British Ambassador Myles Wickstead - An Apologist for Apartheid Ethiopia
By: Sophia Tesfamariam
October 23, 2003

“If a ruler is given to lies, then all his servants become wicked” Proverbs 29:12

Melles Zenawi, the deceptive and lying leader of the minority regime in Ethiopia has surrounded himself with people who tolerate lying and deception. The Ethiopian people today have a leader who tells them lies and who encourages lying on his behalf as he insults the intelligence of the international community and the Ethiopian people. Today he is once again lining up cheerleaders and apologists as he rejects the Algiers Agreement and threatens to plunge the people of the region into another war.

True to its deceptive nature, in an effort to rally international support for its illegal activities, the regime in Addis is again using prominent self-serving personalities, religious leaders, “experts”, “unnamed diplomats”, “senior officials” and today Ambassadors, in its ill-advised campaign against the Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission. This campaign that has arrogantly escalated to where the Ethiopian Government is openly insulting the members of the independent Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission with impunity. The international community’s inaction will encourage the regime to continue with its belligerent and arrogant stance.

Despite the regime’s extensive patterns of lying, a five year long pattern of deception, of purposely misleading the Ethiopian people, dodging the truth, and saying one thing and doing another, Ambassador Wickstead has chosen to vouch for it. As it had throughout the conflict with Eritrea, the minority regime has relied on diplomats who are serving in Addis to promote its war mongering agenda.

Goaded by muscle-flexing, narrow nationalist Tigrayan advisers, jingoistic journalists, and with support from foreigners such as Ambassador Shinn, Paul Henze and Peter Gilkes to name a few, Melles Zenawi went to war on a lie and invaded sovereign Eritrean territories. Taking into consideration the support these “foreigners” gave to Melles Zenawi and his expansionist minority regime, the Ethiopian people decided to trust this inveterate liar, and for that, sad to say, more than 120,000 of them paid the ultimate price-their precious lives- they were used as cannon fodder and minesweepers in Melles Zenawi’s war of expansion.

I read the interview given by the British Ambassador to Ethiopia, Mr. Myles Wickstead to the Ethiopian Reporter on October 8th, 2003 and I cannot honestly say that I am surprised. Ambassador Wickstead’s statements, while unfortunate and ill advised, cannot change the final and binding verdict of the Eritrean Ethiopian Border Commission. What his statements have done is further embolden the apartheid regime to continue with its lawlessness and acts of belligerence.

Ambassador Wickstead ought to be embarrassed for previous statements he made in support of Melles Zenawi and his lying regime. For example, on December 14, 2001 Ambassador Myles Wickstead, vouching for the regime in Ethiopia told the Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) that:

“Ethiopia is fully cooperating with the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE)” and that “Ethiopia's all rounded support and cooperation with the mission was commendable”.

This of course was not the truth at all. It should be recalled that right from the beginning, when the Temporary Security Zone was being established, Ethiopia refused to comply and allow the Temporary Security Zone to be established in accordance with the Algiers Agreement. The deployment map had to be adjusted in the Southern border of the TSZ to accommodate Ethiopia. Eritrea repeatedly registered strong objections to the adjustments made to original political and operational maps of the proposed TSZ. Eritrea’s objections were ignored and the TSZ was “established” with Eritrean forces redeploying 25 kilometers from the redeployed Ethiopian positions.

Then came the issue of direct flights. The UN Secretary General announced then that:

“The important issue of direct flights between Addis Ababa and Asmara has been resolved, and they are expected to begin on 15 January 2001. These direct flights between the two capitals will enhance the operational and logistical capabilities of UNMEE and reduce the safety risks to its personnel”

But that quickly changed, because a couple of days later it announced that:

“However, on the following day, these flights were put on hold, pending further discussion and agreement on the exact route to be used by UNMEE aircraft”.

The truth is that while Eritrea was willing to authorize UNMEE flights by the direct route between the two capitals, a route used by commercial flights before hostilities began in 1998, the apartheid regime insisted on a route requiring a diversion. The UN continues to call for direct flights, but has not singled out Ethiopia as the culprit.

On the issue of mines, in his Progress Report, the Secretary General on June 19th, 2001 stated, “The Ethiopian authorities maintain that they have no central records of mines laid in the Temporary Security Zone”. On March 10th, the report stated, “Ethiopian authorities state that records about where their landmines were laid were not kept. Ethiopian Armed Forces do not record their mine-laying activities”

But over a year later in April of 2002, it was reported “Ethiopia provided to the UN detailed maps of mines its forces laid in Eritrea during the border conflict”. I don’t know how you get “detailed” maps from an army which has repeatedly stated that it kept no records and that it did not know where it laid the landmines. In any case, again the UN accepted these “detailed” reports and decided to moved on. Ethiopia lied about it continues to lie up until today.

Ethiopia continues to obstruct the work of UNMEE, continues to violate the Cessation of Hostilities agreement and continues to compromise the integrity of the Temporary Security Zone. Suffice it to mention the provocative “football game” in the TSZ by Ethiopia’s Armed Forces. Despite Ethiopia’s belligerent record, as both countries awaited the decision of the EEBC, on February 6th, 2002 Ambassador Wickstead in an interview with IRIN, said:

"The government (Ethiopia) has made it very clear, and it is on the record that it will accept the recommendations of the Boundary Commission,"

He also stated:

"We think that it is absolutely the right attitude, and peace and stability are of course one of the preconditions for economic growth and development."

Obviously what was on “record” doesn’t matter. The Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission delivered its final and binding decision on April 13th, 2002. The minority regime in Addis has refused to accept that decision. Encouraged by diplomats such as the British Ambassador, the apartheid regime is now trying to have that decision changed. The British Ambassador in his October 8th interview with the Ethiopian reporter explains the minority regime’s intentions:

“…Both parties agreed to abide by the decisions of the Commission. And the international community is quite clear that we will not do anything which undermines the decisions of the Commission. At the same time, it has always been the case that through dialogue, through agreement between the two parties they are able to vary the decisions of the Commission. This has always been an option…”

And then again states:

“As I said before I think it is very important to be clear that we are not looking for an alternative which overrides the Boundary Commission's decision. We do think that there is a need for political dialogue which will supplement the Commission's decision. I know this may seem rather a legal fine point but it is important to make it very clear that none of us is prepared to do anything which will undermine the Boundary Commission's decision.

The good Ambassador must surely know that it is not merely “a legal fine point” but the legal fine point. He must know that dialogue will undermine the EEBC decision and the EEBC will no longer have jurisdiction over the case…so if the Ambassador is not looking for an alternative which overrides the Boundary Commissions decision, what is it that he seeking as he tries to enforce dialogue? Ambassador Wickstead should encourage Ethiopia to abide by international law; honor agreements it has signed and insist on the strict and expeditious implementation of the EEBC decision, as it is the only supplement the Commissions decision needs.

As to the Ambassador’s futile effort to whitewash the apartheid regime’s abysmal and shameful human rights record, I would respectfully ask him to listen to the voices of ordinary Ethiopians. Here is an excerpt of a letter sent to the British Government by Ethiopian:

“The declaration by the International Development Agency of Britain that the British government will be strengthening military ties with the ruling EPRDF in Ethiopia and that Britain will be giving aid to the police and security forces of the EPRDF has saddened many Ethiopians…The allegation by the concerned British official that the training of the police and the security forces will reduce the human rights violations in Ethiopia gives a false representation of the reality in the country”.

“The violations are not a result of ill training or lack of proper equipment but of the absence of the political will to respect the rights of Ethiopians. The murder of hundreds in Tepi and Awassa, the brutal repression of student demonstrators, the lack of due process, the systematic torture of prisoners, the disappearances, the repression against independent journalists, etc are all to be traced not to lack of training of the police but to the reliance on violence and repression by the EPRDF. It is sad to note that the British government has decided to arm and train the police and the security in the situation where the ones giving the orders to these forces have no desire to respect the rights of the people. The British government should do well to condemn the human rights violations and to support the Ethiopian people's aspirations for justice, rights and democracy.(Emphasis mine)

Legwaila Joseph Legwaila in the weekly UNMEE press conference called on the international “press” to stop endangering the peace process with their inflammatory reports; he ought to consider making a similar plea to foreign diplomats, ambassadors, “experts”, “religious leaders”, “regional analysts”, and other conduits used by the minority regime in Addis as it pursues its illegal agenda. He ought to appeal to them equally to desist from encouraging the apartheid regime’s arrogant lawlessness.

The Rule of Law must prevail over the rule of the jungle.