By Sophia Tesfamariam
Much has been written about the 1998-2000 “border conflict” between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and various narratives have been produced to effectuate Ethiopia’s expansionist agendas against Eritrea. Eritrea’s repeated calls for dialogue to resolve the “border issues” were ignored and the irresponsible Prime Minister of Ethiopia boasted "We shall negotiate while we fight and we shall fight while we negotiate” as his regime launched three successive offensives. The regime’s military adventures cost the lives of over 120000 of Ethiopia’s sons who were used as cannon fodder and minesweepers in its aggressive war of invasion and occupation, which employed deadly "human wave" tactics reminiscent of WWI.
As a result of the failure of bilateral talks and dialogue, mediation and war, the international community had no option but to speak with one voice to resolve the disputed or contested border. It was that unified voice that delivered the best, most viable and mutually and legally acceptable solution; respect for the rule of law. The international community through the UN Security Council urged the two parties to respect the rule of law and resolve their border "dispute" through legal and binding arbitration mechanisms.
As a result:
1.The Algiers Agreement was signed in 2000 in Algeria by H.E. President Isaias Afwerki for Eritrea and by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi for Ethiopia and witnessed and guaranteed by Secretary General Kofi Annan representing the United Nations, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of the Democratic Republic of Algeria, President Obasanjo of Nigeria, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright representing the United States, Secretary General, Salim Ahmed Salim representing the OAU, and Senator Renato Serri representing the European Union. The Algiers Agreement which was adapted and endorsed by the UN Security Council remains a sacrosanct document.
The UN Security Council strongly welcoming and supporting the Peace Agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia stated the following in its Presidential Statement:
· “….The Security Council reaffirms the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Eritrea and Ethiopia, and further reaffirms its continued commitment to a peaceful definitive settlement of the conflict…”
· “…The Security Council, reiterating its strong support for the Agreement of Cessation of Hostilities signed by the parties in Algiers on 18 June 2000 (S/2000/601), strongly welcomes and supports the subsequent Peace Agreement between the Government of the State of Eritrea and the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (S/2000/1183) signed in Algiers on 12 December 2000 (“Algiers Agreement”). It commends the efforts of the Organization of African Unity, the President of Algeria and his Special Envoy, as well as the United States of America and the European Union for their role in achieving the Algiers Agreement…”
· “…The Security Council notes with satisfaction that the Algiers Agreement includes mechanisms for the delimitation and demarcation of the common border and for addressing claims and compensation…The Security Council recognizes that the effects of the war have exacted a heavy toll on the civilian populations of Eritrea and Ethiopia, including through the internal displacement and outflow of refugees. It urges the respective Governments to continue to redirect their efforts towards the reconstruction and development of both economies, to work towards reconciliation with a view to normalizing their relations, and to engage in constructive cooperation with the other neighbouring States in the Horn of Africa, with a view to achieving stability in the subregion…”
2. The 5-member Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission (EEBC) was established. Eritrea selected two of the Commissioners and Ethiopia selected the other two. The 5th Commissioner and President of the EEBC, Professor Sir Elihu Lauterpacht, was appointed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
3. The Algiers Agreement mandated the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) to delimit and demarcate the border "based on pertinent colonial treaties (1900, 1902, and 1908) and applicable international law" The Commission was not given power to make decisions "ex aequo et bono" and that its delimitation and demarcation decision will be "final and binding". The Agreement also designated the Chief of the Cartographic Section of the United Nations as the Secretary of the Boundary Commission.
4. The parties presented to the Commission, for a period of about a year and a half, all types of memorials and counter memorials, arguments and documents on the "contested" and "disputed" border.
5. After a thorough review of all the evidence presented to them by the parties to the conflict, the distinguished Commissioners delivered the unanimous Final and Binding decision on 13 April 2002.
6. Both parties accepted the unanimous decision of the Border Commission as Final and Binding and without pre-conditions. In fact, Ethiopia urged the international community to enforce the decision and called on the international community to put pressure on Eritrea to allow for the expeditious demarcation of the border in accordance with the 13 April 2002 decision.
7. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations and Amara Essy, the then Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity (AU) said that the EEBC Decision was:
"...successful conclusion of the peace process on the basis of a legal settlement of the conflict..."
8. On the same day, 13 April 2002, that the EEBC rendered its Final and Binding decision, the UN Security Council in its Press Release said:
"...Members of the Security Council express their satisfaction that a final legal settlement of the border issues between Ethiopia and Eritrea has been completed in accordance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed by the parties in Algiers in December 2000... Members of the Security Council welcome the decision by the Boundary Commission, announced in The Hague on 13 April 2002, which is Final and Binding... Members of the Security Council call on the parties to cooperate closely with the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) in the implementation of the border decision, with a view to ensuring an expeditious and orderly process for the benefit of all the people, and without unilateral actions..."
The African Union (AU), European Union (EU), United Nations (UN), and the United States (US), through their respective Press Statements and Releases officially endorsed and confirmed that the Border Commission's decision was final and binding, and the UN Security Council adapted and endorsed it as such.
Ethiopia Reneged On Its Treaty obligations:
The Eritrea Ethiopia border issue was legally resolved and the chapter closed. Therefore, there was no "disputed" or "contested" border or territory between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Ethiopia rejected the EEBC’s ruling and sought to re-argue, appeal, revisit, and revise the decision using many gimmicks and ploys for a period of 5 years. Using sugar coated niceties such as "dialogue", "normalization of relations", “origins of conflict”, “lasting peace” etc. it attempted to hijack the sole mandate of the EEBC to demarcate the Eritrea Ethiopia border, by asking for an “alternative mechanism”.
In its eloquent and clear 21 March 2003 Observations the EEBC said:
· "... It cannot allow one Party to claim for itself the right to insist on adjustment of parts of the boundary, which that Party finds disadvantageous..."
· "Ethiopia's reference to "the contested boundary" can only be understood as a reference to those parts of the boundary to which it alone and unilaterally takes exception: no part of the boundary is "contested" by both Parties..."
To re-argue, appeal, revisit, or attempt to revise the Final and Binding Security Council endorsed decision would not only be a breach of the Algiers Agreement , it would set a dangerous precedence and would encourage the law of the jungle over the rule of law. It would also encourage Bismarck's concept of "Might is Right". No matter how much the minority regime in Ethiopia tried to confuse the international community in general, and the Ethiopian people in particular, there is no "contested" or "disputed" border between Eritrea and Ethiopia and that fact has been consistently ascertained and confirmed by the EEBC. After waiting for over five years, the EEBC decided to fulfill its mandate by demarcating the border using coordinates on maps-virtual demarcation.
Markers or not, pillars or not, the EEBC's decisions are Final and Binding.
Therefore, the issue is no longer about disputed or contested territories, but rather, the issue has now become the illegal military occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories by Ethiopia and the solution is simple and clear. Ethiopia must remove its forces from sovereign Eritrean territories and it must stop establishing new settlements. The UN Security Council must enforce its own Charter and exercise its only mandate under the UN Charter, to act to restore peace & security. It is the sole UN organ responsible for the maintenance of regional and international peace and security, for enforcing the UN Charter, international law, its own resolutions as well as legal and binding arbitrations. Moreover, as stipulated in the Algiers Agreement, the UN Security Council has the mandate and mechanism to take punitive actions under Chapter VII against the belligerent party-in this case Ethiopia.
The issue is no longer the "primary responsibility" of the two governments. The issue also cannot be resolved through "dialogue". Because the "contested" and "disputed" border issue has been legally resolved and the legal decisions have been unanimously endorsed by the UN Security Council, and because another disastrous war will definitely affect regional and international peace and security, it is the sole responsibility and obligation of the international community in general, and the UNSC in particular, to invoke take punitive actions under Chapter VII against Ethiopia for violating international law, and occupying sovereign Eritrean territories for over 13 years.
By invoking Chapter VII against Ethiopia, the international community can collectively avoid another regional disaster and salvage its fledgling credibility, integrity and efficacy on matters relating to peace stability and security in the 21st Century and beyond… Appeasing the minority regime will not lead to lasting peace or development in the region or normalization of relations between the two countries.
The rule of law must prevail over the law of the jungle!