Visiting the Border Area: A Stillborn Gimmick to Amend the EEBCs Final ...
By: Sophia Tesfamariam
February 1, 2006

In their futile effort to amend, revise and revisit the final and binding decision of the the Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission (EEBC) and to justify the defiant nature and intransigent behaviors of the Tigrayan minority regime in Ethiopia led by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the million dollars a month K Street lobbyists, their operatives and collaborators, who are employed and embedded in various institutions, think tanks, media outlets etc. etc. have been producing seemingly endless hairsplitting analysis, predictions and scenarios such as “Communities will be divided”, "Meles will fall", "Ethiopia is a big country and Eritrea is a small country", "Ethiopia will disintegrate and become another Somalia", "Eritrea has the moral high ground", "Dialogue is the way forward for demarcation" etc. etc.


Today in another futile attempt to amend, revise and revisit the final and binding decision of the EEBC, these misguided spin doctors are concocting new gimmicks and are presenting fabricated, distorted and diversionary analyses. These new gimmicks and fabrications are based on hollow and childish arguments such as “The Boundary Commission did not visit the area”, “st1:country-region w:st="on">Ethiopia believed it had been awarded Badme” etc. etc. The main propagators of these misguided, diversionary, hollow and childish arguments are:


  1. International Crisis Group
  2. Christopher Clapham
  3. Edward Denison


1.      International Crisis Group


In its 22 December 2005 Africa Report N°101 entitled “Ethiopia and Eritrea: Preventing War”, a report that is replete with factual errors and deliberate omissions and submissions, the International Crisis Group wrote:


“…Having initially welcomed the boundary decision, Ethiopia reversed itself upon learning (after closer examination of the less than clear documentation) that this town – against the expectations of both sides – had been awarded to Eritrea…Its decision, issued in April 2002, clearly awarded to Ethiopia the town of Zala Ambassa and much of the Irob area, but in the western sector it indicated only the coordinates of the boundary, without specifying the disposition of Badme. An OAU official in The Hague (where the Boundary Commission was based), however, reported to his headquarters that Ethiopia retained Badme. The communication was apparently leaked to the Ethiopian government, since Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin immediately held a press conference at which he affirmed that “Badme and its surrounding belong to Ethiopia…”


2.      Christopher Clapham


Christopher Clapham is a friend of Patrick Gilkes, who is now serving as the Special Advisor to Seyoum Mesfin, the Ethiopian Foreign Minister. He has for the last four years, consistently advocated for demarcation outside of the Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission’s (EEBC) final and binding decision and international law, its demarcation directives, orders and procedures. Today, attempting to mend his relationship with the minority regime in Ethiopia which soured because of his public statements and stand on the rigged Ethiopian May elections, Clapham, a history professor, is trying to challenge the distinguished world renowned legal experts, the EEBC Commissioners. Insulting the Commissioners and the intelligence of the international community, in the 10 and 14 January 2006 letters to the Times of London, Christopher Clapham wrote:

“…The Commissioners never visited the area, they adopted widely different criteria for different parts of the border, and they took no account of the political circumstances that had led to the war and followed from it…Even though there was no requirement for the commissioners to visit the area, had they done so they would have gained a greatly improved understanding of the practical issues involved in siting a disputed frontier in mountainous terrain, and also been able to consult the views of local communities, which again could straightforwardly be justified in terms of applicable international law. They would in short have been in a position to make a wiser and better informed decision…The commissioners failed to do so. They stand condemned…”

3.      Edward Denison


Unable to articulate the fact that it was not the United Nation’s experts but rather, the Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission that produced the 13 April 2002 report, without any basis for his flawed analysis, in his distorted ‘cut and paste’18 January 2006 report posted on entitled “Eritrea vs. Ethiopia: the shadow of war”, Edward Denison wrote: 


“…In April 2002, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague announced the decision. Both sides immediately declared it a success and a vindication of their actions in the war. However, critically, the name of the tiny settlement of Badme, a village near the border, was noticeably absent from the official report…Due to the village’s adopted significance, the UN’s experts had decided not to mention its name in their official report, but it was quickly apparent that Badme had been awarded to Eritrea…”




I.      The independent Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission was not mandated to visit villages and towns to be awarded to Eritrea and Ethiopia. The Algiers Agreements signed by the two parties unambiguously restricted the EEBC from taking political and human geography into consideration. Article 4.2 of the Algiers Agreements clearly says:


 “…delimit and demarcate the colonial treaty border based on pertinent colonial treaties (1900, 1902 and 1908) and applicable international law. The Commission

shall not have the power to make decisions ex aequo et bono…”


Further elaborating this fact, the EEBC in its 24 February 2005 16th Report on the Work of the Commission to the Security Council said:


“…The Commission accordingly moved on to the demarcation phase of its activity, having already appointed a Chief Surveyor and a Special Consultant and opened Field Offices. The Parties were consulted and their views were taken into account in the formulation of the Demarcation Directions, which were promulgated on 8 July 2002. At that stage, neither Party suggested that the Commission had, or should have, a power to vary the boundary in the course of demarcation or that there was any need for more than limited technical discussion between them before the demarcation could begin and be carried to a conclusion. Direction 14A of the Demarcation Directions specifically stated:


“The Commission has no authority to vary the boundary line. If it runs through and divides a town or village, the line may be varied only on the basis of an express request agreed between and made by both Parties…”



II.      Contrary to what the ICG, Clapham and Denison tried to insinuate, the Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission’s 125 page Final and Binding 13 April 2002 decision clearly states as to whom Badme was awarded. The EEBC unequivocally awarded Badme to Eritrea. The highly paid Ethiopia lawyers, the Government of Ertirea and the minority regime in Ethiopia knew this decision. Rejecting Ethiopia’s claim to territories west of the Eritrean claim line and unequivocally placing Badme in Eritrea. The EEBC in its reports in Paragraphs 5.84, 5.92-5.95 and Paragraph 8.1 wrote the following:


Paragraph 5.84


The Commission is satisfied that the negotiators [of the 1902 treaty] did not have in mind as the boundary the Ethiopian claim line running from Point 3 to Point 9”


Paragraph 5.92


“…However, there is one specific body of material to which the Commission has given careful consideration, namely, the Ethiopian evidence of its activities in the area west of Eritrea’s claim line. The Commission notes that no evidence of such activities was introduced in the Ethiopian Memorial. The evidence to be examined appeared only in the Ethiopian Counter-Memorial…”


Paragraph 5.93


“…The places in which Ethiopia claimed to have exercised authority west of the Eritrean claim line are all, with two exceptions, clustered in the northeast corner of the disputed triangle of territory. The most westerly location is Shelalo. The Commission observes that the area of claimed Ethiopian administrative activity comprises, at the most, one-fifth of the disputed area. The area of claimed administration does not extend in any significant way towards the Ethiopian claim line…”


Paragraph 5.94


“…The Commission observes, secondly, that the dates of Ethiopian conduct relate to only a small part of the period that has elapsed since the 1902 Treaty. There are some references to sporadic friction in 1929-1932 at Acqua Morchiti. Apart from those, the material introduced by Ethiopia dates no further back than, at the earliest, 1951 – a grant of a local chieftaincy to an Ethiopian general. Even this grant, in specifying the places sought by the general, namely, Afra, Sheshebit, Shelalo, from Jerba up to Tokomlia, Dembe Dina and Dembe Guangul, described them as “uninhabited places” which the general wanted to develop. The evidence collection of taxes is limited to 1958 and 1968. In 1969 there is a reference to a table of statistics about the Adiabo area, but of the places mentioned in the table only two appear to be marked on the Ethiopian illustrative figure of the claimed region. One item dating from 1970 refers to the destruction of incense trees…There is some evidence of policing activities in the Badme Wereda in 1972-1973 and of the evaluation of an elementary school at Badme town. There are, in addition, a few items dating from 1991 and 1994…”


Paragraph 5.95


“…These references represent the bulk of the items adduced by Ethiopia in support of its claim to have exercised administrative authority west of the Eritrean claim line. The Commission does not find in them evidence of administration of the area sufficiently clear in location, substantial in scope or extensive in time to displace the title of Eritrea that had crystallized as of 1935.


III.      In order to avoid any ambiguity in its award of Badme to Eritrea, the Commission also included in its demarcation decision and reports the Dispositifs containing ‘Maps Illustrating the Delimitation Line’ and  ‘Reference Points’.


In Paragraph 8.1 the Commission decided that the line of the boundary between Eritrea and Ethiopia- In the Western Sector as:


Therefore, any further attempt to amend, revisit, and revise the final and binding decision of the EEBC, using the pretext “Ethiopia was initially confused as to whom Badme was awarded” and “The Commissioners did not visit the border area”,  is not only irresponsible and dangerous, it also brings to question the intentions, credibility and integrity of the persons and institutions that are propagating these absurd, baseless, diversionary, fabricated, hollow, childish, not to mention illegal and irrelevant arguments.


The international community including these individuals and institutions should leave the job to the qualified, professional body mandated to demarcate the Eritrea Ethiopia border, the Boundary Commissioners. They also ought to call for the respect of the rule of law and international arbitration agreements and stop wasting valuable time and resources appeasing the deceptive flip flopping Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, and his vote rigging, genocidal, Tigrayan minority regime.


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


 Sophia Tesfamariam