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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

East Africa: Ethiopia/Eritrea

East Africa: Ethiopia/Eritrea
Date distributed: 990201
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: East Africa
Issue Areas: +security/peace+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains several recent documents concerning the border conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea: a statement from Amnesty International on expulsion of Eritreans from Ethiopia; the Security Council resolution calling on Eritrea to accept the OAU framework agreement on the conflict; and recent statements from Ethiopian and Eritrean representatives. For additional news see the Africa News web site (

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Amnesty International - International Secretariat
1 Easton Street, London WC1X 8DJ, UK

Press Release
29 January 1999
AI Index: AFR 25/02/99

Ethiopia/Eritrea: Amnesty International witnesses cruelty of mass deportations

"I was picked up at night, thrown into prison, not allowed time to pack. I asked what my crime was. 'You're an Eritrean,' they said."

Amnesty International representatives returning from investigations in Ethiopia and Eritrea warned today that forced mass deportation now threatens everyone of Eritrean origin in Ethiopia, causing untold suffering to thousands of families every week.

Last week in Eritrea, Amnesty International's representatives witnessed the arrival of some 1,280 women, men and children of Eritrean origin who had been rounded up and deported by the Ethiopian authorities. Most of those Amnesty International spoke to either had Ethiopian passports, or had been born or spent their entire working lives there, and considered themselves Ethiopians.

Ethiopia's policy of deporting people of Eritrean origin after war between the two countries broke out in May 1998 has now developed into a systematic, country-wide operation to arrest and deport anyone of full or part Eritrean descent. Fifty-two thousand Eritreans have been arbitrarily deported from Ethiopia over the last seven months, 6,300 so far in January 1999.

"Women, some of them pregnant, children, the elderly -- even hospital patients -- are now being arrested and detained in the middle of the night," Amnesty International's representatives said.

"People of all ages, from babies to pensioners, are imprisoned in harsh conditions for several days before being forced to board buses under armed guard with only one piece of luggage each -- if that -- and being dumped at the border. They arrive hungry and exhausted, and often ill, after the three-day journey."

Families have been split up, the male head usually deported first, and his wife, parents and children weeks or months later. The many Ethiopians married to Eritreans are forbidden to leave and forced to watch helplessly while their spouse and children are deported.

Deportees have had to abandon their homes, possessions, businesses and other property with no guarantee of ever recovering them. Individuals who have protested have been threatened or beaten. The deportees were arbitrarily stripped of their Ethiopian citizenship without any warning, legal process or right of appeal.

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has said that the deportees posed a threat to national security and that they had forfeited their Ethiopian citizenship by voting in Eritrea's independence referendum in 1993.

Amnesty International representatives visited Ethiopia in October 1998 and Eritrea in January 1999 to examine allegations from both sides of human rights abuses arising from the May 1998 conflict. They met government officials and interviewed returnees from both countries.

At least 22,000 Ethiopians have returned to Ethiopia from Eritrea since May, most after losing their jobs and being rendered destitute as a result of the hostilities, and some in fear of reprisals. No evidence was found to support Ethiopia's allegations that 40,000 of its citizens have been seriously ill-treated and forcibly deported from Eritrea since May 1998.

Enquiries were also made into the Eritrean bombing of a school in Mekelle, northern Ethiopia, in June 1998. The Eritrean government admitted the resulting deaths of 48 civilians, including women and children, were a "mistake," but has established no independent investigation into the bombings. An Ethiopian plane bombed and killed one person at the airport in Asmara, the Eritrean capital, the same day.

Amnesty International is reiterating its appeal to the Ethiopian government to put an immediate stop to the deportations and ill-treatment of deportees, and arbitrary detentions of thousands of other Eritreans, including 38 students in Blattein military camp. They contravene Ethiopia's laws and Constitution, as well as the international human rights treaties Ethiopia has ratified.

In the event of further fighting, the human rights organization urges both sides to respect the Geneva Conventions, which Eritrea should immediately ratify. They should also ensure that civilians do not become targets or victims of the fighting, and that no Eritreans in Ethiopia, or Ethiopians in Eritrea, should suffer reprisal because of their national origin.

"The international community -- particularly government representatives stationed in Ethiopia -- must break their silence and make a joint stand against the deportations and other human rights violations," Amnesty International said.


The deportations of Eritreans from Ethiopia began on 12 June, one month after war broke out in May 1998 between the former close allies who fought together as guerrilla movements to overthrow the Dergue government in Ethiopia in 1991, when Eritrea became a separate independent state. What began as a border conflict led to some ground fighting, then air attacks by both sides, and occasional artillery firing along the border.

Mediation by the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the United Nations, the United States and other governments is continuing to avert a near-imminent all-out war which would be devastating for both sides. Each side has re-armed and has mobilized massive forces along the border, and the fighting has already displaced up to a quarter-million people.

Ethiopia is state party to International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Geneva conventions.


For further information, contact Amnesty International, 1 Easton Street, London WC1X 8DJ, +44-71-413-5500, +44-71-956-1157. Email: Web: You may repost this message onto other sources provided the main text is not altered in any way and both the header crediting Amnesty International and this footer remain intact.

United Nations

29 January 1999
Press Release SC/6636


Resolution 1226 (1999) Adopted Unanimously

Expressing grave concern about the risk of armed conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea over their border dispute, the Security Council this afternoon strongly urged Eritrea to accept an Organization of African Unity (OAU) Framework Agreement for its settlement.

Unanimously adopting resolution 1226 (1999), the Council expressed its strong support for the OAU's mediation efforts and for the Framework Agreement, affirming that the Agreement, already accepted by Ethiopia, provided the best hope for peace between the parties. The Council stressed that it was of primary importance that the Agreement be accepted and fully implemented without delay.

The Council strongly urged Ethiopia and Eritrea to maintain their commitment to a peaceful resolution of the border dispute, and, in the strongest terms, called upon them to exercise maximum restraint and to refrain from taking any military action.

They were also urged to work for a reduction in tensions by adopting policies leading to the restoration of confidence between their Governments and peoples, including urgent measures to improve the humanitarian situation and respect for human rights.

The Council welcomed the Secretary-General's continued engagement in support of the OAU peace process and endorsed his decision to send his Special Envoy for Africa, Mohamed Sahnoun, to the region in support of the OAU efforts.

The meeting, which began at 1:20 p.m., was adjourned at 1:25 p.m.


The full text of resolution 1226 (1999) is as follows:

"The Security Council,

"Reaffirming its resolution 1177 (1998) of 26 June 1998,

"Expressing grave concern over the risk of armed conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea and the escalating arms build-up along the common border between the two countries,

"Noting that armed conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea would have a devastating effect on the peoples of the two countries and the region as a whole,

"Recognizing that the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts of both the Ethiopian and Eritrean Governments during the last eight years have given hope to the rest of the continent, all of which would be put at risk by armed conflict,

"Commending the efforts of concerned countries and regional bodies aimed at facilitating a peaceful solution to the border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea,

"1. Expresses its strong support for the mediation efforts of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and for the Framework Agreement as approved by the Central Organ Summit of the OAU Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, and Resolution on 17 December 1998 (S/1998/1223, annex), and affirms that the OAU Framework Agreement provides the best hope for peace between the two parties;

"2. Endorses the decision by the Secretary-General to send his Special Envoy for Africa to the region in support of OAU efforts;

"3. Stresses that it is of primary importance that the OAU Framework Agreement be accepted, and calls for cooperation with the OAU and full implementation of the Framework Agreement without delay;

"4. Welcomes the acceptance by Ethiopia of the OAU Framework Agreement;

"5. Welcomes Eritrea's engagement with the new OAU process, notes the fact that the OAU has responded to Eritrea's request for clarifications of the Framework Agreement and, in this regard, strongly urges Eritrea to accept the Framework Agreement as the basis for a peaceful resolution of the border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea without delay;

"6. Calls on both parties to work for a reduction in tensions by adopting policies leading to the restoration of confidence between the Governments and peoples of Ethiopia and Eritrea, including urgent measures to improve the humanitarian situation and respect for human rights;

"7. Strongly urges Ethiopia and Eritrea to maintain their commitment to a peaceful resolution of the border dispute and calls upon them in the strongest terms to exercise maximum restraint and to refrain from taking any military action;

"8. Welcomes the Secretary-General continued engagement in support of the OAU peace process;"

"9. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter."

Embassy of Ethiopia

New Statements by UN, EU, Support OAU Resolution Efforts

January 25, 1999

Washington, DC - The following document was released by the Embassy of Ethiopia:

In response to the ongoing crisis between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the European Union, the United Nations Security Council, and the governments of Italy, Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States have issued new statements over the past few days in support of the OAU Peace Proposal Framework Agreement and in recognition of Ethiopia's acceptance of the Framework Agreement.

The government of Ethiopia is encouraged by the support and acknowledgement of the OAU proposals by these countries and organizations, which is an important first step in demonstrating the solidarity of the international community against aggression and the continued occupation of Ethiopian territory by Eritrean military forces. However, it is hoped that concerted pressure will be brought to bear on Eritrea to accept the OAU peace proposals and return to the status quo ante so that peaceful negotiations may begin.

Over the past eight months, Eritrea has continued to reject the OAU peace efforts and the resulting proposals for a peaceful resolution. Recent attempts by the Eritrean government to stall acceptance have only resulted in prolonging the suffering of the more than 300,000 Ethiopian civilians displaced by the conflict.

It is in the interests of these people, and in the interest of peace in the region, that the Ethiopian government strongly urges the international community to apply effective and meaningful pressure on Eritrea to accept the OAU peace proposals.

Contact: Press Office; 202-234-2281;; Embassy of Ethiopia, 2134 Kalorama Road, NW, Washington, DC 20008, 202/234-2281

Eritrean UN Mission
Letter to the UN Security Council

On 29 January, 1999, the head of Eritrea's Mission to the United Nations, H.E. Mr. Haile Menkerios, sent the following letter to the President of the UN Security Council.

29 January 1999

H.E. Mr. Celso I. N. Amorim
President of the Security Council
United Nations


My government wishes to state the following points in reference to Resolution 1226 (1999) on agenda item "The situation between Eritrea and Ethiopia" which was adopted by the Security Council today, 29 January 1999:

  • Eritrea recognizes the concern of the Security Council on the border conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia.
  • Eritrea earnestly hopes that the Security Council regards the OAU Framework as a framework for a peaceful process.
  • Eritrea is fully engaged in the peace process because it understands and realizes full well that the framework is not a "take it or leave it" offer.
  • Eritrea has been expressing its reservations and protests on the continued interference of the US Government in the matter. We continue to follow with dismay the pressures that the US is bringing to bear to curtail the peace process underway.
  • The Ethiopian government has not only declared war but continues to operate through a policy of incessant threats of launching the war and through diplomatic intimidation. That the Ethiopian government is ready to unleash war (according to its own pronouncements) is also a fact well-known to all and which we are following with utmost patience. Eritrea further knows that the Ethiopian government is engaged in a concerted campaign to solicit international blessing for the war that it intends to unleash.
  • Eritrea does not believe in the logic of force. We do not believe in the diplomacy of intimidation. Eritrea has been calling incessantly for the cessation of hostilities so as to pave the way for the path of peace. Eritrea renews this call on this occasion. We reject categorically all pretexts that lead to and justify war. Eritrea wishes to underline that its legitimate right of self-defense remains unquestionable.
  • Eritrea is dismayed by the silence, indeed utter disregard, by the Council of the continuing horrendous crimes of mass deportation, incarceration and expropriation of Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin (more than 52,000 to-date) by the Ethiopian government. Eritrea has strictly upheld its pledge and duty to respect the rights of Ethiopians in Eritrea. These facts have been widely corroborated by independent witnesses latest of which is Amnesty International which disclosed its findings just yesterday.
  • Eritrea will remain engaged in the OAU and other peace endeavours so long as these lead to peace.

I should be grateful if you would kindly circulate the test of the present letter as a document of the Security Council.

Haile Menkerios
Permanent Representative
Eritrean Mission to the United Nations

Distributed by the Embassy of Eritrea, 1708 New Hampshire Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20009; Tel: 202-588-7587; E-mail:

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

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