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Djibouti/Eritrea Conflict A Threat to Entire Horn-of Africa Region

The UN Security Council last week urged Eritrea and Djibouti to peacefully resolve a growing border dispute.

A UN fact-finding group had reported that the volatile and fragile situation could have a negative effect on the entire region, if it’s not resolved peacefully. Djibouti’s border with Eritrea is a key strategic point on the red sea.

Rashid Abdi, an analyst with International Crisis Group (ICG) tells VOA’s Akwei Thompson the group concurs with the UN position.

“Tension is building up between these two countries, the situation is very volatile and the Djiboutian President (Omar Guelleh) himself addressed the UN Security Council, where he said that Djibouti may be forced to go to war with Eritrea if the UN does not seek a quick resolution to this border dispute," Abdi said.

On President Guelleh’s allegation of Eritrea not wanting to engage in dialogue and negotiation with Djibouti, Abdi said it is difficult for independent observers to decipher Eritrea’s intentions.

“…they (Eritrea) are generally downplaying this tension with Djibouti. One of their diplomats was quoted as saying this is just a fabricated conflict. And they say they have no problem with Djibouti,” Abdi said.

THE ICG analyst went on to say that, in spite of downplaying the conflict, Eritrea may be taking an aggressive posture and making a pre-emptive move because it suspects that Djibouti is colluding with Ethiopia for its forces to gain a foothold in Djiboutian territory.

“…despite trying to downplay this tension with Djibouti, they also make the claim or the allegation that Ethiopia perhaps is moving troops and equipment, especially heavy range artillery pieces, building a network of roads on that stretch of border,” pointed out.

Abdi agreed that the Horn of Africa cannot afford another war giving the longstanding conflict in Somalia and the already dire humanitarian crisis in the region.