A Toothless UN is a Danger to the World
By: Huriy Ghirmai
March 17, 2005

It seems that the United Nations cannot do much to curb Ethiopia’s foreswearing of the Algiers Peace Agreement; apart, that is, from making feeble complaints about its intransigence from time to time.

It is true that the UN has repeatedly called on Ethiopia to accept the EEBC decision; in fact, through resolution 1560 (2004) of the UN Security Council and many more before that, the lawbreaking rulers of Ethiopia were urged – mind you, just urged – to unequivocally accept the boundary commission’s ruling. But the UN’s ritual exercise, coming in the form of ‘statements’ and ‘resolutions’ and …’concerns’, is becoming just that – ritual – limited to a practice of ceremonial proportions. Ominously, the yobbos lording it over in Ethiopia know this better than anyone else and accordingly, they carry on with their transgression rather nonchalantly like a band of habitual vagabond-thieves operating in dark alleys.

The latest in UN’s pitiful whinging was an ‘expression of concern’ by Secretary General Kofi Anan. The news stories had it that the poor man had “expressed concern about the continuing build-up of Ethiopian troops near the border with Eritrea” and the project by Ethiopia involving “new construction […] in areas that were awarded to Eritrea.” That was all in his report to the UN Security Council of March 7 (S/2005/142) .

As expected, the UN Security Council followed up the report with a toothless resolution, again, just urging Ethiopia to abide by the EEBC decision. All the UNSC could do about Ethiopia’s intransigence it seems is just express its concern coined in piteous words and phrases as opposed to taking the only appropriate measure against Ethiopia: impose strict sanctions.

Furthermore, in the true fashion of a body that seems to be ever so ready to compromise its integrity, the UNSC called on Eritrea to “accept the good offices of the Secretary General and cooperate with its Special Envoy for Ethiopia and Eritrea.” This comes in light of the fact that nobody, even the Secretary General himself, knows what the relevance or remit of the so-called Special Envoy Lloyd Axworthy is.

Axworthy himself, as confused as he is about his role, is nowadays reduced to lamenting his predicament as a single-winged flier – whatever that is. But if we are to understand by that that he believes himself to be a man flying for peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia, then the missing wing of the proverbial dove that he aspires to be, is not Eritrea but Ethiopia.

The world should realise that Axworthy – his appointment by Kofi Anan as Special Envoy – symbolises the failure of the UN to deal with Ethiopia’s anti-peace stance in a manner befitting the United Nations Charter. If there is any lack of progress in the border demarcation, which is essentially a consummation of the Algiers Peace Agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia, it is because Ethiopia, with the complicity of the UN and an assortment of governments like that of Tony Blair’s here in the UK, has failed to abide by a ruling enshrined in the dictates of international law.

In the same ‘concern’ report, Kofi Anan said that the EEBC was closing its field offices with the view to opening them when, and indeed if, Ethiopia accepts the boundary decision.

Refreshingly enough, the EEBC report attached as annexe to that of Kofi Anan’s, says it like it is as one might say. The Boundary Commission said that Ethiopia “is not prepared to allow demarcation to continue” and that its insistence on dialogue was just a smokescreen as it “has rejected the opportunity for such dialogue within the framework of the demarcation process.” This was in reference to Ethiopia’s refusal to attend the Commission’s proposed meeting with the parties – Eritrea and Ethiopia – in London on February 22 of this year which in turn prompted the EEBC to close its field offices.

The commission’s report concludes that Ethiopia’s “obstructive actions since 2002 belie the frequently professed acceptance by Ethiopia of the delimitation decision.” The EEBC adds that only if “Ethiopia abandons its present insistence on preconditions for the implementation of the demarcation “ could demarcation of the Eritrean-Ethiopian border – and therefore peace – be implemented.

The Border Commission’s decision delivered almost three years ago in April 2002, reports the EEBC, makes the Eritrean-Ethiopian border “legally and finally determined […] any conduct inconsistent with the boundary line is unlawful.”

So there, the question goes: what more does the UN and the guarantors of the Peace Agreement require to take appropriate steps to ensure that the Ethiopian Prime Minister abides by the EEBC decision? Clearly, Ethiopia is the felonious party that has rejected a ruling it agreed to accept as final and legally binding when it signed the Algiers Peace Agreement in December 2000.

The answer of course is, nothing. The UN has more than what it needs to press Ethiopia, in no uncertain terms, to either accept the decision or face the consequences of its unlawful conduct. What is more, the international community – specifically the US, EU and AU – have a moral and legal responsibility to influence Ethiopia to accept the ruling and work towards the re-establishment of peaceful and neighbourly existence between the peoples of Eritrea and Ethiopia.

As it is now, the UNMEE is costing around $16.5 million per month. This is money that could have been used to improve the lives of both the people of Eritrea and Ethiopia. Besides, the longer Ethiopia is allowed to hold the peace process hostage, the grimmer the development prospects look in both countries. If Ethiopia is left unchecked and manages to thwart the EEBC decision and get away with it, the idea of securing peace and security in the world through the rule of law will be a case of a white elephant roaming in some forest.

The United Nations has the power and legal remit to compel Ethiopia to accept and uphold peace within the basis of the Algiers Peace Agreement. It is very much within its scope of responsibility to do much more than bleat away meaningless dirge about how it is concerned regarding the lack of progress in the implementation process of the EEBC ruling. At a time when the UN is under fire for its incompetence to deal with problems both within itself and around the world, a tough and decisive dealing with the transgression of an outlaw government in Ethiopian would do much to restore its fast eroding reputation.