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International Body Rules Eritrea Responsible for Starting Border War With Ethiopia

The International Claims Commission at The Hague has ruled that Eritrea was responsible for starting a two-year border war with Ethiopia. The commission also ruled on Monday that Eritrea should compensate Ethiopia. A spokesperson for the body says the amount of compensation will be determined by the commission in the second phase of its work.

The two countries have accused each other of starting the war over their shared 1000-kilometer border. The war led to an estimated 70,000 deaths and the displacement of thousands of people from their homes.

Both nations have generally respected a peace accord signed in Algiers five years ago. But they have not been able to make progress on the demarcation of the disputed border. In the meantime, tensions have risen, leading to fears of a resumption of war.

James Paul is the executive director of the Global Policy Forum, which has been monitoring the Ethiopia-Eritrea peace process. He told English to Africa’s Ruby Ofori the two countries will each put their own spin on the commission’s ruling: “Each side is using decisions that are made in their favor to raise the ante against the other side in a situation where there’s a lot of tension and conflict on the border,” he said.

Mr. Paul said the most important decision was taken by the Boundary Commission, which ruled on territorial claims over the disputed border in 2002. The border should then have been demarcated after that decision was given, but demarcation did not take place because Ethiopia refused to accept loss of the disputed town of Badme to Eritrea.

“It’s the battle over who is sovereign over that town that is keeping this whole near-war situation going,” he said. The international community could pressure Ethiopia to end the impasse but, he said, that will not happen soon because “there are all sorts of companies and powers that have interests in the region and I’m afraid these lead to destabilizing conditions even though the road towards peace is relatively clear.”