The UN at 59: Frail and Sterile
By: Huriy Ghirmai
October 15, 2004

Foreign Minister Ali Said Abdella put it eloquently; “Ethiopia’s belated rejection of the [EEBC] decision was an afterthought, which was done at first tentatively and cautiously but that later gained boldness and audacity when it realised that it can do so with impunity.”

A day before, Seyoum Mesfin had arrogantly and in full view of the world, reiterated Ethiopia’s rejection of the EEBC decision in a shameful statement at the 59th session of the UN General Assembly. What’s more, as a by the by, he took time to rubbish the principle of international law without which the idea of the United Nations would be irrelevant.
At best, the impudence with which the Ethiopian foreign minister stated his moot case puts the United Nations and Secretary General Kofi Anan in bad light. It does not bode well for the reputation of the UN when a Foreign Minister of a member state shows total and complete contempt in such casual manner.

It is just so unfortunate that this should come on the 59th anniversary of the UN. At a time when the UN has simply become near lemon, Seyoum Mesfin’s guff may not come to many as a surprise. It seems that the UN, instead of reasserting its commitment to take a more active role, has resigned itself to being the biggest institutionalised talking shop in a world where any nation can behave as it wishes and when it wishes irrespective of the dictates of international law.
Such a world is a dangerous world; especially at a time when no country or region is safe from the threat of terrorism. Only peace and stability can prevent the Horn of Africa from becoming a safe haven and may be even a breeding ground for terrorists. To ensure that that does not happen, the role of the international community, and especially the United Nations, should be to support the rule of law as against to extending gestures that encourage lawlessness by countries like Ethiopia.
Dialogue is a good thing. The world knows that when the Ethiopian government declared war against Eritrea in 1998, in direct response, the Eritrean government called for dialogue by rejecting the logic of force and proposing a five-point peace plan to resolve peacefully the then prevailing situation. On the contrary, the Ethiopian government, being so intent on mayhem and destruction, simply carried out its expansionist military adventure nonetheless.

Now, the Tigrean Ethno-national regime in Ethiopia is pushing so hard to make the world believe that the logical conclusion to the Algiers Agreement is a consensus yet to be reached between Eritrea and Ethiopia regarding the implementation of the EEBC ruling. That is just light-years away from the truth. The fact is, there has already been a decision and it is final and binding. The ruling is not subject to dialogue – quite simple really.

The point is there has been much dialogue in the form of litigation leading up to the EEBC verdict. If Meles Zenawi and his Woyane club-chums were genuine about peace, dialogue and all the rest of the noble ideas they have been shedding their crocodile tears for, they should have acted when the time called for it in 1998. Back then, the Eritrean government was firm and resolute in its willingness to resolve the conflict with Ethiopia in a peaceful way throughout; unfortunately however, the Woyane remained obsessively obstinate the whole time. The result was the escalation of a war with catastrophic consequences.

Incidentally, unlike Seyoum Mesfin’s foolish claim, ‘final and binding’ is much more than a mere mantra in the context of the Algiers Agreement. In fact, it is a crucial aspect of the Peace Agreement which Ethiopia signed willingly. The customary Ethiopian game of charade fronted by Meles Zenawi is simply designed to deceive the world. Unfortunately, Ethiopia seems to have found willing partners in the UN and the guarantors of the Peace Agreement – notably the US and EU.
We should all bear in mind that the only reason the Ethiopian government is now calling for dialogue is because it wishes to thwart the EEBC decision. This in turn means that it is not interested in peace. Ethiopia’s effort to unravel the peace process is now gathering pace as the US and EU, along with the UN, sit ringside watching Meles Zenawi acting up like a spoilt child. In a more just world, the necessary consequence of Ethiopia’s intransigence should have been a sanction in line with Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

Defending the integrity of the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission against the unwarranted defamation campaign by the Ethiopian government, Sir Elihu Lauterpacht wrote last year, “The Commission does not accept that assessment: 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).” The assessment that Sir Lauterpacht referred to was Meles Zenawi’s outlandish claim that the work of the EEBC was in ‘terminal crisis’.

Sir Lauterpacht’s point as well as repeated objections to Ethiopia’s rejection of the EEBC ruling by the Eritrean government was simply ignored by the UN and the guarantors of the Peace Agreement. Meanwhile, the autocratic minority regime in Ethiopia, still lording it over the Ethiopian people, took the hint and upped its daredevil antics – as Foreing Minister Ali Said Abdella explained, with impunity.

At 59, one would expect the United Nations to have matured. Instead it limps off – hollow and ineffective – towards a certain life in the doldrums. It would be such a shame because a strong and independent United Nations could do so much good for our world.

As for Eritrea, the inaction of the UN will not shock its people. The UN has let Eritreans down before and somehow, deja vous never shocks that much. The UN must impose strict sanctions against Ethiopia and force it to accept the EEBC ruling because that would be the only appropriate thing to do. That way, it can regain some of its fast eroding credibility. It is up to the United Nations to save the United Nations and in this case, it can do so by aligning itself with Eritrea in calling for justice.