UNSC Resolution 1640: A Travesty of Justice
By: Huriy Ghirmai
November 29, 2005

After all that brouhaha about the imminent war between Eritrea and Ethiopia and the unremitting howling by Secretary General Kofi Anan about the urgency in preventing it, here we are now lumbered with Resolution 1640. For many of us, and I might add not just us Eritreans but all fair-minded people everywhere, the content of the resolution has invoked a dreamlike incredulity. How can this be?

Through the resolution, the UNSC threatens a range of sanctions against Eritrea for what is nothing more than a side issue; at that, a side issue worth not saying much about. Taken by Kofi Anan's hype regarding the need for a decisive measure by the Security Council, we had all come to expect a more substantial resolution. But that has been proven all hype and no substance at all. It seems that the UN is not genuinely interested in addressing the main cause of the current crisis between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

As it stands, Ethiopia still remains defiant and on the wrong side of the norms of international law. By being so, it has put the peace and security of the Horn of Africa and beyond in grave danger. Three years after the EEBC delivered its delimitation decision, the Eritrean Ethiopian border remains undemarcated. As a result of Ethiopia's non-compliance, peace between the two countries remains elusive.

The United Nations has done nothing of significance to curb Ethiopia's excesses. Instead, it has time and again gone to a great length to placate it. Its abysmal failure has not been for want of mandate. On the contrary, the UN is well placed to exert punitive measure should Ethiopia persist with its non-compliance with the Algiers Agreement.

The UN's apparently partisan step now will in fact, contrary to what it claims, make the threat of war between Eritrea and Ethiopia that much more probable. Any action by the UN that falls short of either inducing or forcing the Ethiopian government to accept the EEBC decision fully and without any precondition will mark the unravelling of the Algiers Agreement. All versions of such scenario point to one thing: a resumption of war between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

The UN knows this very well. It knows that the only logical conclusion to the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia, including the two year war between 1998 and 2000, is the consummation of the Algiers Agreement. It knows also that ultimately, the only thing that can ensure lasting peace between the two countries is a full and complete demarcation of their common border.

That concluded, in good time, everything else would follow naturally. Relations would be normalised and neighbourly dialogue will follow on. Eritrea and Ethiopia are neighbours and it is in the interest of the peoples of both countries that their relations should be normalised. But neighbourly relations cannot be instituted through blackmail and intimidation. To think that relations can be normalised while Ethiopia illegally occupies sovereign Eritrean land is silly at best.

Resolution 1640 may not only be aimed at placating the Ethiopian government. It may not only be aimed at saving the Ethiopian Prime Minister from a political quagmire of his own making. It is intended to intimidate the government and people of Eritrea. The action of the UNSC is not about justice or the upholding of the rule of law. It is about punishing a law-abiding member nation for a reason that is far beyond speculative logic. It is about helping out a client nation.

If this were a genuine attempt by the UNSC to avert a potentially destructive war between Eritrea and Ethiopia, then pressure should have been put on Ethiopia to accept the EEBC decision immediately and cooperate with the Boundary Commission for its expeditious implementation. More than that, it should have included specific punitive options to be taken against the Ethiopians for their breach of the Algiers Agreement.

But sadly, Resolution 1640 is not about justice; nor is it about ensuring peace and security in the Horn of Africa. It is about intimidation. It is about spinning facts and ultimately the truth. Eritrea is in the right; it is standing on the right side of every law and nothing it has done so far can be seen as inappropriate. On the contrary in fact, it has shown an extraordinary level of patience in order to allow for the peaceful conclusion to the present crisis.

So, as it is always the case with Eritrea, everything comes down to what Eritreans can do for themselves. The project of intimidating Eritrea and its people into submission is nothing new. The UN on its part has played a key role in such a project in the past and now, here it is again violating its own Charter. There is not much surprise there. 

Sometimes, one would be forgiven in thinking that there is no justice in this world; that the United Nationís protestation about universal peace and security and the rule of law is mere talk; that the UN Charter is just a string of dead words; and that there is not point in expecting anything more than a partisan involvement by the UN where Eritrea and Ethiopia are concerned.

But more often than not, people have to fight for justice. The difference may be that in their struggle for justice, Eritreans will have no one but themselves to rely on. Resolution 1640 is a conclusive evidence of this. But still, the struggle will go on since blackmail and intimidation is no substitute for truth and just cause. Eritrea has plenty of the latter two.