Welcome to the Lies & Deceptions World of the Minority Regime in Ethiopia
Ghidewon Abay Asmerom
July 25, 2003

“When is a ‘final and binding’ decision reached by a neutral body of legal experts open to negotiation? The international community is facing this question in the Horn of Africa, where the regional giant Ethiopia has rejected as "unacceptable" a Border Commission ruling on its border with tiny Eritrea. ... [I]f international arbitration were easy for losing parties to swallow, wars would never occur in the first place. ...There is far more at stake here than the relationship between Ethiopia and Eritrea.”

Financial Times of London, June 17, 2003.

Who you have for a neighbor can be a blessing or a curse. If you have magnanimous, fair, reasonable, and rational neighbors you should count your blessing and shouldn’t ask for anything more. On the other hand if you have unreasonable, spiteful, deceitful and irrational neighbors pray hard and hope that it will be the Lord’s will to intervene on your behalf. Bad neighbors are like a thorn of the flesh, a constant pain.

Fortunate individuals may be able to choose their neighbors. It is not so with countries and governments. They are either lucky or unlucky. Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia and the Sudan, fall in the latter category. They have the narrow-minded minority government of Ethiopia as their neighbor. What is even worse is that the world doesn’t seem to have a clue on how mendacious, deceitful, evil, wicked and dangerous these current leaders of Ethiopia are. Moreover, it should not be forgotten that successive Ethiopian leaders have been the sole obstacle to peace and stability in the Horn of Africa. For the last fifty years every trouble in the Horn of Africa be that in Somalia, the Sudan, Djibouti, Kenya, or Eritrea has Ethiopian roots and fingerprints. The more the world tolerates Ethiopia’s rulers’ mischievous and malicious deeds and rewards their dishonesty, the more destructive they are becoming to their people as well as their neighbors. It is time that the world wakes up from its slumber and recognizes Ethiopian governments for what they really are. It is also obvious the prudent people of Ethiopia are also equally unlucky to have governments that don’t serve them justly.

Out of good intention or otherwise some are calling for “the initiation of political dialogue between the two Governments, with a view to the eventual normalization of relations.” Unfortunately this is sending the wrong signal to the minority regime in Ethiopia. If those that are pushing for these kinds of initiatives are thinking this will help the minority regime in Ethiopia inch towards peace they are committing a grave mistake. The latest letter to the Security Council is a good example how this regime thinks and acts. The international community should learn from its past dealings and mistakes in handling the Ethiopian regime. Ethiopia should be told that the first step towards normalization, lasting peace and stability is accepting and implementing the Boundary Commission’s “final and binding” Decision. Anything short of that is unacceptable.

I have no doubt Eritrea would be willing to enter into dialogue with Ethiopia after the complete demarcation of the border. Political dialogue and brotherly approach were exactly what Eritrea was doing and practicing back in 1997, at the time when the Tigrean regime in Addis was encroaching on sovereign Eritrean territory, when its agents were unilaterally demarcating the border and when Meles and Co. were busy committing “cartographic aggression” by producing the regional map of Tigray. Creating a de facto situation on the ground, instructed from the Palace in Addis, the Tigrean militia was carrying its illegal act of demarcation and land grabbing by expelling Eritrean farmers from their sovereign land, land they owned and farmed for ages. As Eritreans were being forced out of their ancestral homes and villages, the Government of Eritrea was advising patience to its citizens and pleading with the regime in Ethiopia for dialogue. It was urging for the peaceful and legal resolution of the border disputes. But none of it worked because the myopic and expansionist Tigrean clique in Addis didn’t want it to be.

If the minority regime today sheds crocodile tear over Badme, Sembel, Adi Tseser, or Dembe Asmara, ... in Sector West or other villages in the Central Sector, these are the very same Eritrean villages built with the sweat and blood of Eritreans from which Eritrean residents were expelled and replaced by Tigreans. As the Commission correctly noted these villages had been Eritrean sovereign territories since the advent of colonialism to Africa. They are Eritrean by history as well as the spelling of the relevant treaty. Ethiopia’s illegal occupation didn’t and can’t give Ethiopia title to these territories. It is on the basis of these facts the Commission made its Decision.

Right from day one Eritrea had hoped against hope that the Ethiopian regime can be persuaded to solve the border dispute through legal and peaceful means. But Eritrea’s hope was dashed when the minority regime in Ethiopia declared war on Eritrea. Even after this declaration of war Eritrea was pleading for a peaceful and legal means of solving the border dispute. It was to no avail. Facilitators and mediators were involved and some of them were beginning to buy into Ethiopia’s lies and deceptions thus rushing to present a half-cooked peace proposal. Meanwhile Eritrea was pushing and insisting for an unambiguous, clear and firm proposal and agreement precisely because it knew the behavior of the minority regime in Ethiopia more than any of those who were trying to facilitate or mediate. Some had tried to interpret Eritrea’s cautious approach and reading as a sign of stubbornness and naivety. They accommodated wittingly or unwittingly Ethiopia’s unjust demands. They prepared, at the insistence of Ethiopia, a detailed peace plan, aka, “the Technical Arrangements”, that they said was “not open to any amendments” and yet when Ethiopia rejected it, not only did they amend it, but they also replaced it with a proposal written by Ethiopia and called it “Consolidated Technical Arrangements.” This was the “non-paper”. Then came what was called “proximity talks” that too didn’t work because the expansionist regime in Ethiopia was not ready for peace.

To mislead the world and to look like it was a peace-loving and law-abiding regime the TPLF government was swearing its commitment to settle the matter legally and peacefully. It went on to say that it has accepted the “Consolidated Technical Arrangements.” Its aim was to cover its mentality of the law of the jungle. But as time proved it peaceful and legal settlement was not in conformity with its expansionist and “might is right” mindset. Nevertheless after it had tried every other means in its disposal, i.e. lies, deceptions, military hardware etc, failed miserably from achieving its adventurous objective of re-annexing Eritrea and after squandering the lives of over 120,000 innocent Ethiopian soldiers (a majority of them non-Tigrean) as minesweepers (fenjiregatch) it was forced to sign the Algiers Agreement in 2000.

The Algiers Agreement established an independent five-member Boundary Commission (two of them were Ethiopia’s choice, two Eritrea’s and the fifth and the President of the Commission was chosen by the UN.) On April 13, 2002 the independent Eritrean-Ethiopian Boundary Commission rendered its “final and binding” verdict. Immediately the Ethiopian government declared victory and swore to implement the Decision expeditiously. In fact it urged the world community to force Eritrea to “honor its obligation [and] to cooperate in the demarcation process.” Furthermore it declared to the world that it was happy “the rule of law has prevailed over the rule of the jungle” and praised the Commission for “discharging its duties with a sense of responsibility and great care.” Mind you it is this very same Boundary Commission that is today being insulted by the Tigrean Prime Minister in Addis Ababa. He is calling, because it is not to his liking, the Commission’s Decision “...totally illegal, unjust, and irresponsible..... Nothing worthwhile can be expected from it. ...It is determined to continue its disastrous stance whatever the consequence.” It is also the very same Decision that was pronounced as “fair and appropriate” eighteen months ago by the Ethiopian Parliament, Cabinet including the Tigrean Prime Minister and Foreign Minister that is now being rejected, despised and condemned as “blatant miscarriage of justice” and “a recipe for continued instability, and even recurring wars,” by the very same Prime Minister.

In order for the reader to make his own judgments and observations I present excerpts of some statements the officials of the Ethiopian government were saying then (April 2002) and what they are saying today (September 2003).

Then (April 2002)

“Sanity has won over insanity, and that the rule of law has prevailed over the rule of the jungle. ... The ruling of the boundary commission is fair and appropriate. The ruling has proved once more again Ethiopia to be right.... Ethiopia is fully satisfied with the decision of the independent boundary commission. According to the Algiers peace deal, both parties should accept the decision of the boundary commission as final and binding with no right to appeal.”

--Seyoum Mesfin, Ethiopia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, April 13, 2002.

“…Accordingly, pursuant to the Algiers Agreement, the FDRE Government accepts and is ready to implement the legal decision of the Commission.…The Government of Ethiopia would like to take this opportunity to extend its regards to the Boundary Commission for discharging its duties with a sense of responsibility and great care. The Government of Ethiopia would also like to express its strong interest in the speedy demarcation of the boundary. In this respect, the FDRE Government would like to emphasize that the Eritrean Government should honor its obligation to cooperate in the demarcation process.”

-- Statement issued by the Council of Ministers of Ethiopia, April 13, 2002.

“The ruling vindicates Ethiopia's land claims. It is a dual victory for Ethiopia and a devastating defeat for the other side. The decision of the boundary commission has awarded Ethiopia all the contested areas it had claimed. The landmark ruling sealed forever any further attempt of aggression to settle border claims by means of force,”

--Meles Zenawi, Prime minister of Ethiopia, April 15, 2002.

“ .… Ethiopia came out victorious because the commissioners made their decision based on the law and their own principle. ... It is common practice to exaggerate your claim. The commissioners are human. The main goal in a court of law is to win and convince people’s mind. And this is done in one of two ways: either to support your claim with clear and strong evidence or to exaggerate your claim if you have a weak case. ... Ethiopia’s claim was not only for territory that it thought was rightly its, but for more. There were places that we claimed that were never part of the treaties. ... Knowing well that we had a weak case, and knowing well that the text of the treaty didn’t support us, when Eritrea tried to argue for the Muna River [as a border] using the treaty map, we argued that the treaty meant to say Endeli and that the treaty map is wrong. The Commission has bought our argument. What was found [by the Commission] to be the Muna River is south of Altiena, but the border has now been delimited to be along the Endeli River. Similarly on the Western Sector we have claimed land we hadn’t administered even for a single day. ... Ethiopia has got more than what she expected and wanted. We have got all the lands we hoped to get.”

Seyfe Selassie Lemma, Ethiopia’s Agent before the EEBC, and Director of Legal Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, April 18, 2003.

Today (September 2003)

“Despite the veneer of normalcy in the work of the Boundary Commission, I am afraid the work of the commission is in terminal crisis. The key to the crisis of the work of the Commission is its totally illegal, unjust, and irresponsible decision on Badme and parts of the Central Sector. ... Badme is the casus belli for the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. .... [It is] symbolically important village for the people of Ethiopia who have paid so much in blood [for it]. It is unimaginable for the Ethiopian people to accept such a blatant miscarriage of justice. The decision is thus a recipe for continued instability, and even recurring wars. ...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 consequence to the peace of the region. ... The Commission’s decisions could lead into another round of war. The Security Council has an obligation, to avert war.. [Therefore] it is crucial that the Security Council set up an alternative mechanism to demarcate the contested parts of the boundary in a just and legal manner so as to ensure lasting peace in the region. ...The alternative mechanism could be composed of the guarantors [UN, European Union, the USA, and African Union] and witnesses of the Algiers Agreement and representatives of the two parties. Ethiopia is ready to address the problem through such a mechanism.”

Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Letter to the UN Security Council.
(as reported by IRIN, Reuters, BBC, AFP, AP and VOA), September 24, 2003.

Do these Ethiopian officials sound rational, or reasonable to you? Do you think they are or will ever be interested in peace? Isn’t it a curse to be neighbors with a country lead by such a people? If you are dumbfounded and puzzled by these contradictory statements, then welcome to the lies and deceptions world of Prime Minister Meles and Co. These are the curse Eritrea had to put up with. These Ethiopian (Tigrean) officials in Addis cannot be trusted to mean what they say. Their behavior is in direct contrast with that of the Eritrean leaders, leaders which mean what they say. When they say “yes” it means “YES”, also when they say “no” it means “NO”. All what they believe is in frank, forthright, upfront, candid and honest diplomacy. This might not gain them short-term friends but for sure and in the end it will earn them the respect, the love and the friendship of all peace-loving and reasonable people. It is this character that has earned them the trust, the support and the love of the people of Eritrea.

The Ethiopian regime, through the letter of its Tigrean Prime Minister, has now openly, willfully and unabashedly rejected the independent Boundary Commission’s unanimous Decision that is fully endorsed by half-a-dozen Security Council Resolutions. Thus it is in violation of the letter and spirit of the 2000 Algiers Agreement that obligates Ethiopia to accept the Boundary Decision as “final and binding.” This “final and binding” Decision reached by an independent body of prominent international jurists is not open to any negotiation. It is illegal and unfair to ask Eritrea for dialogue and negotiation. Case closed.

The Tigrean Prime Minister’s letter that calls upon the Security Council to look for “an alternative mechanism to demarcate the contested parts of the boundary” is not only absurd it is also an insult to the intelligence of the International Community that had invested so much to let make peace between the two governments. The International Community including Meles knows that the UN Security Council is already handling the matter. The Security Council has also already endorsed the “final and binding” Decision of the Commission. Moreover, it is the Security Council that is footing the bill for the more than 4000 members of UNMEE that are deployed in the Temporary Security Zone. It was also just two weeks ago that this same organ of the UN extended UNMEE’s mandate. In case Meles and his minority clique have amnesia, in accordance to Article 14(a) of the June 18, 2000, Secession of Hostilities Agreement that Ethiopia signed, the sole responsibility of the Security Council today is to invoke Chapter VII of the UN charter on the culprit, i.e. Ethiopia, to make it comply with Security Council Resolutions.

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

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