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Ethiopia - Eritrea: The cause of and preparation for the war



  12:23:19 am, by admin   , 1462 words  
Categories: Ethiopia, Wondemhunegn Ezezew

Ethiopia - Eritrea: The cause of and preparation for the war

“…the Eritrean people do not have a question on Badme.” (Tewolde G/Tensay)

In February 2008 I had presented 10 questions to Colonel Tewolde, the author of the book: “The Beginning of the End, Badme for a Motive” in my article entitled: “We need Badme, not a book on how we lost it.” Today I would rather raise few points worth considering.

The cause of and preparation for the war

According to the writer, the major force that goaded the Eritrean Government to invade and occupy territories that had been under Ethiopian administration until May 1998 was certainly economic, financial and commercial. Tewolde enumerates a series of economic motives that led Shabia to overrun Badme and other rural towns and villages in Tigray: 1) the refusal of the Ethiopian Government to allow a one-to-one exchange rate mechanism[parity] between Nakfa and Birr 2) Ethiopia’s rejection of Shabia’s irrational demands for free and equal circulation of these two currencies in both countries 3) the regulations put in place to treat “Eritrea as an independent country” and to impose tariffs on goods imported from Eritrea and sold in Ethiopia 4) Shabia’s attitude of “Eritrea private , Ethiopia common” and its attempts to violate international trade laws that govern world trade seeking a double standard in trade relations between two sovereign states 5)actions taken by the Ethiopian government to combat unlawful contraband activities of Shabia traders across and into Ethiopia’s boarders. On pages 34, he argues that “Even though the Eritrean Government used territorial claims as a pretext, the main purpose of the invasion was clearly a response to the measures and directives taken by the Ethiopian Government to stop the illegal practice of Shabia’s contraband trade and other planned robberies.” This point is given due emphasis on pages 40 and 64 too. On page 39 he sounds a bit strange: “…the Eritrean people do not have a question on Badme.They will not have any in the future.” This way he defends that the question of Badme was only a red herring for retaliation against Ethiopia following the imposition of these stringent monetary and trade regulations.

Colonel Tewolde mentioned the following factors and experiences that emboldened Shabia to embark on military adventures with Ethiopia.1) Shabia’s belief that it had “defeated Ethiopia” and smashed its national defense force during the thirty-year-war of independence. 2) its gullible calculation that Eritrea had military superiority (nearly 232,908 troops out of which over 117,908 were trained in seven successive rounds for national military service) over Ethiopia (only 30,000 not well organized soldiers(until May 1998)). 3) receiving ‘Ranger Course’ from America as part of anti-terror alliance in the Middle East which made Shabia soldiers regard themselves as special commandos 4) Shabia’s inherent belief in guerrilla and hawkish approaches and its “invade and negotiate” principle 5) failure of Shabia to behave as a government and its predilection for liberation and irredentist movements than building its battered economy. 6) On pages 76 and 115 the writer attributes a considerable weight to President Afeworki’s personality as having “superiority complex” and being excessively dictatorial, aggressive, hawkish, arrogant, hostile, and politically soi-disant….

Q1. If the dispute was of trade origins, then the international body that has the relevant jurisdiction to settle such disputes is none other than the World Trade Organization (WTO).But after invading Ethiopia and occupying its territories, the Eritrean President took the issue to the Security Council and the case was brought before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) rather than before the WTO.The Court ruling awarded Badme to Eritrea and imposed millions of dollars in penalty against Asmara for choosing military solution in realizing its demands. Colonel, if the root of the problem was economic/trade disagreements, how do you explain the ICJ’s ruling on Badme? Shabia’s conflict with Ethiopia is not the only one since 1991.There was similar dispute with Yemen over the islands of Hanish al Kabir.When in 1996 the international arbitration panel awarded the islands to Yemen, Eritrea withdrew its forces—it accepted the ruling! Now Meless’ acceptance “in principle” but his circumlocutory intransigence has been the main obstacle to the implementation of the Court’s decision.Tewolde, in what way do you reconcile your assertions with the reluctant acceptance of the PM?

Wounds and deaths

At various points the book narrates the upper hand performance of the Ethiopian Army—with comparatively less sacrifices both in terms of “human capital” and arsenals.

1) During the exceptionally hair-raising battle of June 1999(Shabia’s counter offensive after Operation Sunset and the liberation of Badme in February 1999), the number of young Eritreans that were chopped down in all of the Army Divisions (AD) in each front was very shocking. Especially in the war zone where Ethiopia’s 31st AD was operating, the minimum number of enemy soldiers that a single Ethiopian patriot killed was 16 while the maximum was 36.Though this was similar in all Army Divisions, the number mentioned in relation to the casualties inflicted by 31st AD was correct as a deliberate counting was carried out at the end of the fighting. (Page 142)

2)In the same battle mentioned above(June 1999), the seven Army Divisions of Eritrea each had from 6,500 to 7,000 soldiers when they entered the fighting and at the end of the fighting each AD had only from 1,000 to 1,500 personnel. Only in this ten-day-long battle, over 12,000 Eritrean troops lost their lives and over 28,000 became wounded.Shabias dub this battle time as “catastrophe worse than the battle time of Tsorena.” (Page 148)

3) Even though Shabia-to conceal the human casualties inflicted during the war—disclosed that there were only 19,000 deaths, ‘the fact’ in contrast shows that over 42,280 Eritrean youngsters lost their lives in the war. (Page 355).

Q2. It saddens me to argue over the accuracy of deaths and wounds during the war of 1998-2000. But, no matter how high the figure is, I feel that we should put the “exact” number so that we and the generations beyond shall be able to draw lessons and condemn further aggressions based on present and past experiences. Concealing or underestimating figures is by itself a treacherous move that denies recognition for the priceless sacrifices of patriotic citizens regardless of the madness of both leaders that ignited the war. My second question to the Colonel is “why did you avoid to give similar precise data on Operation Sunset (February 1999) and on the Final Offensive in the East Front (Thorena and Zalambesa May 2000) where, in both cases, Ethiopians had to fight against fortified Shabia troops shielded with bunkers and strongholds????Can we conclude that Ethiopians killed thousands of Eritrean troops during the counter attack of June 1999(data 1 and 2 above) because of the fortress that was captured from Shabia? Independent sources estimate the deaths on both sided to be around 100,000; you put Eritrean loss at 42,280.Taking the difference, can one say that 57,720 is the number of our brothers killed in this senseless war????

Some arresting points about the book

1) From the beginning of the book to the end Amharic Proverbs are used consciously and profusely. I found the book a Devoted Amharic Proverb Promoter (DAPP). I liked it any way.
2) Out of the reportedly brave “44” Generals, Major Generals, and Colonels listed in the book, more than “45” come from the same ethnic group!!!!!

Should I say that Kibur Tewolde is the only member of TPLF who tells some truth? Because, consciously or unconsciously, he verified for us that this government has hijacked the country by controlling almost all key military positions. What other reliable source can we have other than a book written by a TPLF insider!?

If truth be told, this is more than shameful! We all know that the real price of the war was paid in terms of the lives of tens of thousands of poor Ethiopians from all nations and nationalities in the country. But it is confusing why the high ranking army officers are of the same species. Where are the likes of Colonel Abdissa Ga? Balcha Aba Nefso? Fitawrari Gebeyehu? Ras Abebe Aregay…? We are really under a minority military rule!

3) The “usual” alliance between TPLF and instinctive donkeys is clearly presented. On page 309 Tewolde starts by writing a title: “photographs that show the participation of the Tigray people in the war” (there are photographs for each region) and on the bottom of the next page follows the photograph of a “donkey that paid sacrifice for his/her country!”

Tewolde, what is the secret of this “fervent intimacy” between TPLF and an ass? This is no surprising especially when practiced by a bunch of usurpers that treat citizens like animals and attribute human qualities to donkeys. Ethiopians sacrificed, a donkey sacrificed…!

4) The expression “Shabia’s dreams to subjugate the Ethiopian Government and to tear Ethiopia into pieces” has been used virtually everywhere in the book!

Honorable Colonel, who started tearing our country?

Wondemhunegn Ezezew


Comment from: Etsefars [Visitor]

This is a jocke, First of all the Colonel siad “the Eritrean people do not have a question on Badme” He is right on this one, The Eritrean people do not have a question on Badme being Eritrean village… The matter is closed, There is no way out of it… After that its probably that the Colonel is suffering from the after shock of the war …in wich he lost his leg…

04/01/08 @ 09:52
Comment from: Common Sense [Visitor]
Common Sense

Typical ethiopian nonsense that doesn’t contain one bit of objective rational facts.

Fact number one is if Eritrea’s reason for going to war was because Ethiopia refused Eritrea’s “predatory economic demands"…the why is it that ethiopia day in and day out continues to demand that both countries adress these issue and “normalize relations".

Surely commons sense would dictate that if eritrea was trying to take advantage of you then, then there would be no rational or logical reason for you to want to re-establish any form of ties that take you back to that relationship would you??

Makes no sense!


It is ethipoia, not Eritrea that has gone to great lengths to hide it’s casualties. To date it has refused to say how much, which any rational person would think is because the figures were ridiculously high!

Every country releases those figures once the war has ended…Eritrea did so one year after the end of the war…Ethiopia, 8 years later still hasn’t.

As well, even the Eritrean “opposition’ website posted “leaked documents” which gave out precise details of Eritrea casualties which actually showed the numbers to be slightly less then the one the Eritrean government gave. I hardly think if the real number was 42,000 as this bonehead claims without giving any actually proof, that a anti-shaebia website would be in effect supporting the Eritrean government’s claims.

Not one single Eritrea official who has defected or even the so called opposition has said the GOE is lying.

Bottomline, is the author is dreaming.

Ethiopia has yet to say how many ethiopians died because they would like it to be kept secret forever because it is very very high.

Conversely Shaebia has come out and publicly announced it’s casualties when it didn’t need to. It could have kept silent onn the matter. Furthermore, the Eritrean “opposition groups” and websites have ineffect endorsed shaebia’s claims, and most importantly considering, that every Eritrean knows several people in the army, you can’t hide the real figures like you can in ethiopia’s case.

Use some common sense people!!!

04/01/08 @ 10:23
Comment from: Florad [Visitor]

Dear Wondemhunegn Ezezew,

Thank you for the book review. I wouldn’t have got the chance to read its summary if it were not for you.

However, I think you unfairly used the book to project your political motives. While the briefing is nice, I found most of your questions not very impressive.

The first question, for example, asks why the WTO didn’t not resolve the dispute if it were actually caused over economic interests. First, both countries are not members of WTO and the organization doesn’t not have any power of resolving commercial conflicts unless they are filed according to its rules by member states. Second, if and when there is an inter-nation war, the UN Security Council is the first international organization responsible to address the problem for whatsoever reason it might have started. It is only through the SC that such things are settled.

The second question also doesn’t make much sense. It is true that most troops of the country belonged to Tigrayans in the first few years after the fall of the dergue for understandable reasons. It is not surprising if the more experienced and high-level officials of the Ethiopian army also turn to be predominantly Tigres.

What would be a more appropriate question, however, is why the government decided to put many army veterans on higher civil positions which need academic and other qualifications just to pay back for the services they rendered.

I wouldn’t consider the third and fourth ‘questions’ as real questions. They don’t have much substance or argument in them.

04/01/08 @ 10:31
Comment from: samson [Visitor]

the book and TPLF propaganda is completely false… I really hope Ethiopians don’t take these accounts seriously…if so, ethiopia is doomed.

04/01/08 @ 22:03
Comment from: Genuine_Eritrean [Visitor]  

This is the reason Eritrea went to Badme.. BADME IS IN ERITREA.. thats it. Thank you.

How can one country invade itself? Badme is not THE OGADEN. Ethiopia & Eritrea (According to the Algiers Agreement), along with THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY AGREE THAT BADME IS ERITREAN.

So whatever is said or written to be the reason(s) that Eritrea “invaded” *ERITREA* is flat out FALSE if it does not point to the fact that BADME IS IN ERITREA.




04/02/08 @ 15:59



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