If Only Eritrea's Warnings were Heeded
Oct 1, 2003


Many outsiders might have been surprised by Meles' letter of rejection of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) Decision. The Eritrean people? Definitely not! More importantly not the Eritrean Government.

For the past 18 months President Isaias and the Government have been telling the Eritrean public, the diplomatic community and the world at large that Ethiopia has not accepted the EEBC Decision and had no intention of doing so. They have been appealing to the international community to take action on Ethiopia for her refusal to accept the unanimous and "final and binding" Decision. The UN Secretary General, the Presidency of the European Union, the African Union's President Joaquim Chissano and before him South Africa's Tabo Mebki, President Bush, Prime Minister Blair and others have received not only one, but in some cases more than three letters each. The letters were pleading with these leaders to encourage Ethiopia to act responsibly. They should tell her, in no uncertain terms, to pursue the path of peace rather than war. Alas none of Eritrea's advance warning was heeded. We are where we are now because of the world's inaction against Ethiopia's violations coupled with the minority regime's irrational behavior.

President Isaias' interviews and public speeches are also clear on how Eritrea was think these past months. The President was right on the money in predicting what Meles and Co. were doing and will be doing. Here is a sample from the president's speeches in the past six months. More importantly, the full text of the President's letter to the UN Secretary General from September 3, 2003 is reproduced in its entirety here. These will show you how well Eritrea had read the TPLF's mind.

12th Independence Anniversary Message, May 24, 2003

"The TPLF regime, which had unleashed the unjustified war in the first place, however continues to concoct endless obstructions to impede the demarcation process and reverse the boundary decision that it had publicly accepted as "final and binding". Why?"

"The TPLF claims not to be satisfied with the decision and as far as it is concerned, its war agenda remains intact. But the fact is, there was no good-faith border dispute in the first place that could have led to war. ... Neither was it the TPLF's goodwill and desire to resolve the conflict legally that led to the formation of the Boundary Commission. The TPLF's underlying motive for unleashing the war was neither a dispute over Badme nor some other border issue. The TPLF's singular objective was to inflict military humiliation on the Eritrean people and dehumanise them, frustrate their efforts for economic development and prosperity, and reduce them to a third/fourth-class people and country. ... War has not produced the outcome that the TPLF craved for. Arbitration has not appeased its insatiable appetite. This is precisely why the TPLF is currently engaged in devising all sorts of obstructions to reverse the decision of the Boundary Commission."

"In the past few weeks, the TPLF has continued with intensity to peddle various pretexts as part and parcel of its efforts to impede the implementation of the decision. At times, the preferred ploy is to appeal "for transferring legal jurisdiction of the dispute to the United Nations" because "the Boundary Commission has failed to accommodate its concerns". At other times, the appeal hinges on "appreciating the political difficulties that the TPLF is facing because the Ethiopian people have not accepted the decision of the Boundary Commission". Other ruses include: deliberate distortion of selective paragraphs in the Framework Agreement;"

"In brief, the TPLF regime is engaged in an intense diplomatic campaign, conducting almost daily briefings to the diplomatic community in Addis Abeba and carrying out similar activities worldwide to undermine the decision. There are those who argue that if the ongoing efforts to change the decision of the Boundary Commission fail, the TPLF has no alternative but to again unleash war and occupy Asmara at any cost as this can win popular support!"

"The Algiers Peace Agreement has no loopholes that can be exploited to dilute the "final and binding" nature of the court ruling. The United Nations, which was a witness in the signature of the Agreement in Algiers and represented by the Secretary General, or any other party, has no legal or moral authority to change the boundary decision."

Interview with the BBC, May 2003

"I can only say the war situation prevails, despite the fact that last year in April the Boundary Commission gave its verdict. The decision was final and binding, according to the agreement signed in Algiers. But the government in Ethiopia is reluctant to accept that. It has tried to influence the decision of the Boundary Commission which is the court decision."

"The government in Ethiopia has asked the United Nations to intervene and violate the decision of the boundary commission. This is none of the business of the United Nations. The Secretary General of UN was present in Algiers when we signed the agreement and said the decision of the boundary commission would be final and binding. It is final and binding."

Interview with Eritrean Radio (April 18, 2003)

"There are also those who say: Let us not waste our time arguing with the boundary commission or the UN, and call for a new mediation that will enable us to talk about the port of Assab as a main component and forget about Badme, Zela Ambesa or Tserona. They say: This can help us to come out of the political crisis we are in, because many Ethiopians can support us and it will be easy for us to go to war.

"There is also a group that says: We were unable to succeed despite putting forward all the arguments and despite the haggling. We did what we could to have the border ruling changed. We tried to secure support from the superpowers, but all in vain. We secured some sympathy, but we could not have the decision changed. We should try to have the case taken to the UN, and if this fails, we should create a precarious situation by saying we will never leave Badme."

"There are some ambassadors in Addis Ababa and some representatives of governments abroad - I'm not mentioning names - who say the Ethiopian government is in a major political crisis. They say the problems in Ethiopia are worse than yours [than in Eritrea]. They say [Prime Minister] Meles has serious problems and there will be anarchy in Ethiopia if Meles is toppled. Ethiopia's disintegration will have repercussions on you [Eritrea]. Thus, they ask for an accommodation [last word in English]."

"But this will only complicate the matter. It is unacceptable, because it breaks the law. These are utterances made by various people who consider themselves to be ambassadors or representatives of various countries or the UN. There are also calls for direct and indirect talks aimed at confidence building, but we say a verdict is a verdict. You cannot talk to change a verdict. Regarding the political problems in Ethiopia, the government there should be able to solve them on its own. A verdict is a verdict and we cannot be a scapegoat at this stage for Ethiopia's internal political crisis."

Letter to Kofi Annan (September 3, 2003)
"Dear Mr. Secretary General,

"Allow me to extend to you my best wishes for good health and success in your heavy international responsibilities. Let me also avail of the occasion to express again our utmost sadness at the tragic death of Mr. Sergio de Mello, your special envoy to Iraq."

"Mr. Secretary General,

"As you are aware, the war that Ethiopia unleashed against my country in 1998 under the false pretext of a "dispute over Badme", - that inculcated a huge loss of human life and a massive dislocation of our people - has attained a legal resolution through the award of the Boundary Commission of 13 April 2002. This was in accordance with the Algiers Agreement that was blessed with Your Excellency's personal presence and signature."

"But notwithstanding the explicit provisions of the Algiers Agreement on the final and binding nature of the decision, Ethiopia continues to resort, with impunity, to the law of the jungle to defy the Boundary Commission's decision and to obstruct its implementation. Ethiopia's reckless and illegal acts have aggravated the plight of thousands of our citizens who remain dislocated from their home villages and condemned to live in makeshift camps under appalling conditions. Ethiopia is even sponsoring acts of terror and subversion to create a climate of fear and confusion. And yet, for reasons we fail to understand, the international community, and especially the United Nations, continues to act as a bystander to tolerate these injustices."

"What we particularly find mind boggling at this juncture are notions of "confidence-building" and "early rapprochement". These ideas are apparently being peddled by Ethiopia so as to undermine the implementation of the boundary decision. Eritrea cannot possibly be expected to contemplate normalisation of bilateral ties when our sovereign territory remains occupied and when our people are denied their inalienable right to return to their home villages and slowly heal the scars of war? Putting the cart before the horse will not solve but rather compound the problem."

"The suffering of our people and their disillusionment is worsening with time; especially the situation of those who are languishing in makeshift camps under extremely harsh physical conditions for almost five years now. Unjustified delays and postponements of demarcation, which can only exacerbate these sufferings, cannot be acceptable morally and from a humanitarian perspective. The costs that will be borne in the next ten months or so until demarcation is completed, if ever, in June 2004 in accordance with the new time-table cannot be rationalised. Indeed, there is no reason why the United Nations should foot a bill to the tune of quarter billion dollars a year to maintain a precarious peace that is increasingly becoming tenuous."

"Mr. Secretary General,

"The United Nations has primary responsibility for upholding justice. We particularly expect the UN to extend all possible support to end the sufferings of our people due to Ethiopia's illegal occupation. We see no reason why those who are flouting international law are accommodated or rewarded. In this spirit, I appeal to you, Mr. Secretary General, to see to it that the United Nations takes the necessary legal measures to uphold international law and ensure expeditious demarcation of the border."

"Accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest esteem.

Isaias Afwerki
President, the State of Eritrea

H.E. Kofi A. Annan
Secretary General
The United Nations."

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2003 Dehai Eritrea Online