Fighting has been taking place between Eritrean and Ethiopian troops in several places along the border according to reports from the area.
Concern has been expressed that these recent exchanges could escalate into more widespread conflict between the two countries. Reports from a number of sources say that the fighting began in the early hours of Sunday 12 June and continued throughout the day.
Local sources in the Sheraro and Badme areas told an Addis Ababa based news website, Horn affairs, there had been movement of mechanized units. Reports also spoke of heavy artillery exchanges taking place between Ethiopian and Eritrean troops. Horn affairs could not ascertain which side started Sunday’s fighting
Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1991 after a long armed struggle. A new war erupted between the two countries in 1998, lasting two years, that led to the deaths of an estimated 80,000 people. The peace agreement has not been fully implemented and Eritrea has kept war-time controls including indefinite national service says BBC reports.
The latest incident coincides with the release of the report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea on 8 June, which will be the subject of debate and a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council meeting from 13 June to 1 July. In a comment to Bloomberg Ethiopia’s Minister for Information, Getachew Reda, speculated that it could be an attempt by the Eritrean government to distract attention from the UN report as it concludes that they are responsible for crimes against humanity.
On the Eritrean side, the Minister of information Yemane Gebremeskel, denounce the TPLF regime for launching the attack on the Tsorona front.
Meanwhile statements from civil society express concern about the border exchanges escalating into a larger conflict between the two countries. “Those who have committed crimes against humanity should be brought to justice” says Arbi Harnet, a member of Freedom Friday that propmotes peace and justice in Eritrea. “The people of Eritrea deserve a hopeful future in which families can come together again”.
According to Meron Estefanos, a journalist and activist from Eritrea living in Sweden “There is no reason for Ethiopia to start a war right now. It just doesn’t add up when everything is going their way.” So far, little is known about what really happened in the border region in the past two days and officials from both sides deny having first fired on the other country.