UN Security Council Resolution on Eritrea Ethiopia is a recipe for another disastrous war
By: Sophia Tesfamariam
November 26, 2005

On 23 November 2005, in another diversionary act of blatant hypocrisy, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1640/2005 on the Eritrea Ethiopia border demarcation issue. In its Thanksgiving eve resolution, the Council said it:

Resolution 1640 missed the whole point. War will take place not because United Nations Mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia (UNMEE) helicopters have been grounded, or because both parties have moved their forces to the border but rather because Ethiopia has defied international law and has rejected the UN Security Council endorsed final and binding decision of the Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission (EEBC). It has also forced the EEBC to close its offices and leave the area and is belligerently occupying sovereign Eritrean territories, including Badme.

Addressing Ethiopia's continued obstruction of the demarcation process, the EEBC, in its 24 February 2005 Report to the Security Council said:

"...Ethiopia is not prepared to allow demarcation to continue in the manner laid down in the Demarcation Directions and in accordance with the timeline set by the Commission. It now insists on prior "dialogue" but has rejected the opportunity for such "dialogue" within the framework of the demarcation process provided by the Commission's proposal to meet with the Parties on 22 February. This is the latest in a series of obstructive actions taken since the summer of 2002..."

In my humble opinion, while Security Council resolutions are generally considered binding under international law, in this case the Security Council is violating its own principles and mandates by appeasing Ethiopia. The U.N. Charter says that resolutions are valid as long as they are consistent with "the principles of justice and international law." However, resolution 1640 tries to punish Eritrea, the victim and law-abiding party, rather than the culprit and defiant party, Ethiopia. It also violates Article 51 of the UN Charter; the right of states to take measures in self defense, in this case, Eritrea's right to protect its sovereignty from Ethiopian occupation.

The right to self-defense is one of the most basic rights of any state. In recognition of this, Articles 2 and 51 of the U.N. Charter codify that right and affirm that every state is entitled to use self-defense to protect its territorial integrity and political independence. When the Security Council acts on matters affecting peace and security, it must do so within the confines of both the U.N. Charter and the inherent rights of its member states. Thus Security Council resolutions may coexist with Eritrea's inherent right to self-defense, but they cannot abridge or trump that right.

The U.N. Charter requires the Security Council to take "effective action" to promote peace and security before it may supersede a state's inherent right to self-defense. The Security Council has refused to take punitive actions against the expansionist, aggressive, vote rigging, genocidal, belligerent regime in Ethiopia led by Meles Zenawi. The Security Council has adopted over 17 resolutions and has also released several statements on the Eritrea Ethiopia border issue, but it has consistently refused to take punitive action against Ethiopia for over 31/2 years. Emboldened by its inaction, Ethiopia continues to reject the final and binding decision of the EEBC and Security Council resolutions. Despite what we may read in the media, Ethiopia is not moving its troops to the border; in fact, what it is doing is consolidating its occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories including Badme.

The truth of the matter is that UNMEE is on sovereign Eritrean territories and measures taken by Eritrea, including the ban on UNMEE helicopter flights, cannot and must not be rescinded. The Border Commission, which has the sole mandate to demarcate the Eritrea Ethiopia border, because of Ethiopia's threats, harassments, intimidations and rejection, has not been able to fulfill its mandate and has been forced to close its offices and leave the area making the issue of the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) and UNMEE, in my humble opinion, irrelevant, redundant and moot. 

Resolution 1640 is a recipe for disaster and the Security Council bears full responsibility for its outcome. Eritrea must not rescind the ban on UNMEE helicopters unless the EEBC returns to the area, opens its offices, Ethiopia pays its dues, appoints its liaison officers, and demarcation of the Eritrea Ethiopia border begins without pre-conditions. The Security Council, which could not live up to its obligations under the Algiers Agreement that it witnessed and guaranteed, has long compromised its credibility and integrity. Moreover, Eritrea must reject and condemn this resolution because it is in blatant violation of the principles of justice and international law and Eritrea's inherent right to self-defense.

Finally, it is my sincere hope that the international community will call a spade a spade and deal with the potential cause for war, Ethiopia's continued obstruction of the demarcation of the Eritrea Ethiopia border by the Border Commission and Ethiopia's belligerent occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories including Badme, rather then dwelling on the symptom, Eritrea's restriction on UNMEE's movement.

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


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