Mr. Legwaila Encouraging Meles Zenawi to be Defiant and Belligerent
By: Sophia Tesfamariam
July 3, 2004

The street-smart Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s insouciance, flip-flopping, arrogant, defiant, belligerent and intransigent behavior cannot be attributed to just his character. It is related to the misguided foreign aid he continues to receive from the European Union (EU), United States (US) and other major donors. Their indecisiveness and “with kids glove handling” approach has encouraged him to defy international law and to continue to divert US and other taxpayers monies to buy military hardware in pursuit of policies of aggression and expansion towards Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia and Sudan. He is also being rewarded for the cruel and inhumane resettlement programs, ethnic cleansing and genocide in Ethiopia.


Since June of 2000 and the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement and later after the signing of the Algiers Agreements between Eritrea and Ethiopia in December of 2000, Meles Zenawi’s behavior has become increasingly irrational, incoherent and erratic, not to mention dangerous. Sitting in his fortified Palace, his bullish street smart attitude has only worsened, thanks to the pampering he is getting from high level UN officials such as the head of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, who is contributing to his intransigent attitude by succumbing and giving in to his endless gimmicks and erroneous demands.


1.     At the beginning and the establishment of the Temporarily Security Zone (TSZ). Ethiopia was supposed to deploy to the pre-May 6th 2998 position, and Eritrea was to rearrange Eritrea’s forces to 25 kilometers from the Ethiopian positions. When UNMEE provided both sides the deployment maps, Ethiopia refused to accept the maps and insisted on adjustments to the southern boundary of the TSZ. Legwaila Joseph Legwaila on April 18th, 2001 announced the establishment of the TSZ and stated:


“I told you that we have negotiated with Ethiopians insofar as that portion of Irob where we discovered they were sitting after we had verified the redeployment. We negotiated, and we discovered that it was a waste of time because they are not going to move out of there. They say they are where the 6 May 1998 line of administration was, and they are not going to move out, so what is the use of continuing to insist that they should move out when they are literally saying you dare move us out of it…Nobody wants to fight the Ethiopians out of that area and therefore we have told the President that this is a typical candidate for the Border Commission. That is the only solution, because to mortgage the creation of the TSZ, the progress of the peace process generally, to a resolution of the Irob issue would be tantamount to saying you don't want to create the TSZ, you don't want the peace process to go forward.”


Instead of enforcing the Algiers Agreement, which clearly calls for punitive actions to be taken if either party fails to fulfill its obligations under the Agreements signed, the UN chose to appease the defiant Tigrayan Prime Minister of Ethiopia.


2.     Then came the issue of direct flights. On January 15th UNMEE released this statement:

"The United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) today opened a direct high altitude air access route between Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Asmara, Eritrea. The air route was established with flights between the two capitals by UN G-222 fixed-wing aircraft.

The new access route, and all the land and air access routes that have been opened between the two countries to date, are to be used in support of UNMEE's mandated activities, including deployment of the 4,200 UN peacekeepers between the two forces, and meeting the peacekeepers' logistical and medical needs.


But then on January 17th, 2001 just two days after the commencement of direct flights, the leader of the minority regime in Ethiopia reneged on his stated commitments under the Algiers Agreement and UNMEE was forced to issue another press release. This is what they had to say then in response to Meles Zenawi’s flip flop:

“The Eritrean authorities have been willing to authorise UNMEE flights by the direct route between the two capitals used by commercial flights before hostilities began in 1998. The Ethiopian authorities have been willing to authorise UNMEE flights by a route requiring a diversion…The Ethiopian authorities remain unwilling to allow use of the direct route without diversion…”

While it is crystal clear that it is Ethiopia that is continuing to refuse to allow direct flights costing millions in extra costs, the Secretary General’s quarterly progress reports on Eritrea and Ethiopia is presented in a distorted and confusing way. “…urge the two parties to allow direct flights” has become a routine statement and a cliché.


3.     Shortly after the Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission (EEBC) delivered its final and binding decision on 13 April 2004 re-affirming Eritrea’s sovereignty over Badme, a group of journalist visited Badme. The Tigrayan regime in Ethiopia immediately demanded the removal of Jean Victor Nkolo, the first UNMEE spokesperson. For whatever reasons, the defiant Meles Zenawi got his way and Nkolo was replaced even though there was nothing that he did that warranted such drastic actions.


4.     Constantly testing the waters and getting away with all its defiant and arrogant demands, the Tigrayan regime then requested the removal of Major General Patrick Cammaert, the first UNMEE Force Commander. Again the UN obliged and the flip-flopping Meles Zenawi got what he wanted. The Force Commander was immediately replaced.


Here is an excerpt from a BBC report at the time:


“The UN is to appoint a new commander for its peacekeeping mission on the Ethiopia-Eritrea border…This follows increasing pressure from the Ethiopian Government to replace the current commander, Major-General Patrick Cammaert, who has been unofficially declared persona non grata by Ethiopia…Addis Ababa accusing General Cammaert of "political bias" in favour of Eritrea…In April, Ethiopia closed its to the UN peacekeepers stationed at the border for 10 days…They demanded the removal of General Cammaert, a Dutch soldier, accusing him of "political bias…Ethiopian officials accused him of "deliberately trying to humiliate Ethiopia"…Ethiopia said that by crossing the border from Eritrea into the Ethiopian village without prior permission, the UN was implying that Badme was Eritrean…”


5.     While it is clearly stated in the Algiers Agreement that the delimitation and demarcation of the Eritrea Ethiopia border is the sole mandate and responsibility of the EEBC, insulting and questioning the competency and capacity of the internationally recognized members of the Commission as a body that is “in terminal crisis”, the spoilt child of the West, Meles Zenawi, wrote a letter to Secretary General Kofi Annan requesting an “alternative mechanism”. Wittingly or unwittingly, succumbing to Meles’ transparent request, UNSG Kofi Annan appointed Lloyd Axworthy to serve as his special envoy to Eritrea and Ethiopia and to help “overcome the impasse” or Meles Zenawi’s self-created “crisis”.

Today, it is no wonder that both Legwaila and Meles, speaking the same language, are heard calling for “dialogue” and “bilateral talks”. Both are telling us that there is nothing the UN can do. Legwaila not only tests the waters for the flip-flopping Meles, he even provides the sound bites. Here is what he said in the April 1st, 2004 Press Conference:


“…the stalemate is not the responsibility of UNMEE…the Security Council realizes that unless the Parties themselves decide to carry on with the implementation of the Agreements they signed in 2000, there will be no solution to their problem. In other words the peace process will collapse. If the Parties themselves, in pursuing their very best interests, are not prepared to cooperate with the Boundary Commission to demarcate the border, then the border will not be demarcated…They cannot be forced to cooperate with the EEBC…Now they are faced with the prospect of not being able to complete the implementation of these agreements and that is a problem, which they have to face themselves, because they cannot be forced to do what they do not want to do as sovereign states”


And taking his cue from his advocate Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, in his latest interview with Meles Zenawi tells us the same thing:


“In its latest resolution, the UN Security Council has indicated that the boundary demarcation is entirely a bilateral issue between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Therefore, the international community cannot take the border problem as its own issue other than supporting the two parties. The issue, however, may concern it if it leads to conflict and affects peace in the region”


I am sure Mr. Legwaila has read the Algiers Agreement and also the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement that spell out clearly what the responsibilities of all the parties, i.e. the UN, US, OAU, Eritrea and Ethiopia are. I believe the Article 14 of the Cessation of Hostilities calls on the UN Security Council and to invoke Chapter 7 if either of the two parties refuses to abide by the final and binding decision of the EEBC decision. So why is Legwaila Joseph Legwaila insisting that there is nothing the international community can do?


If that is the case why do we have arbitration processes and international law? What is the use of having UN Security Council resolutions if they cannot be enforced? Why do we have Chapter 7 of the UN Charter?


Since when is the invasion and occupation of a sovereign country by another country left to the two parties to resolve? Is Mr. Legwaila saying, God forbids, if tomorrow Ethiopia decides to invade Djibouti, Kenya and Sudan, as it is contemplating to do and as it has done to Somalia that it is going to be left to the two parties to handle? I believe it is not just the EEBC decision that is at stake, what is at stake is the credibility of the United Nations and the Rule of Law.


Therefore I am appealing once again to Legwaila and others to stop advising and appeasing the defiant, belligerent, intransigent and flip flopping leader of the minority regime in Ethiopia by calling a spade a spade. It is about time that they used all available punitive instruments before the millions of dollars they are offering him in the name of development, humanitarian and budgetary assistance is once again squandered for the purchase of military hardware and before thousands of innocent Ethiopians are once again used as cannon fodder and minesweepers for the aggressive and expansionist agenda of the Tigrayan minority regime in Addis.

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