The Pomised 'Wall Of Chill'!
By: Afeworki Mekonnen
February 26, 2004

During a briefing Eritrea’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Ali Seid Abdellah, gave to the ambassadors of some European nations and the EU’s representative in Asmara, on Feb.19, 2004, he stated this: ‘The United States has also conveyed to us a very disturbing message, which literally contradicts its public statement of 21st January last month. The Algiers Agreements were essentially drafted by the United States. But Washington has now decided to dissociate itself from any direct role in the efforts to ensure the implementation of the Agreements that it has authored in the first place’. Mr. Ali Seid went on to quote these actual words from the US message, which he rightly called a ‘non-paper’: ‘the United States, along with the other witnesses to the Algiers Agreement, fully supports the UN Special Envoy in his difficult mission. Failure by either side to engage the envoy with good will and good faith will only isolate that government from the international community.’ This outrageous statement from the US instantly repelled my basic sense of decency. My instant reaction was to cry out aloud: ‘Really? Please, someone, help me understand this strange language!’ And I really did mean that. Even now, I am having difficulty making any sense of it.

This is a non-statement that simply flies in the face of all logic, reason and commonsense. It is extraordinary in what it says and in what it leaves unsaid. However, if one were to try to boil the whole statement down to just one core message, I would say that that one core message would be the veiled threat it carries. It does not say it in so many words, but, in a sort of indirect way, it does warn Eritrea that if it fails ‘to engage the envoy with good will and good faith’, the US will make sure that the international community throws up a big ‘wall of chill’ around it. (Since the US’s intent seems to be to put a serious chill in the hearts of Eritreans, I thought I would offer it the slightly more chilling language of ‘building a big wall of chill’, to its plain old ‘isolate’). That veiled threat is clear enough and I don’t think anybody can miss it, even if they tried. By ‘international community’, I would have to assume that what is meant is the ‘international community’ that has everything to do with the US, EU, UN and the AU, and nothing to do with the rest of the world. And we already know how that ‘international community’ operates.

This latest US stand utterly contradicts an official US position that was expressed, in very unambiguous terms, as recently as one month ago. In an official statement expressing that position, the US had this to say:

"The United States is concerned about the possibility of renewed hostilities between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which would have dire consequences for the people of the two countries in relations and programs with the United States. The Algiers Peace Accord, ending the Ethiopian Eritrean conflict, must be respected without qualification. Both Ethiopia and Eritrea agreed to accept unequivocally the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission’s decision as final and binding. The United States expects each government to uphold its commitment to abide by this agreement. The United States urges both parties to implement the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission’s decision peacefully, fully and without delay. As the process moves forward, communication directly between the two countries will be imperative. The United States values its relationship with both countries. We are committed to helping the two nations realize the political freedoms and economic prosperity that their peoples deserve. Peace is the prerequisite for achieving these goals." (Emphasis is mine).

I very much doubt if any statement can be found that is more unequivocal than this one. Compare this statement with the latest message that the Foreign Minister referred to, in his Feb.19 briefing to the European ambassadors. One will find that the positions expressed in the two statements are diametrically opposed to each other and there is just no possible way of sensibly reconciling them. The previous statement talks about implementing the EEBC decision ‘peacefully, fully and without delay’, whereas this latest one talks about ‘fully supporting the special envoy in his difficult mission’. The 'difficult mission' being referred to can only be one of finding an alternative solution to the EEBC decision. Such a stunning flip-flop within such a short period of time leaves one perplexed, dazed and aghast. One fails to discern the faintest sign of integrity or credibility in this latest US action. Does the US, perhaps, consider the question of credibility too inconsequential and mundane to be bothered with? Conventional wisdom advises us that any nation that seeks to command a measure of respect among the world’s nations ought to first show a measure of respect for the element of credibility in its dealings with those nations. People notice; and it is so easy to tell when nations and individuals are acting in an insincere and gratuitous manner. The US would be well advised to take note of this well-proven truism.

What the US's message, in an extraordinarily brazen manner, tries to hide is the real facts and truths behind the stalemated peace process which, assuming people were paying enough attention, could put the US-led ‘international community’ in a pretty bad light. In order to have a real sense of the extremely misleading nature of the latest US message, one must read its contents against the backdrop of some important and unassailable facts and truths surrounding the stalemated peace process, and the actions -- or lack of them -- of the so-called 'witnesses'. The US cannot and should not be allowed to hide those facts and truths behind some sage-sounding equivocations that aim to put Eritrea on the spot, and on the defensive.

If there is one thing that is beyond pale in this whole messy affair, it is that Eritrea has played by the rules every inch of the way, and that it has fulfilled its end of the deal to the last detail. Eritrea may have paid dearly for playing the game strictly by the rules, instead of fighting fire with fire. But this is what makes Eritrea different from many other countries that see expediency, frenetic wheeling-and-dealing and other forms of duplicitous activities, as their preferred formulae for success. Eritrea has no appetite for such kinds of dubious modus operandi which, sadly enough, seem to have taken over too many governments in this world. Eritrea is a country that has principles and morals. It is a country that can stand tall and proud in the full knowledge that it has nothing to be put on the spot for, or be defensive about. It is precisely because of the attempt to put Eritrea's integrity and credibility into question, that this latest US message needs to be challenged and exposed for what it really is: just another ill-fated exercise in duplicitous diplomacy!

In the interest of putting the record straight, and as briefly and unambiguously as I possibly can, I will now attempt to lay out in front of the readers, some facts and truths, surrounding the currently stalled peace process, that the US message would have us believe do not exist. The readers can rest assured that what are presented as facts and truths here are nothing but the facts and truths. For the sake of brevity, I will skip anything that smacks of old history and get straight to the points that are relevant to the intended purpose of this article. Here, then, are some unassailable facts and truths that should help to jog the memory of the US and its ‘international community’ partners:

1) The Algiers Peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia was signed in December of 2000. The UN, OAU, US and the EU, which together were responsible for brokering the peace agreement, signed on as its guarantors, taking full responsibility to ensure its implementation in all its phases and all its aspects. One of the important enforcement instruments provided to the 'guarantors', to ensure that both parties would comply with the provisions of the Agreement fully and unconditionally, was a clause permitting punitive measures -- up to the imposition of economic sanctions by the UN -- on any party that refused to be bound by the Agreement.

2) Another crucial provision of the Algiers Agreement was the establishment of an independent Border Commission that would be tasked with delineating and demarcating the boarder. Both parties had solemnly agreed to be bound by the final ruling of the Boarder Commission. Thus, the EEBC (Eritrea-Ethiopia Boarder Commission), made up of highly respected and renowned legal experts, appointed from each side, came into being and begun its work. The Commission completed its job and issued its ‘final, and binding’ ruling on the delimitation of the Eritrea-Ethiopia boarder in April of 2002. If things had proceeded according to plan, the actual demarcation process would have commenced several months later, and within another six months or so, the whole boarder would have been demarcated and peace restored to the two countries.

3) However, the process never went past the delimitation stage, because Ethiopia had no intention of seeing the boarder demarcated. Accordingly, using the pretext of Badme as justification, it refused to allow the EEBC to proceed beyond the stage of delimitation. However, it is clear that Ethiopia is looking beyond Badme and it is using that issue simply as an instrument to derail the whole peace agreement. The fact that Ethiopia's leader, Meles Zenawi, has lately been talking of 'open-ended dialogue' has clearly sprung the 'Woyane cat' out of the bag. The Ethiopian regime's ultimate aim is to undo the EEBC ruling altogether, and enter a totally new phase of confrontations that would delve into a wider area of issues that include Assab. And as we can plainly see, the group of so-called 'witnesses' (US, EU, UN, AU) are all geared to chip in and assist that regime in this endeavour.

When the ruling was first announced, Ethiopia accepted it with great ceremony and fanfare and the entire country was in a celebrating mood. Soon after, however, the Ethiopian regime had second thoughts and it embarked on a process of gradual countdown towards a final official rejection of the EEBC decision. Yet, the clever Ethiopian regime knew exactly what it had signed; it knew that, at least in theory, instantly rushing to a rejection of the decision could have serious consequences. Hence, it decided to test the water first, before taking the plunge. Thus, it embarked on a systematic process of non-cooperation and prevarications, with the objective of bringing the peace process to a grinding halt and, then, keeping it stalled, while closely watching how the so-called ‘witnesses/guarantors’ of the peace agreement would react.

Meticulously following its plan of using various obstructive techniques to keep the peace process stalled, while the so-called ‘guarantors’ knowingly turned a blind eye to all its transgressions, the Ethiopian regime has managed to hold the peace process hostage for two years, as thousands of UN peacekeepers are kept deployed inside the so-called Buffer Zone, at an annual cost of nearly a quarter-billion dollars to the world community. This clever experiment by the Ethiopian regime served its purpose. The so-called ‘guarantors’ -- the UN, US, EU and OAU -- never bothered to even verbally upbraid the offending Ethiopian regime, let alone consider using any of the potent enforcement measures that were available to them from the beginning, and which could have quickly brought the Ethiopian regime to its senses, had they been used. The outcome was that the Ethiopian regime was able to thoroughly test the water and to move on to the next step. It had pushed the envelope to its absolute limit and saw that it couldn’t provoke even a faint murmur from the ‘guarantors’ of the peace agreement! Thus, having come out of the ‘test run’ totally unscathed -- with not even a single minor bruise or scratch -- the Ethiopian regime was able to boldly declare to the EEBC and the world: ‘Go, shove your EEBC ruling!’ And it did that with the full knowledge that there weren’t going to be any adverse consequences to be suffered for it.

4) While the above is the true story of Ethiopia’s abominable conduct throughout the twenty-two months that have gone by, since the EEBC issued its ruling, the true story of Eritrea’s conduct during the same period has been that of impeccable adherence to all applicable rules and guidelines and strict compliance with all her responsibilities and duties, as set out by the Peace Agreement and the EEBC ruling. Eritrea’s cooperation with the EEBC has been 100%, throughout, and its response to any requests from that body has always been prompt and very competently handled. The EEBC, itself, is the best witness to all that.

5) The EEBC ruling is a legal, final and binding ruling. Neither Ethiopia nor Eritrea can refuse to be bound by it. As already mentioned, there are a set of mandatory measures incorporated in the Algiers Agreement that are there for the sole purpose of providing the international community the means to take punitive measures against any party that refused to be bound by the Agreement. Hence, instead of offering Eritrea an unwarranted and unnecessary sermon on the need 'to engage the envoy with good will and good faith’, and threatening her with a possible isolation from the ‘international community’, I think what the US should do is to answer, in ‘good faith’, why the ‘witnesses’ -- itself included -- abdicated their responsibility and failed to use the appropriate mechanisms provided in the Algiers Agreement, to try and force the recalcitrant Ethiopian Government to abide by its obligations. Were the ‘witnesses’ sincere and diligent in their role as ‘guarantors’ of the Agreement, then, perhaps, they might have taken that logical step, and we probably would not be in the current dangerous situation.

6) No one, I repeat no one - neither the UN, nor the US, nor the EU - has any right to scrap the EEBC decision and replace it with something else. The US’s and its partners’ duty and obligation is to enforce the EEBC decision by using the mandatory legal means that are provided in the Agreement, and not to conspire to scrap the EEBC decision and replace it with another alternative means of their choice. For them to attempt to do so would be tantamount to considering themselves above international law and wanting to operate outside the legal boundaries of an international issue, on which, a legal ruling has been already handed down by a legally appointed Arbitration Commission. The other option that is open to the so-called ‘guarantors’ is to admit to their failure, and to give up. After seeing what we have seen of their performance, giving up and completely washing their hands off the peace process might not be such a bad idea! Who knows what doors and opportunities such an action might open?

From everything that we have witnessed, one very clear fact has emerged: the fact that no one who is unwilling to accept and fully support a legal, ‘final’ and ‘binding’ ruling by a legally appointed Boarder Commission, can claim to be neutral enough to continue participating in the peace process. It just doesn’t wash! If one is to speak from the heart, one would say that Eritreans have seen more than enough improprieties in the handling of this dispute, on the part of those that are now trying to undo the EEBC decision, that we frankly can’t see any good coming out of their continued participation in the peace process. What Eritrea expects and demands is what the genuine International Community would expect and demand: the demarcation of the boarder according to the legal, 'binding' and 'final' EEBC decision - nothing more, nothing less! That is the only legal, fair and equitable solution; and it is a solution that is already at hand and that awaits implementation. So, do not go in search of other solutions that you will not be able to find. The only honourable thing for you to do is to fulfill your duties and responsibilities by implementing the EEBC decision 'fully and without delay' (to quote from the January 21 US statement). If you are not willing to do that, then, please, do everybody a favour and just wash your hands off the whole affair. It is so ironic that the only place where the elements, ‘fair’ and ‘equitable’, could find a role to play was the EEBC ruling; and now, the very parties that are supposed to protect and implement that ruling are conspiring and conniving to undo it!

Undoubtedly, there will be some people, who will try to dish out credit to the ‘guardians’ of the peace agreement, by pointing to the contribution of UNMEE in helping to keep the peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia going for this long. However, I would advise those people not to kid themselves. Without wanting to take anything away from the dedicated military men and women who have come from different parts of the world to serve in a worthy cause, the fact is, had the ‘guarantors’ of the peace agreement shown any inclination to carry out their duties and responsibilities in a responsible and diligent manner, as they were expected to, UNMEE and its troops would have been long gone. Thus, far from being a sign of success, UNMEE’s presence in the area at this point in time, is a sign of abject failure on the part of the UN and its partners, the so-called ‘guarantors’. Yet, the source of the greatest concern, right now, is not UNMEE"s presence in the area; it is, rather, the fact that the very parties that have allowed the Ethiopian regime to obstruct and stall the peace process for this long, are now attempting to wreck the only viable, legal solution that has been found for the dispute. And who knows where their irresponsible actions will lead to, from here!

7) Since the US message, that Mr. Ali Seid referred to, intimates that Eritrea may risk being isolated by the ‘international community’, one feels justified in asking which ‘international community’ might it be, that would try to isolate Eritrea for its superb and exemplary conduct? Eritrea has, throughout, operated completely within the law and it has diligently fulfilled all her obligations as required of her by the peace agreement. So, for what unearthly reason would it deserve to be isolated by or from any ‘international community’? If there is going to be such a thing as an international community that isolates the law-abiding party and appeases and dots on the offending party, then, would Eritrea have any use for that particular kind of ‘international community’, in the first place? Wouldn’t the act of penalizing the law-abiding party and letting the offending party go scot-free, by itself, qualify any ‘international community’ that practices it as an aberrant and ‘outlaw’ ‘community’? If the international community that the US and EU profess to lead and speak for, is the kind of community that seeks to isolate a party that has operated completely within the law and reward the one that had operated completely outside it, then, it stands to reason that that international community is in the same league with the ‘outlaw’ that it is trying to protect. And I do not think that any self-respecting, decent nation would ever want to be a part of such an 'international community'.

Needless to say, this latest stand of the US, and the recent actions of some of its partners (notably Britain, which has rewarded the outlaw Ethiopian regime by increasing its aid by five times!) have helped to re-enforce many of this writer's suspicions and opinions, concerning the nature and motives of the ‘US-EU-UN’ axis (I won’t call it ‘The Axis of Evil’ yet, but it sure looks like it is edging towards that!). One feels very much obliged to the latest US message, which provides a sort of an unsolicited ‘icing on the cake’, effectively re-enforcing one’s well-founded suspicions and opinions concerning the shady goings-on in this so-called ‘peace process’, and thoroughly vindicating one.

8) It is no secret that from the time the Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict erupted right to this very day the so-called 'international community' (The US, EU, UN and the defunct OAU), have treated Ethiopia with kids gloves. For some strange reason, Ethiopia, the compulsive troublemaker and habitual offender, seems to have managed to successfully ingratiate itself with them! How is it possible? Has it provoked their interest? Caught their fancy? Picked their curiosity? Aroused their pity? Tugged at their conscience? …. Just which is it? It is very difficult to say; it could be any of them, most of them or all of them. All that one can say, with absolute certainty, is that as crude, as unfriendly, as unpleasant, as untrustworthy, as aggressive, as violent, and so many other things (all of them not so good) as the Woyane regime is, it has been the favoured party of this so-called 'international community' that is attempting to discard the EEBC ruling.

Ethiopia just seems to do nothing wrong in their eyes! One rightly starts to wonder if they have any 'eyes' at all! In nearly every instant, the so-called 'international community' would go out of their way to accomodate its wishes and desires, even when it is behaving absolutely heinously. Even on the occasions when its transgressions are so bad that you would think that the only thing it deserved was to be sent to a 'boot camp' to learn the ways of civilized behaviour (and self-improvement techniques), its 'international community' fans would keep dotting on it. They would routinely resort to appeasing and cajoling it. They have never failed to cater to its ever-gluttonous appetite for foreign aid. They have just plain spoiled it silly, especially on the issue assistance. And they have gone to a great length to indirectly feed its equally gluttonous appetite for war by providing it hundreds of millions of ‘aid’ dollars that it promptly would use to fund its costly wars. In short, it is almost like Ethiopia can do pretty much anything it wanted and no one will bother her. On the contrary, they will cheer her on! This is all very good; but it stops being good, when the so-called 'international community' routinely attempts to keep Ethiopia happy at the expense of Eritrea.

How about Ethiopia's reckless cross-boarder adventures. Look at how, whenever it is in the mood to act out its savage instincts, it would go on wild and illegal military forays deep inside Somalia; it would even remain there for months and months on end, occupying sovereign foreign land. Would anyone care? Of course not! In fact, hardly anyone ever notices. Where is the UN, one might ask! Well, the UN is a member of the special 'international community' that is messing around with the EEBC ruling. Right now, the UN and a few other entities, are illegally conspiring to undo the legal EEBC ruling. So, I guess 'go figure' is the right answer. It makes you wonder if the UN is even aware of the existence of the so-called ‘international laws’ that it created itself. To summarize, no one ever holds Ethiopia to account for anything. Its endless transgressions and violations of international law, and its outright rejection of the EEBC decision are all committed in the full knowledge that it enjoys special immunity from 'prosecution'. Even on the rare occasions when so-called 'international community' feels like it has to so something, the measure it takes is never more than a half-hearted 'reminder' suggesting that Ethiopia should refrain from doing this or doing that. Hardly anything aimed at getting results!

On the other hand, this so-called 'international community' often comes down like a ton of bricks on Eritrea, even when there is no legitimate cause for that. Often, this 'international community' has a way of transposing the Ethiopian regime's misdeeds onto Eritrea and Eritrea's positive qualities onto the Ethiopian regime, such that it would see Eritrea as the violator and the Ethiopian regime as the upright and low-abiding party. This is not a joke! We are seeing this transposing of roles taking place, right now. Just look at what the US message's intended purpose is. It attempts to make Eritrea, the law-abiding party that has fulfilled all its obligations, look like the guilty party, while the Ethiopian Government, the party that is100% guilty, is treated as if it had done nothing, whatsoever, wrong! The reward for Eritrea for its impeccable behaviour is an arrogantly worded message that warns of possible isolation by the 'international community', and Ethiopia's serious violations of the law are rewarded with a knowing smile and a wink that translates into: carry on! The outlaw regime can then continue to grin and smirk as it violates the law at will. And, true to form, nobody will even try to notice, let alone contemplate imposing any penalty!

This strange sort of 'international community' that feels Eritrea deserves to be ringed with a 'wall of chill' for being a well-behaved nation that respects the law, really gives me the chills! Not so much for its promised 'wall of chill', though. It is the way it thinks and the way it operates! It is this writer's sincerest hope that this 'international community' will someday, somehow discover some degree of honesty and human decency, buried deep within it, and that it will use that as the starting point of a journey to self-healing and the discovery of truth.

Awet N'Hafash!

Zel'alemawi ZKri N'swuatna!