The United Nations against the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission; Eritrea Ought to Welcome Mr. Axworthy
By: Mobae Afeworki
April 6, 2004

The now 'non-alternative mechanism' surely started out as an alternative mechanism according to no one but the horse's mouth itself, i.e., Mr. Axworthy himself. Mr. Axworthy put it as an enhancement mechanism for EEBC's decision, he stated that the EEBC's decision needs to be enhanced. I wonder what he means by that? But, since he is not telling us, we can speculate that his intention appears to be to re-negotiate what the EEBC decided. This, in my unfiltered and uncluttered opinion, is a matter of the UN Secretary General undermining the EEBC and its prestigious members. In this United Nations against the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission, the UNSG succeeded in creating confusion by his appointment of an envoy.

Furthermore, we all know that this envoy business started out as a way of accommodating the Weyane -- an alternative mechanism as Ma.Le.Li.T. put it or special envoy as the UNSG put it. To put it mildly, Mr. Axworthy's mission was simply designed to deny Eritrea the moral upper hand, to use Eritrea as a pawn and to avoid putting pressure on Ethiopia. With the latest resolution from the UNSC, it appears that it is turning to a face-saving mission for the secretary general himself -- who prematurely let his office be used as one of the endless moves to checkmate Eritrea. In my opinion, our African brother at the highest office of the UN did let himself and his office be used, knowingly or unknowingly, as grounds for tripping up Eritrea.

As most Eritreans, I too am highly suspicious of the motives of the UN. I do not want to sound paranoid, but the way things are developing from within the UN and its powerful members -- especially the US -- are unprincipled, to say the least, and they are actually downright abusive against the people of Eritrea. If the UNSG really meant his special envoy to help facilitate the implementation of the decision of the EEBC, then it is up to him to say so without mincing words, by demanding/encouraging/threatening Ethiopia to accept the EEBC decision, and without cluttering his updates to the UNSC by bringing up other side issues -- such as his appointment of the special envoy itself and how things would have been rosy if Eritrea were to accept his envoy.

Given all the above and fully realizing the intentions of the different parties, what should Eritrea do?

In my view, the issue of prime importance for Eritrea is how to deal with the trap dangling in its face in the name of a special envoy. Even if we assume that some members within the UN were to suggest imposing sanctions on Ethiopia (not that I believe it will happen), will the UN be comfortable with issues such as whether it has exhausted all possible means of encouraging Ethiopia to accept the EEBC's decision? In fact, Eritrea should see Mr. Axworthy's position vis-a-vis the latter -- whether any punishment could be imposed on Ethiopia as long as Eritrea is unwilling to accept Mr. Annan's (now, for all practical purposes, the UNSC's) envoy. [BTW, nobody should expect the UN to impose sanctions on Ethiopia. On the contrary, I remain convinced that they will do everything they covertly can to hamper Eritrea's ability to take-care-of itself and to defend itself.]

At any rate, at this juncture Eritrea has many options, including refusing to accept Mr. Axworthy, as it has been doing so far. However, Eritrea should not fall for the trap laid out on its path -- it should not play the predictable, it should not play to the hands of those who have carefully designed this trap. Eritrea should move first on this and it ought to welcome Mr. Annan's envoy on the condition that his role is clearly defined and that it will basically be to find ways to implement the decision already rendered by the court of arbitration, as the UNSC indicated -- not to "enhance" it as Mr. Axworthy put it, nor to do anything else to it.

Eritrea could start by welcoming Mr. Axworthy and telling him what its positions are, again. It could state the very obvious at a news conference, even at the airport itself as Mr. Axworthy arrives: obvious things such as that it has accepted the Boundary Commission's decision fully and that it is ready to implement the decision reached by the court, that it is ready to dialogue with the Ethiopians only that they have to accept and implement the decision of the EEBC and that they have to state that they are not for overthrowing the Eritrean government anymore -- a position they have yet to reverse.

Finally, Eritrea may not have anything to gain by accepting Mr. Axworthy with a carefully defined mission, but it sure could have a lot to lose by not accepting him. And we should all encourage our government to accept Mr. Axworthy with a predefined mission. The above is mine.