By: Adem Berhan
November 7, 2003

I like to think that we Eritreans are justified in being skeptical about the international community. The international community generally and the UN, in particular, had failed us once in the past by doing absolutely nothing to stop the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie from illegally and unilaterally annexing Eritrea in early 60s. But for the international community's inaction, the Eritrean war of liberation which ensued to reverse the illegal annexation and to regain Eritrean independence and the huge sacrifices, both human and otherwise, paid by Eritreans in the process would definitely have been avoided.
After achieving our hard-won independence in 1991 rather than demanding damages for the many lives we lost and the pain and suffering we had endured- a right which we could and should still exercise- we had genuinely tried to do away with bitterness, negativity and swiftly began to build anew and rebuild what had been wrecked. We felt and still do feel that that was the right thing to do at the time in order to ease the pain of the past and pave the way for a mutually beneficial future. To some extent and for some time, the Ethiopian leaders had reciprocated.
The peace and friendly relationship that the two countries began to enjoy after Eritrean independence, however, was tragically brought to a halt when the Ethiopian government declared war on Eritrea in 1998. Two tragic years later, a peace agreement was entered into by the two parties in December 2000, an agreement brokered and guaranteed by the USA, UN, EU and AU. The agreement is currently in great danger due to the Ethiopian government's failure to comply with the border verdict, a ruling agreed by all parties concerned to be final and binding and rendered by the neutral Border Commission. The Ethiopian government has after months of sending conflicting signals made public its refusal to abide by the ruling causing many to wonder what the guarantors would and should do to enact the ruling.
So far, no action has been taken against the Ethiopian government by the guarantors. On the other hand, the Border Commission has postponed the demarcation indefinitely. The international community is tragically silent leading many to question if Eritreans are about to be betrayed again. I hope not. But, like many I am concerned about the lame way in which the guarantors are dealing with the matter. How long will the Ethiopian leaders' transgression be tolerated? when will the Ethiopian leaders' adventursim and machinations be stopped? The answers of these and other questions are in the hands of the guarantors.
A spokesman for the British government was recently quoted as saying that his government would not take any punitive measures against the defiant Ethiopian regime. But, as a member of the UN, which is a signatory to the peace agreement, the UK would be required to impose whatever sanctions the world body deems necessary. It would be interesting to know why the British official rushed to make that statement. More importantly, the guarantors of the peace agreement signed between Eritrea and Ethiopia in Algeria in December 2000, namely the UN, EU, AU and the USA, have neither given any ultimatum to the Ethiopian government nor indicated when and how they plan to undertake the sanctions.
Any more delay or hesitation in taking the punitive measures against the Ethiopian regime will contribute towards the worsening of the situation and dampening of the prospects for permanent peace between the two countries. In addition, a dangerous precedent will be set. The rule of law must be applied impartially and immediately. Why does it seem that sanction is immediately implemented in one region of the world and delayed in another? Why do we have double standards? It should not matter whether the disputants are weak as some bigots perceive Eritrea to be or strong; small or big. All are equal under the rule of law. Eritreans have been betrayed once and must be subject to no more.