UNSG Kofi Annan's latest attempt to derail the Eritrea-Ethiopia peace process
By: Sophia Tesfamariam
June 30, 2005

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan delivered on 20 June 2005 another erroneous Report on Eritrea and Ethiopia to the UN Security Council. Unfortunately, just as he has done in all his previous Reports on Eritrea and Ethiopia, he has managed to once again evade the central issues concerning the speedy demarcation of the Eritrea Ethiopia border and has instead decided to engage in tangential, unrelated, time buying gimmicks to give Meles Zenawi's belligerent minority regime in Ethiopia more time as it pursues its war of aggression and expansion against Eritrea and further frustrating the independent Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission's mandate (EEBC) and the peace process on the whole. It is not my intention to re-visit each and every item in the latest Report but to highlight two items that I would like to address for the record. One is the issue of the Security Council visiting Eritrea and Ethiopia and the other has to do with extending UNMEE's mandate, an item that has been creeping into his latest Reports.

On the issue of the Un Security Council visiting Eritrea and Ethiopia

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in his 20 June 2005 Report on Eritrea and Ethiopia said:

"...The ongoing stalemate in the peace process is not sustainable in the long term... I would like, therefore, to renew my recommendation to the Security Council to undertake a mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea in order to reassure the two countries of the Council's unflinching commitment to the peace process..."

It should be recalled that the Security Council mission visited Ethiopia and Eritrea from 21 to 25 February 2002, and before the independent Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission (EEBC) delivered its final and binding decision on 13 April 2002. The terms of reference for the Security Council mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea published at that time said:

And as clearly spelled out in the above "terms of reference", the Security Council did visit Eritrea and Ethiopia and carry out extensive talks with the two leaders, H.E. Isaias Afwerki President of Eritrea, and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi as well as members of relevant institutions, NGO's, and UNMEE. The Security Council also produced its Report on 27 February 2002. In its Report, the Security Council said:

        "...The mission welcomed recent statements by both sides, reaffirming that the decision by the Boundary Commission is final and binding. The international community attaches the highest importance to this decision and praises the resolution by peaceful means of the border conflict. The commitments of both parties in this regard represent a pivotal measure of their dedication to the peace process..."

        "...It also commended the parties for having agreed to give the United Nations such a central role in implementing the decision of the Boundary Commission. The mission assured the parties that the Security Council is strongly committed to doing its part to assist them in the implementation of the delimitation decision..."

        "...The mission expressed its unwavering support for the peace process..."

        "...The mission underlined its expectation that all necessary steps for the implementation of the Boundary Commission's delimitation determination will commence immediately following the Commission's announcement..."

        "...The mission further emphasized that transfer of territory and civil authority should take place in an orderly manner, without any unilateral actions..."

Mr. Kofi Annan, the Security Council has already expressed its "unflinching commitment to the peace process" in its February 2002 Report.  Furthermore, its commitments are re-iterated in all its 14 Resolutions and 4 Presidential statements made thus far on the Eritrea Ethiopia border issue.  Mr Kofi Annan, it is Meles Zenawi, the deceptive street-smart, flip-flopping leader of the Tigrayan minority regime in Ethiopia and not Eritrea who has:

Mr. Kofi Annan, what is needed is not more statements and reports from the Security Council on its "commitments" to the Eritrea Ethiopia peace process, but rather bold and courageous actions as called for by the Algiers Agreements, of which the UN is a signatory and guarantor. Article 14 of the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities 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;"

The Security Council should take appropriate punitive actions against the belligerent Meles Zenawi, not because Eritrea says so, but rather in fulfillment of its legal and moral obligations as stated under Article 14 of the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities (Algiers Agreement) as well as Articles 41 and 42 of the UN Charter.  The UN Security Council has the legal right and obligation to invoke Chapter 7 against Ethiopia, which is violating the rule of law and threatening regional and international peace and security. 

On the issue of extending UNMEE's mandate

At a time when the UN has slashed UNMEE's budget and has reduced its troop levels, Kofi Annan in the 20 June 2005 Report to the UN Security Council says:

"...Since my last report, UNMEE has initiated a number of technical cooperation activities designed to help build capacity in dealing with human rights issues. Following a two-phase needs assessment mission conducted in Ethiopia, the authorities and civil society organizations committed themselves to a variety of human rights training programmes targeting law enforcement officials, civil society organizations and national human rights institutions... UNMEE is ready to carry out similar activities in Eritrea. However, while generally receptive to the idea, the authorities suggested an adjustment to the Mission's human rights mandate to provide for the expanded scope of authorized activities. I invite the Eritrean authorities to assist UNMEE in extending its technical cooperation in human rights work in Eritrea... UNMEE continued to provide human rights training for judges, prosecutors, law enforcement and prison officials, as well as civil society in Ethiopia..."

Mr. Kofi Annan's intention is so transparent. Kofi Annan is trying to extend UNMEE's, or rather Legwaila Joseph Legwaila's mandate. To better understand this issue let us take a look at excerpts from an IRIN report from 1 September 2003, which said:

"Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, the Special Representative to the Secretary General (SRSG) and head of the peacekeeping mission, has acknowledged that countries such as the US could help foster greater relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea, rather than UNMEE who are mere peacekeepers.          
"It is a very restrictive mandate that UNMEE has and an expensive one at that," a senior diplomat close to the peace process told IRIN. "There is little UNMEE can do within its mandate to encourage the two sides. They just don't have a mandate to make peace or facilitate talks."       
"Pretty much all UNMEE can do is demining, and making preparations for demarcation but until they have a clear statement from both parties who agree that they can go ahead, there is little they can do other than keep both sides apart," the diplomat noted.         
"I don't think anyone actually anticipated there would be this stalemate given that both parties said whatever the EEBC decides we will implement it," he added.     
"And that is UNMEE's problem because they are highly visible in all this but they are constrained and until they are given a different mandate they are stuck in the middle."

Eighteen days later, on 19 September 2003, Meles Zenawi wrote that infamous letter to UNSG Kofi Annan in which he rejected the EEBC decision and asked for an "alternative mechanism". Kofi Annan obliged and appointed Lloyd Axworthy as his special envoy to Eritrea and Ethiopia. Today, Axworthy is conspicuously absent from Kofi Annan's Report, but what seems to be gaining prominence is this extension of UNMEE's mandate. This so called extension is nothing more than another futile attempt by Kofi Annan to revive the old, dead and tired pretext called "dialogue between the two parties". With Axworthy gone, he intends to use Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, armed with a new political mandate intended to transform UNMEE from a peacekeeping mission to a peacemaking mission.

Judging from Meles' ruthless actions against innocent Ethiopians today, I say his regime desperately needs more than a lesson or two on respecting the rule of law, human rights and the expressed aspirations of the Ethiopian people. The minority regime's murderous campaigns across Ethiopia do not say much about the impact the "technical cooperation projects" advanced by UNMEE have had in Ethiopia.  If Ethiopia needs help, by all means support Ethiopia's needs, but do not presume to impose on Eritrea "technical cooperation projects" it neither requested, nor needs.

Mr. Annan should respect the Algiers Agreement he personally signed and stop creating "alternative mechanisms" that are designed to undermine the EEBC's sole mandate of demarcating the Eritrea Ethiopia border and he should desist from imposing initiatives that compromise Eritrea's sovereign rights, in violation of the UN Charter.

Finally I would like to call attention he Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission report, which was annexed to Kofi Annanís 20 June 2005 Report on Eritrea and Ethiopia, and in which the EEBC said:

"In accordance with the schedule notified in paragraph 32 of the Commission's sixteenth report, the Commission has now suspended all its activities in the area. The field offices have been closed; the Commission's staff contracts have been terminated; and its assets in the field have, for the time being, been placed in the custody of the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea. There has, accordingly, been no further demarcation activity... The legal position and the practical possibilities of progress, remain as described in the Commissionís sixteenth report..."

UNSG should stick to the letter and spirit of the Algiers Agreement and stop derailing the peace process further with his "appointments", "initiatives" and erroneous recommendations. I am appealing to the UN Security Council to show its "commitment to the peace process" by considering the legal and practical recommendations of the EEBC and rejecting Kofi Annan's time buying, diversionary and dangerous gimmicks that are designed to appease Meles Zenawi's minority regime in Ethiopia. I am also appealing to the UNSC to refrain from committing another historical blunder against the people of Eritrea and Ethiopia. The UNSC must act now so that war can be averted and the people of Eritrea and Ethiopia can utilize their meager resources to fight not each other, but rather their common enemy-poverty.

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