Dialogue-A face saving device for the apartheid regime in Ethiopia
By: Sophia Tesfamariam
December 22, 2003

“United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today urged that 2004 be the "year of kept promises" to resolve the pressing issues that afflict the lives of billions” (UN News Center 12/18/2003)

The United Nations Secretary General (UNSG) Kofi Annan is right; what is the point of making promises, if they are not going to be kept? It is around this time of the year that most of us sit down and make resolutions for the New Year. Whether or not we follow through and take actions to achieve our stated goals, we still make our “wish list”. Making resolutions, even writing then down, is not going to make them happen unless we take action. Resolutions in and all by themselves are meaningless unless followed by concrete actions. That brings me the Eritrea Ethiopia border conflict and the many UNSC resolutions that were passed in the last 5 years.

Most of the resolutions were passed since the independent Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission (EEBC) delivered is final and binding decision on April 13, 2002. Melles Zenawi’s apartheid regime continues to be in material breach of all those resolutions and yet, there has been no actions taken against that lawless regime by the UNSC.  In addition to the many resolutions, there have been Op-Ed’s and statements from the UNSG Kofi Annan and members of the UNSC, calling for Eritrea and Ethiopia to abide by the Algiers Agreement and also calling for the speedy demarcation of the legally delimited border. Again Ethiopia has ignored all these calls, yet neither the AU nor the UN have taken any actions against Ethiopia.

In a statement to the press issued on April 13th, 2002, the President of the United Nations Security Council stated that:

 “…a final legal settlement of the border issues between Ethiopia and Eritrea has been completed in accordance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed by the parties in Algiers in December 2000”… call on the parties to cooperate closely with the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) in the implementation of the border decision, with a view to ensuring an expeditious and orderly process for the benefit of all the people, and without unilateral actions”.

UNSG Kofi Annan and Amara Essy, previous Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity issued a joint statement a day before the decision was announced by the EEBC. In their April 12th, 2002 Op-Ed they wrote:

As implementation of the Boundary Commission's decision proceeds on the ground, it will be equally important to continue assisting the peoples of Eritrea and Ethiopia to overcome their humanitarian difficulties…international community, especially those countries that have expressed a particular interest in this region, must continue to engage the two governments in the post-demarcation phase…In this regard, the continued engagement by United Nations agencies and programmes in activities at the level of the populations affected by the war could go a long way in supporting reconciliation and dialogue”.

It seems to me that the UNSG rightfully clearly put “reconciliation and dialogue” as being issues that were to be dealt with “post demarcation”. That is also Eritrea’s non-negotiable position, that demarcation of the entire border in accordance with the EEBC before any dialogue can take place between the two parties. As we all know, today, the minority regime in Ethiopia has decided to reject the final and binding verdict and is refusing to implement the decision. Instead, in an attempt to thwart the process, it is has been peddling its newly found pretext-“dialogue”-to all that would care to listen. When the issue is justice, there can be no dialogue with those who are defying justice.

If it weren’t for the fact that the minority regime today was seeking “dialogue” only to reverse the EEBC decision and to delay the implementation of the demarcation, by taking jurisdiction away from the EEBC, Eritrea would have no issues with dialogue. But the myopic Tigrayan regime is trying every tactic in the field of diplomacy to reverse the final and binding decision of the Border Commission. Those who are asking for dialogue between the two parties are not only making a historical mistake, but they are appeasing an arrogant regime that is defying the rule of law.

This call for dialogue with Eritrea, open ended at that, is deceptive and hypocritical. It is another desperate and futile attempt by the apartheid regime in Ethiopia to escape from its legal, political and other responsibilities. What remains today is not dialogue, but the technical matter of placing border markers on the ground. The Eritrea-Ethiopia border commission has provided both sides with its clear and unambiguous directives for the expeditious demarcation of the common border. The international community and especially the UNSC cannot allow Ethiopia to hold the peace hostage while it searches for a “face saving device”, or as some put it an honorable exit. Ethiopia’s apartheid rulers must be held accountable for their actions and no amount of diplomatic shenanigans can absolve them of their responsibilities.

The Algiers Agreement spells out clearly what must be done by the UN Security Council if any of the two parties refuses to comply. Article 14 of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement states that:

“…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”.

The Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission (EEBC) in its report to be annexed to the upcoming UNSG Kofi Annan’s report to the UNSC clearly identifies Ethiopia as the non-compliant party. UNSC resolutions, just like our end of year resolutions are meaningless, if they are not followed by concrete actions. Failure to enforce UNSC resolutions often results in very serious political, economic, diplomatic, and humanitarian consequences. Ethiopia has rejected all resolutions and it is high time the UN took stiffer actions against this belligerent and lawless regime. As for making 2004 the "year of kept promises", that can only be accomplished when UN resolutions are backed by concrete actions. UNSC must act now by invoking Chapter 7 of the UN Charter for peace sakes. The rule of law must prevail over the rule of the jungle!