Blatant Misrepresentation of Facts
By: Huriy Ghirmai
December 3, 2004

So goes the trickster – ‘now you hear me say yes, now you don’t – then you hear me say no but you will think I said yes.’ In the world of magic, it might as well be that easy but unfortunately for Meles – the Supremo of Woyane swindle-plant – this is not a magic show. No heaves of sighs in amazement or applause for this deceitful imp – just a gentle shake of the head in revulsion; that is, if you are a peace loving Eritrean or Ethiopian which the majority of us are.

But there is another set of audience – the sort who are more inclined to be deceived – willingly, I might add. Ironically, one group in this set is composed of journalists. Of these people, you would think that they would be given to be inquisitive and discerning – sort of rules of the trade. Well no, try thinking again.

The response to Ethiopia’s alleged acceptance of the EEBC decision by the media and so-called international community is worthy of note. The media reaction has been typified by a telling lack of analysis at best. At worst, a rushed and somehow lazy reporting has contributed to a misrepresentation of facts.

Despite the clarity with which Meles Zenawi put across his points, the media have been reporting that Ethiopia had accepted the Boundary decision at last. The headlines have been quite inaccurate in this regard giving the impression that the Woyane have approved the EEBC ruling unconditionally. Of course the most basic critical reading of Meles Zenawi’s declaration would reveal that he has said nothing different from what he has been saying all along in the past one year or so: if anything in fact, he only reiterated openly his rejection of the EEBC decision by adding further details.

It seems that our journalists, so-called keepers of the truth, simply missed an opportunity to speak for the truth – objectively. First, there was a short-lived emphasis on Meles Zenawi’s acceptance ‘in principle’ of the border ruling. Eventually however, the phrase ‘in principle’ was dropped and headlines, essentially misinformed and intended to misinform, started appearing.

Associated Press declared, ‘Ethiopia OKs ruling on border with Eritrea’ while VOA insisted, ‘Ethiopia Accepts Boundary Commission’s Ruling on Shared Border’. Meanwhile, UN’s very own IRIN reported, ‘ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: EU welcomes Ethiopia's acceptance of border ruling, urges Eritrea to respond’. Afraid that it was about to be outdone, an incorrigible BBC said, ‘Ethiopia backs down over border.’

Then strangely, officials of various governments and international organisations started jumping to conclusion without actually reading, or so it seemed, what Meles Zenawi had said. Albeit lagging behind a German press release in praise of the Ethiopian government, the European Union was quick off the mark. Javier Solana, the EU's High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, encouraged the Eritrean government “to respond positively to Ethiopia's offer of talks about the root causes of the conflict, with a view of normalising relations between the two countries.”

It is worrying that a person of Salano’s standing seems to be ignorant of the details of the Algiers Agreement. Otherwise, how would he echo Meles Zenawi’s request for an examination of the root causes of the war when the Peace Agreement deals with that particular issue? It is even more alarming when you think that the EU, as the guarantor of the Peace Agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia, is not seen to make an effort to study Ethiopia’s phoney peace declaration. A joint statement courtesy of Chris Mullin and Hillary Benn followed EU’s blunder. In it, the duo quite predictably endorsed the EU statement. Furthermore, they stated that the Ethiopian move represented “an important step forward, which the international community has been urging the Ethiopian government to take.” Not surprisingly, the two British government officials were simply telling stories.

On the contrary in fact, the international community, including Eritrea, did not get what they asked for. What was required of Ethiopia was for the Woyane regime to accept the EEBC decision unconditionally and make provisions for its complete implementation. Instead, Meles Zenawi has reaffirmed his rejection of the Boundary ruling unambiguously. Less than 24 hours after the EU and UK statements, he came out and said that there would be no demarcation without dialogue. This made an already clear declaration even clearer. But neither the EU nor the UK has retracted its statement to date.

The re-branded African Union, another guarantor of the Algiers peace Agreement as the Organisation of African Unity in its former self, joined the cook-up quite early. Chairperson Alpha Oumar Konaré, who curiously remained silent when Ethiopia rejected the EEBC decision back in September 2003, issued PRESS RELEASE NO. 106/2004 authored and delivered in Addis Ababa. In it, he praised Ethiopia’s “commitment to immediately start dialogue with the view to implementing the EEBC decision.” Somebody must have forgotten to remind him that the EEBC ruling was final and binding and that its implementation was not subject to dialogue.

Lloyd Axworthy came out with a strange interpretation of the Ethiopian ‘peace proposal'. It was as if he had just joined the discussion in the middle. While he refrained from jumping up and down by his own admission, he said that Eritrea’s response “wasn’t as hopeful.” But, he announced, “The Eritrean President has said there is no point getting involved until Ethiopia has agreed to work with the decision of the boundary commission and that has now taken place. So the ball is in their [Eritrean] court.”

Now this is a classic example of a processed lie or to put it another way, a manufactured reality - a counterfeit truth. First, Ethiopia has not agreed to work with the decision of the boundary commission. The Woyane are still not willing to work with a decision they have repeatedly referred to as illegal and unjust. Second, nowhere has the President of Eritrea - verbally or in print - said that he would be involved in any process other than that which supported complete and unconditional implementation of the EEBC decision. In fact, the President, in a letter to the UN Secretary General dated 24 December, 2003, affirmed, “one cannot realistically contemplate normalization of bilateral relations [with Ethiopia] when our sovereign territories remain occupied by force and the legal decision, as well as the rule of law, continues to be trampled.” In other words, all talk of dialogue and normalisation of relations would come after the implementation of the EEBC decision. So whatever ball Lloyd Axworthy spotted, no one else has seen.

All this bears the hallmark of a collective cook-up; all intended to will a birth of a fact - that Ethiopia has accepted the EEBC decision - and place it on the ground under the pretence of pursuing peace. Meles Zenawi, as false-hearted as he may be, is not the only one to blame for this series of misrepresentation of facts. Truth is, he has been blunt with his rejection of the Algiers Peace Agreement. On the other hand however, the international community seems more willing to shirk its responsibilities rather than seeing to it that Ethiopia accepts a decision with its basis firmly rooted in international law. We should all beware lest the truth be fogged up by media-manufactured reality and disingenuous foreign emissaries.