OEAs Statement on the occasion of the 2nd year EEBC verdict
By: Haile Abraham
April 19, 2004

April 13 Decision is one Pillar upon which a Lasting Peace Can Rest

Today we are here to commemorate a historic day, April 13, 2002. It should be recalled that on this day two years ago the independent Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC), a Commission that was established by the Algiers Peace Agreement of December 2000, rendered its unanimous delimitation Decision. According to the Algiers Agreement the delimitation Decision is final and binding. The morning the Decision was announced both Eritrea and Ethiopia had also re-affirmed their acceptance of the Decision as final and binding. For a fleeting moment we all had thought peace was finally on the horizon. But, while Eritrea has stayed true to its Algiers treaty obligation and is abiding by the Decision and cooperating fully with the EEBC’s demarcation directives and orders, Ethiopia, which two years ago had greeted the Decision declaring that “sanity has won over insanity, and that the rule of law has prevailed over the rule of the jungle”, that “the ruling of the boundary commission is fair and appropriate”, that Ethiopia was “fully satisfied with the decision of the independent boundary commission”, and that “according to the Algiers peace deal, both parties should accept the decision of the boundary commission as final and binding with no right to appeal” has since officially rejected the Decision calling it “totally illegal, unjust and irresponsible” and “a recipe for continued instability, and even recurring wars.” The Commission that was once being praised “for discharging its duties with a sense of responsibility and great care” is also now being dismissed as a body that “nothing worthwhile can be expected from” it.

Why this seemingly 180° reversal of position by Ethiopia? Is it because, as Ethiopia now alleges, the Commission was unfair to Ethiopia or because it didn’t decide on the basis of its mandate, or as Ethiopia’s Prime Minister put it “some in the Boundary Commission have become both plaintiffs and judges”? As all those who read the Commission’s 135-page ruling from April 13, 2002, Observations from March 21, 2003 and letter to the UN Security Council from October 7, 2003 will agree this is not the case. The Commission with clarity has explained how it decided the way it did including the affirming of Eritrea’s sovereignty over Badme and its environs. The real reason for the rejection thus can only be explained if one understands the mindset and pattern of behavior of the regime in Ethiopia. It is important to note that the official Ethiopian rejection that came in September 2003 was true to a now familiar and well orchestrated pattern of the Ethiopian regime’s art of conning the International community. We had seen it before with Ethiopia’s insincere declarations of accepting the OAU Framework Agreement for peace. We also remember what Ethiopia did when it came to the Technical Arrangements and what happened when the facilitators attempted to amend a document that was endorsed by the OAU as a non-amendable document in order to appease Ethiopia. The Ethiopian mode of operation is to declare a quick and full acceptance of Agreements and then work hard to undermine them. For this reason the rejection of the EEBC Decision by Ethiopia didn’t come as a surprise for many who are close observers of the behavior of the regime in Addis. The Secretary General of the United Nations had known of it a year before they made their position official. Their rejection came after a year and a half of provocative and potentially dangerous activities by the Ethiopian regime, activities that threatened the ceasefire agreement and peace process all together. On March 6, 2003 Kofi Annan had hinted in his `Progress Report' to the United Nations Security Council, that his Special Representative who had had several meetings with the Ethiopian leaders, had intimated that if Ethiopia’s “concerns were not properly addressed” they “might eventually reject the demarcation-related decisions of the Commission.”

The Commission for its part had not seen any cooperation from Ethiopia from the get go. After it got a reply to questions for clarification on June 2002, and was told that its new settlement on sovereign Eritrean territory was in violation of the Algiers Agreement in July 2002 and again on November 2002 Ethiopia filed comments on a map “amounting to 141 pages and going far beyond the scope of comments on the map”, as the Commission said it these comments “amounted to an attempt to reopen the substance of the April Decision.” This was why the President of the Commission in his 8th Report to the UN Security Council had this to say:

“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.”

However, the International community, particularly the guarantors of the Algiers Peace Agreement, the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union and particularly the United States Government which in addition to being a guarantor was also the key author of the Algiers Agreement have chosen to remain indifferent and standing by doing virtually nothing when the peace process is being eroded and derailed by Ethiopia. Ethiopia through its Prime Minister’s letter of September 19, 2003 has officially declared the April Decision as “totally illegal, unjust and irresponsible” and in his address to the Ethiopian Parliament Mr. Zenawi has declared the EEBC and its Decision as “Null and Void.” As a way out, Ethiopia has called on the Security Council to “set up an alternative mechanism to demarcate the contested parts of the boundary in a just and legal manner.” Thus Ethiopia’s call for dialogue is clear. It is as an alternative mechanism to bypass the Commission and to change the Decision to fit its expansionist desire. It is not as Ethiopia wants the world to believe out of a genuine desire for peace and as a first step for peace and stability in the Horn of Africa.

The fact is that today, there are no longer any disputed territories that need to be contested or settled through dialogue. The border conflict has been legally resolved and what remains today is the technical matter of placing border markers on the ground. Unfortunately, Ethiopia has refused to allow demarcation to continue. It has refused to cooperate with the Border Commission which is the sole party mandated to demarcate the border. This Ethiopian lawlessness and defiance to international law is about to bring the three-year old tentative peace to near collapse. Will the international community, as it remembers and regrets with what it did in Rwanda a decade ago, look the other way when Ethiopia is trying to wreck havoc and lead the region to further tragedy and instability? We hope not.

We as Eritrean Americans here and the people of Eritrea in general are remembering this day not because we feel Eritrea has got all what it thought was rightly its through the April 13 Decision. But because we think the acceptance of the Decision and its faithful implementation are the first steps towards a peaceful settlement of the unnecessary war that was declared on Eritrea under the pretext of a border dispute. It is because we think the delimitation Decision together with the Cessation of Hostilities, the Algiers Peace Agreement and the eventual demarcation of the border on the basis of the April 13 Decision can form the pillars on which we can build a sustainable peace in the region. Commonsense tells us that no peace can be achieved if governments keep rejecting Agreements they vowed to abide by. No matter how one slices or dices it there is no worse obstacle to peace to our region than Ethiopia’s refusal to abide by a Decision it once promised the world is going to be final and binding.

Although the UN Security Council has passed over a dozen resolutions and several presidential statements calling for the expeditious demarcation of the border in accordance with the EEBC decision, there have not been any meaningful punitive actions taken against Ethiopia by the international community.

Here in the United States, the Bill, HR-2760 though introduced to the Congress in July of 2003, has yet to pass into law. We urge all of you to contact Congress and push for the speedy passage of this critical Bill, as it would signal to the rest of the international community, the United States’ resolve in abiding by its commitments under the Algiers Agreement of which it is one of the guarantors and authors of that Agreement. We want you to help us prevent another unnecessary war by urging our government, the US government, and the international community to call a spade a spade and to apply all the pressure they can to make Ethiopia work for peace not for war and destruction.

Thank you for coming.