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
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