Eritrea’s Performance against Ethiopia in the War of 1998-2000
By: Berhe Habte-Giorgis
 December 7, 2003

Little minds try to defend everything at once, but sensible people look at the main point only; they parry the worst blows and stand a little hurt if thereby they avoid a greater one. If you try to hold everything, you hold nothing.”

Frederick the Great


The role of the “sensible people” portrayed by Frederick the Great on defense strategy describes the way Eritrea conducted its operations in the last border war against Ethiopia. Frederick the Great’s words are the answer to the big lie disseminated by the Ethiopian government and its supporters that it won the war. The purpose behind the big lie is to justify Ethiopia’s refusal to accept implementation of the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission’s (EEBC) ruling, which affirmed that Badme and most of the disputed territories belong to Eritrea. By resorting to winner-imposed ‘diktat’, the Ethiopian government is trying to justify the use of force in settling border issues, contrary to the charters of the U.N., and other regional and international organizations, including the Algiers Agreement, which Ethiopia signed. In this effort, Ethiopia has the support and encouragement of advocates of “law of the jungle” such as Christopher Clapham (see Clapham, Nov. 5, 2003 - Walta Information Center), and Dan Connell (“Enough!”, November 2003).

Although the idea of a ‘diktat’ is a farce, more hollow is the great lie itself. Ethiopia’s supporters are taking a slice of events that happened during the two-year war, and ignore the bigger picture. The purpose of this paper is to debunk the great lie.

Eritrea’s strategy in the war was defense. The process was to frustrate all attacks and in the end force the enemy to agree to a demarcation of the border, based on colonial treaties and agreements, under a process that is guaranteed by the U.N. Eritrea used its military operations to achieve its political objectives, although in the process, Ethiopian troops took Badme and entered Barentu briefly. These incidents are the equivalents of the bruises mentioned by Peter the Great. The end result shows that Eritrea achieved its objective.

The Ethiopian government’s objective was aggressive and manifold. While at the surface it was to regain border territories it claims were taken by Eritrea, Ethiopia’s primary purpose of the war was, and remains to be, reversal of Eritrean independence, or at least create a Vichy style government, and gain control of Assab port. The big lie is also used as the main weapon in the psychological war against Eritrea. Specifically it attempts to demoralize the Eritrean military and people from continuing to stand firmly by their rights and to demand demarcation in accordance to the Algiers Agreement and the EEBC ruling. The other not-so-subtle technique is to destabilize the Eritrean government from within using the pretext of failure to conduct the war properly, and failure to protect the people from foreign aggression.

Inside Ethiopia, The ruling group tried to use the war with Eritrea to gain support from its political opponents. Most of the opponents were political groups that did not accept Eritrea’s independence. The great lie and rejection of demarcation are the government’s offer for its version of “historic compromise”. This entanglement of an external conflict with internal problems further complicates the border problem and renders its solution difficult. Nevertheless, this is similar to the story of a kid that kills his parents and pleads clemency for being an orphan. The government is responsible for fomenting public anger at the start of the war using the propaganda that Eritrea invaded Ethiopian territory, and that Ethiopia has won everything, including Badme, even after the EEBC ruling was made pubic. That is another lie.

I will address excerpts from Dan Connell’s article to show the difference between what the author has presented and the reality, as it happened in the real world.

Part I

One paragraph reads

“But how to explain why Eritrea’s leaders started and ended the war with such shocking intelligence failures, miscalculated the character and capacity of their foe throughout, lost nearly every round in the diplomatic arena, and suffering crushing military setbacks in the last round of fighting – setbacks that the president assured the people could never happen. These sorts of lapses had never occurred before – certainly not of this magnitude, not of this consistency, not with anything near these consequences. Why now?”

Let me analyze this paragraph by addressing the main points raised:

 1.      Intelligence failure

Mr. Connell characterizes these “failures” as “shocking”, and “miscalculated the character and capacity of their foe”. One must have knowledge of the inner workings of the intelligence apparatus of the Eritrean Government and access to the intelligence documents, briefings, and situation analyses to make this type of assertion with certainty. I don’t believe that anybody outside the government knows what the government and military knew or did not know about the enemy and his intentions. Needless to say that the Eritrean Government may have assets and sources that may not be apparent to the author. Thus, Mr. Connell’s statement that there was total intelligence failure on the part of Eritrea is not convincing. Evidence shows that contrary to Mr. Connell’s assertion, the Eritrean leadership did a good job in predicting where the center of gravity and vectors of attack of Ethiopian offensives, and deployed critical mass of resources in those locations to decidedly defeat the enemy.

Military historians and writers take the time to dig facts and details of each engagement using documentary sources, and interviews of commanders and personnel who participated in the action being investigated. Mr. Dan Connell does not indicate anywhere in his report that he did any type of research. In the absence of any systematic attempt to gather facts about the war and lack of reference to relevant military literature or body of knowledge, why should anyone take his opinion seriously? His story becomes a facile account of what happened at best and a misrepresentation of history at worst.

My finding about the performance of Eritrean forces in the war is different from that presented by Mr. Connell. Short of war diaries and official records, I have used all other sources of information. I have visited the entire length of the border, from Bure (Assab) on the Eritrea-Djibouti-Ethiopia border to Tessenei, on the Sudanese border. I have talked to commanders, officers, and other ranks. Most of these people have seen action in the various fronts. In addition, I have watched videos, read articles in Tigrigna, Amharic, and English, from Eritrean and Ethiopian sources. Although my approach is not exhaustive, I believe I have a fair picture of what happened during the fighting in all the major engagements.

The border on the western sector is hundreds of kilometers long. Consequently, the attacker has endless options. Defenders usually cover likely routes of enemy approach by holding the ground in what is called “area defense”. The rest of the front is managed using patrols, air, satellite and electronic surveillance. Most of these luxuries Eritrea could not afford. As usual, it has to do with whatever means it had.

The attacker chooses least defended areas, and the most unlikely time to launch an attack. The element of surprise is on the attacker’s side. Penetration at one point in a defense line can have serious consequences as the attacking forces maneuver to cut the line of communication of the defending forces. The question for the defending forces then becomes one of how to plug, contain and destroy the penetrating force in a “mobile defense”, or to engage in “retrograde” action to avert “envelopment”.

During the last round of fighting in 2000, Ethiopian troops crossed the border, according to Mr. Connell, “over mountains that Eritrean strategists thought were impassable”. This event is a reminder of the limitation of defense operations, even with fortifications as impregnable as the French Maginot Line and the Atlantic Wall during WWII, and the Bar Lev Line in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. To make matters worse, the main Eritrean supply route runs parallel to the border and is only a few miles away. Thus, with a few miles of penetration the road was cut. That put the forces in the trenches along the western sector in danger of being trapped.

The Woyane have perfected the maneuver of penetrating deep and cutting their enemy’s line of communication. They call it “qoreTa”, literally meaning cutting in Amharic. The Derg military never developed proper reaction to counter “QoreTa” maneuvers. In fact their advance to Addis in 1991 was series of “QoreTas. Eventually, Derg troops broke rank and abandoned their positions and organized defense ended (Gen. Abebe Haile Selassie’s memoir in “terarochn yanketeqete twld”, 1996). The Woyane military leadership launches such offensives after months of studying and preparation. Once the defending troops withdrew and redeployed, then the Woyane army lost its direction. So, “QoreTas” were executed on a continuous basis. Eritrean troops redeployed and soon the penetrating force became vulnerable to counter-encirclement and counterattack; hence, its quick exit from Barentu.

The tactic of penetration and cutting line of communication is an age-old maneuver credited to Alexander the Great in the Battle of Arbela against Darius in 331 B.C. Ever since that time the tactic has been applied at different scales and settings. The most notable is the Battle of El Alamein (North African Campaign – WWII) by the British Field Marshal Montgomery. His opponent, Rommel, himself a master of penetration and envelopment, used the tactic earlier in the Battle for Tobruk.

After the penetration of the border Eritrean troops withdrew to the outskirts of Barentu. There they inflicted more than 10,000 casualty in a few days of fighting and then withdrew, following orders from high command, in an orderly manner with all their weapons and personnel intact. Mr. Connell’s statement that “Eritrean defenses were overrun, the Ethiopians quickly occupied nearly one-fourth of the country” is highly exaggerated. Also, overrun signifies defending forces were overpowered in assault action. Overestimating losses is prudent technique for conservative assessment of situations, but not when it is used for sinister motives.

The performance of Eritrean forces has to be judged not on whether Ethiopian forces crossed the border or not, and how much real estate one army has gained versus how much the other has lost, but on how it reacted to the penetration. After all, the Russians could afford to abandon Moscow and come back to defeat their enemies. The orderly withdrawal of the EPLF in 1978 was a masterpiece that turned out to be the turning point of the war in Eritrea’s favor. It is a matter of history repeating itself that at that time, the Derg and foreign journalists declared the end of the Eritrean liberation struggle. One Italian paper, in particular, came out with “Finita” Eritrea type of a headline. Of course, this is not the first time such blunders are committed by the media. The situation then, as is now, is reminiscent of the Chicago Daily Tribune “Dewey Defeats Truman” blunder, in the 1948 U.S. presidential election.

Making the right decision at such moments is usually critical in determining the final outcome of a war. The Battle of Canae (216 B.C.) secured immortality in history not only for what Hannibal did, but also for what the Roman commander, Varro, both did and failed to do. When faced with Hannibal’s infantry attack, Varro also moved forward, thereby exposing his 8 legions and 70,000 soldiers to envelopment and destruction by an enemy force of only 20,000. Eritrean forces in the Barentu area withdrew conducting proper retrograde action, with minimal loss. A force that withdraws in such manner lives to fight another day and may never be defeated. Intercepted communication among Ethiopian field commanders betrayed the sense of loss and confusion they felt at the orderly withdrawal of Eritrean forces. 

In a nutshell, the penetration into Badme was contained and attempt to move to the highland was quickly checked. Above all, the ability of the invading force to connect with other forces in the east at Areza and then Mendefera before the final push to Asmara was crippled. This pincer movement scenario was widely circulated in British papers while the fighting was going on. The whole episode will remain a monument to biased and speculative journalism.

In addition to being exposed to Eritrean counterattack, the invading forces were to sit idle while the war continued in the other sectors. The smart move made by the Woyane was to withdraw soon. By that time, Eritrean forces were redeployed to defend the next offensive hundreds of kilometers away. Only military people will appreciate the logistical and command and control difficulties involved in moving troops from one combat then to another over long distance, on a continuous basis, and with limited transport capability.

2.      Suffered crushing military setbacks in the last round of fighting

This statement is similar to the one addressed above. I challenge the author to substantiate his statement with facts. If he is referring to the Ethiopian army entering Barentu, then I refer him to the quotation from Frederick the Great cited at the opening of this article. It gives a crash course in defense operations. Eritrean withdrawal was not like the withdrawal of the U.S. Eighth Army in Korea. On the contrary, the Battle of Barentu, in my opinion, will go down in military history as a major blunder on the part of the Woyane-led Ethiopian army. All that army could do was plunder and destroy property all the way to Tessenei. In reality, the effect on the morale of people who did not understand the real situation was much more than the military action itself. Explanations and information released to the public constantly reminded the people that they should look at the bigger picture and final outcome and the ups and downs of small set battles. To writers like Dan Connell and Clapham it has not sunk in, up to this moment.

Incidentally, the penetration of Eritrean territory from the western front was part of a strategy that was used for training of Ethiopian senior officers in the Ethiopian Staff College in the 1960s by Israeli instructors. The scenario was that Egyptian troops would invade western Eritrea in support of Eritrean liberation movements. Ethiopian troops would launch an offensive to Barentu and Tessenei to cut the Egyptian forces line of communication.

The other operation where Ethiopian forces scored success was in entering Badme, in the second round of fighting.  However, even in that operation, Eritrean forces inflicted heavy damage on the invading forces repeatedly. Captain Fiqre, a former member of the Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF) who fought at this battle, in an interview with opposition groups in Europe, unequivocally testifies that Eritrean troops fought valiantly and repulsed every attack launched by Ethiopians troops. In the end, the Ethiopians exploited a small gap that existed in the defense line and managed to enter Badme. Captain Fiqre is a witness who has been there and seen it all. What is more, he is not with the government anymore. He is speaking his mind and telling the truth the way he knew it.

My assessment of the terrain from a distance is that Badme lies in a flat area, a few kilometers from the terrain suitable for defensive line. The dominating ground in the area, Gemhalo, is on the Ethiopian side of the border. What is more, Gemhalo itself is an isolated hill in the midst of the plain. Militarily, it can only serve as a combat outpost. It cannot form an integral part of a defense line. Thus, the border in this area simply does not provide a good defense line, especially against a force superior in numbers, armor and air power. It is a miracle Eritrean forces performed the way they did for as long as they did.

Other incursions into Eritrean territory happened when Eritrean troops withdrew from their positions in compliance with the peace proposal. If there are other military setbacks during the entire two-year war, I urge Mr. Dan Connell to look hard and wide.

What he will find is crushing defeat of the Ethiopian forces, primarily at Adi Quala (Adi Begiio-Adi qeshi), Assab road, and Tsorona front. In addition, there were many small battles that Eritreans won decisively, such as the repulsion of Ethiopian attack at Ambesete-Geleba (June 1, 1998). It is unfair and unethical to present a lopsided picture of events that are a matter of historical record.

3.      Lost nearly every round in the diplomatic arena

The statement itself is begging for questions. Which rounds? Which arena? There were many rounds and many arenas. Besides, what does it mean to lose a round, in the diplomatic sense? Mr. Connell should provide the answers to these questions with substantive proof to support them.

Let me give my understanding of what happened in the diplomatic process that was taking place at the start of the conflict. Eritrea made its policy clear, mainly that border issues cannot be settled by force. The correct way to solve them is to use colonial treaties and applicable international law, by the third parties, in a binding and final adjudication. The Ethiopian government’s position was that there were no disputed territories, there were only Ethiopian territories, and that Eritrea should withdraw, no questions asked. They were not even willing to point out the location of the disputed territories. The entire border was involved.

The issues being as divergent as they are, tremendous effort was needed to work out a meaningful agreement. The Organization of African Unity (OAU), as the continental organization was given the priority to handle the matter. The U.N. and U.S. played supportive role. However, the O.A.U. is saddled with problems when it comes to matters that involve Ethiopia, especially in its relations with Eritrea. It cannot play an impartial peacemaker. Although the Eritrean struggle pre-dates the O.A.U., the organization and many of its member nations, were dead-set against Eritrean independence. The OAU, right from its inception has behaved as an extension of Ethiopian Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Public Security and Intelligence. Nothing can take place in the OAU without the knowledge and approval of the Ethiopian government. Ethiopia, with the OAU in its pocket manipulated the entire process of peaceful resolution of the conflict in its favor. Eritrea was even denied the right to keep its ambassador to the OAU. Mr. Connell, more than anybody else should be aware that the greatest stumbling block in the diplomatic arena during the armed struggle era was the OAU.

The presence of Ethiopians at high positions in international organizations was another factor that worked to Ethiopia’s advantage. All Ethiopians, irrespective of their relations with the government in their home country would always work in support of their government, especially when it comes to matters involving Eritrea.

Haile Selassie’s presence in the African scene was so dominant that African countries gave him a lot of deference. The West, because of guilt feeling for its failure in the League of Nations to prevent Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia were ready to make up for their failings. The federation of Eritrea with Ethiopia is one of the gifts he received. His successor, Mengistu Haile Mariam presented the Eritrean case as an Arab movement trying to secede from an African nation. Eritrea had to fight Bin Laden and Al Qaeda alone “before it was cool” to do so. Repeated incursions and guerilla attacks, including the killing of Belgian tourists, resulted in severing diplomatic relations with the Sudan.

Thus, the combined effect of the whole diplomatic environment was not favorable to Eritrea, both at the multilateral and bilateral levels. In short, Eritrea did not have to lose any diplomatic contest; there was no contest to begin with.

Nevertheless, to rule out Eritrea’s diplomatic effort as failure is utterly unfounded, and again falls in the category of propaganda corollary to the great lie. Despite the odds, Eritrea did its best to establish diplomatic relations with many countries in Africa, the Middle East, and the rest of the world. Besides, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Eritrean diplomacy succeeded because the Algiers Agreement is an enshrinement of Eritrea’s plan for the resolution of the conflict. All the pressure and antagonism it was facing was to dissuade it from pushing for this goal. Eritrea’s approach was straightforward. It was not interested in haggling and long bargains. But, when new proposals were presented, it had to look at all the details, because Eritrea was genuinely looking for resolution of the conflict and not interested in playing diplomatic games. In the meantime, big egos may have felt slighted. But Eritrea’s goal was to achieve a resolution of the conflict and not to massage fragile egos. In the end Eritrea achieved its goal not because it had any special influence or support group anywhere, but due to the veracity of its case and the stand it took.

Ethiopia’s diplomacy based on lies and cheap tricks has failed, both internally and internationally. Ethiopian leaders would jump and declare acceptance of any proposal, not because they were serious about it, but to put Eritrea on the spot. Eritrea had to sift the details with a fine comb, because once it accepts it there is no going back. Ethiopian leaders on the other hand would change their mind immediately if Eritrea accepts the proposal. We have seen them accept the Technical Arrangements with strong clauses from them that it should not be amended. They thought Eritrea would not accept it. But after Eritrea accepted it, they rejected it, sending U.S. Special envoy Tony Lake scurrying around with the ridiculous “non-paper” paper. The biggest example is the Algiers Agreement. After signing the agreement both the Ethiopian Prime Minister and his Foreign Minister harangued that Eritrea has now no place to go because it has to implement the final and binding outcome of the demarcation process. When they found out that Eritrea has won most of the disputed territories, they reversed themselves and now they have openly rejected the EEBC Decision.

I wonder if Mr. Connell considers Ethiopia’s rejection of demarcation and the EEBC ruling to be Eritrea’s fault.

Part II

One provocative paragraph designed to cast Eritrean leadership as having failed militarily is put in the form of staccato of questions, to which I am sure the writer has the answers:

“Among the many questions to be asked is this: What happened to the visionary popular liberation movement to put it so thoroughly out of touch with its surroundings that it neither saw this conflict coming, nor grasped the nature and dimensions of the challenge as it was unfolding? What blinkered vision prevented the leadership from recognizing that this was not the TPLF of the mid-1980s? That it was instead a Tigrayan-led Ethiopia with enormous human and material resources at its disposal, a considerable edge in the international sphere, and an experience of guerilla warfare that would produce a very different battlefield strategy than its predecessor’s?”

1.      Failed to anticipate the conflict and did not grasp the challenge that was coming

This topic fits in the section discussed earlier under intelligence failure. Nevertheless, it is appropriate to mention that one has to be a seer to even imagine that relations between the two countries could deteriorate into war as fast as they did.  Eritrea’s approach was to solve the border problems peacefully, and amicably. Eritrea’s opponents conveniently ignore or forget this fact. What else could Eritrea have done to avert the war, if at all it was in its hands? For years, Eritreans peasants in the border areas were tortured, killed, their property confiscated in a silent ethnic cleansing to facilitate eventual claim by the Woyane that the territories are inhabited by Tigrayans. As a matter of fact, there was a lot of resentment from Eritreans inhabitants of these areas at their government’s failure to take action.

2.      Failure to recognize the enemy’s strength

I am convinced that the Eritrean leadership knew quite well what Ethiopia’s capability and weaknesses were. Short of relinquishing every territory demanded by Ethiopia I don’t see what Mr. Dan Connell’s answer to this question is. Here again, in his attempt to heap blame on the Eritrean President and leadership, the author ignores the degree of military preparedness attained by Eritrea.

The following are some of the accomplishments of the Eritrean government during the first five years after liberation that can be cited to present a balanced picture:

a.       Started the national service program and established the Sawa Training Center.  It would have been impossible to defend the country if these programs were not started earlier. Now, Sawa is the center for building new Eritrea through its varieties of skill training and bringing young people from diverse backgrounds together. Here, the legacy of the revolution and struggle is passed to the new generation.

b.       An air force was established with modest means. Although still at its infancy this force played some role in the war.

c.       Eritrean Navy that defeated the Forty-year old Ethiopian Navy with speedboats and recoilless rifles transformed itself into a modern navy.

d.      The EPLF established a functioning government from a scratch. Rebuilding the infrastructure and provision of vital services occupied the government the few years after independence and start of the war. That included building the armed forces on a new organizational basis.

e.       Eritrea managed to keep a huge army in the front supplied, which is no mean achievement for a small poor country with limited resources. At the same time, it maintained normal functioning of government services, and continued with development projects as usual.

f.        In the conduct of the war during the Third Offensive, Eritrean defense forces identified the two centers of gravity of the enemy, mainly Assab and approach to Asmara through Adi Quala. That is where they crushed enemy offensives and decimated its forces.  The Ethiopian troops reached their limit and were on the verge of collapse. Meles was warned by his supporter nations that an Eritrean counter attack was about to happen. A counterattack could destroy his army in Assab, with a possible collapse of the front. The consequences of such an eventuality would be disastrous in all the other fronts. Thus, contrary to conventional belief amongst Ethiopians and their supporters, it was Ethiopia and not Eritrea that was at the edge of the cliff towards the end of the last conflict. This is the secret behind Meles’ signing of the Algiers Agreement. This story is in conformity with statement made by a member of the U.S. delegation to Algiers in a meeting at Johns Hopkins University, in Washington, D. C., after the signing of the Agreement.  

3.  Retreated to defensible positions as they had done in 1978

Comparing Eritrean maneuvers with the strategic withdrawal of 1978 is like comparing apples and oranges. In 1978 EPLF withdrew from the entire highland area and major cities it had occupied to its base area in Sahel, with Nakfa as the only town of significance under its control. It was a major contraction. In 2000, Ethiopian forces penetrated a corner of the country and withdrew after a few days. All other engagements were on the border area. On the Adi Quala and Assab fronts, Ethiopian troops were severely mauled and decimated. The only purpose in comparing the two dissimilar events in Eritrean history is a crude attempt at creating subliminal association of the desperate mood and uncertainty that prevailed during the strategic withdrawal, and the division and misunderstanding that divided the Eritrean community in North America.

4.      Inflicted Enormous Damage to Eritrea’s Infrastructure

Without a doubt the Woyane are predators bent on pillaging and destroying wherever they set their foot on. Livestock were herded to Tigrai and stores were looted and burned. Nevertheless, damage on the infrastructure is limited, primarily because most of the area they entered was not that well developed. One can imagine what could have happened if these vandals were to enter major cities.

That is why the author’s statement presents an exaggerated picture of damage to infrastructure. Is it possible that he is accusing the Government of Eritrea for failing to protect the people and country? Let me give an eyewitness account of places I visited that were vandalized by the Weyane invaders and the major damage they caused on the infrastructure. I have pictures to back my statement.

a.       Barentu – dynamited a new hotel and a few buildings

b.       Tessenei (Aligedir) – destroyed completely a new cotton ginning plant, and blew up a bridge behind them, which was subsequently rebuilt by EDF engineers.

c.        Shambuqo – vandalized and destroyed martyrs tombs and memorial

d.       Senafe – dynamited hospital, telecommunications building, school, and government administration buildings.

Other attempts to inflict damage on the infrastructure and government establishments include air bombardment of Asmara airport, Hirgigo (near Massawa) electric power generating plant, a church at Adi Qaieh, villages in the border area, and the Sawa military training center. Thanks to the ineptness of their pilots, the damage was not significant. There could be other damages, but I leave that to Mr. Dan Connell to tell us where they are.

Part III

The most outrageous statement in the report is saved for the last:

“…As the Ethiopian forces were steamrolling through Eritrean defenses at Barentu and the command structure in Asmara was breaking down…. Some critics claim that Issayas panicked and issued orders for the evacuation of Asseb…” 

It would be interesting, for a change, to see proof of the command structure breaking down in Asmara, if there was any. Such careless writing indicates how little respect the author has for his readers. Accusing Isaias of panicking and showing cold feet is strange to the ears, and even his staunchest opponents may not buy this story. Troops in the field, women volunteers working in the fronts, and villagers in the area where fighting was taking place tell stories of epic proportions. He was in all the fronts, hopping from one point to another, inspiring courage, with little concern for his own safety. His presence in the fronts with the troops, in the midst of battle, is common knowledge in Eritrea. Unless Mr. Dan Connell brings the evidence, his story remains baseless and people have every right to impute defamatory motives for his writing. As a seasoned journalist, he should check his sources carefully. Otherwise, he joins the rank and file of tabloid journalists.

As for the plan to withdraw, it is mere hearsay, but I see nothing wrong with it. All good commanders and leaders should have contingency plans to accommodate all possible scenarios. Withdrawal and counterattack plans are part and parcel of a defense plan. Routes and forms of withdrawal are planned ahead of time whenever troops occupy defensive positions. War is fought as a sustainable operation and not a recreation of modern day Masada.


Eritrea’s military strategy has worked and its diplomatic effort is succeeding. As the Eritrean slogan goes, “It has won both in the battlefield and the court of law”. The country stands on the side of law. Eritrea displayed tremendous stamina and confidence to weather the enemy’s offensives and degraded its fighting capability by resorting to passive defense. When it was time to counterattack, the Ethiopian leader run to Algiers and signed the agreement. The great lie fabricated by Ethiopia and carried all over by its supporters is not working. In the struggle between the truth on one side and deception and lies on the other, truth is the winner. Ethiopia has become an outlaw nation, thereby squandering the huge diplomatic capital the country had starting from the time of Haile Selassie.

For the sake of justice and peace, it is important that the U.N. lives up to its Charter, principles, and commitments. It is also important that the guarantors stand by their commitment and show to Ethiopia and the rest of the world that rule of law prevails. Otherwise, they will be letting the genie out of the bottle. If the devastation of the last war was horrific, the fire next time is too difficult even to imagine because the paradigms of the war will most likely shift, for the worst.

After the border is demarcated, the two countries can enter dialogue and establish mutually agreed relations. After all, the two peoples are closer to each other than to any other groups. However, this goal, no matter how much desirable, cannot be achieved with Ethiopia occupying Eritrean territory. That is why it is important that Ethiopia should be made to allow the demarcation process to proceed.