By: Tex Manchester
May 25, 2005

At her Senate confirmation hearing, Secretary Rice stated, "the time for diplomacy is now." Particularly in the Horn of Africa, she could not be more correct. International news media have been slow to pick up on what Africa watchers in the defense and intelligence community agree could prove to be a humanitarian catastrophe and a setback in America's global war on terror.

In his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this year, CIA director Porter Goss highlighted the Horn of Africa as one of the current and projected national security threats to the United States. Goss pointed out that "in Africa, chronic instability will continue to hamper counter-terrorism efforts and pose heavy humanitarian and peacekeeping burdens. ...Unresolved disputes in the Horn of Africa - Africa's gateway to
the Middle East- create vulnerability to foreign terrorist and extremist groups."

In 1993, Eritrea finally succeeded in its long struggle to cease being a colony of Ethiopia's and gained independence. But as you can see from the new map, this landlocks Ethiopia and blocks its access to the Red Sea:

From 1998 to 2000, a bitterly fought border war between the Horn states of thiopia and Eritrea claimed some 100,000 lives and displaced more than one illion people from their homes.

Following international mediation efforts, the Algiers Peace Agreements rovided a solution for the underlying border dispute by an independent ommission, the Ethiopia Eritrea Boundary Commission (EEBC). Both Ethiopia nd Eritrea agreed to accept the Commission's verdict as final and binding. he EEBC's decision was announced in April of 2002. Ethiopia, however, going ack on its original commitment to be bound by the Algiers Agreements, alled the verdict "totally illegal, unjust and irresponsible" and refused o implement it as it stands, calling rather or dialogue to adjust the

Eritrea on the other hand has accepted the final and binding EEBC decision nd, adhering to the Algiers Agreement and the pertinent UN Security Council esolutions, is calling for unconditional and expeditious demarcation of the order. As Ethiopia refuses to do just that, the peace process is in a angerous crisis.

Some in America's foreign policy environment, however, appear relatively nconcerned by the prospect of renewed hostilities, as in fact no meaningful olitical pressure has been brought to bear on Ethiopia, which clearly is in on-compliance with its obligations under the peace deal. On the contrary, thiopia was singled out as one of only four countries worldwide to benefit rom US AID's new Transition Initiative Accounts providing huge sums of fast oney with a limited degree of Congressional oversight.

As money is fungible, observers note that both sides are buying weapons on he international market. Almost no measures are being taken to insure that ur assistance is not used to fuel this conflict. The rationale that is ometimes put forward is that Ethiopia must be appeased and accommodated ecause it is unstable and that it cooperates with the U.S. on ounter-terrorism matters. If Ethiopia was pressured to implement the border ecision, it is said, it might experience political unrest and may refuse ounter-terrorism cooperation in the future.

This typical State Department appeasement-speak is deeply flawed. First and remost, it overlooks the fact that the threat of war grows with every day hat the physical demarcation of the border is postponed.

As you are reading this, 300,000 Ethiopian fighters are pitched astride the order from 200,000 Eritrean soldiers, separated by less than 4,000 UN eacekeepers (a mission that incidentally costs taxpayers almost $200 illion per year). Half a million heavily armed men facing each other with ate-filled eyes and itchy trigger fingers. Even a minor incident could park all-out war.

The choice then does not appear to be one between a relatively stable status uo and potential protest and political unrest in Ethiopia. The choice ather seems to be between disastrous war and demarcation. If the past is ny indicator, resumption of fighting would cause tens of thousands of casualties, displace millions of people from their homes and potentially turn the entire region into a lawless quagmire similar to neighboring

It is hard to overstate how devastating this scenario would be to America's anti-terrorism efforts in the region and the amount of human suffering it would involve. By contrast, some internal political protests in Ethiopia against its government for honoring its commitment under the peace agreement and implementing the EEBC's decision seems a small price to pay for regional peace and security.

The national security interest of the United States calls for the demarcation of the Ethiopia-Eritrea border. What is more, border demarcation would also enable both these US allies to demobilize their forces, concentrate their limited resources on economic development and trade, normalize bilateral relations and move on with the democratization process which has suffered serious setbacks in a climate of national emergency and impending war.

Congress should insist on adherence to its call for compliance with the Algiers Agreements, and the Bush Administration should make it clear to our Ethiopian friends that we expect them to stand by their commitment and emarcate the border in accordance with the EEBC's decision. In other words, hat is called for is "a time for diplomacy" for real, not a usiness-as-usual Foggy Bottom inertia driving the region into the abyss of