Mr. Annan Show Courage and Candor
By: Ogbazgy Abbay Asmerom
January 27, 2004

Cicero said, “Liberty consists in the power of doing that, which is permitted by law.”

Mr. Annan, Africa, and all Africans had hoped you, as a Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), would be a shining star in the Halls of the UN, where all kinds of intrigues and injustices have been committed, of course, in the name of diplomacy. Diplomacy based on justice and acceptable principles, which maintains the integrity of international law, is good. Anything that goes contrary to international law is damaging and unacceptable. 

Many Africans do feel proud of you, first, as an African who has achieved a lot; second, as a UN diplomat, who has reached the highest post in the world arena. We wish you the best as you try to maintain the integrity of the UN. As the second African to be elected as the Secretary General of the UN, after Boutros Ghali, your political career and credibility are being tested by Ethiopia’s arrogance and deceit. Wisdom should be your trademark. Do not let Ethiopia’s recalcitrant attitude derail your integrity. You must tell Ethiopia and its leaders that they should know their limited political boundaries. Only by doing that would you help your legacy and above all Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.

The “border crisis” between Eritrea and Ethiopia started one year after you got elected as the Secretary General of the UN in 1997 and we can say has stayed in your radar screen for most part of your turn. Don’t try to tamper with the Decision of the Border Commission. It is part of Eritrea’s legal birthright. Eritrea is a sovereign country. Its independence is not reversible. Your office needs to realize Eritrean Independence was not a gift from any colonial master. It was earned by an old- fashioned method. It was the result of sweat, blood, and tears.  A lot has been paid to usher Eritrean independence. Eritrea cherishes and appreciates its freedom. As a country that fought hard to get its independence it will do whatever it takes to preserve it.

At this time, there is no need for you to discharge your obligation on the implementation of the Eritrean-Ethiopia Border Commission’s (EEBC) Decision and truncate it. There is no need to take a back door shuttle diplomacy in order to resolve the Ethio-Eritrean border crisis by concocting a dialogue or a compromise. The only way to resolve the impasse is by ordering the implementation of the Demarcation Time Table.  In fact, due to the weak posture of the UN, but particularly your office, the Demarcation process was postponed three times. Now, it is now postponed indefinitely.

You know it and the whole world knows it, the treaty that established the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission was signed in your presence in Algiers, in December 2000. You had signed the Algiers Agreement, representing the UN, along with representatives of the United States of America (USA), European Union (EU), and the African Union (AU) to serve as the main guarantors of the Agreement. Then you had foreseen that a “final and binding” decision by a neutral and independent Boundary Commission would serve as the cornerstone for a lasting peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia. When on April 12, 2002, the EEBC gave its “final and binding” Decision you were among the first to hail it.  You now seem to have a change of heart are backpedaling. What happened? Do you ever think what could not be solved by a Decision of a neutral and independent Commission can now be solved through a dialogue that is being pushed by Ethiopia? Isn’t it a matter of historical record that Ethiopia chose to declare war on Eritrea in 1998 because it knew it cannot get what it wanted through a peaceful dialogue?  Furthermore Ethiopia, through the letter of its Prime Minister, had made it clear to you what it wants is not a genuine dialogue for a peace and stability in the region but to get sovereignty over the disputed territories that were ruled to be Eritrean by the Boundary Commission. Knowing fully well this to be the clear intention of Ethiopia’s demand for dialogue why are you even giving it a consideration? This unprincipled stand of yours is a puzzle to Eritreans and many other observers of the peace processes.

At this time, in the critical moment of the border demarcation process, there is no need for you to show two faces. There is no need to change the musical chair. Let the Decision of the EEBC be respected as is. Let it not be taken hostage by Ethiopia. Ethiopia should never be allowed to dictate the terms of the implementation of the Demarcation process.

After the implementation of the Border Demarcation, Eritrea and Ethiopia can earnestly enter into some political dialogue and accommodations. The issues of trade, border crossings, seaports, defense, and other bilateral relations can be discussed at several stages. Nevertheless, it is not time to talk about dialogue, especially an open-ended dialogue, when Ethiopian troops are in Badme and other sovereign Eritrean areas. Ethiopia must evacuate its marauding troops from all territories that belong to Eritrea.

The UN has the moral and political obligations and responsibilities to be seized by the matter, and then take appropriate steps to make Ethiopia adhere to the verdict that already has been decided. Outside this, there should not be any prevarication on the Ethiopian side. Eritrea cannot make any compromise with Ethiopia, a country that has shown contempt for international law. Eritrea cannot enter into any form of dialogue with a country that is trying to reverse its sovereignty!

Mr. Annan, your office must issue a clearer message declaring that the Decision of the Commission must be acceptable by Ethiopia without any delay. Here, there should be no ifs, buts, or gridlocks. As one of the guarantors your office must speak up with moral clarity and should ask the Security Council to give Ethiopia an ultimatum.

Mr. Anan, if you work a little bit harder and be firm, you will be in a better position to save Ethiopia from its darkest moment. Let it see a brighter light for its future. You must speak up!

Finally Mr. Annan, may the New Year give you much desired wisdom to see the difference between those that are for peace and stability and those that are doing their best to derail the train of peace.

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