Thursday, June 12, 2008

Djibouti Says Troops Killed in Border Clashes With Eritrea

Djibouti troops killed on border

Two Djiboutian soldiers have been killed and 17 wounded in border clashes with Eritrean troops, Djibouti says.

Fighting continued on Wednesday morning after clashes broke out on Tuesday following weeks of rising tension.

Djibouti said its forces were forced to fight back after coming under fire from Eritrean troops demanding the return of deserters who had fled to Djibouti.

Last month, Djibouti complained to the UN that Eritrea was fortifying its side of the border.

At the time, Eritrea denied it was planning for war and has not commented so far on the latest incident.

Since Eritrea gained independence in 1993, the Horn of Africa country has been involved in two serious conflicts over territory with its neighbours.

Both US and France have military bases in Djibouti.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/06/11 12:36:12 GMT

US condemns Eritrea 'aggression'

The US has condemned Eritrea for "military aggression" after deadly clashes on the border with Djibouti.

The US state department said it understood nine Djiboutians had been killed and more than 60 injured in the clashes, which began on Tuesday.

Eritrea's government denied hostile intentions towards its neighbour.

Meanwhile, Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guelleh has said his country would "valiantly defend its territorial integrity by all means".

After weeks of tension, fighting broke out on Tuesday in the Mount Gabla area, also known as Ras Doumeira.

The clashes continued into Wednesday.

The US and France, which both have military bases in Djibouti, called for an end to the violence.


"We call on both sides to cease all military hostilities immediately and to reduce tensions by withdrawing troops from the border area," US state department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said.

"The United States calls on Eritrea and Djibouti to move forward at once to resolve border issues peacefully, in accordance with international law, and for Eritrea to accept offers of third-party mediation."

The French foreign ministry has said it is highly concerned about the border clashes.

Djibouti said its forces were forced to fight back after coming under fire from Eritrean troops demanding the return of deserters who had fled to Djibouti.

But the Eritrean foreign ministry said that it "would under no circumstances get involved in an invitation of squabbles and acts of hostility designed to undermine good-neighbourliness".

Since Eritrea gained independence in 1993, the Horn of Africa country has been involved in two serious conflicts over territory with its neighbours.

Last month, Djibouti complained to the UN that Eritrea was fortifying its side of the border.

At the time, Eritrea denied it was planning for war.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/06/12 10:01:39 GMT

Djibouti: US citizens in Djibouti warned on travel near the border with Eritrea

Thu. June 12, 2008 10:01 am.
By Bonny Apunyu

(SomaliNet) After the two countries exchanged fire, the U.S. Embassy in the tiny port nation of Djibouti, a key U.S. ally in the Horn of Africa, warned American citizens against traveling near the border with Eritrea.

State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said at least nine Djiboutians were killed and more than 60 injured in fighting this week, condemning Eritrea's "military aggression" toward Djibouti.

"These hostilities represent an additional threat to peace and security in the already volatile Horn of Africa," Gallegos said Wednesday in Washington.

Sources say more than 1,200 U.S troops are stationed in Djibouti, which hosts the base for an anti-terrorism task force in the Horn of Africa. France also has a base in Djibouti, its former colony.

"For security and safety reasons, the U.S. Embassy urges American citizens to avoid traveling to northern Djibouti and to exercise caution if travel is essential," the embassy said in a statement Wednesday.

Djibouti's foreign minister has said Eritrea has launched a major military buildup on their border overlooking critical Red Sea shipping lanes. Skirmishes between the countries' troops have been reported this week. -AP

Country profile: Djibouti

Controlling access to the Red Sea, Djibouti is of major strategic importance, a fact that has ensured a steady flow of foreign assistance.

During the Gulf War it was the base of operations for the French military, who continue to maintain a significant presence.

France has thousands of troops as well as warships, aircraft and armoured vehicles in Djibouti, contributing directly and indirectly to the country's income. The US has stationed hundreds of troops in Djibouti, its only African base, in an effort to counter terrorism in the region.

Djibouti's location is the main economic asset of a country that is mostly barren. The capital, Djibouti city, handles Ethiopian imports and exports. Its transport facilities are used by several landlocked African countries to fly in their goods for re-export. This earns Djibouti much-needed transit taxes and harbour fees.

After independence from France in 1977, Djibouti was left with a government which enjoyed a balance between the two main ethnic groups, the Issa of Somali origin and the Afar of Ethiopian origin.

But the country's first president, Hassan Gouled Aptidon, installed an authoritarian one-party state dominated by his own Issa community. Afar resentment erupted into a civil war in the early 1990s, and though Mr Gouled, under French pressure, introduced a limited multi-party system in 1992, the rebels from the Afar party, the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (Frud), were excluded.

Thus, Mr Gouled's Popular Rally for Progress party won every seat and the war went on. It ended in 1994 with a power-sharing deal which brought the main faction of Frud into government. A splinter, radical faction continued to fight until 2000, when it too signed a peace deal with the government of Gouled's successor, Ismael Omar Guelleh.

Full name: The Republic of Djibouti
Population: 833,000 (UN, 2007)
Capital: Djibouti
Area: 23,200 sq km (8,950 sq miles)
Major languages: French, Arabic, Somali, Afar
Major religion: Islam
Life expectancy: 54 years (men), 56 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 Djiboutian franc = 100 centimes
Main exports: Re-exports, hides and skins, coffee (re-exported from Ethiopia)
GNI per capita: US $1,020 (World Bank, 2006)
Internet domain: .dj
International dialling code: +253

President: Ismael Omar Guelleh

Mr Guelleh, known in Djibouti by his initials, IOG, won a second term in one-man presidential elections in April 2005. The opposition did not field a candidate.

His campaign included promises to tackle poverty and reduce Djibouti's dependence on food imports. He said he would step down at the end of his second term, in keeping with the constitution.

Ismael Omar Guelleh succeeded his uncle and Djibouti's first president, Hassan Gouled Aptidon, in April 1999 at the age of 52. He was elected in a multi-party ballot which was not contested by Mr Aptidon.

Mr Guelleh supports Djibouti's traditionally strong ties with France and has tried to reconcile the different factions in neighbouring Somalia.

The government owns the principal newspaper, La Nation, as well as Radiodiffusion-Television de Djibouti (RTD), which operates the national radio and TV. There are no private broadcasters.

The government closely controls all electronic media. Private newspapers and other publications are generally allowed to circulate freely, but journalists exercise self-censorship. The official media are uncritical of the government.

A powerful mediumwave (AM) transmitter in the country broadcasts US-sponsored Arabic-language Radio Sawa programmes to East Africa and Arabia. Local FM relays carry the BBC (99.2) and Voice of America.

The press
La Nation - government-owned daily
La Republique - opposition Parti National Democratique periodical
Le Renouveau - run by opposition Party for Democratic Renewal
Radio Djibouti - operated by RTD; national network broadcasts in Afar, Arabic and Somali, international network in French
Djibouti Television - operated by RTD
News agency
Agence Djiboutienne d'Information - state news agency

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/01/26 17:47:45 GMT

Country profile: Eritrea

Eritrea emerged from its long war of independence in 1993 only to plunge once again into military conflict, first with Yemen and then, more devastatingly, with its old adversary, Ethiopia.

Today, a fragile peace prevails and Eritrea faces the gigantic tasks of rebuilding its infrastructure and of developing its economy after more than 30 years of fighting.

A former Italian colony, Eritrea was occupied by the British in 1941. In 1952 the United Nations resolved to establish it as an autonomous entity federated with Ethiopia as a compromise between Ethiopian claims for sovereignty and Eritrean aspirations for independence. However, 10 years later the Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie, decided to annex it, triggering a 32-year armed struggle.

Politics: The government has been accused of repression and of hindering the development of democracy
Economy: Eritrea is said to exist on loans and the earnings of the diaspora
International: The border dispute which turned into a full-scale war with Ethiopia is still a source of tension

This culminated in independence after an alliance of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) and a coalition of Ethiopian resistance movements defeated Haile Selassie's communist successor, Mengistu Haile Mariam.

In 1993, in a referendum supported by Ethiopia, Eritreans voted almost unanimously for independence, leaving Ethiopia landlocked.

The two countries hardly became good neighbours, with the issues of Ethiopian access to the Eritrean ports of Massawa and Assab and unequal trade terms souring relations.

In 1998 border disputes around the town of Badme erupted into open hostilities. This conflict ended with a peace deal in June 2000, but not before leaving both sides with tens of thousands of soldiers dead. A security zone, patrolled by UN forces, separates the two countries.

The unresolved border issue compounds other pressing problems. These include Eritrea's inability to provide enough food; two thirds of the population receive food aid. Moreover, economic progress is hampered by the proportion of Eritreans who are in the army rather than the workforce.

Full name: The State of Eritrea
Population: 4.9 million (UN, 2007)
Capital: Asmara
Area: 117,400 sq km (45,300 sq miles)
Major languages: Tigrinya, Tigre, Arabic, English
Major religions: Islam, Christianity
Life expectancy: 56 years (men), 60 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 Nakfa = 100 cents
Main exports: Livestock, hides, sorghum, textiles, salt, light manufactures
GNI per capita: US $220 (World Bank, 2006)
Internet domain: .er
International dialling code: +291

President: Isaias Afewerki

Isaias Afewerki was elected president of independent Eritrea by the national assembly in 1993. He had been the de facto leader before independence.

Presidential elections, planned for 1997, never materialised. Eritrea is a one-party state, with the ruling People's Front for Democracy and Justice the only party allowed to operate.

Mr Afewerki has been criticised for failing to implement democratic reforms. His government has clamped down on its critics and has closed the private press.

Born in 1946 in Asmara, Isaias Afewerki joined the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) in 1966. He received military training in China the same year, then went on to be deputy divisional commander.

In 1970 he co-founded the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) and in 1987 he was elected secretary-general of the organisation.

Eritrea is the only African country to have no privately-owned news media. In 2005 the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) described it as one of the world's leading jailers of journalists.

Another press watchdog, Reporters Without Borders, notes that there is "no freedom of expression".

The government closed the private press in 2001 for "endangering national security" and arrested many journalists after several publications printed the dissenting views of some National Assembly members.

There are no private radio or TV stations.

The press
Hadas Eritrea - government-owned, published three days a week
Eritrea Profile - government-owned weekly, in English
Tirigta - pro-government youth weekly owned by ruling party
Geled - weekly youth paper

Eri TV - state-run
Voice of the Broad Masses of Eritrea (Dimtsi Hafash) - state-run, operates two networks, programmes in 11 languages
Radio Zara - state-run, FM network
News agency

Erina (Eritrean News Agency) - state-run

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/02/06 17:12:25 GMT

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