Eritrea calls on the UN to rectify its non-attendance to its obligations
By: Shabait Staff
July 5, 2004

After a bitter and long struggle that demanded priceless lives, Eritrea secured its independence in 1991, leading to a new realm of stability and hope in the region. In the years that followed up to 1998, the peoples of the region, blessed with the tranquility that had prevailed, had been able to place their entire focus on moving forward with developmental programs and efforts to improve their living conditions and, in the process, register remarkable progress. In May of 1998, the regime in Ethiopia, out of the clear blue declared a war against Eritrea, which by any standards was illegal and unjustifiable, and thereby dragging the region that has long suffered from the miseries of war into an atmosphere of renewed tension and mass destruction.

Instead of looking into the genesis and development of the new tensions of war built up by the Addis Ababa regime in a noble effort on the part of the international community to bring peace back into the region, facilitators led by the then US officials ended up further complicating matters by taking decisions that lacked scrutiny and tangible assessment of the case.

By exploiting the errors committed by the facilitators in the initial stage, the Government of Ethiopia that had been beating the war drums launched three all-out offensives against Eritrea. Young men and women in the tens of thousands were killed in those wars and the resources of the two countries became exposed to insurmountable destruction. Parallel to these unfortunate occurrences, hundreds of thousands of Eritrean civilians were either killed or tortured and their property confiscated by the regime in Ethiopia. Eritreans that had resided in Ethiopia for many years were expelled from that country and those that had inhabited areas that regrettably became the war zone were displaced from their home villages.

Following fruitless attempts made through the offensives unleashed, the plans of the Ethiopian government were foiled and had arrived at a dead end, which led to the inevitable signing of the Algiers Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities and the Comprehensive Peace Deal in 2000. Based on those agreements, the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) was established, the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces deployed and the Boundary Commission set up.

Based on the Algiers Agreement, the Boundary Commission gave its final and binding decision in April 2002. According to the timetable set up by the Boundary Commission, the demarcation of the borders should have been completed by November of 2003. No thanks to the stubbornness of the Ethiopian regime, the implementation of the demarcation process remains to date far from accomplished. Finally, and in a show of utter disrespect to the agreements it signed and the rule of law, the Government of Ethiopia officially declared in its written statement to the United Nations, its outright rejection of the boundary commission’s decision and relevant resolutions in their entirety.

It had been a naturally legal conception that the international community had been mandated with its obligation to take measures based on Chapter VII of the UN Charter against any party that violated the terms of the Algiers Agreement. It is more than two years now since the Boundary Commission announced its decision. Unfortunately, the international community, as embodied in the United Nations, has not taken effective measures to date although it has obligations either to persuade Ethiopia to respect the decision, or failing that, to take appropriate punitive action against it. As a consequence of the international community’s failure to live up to its commitments, the situation is accordingly assuming an increasingly dangerous proportion.

As a result of the Addis Ababa regime’s rejection, the Algiers Agreements, sacrosanct principles and the rule of law have been overstepped, the decision of the Boundary Commission suspended and the implementation of the border demarcation obstructed. What is more dismaying and far too amusing for Eritrea, however, are the UN’s misguided efforts that focus on diversionary issues as a substitute to firm action that is vital to persuade Ethiopia to respect the Agreement. These efforts are not only complicating the problems and postponing a solution but they are also encouraging and rewarding Ethiopian intransigence.

The issue of the Special Envoy of the Secretary General is a case in point. The unfortunate decision taken to appoint a Special Envoy, precisely at a time when international effort should have been galvanized to secure Ethiopia’s compliance with its treaty obligations, has set in motion a dilatory and complicating “mechanism”. Eritrea has not to date received a satisfactory explanation to its queries regarding the mandate of the Special Envoy. The conclusion that Eritrea can draw from the facts known to date is that this measure is a substitute to effective action that will only lead to endless and fruitless cycle of diplomatic wrangling and public relations exercise.

The second issue regards the Peacekeeping Force. Eritrea had accepted the establishment of a temporary security zone, where the Peacekeeping force would principally be deployed – inside its sovereign territory for the sake of, and in order to facilitate, a permanent, legal and fair solution. The lopsided arrangement war not, otherwise, justified by any standards. For Eritrea, the Peacekeeping Force symbolizes the “sanctity and integrity of Agreements made; the supremacy of international law and the rule of law; the prestige of the United Nations; and, Eritrea’s faithful adherence to Agreements it has solemnly signed.” Eritrea has no desire to dwell on the conduct of the Peacekeeping Force since much has been said already. The decision to withdraw, or reduce the size of, the Peacekeeping force is also a matter that regards solely the United Nations and relevant agreements. Eritrea cannot comment on this decision. Nonetheless, Eritrea cannot accept to be used as a scapegoat by those who insinuate that “the peacekeeping force will be withdrawn because it has been prevented from fulfilling its functions by restrictions imposed by the Eritrean Government”. In Eritrea’s view, these arguments are advanced to conceal the failure of the international community to shoulder its obligations.

The third diversionary point regards the campaign underway claiming that “both sides are preparing for war”… “war is imminent”…etc. Eritrea has and continues to direct its efforts, with patience and for more than two years now since the decision of the Boundary Commission, on legal approaches and instruments. Our priority remains the development of our country to which objective we are channeling all our national resources. In the event, Eritrea wonders whether these campaigns are carried out deliberately to shift the blame on it and thereby downplay the failure of the international community.

The issue of Assab and the port’s usage comes as a fourth obscuring and time-buying point. The stand of the people and government of Eritrea on this matter remains firm and clear as has been repeatedly expressed. This point serves no other purpose apart from creating a divergence from the main line of reasoning and complicating matters even further. There is no justifiable reason whatsoever why the issue of the port’s usage should come up in connection with the border demarcation process as the two issues fall short of any minute correlation between them. Practically speaking, the port of Djibouti is conducting all preparations to provide necessary infrastructure and thereby serve as the main port for Ethiopia’s utility. Apart from the intentions of setting up the platform for Eritrea and Ethiopia to remain enmeshed in tensions and conflict, raising such a point at this stage will embody no other meaning except to engage in diversions. It should also become clear at this point that Eritrea has no intentions of entering into a bid of selling off its ports services with Djibouti.

There are other issues advanced mainly to create confusion or to compound the problem. But all of them boil down to evading the critical issue as the local proverb goes: “you cannot crawl and hide when you have stolen a camel!”

In connection with the UN Secretary General’s visit to Asmara, the Government of Eritrea avails of the occasion to renew its appeal to Mr. Kofi Annan and the international community at large, to shoulder their moral and legal responsibilities to ensure the respect of the Agreements and the rule of law and secure Ethiopia’s acceptance and implementation of the Boundary Commission’s decision. Eritrea also appeals to the international community to abandon efforts that will only undermine the main issue and embroil Eritrea in endless and fruitless exercise. Two years is a long time. Especially for the people of Eritrea that have paid dear prices for the sake of peace and prosperity, two years is a long time indeed.