There is no disputed or contested border between Eritrea and Ethiopia
By: Sophia Tesfamariam
April 7, 2005

Ever since the independent Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) delivered its Final and Binding decision on 13 April 2002, the Tigrayan minority regime in Ethiopia, led by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, and its multi million-dollar lawyers/lobbyists have tried hard to hoodwink and confuse the international community about the issues surrounding the implementation of the Decision and the demarcation of the border. In various statements, interviews, news reports, press conferences etc. the leader of the minority regime in Ethiopia uses calculated, deliberate and deceptive terms such as "contested areas", "disputed areas", "15% of border", "dialogue is needed for lasting peace", "dialogue is necessary for implementation" etc. etc. These deceptive media gimmicks, diplomatic maneuvers and sound bites are geared towards achieving the limited objective of:

  1. Appealing, amending, revisiting, revising etc. the legally settled and UN Security Council endorsed, Final and Binding 13 April 2002 Decision of the independent Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC).
  1. Delaying the demarcation process with the hope of creating international apathy or fatigue, thus creating a de-facto situation of militarily occupying sovereign Eritrean territories.
  1. Buying time to train more soldiers and to purchase more ammunitions and military hardware to launch another disastrous war of aggression and expansion against Eritrea

These childish, myopic and transparent gimmicks such as  "contested border", "disputed areas", "dialogue is the only option" that are being propagated by the minority regime and its multi million dollar lawyers/lobbyists and apologists have absolutely no legal, diplomatic or political merit. They are shamelessly, defiantly and stubbornly paddled by the street smart leader of the minority regime only because the international community and the UN Security Council (UNSC) lacked determination, resoluteness and the political will to unequivocally pressure the belligerent leader in Ethiopia by invoking Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, as stipulated in the Algiers Agreement of 2000, which was signed by the leaders of the two countries and AU, EU, UN and US high level representatives as witnesses and guarantors.

On the basis of the Algiers Agreement of December 2000, the "disputed" and "contested" Eritrean Ethiopian border was legally argued by both the Government of Eritrea and the minority regime in Ethiopia. As a result, it was legally resolved once and for all when the Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission, after hearing arguments presented by both sides, rendered its Final and Binding decision on 13 April 2002. Therefore, there is no longer a "disputed" or "contested" border or territory that would require "dialogue" between the two parties. What is needed is for both parties to unconditionally implement the Final and Binding decision of the EEBC in accordance with the EEBC's demarcation directives, instructions, orders and procedures. As has been stipulated in the Algiers Agreement and numerous UN Security Council resolutions, they should both allow the EEBC, which has the sole mandate to demarcate the Eritrea Ethiopia border, to complete its demarcation activities without any preconditions, obstructions, hindrances and further delay.

It should be recalled that the arbitration mechanism through the EEBC was put in place only after all methods and mechanisms for resolving the "disputed", "contested" border areas and territories were exhausted.

  1. Bilateral talks and Dialogue between the two parties was tried and failed.

It failed because the minority regime in Ethiopia refused to stop its gradual infringement and invasion of sovereign Eritrean territories as well as its provocation of Eritrean Defense Forces. (See letters exchanged between Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in 1997 and refer to the bilateral talks and dialogue that took place between 1991 and 6 May 1998)

  1. Mediation was tried and it failed too.
    1. US-Rwanda mediation effort failed because of the quick fix approach used by some American officials of the former Clinton Administration
    1. The OAU (AU) mediation efforts also failed because when Eritrea accepted the Technical Arrangements, Ethiopia rejected it and opted for war. (At the time, Meles' spin-doctors were engaged in a massive disinformation campaign presenting Ethiopia as the accepting party and presenting Eritrea as the rejecting party. All these shenanigans have now been exposed by TPLF leaders who have been sacked and detained by Meles Zenawi. According to them, it was the TPLF Central Committee and not Eritrea that rejected the OAU Proposal. It is on the Internet for all to see and read).
  1. War was tried and it failed too

Using intensive and destructive World War II type human wave tactics, the TPLF dominated Ethiopian government launched a disastrous war of expansion against Eritrea that cost the lives of over 120,000 Ethiopians and 19,000 Eritreans.

As a result of the failure of bilateral talks and dialogue, mediation and war, the international community had no option but to speak with one voice to resolve the disputed or contested border. It was that unified voice that delivered the best, most viable and mutually and legally acceptable solution; respect for the rule of law. The international community through the UN Security Council urged the two parties to respect the rule of law and resolve their border "dispute" through legal and binding arbitration mechanisms. As a result:

  1. The Algiers Agreement was signed in 2000 in Algeria by H.E. President Isaias Afwerki for Eritrea and by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi for Ethiopia and witnessed and guaranteed by Secretary General Kofi Annan representing the United Nations, 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 European Union. The Algiers Agreement which was adapted and endorsed by the UN Security Council remains a sacrosanct document.
  1. The 5-member Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission (EEBC) was established. Eritrea selected two of the Commissioners and Ethiopia selected the other two. The 5th Commissioner and President of the EEBC, Professor Sir Elihu Lauterpacht, was appointed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
  1. The Algiers Agreement mandated the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) to delimit and demarcate the border "based on pertinent colonial treaties (1900, 1902, and 1908) and applicable international law" The Commission was not given power to make decisions "ex aequo et bono" and that its delimitation and demarcation decision will be "final and biding". The Agreement also designated the Chief of the Cartographic Section of the United Nations as the Secretary of the Boundary Commission.
  1. The parties presented to the Commission, for a period of about a year and a half, all types of memorials and counter memorials, arguments and documents on the "contested" and "disputed" border.
  1. After a thorough review of all the evidence presented to them by the parties to the conflict, the distinguished Commissioners delivered the unanimous Final and Binding decision on 13 April 2002.
  1. Both parties accepted the unanimous decision of the Border Commission as Final and Binding and without pre-conditions. In fact, Ethiopia urged the international community to enforce the decision and called on the international community to put pressure on Eritrea to allow for the expeditious demarcation of the border in accordance with the 13 April 2002 decision.
  1. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations and Amara Essy, the then Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity (AU) said that the EEBC Decision was:

"...successful conclusion of the peace process on the basis of a legal settlement of the conflict..."

  1. On the same day, 13 April 2002,  that the EEBC rendered its Final and Binding decision, the UN Security Council in its Press Release said:

"...Members of the Security Council express their satisfaction 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... Members of the Security Council welcome the decision by the Boundary Commission, announced in The Hague on 13 April 2002, which is Final and Binding... Members of the Security Council 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..."

The African Union (AU), European Union (EU), United Nations (UN), and the United States (US), through their respective Press Statements and Releases officially endorsed and confirmed that the Border Commission's decision was Final and Binding, and the UN Security Council adapted and endorsed it as such.

It was clear from the onset to everybody on earth, with the exception of the minority regime in Ethiopia that the border issue was legally resolved and the chapter closed. Therefore, there is no "disputed" or "contested" border or territory between Eritrea and Ethiopia. That is why the Final and Binding decision cannot be re-argued, appealed, revisited, and revised under any pretext, be it "dialogue" or "normalization of relations". In its eloquent and clear 21 March 2003 Observations the EEBC said:

To re-argue, appeal, revisit, or attempt to revise the Final and Binding Security Council endorsed decision would not only be a breach of the Algiers Agreement and international law, but also a recipe for disaster. It would set a dangerous precedence and would encourage the law of the jungle over the rule of law. It would also encourage Bismarck's concept of "Might is Right".  No matter how much the Tigrayan minority regime in Ethiopia tried to confuse the international community in general and the Ethiopian people in particular, there is no "contested" or "disputed" border between Eritrea and Ethiopia and that fact has been consistently ascertained and confirmed by the EEBC.  In its 16th Report to the UN Security Council, the EEBC said:

And that is why I say, demarcation or not, markers or not, pillars or not, the EEBC's decision is Final and Binding. That is also why in its resolution of 14 March 2005, the UN Security Council called on "Ethiopia without preconditions to start the implementation of demarcation, by taking the necessary steps to enable the Commission to demarcate the border completely and promptly..." 

Therefore, the issue is no longer about disputed or contested territories. It is also not a question of whether or not demarcation can take place in accordance with the EEBC's Final and Binding decision and its demarcation directives, instructions and procedures, because it must and it will. The issue has now become the illegal military occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories by Ethiopia. It has now become an issue of settling Ethiopian nationals (Tigrayans) on sovereign Eritrean territories.

Since there is no contested or disputed territory or border any longer, the solution is simple and clear. Ethiopia must remove its forces from sovereign Eritrean territories and it must stop establishing new settlements. The UN Security Council must enforce its own Charter by protecting big or small nations from being attacked or occupied by big or small nations by invoking Chapter VII. It must also enforce the EEBC's Final and Binding decision it has endorsed, by invoking Chapter VII against Ethiopia, as stipulated in the Algiers Agreement. Just as the law enforcement bodies and institutions in any country are responsible for enforcing criminal and civil laws and legal and binding court decisions, the UN Security Council is responsible, to maintain regional and international peace and security, for enforcing the UN Charter, international law, its own resolutions as well as legal and binding arbitrations.

At the risk of repeating myself, I hope that the countries with the means, resources and capacity will act swiftly and decisively to uphold the rule of law and maintain regional peace and security by taking appropriate punitive actions against the defiant, expansionist, aggressive minority regime in Ethiopia that is violating all tenets of international law and norms of acceptable behavior. Today Ethiopia is:

If the Security Council and the international community for whatever reasons neglect to implement the UN Charter and fail to shoulder its legal responsibilities, obligations and duties,  Eritrea will have no choice but to exercise the undesirable option of its inherent legal right to self defense. Article 51 of the UN Charter clearly says:

"Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security"

Moreover, under Chapter VII, the UN Security Council has the mandate and mechanism to avert another disastrous war between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

The issue is no longer the "primary responsibility" of the two governments. The issue also cannot be resolved through "dialogue". Because the "contested" and "disputed" border issue has been legally resolved and the legal decision has been unanimously endorsed by the UN Security Council, and because another disastrous war will definitely affect regional and international peace and security, it is the sole responsibility and obligation of the international community in general and the UNSC in particular to invoke Chapter VII for Ethiopia to respect the rule of law and implement the EEBC's Final and Binding decision in accordance with the EEBC's demarcation directives, instructions, orders and procedures without pre-conditions or further delay.

By invoking Chapter VII against Ethiopia, the international community can collectively avoid another Rwanda and Darfur in the Horn of Africa. 'Never Again' should not remain an empty slogan, they should not wait for the CNN effect.

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