ERITREA-ETHIOPIA: New offensive kicks off “largest war on the African continent”
NAIROBI, 12 May 2000 (IRIN) - Ethiopia launched a fresh attack on Eritrean positions just after midnight, confirming fears expressed by the recent UN Security Council mission to the two countries that “the largest war on the African continent” was to resume. Tens of thousands of Ethiopian and Eritrean troops have died in the two year conflict over disputed border territory, which has involved trench warfare as well as sophisticated modern weaponry. Donors and aid agencies have also been asked to come to the rescue of millions facing an acute hunger crisis in Ethiopia and respond to lesser humanitarian needs in Eritrea, while hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced from their homes.
Heavy fighting is taking place at both the Zela Ambessa-Egela front, northern Ethiopia, and at the Mereb River front, northwestern Ethiopia, said an official government statement on the Ethiopian government web site. The statement blamed Eritrea for invading territory and demonstrating “unwillingness to negotiate” in the collapsed peace talks this week.
Britain’s ambassador to the UN, Jeremy Greenstock, told reporters late Thursday that he had drafted a council resolution “urging the two parties to come back to talks” - a document that will now be “null and void”, a diplomat told IRIN. Greenstock told reporters that renewed conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea would result in “more deaths than in Sierra Leone and the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) put together, over a short time”, reports AFP.
Diplomatic sources in Addis Ababa told IRIN that the new offensive by Ethiopia was different from previous rounds in that “this time there is no subterfuge, no tricks, the government attitude is just, there is fighting and it’s heavy”. Both governments have effectively used propaganda to obscure patterns of fighting over the last two years, and have routinely denied offensives. According to the sources, rumours circulating in Addis Ababa suggested a return to war from Thursday and that many Ethiopians now appeared to anticipate victory - “the mood anticipates a great victory, that it will be a short, sharp shock, and then it will be all over”.
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]