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By Dawit Gebremichael Habte
April 13, 2012

Ten years to this day, on April 13, 2002, the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) rendered its "final and binding" decision and closed the final chapter of the Eritrea-Ethiopian border conflict once and for all. At least, we assumed so. But, when one of the parties in the dispute, the minority led Ethiopian government, is bent in "emasculating" the people it perceived to be its archenemy, no amount of adjudication will satisfy it from getting its pound of flesh. Irrespective of its signature on a "final and binding" arbitration agreement, and irrespective of the decisions made by the highest court in the land, the Marxist Leninist League of Tigray is still bent in getting its "trophy" at any cost. And, as long as that trophy remains to be "the emasculation and containment of the Eritrean chauvinism", the saga will continue.

The border delimitation and demarcation decision rendered by the EEBC was clear and unambiguous, especially when it comes to "Badme and its environs", as the Ethiopian government used to call half of the Western part of Eritrea. Some of the key provisions in the "Decision regarding delimitation of the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia" include:

"5.91 The Commission has examined the major elements in the course of events since 1935: the Italian invasion of Ethiopia; the outbreak of the Second World War; the British military occupation of Eritrea; the post-war developments including the treatment of the political future of Eritrea; the creation of the federation between Ethiopia and Eritrea; and the eventual termination of that federation. However, the Commission can perceive nothing in that chain of developments that has had the effect of altering the boundary between the Parties. The boundary of 1935 remains the boundary of today."

"5.94 ... One item dating from 1970 refers to the destruction of incense trees. There is some evidence of policing activities in the Badme Wereda in 1972-1973 and of the evaluation of an elementary school at Badme town. There are, in addition, a few items dating from 1991 and 1994."

"5.95 These references represent the bulk of the items adduced by Ethiopia in support of its claim to have exercised administrative authority west of the Eritrean claim line. The Commission does not find in them evidence of administration of the area sufficiently clear in location, substantial in scope or extensive in time to displace the title of Eritrea that had crystallized as of 1935."

One cannot blame Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and the minority led government of Ethiopia for dreaming big. But, one can blame the regime in the helm of power in Ethiopia when the realization of its dream requires the destruction and outright annihilation of a group of people whose only crime is their geographical co-location. Geographically, the people of Eritrea happened to be located in a place where it is impossible to realize the Marxist Leninist League of Tigray's grandiose dream of Greater Trigray. When it comes to Eritrea's independence, Meles Zenawi and his cliques had made their views crystal clear without leaving any doubt. During his interview with his mentor Paul Henze, in the presence of Berhane Gebre Christos, Seyoum Mesfin, and Assefa Mamo (top leaders of the Marxist Leninist League of Tigray), Meles Zenawi stated that:

"We look at [Eritrea's independence] from the viewpoints of the interests of Tigray first, and then Ethiopia as a whole. We would like to see Eritrea continuing to have a relationship with Ethiopia. We know that Tigray needs access to the sea, and the only way is through Eritrea. Whether Eritrea is part of Ethiopia or independent, we need this access..."

During the same interview, Meles Zenawi continued to foretell and re-affirm his dream to his intellectual counselor by saying:

"We are worried about Eritrea because we are not sure that differences among different groups can be kept under control. Everything could be destroyed there if people begin fighting each other. When the EPLF takes over Asmara, they will have a difficult burrito, because they have to keep the people together."

When asked whether he would "expect the EPLF to participate in a provisional government in Addis Abeba", Melese Zenawi's response was:

"We endorse their proposal for a referendum because we don't think there is any other solution for the situation that has developed. But we really hope that Eritrea can remain part of a federated Ethiopia."

Keeping the aforementioned statements in mind, no logical person, and especially an Eritrean, would be surprised with the events that took place not long after Eritrea's formal independence:

1. Ethiopia inclusion of a chunk of Eritrea's land in its map drawn on its currency,

2. Ethiopia's declaration of war immediately after Eritrea issued its own currency,

3. Ethiopia's invasion of Eritrean land beyond the "disputed" territory,

4. Ethiopia's claim to almost half of the Western part of Eritrea during the border arbitration proceedings, and

5. Ethiopia's outright rejection, partially accepting, requesting "clarifications", and finally "fully accepting" but requiring "negotiations on the implementation" of the "final and binding" border delimitation decision.

Thanks to the perseverance, dedication, and zeal of the Eritrean people the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia is fully delimited and demarcated on paper. What is left is for the "border delimitation and demarcation" to take place in the minds (and hopefully hearts) of the minority led government of Ethiopia and its elites. For Eritreans, they will defend what is theirs to any eventuality. What else can they do when they are being threatened with extinction?