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Eritrea/Ethiopia: Ethiopia must accept ‘NO’ for an answer




15 Dec 2004


When US diplomat for African affairs Donald Yamamoto arrived in Eritrea on 6 Dec 2004 to discuss with authorities a new Ethiopian proposal, Ethiopia was expecting (fantasizing) Yamamoto to change the hearts of Eritrean officials in favor of its fraudulent proposal. And one diplomat, who did not want to be named, told AFP  "Mr. Yamamoto must obtain quite quickly a more positive response from Asmara to the Ethiopian proposal. If nothing comes out of this meeting, that will be a bad sign".  And that is what happened: Mr. Yamamoto told Eritrea’s president “that the US government remains firm on its last January statement on the Eritrea-Ethiopia border dispute, which stated the boundary commission's ruling as final and binding and that it should be implemented without any preconditions”. But that is not what Ethiopia wanted or was expecting to hear. Anything short of endorsing “Ethiopia’s proposal” is negative. And Ethiopia won’t accept ‘NO’ for an answer.


The US government has not yet issued a statement on the peace proposal; "I do not believe the US has rejected our proposal. However they have not issued a statement welcoming our proposal either"; a high level delegation has been sent to the United States this week to urge the US government to issue a statement welcoming the proposal.” said Meles at a press conference held on Monday 13 Dec 04 in Addis Ababa jointly with visiting German President.


The US or any other Nation for that matter doesn’t issue a statement every time an issue comes up on which it has already an established stance in one form or the other (press release, statement) but refers the issue to that document. And that is exactly what Yamamoto did. If it makes Ethiopia feel better, the US wouldn’t have a problem re-issuing January 21 2004 statement on this matter?


A decision about an issue follows a binary logic: The options (reject/support) rule each other out. The US has rejected Ethiopia’s fraudulent proposal by not endorsing it, thereby ruling out support for the proposal and calling for strict adherence to the Algiers Peace Accord as per its statement of January 21 2004 instead. And Ethiopia knows that. But Ethiopia won’t and doesn’t accept ‘NO’ for answer and that is why it is dispatching a delegation to let the US know that failure to support its fraudulent proposal means war:


"Whether the US issues a statement or not, we very much hope that their position will be in line with the position taken by international community as a whole, which means that war is not an option," said Meles.


The Algiers peace Accord, which was authored and has the full support of the international community even as we speak, was signed because Eritrea and Ethiopia agreed to resolve whatever differences they have peacefully and peacefully only and to rule out war as an option at all. No, Meles is not referring to that international community! Meles is referring to the nations that he claims have expressed support for his proposal and is implying their endorsement rules out war as an option and wants US policy to be in line with that if war is to be eliminated as an option, simply because a legal decision did not go its way. What a joke?


PM Meles is fantasizing about the significance of the reaction to his “proposal”. Those nations that Meles is claiming supported his fraudulent proposal were only cheering Ethiopia for doing what it was told to do: Stop running around trashing the decision of a court of law, flouting international law, and flagrant defiance of the rule of law [On 25 Nov 2004 Meles told his people that “the international community has been asking Ethiopia not to appear to be violating the decision of a court and not to seem to be defying international law and to fake acceptance by dropping the word ‘rejection’ and substituting it with the deceptive phrase “acceptance in principle”]. Regardless of what Ethiopia claims and how often, it is utterly inconceivable that any Nation (unless rogue nation) would advice Ethiopia to renege on a binding international Agreement (Algiers Agreement) or to undermine the sanctity of a legal decision of an international court . Other than that, not one single nation has rescinded its support of the Boundary Commission or called for review of its decision, and no one nation has declared the Algiers peace Accord null and void or called for renegotiation of the agreement. As a matter of fact the EU presidency issued a statement on 2 Dec 2004 saying that the Eu perceives “Ethiopia’s move as an indication of Ethiopia’s commitment to the Boundary Commission’s final and binding decision, which it added is “ the only basis upon which a lasting peace can be secured”. And France maintained the final and binding decision of the Boundary Commission and called for talks based on that only.


Having said that, the US stance on the Eritrea/Ethiopia issue favors neither Eritrea nor Ethiopia. The statement that was issued by the US Dept. of State on January 21, 2004 said,  The Algiers Peace Accord, ending the Ethiopian Eritrean conflict, must be respected without qualification. Both Ethiopia and Eritrea agreed to accept unequivocally the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission’s decision as final and binding. The United States expects each government to uphold its commitment to abide by this agreement. The United States urges both parties to implement the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission’s decision peacefully, fully and without delay. As the process moves forward, communication directly between the two countries will be imperative.” This is a principled stance calling on both countries to adhere to an agreement that they signed and agreed to abide by its outcome wherever the chips may fall. Eritrea is fully in compliance with the Algiers Agreement and only in that sense does the US stance favor Eritrea. Ethiopia is, has been, and remains the noncompliant/defiant party. The Algiers agreement provides measures to remedy Ethiopia’s defiance (UN Charter, Chapter VII). But the international community is and has been reluctant to consider such measures against Ethiopia because it is ridiculous to sanction a country (Ethiopia) that owes its sociopolitical and economic existence to the massive and continuous handout of the international community (Today, Ethiopia is synonymous with labels such as “Africa’s perpetual begging bowl” or “poster-child case of Third World misery).


Knowing that, the government in Ethiopia has taken advantage of it and has been getting away with flagrant violations of the Algiers agreement, outright rejection of court decisions, brazen defiance of the rule of law, overt violation of multiple UNSC resolutions and more with impunity simply because Ethiopia won’t accept ‘NO’ for an answer.


And on 25 Nov 2004 Ethiopia unveiled an “Accept and deceive in principle” that it dubbed as “5-point peace proposal”, which manifestly constitutes a serious violation of the Algiers Peace Accord and has the audacity to compel the US and the UN to support it under the threat of war.


As the Boston Globe so rightly stated in its editorial of 6 Nov 2003 entitled also correctly “Recalcitrant Ethiopia”, the international community must learn from what happened after Eritrea wrested independence 1991 and the outside world let the two nations sort out their relations. The result was a war that caused not less than 100, 000 of deaths from 1998 to 2000. Now Ethiopia is balking at a settlement to resolve the immediate cause of the fighting.


Using colonial maps, an international commission has determined a line between the two countries, which both had agreed would be final, binding, and without right for appeal or recourse of any kind. But Ethiopia refuses to allow the boundary to be demarcated because the town of Badme would end up in Eritrea.


The international community needs to engage Ethiopia intensely and if necessary compel it to accept the decision of the Boundary Commission unequivocally as agreed to by the peace treaty and make sure  they end the conflict.


If Ethiopia can’t learn on its own to accept ‘NO’ for an answer, then the US, UN and the international community at large have the obligation to teach Ethiopia to learn to accept  ‘NO’ for an answer the hardest way because it can’t go on like this for ever.


The US/UN must let Ethiopia know in no uncertain terms that the world is not governed by what Ethiopia wants but by that what makes the world tick right and governs: The rule of law in international relations.


“The United Nations, the United States, and the European Union all say Ethiopia should abide by the agreement. Letting the work of the boundary commission go for naught could allow this conflict to fester into another war and would represent a dire precedent for border disputes around the world – the Boston Globe, 6 Nov 2003”.


The US has spoken a solid and principled ‘No’ to Ethiopia’s fraudulent proposal. Ethiopia must respect that and accept ‘NO’ for an answer.