Ethiopia Belligerently Occupying Sovereign Eritrean Territories Including Badme
By: Sophia Tesfamariam
December 17, 2004

The intransigent minority regime in Ethiopia led by the flip-flopping Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, has launched another deceptive misinformation campaign. In tow are the minority regime’s usual cheerleaders and apologists which include, prominent self-serving personalities,  “Addis based diplomats”, “unnamed officials”, “Africa experts”, “advisors” “NGOs”, religious leaders and foreign media outlets such as the BBC and AFP, all of whom are attempting to confuse the public by presenting distorted and erroneous facts about the already legally resolved Eritrea Ethiopia border issue.

Appearing at one of his daily news conferences on 13 December 2004, the flip flopping street smart Meles Zenawi said:

“I very much hope that those statements (from Eritrea) would be limited to the rhetorical level because if they go beyond the rhetorical they can seriously endanger the peace of the region…the only way forward is through dialogue and by addressing the root causes of the problem. I do not believe unilateral military steps are conducive to peace in our region…”

Mr. Prime Minister, I believe you know by now that Eritreans mean what they say, and say what they mean. The government of Eritrea does not engage in rhetorical language, your government has the monopoly on that. Remember that it was your unilateral military adventure into sovereign Eritrean territories that triggered the conflict in the first place.

The only way forward is for you to unequivocally accept the Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commissions final and binding decision which was delivered on 13 April 2002, and for you to allow the expeditious demarcation of the Eritrea Ethiopia border in accordance with that decision, by cooperating with the Border Commission’s demarcation directives, orders and procedures which you have ignored for over 2 years. For peace to reign in the region, Ethiopia must respect Eritrea’s legally defined borders and immediately vacate from territories it is militarily occupying.

For the record allow me to remind the street smart, flip-flopping, deceptive Prime Minister that it is he who has:

Moreover, in an interview with IRIN on 29 October 2003 when you were asked about Badme, a sovereign Eritrean territory, you were illegally occupying, you responded by saying:

“As you know there is an Ethiopian army there [in Badme]. The only way it [taking possession] can be done is by removing the Ethiopian army and the Ethiopian administration”

Mr. Prime Minister, the EEBC announced its final and binding decision on 13 April 2002. Eritrea has been waiting patiently for demarcation to take place and has been asking the international community to urge your minority regime to comply with agreements it signed. This has been going on for 2 years, 9 months and counting. Your belligerence and intransigence continues unabated. Eritrea’s patience is commendable but it is time to move on. You, Mr. Prime Minister, cannot continue to abuse that goodwill indefinitely.  As the German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder reminded you during his visit in January 2004, that “...the beginning of the demarcation process cannot be put off until Kingdom come.” 

As you know Mr. Prime Minister, Eritrea has made numerous calls on the international community, as witnesses and guarantors of the Algiers Agreement, to urge you and your clique to abide by international law and allow the demarcation of the Eritrea Ethiopia border in accordance with the EEBC decision without further delays and pre-conditions. Whilst the international community has issued several statements urging you to abide by your treaty obligations, you have refused to comply. You realize that Ethiopia’s provocative action of resettling Tigrayans on sovereign Eritrean territories is another blatant violation of the Algiers Agreement as well as several Security Council resolutions and one that has added to the urgency of the issue.  

Mr. Prime Minister, your incessant call for dialogue, as annoying as it is, is futile. It will not enable you to evade your legal obligations. No amount of tantrums, “initiatives”, “proposals”, will justify your illegal conduct. Badme is a sovereign Eritrean territory and has always been so. You know that and now all Ethiopians know that too. Why are you pretending otherwise? Do you think you can hoodwink the people of Ethiopia again? I suggest you put an end to your shenanigans and move on, or pay the consequences for your continued belligerent behavior.

Mr. Prime Minister, Eritrea has called on the UN Security Council under Article 14 of the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities as well as Articles 41 and 42 of the UN Charter to use all available legal instruments and other mechanisms available to it to enforce the Algiers Agreement and the Border Commission’s decision. Article 14 of the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities signed by Eritrea and Ethiopia on 18 June 2000 in Algiers says: 

“The OAU and the United Nations commit themselves to guarantee the respect for this commitment of the two Parties until the determination of the common border on the basis of pertinent colonial treaties and applicable international law…This guarantee shall be comprised of…measures to be taken by the international community should one or both of the Parties violate this commitment, including appropriate measures to be taken under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter by the UN Security Council;”


And Article 41 of the UN Charter states:

“The Security Council may decide what measures not involving the use of armed force are to be employed to give effect to its decisions, and it may call upon the Members of the United Nations to apply such measures. These may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations”

So far the international community has not taken any punitive actions against you and that has emboldened you to act irrationally and erratically, making you more dangerous to peace in the region.  The Security Council has an obligation to enforce the Algiers Agreement and the EEBC’s final and binding decision and so far it has failed to do so. Under international law, the UN Security Council does not have the option of non-action; it cannot shirk off its responsibilities to UN member states like Eritrea forever. Sooner or later they will have to act. I say they should act now to avert another humanitarian disaster.

The international community in general, and the witnesses and guarantors in particular, do not have the option to just wash their hands off like a bunch of Pontius Pilates, they too have legal obligations to fulfill. Moreover, their inaction will undermine the integrity and efficacy of the UN System, not to mention the effect their inaction will have on the confidence of member states in its ability to resolve conflicts and ensure international peace in the future.

Furthermore, they cannot expect Eritreans to do nothing; remain perpetually patient and magnanimous while Eritrea’s security is at risk and Eritrea’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is being violated by Ethiopia. As you well know Mr. Prime Minister, Article 51 of the UN Charter recognizes Eritrea’s inherent right of self-defense.  Article 51 of the UN Charter clearly states the following:

“Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security”

Eritrea’s inherent right to self defense is justified under international law and the UN Charter:

  1. There is an armed attack/occupation. Ethiopia’s army, by your own public admission is occupying sovereign Eritrean territories including Badme by military force.
  1. There is no practicable alternative or it is demonstrably unavailable. The authority, the UN Security Council, which has the legal powers to stop or prevent the infringement, has so far refused to take any deterrent actions against your regime. Ethiopia’s provocative resettlement of Tigrayan on sovereign Eritrean territories continues unabated, and Ethiopia continues to obstruct the Border Commission from fulfilling its mandate to demarcate the Eritrea Ethiopia border in accordance with the EEBC’s final and binding decision.
  1. There is urgent necessity. There are over 70,000 Eritreans who have been forced to live in makeshift camps since your army is militarily occupying their villages. The demarcation process, which should have been completed 2 years ago, has yet to begin because Ethiopia refuses to unequivocally accept the final and binding decision of the independent Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission.

For the 3 reasons mentioned above and more, Eritrea has the right to liberate her sovereign territories and will not seek permission or approval from those who did not fulfill their legal obligations. If you think demarcation is going to prevent Eritrea from taking full possession of all Eritrean territories, think again.

Joining the deceptive Prime Minister in his disinformation campaign is none other than the Ethiopian Minister of Information (MoI), Mr. Bereket Simon. This is the man who defended Meles Zenawi, Africa’s last standing genocidaire, when he brutally massacred the Anuak and Nuer tribes in Gambela.  This is the same man who denied reports by Ethiopian human rights organizations on the massacres as “fabrications”. As if his defense of the massacres wasn’t embarrassing enough for Ethiopians, he is now desperately trying to present the minority apartheid regime in Ethiopia as a law abiding, peace loving, human rights protecting, press freedom giving, democratic regime.

While remaining conspicuously silent during the 1998-2000 war as his regime deported over 80,000 Eritrean and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin and confiscated a billion dollars worth of their hard earned properties because Meles Zenawi  did not like the color of their eyes”, today he wants to feign concern for Eritreans and their well being. Here is an excerpt from Bereket Simon’s latest statement of 13 December 2004, posted in one of the Ethiopian government sites:

“Eritrea is the only country in the world where 10 per cent of the total population is engaged in military service. The country had been covering 40-45 per cent of its GNP from the remittance sent by its Diaspora community. This figure has now declined sharply and reached below 10 per cent. Moreover, due to the recurrent drought the country has faced in the past four years, not less than 60 per cent of the population is forced to live on handouts”

I don’t think Bereket Simon is in any position to talk about Eritrea or Eritreans when it is 65% of Ethiopia’s national budget that is being subsidized by donors and it is Ethiopia that is known as “ the poster child-case of Third World misery”. Feed your people first, before you point fingers at others. But first, allow me to address some of his concerns.

Mr. Bereket Simon, you said that 10% of Eritrea’s population is engaged in national service. You are dead wrong. The truth is that 100% of Eritrea’s population is engaged in national service in one-way or the other. Eritrea’s nation building efforts are all inclusive; every Eritrean has a stake in Eritrea’s development. National service is instilling pride and dignity in Eritrea’s youth; it is building a culture of citizenship, service, and responsibility while educating the youth about Eritrea’s history. Mr. Bereket Simon, you have to admit that, it is by far a better alternative to what you have in Ethiopia today, a shameful debilitating culture of perpetual dependency.

Eritrea’s youth are not only in the frontlines guaranteeing Eritrea’s sovereignty and security, but can be found all over Eritrea, proudly rebuilding Eritrea’s infrastructure, rebuilding the damage caused by your regime’s war of aggression and invasion, refurbishing the old ports and building new ones, building airports and other transportation infrastructures. Their achievements thus far are spectacular by any standards. Watch Eri-TV for full coverage of their works.

You will see those that are building hospitals, clinics, affordable housing etc. in all regions of Eritrea so that all citizens can have access to schools and healthcare. Mr. Bereket Simon, Eritrean youth are gaining immeasurable technical and other skills, not to mention work ethics for a lifetime. Most of all these gallant young men and women are shouldering enormous responsibilities bestowed upon them by Eritrea’s beloved martyrs. Mr. Bereket Simon, the people of Eritrea appreciate their enormous selfless contributions to country and people.

Mr. Bereket Simon, as the MoI, the least you can do is get your facts straight. As you offer the minority regime in Ethiopia your voice to insult Eritreans, you should at least get the truth and not use false, unsubstantiated information gathered from bankrupt, corrupt runaway, self-serving, disgruntled defectors and hired mercenaries who have no presence in Eritrea. I suggest you do your homework. Read more about Eritrea, talk to ordinary Eritreans, and watch EriTV, if you must. All I am asking you to do is to be fair and to use your office to educate Ethiopians, instead of using it to inflame the two populations with your cheap political propaganda. It serves absolutely no purpose and may actually make future normalization of relations’ efforts even harder.

Mr. Bereket Simon, I understand your frustrations with Ethiopia’s lack of political and economic independence, but don’t insult Eritreans for trying to assert theirs. Instead of wasting your energy trying to undermine Eritreans, since we are destined to be your neighbors for life, save us the disgrace of having a beggar nation next door by trying to emulate some of Eritrea’s successes. I know it would make your handlers nervous, but imagine what it could do for Ethiopia if as little as 10% of the Ethiopian population was engaged in some kind of national service program instead of a donor sponsored aid program. Just to mention a few advantages of having an Ethiopian national service program:

I could go on and on and list many more advantages of having a national service program in a country like Ethiopia whose population is at least 10 times that of Eritrea, but unlike Mr. Bereket Simon, I do not want to interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation.

As for Eritrea’s Diaspora, I believe he is just plain envious about the relationship Eritreans have with the people and government of Eritrea. Judging from the various news outlets and radio broadcasts it is easy to see that the Ethiopian Diaspora does not even acknowledge the minority regime ruling Ethiopia today, let alone have a relationship with it. Inside and outside of Ethiopia, the regime’s ethnic based policies have created violent racial and religious conflicts amongst Ethiopians.

I suggest the MoI use his time and energy to bring the rule of law to the welfare state of Ethiopia, and to cultivate a better relationship with the enormous Ethiopian Diaspora which is well poised to help the people of Ethiopia overcome poverty and backwardness. Mr. Bereket Simon, I suggest you worry less about Eritrea and more about the state of affairs in your own country, Ethiopia. Eritrea is a sovereign nation with a politically independent government and people, a rarity in today’s Africa.

As for the Prime Minister, no amount of spin will make him a “statesman”, or give him the “moral high ground” that his handlers imagined would. Abiding by the rule of law and fulfilling his obligations under signed agreements is the only way out of his self-created quagmire. Remember that it is Ethiopia that is occupying sovereign Eritrean territories by military force and not vice versa. There can be no normalization of relations or dialogue with Ethiopia under these hostile conditions.

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