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United Nations
In an unanimously adopted resolution on June 26 the U.N. Security Council demanded an immediate end to the border conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and urged both sides to cooperate with mediation efforts led by the Organization of African Unity. The resolution also established a trust fund to support any eventual U.N. technical mission for border demarcation. By late October, the U.N. still maintained a low profile in seeking a solution for the dispute at a time when it was poised to flare up again in open war.

High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson on July 1 issued a statement expressing concern about the violation of human rights of Eritreans being expelled from Ethiopia, and appealing to the two countries to resolve their dispute peacefully. Ethiopia reacted angrily, and demanded an immediate amendment to what it said was a baseless statement which, the Foreign Ministry charged, was “of the type that would undermine the credibility of the office of the United Nations.”

Contrary to the Ministry’s statement, the U.N.’s credibility could only be harmed by the lack of human rights considerations despite the variety and levels of its involvements in the country. Senior U.N. officials frequently visited Addis Ababa, which is also the headquarters of the Organization of African Unity (O.A.U.), and the U.N.’s Economic Commission for Africa. Ethiopia ranked as the third largest recipient of the agency’s Children’s Emergency Fund support worldwide, and was one of the top four beneficiaries of its Food and Agriculture Organization globally. In late April, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan held talks with Ethiopian government officials and those of the O.A.U. on prospects for peace in east and central Africa. He voiced guarded optimism about the end of a decade of conflicts in Africa and the emergence of a “new Africa” which he depicted as making efforts to “reject violence, embrace democracy, endorse human rights and promote economic reform.” Two weeks after the end of his tour, renewed deadly conflicts exploded in east and central Africa.

Regional Organizations
The Organization of African Unity backed efforts led by Ethiopia and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (I.G.A.D.) to mediate the conflicts in Somalia and Sudan. Durable peace in the two strife-torn nations remained to be achieved, after the failure of several mediation rounds during the year. I.G.A.D. was significantly weakened by the dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which were the most stable of its members and hitherto shared the same positions on regional issues. By late October, the O.A.U.’s own peace initiative to halt that dispute appeared stalled. The O.A.U.’s mediation committee, composed of the presidents of Burkina Faso, Djibouti, and Zimbabwe, during a visit to Addis Ababa and Asmara in mid June offered a peace plan based on an earlier initiative by the United States and Rwanda that called for the withdrawal of Eritrean forces to positions held before the start of the conflict. Ethiopia agreed to the plan, but Eritrea rejected it, saying it would hand the disputed areas only to a neutral monitoring force.

European Union
The E.U. in a presidential statement on May 15 expressed concern at reports of border clashes between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and urged both governments to resolve their dispute peacefully. The African, Caribbean and Pacific and E.U. Joint Assembly issued a resolution on September 24 condemning the outbreak of hostilities and calling for an immediate end to the human rights violations perpetrated during the conflict, including arbitrary expulsions, deportation, and detention.

Taking into account all E.U. assistance mechanisms, Ethiopia was by far the largest recipient of European assistance, ahead of any other A.C.P. state. Representatives of the E.U. member states in Addis Ababa readily allowed, however, that the government’s outright rejection of any overt criticism of its human rights practices had forced them to raise such concerns with the government only privately.

World Bank
Ethiopia was not only the World Bank’s largest client in Africa in 1998, but among the largest worldwide. By the fiscal year ending in June, the World Bank had funded projects worth U.S. $669 million. The departing resident representative in mid-September lauded the government’s macroeconomic achievements but made no reference to its shortcomings in guaranteeing the rights of its citizens.

United States
The outbreak of hostilities between Ethiopia and Eritrea, its closest allies in the east Africa subregion, dealt a serious setback to U.S. foreign policy toward Africa. Together with Uganda, they were the linchpins of a policy of diplomatic and military containment of Sudan, whose fundamentalist government was viewed by the U.S. and its three allies as a threat to regional stability. In response tothe crisis with Eritrea, the U.S. suspended all military to military programs in Ethiopia, including the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI), and various military training exercises. Funding for the Front Line States initiative, which supplied non-lethal equipment for Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Uganda in their struggle against Sudan, was allocated but was not expected to be expended pending the resolution of the crisis with Eritrea.

With about $30 million in development aid and $66 million in food aid, bringing the total to about $97 million, Ethiopia remained the second largest recipient of U.S. aid in Sub-Saharan Africa, after South Africa. The U.S. failed to use its privileged relations with Ethiopia as a leverage for human rights improvements, preferring instead to raise human rights issues with the Ethiopian government only in private demarches, but not publicly. The only public statement involving human rights came on August 6, when the U.S. government expressed deep concern at the detention and expulsion of Eritreans in and from Ethiopia. The statement recalled the fundamental humanitarian and human rights concerns raised by the forcible expulsions and called on the Ethiopian government to follow appropriate due process in addressing its security concerns.

The U.S. took the lead in mediation efforts shortly after the conflict flared up in early May. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Susan Rice visited both countries in search of common grounds for a settlement, and President Clinton secured a moratorium on air raids in mid-June by persuading both leaders by telephone to halt the escalating air war. Eritrea rejected the joint U.S.- Rwanda peace plan which came to form the basis of the subsequent O.A.U. initiative and was later expressly endorsed by the U.N. Security Council. The U.S. sent former national security advisor Anthony Lake to the region in late October with “new ideas for helping the two parties resolve their problems.” His mission appeared doomed, however, when around the same time Eritrea publicly criticized U.S. intervention in the dispute as counterproductive and Ethiopia said it considered the O.A.U.’s initiative as the only possible basis for a negotiated solution.




The Democratic Republic of Congo







Sierra Leone

South Africa





Stop the Use of Child Soldiers

Abduction and Enslavement of Ugandan Children

Human Rights Causes of the Famine in Sudan


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Human RIghts Watch