Road and Railway
The reason for writing this article
is two fold: i) My deep concern about the threat of yet another senseless
war between Eritrea and Ethiopia; and the possible contribution by the
UK to avert the impending disaster; and ii) My observations of the British
Government’s attitude towards Eritrea over the past 60 years or so.
During a period of 40 years (1952-1991), Ethiopia’s notable
contribution to development in Eritrea is the construction
of only one secondary school in the capital, Asmara! On the destruction
side, however, the list is endless – from dismantling and looting the Eritrean
socio-economic base left by the Italians, to the destruction of vital
infrastructure and natural resources, as well as the deportation, displacement,
torture and killing of Eritreans in their hundreds of thousands
New Tekor Dam
In contrast, and in spite of enormous
challenges, the Government of Eritrea, within the relatively short period of its existence, has
made significant strides in the area of peace and security; religious
harmony; control of corruption; infrastructure development (such as schools,
health facilities, construction of dams, houses, roads, repair of railways,
expansion of ports and airports); improving power supply including rural
electrification; and expansion of the fishing industry. This
would have been much more had it not been for Ethiopia’s
relentless expansionist aggression.
Prevent another destructive war
Currently, dark clouds are once again
gathering along the Ethio-Eritrean border and the preparations for war are
reminiscent of the events that led to the destructive war of 1998-2000. The
‘pretext’ for declaring war on Eritrea in May 1998 was
the ‘Incident of Badme’.
The world, however, knows very little about
the series of “unilateral demarcations” inside
Eritrean territory starting in 1992. By 1997, the newly acquired land
in the Badme (West) area and Adi Murug (East) were put under Ethiopian
17 October 1997 issue of the “Weyin”
magazine printed the new map of the Tigrai Kelil (Region), which was much
more enlarged with the inclusion of large expanses of land carved out
of Eritrea and two Ethiopian provinces (Begemider and Wollo). The new
map was printed by the Ethiopian Mapping Authority and appeared in the
new Ethiopian currency.
colonial borders of Eritrea had
been changed by the expansionist actions of
the Tigrai authorities and all the elements of a border conflict were,
thus, put in place.
The Ethiopian Government is well prepared
for another war. The country continues to receive billions of dollars
worth of donor assistance in terms of food aid, 65% budgetary support
and debt relief, which amounts to ‘rewarding its war mongering attitude’.
This generous support and the millions of innocent people that it could
dispense with impunity are the reasons behind Ethiopia’s current confrontational
stance. It is now working on a ‘pretext’ to unleash another military invasion
The EEBC decision on Badme
This time, the ‘pretext’ may be the
harmless looking word ‘dialogue’. In the guise of ‘dialogue’, however,
agenda is to undo the final and binding verdict of the EEBC and open it for negotiation. The Ethiopian Prime Minister
is openly demanding for ‘adjustments’ and ‘give and take’ on a legally
closed verdict. In the logic of the Ethiopian leaders,
the purpose of ‘dialogue’ is for the international community to endorse
Ethiopia’s demands. Eritrea’s
participation in the so called ‘dialogue’ would only
be to bless Ethiopia’s
illegal acquisition of lands that are legally Eritrean, including Badme. If this does not
happen, then Eritrea would be accused
of refusal for ‘dialogue’, which would provide the ‘pretext’ for military
invasion by Ethiopia.
Following statements in November 2004 indicating
Ethiopia’s acceptance, ‘in
principle’, of the border decision, the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission
(EEBC) invited Ethiopia and Eritrea for a meeting in
London on 22 February 2005. Ethiopia refused to attend
and the meeting was cancelled. In its subsequent report to the UN, the
EEBC said: “Ethiopia insists on prior ‘dialogue’ but has rejected the opportunity
for such dialogue within the framework of the demarcation process. This
is the latest in a series of obstructive actions taken since the summer
of 2002 and belies the frequently professed acceptance by Ethiopia of the Delimitation Decision.”
We, Eritreans, know that the hidden agenda
of the Ethiopians is no less than the reversal of the hard won Eritrean
independence through policies of regime change; attacks against its key
government institutions; weakening its national unity and religious harmony;
attempts to control the port of Assab; and further impoverish the Eritrean
people (ironically, at a time of global effort to eliminate poverty) through
economic blockades and prolonged periods of ‘no peace-no war’ situation.
To achieve its sinister objectives, Ethiopia
is once again using a combination of ‘bullying’ and ‘disinformation’ tactics,
areas in which its leaders have accumulated a great deal of expertise,
as well as the likely support from the ‘spin’ factor of the international
In the 1950s, the Eritrean people have suffered
by the actions of the UN and international community. The UN decision
to Federate Eritrea with Ethiopia in 1952 led to 30
years of bitter and destructive armed struggle for independence.
In the 1998-2000 war, we have paid dearly
in life and resources to resist a naked Ethiopian aggression. In December
2000, the Algeries Agreement was signed in front of representatives of
the ‘guarantors of peace’ - AU (OAU), UN, USA, EU (including UK), Algeria, Nigeria and South Africa.
In April 2002, the EEBC delivered its Delimitation
Decision, which was soon endorsed by the Security Council. Over three
years on, Ethiopia has maintained its
refusal to cooperate with EEBC to implement the border demarcation.
Whereas, the response by the EEBC to Ethiopia’s refusal to respect
its treaty obligations was firm, the response from the guarantors of peace,
the UN Security Council and the UN Secretary General continues to be one
of appeasement. In particular, the sudden appointment of the UN SG’s Special
Envoy, Mr. Lloyd Axworthy, in compliance to Ethiopia’s demands for an
alternative mechanism, has become a facilitating factor for yet another
war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. It is sad to see
two highly respectable and honorable gentlemen messing themselves up in
Ethiopia’s shameful maneuvers to escape facing the moment of truth – the
demarcation of a border that places Badme in Eritrea and the exposure
of Ethiopia as the main cause of instability in the Horn of Africa.
As for the ‘guarantors of peace’, it seems
they are waiting for war to break out before they raise a finger. But,
it will be too late by then. Their citizens would have been advised to
leave the area and the UN peace keeping force (UNMEE) would have withdrawn.
Once more, the bombs of destruction would fall on Eritrea and its people.
Yes, it would be 4 million Eritreans against 70 million Ethiopians, but
the truth and the law are on our side. If there is no other choice, we
will resist aggression and occupation. We will pay dearly in blood and
bones, but we will prevail in the end as Britain did against the
massive military might of Hitler.
Observations of the British Government’s
attitude towards Eritrea
During the Second World War, when the British
army moved from The Sudan to attack the Italian forces in Eritrea, leaflets
were distributed by air urging Eritrean conscripts to desert from the
Italian army and promising the Eritrean people British support for their
independence. In the bloody, but decisive battle for the town of Keren (Feb/March 1941),
tens of thousands of Eritrean soldiers deserted their positions and simply
melted to their villages. The British army defeated the Italians in Keren
and without further resistance drove to control the capital, Asmara. The British promise
for support of Eritrean independence, however, never materialized.
Instead, Britain supported the UN unequal
arrangement, which Federated Eritrea with Ethiopia; and together with
the UN, watched for 40 years while the Eritrean people were savagely brutalized
and their country pulverized with destructive weapons provided to Ethiopia
by both the Western countries and the then Soviet Union.
The British attitude towards Eritrea after its independence
in 1991 is even more surprising. To my knowledge, except for limited technical
assistance for the education sector (1992-96), there has been no notable
or visible development or humanitarian assistance to Eritrea since independence.
Britain has the resources
and the experience to transform the educational system in Eritrea or assist in the
development of fishing industries along the Red Sea coast. Sadly, there
has been no expression of good will, so far.
Britain is an active contributor
to Ethiopia’s humanitarian and
development assistance needs. This is a noble response within the context
of the global initiative to prevent hunger and death from starvation,
including Ethiopians. The question is ‘should the international community
carry the burden of feeding people whose government is openly preparing
for war to kill a final and binding ruling by the EEBC on border demarcation?’
High level British officials, including Ministers,
have close contacts with influential Ethiopian government officials. The
British Prime Minister, Mr. Blair himself, has made the Prime Minister
of Ethiopia, Mr. Meles, a member of his special Commission for Africa.
Surely, the British Government is in a strategic
position to do more to assist the Ethiopian government choose the path
of lasting peace for the peoples of Eritrea and Ethiopia by allowing for
a full and speedy border demarcation.
Whatever happened to
the British Government’s sense of fairness and justice when it comes to