Fabrication: A Trademark of the Ethiopian Regime
Ghidewon Abay Asmerom
October 30, 2003

The hallmark of the minority regime in Ethiopia is fabrication. Chief architects of this behavior are of course Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and his Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin. The duo is the personification of the straight-face lies the world has come to associate with the Ethiopian government. The two more than anyone in the regime have been dishonest with the Ethiopian people, deceiving the diplomatic community in Addis chiefly those accredited to the African Union), and insincere with the rest of the international community particularly the donors that are keeping them in a life-support unit. They might think no one is keeping track of their lies and can always get away with them. But their lies, slowly but surely, are catching up with them. The world is beginning to take notice and sooner or later the people of Ethiopia will hold them accountable to their lies too. Their fabrications, contradictions and inconsistencies are so many that many Eritreans have stopped counting. As my friend Tekie Fessehatzion said it four years ago, "pity the accursed land [Ethiopia]" that has these two liars as its leaders. The latest letter of Seyoum Mesfin to the UN Secretary General (the one from October 16, 2003), and Meles' September 19 letter to the Security Council and his interview with IRIN from October 29, 2003 are case in point. They are a good sample of the collection of deception that is daily bottled in the Meles-Seyoum factory of lies.

The contents of the letters (Meles' September 19 and Seyoum's October 16), or Meles' interview, with IRIN, except for the insult they heap on the Boundary Commission, are not new. They are a rehash of the very same lies Seyoum told a Press conference in May 2003. The May Press Conference was in response to the Commission's March 21st Observations. Seyoum was then telling the same lies and using the very same maps as he did two weeks ago with his letter to Kofi Annan.

Meles' in his interview with IRIN says:

"They [Boundary Commission] made their decision on the basis of the established practice of the parties. If they had followed the colonial treaty, Badme would have been say 40, 50, 60 km within the Ethiopian boundary"

To the contrary, if the Commission had made its Decision on the letter of the 1902 Treaty, let alone Badme even Sheraro would have been part of Eritrea. The Prime Minister needs no reminding of the fact that Sheraro is in the middle of Kunama land. He also knows well that two members in his parliament are there representing the Kunama: Kidane Meko representing Kunama in the House of the Federation and Haile Gebremariam representing the Kunama Special Wereda in the House of Peoples' Representatives. Those interested can see the list at http://www.ethiopar.net/English. The Commission had made it clear in its Decision that delimiting the border so as to leave the Kunama in Eritrea was and still is the particular purpose and object of the 1902 Treaty. Thus what Meles told IRIN is a repetition of the same lie he tried to tell the Security Council in September 19, 2003. He had said then:

"The Colonial treaties which are the basis of the Algiers Agreement and which should have been the key basis for the delimitation and demarcation of the boundary leave Badme inside Ethiopia."

The Commission had already, through its letter of October 7, told the UN Security Council that Meles was telling a lie; of course in a more diplomatic language than mine. Here is how the Commission put it:

"On the basis of those colonial treaties as they were interpreted by the Commission in accordance with applicable international law that [Meles' above statement] is not accurate. The Commission found that on the correct interpretation of the relevant Treaty, the boundary from the point at which it leaves the Setit River (Point 6) to where it joins the Mareb River (Point 9), ran in part across the Badme plain. If as a result Badme village is found to be located in Eritrea, that is no more than the consequence of the Commission's application of the relevant colonial treaty."

This very same letter of the Commission also shows that Seyoum too was not telling the truth when he told Kofi Annan in his letter of October 16, 2003:

"The April 2002 Decision repeatedly states that the boundary described in the 1902 Treaty leaves the Setit River at its junction with the Sittona River, a location the Commission identified as point 4, and not as point 6, as the 7 October letter claims. "

More is coming on this particular quote of Seyoum on my follow up piece "From Mai Tenne to Mai Teb and from Tomsa to Sittona: Ethiopia's innumerable inconsistencies".

Ethiopia has no facts to challenge the Commission on the April 2002 Decision, legal or otherwise. It had failed miserably to convince the Commission of its case in the Western as well as the Central Sectors. This is precisely why it has now opted to defame and declare war on the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC).

I don't think we can emphasize enough if we remind the world that two of these Commissioners are Ethiopia's own nominees: Prince Bola Adesumbo Ajibola and Sir Arthur Watts. It had also an indirect hand in choosing the third: the President of the Commission, Professor Sir Elihu Lauterpacht). Not only these three, since it had objected to one of Eritrea's two nominees, Mr. Jan Paulsson, who chose to resign, though the other members of the Commission didn't find merit in Ethiopia's objections, one can say Ethiopia had also an indirect role in selecting the fourth member of the Commission, Professor W. Michael Reisman. So here we have it; the Commission is composed of four out five members that are directly or indirectly chosen by Ethiopia. Does it then make sense to blame a Commission of becoming "both plaintiffs and judges" when you had a hand in choosing 80% of its members? It doesn't. Are you puzzled? If you do, then welcome to the world of the current Ethiopian Regime. Nothing it does or says has or makes sense.

Forgetting his own inconsistencies and contradictions, Ethiopia's Foreign Minister had tried to dismiss the Commission's October 7 letter as "inconsistent and contradictory". And as if there was consistency in his Prime Minister's letter of September 19, the Foreign Minister tells the UN "we stand behind everything said in our Prime Minister's letter." One only has to read the Commission letter to the UN from October 7 to see that legally and logically what Ethiopia's Prime Minister wrote makes no sense at all. It is full of misrepresentations, contradictions and inconsistencies. It is because the Commission has exposed it that Ethiopia is complaining that the Commission is "ridiculing" it and siding with Eritrea. The fact is Ethiopia is to blame. It had invited the Commission's response.

Ethiopia's blind logic sees no reason why the Commission should write a letter in response to what Meles wrote to the Security Council. In other words, it wants the Commission to keep quite while its Prime Minister and Foreign Minister tell lies left, right and center. The kernel of their letters of course is to accuse the Commission of passing an "illegal, unjust and irresponsible" verdict to misinterpret the Commission's own Decision. Isn't it commonsense then for the Commission to defend itself? Doesn't the Commission have the right to comment on Ethiopia's allegations and fabrications on the way the Commission is conducting its work? Shouldn't the Commission reply when Ethiopia lies about the Commission's own Decision and tries to misrepresent its April 13 Decision? Only a Woyane would think otherwise.

If Ethiopia had thought dealing with this Commission was going to be like the dealings it is used to in the halls of the OAU, then it is mistaken. After all, this is not a Commission based in Addis. It is an Independent Commission in the true sense. We are talking here of a Commission of international jurists. Whether the Parties like it or not everything they say is going to be examined and dissected under the legal microscope. If Ethiopia doesn't like to get a response from the Commission, then it should stop telling lies. Better yet, it should abide by the letter and spirit of the Algiers Agreement that it signed and promised to uphold. Yes it is as simple as that. However, as long as it fails to do neither the Commission has no choice but to put Ethiopia's lies in the light so that the international community can see for itself.

Ethiopia's most recent rage over the Commission, however, is not only over the Commission's letter from October. It is a cumulative rage. The Commission has been exposing Ethiopia's fabrications from the very beginning. Check the Commission's Decision in response to Ethiopia's request for Correction, Clarification and Consultation (June 24, 2002), the Commission 8th Report to the UN Security Council (February 2003), and the Commission's Observations (March 2003) and you can easily see how the EEBC have been enumerating Ethiopia's inconsistencies and contradictions throughout.

One fat lie Ethiopia is telling is that it is committed to the Algiers Agreement. It is clear that Ethiopia cannot claim it stands by the Algiers Agreement while declaring as "null and void" a Decision that is "final and binding" by the Algiers Agreement. This is precisely what the dictionary meaning of a contradiction is: "a proposition, statement, or phrase that asserts or implies both the truth and falsity of something; a statement or phrase whose parts contradict each other". So it is not the Commission that is inconsistent but Ethiopia. Ethiopia's stand has been inconsistent and contradictory from the very beginning. The Commission had fingered this long ago. Long before it went public with its 8th Report to the UN Security Council. Ethiopia's real anger thus is the fact the Commission exposed its pretense in public. That is why Seyoum wrote:

"...This in fact is becoming a habit for the Commission. Your Excellency would recall how in its Eighth report the Commission singling out one of the parties to the dispute had attacked Ethiopia, imputing motives to it for which there is absolutely no justification. By no means can the following attack by the Commission on Ethiopia be taken as a legal opinion:

'Notwithstanding the clarity with which the Commission has stated the limits upon its authority, Ethiopia has continued to seek variations to the boundary line delimited in the April Decision, and has done so in terms that appear, despite protestations to the contrary, to undermine not only the April Decision but also the peace process as a whole. ' [P., 11]"

Ethiopia had long ago told the UN Secretary General and his Special Representative Legwaila Joseph Legwaila in private that it won't accept the Decision unless the Decision is reversed to give Badme to Ethiopia. The two were not willing to go public with Ethiopia's contradictions until the Commission went public with Ethiopia's rejection. Joseph Legwaila in particular is still in denial. He doesn't seem to have the courage to call a spade a spade. Unlike these two UN Representatives the Commission had to go public to tell the world that Ethiopia is frustrating its demarcation efforts. This is the reason it is being attacked by Ethiopia. In short it is being attacked for telling it like it is. For the first time in the history of the Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict that goes back to the late 1940s, an international body has finally unmasked Ethiopia so that the world could see the lie behind its facade. Yes, Ethiopia had always been wearing a mask. A mask that helped it cover its face of lies and deceptions. Now that the mask is off the world can see for itself whether Ethiopia stands for a real peace or not. It surely cannot claim it is standing for the peace process while it has done all it can to derail it. As the Commission warned Ethiopia has irreversibly undermined "not only the April Decision but also the peace process as a whole". Meles' latest threat of war is a proof of what the Commission saw coming as early as February. Here is Meles' ominous desire for yet another war:

"As you know there is an Ethiopian army there [in Badme]. The only way it [taking possession] can be done is by removing the Ethiopian army and the Ethiopian administration. And if dialogue is ruled out, the only way of doing that is by force of arms and if they do so they will have decided to initiate a conflict. It did not work last time around and it will not work this time."

Meles and his Government might lie as much as they can but one thing is clear they cannot hide the fact that they do not stand for peace. They never did and they never will. Telling lies is part of their make, but not making peace.