Zenawi Intransigence Jeopardizes Peace

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The minority regime in Ethiopia must unconditionally vacate from sovereign Eritrean territories it is militarily occupying.

[Africa News Update]

There is a lot of talk about the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) and much has been written about its decision to demarcate the Eritrea Ethiopia border by placing coordinates on maps, also known as “virtual demarcation,” as opposed to placing border markers on the ground.

Eritrea considered this a positive step forward but would have also wanted to have the Eritrea Ethiopia border demarcated on the ground by placing pillar markers on the ground. Eritrea will nonetheless respect the EEBC’s decision and consider its sole mandate to demarcate the Eritrea Ethiopia border as being fulfilled.

Unfortunately, emboldened by the US-led international community’s diplomatic, financial, military and political support and shield, the minority regime in Ethiopia led by Meles Zenawi, which for 5 1/2 years rejected the Final and Binding decision of the EEBC and refused to allow for the demarcation of the Eritrea Ethiopia border, is now rejecting the virtual demarcation of the Eritrea Ethiopia border and calling it “legal nonsense.”

It should be recalled that ever since the Eritrean Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) delivered its Final and Binding decision on 13 April 2002, the minority regime in Ethiopia has engaged in diversionary time buying gimmicks and deceptive tactics to alter, amend, revise and reverse the Final and Binding decision. 

Today, the regime while professing its belated unconditional acceptance of the Final and Binding nature of the EEBC delimitation decision, is now engaged in a deliberate and deceptive propaganda campaign to misinform the Ethiopian public and the international community about the legal applicability of demarcation of the Eritrea Ethiopia border.

The Prime Minister of Ethiopia is leading the deceptive, misinformation campaign. Voice of America’s (VoA) Peter Heinlein quoted the street smart, deceptive Meles Zenawi on 30 November 2007 as saying:  “As far as the virtual demarcation of the boundary is concerned, I have heard well-respected diplomats and lawyers describe it as 'legal nonsense'…Our lawyers agree with such characterization. Until the boundary is demarcated on the ground, it is not demarcated. As soon as it is demarcated, there will be relocation of administrations, police and so forth. But not before that. Only after actual demarcation on the ground. And we prefer to engage the Eritrean side in pushing forwards toward demarcation...”

“You are who your friends are” as they say, and judging from the list of apologists the Ethiopian Prime Minister has relied on for political and diplomatic advise and support in the past and judging from the make up of the Addis based “cocktail diplomats,” morally bankrupt and corrupt individuals who have vouched for the regime in the past, made up of, I am not sure they would be considered “well respected.”

As for his lawyers, they are the same lawyers who advised him that the EEBC decision was “illegal, unjust and irresponsible,” the same decision that he is now telling the world he has accepted unconditionally. 

Meles Zenawi knows that the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) had no choice but to look for other legal approaches to fulfilling its sole mandate of demarcating the Eritrea Ethiopia border. Article 4.2 of the Algiers Agreements says: “…The parties agree that a neutral Boundary Commission composed of five members shall be established with a mandate 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…”

The minority regime rejected the Final and Binding decision, refused to cooperate with the EEBC, refused to pay its dues, refused to provide security for EEBC personnel and refused to appoint liaison officers and refused to allow for the expeditious demarcation of the Eritrea Ethiopia border. After waiting for 51/2 years for Ethiopia to allow for the demarcation of the Eritrea Ethiopia border, the EEBC had no choice but to find another legal approach to demarcating the Eritrea Ethiopia border and fulfill its sole mandate in accordance with the Algiers Agreements, and it did. 

Allow me to present the many “obstacles” placed by Ethiopia as detailed in the EEBC’s Statement issued on 27 November 2006. Ethiopia created obstacles to demarcation of the Eritrea Ethiopia border (by placing pillars on the ground) by:

•        Prohibiting fieldwork within the territory under its control, thus impeding the survey of ground control points for the aerial photography and the secondary datum survey (April to July 2002); 

•        Filing extensive comments on the Delimitation Decision, amounting to an attempt to reopen elements of the substance of that Decision, instead of limiting itself to the requested comments on the draft 1:25,000 maps (January 2003); 

•        Alleging that the Field Liaison Officers appointed by Eritrea were intelligence officers and refusing to allow field work to continue in Ethiopian territory, then failing to appoint ad hoc Field Liaison Officers within the prescribed time limit following the Commission’s Order of 9 February 2003 so as to allow field work to resume without further delay (January to February 2003); 

•        Failing to appoint new Field Liaison Officers for the remaining demarcation activities following the Commission’s Decision pursuant to Article 15B of the Demarcation Directions (July 2003 to March 2006);
•        Failing to provide assurances for the security of all demarcation personnel (August 2003 to the present); 

•        Failing to comment on maps which indicated the pillar locations in the Eastern Sector (September 2003);

•        Repeatedly refusing to authorize necessary flight requests lodged by the Chief Surveyor;

•        Eventually limiting the Commission’s field work to the Eastern Sector by statements that the ad hoc Field Liaison Officers would only be permitted to operate in the Eastern Sector; complaining to the Secretary-General of the United Nations of what Ethiopia termed “illegal, unjust and irresponsible decisions” of the Commission in respect of Badme and parts of the Central Sector, and proposing that the Security Council set up an alternative mechanism to demarcate the parts of the boundary it contested (September 2003); 

•        Denouncing in that same letter the Commission’s Delimitation Decision by stating that it would only recognize the southern boundary of the Temporary Security Zone (“TSZ”) as the international boundary; failing to provide assurances for the security of the contractors selected for the emplacement and as-built survey of the boundary pillars (September to October 2003); 

•        Rejecting the Commission’s invitation to attend a meeting on 5 November 2003, claiming that the notice was too short and that there was no likelihood of anything being achieved (October 2003);

•        Refusing to permit any work to be carried out by the Commission’s field staff in the Western and Central Sectors until the boundary in the Eastern Sector had been demarcated and subject to Ethiopia’s approval of the Commission’s method of demarcation (November 2003);

•        Failing to make prompt payment of its share of the Commission’s expenses (February 2004 to February 2005); 

•        Rejecting the Commission’s invitation to a meeting to be held on 22 February 2005 on the ground that the meeting was premature, would be unproductive and could have an adverse impact on the demarcation process, as a result of which the Commission was obliged to cancel the meeting (February 2005); 

•        Failing again to meet its financial obligations (May 2006 to the present);
•        Introducing qualifications to its previously unqualified acceptance of the final and binding quality of the Delimitation Decision (17 May 2006); 

•        Failing to respond to the Commission’s request for assurances of freedom of movement and security for its staff travelling to the region to reopen the Commission’s Field Offices (July to August 2006); and

•         Failing to respond to the Commission’s invitation to a rescheduled meeting on 24 August 2006.

Meles Zenawi knows that it was his regime that refused to allow for the expeditious demarcation on ground in accordance with the EEBC’s Final and Binding decision and its demarcation directives and orders, thus forcing the EEBC to “adopt another approach to effect the demarcation of the boundary.”

Sir Elihu Lauterpacht, President of the EEBC, in a letter he wrote to Seyoum Mesfin, the minority regime’s Foreign Minister on 27 November 2006 addresses the reasons why the EEBC decided to demarcate the border on paper, by placing coordinates on maps, instead of placing pillars on the ground. Sir Elihu wrote:

“…The Commission does not contest the assertion that its approach to demarcation by way of setting out coordinates indicating precise Boundary Points was not part of its original intention. Its intention had been to go on the ground and, in consultation and cooperation with the Field Liaison Officers of the Parties, to establish the locations for the emplacement of boundary pillars. Despite repeated initiatives on the part of the Commission supported by requests of the Security Council that the Parties cooperate, Ethiopia, for one, has made this approach impossible. The Commission cannot be left in limbo…”

Furthermore, in its 26 November 2006 Statement the EEBC explained its decision to adopt a different approach to demarcate the Eritrea Ethiopia border and its legal applicability:  “…Modern techniques of image processing and terrain modeling make it possible, in conjunction with the use of high resolution aerial photography, to demarcate the course of the boundary by identifying the location of turning points (hereinafter called “boundary points”) by both grid and geographical coordinates with a degree of accuracy that does not differ significantly from pillar site assessment and emplacement undertaken in the field. The Commission has therefore identified by these means the location of points for the emplacement of pillars as a physical manifestation of the boundary on the ground. Although these techniques have been available for some time, the Commission has not resorted to them because the actual fixing of boundary pillars, if at all possible, was the demarcation method of first choice. However, it is only possible to demarcate a boundary by the fixing of boundary pillars with the full cooperation of both the States concerned…The fact that the present Commission began its demarcation activity in terms of the location and construction of fixed pillars does not mean that it is precluded from following another course when confronted by the lack of necessary cooperation by the Parties…In adopting this approach, the Commission has been guided by significant authority in State practice…”

The minority regime and its handlers squandered all opportunities for an orderly demarcation process as initially envisioned and cannot now plead ignorance as an excuse to justify continued occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories, including Badme. 

Meles Zenawi must know that placing coordinates on maps is not only legal but also a more common practice than placing border markers on the ground, or pillars, which can be removed or destroyed by ill-willed individuals (Teraros or Tererti), soil erosion, mud slides and other natural calamities. 

I would advise the Prime Minister to more on and allow the people of Eritrea and Ethiopia to live in peace or face the consequences of his belligerence and lawlessness.

The minority regime in Ethiopia must unconditionally vacate from sovereign Eritrean territories it is militarily occupying. If it does not, the Security Council must shoulder its legal and moral responsibilities under the UN Charter and immediately call for the immediate restoration of Eritrea’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

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

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