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   #Eritrea v. Ethiopia        #child soldiers        #Iran v. Afghanistan      #Kashmir 

 link to Organization of African Unity
1998  Eritrea v. Ethiopia border war

 #top March 1, 1999
  Eritrea rejects any suggestion of a wholesale defeat
  The Ethiopian Government has declared victory in its border  war with Eritrea after recapturing the disputed Badme region.
  A government statement said that Ethiopian troops had  overrun 100km of heavily-fortified Eritrean trenches, dealing a  "monumental and humiliating defeat" to the Eritrean army. 
  But Eritrean authorities rejected the suggestion of a wholesale defeat, describing Ethiopia's victory statement as "boasting and lies".
  Eritrea denies defeat
  Eritrean radio said on Sunday its forces had foiled an Ethiopian offensive on the Mereb-Setit front between the two countries.
  The Eritrean broadcast said: "The expansionist weyane [Ethiopian] group continued with its offensives on the Mereb-Setit front today and was foiled like the past offensives with severe losses."
  The authorities in Asmara have conceded that Ethiopian troops have penetrated beyond Badme, but deny that they have suffered a total defeat.
  They say that their army has merely withdrawn to new defensive positions.
 Despite Ethiopia's claim to victory, there were reports of fresh outbreaks of fighting on Sunday.
  Eritrean presidential chief of staff Yemane Gebremeskel said Ethiopian forces had launched a new attack against the Eritrean army along the western Badme front at around 1100 local time (0800 GMT). 
  Fighting broke out on Tuesday as Ethiopian troops tried to recapture territory occupied by Eritrea.
  Heavy losses
  The Ethiopian Government said its forces had, in the space of four days, managed to destroy the enemy troops, "sending them into total disarray".
  "Enemy army personnel left over have fled, scattering and leaving behind their military armaments," it said in the statement.
  Ethiopia said that tens of thousands of Eritrean troops were killed, wounded or captured in the last few days of fierce fighting.
  These figures are rejected by the Eritreans who argue that the Ethiopians have incurred the heaviest casualties. These claims and counter-claims cannot be independently verified.
  But diplomats confirm that both sides have suffered extremely heavy losses.
  Peace plan
  News of Ethiopia's victory declaration came hours after the United Nations announced that Eritrean President Issaias Afeworki had accepted an Organisation of African Unity (OAU) peace plan which implies Eritrean withdrawal from the contested western Badme zone.
  Eritrea's acceptance of the peace plan - effectively a reversal of its earlier position - came after Ethiopian troops breached its lines at Badme and captured up to 10km of territory that Eritrea had claimed for itself.
  The war between the two neighbours began in May last year, with the initial battles lasting for about five weeks. The latest fighting resumed on 6 February, ending an eight-month stalemate.
  Although Eritrea fought a 30-year war against Ethiopia and was granted independence in 1993, the border between the two countries was never officially declared.

  February 9, 1999

  Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopian PM Meles Zenawi
  By East Africa Correspondent Cathy Jenkins
  It was the introduction of a new currency by Eritrea in 1997 that gave the first indications that all was not as it seemed between the two Horn of Africa neighbours.
  Until then relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea had appeared to be excellent. For the West, Ethiopia's prime minister, Meles Zenawi, and the Eritrean president, Isaias Afwerki, were a new type of African leader who, it was hoped, would help bring about an African renaissance.
  At home they were often described as being like brothers. The Eritreans helped the Ethiopians overthrow the Mengistu regime, and, in 1993, gained their own long-fought for independence.
  Until 1997 Eritrea had kept the Ethiopian currency. When it introduced its own, citing economic reasons, the relationship started to look shaky.
  The long border shared by the two countries is in places mountainous, rocky and desolate. It has never been properly delineated.
  Until last year that didn't seem to matter. Ethiopians seeking work crossed easily into Eritrea. Tens of thousands of Eritreans lived in Ethiopia.
  Ethiopian and Eritrean officials held occasional committee meetings to discuss the issue, but these appeared to the outside world as cordial and unproblematic.
  Maps and missiles
  The border line was based on old colonial maps drawn up by the Italians. Suddenly the maps became the focus of a crisis.
  Fighting broke out in May 1998 an area known as the Badme triangle, a 400 square km triangle of land. The Ethiopians, who administered it, said the Eritreans had invaded and they demanded their withdrawal.
  Eritrea admitted that its forces had entered the area, but claimed that they were taking back land which belonged to Eritrea. The pattern of claim and counter claim was repeated at several more points along the border.
  In Addis Ababa, the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front said Ethiopia would not begin negotiations until Eritrean forces pulled back from its land. Eritrea said this was impossible because the land was Eritrean. Deadlock was reached.
  There is still some bafflement among analysts as to why Ethiopia and Eritrea allowed the situation to deteriorate so far. Economically both seemed to have a lot to lose.
  Ethiopia, which used the Eritrean ports of Massawa and Asab, immediately mounted a blockade and diverted its ships to Djibouti.
  While this has caused economic damage to Eritrea, thousands of Ethiopians have also lost a place to work.
  And whilst the West and other African leaders mounted their mediation efforts, the two leaders lost their reputation as the forward-looking men in the Horn of Africa.
*October 7, 1998
  US envoy in Eritrea for MEDIATION
  Both sides have used heavy artillery in the conflict

  A senior American envoy, Anthony Lake, has had a meeting in  the Eritrean capital, Asmara, with President Afewerki on the first stage  of a mission to try to resolve the country's conflict with Ethiopia.
  Neither side made any comment on the discussions.
  Mr Lake declined to disclose details of the US initiative to the media on the grounds that this would be unhelpful.
  He is due to travel on to Addis Ababa on Thursday.
  His mission coincides with the end of the rainy season which has seen a huge troop build-up along both sides of the border.
  Fighting broke out between the two countries in May over a territorial dispute.
  Little optimism
  On Tuesday, Ethiopia said it welcomed the peace talks and appreciated the role played by the United States.
  However Prime Minister Meles Zenawi hinted that a resumption of fighting may be the only solution if the mediation attempt fails and said he was not optimistic about a peaceful settlement.
  In September Eritrea expressed reservations about the US mediation attempt. An Eritrean statement criticised what it called previous unhelpful interference by the US over the border dispute.
  Eritrea, a former Italian colony, became independent from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year war for independence.


A wounded Ethiopian prisoner, foreground, surrenders to Eritrean soldiers in Zala Ambessa, Ethiopia Thursday, more than 24 hours after they had overran the village.

 Ethiopia bombs Eritrean capital

                    Ethiopia has launched two air raids against Eritrea in an escalation of the border crisis between the two countries.
                    Eritrean anti-aircraft guns shot down one Ethiopian plane during an attack on the airport in
the capital Asmara. There was another Ethiopian raid to the south-east of the city.
 US-Rwandan plan
  Eritrea earlier said there were serious obstacles to a joint American-Rwandan initiative to solve the dispute. The Eritrean Government said the four-point plan was not controversial, but that serious issues of detail and implementation remained.
  The Ethiopians indicated their support for the initiative, but the Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, said he had ordered Ethiopian defence forces to take all necessary measures to safeguard the country's territorial integrity.
  The plan provides for an Eritrean withdrawal, the deployment of an observer force, the return of the previous civilian administration and an investigation of the rival claims to the disputed area.

   Ethiopian soldier with a rocket launcher 
          June 15, 1998           Ethiopia, Eritrea move to end border war
   Ethiopia and Eritrea have agreed to halt any further air strikes on each other's territory while they continue efforts to find a solution to their border conflict.
                      Diplomatic efforts
      Earlier, a team of American officials met the Eritrean President, Isayas Aferwerki, after holding talks in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
      They said there was willingness on the part of both sides to engage with a third party to find a solution.
      The Rwandan Vice-President, Paul Kagame, also met the Eritrean leadership on Friday.
      A delegation of four regional leaders - the Presidents of Burkino Faso, Rwanda, Djibouti and Zimbabwe - was due to start mediation efforts this week under the umbrella of the Organisation of African Unity.
      Diplomats have expressed concern at the continued build-up of troops by both sides.
      Ethiopia has repeated its refusal to enter direct negotiations until Eritrea withdraws its troops from the disputed area.

  #top January 11, 1999           AMNESTY DECLARES WAR ON CHILD ARMIES
  Amnesty says 300.000 child soldiers are fighting in wars 
  A new generation of weapons light enough for 10-year-olds to use is helping to create armies of child soldiers, according to Amnesty International.
  The human rights group estimates there are 300,000 child soldiers around the world in a new report which supports a campaign to raise the recruitment age for armies from 15 to 18.
  "The development of lightweight automatic weapons that are light enough and simple enough means that 10-year-olds can carry and use these weapons as effectively as an adult," says human rights lawyer Rachel Brett.
  "Once you indoctrinate the children and particularly if you provide them with drugs and alcohol they become very effective killers, very effective torturers. Once you break that inhibition it tends to go on.''
  She adds that young children could not have fought in the same way in World War II because weapons were far heavier and more complicated.
  The minimum recruitment age of 15 was laid down as part of what Amnesty describes as "a weak compromise" when the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was negotiated in 1989.
  It has since been ratified by every country except the United States and Somalia.
  Ms Brett says that in practice, because of a lack of birth registers in many countries, children aged between 12 and 14 were being passed off as 15. And some armed groups even recruited children under 10.
  Girls used as sex slaves
  Uganda, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Sierra Leone are among countries where armed groups recruit children.
  The Amnesty report, 'In The Firing Line', says the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group in Uganda has systematically abducted and recruited up to 8,000 children, mostly between 13 and 16.
  "Children are beaten, murdered and forced to fight well-armed government troops. They are chattels owned by the LRA leadership. Girls are raped and used as sexual slaves," it adds.
  One 15-year-old girl, forcibly recruited into the LRA, told Amnesty how she was ordered to kill another child who tried to flee, forced to watch as a boy was hacked to death for failing to raise the alarm, and given 35 days' training before being sent off to fight.
  The release of the report coincides with a meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission to deliberate an "optional protocol" to the 1989 convention to raise the minimum recruitment age.
  The protocol would be adopted by countries if they wished, and would not automatically become part of the convention. 
  Amnesty also said it hoped the establishment of an International Criminal Court would make it possible to put on trial those who used child fighters.
  Rory Mungoven, the director of Amnesty's Asia programme, says: "Sooner or later someone will be held accountable for the recruitment of children. That is a precedent we can all look forward to."



 #top October 8, 1998

  Iranian troops on exercise near the Afghan border
  Iran says its armed forces have clashed with the Afghan Taleban movement on the border between the two countries.
  Tehran radio said Taleban militiamen fired light and heavy weapons at a border post in the Salehabad region of Torbat-e-Jam, in the north of Khorasan province, at 6:30 am local time (0300 GMT).
  Iranian Revolutionary Guards "severely responded," forcing the Taliban forces to retreat, it said.
  Taleban denial
  A Taleban spokesman in Kandahar said the Iranian statement was a lie, and there had been no firing from the Afghan side of the border. He accused Iran of seeking a pretext for a wider conflict.
  Iran sent tens of thousands of extra troops to the Afghan border, after the Taleban expanded its area of control in Afghanistan in August and September by driving back Iranian-backed groups.
  Last week tension rose further between the two countries when the Taleban authorities accused Iranian planes of violating Afghan air space.
  Relations between Iran and Afghanistan deteriorated after the killing in August of nine Iranian diplomats and an Iranian journalist in northern Afghanistan. Iran is currently conducting military exercises involving tens of thousands of troops on its border with Afghanistan.
  The military manoeuvres, codenamed Zulfaqar 2, are the biggest the country has ever staged - with some 200,000 troops expected to take part.
  There has been a growing war of words betwen Tehran and the Taleban; a spokesman in Kabul has warned that the Taleban would "target Iranian cities" if their territory was attacked.
  No sign of apology
  Taleban leaders blamed the killings of the Iranian diplomats on irregulars who seized the city from opposition forces.
  Iran has demanded an apology from the Taleban and wants those who responsible for the killings to be punished.
  The Taleban say the Iranians were in Mazar-e-Sharif for military and not diplomatic purposes at the time of their death.
  Afghanistan is now 90% controlled by the Taleban, which wants to take over the country's seat at the United Nations, still held by the ousted government of Burhannudin Rabbani.
Iranian Revolutionary Guards raise their fists in support Tuesday in Tehran as Ayatollah Ali Khameini announces his order for the country's armed forces to prepare to take measures against the Taliban Islamic militia in Afghanistan. Iran's leadership is outraged over the murder by the militia of nine Iranian diplomats and a journalist after a raid on the Iranian consulate in Afghanistan's northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.


May-June 1999

 The low-level conflict in the disputed region of Kashmir flared this week when India detected what it said were Pakistani-backed infiltrators high in the Himalayas.
May 26, 1999

   By BBC News Online's Fergus Nicoll
  Who's involved in the dispute over Kashmir?
  The territory of Kashmir was hotly contested even before Indian and Pakistan won their independence from Britain in August 1947.
  Under the partition plan provided by the Indian Independence Act of 1947, Kashmir was free to accede to India or Pakistan.
  The Maharaja, Hari Singh, wanted to stay independent, but eventually decided to accede to India, signing over key powers to the Indian government - in return for military aid and a promised referendum.
  Since then, the territory has been the flash-point for two of the three India-Pakistan wars: the first in 1947-8, the second in 1965.
  Since 1989, in addition to the rival claims of Delhi and Islamabad to the territory, there has been a growing and often violent separatist movement fighting for the independence of Kashmir.
  What are the rival claims?
  Islamabad says Kashmir should have become part of Pakistan in 1947, because Muslims are in the majority in the region (see below).
  Pakistan also argues that Kashmiris should be allowed to vote in a referendum on their future, following numerous UN resolutions on the issue.
  Delhi, however, doesn't want international debate on the issue, arguing that the Simla Agreement of 1972 provided for a resolution through bilateral talks.
  India points to the Instrument of Accession signed in October 1947 by the Maharaja, Hari Singh.
  Both India and Pakistan reject the so-called "third option"of Kashmiri independence.
  What is the Line of Control?
  A demarcation line was originally established in January 1949 as a ceasefire line, following the end of the first Kashmir war.
  In July 1972, after a second conflict, the Line of Control (LOC) was re-established under the terms of the Simla Agreement, with minor variations on the earlier boundary.
  What's the geography?
  The LOC passes through a mountainous region around 5,000 metres high.
  The conditions are so extreme that the bitter cold claims more lives than the sporadic military skirmishes.
  North of the LOC, the rival forces have been entrenched on the Siachen glacier (more than 6,000 metres high) since 1984; it's the highest battlefield on earth.
  The LOC divides Kashmir on a two-to-one basis: Indian-administered Kashmir to the east and south (population around nine million), which falls into the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir; and Pakistani-administered Kashmir to the north and west (population around 3 million), which is labelled by Pakistan as "Azad" (Free) Kashmir.
  What's the UN involvement?
  The UN has maintained a presence in the disputed area since 1949.
  Currently, the LOC is monitored by the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP). It is commanded by Major-General Jozsef Bali of Hungary.
  According to the UN, their mission is "to observe, to the extent possible, developments pertaining to the strict observance of the ceasefire of December 1971".
  As of 31 December 1998, nine UNMOGIP personnel have been killed in the conflict.
  Is religion an issue?
  Religion is an important aspect of the dispute. Partitition in 1947 gave India's Muslims a state of their own: Pakistan. So a common faith underpins Pakistans claims to Kashmir, where many areas are Muslim-dominated.
  The population of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir is over 60% Muslim, making it the only state within India where Muslims are in the majority. There have been sporadic but recently increasing incidents of sectarian violence.
  Who are the militants?
  There are several groups pursuing the rival claims to Kashmir.
  Not all are armed, but since Muslim insurgency began in 1989, the number of armed separatists has grown from hundreds to thousands. The most prominent are the pro-Pakistani Hizbul-Mujahideen. Islamabad denies providing them and others with logistical and material support.
  The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) was the largest pro-independence group, but its influence is thought to have waned. Other groups have joined under the umbrella of the Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference, which campaigns peacefully for an end to India's presence in Kashmir.
  What about human rights?
  International human rights agencies have frequently expressed concern about Kashmir.
  In a recent report, Amnesty International said there was "a pattern of human rights abuses committed by Indian security forces in connivance with armed groups".
  In its World Report 1999, the Washington-based group Human Rights Watch describes the massacres of Hindu civilians by what it says are Pakistan-backed militant groups as "a deadly new development".

  Additional troops were rushed in and heavy artillery pounded positions taken by the suspected Islamic militants in the Kargil region of Indian-administered Kashmir.

  After heavy exchanges with Pakistani soldiers, an Indian army post was abandoned when it was hit by a mortar shell.

  Helicopter gunships and war planes were sent in as India launched air strikes for the first time in a quarter of a century.

  Residents of Dras in the Kargil region began leaving their homes for safer areas.

  Soldiers patrolled the empty streets of Kargil town as thousands of residents fled.

  India revealed on Thursday that it had lost two war planes which Pakistan said it had shot down. India described Pakistan's action as "hostile and provocative."

   Kashmir: Indian troops on alert at the Kashmir ceasefire line
 Villagers living in the Pakistani part of Kashmir along the dividing line at Chakoti fled their homes on Sunday during a lull in artillery battles between India and Pakistan. Dozens of civilians on both sides have been killed.


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