The Djibouti Eritrea Border War was of short duration from
10th - 13th June 2008, however reflected an ongoing uneasy
tension between the two neighbours for many years.
In the course
of the conflict forty four Djibouti soldiers were killed and
some fifty five were injured. The war centred on the disputed Ras Doumeira
area on the Red Sea coast; an area Eritrea had launched a surprise
'attack' on in April prior to the war.
The dispute can be
traced back to 1900 when the colonial powers France (French
Somaliland, now Djibouti) and
Italy (Eritrea) deemed that the
international boundary between them should start at Ras Doumeira, but the protocol left Doumeira Island and its
surrounding islets as unassigned to either country however they
would remain demilitarised.
The actual border at Ras Doumeira (a hill) though was never
fully demarcated save for a broad agreement that the northern
slopes of hill were Italian and the southern slopes were French
and this arrangement sufficed whilst France and Italy remained
in control of the area, however after independence the
unresolved border became problematic.
Although there had been
simmering resentment between the two nations over the Djibouti
Eritrea border since independence, the first major crisis came
in April 1996 when Djibouti accused Eritrea of shelling Ras
Doumeira almost leading to all out war however the two nations
stepped back from the precipice until 2008 when Eritrea crossed
the Djibouti border claiming it required sand for road building.
Djibouti claimed that far from crossing the border merely for
sand Eritrea dug ditches and set up fortifications on both sides
of Ras Doumeira to claim it as its own. Both sides then moved their troops into the area and a
standoff ensued before the inevitable fighting broke out during
Eritrea suffered heavier
casualties with a reported hundred soldiers killed and a further
Whilst Eritrea has one in every fifteen of its
citizens in the armed forces, militarily Djibouti is much
weaker, and as an ally of Ethiopia,
is despised by Eritrea, making its government vulnerable to
attack. However in this short war some reports indicated that
that the French Foreign Legion in Djibouti provided logistical
support to the Djibouti troops.
Following the conflict Djibouti approached the UN and requested
assistance in patrolling the disputed area. They concurrently
withdrew to territory held before June 10th 2008 and the UN
requested that Eritrea do the same, however Eritrea refused.
It took until June 2010 for Eritrea to pull out and both sides
agreed to allow Qatar to mediate the dispute with Qatar
deploying its troops in the interim until the dispute can be
resolved, not least because Eritrea saw Qatar as a possible
route out of its growing isolation which may effect its booming