September 17, 2010: The tentative and limited peace agreement Eritrea and Djibouti reached in June 2010 seems to be holding up. The key to the limited deal was the withdrawal of Eritrean forces form the two disputed zones on the Eritrea-Djibouti border. Eritrean forces have not re-entered the zones. Qatar has been over-seeing the agreement. A border demarcation committee is supposed to make a final decision. This is a slender reed, but the fact that the agreement is holding up has encouraged diplomats who have been trying to get Eritrea back to the negotiating table on other issues, including Eritrea’s support for Somalia militant Islamists.
September 16, 2010: Eritrea accused Ethiopia of conducting what it called an endless disinformation campaign. Eritrea rejected as completely false a recent Ethiopian claim that Eritrea had delivered a plane load of weapons and medical supplies to Somalia’s Al Shabaab militant Islamist terror organization. Ethiopia claimed the delivery took place on September 3.
The ONLF denied reports that a group of its fighters were surrounded by Somaliland forces. It also denied reports that it had moved a contingent of troops by sea to the Somali coast. The ONLF claimed that its forces had killed 150 Ethiopian soldiers in combat in the towns of Arabi and Shebelle in fights that took place September 13 and 14. Arabi and Shebelle are both located well inside Ethiopian territory.
September 15, 2010: Somaliland claimed that Ethiopian forces had killed 123 Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) guerrillas. The action took place inside Somaliland, which is a separatist region in Somalia. Ethiopia recognizes Somaliland as a separate country. There are several disputed versions of how the ONLF fighters got into Somaliland. The most interesting is one that claims the ONLF moved its forces by sea and then took trucks to the Ethiopian border. That is a fascinating scenario. If it happened, it means the ONLF received significant outside help in order to make the sea movement. Eritrea would be the prime suspect, but a deal could be made with Somali pirates. At this point who knows. What is certain is that a large firefight took place involving the ONLF and Ethiopian forces and the ONLF force was hit hard.
September 10, 2010: Aid agencies are concerned about Ethiopia’s Gambella region (western Ethiopia, Sudan border area). The region has suffered from drought and then heavy floods and there is a possibility of famine. Aid agencies have also passed on reports of tribal (or clan) battles in the isolated region. One occurred in April of this year. There are several reasons for tribal tensions. In 2009 a major battle occurred between the Lou Nuer (predominantly in Sudan) and the Jikany Nuer (Ethiopia). The Lou Nuer occupied the Jikany Nuer land. The Ethiopian government has tried to negotiate a settlement but many of the Jikany Nuer remained displaced. The government has tried to keep the situation as calm as possible. Over the last three years South Sudan has seen increasing inter-tribal conflict, which the south claims is stoked by the north (national Sudan government). South Sudan is scheduled to conduct a referendum on independence in early 2011. Ethiopia already has its hands full with the trouble in the Ogaden, with Somalia Islamists, and with Eritrea. The Ethiopian government wants to avoid policing tribal wars on its western.