Axworthy's Diplomatic Blunders on the Eritrea Ethiopia Border Issue
By: Sophia Tesfamariam
March 7, 2005

There was an interesting article on UN Forum on 1 September 2004 entitled "Is Axworthy worth a war?" that I found fitting and timely as it addressed the issues surrounding the Secretary General's Special Envoy to Eritrea and Ethiopia very eloquently-if not bluntly. Whilst there are many more issues that I will present later with this appointment, allow me to share an excerpt from the UN Forum:

"Lloyd Axworthy must need a senior international job very badly. His influential friends and former counterparts have been trying to accommodate him for over six months by pressing for him to play a "special" role between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Kofi Annan is leading the push. But so are members of the Security Council and the European Union. Without due consultation with the countries directly involved, his appointment as Special Representative raised many questions"

The absurdity of appointing 2 Special Envoys to Eritrea and Ethiopia is also elaborated in that article. UNForum said:

"To begin with, there is already a Special Representative of the Secretary General to Eritrea and Ethiopia. He is Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, who as a member of the Security Council had helped elect the Secretary General. There are also TWO Assistant Secretary Generals in that mission and over 4000 peacekeeping troops deployed in the buffer zone. What Axworthy will actually do remains a mystery. The only difference in his title than that of Legwaila is "over" rather than "to" the two countries"

Exposing the appointment of Axworthy as a recipe for another devastating war between Eritrea and Ethiopia, UNForum said:

"When Asmara in particular was reluctant, politely turning him down, a story appeared in some papers including the Financial Times (Ed Mortimer's former employer) that "U.N. fears new war in Horn of Africa." My God. Is a job for Axworthy worthy of beating the drums of war to justify it?!"

All I have to say is that UNForum has hit the nail right on the head, that the appointment of Axworthy was illegal and unnecessary.  Meles' paid advisors, "experts", "analysts", "unnamed officials", diplomats and lobbyists have continued to beat the war drums by constantly propagating ridiculous and deceptive time buying gimmicks such as "Ethiopia will disintegrate", "Ethiopia is a large country", "Meles will fall", "technical demarcation will not bring about lasting peace", "demarcation without dialogue will bring more suffering" etc. etc.

As I have previously stated, in several related articles for the past year, there is overwhelming evidence that Axworthy's appointment was illegal and that he has compromised his neutrality. In fact, the more I researched, the more I have found him to be the mouthpiece for the minority regime in Ethiopia. I am not saying this because I am an American of Eritrean origin, but firmly believe that facts are stubborn, and that they will speak for themselves as I leave the reader to make his or her own judgment by presenting what Lloyd Axworthy has said in different places, at different times. 

I.      Axworthy:  On Ethiopia's agenda of dialogue, marginalization of the Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission (EEBC), and replacing the implementation of the demarcation directives, orders and procedures of the EEBC.  

On 2 January 2004 interview with IRIN, Axworthy said:

·  "Clearly, the United Nations has an interest in resolving the matter with the Security Council, and I think it is important that the United Nations be represented and be part of the discussions, but there is no sense that there is going to be a shift or a major operation, or that we are going to get rid of the Algiers Accord agreements, but you still need to have at least a receptive audience to have a dialogue, and I think that is what needs to be worked out"

·  I suppose because he (Kofi Annan) felt it was important to have a representative that would be prepared to start this kind of a dialogue, these conversations, and report back what he sees, the conditions there that might help move away from the stalemate. I think he is clearly concerned that under the present arrangement there hasn't been a lot of exchange, and the rhetoric is getting more intense, and this could break out into further animosities. So I think this is logical, and the UN secretary-general will want to play his role"

·  We have to find some kind of venue where the concerns can be raised and hopefully be resolved.

·  The boundary commission [set up with the agreement of both countries to resolve the border dispute] has done, in effect, its work in coming down with a decision and then moving towards demarcation, and I am not sure it still has the capacity to provide that kind of representation that the secretary-general would like to have.

·  I guess the key question there is how do you get to that stage where it can be implemented. This is not something that is simply axiomatic; it is something that has to be worked at. Clearly both governments have a stake in this issue. The boundary commission's decision needs to be developed. I am not making any suggestions at this point, because I haven't been engaged. I think there is a different kind of process that may be helpful.

II.      Axworthy: Acting as if he was the Foreign Minister of Ethiopia

By picking a fight with Eritrea the party that had accepted the EEBC decision without any ifs or buts, on a 24 February 2004 article posted on IRIN, Axworthy said:

It is a puzzle to me how a Former Foreign Minister of Canada can make such diplomatic blunders and equate a party that has refused to respect its signed commitments and agreements, with a party that has remained fully committed to its signed commitments and agreements.  A Globe correspondent, Raymond Thibodeaux, has given me a possible answer with this excerpt from his 11 April 2004 article which stated:

"There's no doubt that Eritreans have the moral and legal high ground," said a Western analyst in Asmara, the Eritrean capital, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of antagonizing either nation. "But Ethiopia is much bigger and has deeper and wider international commitments, and there is no appetite at the UN to apply sanctions."

III.      Axworthy on Meles' Intransigence and Defiance of the Rule of Law

Axworthy went out of his way to praise the defiant and belligerent leader of the Tigrayan minority regime in Ethiopia as a reasonable and caring person. The more I read his statements, the more I found him to sound more and more as Meles Zenawi's PR man and advisor, than Kofi Annan's UN envoy. Agence France Press (AFP), in its 14 January 2005 report attributes the following quotes to Axworthy:

"Axworthy said he had been pleased at the tenor of his discussions with Zenawi, who he said "has properly identified" key areas that can bring about stability on the border : water, energy and transportation...They "can have a very positive impact on people on the border," he said"

IRIN also exposed in its 6 December 2004 report Axworthy's premature and biased reaction to Meles' latest 5-point hollow and deceptive diplomatic ploy:

 "I am not jumping up and down, but at least there is more traction there than there was… It could be the beginnings of a new chapter for peace, but there has to be another step, which is how the two countries begin engagement... If we are not able to get some positive steps or actions in the next two or three weeks, I think an opportunity will be missed... The commitment is out there. Now it has to be followed by some effort to get back into the process of the commission and adhere to it... The response from the Eritreans wasn't as hopeful as one would have hoped, but at least we have a base to work from... All along the Eritrean president has said there is no point in getting involved until Ethiopia has agreed to work with the decision of the boundary commission and that has now taken place..."

It is no wonder then that the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in its statement of 14 January 2004 stated:

"United Nations Secretary General Special Envoy to Ethiopia and Eritrea Lloyd Axworthy on January 13,2005  said that  the new proposal put forward by the Ethiopian government to resolve the Ethio-Eritrea border dispute is important and need to be supported....While conferring with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi , Axworthy said the five-points proposal was an important measure for the resolution of conflict peacefully... He said the new peace initiative has also got acceptance among the international community..."

As if his frequent anti-Eritrea and pro-Ethiopia statements to the various media outlets were not enough, on its January 14, 2005 report, SABC news (South Africa) reported:

"Speaking on a visit to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, Axworthy said the Eritreans' refusal to meet him in their capital Asmara had made his task harder. "Having access to the leadership in Eritrea would have made the peace process easier," Axworthy told a news conference in Addis Ababa. "These have been missed opportunities by not having a dialogue," said Axworthy, a former Canadian foreign minister. "I am always flying with one wing."

Mr. Axworthy, opportunity for peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia and the demarcation of the border is not missed. It is only delayed because of your illegal intervention and unwarranted diplomatic maneuvers. The opportunity is still there. What is required is simple and straightforward. Ethiopia must be forced to allow the EEBC to perform its internationally endorsed mandate to demarcate the Eritrea Ethiopia border without further delays and pre-conditions. If Ethiopia refuses to do so, the enforcement mechanism is already in place on the basis of the Algiers Agreement. Invoking Chapter VII is the guarantee for peace and stability in the region.

The rule of law must prevail over the law of the jungle!