There is no dispute in the Horn
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Eritrea/Ethiopia: Dialogue ok to quell disputes, but no dispute





30 Dec 2004, EDnews – The dispute, the only dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia was the issue of sovereignty over their shared border that led to a two-year carnage (1998-2000) costing the lives of 100,000 people. Knowing that the issue cannot be resolved by war, and under the pressure and active participation of the international community, both countries agreed to and signed to abide by the Algiers peace accord ending the war in December of 2000 and submitted themselves to a final and binding legal arbitration by an independent Commission of their own choice at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, Netherlands.


The Commission rendered its Delimitation and Demarcation verdict on 13 April 2002 thereby settling the Eritrea-Ethiopia dispute over sovereignty of their shared border conclusively and irreversibly in accordance with the Algiers Agreement. Eritrea accepted the decision unequivocally. Ethiopia as well initially accepted the decision but turned it down soon to this date only because it did not go its way. Ethiopia then unilaterally declared the decision of the Commission null & void, stopped the implementation of the decision by the threat of force, and dismantled the Commission into oblivion to-date under the watchful eyes of the int’l community, which is obliged by treaty to ensure strict adherence to the Algiers peace accord.


According to Algiers, both parties are bound to accept the decision of the Commission unequivocally. No appeal; no recourse of any kind. Any thing else, like rejection, refusal, dispute, etc constitutes serious violation of the Agreement and has severe practical consequences. The international community without exception supports and firmly stands by the Commission and its decision even as we speak. Regardless, Ethiopia made a mockery of all that and decided to simply say no to the decision and to dare the world for all the consequences that it will have. That, by any sense, definition, and understanding of the word is not a dispute but blatant defiance, for no one else is contesting the decision of the Commission but Ethiopia. Eritrea has long accepted the decision as the legally conclusive, final and binding settlement of the dispute in strict compliance with Algiers; the int’l community treats the decision equally so. So, where is the dispute? There is no dispute any where between Eritrea and Ethiopia. It is over in any and every sense of the word. The world is not governed by what Ethiopia wants but by that what makes the world tick right and governs: The rule of law. Ethiopia must abide by the Algiers agreement that it signed and agreed to and accept the ruling unequivocally. Every thing else constitutes brazen defiance, which the int’l community is bound by treaty to break.


Unfortunately, the int’l community is busy entertaining all the arguments of the world that Ethiopia comes up with to maintain its defiance instead of rising up to its obligation by treaty and napping them in the bud, making it clear to Ethiopia that the case is closed, the dispute is settled, that there is no excuse, whatsoever, for defying the border ruling regardless of how sound and good Ethiopia’s arguments may be, and compelling Ethiopia to let the Commission proceed with the implementation of the decision – the demarcation process. 


As of lately, Ethiopia is running around the world from country to country looking for support of “a proposal to resolve dispute with Eritrea via dialogue/negotiation instead of war”. Well, that is neither novelty nor something that necessitates worldwide crusade. No one in the world negates the preference of dialogue as the most peaceful means and method of choice to resolve disputes and hence no wonder why some nations are welcoming the plan for that. But, there is no dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and there is nothing “to give-and take”, no “going back to the drawing room with the boundary Commission”, or linguistic acrobatic and semantic twisting unless the international community declares the Algiers peace agreement and with it the decision of the Boundary Commission null and void?


So, why is Ethiopia doing this? Just as an academic exercise and yet one more in a series of ploys to thwart any UN/int’l community attempt to bring about implementation of the border decision. The idea of “resolving disputes via dialogue/negotiation” certainly enjoys global support, but there is no dispute here. When it comes to Eritrea, the problem is not lack of dialogue, negotiations, or legal arbitration to resolve disputes but Ethiopia’s congenital tendency not to accept the outcome of such approaches if it doesn’t turn out in its favor or goes Ethiopia’s way as has been well demonstrated by its defiance of the decision of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission only because it didn’t go its way.


Why is the UN allowing that to happen? Because it is Ethiopia! Why, is Ethiopia above the rule of law? We shall see. Kofi Annan has recently warned the Security Council that prolonged stalemate of the peace process between Eritrea and Ethiopia is a cause for serious concern and reminded the UNSC to enforce the rule of law and implement treaties/agreements sooner rather than later lest the Eritrea/Ethiopia situation gets out of hand.


Today and ever since the pronouncement of the border decision what is stalling the peace process between the two countries is Ethiopia’s forceful prevention of the implementation of the decision (the demarcation of the shared border as decided and determined by the Commission on 13 April 2002) in defiance of the Algiers agreement. And this Ethiopia’s defiance cannot be resolved by dialogue because and by treaty the decision of the Commission is final, binding and non-negotiable. The only thing that ‘resolves’ Ethiopia’s defiance is for Ethiopia to come back to its senses and to let demarcation of the shared border to proceed as determined by the border decision as the international community is and has been calling for or for the int’l community to compel Ethiopia to let demarcation proceed as decided by the Commission as it has pledged to ensure strict adherence to Algiers.


By its action, Ethiopia has been holding the rule of law hostage for long only because it did not work for it. The int’l community has, at all times, the obligation not to let any nation take the rule of law hostage for whatever reason let alone when it is obliged by treaty to ensure the rule of law as in the case in point lest the world degenerates into the rule of anarchy, might is right, and chaos.