Ethiopia should not be Allowed to Thwart the Border Ruling
Huriy Ghirmai
July 26, 2003

Now, on the eve of the Eritrean-Ethiopian border demarcation process, Meles Zenawi has written to the UN Security Council claiming that the Eritrea-Ethiopia Border Commission (EEBC) was in ‘terminal crisis’. With complete disregard to the rule of law, the leader of the minority regime in Ethiopia is said to be seeking an alternative way to resolve the border issue. However, all facts indicate that it is the Ethiopian government which is in terminal crisis as it fails to comply with the final and binding ruling by the EEBC.

Meles Zenawi also made a veiled threat that his government would unleash yet another war of aggression against Eritrea unless the EEBC ruling is overturned. He warned that ‘the commission's decision could lead to another round of war.’ This is indeed a worrying development which the UN and the international community should not take lightly.

The border demarcation process as laid down in the Eritrea-Ethiopia Border Commission (EEBC) ruling is set to commence in October. To date, the government of Ethiopia has tried all sorts of underhanded tactics in order to delay and ultimately thwart the implementation of the decision. In contrast, Eritrea has carried itself in a highly civilized manner by cooperating fully with all parties involved in the implementation of the ruling. The courage and patience of the Eritrean people in making sure that the tenets of the decision would be translated into reality is commendable indeed.

The demarcation of the Eritrean Ethiopian border represents the consummation of all the efforts expended by UNMEE and all other contributors who want to see peace between the two nations. Their role is greatly appreciated by all peace loving people.

As the UN Secretary General stated recently, the Peace Process is at its most crucial stage now. It is equally crucial then that a petulant government like the one in Ethiopia is not appeased every time it decides to act up. It should not be allowed to destroy all the good work that has been achieved so far. Instead, the UN and the international community need to let the Ethiopian government know that any attempt to derail the Algiers Peace Agreement will be met with the toughest of repercussions.

So far, the minority regime in Ethiopia has tried to bury its head in the sand and completely ignore an important aspect of the treaty: the fact that the “…delimitation and demarcation determinations of the Commission shall be final and binding [...]” as clearly stated in article 4.15 of the Algiers Peace Agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Although the Ethiopian government expresses typically deceitful statements to the contrary now and then, it seems to be hell bent on impeding the demarcation process.

• A Basic Misconception

Recently, UNMEE and others have been stating that there needs to be some kind of dialogue between Eritrea and Ethiopia for the sake of expediting the implementation of the EEBC ruling. We should all remember however that all that needed to be said regarding the border issue was said in the proper context under relevant rules and procedures in front of an independent commission which culminated in the final ruling. The two countries have had their day in court and the verdict is in Period.

It is absolutely important that it is made clear the EEBC decision is beyond any discussion and the only thing left now is its implementation to the letter. The UN as well as AU, EU and the USA, as guarantors of the agreement, should make it crystal clear to the government of Ethiopia that they will not tolerate the derailment of the agreement.

Where dialogue leading to normalization of relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia is concerned, well, that is another matter for another day. Normalization of relations between the two countries is an issue which stands independent of the implementation of the EEBC ruling. The emphasis should be on making the Ethiopian government realize that it has to live up to its promise which it endorsed by signing the Algiers Agreement. Should it fail to do so the response of the UN has to be swift. Trying to appease Ethiopia will be UN’s greatest failure and a setting of a dangerous precedence. That is all there is to it now. The ruling should stand if the world is to see the rule of law upheld.

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