Ethiopia does not have a border dispute with Eritrea
By: Naizghi Zekarias
November 6, 2003
The border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea was resolved when the EEBC
rendered its verdict about a year ago. Trying to tie the Ethiopian regime’s
lawlessness to the border dispute is misleading and is only complicating the
problem in the Horn region. The issue is no longer about the border. It is about
respecting international law. It is about letting the Ethiopian and Eritrean
peoples live as neighbors in peace.
There are at least three reasons why the current problem is not really about the border. First, it is about fuelling hatred between the two countries in order to unify Ethiopia on one issue, war. The previous Ethiopian regimes, be it autocratic or communist, used the war against Eritrea and other neighboring countries like Somalia to unify the many ethnic groups in the country in the name of war. If this regime is not held accountable for its disregard to international law, as it appears for the moment, no country in the horn region will have peace. The current victim of the rogue regime in Mekele-Addis is Eritrea. Tomorrow’s victims will be Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, or Djibouti. When a government needs war for its political legitimacy, it is a big sign that it is in trouble for its existence. This is why the problem is not really about the border any more. What the Ethiopian people need is not grabbing a piece of dry land like Badme by displacing Eritrean farmers. Ethiopians need basic
human and political rights and the TPLF knows it and is terrified about the prospect.
Second, the basic reason the TPLF regime gave the Ethiopian people for its war on the Eritrean people was Badme. Now that this reason was proved to be a lie in the EEBC decision, the regime is afraid of the political ramification in the eyes of the world but more importantly in Ethiopia itself. It is devastating for the families of the Ethiopian soldiers to learn that their sons or daughters gave their lives to take something that does not belong to them on a false premise. If it accepts the Badme verdict, the regime essentially would be saying I was wrong. As the regime sees it, this would be a political suicide. So its problem is not so much about Badme as it is about the consequences of its reckless actions.
The third dilemma the TPLF regime has is the issue of compensation. It has been crying to the whole world that the war was primarily about Badme. To prove its point, this regime sacrificed over a hundred thousand innocent Ethiopians as mine sweepers. It ransacked the properties and economic infrastructures of innocent Eritreans. It expelled close to a hundred thousand people of Eritrean descent inflicting incalculable misery on them and their families. These are all crimes not just against Eritreans, but also against humanity, which raises the issue of responsibility. With the loss of Badme in the court of law, it suddenly dawned on Meles that his regime may be held to pay. Accountability came knocking at his door and is trying to find a way out by reversing the EEBC decision.
So Ethiopia does not have a border issue with Eritrea any more. What it does
have is a problem of coming to terms with its destructive behavior towards Eritrea.
For decades, successive Ethiopian regimes have been continuing with the impasse
of war on Eritrea to deny basic political and human rights to their own people.
The current impasse on the border decision is not any different. The regime
needs it to continue to stay in power. The border issue is settled once and
for all. Ethiopia needs to accept it in reality, like the rest of the world,
and move on. This will give Ethiopia a positive image as opposed to its current
defiance of international law and world opinion. The Eritrean people have been
hurt for decades by successive Ethiopian regimes. Despite the atrocities perpetrated
during the recent war against them, they will be able to forgive and move on
if Ethiopia comes to grips with reality and accept the fact that Eritrea is
now a sovereign nation. Ethiopia needs Eritrea as a
neighbor and partner in peace. The current regime wants Eritrea as a perpetual enemy to foster a shallow unity in Ethiopia thereby extending its grip to power. This position is not new, it never worked for the previous regimes and it will not work for this regime. Eritrea wants peace with Ethiopia but Eritrea cannot impose peace on Ethiopia.