Justice Has Prevailed over Badme
The Final Decision of the Border Commission of Eritrea and Ethiopia

Ogbazgy Abbay Asmerom
April 24, 2003

Eritreans have been lamenting the miscarriage of justice when it came to every Eritrean issue in the corridors of the Organization of African Unity, the United Nations, the United States of America, the European Union, and other International Organization for over five decades. And for many years, from 1941-1991, justice had been denied to Eritreans. Finally, and for the first time in history Eritreans have seen justice! The sun of justice has risen for Eritrea from the direction of Badme.

According to the communiqué entitled “Observations” issued on March 21, 2003, by the Border Commission of Eritrea and Ethiopia, it is evident that there is some light at the end of the tunnel for Eritrea and the Eritrean people. It shows that, finally, justice has been served to Eritrea and the Eritrean people. The Commission has clearly declared that Badme is in Eritrea.

The Border Commission stated:

“This conclusion followed from the inadequacy of Ethiopia’s evidence. Since Badme village (as opposed to some other parts of the Badme region) lay on what was found to be the Eritrean side of the treaty line, there was no need for the Commission to consider any evidence of Eritrean governmental presence there, although Eritrea did in fact submit such evidence. Moreover, even some maps submitted by Ethiopia not only showed the distinctive straight line between the Setit and Mareb Rivers, but also marked Badme village as being on the Eritrean side of that line." EEBC Observations (March 21, 2003).

This is indeed good news to the ears of the Eritrean people. To restore “sovereignty over Badme,” was the excuse the Ethiopian government told the people of Ethiopia and the world when it declared its premeditated war on Eritrea on May 13, 1998. For the last 5 years, from 1998-2003, during the duration of the war and afterwards, the whole world was repeatedly and miserably misled by the mundane rhetoric of the TPLF and its sympathizers. The leaders from Tigray, in the name of Ethiopia, had repeatedly tried to vilify Eritrea as the “aggressor.” Without any shame, the Ethiopian government continued to deceive, hoodwink, dupe, and mislead public opinion, by first declaring war on Eritrea and then attempting to occupy the whole of Eritrea, including the vital seaports of Massawa and Assab. It prevaricated and demanded to have its own way in the peace talks. Nevertheless, all its wicked attempts failed miserably. Now, that Badme has been declared, unequivocally, an Eritrean territory, Eritrea has been vindicated. To borrow the TPLF gangs’ favorite phrase “the rule of law has won over the rule of the jungle.” The world is now seeing who the real advocate for the rule of law was and who was advocating the rule of the jungle. Indeed it is the TPLF leaders who are refusing to abide by international agreements they signed and choosing the law of the jungle over international law. The Eritrean government and public know, from day one, that the ethnic minority ruling Ethiopia is nothing but a gang the lives by deception, now the world is also seeing the true color of this regime.

The Eritrea-Ethiopia Border Commission must be commended for its bold position and final communiqué. In a clear and unambiguous way, it told the world and Ethiopia that the Decision of April 13, 2002 cannot be altered to satisfy the hunger and thirsty of empire building. The Decision is final and binding.

The Commission asserted how it was able to make the Decision. In a clear statement, here is what the Commission said:

“In the present case, this conclusion is the more compelling in the light of three considerations in particular, to which the Parties had agreed in advance:

(a) first, they knew in advance, and agreed, that the result of the Commission’s delimitation of the boundary might not be identical with previous areas of territorial administration and might follow a course which resulted in populations ending up on the ‘wrong’ side of the boundary, and that where such a situation arose the ensuing problems were for resolution by the UN rather than by the Commission (Article 4.16 of the December 2000 Agreement);

“(b) Second, the Parties knew in advance, and agreed, that it was not open to the Commission to make its decisions on the basis of ex aequo et bono considerations (Article 4.2);

“(c) Third, the Parties knew in advance, and agreed, that the boundary as delimited by the Commission’s Delimitation Decision would be final (Article 4.15), i.e., not subject to amendment, including therefore amendment during the process devoted to and limited to demarcation of the boundary delimited.”

The Commission reiterated its Decision was based on the December 2000 Agreement, in which the Parties stipulated that the Commission’s mandate was to determine the boundary based on the three Treaties of 1900, 1902 and 1908 as well as applicable international law. Accordingly, the Commission dealt with the boundary in three sectors corresponding to the three Treaties. Thus, the decision was a result of facts and treaties, as they were presented by the parties.

Before the final “Observations” were issued on March 21, 2003, we had some warnings from the Weyane leaders indicating that the Commission’s decision may not be accepted by Ethiopia. The President of the Border Commission, Sir Elihu Lauterpacht, reported to the UNSC on February 21, 2003:

“Notwithstanding the clarity with which the Commission has stated the limits upon its authority, Ethiopia has continued to seek variations to the boundary line delimited in the April Decision, and has done so in terms that appear, despite protestations to the contrary, to undermine not only the April Decision but also the peace process as a whole. Thus, Ethiopia’s comments contained the following passage:

“Ethiopia has understood that this line would be subject to refinement during the demarcation process when the effective administration of the Parties could be determined in the field. It was on this basis that the Government accepted the April Decision and it is on this basis only that the Government continues to do so.” [§ 1.5]

The Commission sees in the words italicized above intimation that Ethiopia will not adhere to the April Decision if its claim to “refinement” of the April Decision delimitation is not accepted. The Commission’s disquiet on this point has been increased by statements made on behalf of Ethiopia at the meeting on 9 February 2003.”-- Sir Elihu Lauterpacht, President of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission, Report to the UN Security Council, 21 February 2003

The Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, had also this to say:

"In recent meetings with my Special Representative, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia and Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin expressed their serious concerns regarding the Boundary Commission’s demarcation of the border. While emphasizing Ethiopia’s commitment to peace and to the Algiers Agreements, the Prime Minister noted that if its concerns were not properly addressed, Ethiopia might eventually reject the demarcation-related decisions of the Commission."-- Progress Report of the Secretary-General on Ethiopia and Eritrea, March 6, 2003

Acting on the Report it got from the Secretary General and the President of the Border Commission the Security Council of the UN had this to say in its March 14 resolution:

“Urges both Ethiopia and Eritrea to continue to assume their responsibilities and fulfill their commitments under the Algiers Agreements and calls upon them to cooperate fully and promptly with the Boundary Commission to enable it to fulfill the mandate conferred upon it by the parties of expeditiously delimiting and demarcating the boundary, to implement fully the Commission’s binding Demarcation Directions, to abide promptly by all its Orders, including those issued on 17 July 2002 (S/2002/853), and to take all steps necessary to provide the necessary security on the ground for the staff of the Commission when operating in territories under their control;" UN Security Council RESOLUTION 1466 (2003) (March 14, 2003)
As Dr. Tekie aptly noted few weeks ago, we need to note that Ethiopia is still in “material breach” of the Border Commission Rulings as well as two Security Council Resolutions. The latest reports coming from MeKelle, the capital city of Tigray, where the current rulers of Ethiopia come from, indicate that Tigray and Ethiopia may not withdraw from Badme.

Here is what the President of Tigray State, Tsegay Berhe, told IRN News Service on April 1, 2003:”In my view this is not justice but is creating problems, not only now but for the coming generations,” He continued to say: “We don’t know, we don’t understand how the Commission has decided this,” He added “It is possible there will be trouble when they come to put the pillars in. We cannot imagine the consequences,” The Deputy President, Abadi Zemo, stated: “The local population was apprehensive.” He added: “Even if the government is forced to accept [the decision], the people will not accept it. In one way or another there will be skirmishes,” It is obvious these are words of blackmail, sabotage, threats, and deceit. They are uttered to show a sign of disrespect to the rule of International Law.

On April 2, 2003, the Ethiopian Ministry of Information also issued a statement that said: “Ethiopia today expressed regrets over the Boundary Commission’s failure to fully comply with the Algiers Agreement of December 2000 and its own Delimitation Decision of 13 April, 2002 in the interpretation of the letter and spirit of those provisions for the purpose of Demarcation.” Walta Information Center, April 2, 2003.

As a result, once more the Ethiopian government wants the Commission to rectify the “alleged mistakes” it thinks were made by the International Jurists, including two chosen by Ethiopia. It added: “the Commission (should) resort to the fuller rectification of the mistakes it has committed in the interpretation of the Algiers Agreement and the Delimitation Decision.” What this means is that it wants the Commission to reverse its decision and give Badme to Tigray (Ethiopia). How many times does the Ethiopian government need to be told about the same thing? The decision is final. It is binding.

On the other hand the word that is coming out of Asmara, the Eritrean capital, is positive. According to the BBC of Monday, 31 March, 2003, the Eritrean acting Minister of Information, Mr. Ali Abdu Ahmed, has welcomed the latest ruling. He stated: "We are talking about the rule of law. No party is allowed to change this. There is no good war and no bad peace". The Eritrean people have also accepted the Decision. They believe it is a Decision that could end the hostilities between Eritrea and Tigray. What Eritreans want is to concentrate on its reconstruction and development plans. Eritrea has never favored war over peace and it will never do. Eritrea’s commitment from day one has been to work so that peace could prevail in its region. We know there is no substitute to peace. It is a prerequisite to development. That is what Eritrea needs and that is what Eritrea is working for. It has made it clear that its priority is the war over famine, drought and underdevelopment. In short it is time to move on. Tigray and Ethiopia too must accept the final verdict on Badme. They should never contemplate of another war. The people of Tigray and Ethiopia deserve something better than war. The people need to be fed and be helped to survive the looming drought and famine. They need be treated, in a better way, from various curses of diseases, including the epidemic of HIV/AIDS...

To do this Ethiopia needs to be encouraged and pressured to choose peace over war. If Tigray and Ethiopia insist on prevaricating and continue with their delaying tactics, the Security Council should be seized of the “material breach.” Ethiopia should be told clearly that it would reap what it has been sowing. The leaders of Ethiopia need to know there will be severe consequences to blackmail, deceit, vacillation, arrogance, and outright refusal to comply with the Decision of the Border Commission. The UN Security Council Resolutions must be respected.

Let the markers and pillars be put on the ground and let the people know the new border. Let there be a conclusion to the 5-year of indecision and stone walling. Demarcation should begin immediately.

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©2003 Dehai Eritrea Online