What caused the Eritrea-Ethiopian war?

The Eritrean-Ethiopian war took place between May 1998 and June 2000. It was an extremely expensive war, costing the economy of every country to millions of dollars. Like almost every war in history, the reasons for this war are complicated. In this article, we will try to investigate some of them.

War background

Eritrea became part of Ethiopia after the Second World War after Italy’s defeat in both regions. In 1950, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) declared Eritrea to be a federated province of Ethiopia, which led to the outbreak of the Eritrean War of Independence. This war took place before and after the Ethiopian civil war, ie from 1961 to 1991. In 1991, the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) defeated Ethiopian forces in Eritrea and helped the Popular Revolutionary Democratic Front of Ethiopia (EPRDF ) to take control of Ethiopia. The EPRDF, in turn, supported the independence agenda of the

In the 1993 referendum, Eritreans voted in favor of Eritrea’s independence and the following year the international community recognized Eritrea as a country. However, the commission was not successful due to border disputes and the relationship between the two sides started to deteriorate. Even after examining international law and historical maps, the two parties were unable to agree on a precise limit. In 1997, Eritrea planned to annex Badme in the Tigray province. The Tigray, therefore, was the origin of many high-ranking members of the Ethiopian government, including the former prime minister, Meles Zenawi.

The War And Important Battles

Several small armed conflicts in Badme led to the death of several Eritrean officials. In May 6, 1998, Eritrea entered Badme and Ethiopia met them with a prolonged firefight that included local militias. In May 13, Ethiopia declared war and mobilized to fight Eritrea after informing the UN Security Council under Article 51 of the UN Charter. The fighting went at full speed and in a short time Ethiopia bombed an airport in Asmara and Eritrea took its revenge by hitting Mekele airport. Both strikes caused civilian casualties. While the UN, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the United States and Rwanda have advanced peaceful solutions, the

In May 16, Ethiopia attacked Velesa near Asmara, leading to two days of heavy fighting with Ethiopia, which suffered the most casualties. There were small pockets of struggles after this until the following year. On May 12, 2000, Ethiopia broke through the Eritrean lines and crossed the Mareb river, cutting off the main supply route for Eritrea between Barentu and Mendefera. In the following days, there were heavy fighting and air strikes that led to the capture of the city of Das before the UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo in both countries. In May, Eritrea claimed to have withdrawn from some areas in honor of peace talks while Ethiopia occupied the areas, claiming to have conquered them. Propaganda has ruined this war, but reliable sources have indicated Ethiopian victory. On May 25, 2000, Ethiopia declared the end of the war.

Spillover effect

The fighting had a relapse effect in Somalia after Eritrea financed the Ethiopian rebel group, Oromo Liberation Front, which operated from Somalia. Ethiopia has claimed funding from the rebel group opposed to the Somali government and renewed relations with Sudan. Sudan has supported several rebel groups in Eritrea. After the war, Djibouti accused Eritrea of ​​digging trenches in a disputed region that led to an armed conflict in 2008.


More than 19,000 Eritrean troops died and both sides suffered losses of more than 70,000 people. These figures remain disputed on both sides. Ethiopia deported about 77,000 Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin while Eritrea imprisoned 7,500 Ethiopians and deported thousands of people. Since Eritrea and Ethiopia depended on each other for trade, therefore, the war ended the relationship that resulted in a lack of food, unemployment and poverty, among other socio-economic problems on both sides.

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