Ignominy at Ethiopian Foreign Ministry
Sophia Tesfamariam
August 19, 2003

“Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour’s landmark”-Deuteronomy 27:17

Ethiopia says UNMEE “increasing border tension”- that was the headline on IRIN today. I am neither surprised by this latest intransigence nor the response from the Ethiopian official about the illegal entry of the Ethiopian forces into the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ). According to Zemedkun Tecle, spokesperson for the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry (MoF) who is admitting that Ethiopian forces had entered the TSZ:

"The reason for the Ethiopian army to play football inside the TSZ was only to find a better place to play the game and had no other political reasons behind it"

If this is not another deliberate provocation, I don’t know what is.

According to IRIN Zemedkun:

“Asserted that the troops which entered the TSZ were unarmed, arguing that under the peace deal only the "armed forces" of both countries were banned from entering the buffer area”.

If you are like me, you are feeling the urge to send out multiple copies of Webster’s dictionary to the linguistically challenged Ethiopian Foreign Ministry, but … I doubt that it is their ignorance that is at the root of the latest display of yet another shameless and embarrassing spectacle, rather it is their arrogance. This is exactly the kind of behavior that has fed the Western attitude towards Africa-that Africa was lawless and untamed. Ethiopia is indeed the shame of Africa.

For the benefit of Seyoum Mesfin and his spokesperson, who is obviously echoing his boss’ statements, let us look at how the Merriam Webster dictionary defines “armed force”:

“An armed force is the combined military, naval, and air forces of a nation”.

It does not mean men or women actually carrying arms. Meaning military personnel are NOT allowed in the buffer zone-the TSZ. Ethiopian forces are not allowed in the TSZ, football or not, armed or not. This is a serious breach of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement and it dangerously undermines UNMEE, the UN and the entire peace process.

Here is what Ethiopia’s MoF spokesperson Zemedkun had to say about UNMEE in the IRIN report:

"UNMEE has repeatedly asked both parties to get closer and open talks…But now it is strictly trying to stop an unarmed Ethiopian army from playing football inside the TSZ and taking the incidents very seriously instead of trying to solve the major problem between the two parties."

Surely its multi million dollar legal team has explained to Woyane the limits of UNMEE’s mandate. According to Security Council resolution 1320 (2000) of 15 September 2000, UNMEE has the following mandate:

  • Assist in ensuring the observance of the security commitments agreed by the parties;
  • Monitor and verify the redeployment of Ethiopian forces from positions taken after 6 February 1999, which were not under Ethiopian administration before 6 May 1998;
  • Monitor the positions of Ethiopian forces once redeployed;

UNMEE does not have the mandate to make peace between the two parties nor can it request that the parties “get closer” or “open talks”. The minority regime in Addis cannot be allowed to continue to obstruct the peace process and get away with it. It is high time that the international community, including the foreign media, such as BBC, stops making excuses for Woyane’s intransigencies.

The other guarantors of the Algiers Peace deal can take their cue from the bill introduced to the United States Congress: HR 2760, the Resolution of the Ethiopian-Eritrean Border Dispute Act of 2003 which states:

“Congress strongly condemns recent statements by senior Ethiopian officials criticizing the Boundary Commissions decision and calls on the Government of Ethiopia to immediately end its intransigence and fully cooperate with the Commission”.

The call by US Congressmen demanding a speedy implementation of the border ruling is welcome and positive development signaling US’s commitment to the Algiers Peace Agreement, of which the US is a guarantor. The demarcation process would move forward if all the other guarantors, the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations also called on Ethiopia to comply in the strongest terms.

Woyane cadres continue to inflame the Ethiopian population, especially the people of Tigray, with false and self serving statements. Through written articles and petitions they are trying to gain sympathy from the international community citing “humanitarian” and “political” reasons and some even calling it a human rights issue, as to why they cannot comply with the final and binding decision. They have called the decision “unjust” and “unfair”. It would behoove Ethiopians to read and understand the tenets spelled out in the Algiers Agreement, they cannot count on their leaders to tell them the truth.

Article 4.2 of the Algiers Peace Agreement says the Commission mandate was:

“to 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”.

Ex aequo et bono meant that they did not have the power to make decisions “according to what is right and good”.

The Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission must be commended for not compromising its reputation and its world renowned stature by succumbing to political pressures and threats from the minority led regime in Addis, and the various “unnamed” and “anonymous” diplomats, officials and others who continue to undermine the EEBC’s final and binding decision, hence emboldening Woyane to commit illegal acts such as the “football game” in the TSZ.

Ethiopia must respect Eritrea’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

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