Punitive Actions Against Ethiopia-The Way Forward
By: Sophia Tesfamariam
January 22, 2004

It is by acts and not by words that people live, and as John Locke eloquently put it, “the actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts”. I like Theodore Roosevelt’s thoughts on action; he said, “ I’d like to see you shoot the way you shout”. By now you have guessed what I am alluding to…actions. So many prominent groups and individuals have already said so much about the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commissions’ decision; it is time for real action.

There have been 9 United Nations Security Council resolutions and 4 Presidential statements concerning the border conflict and the final and binding decision of the Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission (EEBC) in the last 4 years. What is sorely lacking is the determination to take action against the culprit- the intransigent Tigrayan minority regime in Ethiopia, and thereby putting an end to an already legally resolved border issue.

In order to cover his intransigence and reckless and defiant attitude, Melles Zenawi, the Tigrayan Prime Minister, his supporters and lobbyists, are today heard echoing phrases such as “dialogue”, “deadlock”, “impasse”, “compromise”, “new mechanism” etc. etc. Statements such as “to move the peace process forward, overcome the impasse, dialogue and compromise is essential” etc. etc. have become clichés. This is an insult to the intelligence of the international community. Final and binding arbitration is a legal matter that has to be enforced, while “dialogue” is a bilateral matter, and sovereign right.

Again, I want to emphasize that, it is not “dialogue” or “compromise” that is missing, but lack of determination on the part of the international community-in particular the UN Security Council to enforce its own decisions and resolutions. It is crystal clear to all that Eritrea has accepted the final and binding Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission’s (EEBC) decision and is fully cooperating with the Commission. It is the Tigrayan clique in Ethiopia that is defying international law, thus holding peace and justice hostage. It has not only rejected the EEBC decision, but it has also insulted, rejected and questioned the authority of the Commissioners.

In order to underline my argument that what is missing is appropriate punitive action against the defiant minority regime in Ethiopia, not words; I would like to cite some statements on the issue, just as a reminder:

· “…Calls on Ethiopia and Eritrea to cooperate fully and promptly with the Boundary Commission to enable it to fulfil the mandate conferred upon it by the parties of expeditiously demarcating the boundary and to implement fully the Commission’s Demarcation Directions and Orders, and to take all necessary steps to provide the necessary security on the ground for the Boundary Commission’s staff and contractors operating in territories under their control…”

Resolution 1507 (2003) Adopted by the Security Council at its 4822nd meeting, on 12 September 2003

· “…The independent Boundary Commission has investigated, reviewed, and rejected Ethiopia's claims with respect to the village of Badme, and in a report issued on March 21, 2003, stated that, based on the boundary line from the 1902 treaty between the two countries that was used as the reference under the terms of the Algiers Agreements, the evidence submitted by the Government of Ethiopia to support its claim was `inadequate and inconsistent' and the Commission `cannot allow one party to claim a territorial right, to insist on adjustments of parts of the boundary which that party finds disadvantageous'…Congress strongly condemns recent statements by senior Ethiopian officials criticizing the Boundary Commission's decision and calls on the Government of Ethiopia to immediately end its intransigence and fully cooperate with the Commission…”

(H. R. 2760- Resolution of the Ethiopia-Eritrea Border Dispute Act of 2003, 108th Congress, 1st Session (USA), July 16, 2003)

· “…Most immediately, the international effort to demarcate their common border has been jeopardized by what almost everyone recognizes to be Ethiopian intransigence…The Ethiopian government has essentially rejected the work of the
Boundary Commission that was established by the Algiers Agreement in 2000,following 2 years of bloody fighting that cost an estimated 100,000 Ethiopian and Eritrean lives and cost $2 billion…Indeed, the U.N. Security Council has written the Ethiopian government conveying their deep regret at the intention of the government of Ethiopia not to accept the entirety of the delimitation and demarcation decision as decided by the Boundary Commission…Demarcation, I recognize, is difficult. It always is. In this case, blood has been spilt and feelings are raw, yet the Ethiopian leadership is doing nothing to prepare Ethiopians to accept the commission's decision. Instead, it is whipping up anti-commission sentiment, manipulating nationalism for its own gain and, I believe, playing with fire…”

(Statement from the Hon. Ed Royce, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa, regarding HR-2760, Thursday, October 16, 2003)

· “…In April of 2002, the independent Boundary Commission in The Hague issued its ruling on the disputed border as called for in the December peace agreement. Both sides initially accepted the Border Commission's decision, although Ethiopia now rejects the commission's decision on Badme, the town that triggered the conflict in the first place… Both Ethiopia and Eritrea were given the opportunity to submit their reservations on the commission's decision. After careful review, the commission replied in writing to both governments, but Ethiopian authorities continue to obstruct, delay, and frustrate implementation of the Border Commission's decision… this kind of behavior is unacceptable and could once again plunge these countries into a bloody conflict… The international community cannot be expected to keep funding a peacekeeping force indefinitely or allow innocent people to die unnecessarily. The message is clear: implement the decision of the commission and begin to rebuild your community and countries…”

(Statement made by the Hon. Don Payne, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Africa, regarding HR-2760, Thursday, October 16, 2003)

· “…The Boundary Commission has received a copy of the letter of 19 September
2003 from the Prime Minister of Ethiopia to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. It is a cause of considerable disquiet to the Commission which, in consequence, deems it necessary to offer a number of observations upon some of the statements made in it that directly relate to the work of the Boundary Commission and which, to our regret, are misconceived and misleading…Ethiopia argued in the proceedings before the Commission for an interpretation of the treaty which would have resulted in a much different boundary, far to the north-west, which would have had the effect of placing Badme well within Ethiopia, but the argument for Ethiopia’s line was considered carefully by the Commission and rejected…Ethiopia failed to show why official Ethiopian maps, which over the years depicted not the line for which it argued in 2001 but the line adopted by the Commission, did not reflect the true line of the boundary…The Commission must further observe that its mandate, as agreed in article 4.2 of the Algiers Agreement, was to base its decision “on pertinent colonial treaties (1900, 1902 and 1908) and applicable international law”. The parties did not give the Commission the task of deciding which State administered Badme in recent years: and at the critical time when the relevant treaty of 1902 was concluded, Badme and certain other villages and settlements which now exist had not then come into existence. Where villages have sprung up or spread in recent times and in so doing transgressed boundaries previously established by older treaties, it is fully consistent with international law for the treaty based boundary to be maintained…The parties have long been aware that the result of the Commissions’ delimitations and consequent demarcation could be that the boundary could run through and divide some settlements…It is accordingly clear that Ethiopia’s construction of the Algiers Agreement and of what the Commission has stated in respect of it is misconceived…Ethiopia’s statement is a repudiation of its repeated acceptance of the Commission’s decision since it was rendered…Ethiopia proposes that an alternative mechanism to demarcate the contested part of the boundary be set up, such a alternative mechanism would involve a departure from and thus an amendment to the terms of Article 4.2 of the Algiers Agreement…Ethiopia’s reference to the contested boundary can only be understood as a reference to those parts of the boundary to which it alone and unilaterally takes exception, no part of the boundary is contested by both parties… the boundary between the two countries is the boundary as delimited by the Commission… The Commission has recently sent a letter to the parties directing that they immediately take the necessary steps to allow demarcation to proceed according to the schedule of order of activities ahead…”

(Letter 7 October 2003 from the President of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission to the Secretary-General Kofi Annan, October 7, 2003)

· “…The members of the Security Council steadfastly support the completion of the peace process and the full and expeditious implementation of the Algiers Agreement. The Security Council is clear that the framework for establishing a lasting peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea was agreed by both parties in Algiers in 2000. Only the full implementation of the Algiers Agreements will lead to sustainable peace…The members of the Security Council therefore wish to convey to you their deep regret at the intention of the Government of Ethiopia not to accept the entirety of the delimitation and demarcation decision as decided by the Boundary Commission. They note, in particular, that Ethiopia has committed itself under the Algiers Agreements to accept the Boundary Decision as final and binding…The members of the Security Council, therefore, call upon the Government of Ethiopia to provide its full and prompt cooperation to the Boundary Commission and its field offices in order that demarcation can proceed in all sectors as directed by the Boundary Commission…The members of the Security Council consider the continued delays in the demarcation process to be contrary to the spirit of the Algiers Agreements…”

(Letter from UN Security Council to Prime Minister Melles Zenawi- October 8, 2003)

· “Alarmed over Ethiopian failure to fully comply with, and accept, the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission’s recommendations, especially with regards to the town of Badme; Troubled by the findings of the United Nations Secretary-General on Ethiopia and Eritrea, in the September 4, 2003 Progress Report, that the number of border incidents in Sector Centre is increasing, including the growth in the numbers of Ethiopian herdsmen and livestock present in the Zone on the daily basis;

Disturbed by the September 5, 2003 report of the United Nations Secretary-General with regards to the pointing of weapons by Ethiopian militia at United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) patrols on August 5 and the violation of the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities in the Drum Drum Stream area of the Zone by 102 personnel from the Ethiopian Armed Forces on August 9-11, who refused to leave the area despite UNMEE protests;

Calls on the Government of Canada to increase the pressure on the Government of Ethiopia to accept, in full, the recommendations of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission, including the decision on the town of Badme;

Proposes that the Government of Canada forcefully indicate to the Government of Ethiopia that our future cooperation would heavily depend on Ethiopia’s acquiescence to the recommendations of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission”

(Report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Canada Thursday, November 6, 2003)

· “That this House deeply regrets past conflicts between Ethiopia and Eritrea and the consequent loss of a large number of lives; recognizes the role of the UN and the Organization of African Unity in bringing the parties together and the establishment of a boundary commission to resolve the border dispute; accordingly commends the UN Security Council letter to Ethiopia requesting it fully complies with the commission; and calls on the Government to use all its endeavors to promote a peaceful resolution of the conflict”.

(Early Day Motion, signed by 23 Members of UK Parliament, November 25, 2003)

What is missing is not “dialogue” or “compromise”, but the Tigrayan Prime Minister’s compliance with the final and binding EEBC decision and the 2000 Algiers Agreement he has signed, and decisive appropriate punitive actions by the international community against the culprit. The Algiers Agreement spells out clearly what must be done by the UN Security Council if any of the two parties refuse to comply. Article 14 of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement adapted and endorsed by the United Nations Security Council states:

"…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".

Not acting swiftly against Ethiopia’s defiance of international law will spawn more belligerent acts, which could spiral into another humanitarian disaster. Ethiopia with 65% of its national budget dependent on foreign aid, 15 million of its people starving from famine and drought, and over 15% of its people infected with HIV Aids should not be allowed to hold justice, economic development of the countries in the region and the UN peacekeeping forces hostage.

The international community should not remain silent as innocent Ethiopians are once again are agitated and mobilized by the war mongering regime of Melles Zenawi, their deployment as cannon fodders and minesweepers for the benefit of the expansionist Tigrayan clique in Addis must be aborted and condemned before it is too late. International taxpayers money should not be allowed to lubricate the war machine of the regime in Addis.

For those of you who are wittingly or unwittingly cuddling words such as “crisis”, “impasse”, “deadlock”, etc. etc. I prefer to refer you to the eloquent and succinct response given by the EEBC on October 7, 2003 to the condescending and insulting letter of Melles Zenawi, the Prime Minister of the TPLF dominated regime in Ethiopia:

“There is no “crisis”, terminal or otherwise, which cannot be cured by Ethiopia’s compliance with its obligation under the Algiers Agreement, in particular its obligations to treat the Commission’s delimitation determination as “final and binding”(Article 4.15) and “to cooperate with the Commission, its experts and other staff in all respects during the process of demarcation” (Article 4.14)”

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