The UN has with good reasonfocused on the Ethiopia-Eritrea border. It's
a "frozen war" that could reignite. But Eritrea's recent squabble with Djibouti
is another reminder that border disputes plague the Horn of Africa and, for
that matter, most of sub-Saharan Africa.
Yemen and Eritrea both claim the Hanish Islands in the Red Sea. The Hanish Islands sit in the middle of a
major sea lane. Various rebel groups and Somali clans believe the entire Ogaden
region should be part of Somalia and Eritrea in order to undermine
Ethiopiasupports many of these groups.
2008: Eritrea said that the UN's contention that a complete removal of
peacekeeping and observation teams from the Ethiopia-Eritrea border is
"scaremongering." Eritrea believes the UN favors Ethiopia in its border
2008: Eritrea denied that it has any border disagreements with Djibouti, after
Djibouti claimed that Eritrea was massing troops along the Djibouti-Eritrea
border, near the village of Doumeira. Attacking Djibouti would be a big mistake
for Eritrea. Both the US and France have military bases in Djibouti. While the
garrisons are small, they can be quickly reinforced. A fast, flawless Eritrean
attack could conceivably take control of the US and French installations, but
executing such an operation is a huge challenge for the best militaries.
Eritrea is not in that league, particularly when Djibouti's forces are already
on alert. US and French special operations troops in Djibouti, the French
Foreign Legion, US Marines, and US-French airpower compound the problems an
Eritrean offensive would face. And this is an intentional understatement.
2008: And Ethiopia returns the favor. Eritrea has become a haven for guerrilla
and resistance groups in Africa, particularly anti-Ethiopian groups. Now
Ethiopia is promoting a "united front" of Eritrean "resistance groups." Thirteen
Eritrean opposition groups have formed the Eritrean Democratic Alliance (EDA).
The EDA' s stated goal is a "popular uprising" in Eritrea.
2008: Djibouti said that Eritrea soldiers entered Djibouti in late April and
dug trenches. Djibouti accused Eritrea of border violations and positioning
troops near the village of Doumeira.
2008: The Ethiopian rebel Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) is
predominantly an ethnic Somali and Sunni Muslim organization. The ONLF portrays
Ethiopia's federal government as ethnic Tigrayans and Amharans who are
predominantly Abyssinian Christians. This is true, to an extent. However, the
ONLF's claim to represent the goals of all Ogadenis doesn't hold up. Like their
fellow ethnic Somalis in Somalia, clan identity often (usually) trumps politics
and religion. Many Ogaden locals also support the federal government. For
example, the Wayteen and Balaad clans
are "anti-ONLF." The Jedwaq tribe has also fought with ONLF rebels.