DEMARCATION: ETHIOPIA'S SERIAL OBSTRUCTIONISM CONTINUES
DEMARCATION: ETHIOPIA'S SERIAL OBSTRUCTIONISM CONTINUES
Exasperated by Ethiopia’s recalcitrance, the EEBC Commission
expressed its regret that it was unable to complete its work with
physical demarcation of the border as was mandated by the Algiers
Agreement. Instead of concrete pillars marking the border, the
Commission is saying it regrets to settle for a virtual border
demarcation of the border on the basis of the pillar coordinates it gave
out on November 2006.
The Commission added that the virtual border would have full
international legitimacy as would have been the case with a border
marked on the ground by cement pillars. The Commission was forced to
take the extraordinary step of virtual demarcation because of Ethiopia’s
continuing intransigence. Much to its regret, the Commission noted that
"Ethiopia would not commit itself to anything more than discussion on
demarcation," although Eritrea has shown "significant indications of
willingness to see the process of demarcation resumed."
As in every previous meeting with the Commission, Ethiopia has
once again obstructed demarcation and by doing so is seeding the clouds
of war that many had hoped to clear off the Eritrea-Ethiopia border by
now. This border had already claimed more than 154, 000 lives (135, 000
for Ethiopia by its own admission, and 19, 000 for Eritrea). Is it yet
again going to be allowed to claim more lives all because a veto
wielding friend at the UN Security Council has been shielding Ethiopia
from the consequences of violating international law? We hold our breath
if the Security Council ever take the right stand.
The latest theatrics of Ethiopia is true to form and as the
EEBC put it these "did not respond directly to the Agenda, and some of
which related to matters outside the scope of the Commission's mandate.”
In short, they are "the latest in a series of obstructive actions taken
since the summer of 2002 and belies the frequently professed acceptance
by Ethiopia of the Delimitation Decision." This was not the first time
the Commission exposed Ethiopia. (See boxes below. )
The pattern of obstructionism could not be any clearer. Yet,
Ethiopia, thanks to the unprincipled protection of the US, has been able
to thumb its nose at the Commission and international law. It is hard
to imagine how the impact of Ethiopia’s defiance of international law
could have escaped members of the Security Council. If Ethiopia can get
away with defiance of a binding decision it, what prevents others from
following the bad example Ethiopia has established that it is perfectly
acceptable to break international law as long as you have an ally in the
Ethiopia's propaganda machine has been relentless in churning
out deception at levels never seen before. The Ethiopian government,
which is well known for its ability to lie with a straight face, is now
telling the world that the reason demarcation is not moving forward is
because "Eritrea is not in full compliance with the Cessation of
Hostilities Agreement." Here we have an example of Ethiopia’s bold lies.
An Impartial Commission
Thanks to the EEBC's 25 reports, March 2003 Observations, and
two letters directly addressed to Ethiopia (October 2003 and November
2006), it is abundantly clear that it is the minority regime in Ethiopia
who is the guilty party. No shenanigans can hide this fact. To its
credit, the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission is the only
international body, in more than 100 years, that has been able to cut
through Ethiopia's shroud of pretensions and deceptive presentations and
see the true colors of its leaders. It is also the only international
body that has been willing to "maintain its impartial approach to all
matters with which it has to deal," despite the tremendous pressure it
has been facing. The EEBC has stood firm stating that "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. The Commission
continues to owe a duty to both Parties to perform the functions placed
upon it by their agreement and it is its intention to perform these
functions fully and faithfully ."
The blame for Ethiopia’s defiance squarely falls on those
forces that have been encouraging the minority regime to continue on its
lawless path. Besides advising Ethiopia to do everything but adhere to
international law they have repeatedly tried to prevent the EEBC from
carrying out its job. They warned the upcoming EEBC meeting was going to
be "inconsequential" and true to their threat it turned out to be so.
All of it to make sure that border demarcation never takes place and the
minority regime of Ethiopia remains in power even if it means
committing genocide in Gambella and the Ogaden.
Once upon a time Washington was accepted by Eritrea as an
honest broker who could be expected to provide fair and unbiased
assistance to both sides, to facilitate resolution of the problem,
evenhandedly. Those hopes have been dashed, particularly during the
tenure of the current US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs. In the
eyes of much of the world, yesterday’s honest broker has become today’s
Ms. Jendayi Frazer has deliberately tried to distort the
letter and spirit of the December 2000 Algiers Agreement and in the
process wanted to revise the "final and binding" EEBC Delimitation
Decision of April 2002. Her weapon of convenience has been the innocent
word "dialogue." It is to be remembered this word was born immediately
after the former UN Secretary General told the world in his March 2003
Report to the UNSC that Ethiopian leaders have: " serious concerns
regarding the Boundary Commission's demarcation of the border," and if
their concerns "were not properly addressed", they "might eventually
reject the demarcation-related decisions of the Commission." It was
also the time when the EEBC, in its 8th report to the UN,
warned that " 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 ."
The forces that are behind Ethiopia's lawlessness further have
been advising the Ethiopians to ask for an "alternative mechanism" and
started working to seek an alternative to the EEBC. Ms. Frazer, over
Eritrea’s objections, imposed on the Commission an American General as a
consultant on demarcation, although nothing on the General’s background
was remotely connected to cartography or boundary making. Yet this man
had the temerity to suggest that he be given the authority to vary the
line by about a mile or so from the delimitation coordinates, to draw
the line to meet Ethiopia’s demands.
Border demarcation is the sole mandate of the EEBC; any border
related issues should only be addressed within their proper legal
framework and by this legal body; any attempts to reopen issues that are
already settled through binding arbitration are not only
counterproductive but are also likely to lead to tragedy. At the same
time, as Eritrea has been stressing tirelessly, any mechanism, "secret
or otherwise, on any matter regarding the demarcation of the boundary
outside the framework of the EEBC, do not have any legal basis.”
The EEBC on Ethiopia's Obstructions
- "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."
- "Ethiopia is not prepared to allow demarcation to continue in the manner laid down in the Demarcation Directions."
- "Ethiopia insists on prior 'dialogue' but has rejected the opportunity for such 'dialogue'."
- "Ethiopia's complaint was with the delimitation decision rather than with the demarcation process."
- "Ethiopia read a statement & clearly repeating its
refusal to permit any work to be carried out in the Western and Central
- "Ethiopia was asked specifically whether it would permit
the necessary preliminary factual investigations contemplated by the
Commission... It replied in the negative."
- "The co-agent of Ethiopia stated that in Ethiopia's view the demarcation process was flawed."
- "Ethiopia is presenting its dissatisfaction with the
boundary as substantively laid down in the delimitation decision in the
form of procedural impediments to the demarcation process which it is
not entitled to interpose."
- "There is no 'crisis', terminal or otherwise, which cannot be cured
by Ethiopia's compliance with its obligation under the Algiers
Agreement, in particular its obligations to treat the Commission's
delimitation determination as 'final and binding."
- "Ethiopia's reference in the third and sixth paragraphs of
its letter to some further demarcation being 'just and legal' imports
that Ethiopia now considers that the Commission's delimitation and
demarcation are neither. Ethiopia's statement is a repudiation of its
repeated acceptance of the Commission's Decision since it was rendered."
- "Ethiopia proposes that 'an alternative mechanism to
demarcate the contested parts of the boundary' be set up. Such an
alternative mechanism would involve a departure from, and thus an
amendment to, the terms of Article 4.2 of the Algiers Agreement, which
gives the Commission the mandate to demarcate the boundary. Moreover,
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
- "With great respect, I have to tell you that, insofar as your
letter purports to set out facts, those that it states are, regrettably,
in significant detail wrong or highly selective. At the outset, as a
striking example of misleading selection, I refer to the manner in
which, towards the end of your letter, you refer to the statement made
by the President of the Security Council on 17 October 2006. You quote
the whole of that statement with the exception of the highly relevant
final paragraph bearing on the conduct of Ethiopia."
- "There is no basis for the suggestion that the Commission
has been appeasing Eritrea. Nor can such a suggestion, however
unfounded, obscure the fact that Ethiopia has itself been in breach of
its obligations under the Algiers Agreement in several important
respects. It is sufficient here to mention one serious one, namely,
Ethiopia's continued failure to comply with the Commission's Order of 17
July 2002 requiring Ethiopia forthwith to arrange for the return to
Ethiopian territory of those persons in Dembe Mengul."
- "Ethiopia has, by its conduct on many occasions, repeatedly
obstructed the Commission's field personnel and prevented them from
carrying out the necessary investigations in the field and made a
"cooperative process' impossible."
- "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."
- "When asked to confirm its continuing acceptance of the
Delimitation Decision, Ethiopia repeatedly qualified its position by
saying that it wished negotiations to take place regarding such
"anomalies and impracticabilities." Eritrea's insistence on strict
adherence to the terms of the Delimitation Decision was a position which
it was entitled to adopt in accordance with the Algiers Agreement."
- "The scope for 'dialogue' is limited to what is necessary
between the Commission and the Parties to further the actual process of
demarcation on the ground. There is no room within the framework of the
Algiers Agreement for the introduction of 'neutral bodies' into the
- "You ask 'Why has the Commission abruptly and without
notice chosen to abandon the process for demarcation embodied in its
rules, instructions and decisions?' The answer is that the Commission
has been unable to make progress, because of Ethiopia's obstruction."
- "Your letter seeks to blame the Commission for Ethiopia's
failure to meet its obligations under the Algiers Agreement. Such blame
is entirely misplaced. The truth of the matter appears to be that
Ethiopia is dissatisfied with the substance of the Commission's
Delimitation Decision and has been seeking, ever since April 2002, to
find ways of changing it. This is not an approach which the Commission
was empowered to adopt and is not one to which the Commission can lend