Could the Ethiopian Government Be Trustworthy?
By Tighisti Fesshaye
November 13, 2003

Ever since the Delimitation Decision of 13 April 2002, by the Boundary Commission to which both Eritrea and Ethiopia had accepted as final and binding in accordance with the Algiers Peace Agreements, the Ethiopian government one way or another had never failed to demonstrate regrets in signing the Agreements. And that is due to the commission’s decision confirming Badme as being part of sovereign Eritrean territory on the basis of pertinent colonial treaties (1900, 1902 and 1908) and international law.

When the parties were asked by the EEBC to file their comments on the technical nature of the map on the 24th of January 2003, unlike the 17- page comment submitted by Eritrea, the 141-page comment put forward by the Ethiopian government, as noted on in the eighth report of the EEBC(S/2003/257) was far beyond the scope of comments on the map....In a number of significant respects the comments amounted to an attempt to reopen the substance of the April Decision....

The recent letters of the Ethiopian Prime Minister of 19 September 2003, and that of his Foreign Minister (16 October 2003), to the UN Secretary General are not different from the previous counterproductive attempts made to induce the EEBC to change the verdict. Of course, these attempts were put under the pretext that the decision on Badme and parts of the Central Sector will have a consequence on the displacement of citizens as a result of the transfer of territorial control, to which article 4.16 of the Algiers Agreement of December 2000 have the answer to that plea. The UN had made it clear that it would be prepared to facilitate resolution of problems that may arise due to demarcation. Recently in the proposal offered by U.S. congressmen, an amendment was made in the bill that states that the U.S. would provide development aid to include “generous compensation packages for families displaced by the border demarcation and support for relocation and support for local efforts to reinforce peace and reconciliation in the border region.”

Now after this attempt we have another story from the Ethiopian Foreign Minister in his letter to UN Secretary General. Complaining of alleged errors on the map with regard to the decision on Badme and parts of the Central Sector, to which the EEBC had already responded in its letter to UN Secretary General, dated 7 October, 2003.

All previous attempt to amend the substance and nature of the April decision had failed. Now the Ethiopian government pleads for a dialogue with the Eritrean government. As if living in Robinson Crusoe Island, the Ethiopian government had been officially stating that it will have nothing to do with Eritrean government in the future. Why now the change of mind? Of course, because the verdict ruled that Badme is inside Eritrean territory and this is something hard to swallow for the Ethiopian government.

Assessing the letter of the Ethiopian Prime Minister, one could conclude that the Ethiopian government would like the UN to force the Eritrean government to agree to a dialogue. Even the EEBC proposal that there should be an agreement between the Parties to resolve what ever difference exists was negatively taken. The fourth paragraph of the letter states as follows:

"nothing worthwhile can therefore be expected from the Commission to salvage the peace process. Indeed, the Commission seems to be determined to continue its disastrous stance whatever the consequences to the peace of the region".

It appears that the Ethiopian Prime Minister wants to say “my way or no way at all.”

Assuming that the Eritrean government accepts dialogue, but still were would a dialogue in demarcation help change the reality? Perusing the recent actions of the Ethiopian government, it is easy to figure out what expectations they have from such dialogue. It seems that the Ethiopian government visualizes that the Eritrean government, in spite of the Delimitation Decision by the Boundary Commission will give up Badme. But let alone a government an individual in his right mind will not and can not anticipate that. For in this issue we are not talking about whether to present a status of liberty. We are talking about the town of Eritrea Badme(no matter what resources it has), a land that had cost us a lot.

If all this rumbling of the Ethiopian government is about pride, all human beings have that character. But when it comes to rules and laws of the world we abide by those laws no matter what implication they have on our pride. In its conflict with Yemen, regarding delineation of territorial waters, Eritrea had accepted the verdict that rules Hanish Island as part of Yemeni territory. After the issue of the Hanish Islands was resolved, both countries still maintain their diplomatic relation. So what makes the Eritrean and Ethiopian case different? Nothing.

How could the Ethiopian Prime Minister say “peace process between Ethiopia and Eritrea is facing a challenge.”? The only challenge is overcoming subjective issues.

The solution to the issue is clear. Quoting from the letter of Sir Elihu Lauterpacht, the president of EEBC, to the UN Secretary General will be the best answer to questions that may be pondering in the minds of all Eritreans and Ethiopians who want to live in peace.

there is no "crisis", terminal or otherwise, which cannot be cured by Ethiopia's compliance with its obligations 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).