Ethiopia's Endless Gimmicks
By: Sophie Tesfamariam
May 19, 2004

In order to cover his intransigence and reckless and defiant attitude towards international law and the Eritrea Ethiopia border issue which has been resolved through arbitration, Melles Zenawi, the Tigrayan Prime Minister of Ethiopia, his supporters and lobbyists, are today heard once again echoing phrases such as “communities will be divided”, “new mechanism” and “dialogue is essential to overcome the impasse”, etc. etc. Full circle, you say? Isn’t that what engaging Melles Zenawi has become- a game of endless rhetoric, endless deception, endless lies and endless threats and pre-conditions?

For those of you who are still continuing to fall for Melles Zenawi’s deceptive and scare tactic games by echoing words such as “crisis”, “impasse”, “deadlock”, etc. etc. I believe the last few months should be ample proof that Melles Zenawi, whose guiding principle is “might is right”, is not going to abide by international law and accept the final and binding Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission’s (EEBC) unanimous decision unless he gets what he wants, Badme, a sovereign Eritrean territory, re-affirmed as being unequivocally Eritrean on April 13, 2002. The EEBC decision on Badme reads like this:

“Since Badme village (as opposed to some other parts of the Badme region) lay on what was found to be the Eritrean side of the treaty line, there was no need for the

Commission to consider any evidence of Eritrean governmental presence there, although Eritrea did in fact submit such evidence. Moreover, even some maps submitted by Ethiopia not only showed the distinctive straight line between the Setit and Mareb Rivers, but also marked Badme village as being on the Eritrean side of that line..."

On April 13, 2002 the Ethiopian Council of Ministers officially accepted the final and binding decision of the EEBC by saying that “Ethiopia is satisfied with the decision”. That same day, Melles Zenawi and Seyoum Mesfin held elaborate Press Conferences calling the decision “a fair and just ruling” and once again voiced Ethiopia’s acceptance of the ruling and called on the Ethiopian people to celebrate the “victory”.

But barely a month had gone by and the Tigrayan dominated Ethiopian regime (the Foreign Minister, Chief of Police, Chief of Staff, Chief of Security, Mayor of Addis Abeba, including the Patriarch are all Tigrayan) had already started reneging on its commitments to peace, arbitration and international law. On 13 May 2002 the Commission received from the Government of Ethiopia the 21-page submission entitled “Request for Interpretation, Correction and Consultation”, followed by the 24 January 2003 141-page “Comments filed by Ethiopia” and then on 1 May 2003 came another 36-page “Comment to the Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission”.

All these requested a reversal, revision and amendments to the final and binding EEBC decision. Finally, on September 19, 2003 Melles Zenawi, the Tigrayan Prime Minister of Ethiopia, sent his condescending and insulting letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan rejecting the EEBC decision and requesting for an “alternative mechanism”.

The Border Commission through its June 24th, 2002 “Decision regarding the Request for Interpretation, Correction and Consultation submitted by the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia on 13 May 2002”, and then again through its “21 March 2003 Observations” and again in its 7October 2003 letter which it sent to UNSG Kofi Annan, President Alpha Konare of the AU, H.E. Ali Said Abdella, the Foreign Minister of the Eritrea and also to the Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin, has clearly rejected Melles Zenawi’s redundant, repetitive, insulting and defiant letters, submissions and memorandums. Allow me to cite a few of the Commission’s consistent and crystal clear responses to Ethiopia’s hollow requests and arguments:

Ø “…The Commission had indicated that these comments were to be of an essentially technical nature. Those filed by Eritrea, amounting to some 17 pages, were of this character. The comments filed by Ethiopia were mostly of a quite different character and size. Amounting to 141 pages and going far beyond the scope of comments on the map, they contained instead a detailed exposition of the views of Ethiopia regarding the steps that it deemed necessary for the satisfactory completion of the demarcation. In a number of significant respects the comments amounted to an attempt to reopen the substance of the April Decision, notwithstanding Ethiopia’s repeated statements, made both before and since, of its acceptance of the Decision…”

Ø “…that the provisions of Articles 28 and 29 of the Rules of Procedure neither allow substantive amendment nor affect the binding quality of the Decision as rendered on 13 April 2002. Re-argument of the case is not permitted.”

Ø “Interpretation is a process that is merely auxiliary, and may serve to explain, but may not change, what the Court already settled with binding force as res judicata.”

Ø “…the Commission concludes that the Ethiopian request is inadmissible and no further action will be taken upon it…”

Ø “…the parties knew in advance, and agreed, that the result of the Commission’s delimitation of the boundary might not be identical with previous areas of territorial administration and might follow a course which resulted in populations ending up on the ‘wrong’ side of the boundary…”

Ø “… the Parties knew in advance, and agreed, that it was not open to the Commission to make its decisions on the basis of ex aequo et bono considerations (Article 4.2);”

Ø “… the Parties knew in advance, and agreed, that the boundary as delimited by the Commission’s Delimitation Decision would be final (Article 4.15), i.e., not subject to amendment, including therefore amendment during the process devoted to and limited to demarcation of the boundary delimited”

Ø “…Ethiopia argued in the proceedings before the Commission for an interpretation of the treaty which would have resulted in a much different boundary, far to the north-west, which would have had the effect of placing Badme well within Ethiopia, but the argument for Ethiopia’s line was considered carefully by the Commission and rejected…

Ø “…The Commission must further observe that its mandate, as agreed in article 4.2 of the Algiers Agreement, was to base its decision “on pertinent colonial treaties (1900, 1902 and 1908) and applicable international law”. The parties did not give the Commission the task of deciding which State administered Badme in recent years: and at the critical time when the relevant treaty of 1902 was concluded, Badme and certain other villages and settlements which now exist had not then come into existence. Where villages have sprung up or spread in recent times and in so doing transgressed boundaries previously established by older treaties, it is fully consistent with international law for the treaty based boundary to be maintained…”

Ø “…The parties have long been aware that the result of the Commissions’ delimitations and consequent demarcation could be that the boundary could run through and divide some settlements…It is accordingly clear that Ethiopia’s construction of the Algiers Agreement and of what the Commission has stated in respect of it is misconceived…”

Ø “…Ethiopia’s statement is a repudiation of its repeated acceptance of the Commission’s decision since it was rendered…”

Ø “…Ethiopia proposes that an alternative mechanism to demarcate the contested part of the boundary be set up, such a alternative mechanism would involve a departure from and thus an amendment to the terms of Article 4.2 of the Algiers Agreement…”

Ø “…Ethiopia’s reference to the contested boundary can only be understood as a reference to those parts of the boundary to which it alone and unilaterally takes exception, no part of the boundary is contested by both parties… the boundary between the two countries is the boundary as delimited by the Commission…

Ø “…The Commission has recently sent a letter to the parties directing that they immediately take the necessary steps to allow demarcation to proceed according to the schedule of order of activities ahead…”

The crocodile tears that the Tigrayan regime is trying to shed claiming that “demarcation in accordance with the final and binding EEBC decision would tear apart a single house, a village, family members and divide communities”, is a gimmick of the highest form. First of all, the bigoted Melles Zenawi who deported more than 80,000 Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin because of the color of their eyes does not have the moral authority to invoke such arguments.

Moreover, in relation to the millions of Ethiopians and Eritreans who will be adversely affected if war erupts as a result of Ethiopia’s rejection of the EEBC decision, for the international community that is already assisting 15 million Ethiopians and financing the misguided resettlement of 2 million people all over Ethiopia should not have a problem taking care of the 30-50 thousand people who may be affected by the transfer of territories.

Unlike what Melles Zenawi and his supporters are trying to insinuate, there has never been a single demarcation process in history that has not involved the splitting or dividing of villages and communities. Most African states are composed of a variety of ethnic groups, and often some of these groups straddle boundaries with neighboring states. Suffice to mention that there are Somalians in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and in Somali and Afaris in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Djibouti etc. etc. Much the same is evidenced in Europe and Asia and even right here in the United States wherein communities near the US-Canada border and US-Mexico border remain divided.

Furthermore, recognizing Melles Zenawi’s deceptive scare tactics, the Honorable Ed Royce, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa made the following statement when HR-2760, the Bill that deals with the Eritrea Ethiopia Border passed unanimously in the Committee, on Thursday, October 16, 2003:

“… the international effort to demarcate their common border has been jeopardized by what almost everyone recognizes to be Ethiopian intransigence… Demarcation, I recognize, is difficult. It always is. In this case, blood has been spilt and feelings are raw, yet the Ethiopian leadership is doing nothing to prepare Ethiopians to accept the commission's decision. Instead, it is whipping up anti-commission sentiment, manipulating nationalism for its own gain and, I believe, playing with fire…”

As Eritrea has stated on numerous forums the border conflict has been resolved through US, EU, OAU (AU) and UN guaranteed/witnessed international arbitration. Eritrea has accepted the final and binding decision of the EEBC and is fully cooperating with the Border Commissions directives and orders. It is the Tigrayan clique in Ethiopia that is threatening the stability of the region by defying international law and holding peace and justice hostage. However, the lack of determination, resoluteness and the political will on the part of the international community-in particular the UN Security Council to enforce its own decisions and resolutions by invoking Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, is what is has emboldened the leader of the Tigrayan minority regime in Ethiopia to continue with his war mongering agenda.

Not acting swiftly against Ethiopia’s defiance of international law will spawn more belligerent acts, which could spiral into another humanitarian disaster. Ethiopia with 65% of its national budget dependent on foreign aid, 15 million of its people starving from famine and drought, and over 15% of its people infected with HIV Aids should not be allowed to hold justice, economic development of the countries in the region and the UN peacekeeping forces hostage.
The international community should not remain silent as innocent Ethiopians are once again agitated and mobilized for another disastrous war, their deployment as cannon fodders and minesweepers for the benefit of the expansionist Tigrayan clique in Addis must be aborted and condemned before it is too late. International taxpayers’ money should not be allowed to lubricate the war machine of the regime in Addis.

Today, the leader of the minority regime in Ethiopia is preparing for another expansionist senseless and disastrous war against Ertirea. It is not because he does not understand what is being said, and what is at stake but because he knows that the international community lacks the political will to take punitive actions against him. By defying international law and against all norms of acceptable behavior, his intransigence has continued with impunity. Why do I say that he knows that they will not take actions against his lawlessness? Well, I’ll let the Tigrayan Prime Minister explain it in his own words. This street-smart Prime Minister speaking at an event organized by the Economic Commission for Africa in September of 1999 said:

“…But, there have also been situations of conflict in Africa which are rooted in sheer lawlessness and in absolute contempt for international law regarding which many have preferred to leave Africa in the lurch. We all know that in comparable instances of flagrant breaches of principles of international law in other areas considered closer to home, such behavior of lawlessness would hardly be tolerated and concrete measures are taken without fail to restore civility and conditions consonant with civilized behavior among nations…There is in this regard an amazing proclivity to double standards as if the contempt to the rule of law and to principles of international low is something that Africa has to leave with' regardless of the consequences. While it is the responsibility of all to ensure respect for international law, the co-operation that Africa has received in this regard when the need has arisen, has been limited to empty sermons, the shedding of crocodile tears and to vacuous lamentation over the African condition. We need a partnership for pence in Africa. But this partnership cannot be based on playing fast and loose with principles of international law and with norms of civilized conduct among nations…”

If they are sincere and serious about demarcating the Eritrea Ethiopia border, the international community has the legal instruments in their hands. They ought to invoke Chapter 7 against the culprit, and in this case, the Tigrayan dominated regime in Ethiopia must be forced to respect and abide by the rule of law.

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