US State Department Statement on Eritrea-Ethiopia should have gone further
By: Sophia Tesfamariam
January 26, 2004

I read with interest the latest US State Department Press Statement on the Eritrea Ethiopia border issue dated January 21, 2004 and I must say that as an Eritrean-American I had mixed feelings, partial satisfaction and partial disappointment. Partially satisfied because the US State Department statement clearly stated that:

•  The Algiers agreement must be respected without qualification

•  That the Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission's decision is final and binding

•  That the United States expects both government to uphold their commitments

•  That the US urged both parties to implement the EEBC decision without delay

I am disappointed because, for reasons that I do not know, the statement has failed to do the right thing by calling a spade a spade. I expected the State Department to stand up for the rule of law by identifying and stating clearly that it is the minority regime in Ethiopia that is obstructing the expeditious demarcation of the border. I believe the statement is written to appease Melles and his Tigrayan clique, who have defied every tenet of international law and norms of behavior. Unfortunately, it also sends the wrong signal and greatly undermines UN Security Council resolutions, and the Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission's report to the United Nations.

The UNSC has passed numerous resolutions praising Eritrea for its continuous cooperation with the Border Commission and has urged Ethiopia to do the same. The EEBC has also filed several reports to the UNSC complaining about Ethiopia 's belligerence. Moreover, in their recent visit to Ethiopia , the German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and the British Foreign Office Minister for Africa , Chris Mullin have both identified Ethiopia as the intransigent party and have urged Melles to implement the EEBC decision:

Chancellor Gerhard Shroeder said:

"...the beginning of the demarcation process cannot be put off until Kingdom come"

And Mr. Chris Mullin called on Melles to show “act of statesmanship” , and to “…share the moral high ground that Eritrea had gained…”

Therefore, when the UN Security Council, the German Chancellor, and the British official have clearly identified Melles' ethnic based regime in Ethiopia as the intransigent party, I do not understand why the US State Department chose to come up with such a carefully crafted statement.  

Furthermore, the State Department statement is a deviation from President Bush's expressed policy and principle. Emphasizing the importance of enforcing UN Security Council resolutions, in his State of the Union Address on January 20 th , 2004 , President Bush said:

“ Had we failed to act, Security Council resolutions on Iraq would have been revealed as empty threats, weakening the United Nations and encouraging defiance by dictators around the world”

The minority regime in Ethiopia has clearly defied UN Security Council resolutions.

Therefore, instead of appeasing Melles' regime and giving the wrong signals, I expect the State Department to follow President Bush's guidelines and principles. They should reinforce UN Security Council resolutions by taking appropriate punitive actions against the culprit, invoking Chapter VII, which is clearly stipulated in the UN Security Council endorsed Algiers Agreement:

"…the OAU and the UN Commit themselves to guarantee the respect for this commitment of the parties. This guarantee shall be comprised of measures to be taken by the international community should one or both parties violate this commitment, including appropriate measures to be taken under Chapter 7 of the Charter of the United Nations by the Security Council".

I strongly feel, then and only then, can the possibility of renewed hostilities between Ethiopia and Eritrea be avoided. Also, expeditious demarcation of the border is a prerequisite for direct communication between the two countries.

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