Meles’s charm offensive tantamount to insult
By: Sirak Bahlbi
December 1, 2004

What are we going to make of the latest charm offensive by Meles’s self-styled peace initiative? He obviously thinks that the people of Eritrea are incapable of reading through a simple and straightforward deception that is designed to grab a few headlines and in the process fool a few gullible individuals who desperately want to believe anything. To be honest, when I initially saw the headlines, I got the impression that Meles finally saw some sense and capitulated to the inevitable. However, reading the entire professed peace initiative leaves you with sudden déjà-vu and your intelligence insulted.

The first reaction to this latest drama could be simply to ignore the whole farce and treat it with the contempt that it deserves. However this line of action has proven to be a sign of weakness or even worse it can be interpreted as if Eritrea has something to hide. We have to expose the latest smoke screen by Meles and his cohorts. Eritrea has the law on her side. The case of Eritrea was submitted to a lengthy and detailed scrutiny of international law. Although the judgment of the court of law did not award Eritrea all the land that it had claimed, Eritrea accepted the judgment of the court unequivocally in principle, in spirit and in its immediate implementation as outlined by the Commission’s directives. Thus leaving with no doubt that Eritrea is a law abiding and peace-loving nation that has done everything in its power to uphold the law and to avoid the devastation of war.

There are two aspects of the latest Meles’s so called “peace initiative” that need to be addressed. The first is what right or mandate does Meles have to take it upon himself to put any type of peace initiative while there is already a peace agreement in place. The second is what ground breaking new initiative does he propose in his apparent ‘5 point peace initiative’ that will seal the verdict already in place and make the Eritrean government accept the new proposal. There have been no actions taken to build any trust between the two parties. In fact as recent as a few days ago, Meles publicly declared his intentions not to deal with the current government of Eritrea and to do his utmost to overthrow the government of Eritrea. Therefore, to say that trust has broken between the two governments is an understatement, and normalization of the relationship and long-lasting peace can only be reasserted by first and foremost implementing the boundary commission decision with out any diversionary tactics.

Meles’s unashamed and flagrant rejection of the law astounds any law-abiding person. What is even more astounding is when nation states that claim to abide by the rule of law continue to entertain Meles’s blatant flouting of the law. Moreover, even at this stage he is still calling the decision of Boundary commission, which was made up of highly regarded judges and lawyers, as an illegal and unjust. It remains to be seen how the international community reacts to the latest antics performed by Meles. The precedent already set does not fill you with confidence. The international community continues to indulge Meles and award him all kinds of aid, while he is acting like a spoiled child of the west. He seems to flip flop between accepting and not accepting the decision of the boundary commission depending how his situation changes on that month.

How can anyone be permitted to come up with his own unilateral proposal to a decision agreed to be final and binding just because they can not accept the fact that they have lost their case in a court of law? There is no need for any new points of a peace initiative to be proposed by anyone. Eritrea and Ethiopia have already gone through a lengthy and painstaking process to reach a legal decision arbitrated by the highest court of law existing at the moment. The peace process with its framework, technical modalities and final peace agreement was a just procedures based on the rule of law.

However, for one party who has lost its case in court in which it was already agreed the verdict will be final and binding to come back and restart its own peace initiative is a blueprint for destroying any recognition of the rule of law. In fact, it is criminal. Meles should never be allowed to revise the judgment to save his situation; otherwise there is no way Eritrea can respect any subsequent rehash of the decision, thereby creating a chance for war and misery. All the efforts of the international community should be directed to convince the prime minister of Ethiopia to accept the decision of the commission not only in principle but also in its entirety and its speedy implementation. That way the world can make sure that the rule of law is being upheld and does not set a bad precedent to the already precarious ‘conflict resolution program’ for Africa, which incidentally Meles is supposed to promote as his role as the commissioner for Africa. The irony is overwhelming.

Looking at his proposal, it leaves you to contemplate who the real target of his deception is? He is fully aware that the government of Eritrea will not fall for this kind of antics and can easily see through him. He has also made a lame attempt to address the Eritrean people and to drive a wedge between the people and government of Eritrea. The memory of the Eritrean people is too raw to trust what Meles says; therefore the Eritrean people cannot be the target of his latest move. Unless someone is predisposed to lazy journalism, the international media can read through the proposal and easily realize that there are absolutely no new additions to his old positions of having a dialogue and not accepting the demarcation as it is. It is highly possible that the target of his latest exercise might be a justification for certain western countries that have fallen to the habit of sending aid to Ethiopia as a mater of absolution for their fragile consciences. This was partly admitted as a reason for writing this dictated peace initiative.

There is absolutely nothing new of substance in his latest proposal. Someone I know put Ethiopia’s current position succinctly as follows: ‘Meles was saying that he does not accept the decision and rejecting it, now he is rejecting the decision while saying he accepts it’. What has changed slightly is the tone of his approach. Although sometimes he was finding it difficult to disguise, his advisors must have dictated him to write a lot about peace and brotherly neighborliness to create a distraction, while all the time stay resolute on his insistence to change the decision of the border commission.

Out of the 5 points he has proposed, points 1, 2 and 4 are already part of the Algiers agreement and hence do not need to reappear as new points. The third point bizarrely claims that Ethiopia accepts the boundary commission decision, in principle. First of all you do not need to propose that you want to accept the decision. He needs to either accept it or not accept it and communicate his country’s newfound willingness to cooperate to the Commission. It is not as if Eritrea would refuse to accept Ethiopia’s acceptance of the decision, if it were genuine and backed up by concrete action. Furthermore the word ‘in principle’ has been used by Meles repeatedly when he wants to deviate from the border commission decision.

Finally, point 5 is where he shows his true intentions. The actual words he used were as follows: “Start Dialogue Immediately with the view to implementing the Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission's decision in a manner consistent with the Promotion or Sustainable Peace and Brotherly Ties between the Two Peoples”. He wants to start a dialogue with a view to implement the border demarcation in a manner that is suitable to save his skin. Not in a manner that is consistent with the boundary commission’s decision or in pursuit of peace. In short, he wants to change the verdict because he does not like it. He believes that since he has dangled the words peace, brotherly, dialogue and negotiation so many times, he believes that Eritrea cannot resist the temptation. He must have taken the carrot-and-stick diplomacy quite literally.

In conclusion, I believe that the Eritrean government is not averse to dialogue and negotiation, and will have no problem to negotiate with any one as long as the verdict of the court is implemented in its entirety. The demarcation of the border has been delayed unconditionally, only because the international community could not say enough is enough and insist that Ethiopia should accept the verdict of the international court and uphold the rule of law. If the situation was reversed and Eritrea was the one who rejected the verdict of the border commission, unlike the soft approach chosen to deal with Ethiopia we are witnessing today, I believe the wrath of the international community on Eritrea would have been immense and relentless. It is time that the international community uses all the means it has in its power to institute the rule of law and to halt Meles’ trickery, his use of semantics and deceptive vocabulary to feign peace and his subjection of the peoples of Ethiopia and Eritrea to misery. We have suffered enough.