Horn of Africa damages ruling due

The border is closed and Ethiopian troops remain on Eritrean soil

By Martin Plaut, BBC Africa editor

An international tribunal is to decide what compensation Ethiopia and Eritrea should pay each other for damages inflicted in the 1998-2000 border war.

The border is closed and Ethiopian troops remain on Eritrean soil
The border is closed and Ethiopian troops remain on Eritrean soil

Monday’s decision is the final element in the peace deal that ended the war, which cost at least 100,000 lives.

The Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission at The Hague will provide the two nations with the judgement that lawyers have been working on since March 2001.

Exactly what it says will be made public in a few days time.

The decision will bring to a close an internationally supported deal, signed in Algiers nine years ago, to end hostilities between these two impoverished neighbours.

The bitter conflict was only brought to a halt with the direct intervention of former US President Bill Clinton.

Disputed town

The Algiers treaty put UN forces along the disputed border, asked the Red Cross to supervise the exchange of prisoners and established two commissions. The first ruled on where the border lay.

That decision, in April 2003, set down that the disputed border town of Badme, over which the war had been fought, lay in Eritrea.

It is a ruling Ethiopia has refused to accept, insisting that there should be further talks on the subject.

Now the Claims Commission is ready to rule on financial compensation.

The fighting along the border inflicted terrible damage on villages in the area.

At the same time Ethiopia lost goods it owned in Eritrean ports, while it seized Eritrean firms on Ethiopian soil.

It is issues like these that the commission has assessed.

Its ruling brings to an end one of the most complex attempts by the international community to end a Third World dispute.

But despite the best efforts of all concerned, it has failed to bring peace to the two countries.

The border is closed, Ethiopian troops remain on Eritrean soil and their mutual antagonism is played out in conflicts across the region.