Kofi Annan is on the Verge of Committing another Rwanda
By: Ghidewon Abay-Asmerom
October 25, 2005

The delay of demarcation of the Eritrea-Ethiopia border in accordance to the final and binding Decision of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) is mainly due to Mr. Kofi Annan's inept handling of the process. The Secretary General, instead of holding his ground, sticking to the rule of law and these words of his: "Issues which arose in the Commission should be addressed within its proper legal framework, as efforts to reopen fundamental matters already settled through binding arbitration could only be counterproductive", he blinked and is now actively lobbying on behalf of Ethiopian leaders who are in breach of international law. It also looks it was Mr. Annan who counseled the Ethiopian Prime Minister to cloak his rejection of the final and binding Decision by a demand for "political dialogue" as a precondition for demarcation.

Mr. Kofi Annan, the Secretary General who had told the General Assembly that "laws must be put into practice; treaties and agreements must be respected and implemented," in 2004 is now doing his best to cover for the Ethiopian leaders who broke laws, rejected treaties and abrogated agreements.

Instead of standing for the rule of law, Mr. Annan chose to accommodate Ethiopia's rejection by appointing a Special Envoy, Canada's former Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy. This act by the Secretary General had only one purpose: to undercut the authority and mandate of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission. This was clear from the very beginning from what Lloyd Axworthy was declaring publicly. To Axworthy and by implication to Kofi Annan, the Decision of the Boundary Commission is not final and binding. It is something "axiomatic" and a Decision that needed "developing" until it is palatable to Ethiopian leaders. Thus it was this bungling by the Secretary General that has brought us to the dangerous stage where we are in currently. Today as another disastrous war looms over the horizon in the Horn of Africa, Kofi Annan's past blunder in Rwanda is in the process of repeating itself.

Mr. Annan is also to be blamed for his hollow and reversed logic of putting the cart before the horse.  As if normalization of relations and dialogue can take place between the two parties while one party, in this case Ethiopia, has rejected the final and binding border decision and is still occupying sovereign Eritrean territories, the Secretary General has been insisting ad nauseam on "political dialogue between the two countries." Had the Secretary General been forceful on making sure the rule of law is respected, the demarcation of the border would have been finalized at least two years ago and dialogue for normalization of relations between the two countries would have taken its natural course. Moreover an unconditional and speedy demarcation could have helped blow the clouds of war away.

Mr. Annan has irreversibly compromised his neutrality and the rule of law when he said Ethiopia is "ready for a broad agenda for a dialogue" and taking "a step in the right direction," while the conclusion of the EEBC was to the contrary. No wonder the Eritrean people and government have lost confidence in his handling of the final and binding EEBC Decision. President Isaias is also right on the mark to tell him "[you have] forfeited your relevance on the very issues raised [and] you cannot claim the legal, political, moral or humanitarian high ground on matters of law and humanitarian issues."

It only makes you question Mr. Annan's credibility and neutrality when you read him saying: "You know that our relationship with the Eritrean government has not been an easy one, and we are not the only organization or entity with difficult relations with that government." Isn't it time the Secretary General took a close look at how he is mishandling the demarcation of the border? First and foremost he needs to be a neutral diplomat who stands for the rule of the law without this he has no moral high ground to talk from.