Ethiopia: Bitter foes

How did Ethiopia so rapidly change the balance of power in its two-year dispute with neighbouring Eritrea? New tactics and strategy certainly caught Eritrea unawares. Continued success would also have an impact on Ethiopia’s internal affairs, as well as its regional role.

The World Today Published 1 July 2000 Updated 28 October 2020 5 minute READ

Peter Biles

World Affairs Correspondent, BBC News

The resumption of hostilities between Ethiopia and Eritrea on May 12 after a lull of nearly a year, came as no surprise. However, the speed of the Ethiopian advance wrong-footed Eritrea, enabling the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, to declare victory less than three weeks later.

By this stage Ethiopia had recaptured all the border territory which it said Eritrea had invaded and had been occupying for the previous two years. Despite the announcement by Meles that the war was effectively over, heavy skirmishing continued in the weeks that followed. Faced with another year of drought and food shortages, it had been obvious that time was running out for Ethiopia in the months leading up to the launch of the May offensive. Some development aid had been frozen.

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