Mr. Kofi Annan-Respecting the rule of law
is the only way forward
By: Sophia Tesfamariam
September 29, 2004
59th session of the United Nations General Assembly has begun and
I have been listening to the daily Webcasts and have been reading the various
statements being made. I must say I was pleasantly surprised to read Secretary-General
Kofi Annan’s address to the General Assembly dated 21 September 2004 in which
he highlighted the importance of the rule of law. He even criticized the international
community for not practicing what they preach saying, “Where the rule of
law is most earnestly invoked…those invoking it do not always practice what
they preach”. I have been calling for the respect for the rule of law for
months now and I am encouraged to know that the Secretary General and I agree
on the supremacy of the rule of law.
I’d like to highlight some of the statements made by the Secretary General to the UN General Assembly on 21 September 2004.
1. “… we have reached a fork in the road. If you, the political leaders of the world, cannot agree or reach agreement on the way forward, history will take the decisions for you, and the interests of your peoples may go by default…”
I believe in order to move forward and reach agreements, parties to an agreement have to honor their commitments, not negotiate and re-negotiate when they do not get what they want or what they have argued for. Representing the United Nations, UNSG Kofi Annan is one of the witnesses/guarantors to the Algiers Agreement signed between Eritrea and Ethiopia in 2000 in Algeria. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of the Democratic Republic of Algeria, President Obasanjo of Nigeria, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright representing the United States, Secretary General, Salim Ahmed Salim representing the OAU, and Senator Renato Serri representing the EU are the other guarantors and witnesses.
Mr. Kofi Annan therefore, if he truly practices what he preaches, has an obligation under the agreement he has guaranteed to invoke Chapter 7 and force Ethiopia to abide the Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commissions’ final and binding decision without any pre-conditions and delay, otherwise history will take the decisions for the people of Eritrea and Ethiopia.
2. “…Today I will not seek to pre-judge those decisions, but to remind you of the all-important framework in which they should be taken – namely, the rule of law, at home and in the world…”
Yes Mr. Kofi Annan, you should not pre-judge legal decisions. The Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission’s final and binding decision is a product of international arbitration and has been endorsed by the UN Security Council. It is fully accepted by Eritrea and it is being violated by Ethiopia. You have the mechanism to enforce the decision and restore respect for the rule of law.
3. “Yet today the rule of law is at risk around the world. Again and again, we see fundamental laws shamelessly disregarded – those that ordain respect for innocent life, for civilians, for the vulnerable – especially children”
Yes Mr. Kofi Annan, the rule of law is at risk in the Horn of Africa. The regime in Ethiopia has arrogantly defied and “shamelessly disregarded” fundamental laws by rejecting the Security Council endorsed Border Commission’s final and binding decision and yet you make no mention in your statement of the dangerous situation brewing in the Horn of Africa, as a result of Meles Zenawi’s intransigence.
4. “No cause, no grievance, however legitimate in itself, can begin to justify such acts. They put all of us to shame. Their prevalence reflects our collective failure to uphold the rule of law, and instill respect for it in our fellow men and women. We all have a duty to do whatever we can to restore that respect”
I agree with you Mr. Kofi Annan, “no cause, no grievance, however legitimate in itself”, can begin to justify Ethiopia’s frivolous, deceptive, defiant and illegal machinations. You ought to heed your own advice and take punitive actions against Ethiopia by invoking Chapter 7 so that binding agreements are respected and confidence in international arbitration is restored.
5. “To do so, we must start from the principle that no one is above the law, and no one should be denied its protection”
Yes Mr. Kofi Annan, no one is above the law. Practice what you preach. Under the pretext of “Ethiopia is a big country”, “It is a sovereign state”, “Meles is in trouble”, “It is up to the two parties”, “to move the peace process forward”, etc. etc. the Prime Minister of Ethiopia should not be allowed to be above the law and the government of “small Eritrea”, which is respecting the rule of law, must not once again become the victim of international politics and diplomatic games. The people of Eritrea must not once again be denied the protection of the law.
6. “And yet this framework is riddled with gaps and weaknesses. Too often it is applied selectively, and enforced arbitrarily. It lacks the teeth that turn a body of laws into an effective legal system”
Yes I agree with you Mr. Kofi Annan, that Chapter 7 is “applied selectively, and enforced arbitrarily”. But by appointing Lloyd Axworthy at the request of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, it is you yourself that is contributing to the weakening of the rule of law. You are also trying to hijack the sole mandate of the EEBC, which is the demarcation of the Eritrea Ethiopia border. No matter how hard you try to deny it Mr. Kofi Annan, by appointing Lloyd Axworthy as your special envoy, you have sidelined the EEBC, and you are appeasing the lawless regime in Ethiopia and you are practically trying to create an “alternative mechanism”.
Please stop undermining the EEBC, its final and binding decision and its demarcation directives, orders and procedures. I am appealing to you to take appropriate punitive measures with “teeth”, so that the regime in Ethiopia respects the rule of law.
7. “The world needs an effective mechanism through which to seek common solutions to common problems…Where enforcement capacity does exist, as in the Security Council, many feel it is not always used fairly or effectively. Where the rule of law is most earnestly invoked, as in the Commission on Human Rights, those invoking it do not always practice what they preach.
Again Mr. Annan, please start with yourself and practice what you preach. Invoke Chapter 7 against Ethiopia. You have the enforcement capacity and UN instruments at your disposal. Article 42 of the UN Charter that allows the UN Security Council to “take action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security” You also have at your disposal Article 14 of the Algiers Agreement, which clearly 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"
8. “Those who seek to bestow legitimacy must themselves embody it; and those who invoke international law must themselves submit to it”
Mr. Kofi Annan, please tell or urge the belligerent Meles Zenawi and his regime to stop holding justice, peace and international law hostage. You must force him to submit to international law and UN Security Council resolutions. You must invoke Chapter 7 to protect the people of Eritrea and Ethiopia from another disastrous and devastating war.
9. “It is by reintroducing the rule of law, and confidence in its impartial application, that we can hope to resuscitate societies shattered by conflict”
Yes Mr. Kofi Annan, 120,000 innocent Ethiopians lost their lives when they were used as cannon fodder and minesweepers in Meles Zenawi and his Tigrayan cliques’ war of aggression and expansion against Eritrea. 19000 Eritreans gave their lives in defense of Eritrea’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Mr. Kofi Annan, it has been over 2 years since the EEBC gave its final and binding verdict but the border has yet to be demarcated. Meles Zenawi continues to refuse to abide by the rule of law, preferring instead, to live by the law of the jungle. Mr. Kofi Annan, you cannot expect to resuscitate Eritrean and Ethiopian “societies shattered by conflict” by appeasing Meles Zenawi and entertaining his endless, deceptive gimmicks and tantrums. It is time for you to call a spade a spade and practice what you preach.
Meles Zenawi’s intransigence and defiance of the rule of law must be stopped before additional Eritreans and Ethiopians are once again victimized and regional peace and stability is compromised.
10. “It is the law, including Security Council resolutions, which offers the best foundation for resolving prolonged conflicts”
Mr. Kofi Annan, on the Eritrea Ethiopia border issue and on the Border Commissions final and binding decision, the UN Security Council has issued over 12 resolutions and 4 Presidential statements. It is not more resolutions, or appointments of special envoys or creations of alternative mechanisms, or political dialogue between the two parties that is needed; what is needed is respect for the rule of law, enforcement of UNSC resolutions and the Border Commission’s final and binding decision. UNSC must invoke Chapter 7, so that demarcation can proceed without further delay and the conflict is not prolonged.
The Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission delivered its final and binding verdict on April 13, 2002. The demarcation process was supposed to take no longer than 6 months but today 30 months later, Ethiopia continues to occupy sovereign Eritrean territories including Badme. The issue has become an issue of occupation, rather than an issue od demarcation. Neither the UNSG, nor the UN Security Council have taken any punitive actions against Ethiopia, but rather have encouraged Ethiopia’s belligerence and lawlessness by concentrating on diversionary side issues such as “Eritrea must receive Axworthy”, “Eritrea must allow UNMEE to use the Asmara-Keren-Barentu road” etc. etc. Mr. Kofi Annan, please stop using words “to mask inaction”.
Respecting the rule of law and abiding by agreements it has signed and committed to, Eritrea has accepted the final and binding decision of the Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission and is patiently waiting for demarcation of the border in accordance with the Commission’s decision, order and demarcation directives and procedures. On the other hand, the regime in Ethiopia is preventing the EEBC from fulfilling its mandate in accordance with the Algiers Agreement, which is to demarcate the Eritrea Ethiopia border. Ethiopia is obstructing the work of the Commission by refusing to fulfill its financial obligations and refusing to deploy its liaison officers.
Using your own words, I am appealing to you to call a spade a spade and to urge the Government of Ethiopia to allow the EEBC to demarcate the border without pre-conditions and obstacles. For the sake of the people of Eritrea and Ethiopia and for the sake of regional peace and stability, I am once again appealing to you to rescind your appointment of Lloyd Axworthy as your special envoy. Call it what you may, you are rewarding the defiant regime in Ethiopia. The correct solution and the only way forward is to stick to, and respect the rule of law.
rule of law must prevail over the law of the jungle!