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By Simon Tesfamariam
April 13, 2012

Dear Members of the United Nations Security Council,

It is with utter dismay that I write to you today on the tenth anniversary of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission's (EEBC) final and binding decision that awarded Badme, the casus belli of the 1998-2000 Eritrean-Ethiopian border war, to Eritrea. To this day, Ethiopia remains on sovereign Eritrean territory, in contravention of the UN Charter and international law. In fact, adding insult to injury, the Ethiopian regime openly called for and carried out armed incursions into Eritrea just last month, from March 15th to 17th, 2012. Instead of condemning the attacks the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon merely "urged both sides to exercise 'maximum restraint' and 'respect each other's territorial integrity'" (Aaron Maasho, Reuters 3/17/2012).

This begs the question: why does he focus on "both sides" when only one has taken illegal action? Secondly, how much restraint is enough restraint? Eritrea has waited patiently for a decade, marked by the flagrant injustices of its southern neighbor.

What are these injustices, exactly? At first, there was the flat out denial of the EEBC decision in 2002 by the minority regime in Addis Ababa, the so-called Tigray People's Liberation Party (TPLF). Then there was "acceptance, in principle" and calls for "dialogue" in 2003 despite the fact that the EEBC's decision was "final and binding" and that the original Algiers Agreement "expressly precluded the commission from deciding matters ex aequo et bono."

Soon after, there was the resettling of Ethiopians in Badme, in violation of Article 49 of the Geneva Conventions. Losing the support of its own population, the regime then turned on its own people, committing genocide in Ogaden, Oromia, and Gambella and murdering 193 of its citizens during the 2005 elections. In 2006, while openly harboring the Eritrean Islamic Jihad, an internationally recognized terrorist organization, the minority regime illegally invaded Somalia in the name of fighting terrorism. It remains in Somalia to this day. All the while, the Eritrea-Ethiopia issue persisted on account of the TPLF regime's refusal to allow for demarcation with pillars on the ground, which lead to "virtual demarcation" in 2007. In accordance with the law, Eritrea accepted the demarcation; Ethiopia did not. In April of 2011, the TPLF regime called for the overthrow of the Eritrean government, once again, in violation of international law. Facing such brazen disregard for justice, Eritrea not only avoided reacting to this provocation but also extended an invitation to peace. As expressed by Girma Asmerom, Eritrean ambassador to the African Union, "'Eritrea is ready to normalize relations with Ethiopia' if Ethiopia vacates its territory" (William Davison, Bloomberg, 4/29/11). However, Ethiopia did not and has not vacated Eritrean soil.

To make matters worse, your Council chose to push forward the illegal Resolution 1907 two days before Christmas in 2009 on the grounds that Eritrea was providing arms to al-Shabaab in Somalia. In contrast, Dumusani Khumalo, the chair of the UN General Assembly's Special Committee, released the Somalia Report in 2009 that showed that at least 80% of the arms available in Somalia came from Ethiopia or the UN-funded Ugandan and Burundian soldiers representing the African Union Mission to Somalia. Furthermore, the diplomatic cable from November 28, 2007 entitled "Ogaden; Counterinsurgency Operations Hitting a Wall" was sent by Ambassador Donald Yamamoto to Washington, D.C. and it revealed that "the role Eritrea plays in probably insignificant." Not only does this evidence vindicate the Eritrean position and absolve it of any wrongdoing, but it also goes to show that the sanctions targeted the wrong nation. As a result of the embargoes on Eritrea, the emboldened TPLF regime purchased 200 tanks from Ukraine for $100 million last summer, at the expense of 4.5 million Ethiopians needing food aid during one of the worst droughts in recent history (Interfax-Ukraine, 6/9/2011).

In spite of all the counterevidence arguing against Resolution 1907, Resolution 2023 was passed on December 5, 2011, expanding the original sanctions on Eritrea. In the lead up to the resolution was the baseless Kenyan claim that Eritrea continued to traffic arms to al-Shabab. On January 16, 2012, however, Reuters reported that the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea found these claims to be false. Matt Bryden, the coordinator of the Monitoring Group, added that "'multiple credible reports' show no flights have taken place at the time specified" (Peter Clottey, Bloomberg, 1/17/2012). Regardless, the resolution passed. The Eritrean president, Isaias Afewerki, sent multiple letters requesting to present his nation's case months prior to the resolution's deliberation in November, 2011. Susan Rice, US Ambassador to your Council, opposed this request on the grounds that it would create a "spectacle" and, instead, rushed the vote "into blue" to illicit a faster action against Eritrea (Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press, 11/30/12). With the Ambassadors of Russia and China saying otherwise, Ambassador Rice reluctantly granted President Isaias a visa and he was allowed to speak. However, he was given only four days' notice and his speech was set for a few hours before deliberation, making a mockery of the entire deliberating process. Is this justice?

Thus, Eritrea has done all that a righteous nation can do under such unjust circumstances. As an Eritrean-American, I ask that you repeal and annul the unjust sanctions set in place and expanded upon through the adoption of UN Resolutions 1907 and 2023, respectively. I also ask that you stop ignoring the flagrant and ongoing violations of international law by Ethiopia at the expense of the people of the Horn of Africa. I further ask that you consider adequate punitive measures in response to the TPLF's illegal actions in order to deter future hostilities. Lastly, I ask that you fulfill your duties as a guarantor of the Algiers Agreement. I expect much more out of the UNSC, the world's highest governing body.


Simon Tesfamariam