Mr. Axworthy, Focus on those that have slammed the door on peace: The war-lords of Ethiopia
By: Ghidewon Abay Asmerom
February 21, 2004


“I am used to having a few doors slammed in my face first time round. But I am pretty persistent in going back and I am good at opening them. I am also prepared to stay in the region as long as it takes.”

Everyone should applaud Mr. Lloyd Axworthy’s attitude.
Mr. Lloyd Axworthy
If what he says about himself is true he is a persistent envoy who doesn’t give up easy. He should be commended for that. It is indeed a respectable quality; one might add it is also a quality that is rare among many diplomats, particularly those that are like Mr. Axworthy. If Mr. Axworthy remains true to his promise above, and he stays put, who knows, may be he can open the door that was slammed at the faces of peace and international law.

No one should get a wrong idea about this “Looney”. As a man who endured the winter of “Portage and Main” (Canada's windiest corner at the heart of Winnipeg) he is more than able of persisting over the cold-hearted leaders who have turned their back on a ruling of a neutral Boundary Commission. With that they have closed themselves in a box jeopardizing peaceful coexistence with the only neighbor that could save the day for them.

It is encouraging that Mr. Axworthy has decided to stay in the region as long as it takes to convince Ethiopian leaders to implement “without qualification and delay” the “final and binding” Decision of the Boundary Commission. He is also being quoted as saying:

“The purpose here is to help bring about implementation. We have to make it clear we are not here in any way to replace that decision or to even find an alternative way of dealing with the mechanisms.”

It only remains to be seen whether Mr. Axworthy really means what he says, whether he is any different than those who had come and gone before him. Previous special envoys like Anthony Lake too had come vowing they will not change even a single iota from the non-amendable Technical Arrangement. Yet when push came to shove the region has seen them change their mind and do Ethiopian bidding instead. The end result, they left the two countries with a recipe for war and perpetual mistrust. Will Lloyd Axworthy be any different? Sure; why not. Is he capable of keeping his promise? We hope he is. Eritreans have been patiently waiting for peace and they hope he succeeds in convincing Ethiopia to abide by the rule of law.

However, if Mr. Axworthy remains true to the mission he told journalists on February 19, then a lion’s share of his work is already done for him. In other words, he at least doesn’t have to sweat of coming up with a new formula for peace other than pushing for a speedy implementation of what has already been agreed upon and signed by the parties. All what Axworthy needs to do now is win over the irrationally obstinate Ethiopian leaders to the side of peace and reason. Yes it is as simple as that. Can he pull it off? It remains to be seen.

He has intimated he wants to remain in the region as long as it takes to bring about peace. Then he should be ready to pitch his tent in Ethiopia and hold vigil until he convinces the Horn of Africa’s most unreasonable leaders. As for the other party in this peace process, Eritrea, it has already accepted the April Decision and has been waiting for the unconditional implementation of the EEBC Decision now for close to two years. In other words the good special envoy need not waste any energy in trying to win Eritrea who has remained faithful to its treaty obligation. Instead he should focus all his diplomatic skills at those who have rejected an already outlined path for peace.

Mr. Axworthy is boldly telling the world he is no quitter and there is no reason to doubt his resolve. He is also saying he is “good at opening” slammed doors, and we all hope he succeeds. However, observers of the politics of the Horn need to remind him that winning peace with the narrow-minded Tigrean leaders of Ethiopia as partners is not going to be as easy as the political fight he had with his colleagues in the Canadian Parliament or even the challenges he had to overcome when he was trying to push for the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel landmines. This time and in this case he is dealing with a peculiar kind of creatures in Ethiopian leaders, a group totally different than all politicians he had ever dealt with.

With the tenacity and determination he has in his resume it remains to be seen whether he can talk the Ethiopian leaders to let go their hostages: peace and development. It also remains to be seen whether he can make them give up their vain dream and come out of their law of the jungle mentality with their hearts cleansed of all anti-peace blood. It needs also a mention that he has to do all these without negotiating with them at the expense of Eritrea or compromising the EEBC ruling. Definitely Mr. Axworthy could assist the minority leaders in Addis Ababa open their closed mind. As for Eritrea, its door for peace had always been open and will remain so. In other words, if he can deliver an unconditional and unqualified implementation of the EEBC Decision without delay, he need not worry of not being received with open arms in Eritrea and by Eritreans. However, if he tries to come to Eritrea before finishing his homework in Ethiopia and without persuading the desperados in Addis of implementing the EEBC ruling as is, he should not expect any warmer welcome in Eritrea than what he is used to at the corner of “Portage and Main” in the middle of winter.

The Canadian Envoy also needs to remind the leaders of the regime in Addis that life without his native Saskatchewan and Manitoba’s wheat will be nearly impossible for them if they don’t listen and shape up. They couldn’t have survived and wouldn’t be able to survive, even for a single month, if it was not for the Canadian golden Looney or the European Euro-cow that have been sustaining life in their modern Empire. More than this he should warn the Tigrean leaders that the longer they delay making peace with their neighbors, the faster they are marching towards their own demise and with that towards the disintegration of the Empire State aka Ethiopia.

Mr. Axworthy has also been quoted to saying "the sooner demarcation begins the better trust there can be so we can address other issues." That is right. This means let him remind Ethiopian leaders the only way they can be trusted is if they meet their treaty obligations and show respect for the rule of international law. The sooner they learn to abide by the rule of law, the better their chance of regaining the little trust the international community had invested in them. However, they should know that it will take more than a mere willingness to demarcate the border to regain the trust of the Eritrean people. The bridge of good neighborliness they willfully chose to destroy cannot be build overnight by wishing it or the facilitation of an envoy, no matter how good intentioned and experienced the special envoy is.

Eritrea cannot afford to have faith in any political envoy. This has nothing to do with Axworthy the Canadian or the man himself. It is a matter of commonsense. No path can lead Eritrea and Ethiopia towards a lasting peace other than the one envisioned by the Algiers Treaty and the implementation of the ruling of the neutral and independent Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission. At the same time at this stage in the process no one can do better than the Boundary Commission that knows the case in and out. It is good that Mr. Lloyd Axworthy is trying to open slammed doors but he should limit his mission only to those that have slammed shut the door of peace: the war-lords of today’s Ethiopia.

Finally we hope Mr. Axworthy benefits from these words of wisdom and truth:

"... there is no “crisis”, terminal or otherwise, which cannot be cured by Ethiopia’s compliance with its obligation under the Algiers Agreement, in particular its obligations to treat the Commission’s delimitation determination as “final and binding” (Article 4.15) and “to cooperate with the Commission, its experts and other staff in all respects during the process of ... demarcation” (Article 4.14)." -- EEBC's Statement in response to the Ethiopian Prime Minister's September letter (October 7, 2003.)