Ethiopia's Lies and Omissions
By: Hellen Tesfamariam
November 29, 2003

If the International community was naïve and chose to give Ethiopia the benefit of the doubt in 1998, they must be shocked at Ethiopia’s blatant disregard for the rule of law today. This “spoilt child of the West”, or as the Australian author, Keneally would put it, “the sick man of Africa”, continues to lie, omit relevant truths and uses the predicament of the poor Ethiopian masses for sympathy. How can a country be jubilant over a decision in one year and categorically be against it in another? This is an example of a government prone to lies and omissions.

Sometimes what they say is less important than what they fail to say or deliberately omit. Ethiopia claims to be a democracy but what type of democratic elections would put a minority ethnic group, Tigreans, in the most powerful positions of government? Today, even though Tigreans make up only 3% of Ethiopia’ s population, they are at the helm of power in an ethnically divided federal arrangement. What democratic government would gun down 40 student protesters in the streets of its capital and burn down large forest areas in the Oromo state to quell resistance? The Ethiopian Government has excluded nomadic pastoralists, making up some seven million people, from any democratic representation. How democratic are you if you exclude, by your own admission, an entire ethnic group in the electoral process?

The border decision by the EEBC puts Badme squarely in Eritrea. The Ethiopian government continued to insist that they were administering Badme at the time that the war broke out. What they omit to state is that they were illegally administering lands they knew were Eritrean. Maybe they were hoping to create “facts on the ground” and have a legal body, the EEBC, legitimize their illegal activities.

Now that the ruling is not in their favor, the latest claim is that all the residents in Badme are Ethiopian. This could confuse the naïve reader. The big omission here is that today, all the residents in Badme are Ethiopian for two reasons; one, the Eritreans that resided in Badme before the war are in IDP, Internally Displaced People’s, camps, waiting to return to their homes and two, there are Ethiopians in Badme that were settled there after the April 2002 ruling, illegal resettlement in direct violation of the decision and despite EEBC’s admonishing.

The most preposterous of all is Ethiopia’s claims of humanitarian disaster if the Ethiopians currently in Eritrean territory are moved or resettled elsewhere. Never mind that this is the same government that uprooted and illegally deported over 75,000 Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean ancestry, separating families and uprooting them from the land they lived in for generations, but this is the same government funding a resettlement program for 2 million Ethiopians, today! Ethiopia has launched an appeal “to the international community and local business leaders for more than three billion dollars to finance food aid and a pilot resettlement program”. The Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Adissu Legesse states “so far, 45,000 households were resettled voluntarily in Amhara, Oromia, and Tigray regions, where there is plenty of fertile land and people could ease the strain of land ownership and size” (AFP, September 26, 2003). Yes, as they shed crocodile tears for several thousands on the border areas, they omit to mention that there is currently a government-sponsored program to uproot 2 million Ethiopians from their ancestral homes to land less prone to drought and famine.

The truth is, Badme was always Eritrean although it was periodically, illegally administered by Ethiopia. The truth is, Eritreans always lived in Badme and were displaced into camps far from their ancestral homeland due to the war. Finally, the truth, is thousands of people on both sides could be resettled due to the EEBC decision, but that is a supported practice of the Ethiopian government, legally practiced in Ethiopia today and illegally practiced on sovereign Eritrean lands in the past. Legal resettlement of some border communities, according to the EEBC decision, is the price to be paid for a demarcated border, helping to prevent future wars and disputes, allowing both nations to concentrate on social, political and economic developments for the betterment of both peoples. We need to remain vigilant and expose Ethiopia’s audacious lies and omissions!

Awet n’hafash! haftKum,
Hellen Tesfamariam