire on both sides of the border. Since then, the area has been periodically disputed. In 1976 and 1981, for example, it was the scene of clashes between the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) and the Tigrean People's Liberation Front (TPLF). In the central border region, the small enclaves already claimed by the TPLF programme in the 1970s had been in the same ambiguous position since 1991. But at least this western and central part of the Eritrean-Ethiopian border is clearly defined on paper." Le Monde diplomatique, July 13, 1998.
FACT 3:"The current conflict is nothing but a direct function of an attempt of implementing the February 1976 TPLF manifesto "Republic of Greater TigraiIThe geographic boundaries of "Republic of Greater Tigrai" extend to the borders of the Sudan including the lands of Humera and Welkait from the region of Begemidir in Ethiopia, the land defined by Alewuha which extends down to the regions of Wollo and including Alamata, Ashengie, and Kobo, and finally the lands of Eritrean Kunama which includes Badme, the Saho (close to the conflicting area of Zala Anbessa), and Afar lands including Assab." On the TPLF Manifesto of 1976 and the "Republic of Tigrai, July, 1998; "Yeweyaniew talaq siera", 1990.
FICTION:"Eritrea invaded Ethiopia." Ethiopian Council of Ministers, May 13, 1998.
FACT 1:Eritrea hasn't taken even an inch of Ethiopian territory. The fact is that Ethiopia is still occupying some parts of Eritrea in south west Eritrea. Meles Zenawi in a hand-written letter to Isaias Afeworki admitted that Ethiopian forces had forcibly entered Eritrean territory July of 1997. Hewyet Vol. 14, 1998.
FACT 2:"We have not occupied any part of Ethiopian territory and we are not prepared to withdraw from our own territory,'' Haile Woldetensae Eritrea's Foreign minister. "No Progress in OAU Talks on Ethiopia-Eritrea Clash." Reuters 02-AUG-98.
FICTION:"Ethiopia did not respond immediately to this aggression which was launched against its territory as it could have done, preferring instead to exercise patience with the hope that reason would prevail in Asmara and that they would withdraw from Ethiopian territory peacefully, following which the dispute could be settled in a civilized manner, either through bilateral negotiation or through the involvement of a third party." Seyoum Mesfin, 68th Ordinary Session of the Council of Ministers of the OAU.
FACT 1:"I therefore call upon all the peoples of Ethiopia to take all the actions necessary for the safeguarding of our country according to directives to be issues by organs of the Government and the Defense Forces of Ethiopia." Meles Zenawi, Addressing the People of Ethiopia on June 4, 1998.
FACT 2:No Eritrean had ever accepted Badme or surrounding to be Ethiopian. "Conflicting territorial claims between Ethiopia and Eritrea have been long standing dating back to the times of the armed struggle. The question of territorial claims was raised simultaneously by various Eritrean political organizations on the one hand and the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) on the other." Ethiopian Foreign Ministry Statement, August 12, 1998.
FACT 3:"In July 1997 Ethiopian troops occupied the Adi Murug area of Bada, in eastern Eritrea, dismantled the Eritrean administration there and installed a new Ethiopian administration. A few days later, Ethiopian authorities forcibly evicted Eritrean farmers from villages in the vicinity of Badme in southwestern Eritrea, saying that they had demarcated the area as Ethiopian territory." Eritrean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Asmara, May 23, 1998.
FICTION:"Ethiopia bombed Asmara in retaliation to Eritrea's bombing of Makalle."
FACT 1:Diplomats and journalists verified that Ethiopia attacked Asmara at 2:10 p.m. Eritrea then act in self-defense against military targets in Makalle. This occurred around 3:00 p.m. In fact Ethiopia had notified the Americans, the British and other western diplomats in Asmara of its intention to bomb Asmara 48 hrs (on Wednesday) before its Friday 2:10 p.m. bombing of Asmara. Setit (newspaper) interview with America's Charge d'Affairs in Asmara.
FACT 2:"Eritrean Air Force Comdr. Habtezion Hadgu insisted Ethiopia bombed Asmara airport first. Asmara-based diplomats confirmed the commander's version, saying the airport attack occurred shortly after 2 PM, Friday, and 50 minutes later two Eritrean warplanes took off and headed south." - Associated Press, June 9, 1998.