Response to remarks by Mr. David Triesman, Britain's Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for Africa
By: Dr. G. Ogbaselassie, FRCOG
January 12, 2006

On 14 December 2005, Ambassador John R. Bolton, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, said: “You cannot be diverted from the fundamental point which is that the Council has been frustrated for three years by the government of Ethiopia’s refusal to adhere to the decision – the binding, arbitral decision of the boundary commission. And while we obviously have a difficult tactical situation at the moment facing UNMEE, what the Council should do is pivot to the larger issue of resolving the gridlock that has occurred for the last three years because of the unwillingness of Ethiopia to accept the boundary commission’s decision.” (Emphasis mine)

With due respect, sir, I dare say that you have ‘diverted from the fundamental point.’ The fundamental point is the written refusal (September 2003) by Prime Minister Meles to comply with the demarcation directives of the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) and subsequent closure of the EEBC offices and tensions between the two countries. That was and still is ‘the cardinal mistake.’

The second mistake is the failure of the Security Council and Mr. Kofi Annan in particular, and the guarantor’s of peace (including UK through the EU) in general, to follow up on their commitments made in December 2000 to ensure the demarcation of the border, in line with the final and binding verdict of the EEBC.

Instead, we are witnessing people of your calibre making hasty arrangements to travel, all the way from Europe to Ethiopia only to end up praising the culprit [Triesman said that Ethiopia was complying with the UN order. "In terms of moving troops back to a safe distance from the border, Prime Minister Meles (Zenawi) has been able to demonstrate that he has done so”] and accusing the victim [Triesman said that” the decision to remove some detachments of UNMEE forces and to prevent helicopter flights is a mistake and we are trying to convey that to President Isaias (Afwerki)”]

With due respect again, sir, the evidence shows that President Isaias and the Eritrean people have fully complied with the requirements of the EEBC to proceed with the demarcation of the border way back in 2002, but have not received a single statement of appreciation. Instead, Mr. Kofi Anan and the UN Security Council continue to apply pressure on Eritrea to make the third mistake – that is shift the emphasis to endless and meaningless peripheral or tangential issues at the expense of the central issue of demarcation.

Resolution 1640 is a good example of such a shift. The UNSC not only demands but also requests the Secretary-General to monitor and report to the Council, after 40 days, the parties' compliance with regard to: 1. Eritrea's continued imposition of restrictions on the freedom of movement of UNMEE; and 2. Return to the 16 December 2004 levels of deployment of troops by both countries. On the central issue of demarcation, however, the UNSC repeats a similar statement it has been making for the past three and half years, which Ethiopia has been ignoring repeatedly without any punitive consequences or reference to Article 41.

On your praise of Mr. Meles, I am surprised by your assertiveness in the defence of a man who has openly defied international law and is at the centre of the huge problems negatively impacting on the peoples of Eritrea and Ethiopia.

If Mr. Meles was the complying type, why doesn’t he simply comply with the border demarcation directives of the EEBC rather than the irrelevant movement of troops who were not supposed to be there in the first place? The Eritrean and Ethiopian people would then have breathed a big sigh of relief and gone back to their development agendas.

If Mr. Meles was the complying type, why does he have to resort to brute force of killing, maiming and imprisoning his own people in their thousands when challenged about the transparency of the election results? Obviously, he has been made to believe that he can act above national and international laws and get away with it.

But, Mr. Meles is not the complying type; he is the deceptive type. His actions are reminiscent of a person afflicted by a psychiatric condition known as ‘intelligent psychopath’. Such people are extremely dangerous for two reasons: they are brutal and incredibly intelligent at deception.

Mr. Michael Clough who has worked on U.S. Africa policy for nearly three decades had this to say about Meles in his article of 18 December 2005: "Meles has been a U.S. client since 1991, when his rebel movement seized power. He is good at talking the language of democracy and development - and even more adept at manipulating Western fears of terrorism.”

While we Eritreans take great exception at the false accusations of our leadership in the handling of the border demarcation, we have no problem if you decide to flood Ethiopia with milk, honey and money; even if you have to spend extra tax payer’s money on humanitarian assistance to Ethiopia, in endorsement of the boycott of our ports by the belligerent Prime Minister of Ethiopia.

However, we are acutely aware that when you take over the burden of looking after the hungry and the poor Ethiopians, Prime Minister Meles would be having more national resources to divert for the purchase of destructive weapons, which will be targeted at both the Ethiopian people and their neighbours.