Djiboutian–Eritrean border conflict

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2008 Djiboutian–Eritrean border conflict
Djibouti-Eritrea border map.jpg
Map of the Eritrea-Djibouti border
Date June 10–13, 2008
Location Ras Doumeira border region between Djibouti and Eritrea on the Red Sea Coast, 12°42′30″N 43°8′0″E / 12.70833°N 43.13333°E / 12.70833; 43.13333
Result Eritrean forces seized territory in April 2008 and withdrew in June 2010 to help facilitate the start of bilateral negotiations. Qatari peacekeeping forces are deployed to monitor disputed area.[1]
Eritrea Eritrea Djibouti Djibouti
Technical and Medical Support
Commanders and leaders
Eritrea Isaias Afewerki
Eritrea Sebhat Ephrem
Djibouti Ismail Omar Guelleh
Djibouti Ougoureh Kifleh Ahmed
Casualties and losses
Djibouti claims*:
100 killed
267 captured[2]
21 defected
12-44 killed
55 wounded
19 captured
  • No official figures from Eritrean sources
    Djibouti was supported by France. Though French troops provided logistical, medical and intelligence support, France was not an active participant in hostilities.[3]

The Djiboutian–Eritrean border conflict between the forces of Djibouti and Eritrea occurred between June 10 and June 13, 2008.[a] It was triggered by tension which began on April 16, 2008, when Djibouti reported that Eritrean armed forces had penetrated into Djiboutian territory and dug trenches on both sides of the border.[4] The crisis deepened when armed clashes broke out between the two armed forces in the border area on June 10, 2008.[5] During the conflict, France provided logistical, medical and intelligence support to Djibouti, but did not participate in direct combat.[3]


Map of the disputed Ras Doumeira region

The currently in force 1900 boundary agreement specifies that the international boundary starts at Cape Doumeira (Ras Doumeira) at the Red Sea and runs for 1.5 km along the watershed divide of the peninsula. Furthermore, the 1900 protocol specified that Ile Doumeira (Doumeira Island) immediately offshore and its adjacent smaller islets would not be assigned sovereignty and would remain demilitarized. [6] Djibouti and Eritrea had twice previously clashed over the border area. In January 1935, Italy and France signed the Franco-Italian Agreement wherein parts of French Somaliland (Djibouti) were given to Italy (Eritrea).[7] 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, the question of ratification has brought this agreement, and its provision of substantial parts of Djibouti to Eritrea into question.[8][9] In April 1996 they almost went to war after a Djibouti official accused Eritrea of shelling Ras Doumeira.[10]

Eritrean movements in Ras Doumeira region[edit]

In January Eritrea reportedly requested to cross the border in order to get sand for a road, but instead occupied a hilltop in the region.[11] On April 16, Eritrea is reported by Djibouti to have set up fortifications and dug trenches on both sides of the Djiboutian border near Ras Doumeira.[4] Djibouti, in a letter to the UN calling for intervention, claimed new maps put out by Eritrea showed Ras Doumeira as Eritrean territory. Eritrea denied it had any problems with Djibouti.[12]

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said on May 15 that the row was a "threat to the peace and security of the whole Horn of Africa" and said Ethiopia would secure their trade corridor through Djibouti in the event of a conflict. Ethiopia has relied on Djibouti for access to the Red Sea since Eritrea's independence. Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki denied sending troops into the area and added they do not have any problem with Djibouti.[13]

Armed clashes[edit]

On June 10, according to Djibouti several Eritrean troops deserted their positions fleeing to the Djiboutian side. Djiboutian forces then came under fire from Eritrean forces demanding the return of the deserters.[5] Djibouti called up soldiers and police who had retired since 2004 in response to the fighting. Eritrea dismissed accounts from Djibouti as "anti-Eritrean". A statement from Eritrea's Foreign Ministry said it would not "get involved in an invitation of squabbles and acts of hostility" and claimed Djibouti was trying to drag Eritrea into its "concocted animosity".[14] According to French Colonel Ducret, French soldiers in Djibouti provided logistical and medical assistance to the Djibouti army as well as providing them with intelligence.[15] Clashes between the two forces reportedly continued for several days before Djibouti's military announced on June 13 that fighting had subsided,[4] but on the same day, President Guelleh, was quoted by the BBC as saying that his country was at war with Eritrea.[3]

44 Djiboutian soldiers were killed and 55 wounded during the fighting. According to Djiboutian estimates, 100 Eritrean soldiers were killed, 100 captured, and 21 defected. Djiboutian President Guelleh declared: "We've always had good relations. But they aggressively occupied part of our country. This is an aggression we are resisting".[16]

Djiboutian troops with light armoured cars near the border

By 2008 the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency estimated the army was 18,000 strong (with Eritrean army strength estimated at the same time as 200,000).

International reaction[edit]

The League of Arab States held an emergency session in response to the fighting and called for Eritrea to withdraw from the border region.[17]

  • France France:

The French foreign ministry said it was highly concerned about the fighting.[5] The French defense ministry announced they were increasing their military presence in Djibouti and increasing their support for Djibouti's army following the border clashes. The announcement also said France was "preparing to deploy a forward logistics base and a land force near the zone where the clashes took place", adding that "its military has stepped up air surveillance over the border to monitor the activities of Eritrean forces." Reports also indicate that additional naval forces are being moved to the region as well as an additional team of military surgeons.

French Defense Minister Hervé Morin also held discussions with Djibouti's Defense Minister Ougoureh Kifleh Ahmed, promising to strengthen the French military presence in the country in case there is "an escalation in the current border row." Also to reaffirm the "very great concern of France" over the recent border incidents, Morin, according to diplomatic sources, has "reassured his counterpart of the full support" of his government, at the same time calling for a "diplomatic" settlement of the issue. The two nations have a mutual defense agreement.[18]

The United Nations Security Council called on both sides to exercise maximum restraint and re-establish dialogue.[19][20]

  • United States United States:

The United States State Department issued a press release condemning Eritrea's "military aggression" saying it represented "an additional threat to peace and security in the already volatile Horn of Africa" and calling for Eritrea to accept third party mediation on the border dispute.[21] Eritrea responded to the statement accusing the U.S. of instigating conflict in the region.[22] The American embassy in Djibouti advised citizens against traveling to the northern Djibouti where Ras Doumeira is located for safety reasons.[23]

The Peace and Security Council of the African Union urged Eritrea and Djibouti to exercise the utmost restraint and to resolve the dispute through dialogue including fully cooperating with an AU mission sent to the area. However, Eritrea, unlike Djibouti, had not yet accepted the mission.[24] Bereket Simon, special adviser to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia told Reuters "Ethiopia firmly believes that such unwarranted action should be stopped immediately and peaceful and diplomatic solution must be sought for the problem."[14]

A Djiboutian soldier in the side of Ras Doumeira.


On June 24, 2008, the United Nations Security Council held a meeting at their headquarters in New York to hear a briefing of the situation, as well as statements from the Prime Minister of Djibouti Mohamed Dileita and the ambassador of Eritrea.[25]

A UN fact-finding mission was sent to the region and issued a report saying the standoff between Djibouti and Eritrea could "have a major negative impact on the entire region and the wider international community" noting while Djibouti has pulled out of the disputed area Eritrea has not. The fact-finding mission was not allowed into Eritrea by the Eritrean government.[26]

The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1862 on January 14, 2009, urging dialogue between the two countries to solve the issue peacefully. The council welcomed Djibouti's withdrawal to positions before June 10, 2008, and demanded Eritrea make a similar withdrawal within five weeks of the resolution.[27]

In early June 2010, Djibouti and Eritrea agreed to refer the matter to Qatar for mediation, a move that was praised by the African Union.[28] In March 2016, 4 Djiboutian prisoners of war captured during the border war were released by Eritrea eight years after the conflict.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Other name combinations are also used for this conflict which is also described as a war, border war, and dispute, including Eritrean-Djiboutian conflict, Eritrea-Djibouti war and Djibouti-Eritrea dispute


  1. ^ What Is an Expensive, Idyllic Resort Doing in Eritrea?
  2. ^ Capitaleritrea: Djibouti hands 267 Eritreans over to UNHCR, April 14, 2014. Retrieved May 11, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c "Africa | France backing Djibouti in 'war'". BBC News. June 13, 2008. Retrieved 29 October 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c "Djibouti-Eritrea border skirmishes subside as toll hits nine". Agence France-Presse. June 13, 2008. Retrieved June 2008.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  5. ^ a b c "US condemns Eritrea 'aggression'". BBC News. June 12, 2008. Retrieved June 2008.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  6. ^ "International Boundary Studies for most of the world". Retrieved November 2008.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  7. ^ Langer, William L. (1948). An Encyclopaedia of World History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 990. 
  8. ^ "Djibouti-Eritrea boundary row re-emerges". April 28, 2008. Retrieved August 2009.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  9. ^ "The Eritrea-Djibouti border dispute" (PDF). Institute for Security Studies. September 15, 2008. Retrieved August 2009.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)[dead link]
  10. ^ "Horn of Africa neighbours clash". Al Jazeera English. June 10, 2008. Retrieved June 2008.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  11. ^ "Face to face conflict that threatens the sea lanes". The Scotsman. June 1, 2008. Retrieved 29 October 2016. 
  12. ^ "Eritrea denies Djibouti war claim". BBC News. May 8, 2008. Retrieved 29 October 2016. 
  13. ^ "Ethiopia says ready to secure route to Djibouti port". Reuters. May 15, 2008. Retrieved June 2008.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  14. ^ a b "Two dead in Djibouti, Eritrea border clash". Reuters. June 12, 2008. Retrieved June 2008.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  15. ^ "France says supporting Djibouti in clashes with Eritrea - Summary". The Earth Times. June 13, 2008. Retrieved June 2008.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  16. ^ "Djibouti president accuses Eritrea over border fight". Reuters. June 14, 2008. Retrieved 29 October 2016. 
  17. ^ "UN urges restraint in Eritrea-Djibouti clashes". Middle East Online. 13 June 2008. Archived from the original on May 28, 2009. Retrieved October 28, 2009. 
  18. ^ "France reinforces military in Djibouti following border clash". Xinhua. June 14, 2008. Retrieved 29 October 2016. 
  19. ^ "Eritrea urged to withdraw from Djibouti border". Reuters. June 12, 2008. Retrieved 29 October 2016. 
  20. ^ United Nations Security Council Verbatim Report 5908. Peace and security in Africa S/PV/5908 June 12, 2008. Retrieved September 2008.
  21. ^ "Eritrea–Djibouti Border" (Press release). United States Department of State. June 11, 2008. Retrieved June 2008.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  22. ^ "Eritrea denounces US 'meddling' in Horn of Africa". International Herald Tribune via the Associated Press. June 13, 2008. Retrieved June 2008.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  23. ^ "US citizens warned on travel in Djibouti". via the Associated Press. June 12, 2008. Retrieved June 2008.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  24. ^ "AU urges Djibouti, Eritrea to resolve border dispute through dialogue". Afriquenligne. June 13, 2008. Retrieved June 2008.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  25. ^ United Nations Security Council Verbatim Report 5924. S/PV/5924 June 24, 2008. Retrieved September 2008.
  26. ^ "Djibouti-Eritrea conflict threatens region". Middle East Times. September 21, 2008. Archived from the original on September 21, 2008. Retrieved September 2008.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  27. ^ Security Council Urges Djibouti, Eritrea To Resolve Border Dispute Peacefully, UN, 14 January 2009.
  28. ^ "African Union Praises Eritrea, Djibouti Border Mediation". Voice of America. June 8, 2010. Retrieved June 2010.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  29. ^ Gebre, Samuel. "African Union Welcomes Eritrea's Release of Djiboutian Prisoners". Retrieved 2016-04-07. 

External links[edit]