Djibouti-Eritrea border tension could escalate, warns UN team

18 September 2008
Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon

The situation on the Djibouti-Eritrean border remains volatile after a flaring of tensions on the border in June left over 35 dead and dozens wounded, a United Nations fact-finding mission reported today.

The mission concluded that Djibouti is being drawn into a crippling and expensive military mobilization to deal with a situation that may threaten national, regional and international peace.

In early June serious clashes were reported between the Djibouti Armed Forces (DAF) and the Eritrean Defence Forces (EDF) along the undemarcated border between the two Horn of Africa countries in an area known as Doumeira. The armed combat followed several weeks of military build-up and growing tension between the two sides since April.

The team also noted that Eritrea refused to receive the UN fact-finding mission, and consequently only Djibouti’s version of events was made available to them.

“If not addressed in a timely and comprehensive manner, the Djibouti-Eritrea issue could have a major negative impact on the entire region and the wider international community,” the report stated.

“The possible destabilization of Djibouti and the militarization of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait [connecting the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden and a strategic link to the Mediterranean] do not augur well for peace in the region or for international shipping and investment. Solutions must therefore be found as a matter of the utmost priority.”

The report placed the onus on Eritrea, which has alleged aggression by Djibouti, to cooperate with the UN and establish the facts to support its allegations.

The UN should persuade Eritrea and Djibouti to demilitarize the border and return to the “status quo ante as at February,” according to the report.

“The Djibouti army has since pulled back. It is only logical that the Eritrean forces do the same, as was demanded by the Security Council. No country should be allowed to disregard the decisions of the Security Council with impunity.”

The fact-finding mission also drew attention to the need for both parties to agree on which of the colonial treaties and protocols should be accepted as the basis for defining their common border – the 1897 Abyssinia-France treaty, the 1900-1901 France-Italy protocols, or the 1935 France-Italy treaty.

“It is tragic that the two countries have been on the verge of war over treaties and protocols negotiated when they did not exist as independent States.”


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