Women veterans who have been decorated for their service to the state
After the 1974 overthrow of Haile Selassie, the Mengistu regime confronted several internal rebellions and one major external opponent. These internal rebellions consisted of threats posed by Eritrean secessionists, Tigrayan rebels, and other, less active guerrilla movements in the center and south of the country. Whatever the political orientation or ethnic composition of these insurgent groups, the Ethiopian government characterized them variously as "traitors," "counterrevolutionaries," "feudalists," "shifta" (bandits), or "paid agents of the CIA." By 1991 the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) had emerged as the strongest guerrilla groups opposed to the government.
Since the end of World War II, Somalia has posed the only serious external threat to Ethiopia. In the late 1980s, however, the nature of this threat changed, perhaps permanently, as the Somali government became more involved with maintaining its internal security and less capable of recreating a "Greater Somalia."
A variety of Eritrean secessionist groups have used conventional means and guerrilla tactics to defy the forces of both the imperial and the revolutionary governments (see The Eritrean Movement, ch. 4). The Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF), a nationalist organization committed to self-rule for Eritrea, commenced a small-scale insurgency in 1961 against imperial security forces. Throughout the 1960s, the level of hostilities accelerated steadily, leading to the 1971 imposition of martial law. Ethiopian army personnel deployed to Eritrea during this period numbered about 20,000, roughly half the force's total, but much of the burden of counterinsurgency operations fell on the paramilitary mobile police.
Ideological and ethnic differences split the ELF in 1970 and resulted in the formation of the Marxist-oriented Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF). From 1972 to 1974, a civil war ensued between the two groups. Eventually, the EPLF, which advocated "revolution before unity," emerged victorious. Many ELF members, and sometimes entire units, then fled into eastern Sudan, further weakening the organization in Eritrea. After establishing its dominance, the EPLF used its increased popularity to expand its personnel strength. By 1977, when secessionists controlled the countryside and most population centers, the EPLF had approximately 15,000 troops in the field. The ELF, however, still had numerical superiority, with about 20,000 troops in its ranks. Therefore, to further discredit and isolate the ELF, the EPLF and a group of former ELF cadres who had reorganized themselves as the Eritrean Liberation Front- Revolutionary Council issued a joint statement indicating that they were "the sole representatives of the Eritrean people and the only legal spokesmen on all issues concerning the Eritrean people's struggle."
In May 1978, a 100,000-member Ethiopian force was deployed in a counteroffensive whose objective was the eradication of the Eritrean revolution. Even though the EPLF and ELF succeeded in making some preemptive attacks against government units and in defending Eritrea's southern border, the ferocity of the government counteroffensive forced the rebels to undertake a "strategic withdrawal" to their base area. As a result, the Ethiopian army reoccupied most towns and cities that had been taken by the rebels. Government troops also dealt a crippling blow to the ELF, causing many of its personnel to flee into eastern Sudan, where many of them remained.
The only government setback occurred at the EPLF-held town of Nakfa, which eventually became a symbol of Eritrean determination to resist government control. After retreating EPLF units had reached Nakfa, they built heavy fortifications, including a forty-kilometer-long defensive trench in the surrounding mountains. Despite repeated attempts, the Ethiopian army was unable to dislodge the EPLF from Nakfa. Between 1978 and 1981, the Derg unleashed five large-scale military campaigns against the EPLF, none of which resulted in a government victory.
In February 1982, the Mengistu regime embarked on its sixth counteroffensive against the EPLF. Dubbed Red Star, the campaign involved 120,000 government troops. The campaign failed to drive the EPLF from Nakfa and resulted in the deaths of more than 40,000 Ethiopian troops. Although Addis Ababa managed to consolidate its hold over the Eritrean highlands, it was unable to eliminate the EPLF, which still possessed the capacity to make hit-and-run strikes against government positions.
Once the 1982 Red Star offensive ended, the EPLF regrouped its forces to seize the military initiative. In January 1984, the EPLF captured the town of Teseney in southwestern Eritrea, and two months later the rebels overran the port of Mersa Teklay, thereby establishing an EPLF presence on the northeastern coast. During this battle, the rebels also captured a significant number of weapons, which they used to take the strategic hilltop town of Barentu in early July 1985. Once again, the rebels captured an array of military equipment, including fifteen T-54/55 tanks and dozens of trucks and artillery pieces. In May 1984, EPLF commandos attacked the Asmera air base and reportedly destroyed two Soviet Il-38 maritime reconnaissance aircraft.
When news of the EPLF's victory at Barentu reached Addis Ababa, the Mengistu regime ordered the redeployment of two divisions (about 30,000 troops) from the Ogaden to northern Ethiopia and formed a new armored division to help retake the town. The Ethiopian army then made perhaps as many as thirteen attempts to recapture the town, losing 2,000 soldiers killed or wounded in the process. After the Ethiopian air force started bombing Barentu, the EPLF guerrillas withdrew from the town on August 24, 1985, taking with them at least thirteen T-55 tanks, twelve artillery pieces, and several APCs. According to the EPLF, their units killed or captured 11,250 Ethiopian soldiers during several battles fought before the withdrawal.
Within days of reoccupying Barentu, the Ethiopian army recaptured Teseney, thereby cutting off the EPLF's western territorial flank. Additional government victories forced the rebels to fall back to their Nakfa stronghold. Over the next several weeks, the Ethiopian armed forces used tanks and other armored vehicles, cluster bombs, napalm, and fighter-bombers to support the ground attack on Nakfa. By the summer of 1986, the government offensive had ended; Nakfa, however, was still in rebel hands, and the EPLF had extended its area of control southward along the Eritrean coast.
On October 10, 1985, the Derg launched another anti-EPLF offensive, whose objective was the capture of Nakfa "within five days." The operation involved sixty aircraft and thirty helicopter gunships. For the first time, the Ethiopian air force dropped airborne units behind rebel lines in northeast Sahel awraja (subregion). When Ethiopian forces failed to capture the city, the Mengistu regime ordered two more attacks on Nakfa, each of which ended in the government's defeat.
In 1986 the EPLF relied on more traditional guerrilla tactics in its operations against the Ethiopian armed forces. On January 14, 1986, for example, a rebel commando unit, armed with rocket launchers and hand grenades, again penetrated the Asmera air base, destroying more than forty aircraft and burning the installation's ammunition and fuel depots. Apart from the impact on the Ethiopian air force, this attack caused the Soviet Union to terminate its reconnaissance flights to and from Asmera. The following May, EPLF artillery units bombarded Ethiopian positions in and around Mitsiwa, destroying fuel tanks and tankers. Regular units also overran government garrisons located about thirty kilometers south of Asmera.
Concurrent with these military operations, the EPLF continued its political offensive against the Mengistu regime. On September 23, 1986, the rebels celebrated their twenty-fifth year of resistance by calling on the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the League of Arab States (Arab League), the UN, and the Nonaligned Movement to recognize the legitimacy of their claim to nationhood. Then, on November 25, the EPLF announced that it had merged with an ELF faction that had severed ties with its parent group. The EPLF also continued efforts to reach an accommodation with another ELF faction, the Eritrean Liberation Front- Revolutionary Council, led by Ahmad Nasir.
The armed struggle in Eritrea entered 1987 with neither the EPLF nor the Ethiopian government willing to abandon the use of military force to achieve their political objectives. However, the Mengistu regime abandoned its costly strategy of launching annual major counteroffensives in Eritrea, preferring instead a policy of defensive containment while rebuilding its army, which still had not recovered from the October 1985 offensive.
The EPLF also kept its military activities to a minimum. Apart from various hit-and-run operations, one of the largest rebel engagements occurred on March 20, when the EPLF clashed with four Ethiopian army brigades in Eritrea's northern zone. In the two-day battle, the EPLF claimed government forces suffered 650 casualties.
The following year, the EPLF, which by then had approximately 30,000 full-time fighters plus an unknown number of part-time personnel, stepped up its military activities in Eritrea. On March 19, 1988, the rebels inflicted a defeat on Ethiopia's Second Revolutionary Army at the garrison town of Afabet. According to British historian and Africa specialist Basil Davidson, the Afabet victory was one of the biggest ever scored by any liberation movement anywhere since Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam in 1954. Rebel spokesmen indicated that the EPLF had destroyed an Ethiopian army corps, comprising three divisions totaling 18,000 to 20,000 personnel. The rebels also had captured several thousand Ethiopian soldiers, three Soviet military advisers, and an array of equipment.
The Ethiopian government, which launched an unsuccessful counteroffensive in June 1988 against the EPLF, eventually ordered the evacuation of all foreign personnel working for humanitarian and relief organizations in Eritrea. Additionally, Addis Ababa told these organizations to relinquish all food and nonfood assistance to the government's Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (RRC). Many Western governments, including that of the United States, objected to this decision because they feared Mengistu would resort to using food as a weapon against Eritrean and Tigrayan rebels and their sympathizers.
Another development associated with the Eritrean triumph at Afabet was the EPLF's and TPLF's acknowledgment of each other's military victories, something that had not happened since a disagreement between the two groups in 1985 (see The Tigray, this ch.). In addition, the two groups issued a reconciliation statement in Damascus, Syria, and promised to coordinate future military actions to bring an end to the Mengistu regime. However, the EPLF-TPLF relationship continued to experience difficulties, largely because of disagreement over strategy and tactics, over the next several years.
Apart from further demoralizing the Ethiopian army, the Afabet victory also gave impetus to the peace process. In early July 1989, Yuri Yukalov, director of the African department at the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs, met with EPLF secretary general Issaias Afwerki. The meeting was significant because it was the first serious contact between the Soviet Union and the EPLF and because it demonstrated to Mengistu that Moscow was no longer willing to provide unlimited military assistance to support his military strategy in northern Ethiopia.
The EPLF sustained its military pressure on the Mengistu regime in 1989. On January 17, rebel units launched a preemptive attack against Ethiopian troops located northwest of the Asmera-Mitsiwa road. During the two-day battle, the EPLF claimed to have killed, wounded, or captured some 2,600 Ethiopian soldiers, in the process destroying twenty-one tanks and capturing eight others, together with a variety of small- and medium-caliber weapons. On February 19, EPLF units, operating in conjunction with the TPLF, struck and captured the town of Inda Silase in Tigray. Over the next few months, the EPLF defeated an Ethiopian contingent at Adi Kwala, a town ninety kilometers south of Asmera (March 15); repulsed an Ethiopian army attempt to cut off the EPLF fortifications around Keren (March 22-29); and killed or wounded approximately 1,000 Ethiopian soldiers at Adi Goroto (March 27-29).
In mid-1989, after Mengistu had succeeded in thwarting a coup attempt, the EPLF and the Ethiopian government agreed to enter into negotiations mediated by former United States president Jimmy Carter. After a round of preliminary negotiations, which opened on September 7, 1989, at the Carter Presidential Center at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, the two sides agreed to hold another round of peace talks in Nairobi, Kenya, beginning on November 20, 1989. These talks failed to produce a peace agreement. Subsequent meetings in Washington, chaired by United States assistant secretary of state for African affairs Herman Cohen, also accomplished little.
Meanwhile, government forces continued to suffer battlefield defeats. On February 10, 1990, the EPLF captured the port of Mitsiwa. The fall of this strategically important port isolated Ethiopia's Second Revolutionary Army and eventually resulted in the loss of Eritrea. Additionally, the EPLF used its small fleet of armed speed boats to sink or cripple most Ethiopian navy ships anchored in Mitsiwa harbor. Then, in August, the EPLF launched an offensive along the Dekemhare front, south of Asmera. During this operation, the rebels killed or wounded more than 11,000 government soldiers and captured two tanks, many vehicles, and more than 1,000 medium and light weapons. Although government forces enjoyed a few minor victories at the end of 1990, the EPLF remained in control of most of Eritrea.
In early 1991, the rebels started their final offensive against government forces by driving south along the Red Sea coast, a movement that by early April brought them to the gates of Aseb. At the same time, they formed an alliance with other rebel groups operating as the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and contributed at least eight brigades to the EPRDF to aid in military operations in Gonder and Gojam. By the end of April, the EPLF controlled nearly all of Eritrea, the major exceptions being Keren, Asmera, and Aseb. In late May, the EPLF assumed control of these towns without heavy fighting and without Ethiopian government reprisals against civilians. The 120,000-member Second Revolutionary Army surrendered in Asmera on May 24, the same day that Keren capitulated, the garrison at Aseb following suit the next day. Having occupied all of Eritrea, the EPLF announced its intention to repatriate all Ethiopian soldiers, security personnel, WPE members, and ordinary citizens back to Ethiopia. Shortly thereafter, EPLF leader Issaias Afwerki indicated that as far as he was concerned, Eritrea was an independent state.
Formed in 1975, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) was dedicated to the overthrow of the Mengistu regime (see The Tigrayan Movement, ch. 4). It survived during its early years only because of the money and weapons it received from the EPLF. The EPLF supported the TPLF because the latter formed a buffer between the Ethiopian army and Eritrea. Despite subsequent political and ideological rifts between the groups, the EPLF always maintained this buffer strategy.
On February 18, 1976, the TPLF convened its first congress, at Dima. The group of about 170 people in attendance elected a seven-member Central Committee. During May and June 1976, the rebels gained international attention by kidnapping a British family and a British journalist. By the end of the year, the TPLF had about 1,000 full-time fighters. It confined its military activities to attacking traffic along the main road between Mekele, the Tigrayan capital, and Asmera. Within two years, however, the TPLF had increased its strength to the point where the group controlled large parts of the countryside and threatened the Ethiopian army's supply lines.
Throughout the late 1970s and the early 1980s, Tigray, like Eritrea, suffered from the Derg's annual military counteroffensives in north-central Ethiopia. During these operations, the TPLF and the EPLF coordinated many of their military actions against government forces. However, in 1983 a rift developed between the groups after the TPLF proposed a unification of all anti-Mengistu elements, including the EPLF. Relations further deteriorated when the EPLF failed to inform the TPLF that it had started secret peace talks with Addis Ababa. As a result, the TPLF refrained from supporting the EPLF during the government's 1985 counteroffensive in northern Ethiopia. Although there was a brief reconciliation after the EPLF's victory at Afabet, the TPLF-EPLF estrangement continued for the next several years. In March 1987, for example, the TPLF refused to be represented at the EPLF's Unity Congress.
In February 1989, the TPLF, which by then included at least 20,000 full-time fighters plus an unknown number of part- time fighters, abandoned hit-and-run guerrilla tactics. The TPLF, with support from the EPLF, which wanted to open a second front against Mengistu, launched a conventional attack against the town of Inda Silase in western Tigray. The TPLF destroyed a 20,000-member Ethiopian army force. Ethiopian military units then withdrew from Mekele and the rest of Tigray without a fight. This defeat undoubtedly helped trigger the unsuccessful May 1989 coup against Mengistu.
Although government troops subsequently returned to southern Tigray and reoccupied a few towns and villages, the political and military initiative remained with the TPLF. On March 10, 1989, the TPLF opened its third congress. Apart from passing numerous antigovernment resolutions, the delegates pledged to support the EPRDF, which had been formed earlier in the year by the TPLF and a group known as the Ethiopian People's Democratic Movement (EPDM), whose members were primarily Amhara. In time, the EPRDF also included the Oromo People's Democratic Organization (OPDO) and the Ethiopian Democratic Officers' Revolutionary Movement, both of which had been created by the TPLF in May 1990. Tigrayan strategists hoped the unification of these groups eventually would enable the TPLF to widen its base of support beyond Tigray. Elements in support of the government, however, denounced the EPRDF as nothing more than a TPLF organization in Amhara clothing.
In August and September 1989, TPLF forces, operating within the framework of the EPRDF, moved south into Welo. They overran towns along the main road, routed numerous Ethiopian units, captured an array of Ethiopian army equipment, and forced the temporary evacuation of the regional capital of Dese. By the end of 1989, the EPRDF had succeeded in defeating an Ethiopian garrison at Debre Tabor. This victory enabled Tigrayan forces to cut the road between the cities of Gonder and Bahir Dar and to force their way into northern Shewa, less than 160 kilometers from Addis Ababa. Mengistu responded to these developments by persuading the National Shengo to order the mobilization of all former soldiers and police up to age seventy. Additionally, the National Shengo authorized increased military spending, assigned all transport to the war effort, and armed local populations in war zones. However, these actions failed to improve the government's battlefield performance against the EPRDF.
During 1990 the EPRDF, which controlled all of Tigray with the exception of one small government outpost, concentrated on consolidating the gains it had made the previous year, although in June the insurgents repulsed a major offensive by the Ethiopian army. The year 1991, however, saw the EPRDF launch three offensives in rapid succession that destroyed the Ethiopian army and the Mengistu regime. On February 23, the rebels began Operation Tewodros to drive the government out of Gonder and Gojam, and they succeeded after only two weeks of fighting. The inhabitants of both regions supported the operation largely because of their opposition to the heavy conscription campaign of the previous year and because of their hatred of the villagization program.
In March the EPRDF launched Operation Dula Billisuma Welkita into Welega, which resulted in the capture of the regional military headquarters in Nekemte. Insurgent units then advanced south and east and soon occupied Fincha, site of an electric power station that served Addis Ababa. In mid-May Operation Wallelign was begun along the Welo front. Within hours the rebels had overrun Dese and Kembolcha. By May 20, the EPRDF had captured all government positions in southern Welo and northern Shewa and were advancing on Addis Ababa from the west. The next morning, Mengistu fled the country.
In the aftermath of these three campaigns, the Ethiopian armed forces disintegrated. Tens of thousands of soldiers crowded into Addis Ababa and sold their weapons or used them to rob civilians. Countless other soldiers went home, while many senior army and air force officers fled to Djibouti, Kenya, or Sudan. Ethiopian naval personnel and vessels dispersed to Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Djibouti.
During the final week of the war, the EPRDF slowly advanced toward Addis Ababa, capturing the air force base at Debre Zeyit along the way. The final battle for the capital occurred on the morning of May 28, when the EPRDF entered the city. Resistance to the takeover consisted largely of street fighting and a low-level clash at the Grand (Menelik's) Palace. About 600 to 800 people, both civilians and combatants, reportedly died during the operation. For the TPLF, the long road from the hills of Tigray had finally ended in victory.
Created in July 1973, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) set forth as its goals Oromo liberation from "Ethiopian colonialism" and the establishment of an independent Democratic Republic of Oromia in southern Ethiopia (see Other Movements and Fronts, ch. 4). The following year, the OLF began an offensive against the Ethiopian army in Harerge. After the collapse of the imperial regime in 1974, the OLF increased its military activities after it became evident that the Mengistu regime would not allow the Oromo to elect their own representatives to run peasant associations or to use their own language in schools and newspapers. However, the OLF had little success in mobilizing support in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Beginning in the mid-1980s, the OLF experienced a resurgence. According to spokesmen, the organization had 5,000 fighters and more than 10,000 militia personnel; most other sources, however, suggested that the OLF's personnel strength was much lower. In 1985 the OLF overran the gold- mining town of Agubela and "freed" about 1,000 mine workers. The rebels also confiscated coffee valued at approximately US$2 million from the Ethiopian Coffee Marketing Board.
In early 1988, the Ethiopian army attacked OLF forces in Welega. Fierce fighting occurred around the garrison towns in Kelem and Gimbi awraja. Shortly after these battles, the OLF acknowledged that it had received support from the EPLF and the TPLF. Despite this activity, however, some Western observers believed that the OLF was still in the fledgling stage of its growth. Its chief weakness remained its inability to mobilize and coordinate the activities of its eastern wing in Harerge, Bale, Sidamo, and Arsi. As a result, another organization, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), competed with the OLF for the loyalty and support of the peoples living in the east (see The Somali, this ch.).
On June 10, 1989, the OLF reported that it had "disarmed" an unspecified number of Ethiopian soldiers and freed more than 2,000 Oromo prisoners by destroying five "concentration camps" in Gara Muleta awraja in Harerge. The following October, the OLF also engaged the Ethiopian army in Welega and Harerge. From November 10 to November 17, 1989, the OLF held its second congress in Golelola in Harerge. Besides adopting many antigovernment resolutions, the congress promised increased military activities against the Mengistu regime. A few weeks later, in December, OLF units, with EPLF support, launched an offensive that eventually resulted in the capture of the town of Asosa along the Ethiopian- Sudanese border. The OLF also escalated activities in Harerge after many Ethiopian army units redeployed to other locations in Ethiopia.
After occupying Asosa in January 1990, the OLF launched no further offensives against Mengistu's army until the end of the year, when OLF units saw action at several locations in western parts of the country. In 1991 the OLF remained largely in the background as the EPRDF and the EPLF fought their final battles against government forces. The OLF's last military action before the demise of the Mengistu regime occurred at Dembi Dolo in southerwestern Welega, when some of its units reportedly killed more than 700 government soldiers.
Relations between the OLF and the EPRDF seem to have been ambivalent even at the best of times because the Oromo were deeply suspicious of the ultimate designs of the Tigrayan leadership. These relations hardly improved during 1990 when the OLF was confronted by a rival group, the Oromo People's Democratic Organization (OPDO), sponsored by the TPLF as a member of the EPRDF umbrella organization. OLF spokesmen also repeatedly denounced EPRDF claims that it was the EPRDF that had freed the Oromo from the regime's domination. Actions such as these further alienated the OLF and helped account for the rift that developed shortly after the occupation of Addis Ababa between the OLF and the EPRDF over the composition of a new government--a disagreement that did not augur well for the future.
Figure 11. The Ogaden War, 1977-78
The most significant antigovernment force operating in the Ogaden was the Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF; see Other Movements and Fronts, ch. 4). WSLF guerrillas first engaged Ethiopian troops in combat in 1975, systematically attacking police posts and army garrisons from base camps across the border in Somalia. In June 1977, the WSLF, supported by the Somali government and joined by Somali National Army (SNA) "volunteers," succeeded in cutting the railroad bridges between Addis Ababa and Djibouti, which carried about a third of Ethiopia's external trade, and in establishing control over 60 percent of the Ogaden. At that time, the WSLF numbered about 6,000 troops. As the tempo of the conflict increased, the WSLF relied more and more on Somalia's armored and artillery capabilities.
In July 1977, mechanized units of the SNA army invaded Ethiopia in a preemptive thrust at Harer--the Ogaden region's military command center--that was intended to decide the Ogaden issue before promised Soviet military equipment arrived in Ethiopia (see fig. 11). Jijiga fell to Somali forces in September, when the Ethiopian mechanized unit defending it mutinied and fled in panic. The Somali forces then focused their efforts on the strategic Marda (also known as Karamarda) Pass, carrying the attack into the unfamiliar highlands to block Ethiopian reinforcements coming into Harerge. The move diverted Ethiopian forces from the main offensive aimed at Harer and Dire Dawa, site of the air base from which strikes were flown against targets inside Somalia.
After weeks of being bogged down by bad weather, in January 1978 the SNA pressed a three-pronged attack on Harer, where nearly 50,000 Ethiopian troops had regrouped, backed by Soviet-supplied heavy artillery and reinforced by 10,000 Cuban troops from units hurriedly flown in from Angola. Early in February 1978, the Ethiopians launched a two-stage counterattack toward Jijiga that had been planned and directed by Soviet advisers and backed by Cuban troops. Moving east and south from Dire Dawa, an Ethiopian column crossed the highlands between Jijiga and the Somali border, bypassing Somali troops dug in around the Marda Pass. In the second offensive strike, joined by Cuban troops, the Ethiopian army trapped the Somali forces around Jijiga between helicopter-borne tanks that had landed to their rear and a determined frontal assault from Harer. On March 5, the Ethiopians retook Jijiga after two days of fierce fighting in which they defeated four Somali brigades and killed 3,000 Somali troops. Within a week, the Ethiopian army had reestablished control over all the region's major towns. Meanwhile, the Ethiopian air force's F-5 fighters had won air superiority in engagements against Soviet-made Somali jets. On March 9, Siad Barre ended the undeclared war by announcing that he had recalled all SNA troops from the Ogaden. The introduction of Soviet equipment and 17,000 Cuban troops had decisively altered the balance of power in the Horn of Africa.
After the withdrawal of the Somali regulars, the WSLF reverted to classic guerrilla tactics against the Ethiopian army, whose soldiers they characterized as black colonialist troops. Western journalists visiting the region in early 1980 confirmed that the WSLF once again controlled the countryside and many of the main roads. Also, "volunteers," believed by many to have been troops of the SNA, reportedly had rejoined the WSLF. Renewed fighting occurred in June and July 1980, when, according to an official spokesman in Addis Ababa, Ethiopian troops repelled an incursion by a mechanized Somali force. Meanwhile, Ethiopia had started training and equipping the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF) and later the Somali National Movement (SNM), both of which began launching raids inside Somalia against the Siad Barre regime. The renewed conflict forced Mogadishu to declare a state of emergency in October 1980.
Another major incident occurred on June 30, 1983, when Ethiopian troops staged a two-pronged operation against Somalia. Part of the invading Ethiopian force intended to capture high ground in Hiiraan Region near Feerfeer on the Ethiopia--Somalia frontier. However, the SNA garrison at Beledweyne repulsed the Ethiopian attack. Farther north, an Ethiopian armored column overran a Somali settlement in Galguduud Region. On July 17, Ethiopian warplanes bombed and strafed the airstrip and other parts of Galcaio, the capital of Mudug Region. Ethiopian armored columns also crossed the border to the north and west of Galcaio and occupied the village of Galdogob. Until late 1983, there were numerous clashes between Ethiopian and Somali units, especially near Balumbale and in the northwest around Hargeysa. However, the Somali forces were unable to dislodge the Ethiopians from Balumbale and Galdogob.
For two more years, Ethiopian-Somali relations remained tense. In July 1985, Mengistu and Siad Barre held discussions at the OAU summit in Addis Ababa in order to lay the groundwork for a peaceful resolution of the Ogaden problem. Although Ethiopian and Somali officials held several more meetings, they were unable to reach a settlement. In mid-January 1986, a meeting between Mengistu and Siad Barre in Djibouti resulted in a "general understanding" on the Ogaden issue. This "understanding" was undermined on February 12, 1987, when Ethiopia launched ground and air raids on areas of western Somalia three weeks after protests and mass arrests cut off Hargeysa from the rest of the country. Although an agreement to end hostilities was signed in April 1988, the dispute remained unresolved because of Addis Ababa's continued support of the SNM. After the downfall of the Siad Barre regime in January 1991, tens of thousands of Somali refugees fled to the Ogaden. This exodus only added to eastern Ethiopia's increasing instability during the final months of the Mengistu regime.
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