Eritrea-Ethiopia: No rancor, defiance of the norm hurting people



14 January 2005


There is no rancor, imagined or real, between Eritrea and Ethiopia but Ethiopia government’s blatant and continued defiance of basic international norms, which if not broken soon could indeed lead not only to “Eritro-Ethio” rancor but implicate the entire world as well.


Eritreans and Ethiopians not only have co-existed and always have been able to co-exist but they also have every reason to co-exist further in whatever form or shape contrary to the non-existent bilateral rancor refrain of Mrs Axworthy and Legwaila, which they are only using as a ploy and lazy excuse to cover up their personal failure to accomplish their respective mission and responsibility to uphold the Algiers peace accord.


It is worth restating the facts in order to counter and refute repeated assertions to the contrary. Whatever conflict there was between Eritrea and Ethiopia, it has never been of personal, ethnic, religious, cultural nature, or because of mutual hatred. On personal level, Eritreans and Ethiopians are intermarried, have common children and families. Eritreans have a lot of dear Ethiopian friends and vice versa. On ethnic, religious, and cultural levels, Eritreans and Ethiopians share a lot of well-founded communalities as well. And all that despite and in spite of the decades long Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict.


While that is a short preview of and testimony to the kind of closeness that exists between Eritreans and Ethiopians in all aspects of societal parameters even at very odd times, it is also a brief explanation why there can’t be any talk of  deeply rooted animosity or rancor between Eritreans and Ethiopians that would lead to the extent of wanting to destroy each other.


Seventeenth Century Prussian General Carl Clausewitz’s famous dictum that “war is nothing more than the continuation of politics by other means” is not at all far from the truth. Indeed what is and ever has been between Eritrea and Ethiopia is strictly of political nature and not something deep rooted in some imagined rancor between Eritreans and Ethiopians. And politics is dirty and ugly, as they say, doesn’t distinguish between relatives, families, deep relationships, and can certainly lead to destruction.


“The inability of Eritrea and Ethiopia to agree on their disputed border is preventing 15 million Ethiopians from escaping crushing poverty”, UN special envoy for the region, L. Axworthy, is reported to have said today.


Sadly and unless Axworthy wants to negate the public and documented fact that Eritrea and Ethiopia have been able to agree on their “border dispute” by treaty of Algiers, and the fact that the ultimate resolution of the “dispute” already exists in the form of the decision of the boundary commission of April 13, 2002, that is a white lie because the only thing that is “preventing 15 million Ethiopians from escaping poverty” is Ethiopia’s and only Ethiopia’s flat and flagrant defiance of the border ruling thereby unilaterally impeding the implementation of the decision, which by all accounts would have certainly led to peace, stability, and prosperity between the two nations.


Frankly, Mr. Axworthy is only trying to blame his inability and or failure to bring Ethiopia into compliance with Algiers, which is his declared responsibility and mission on something imaginary, and a futile attempt to justify wishful amendments of the Algiers agreement in favor of Ethiopia.


"The ongoing conflict on the border has an impact on some 15 million Ethiopians," the envoy, Canadian former foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy, said. "They have been denied the possibility to raise above the poverty line." Again, save Mr. Axworthy is in denial about the existence and reality of the ultimate border ruling, there is no conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia unless he wants to create or even may be name one. It is Ethiopia’s defiance that is denying its own people the possibility to raise above the poverty line. It is guaranteed that this could be reversed in no time if Mr. Axworthy would only bring Ethiopia into compliance with basic international norm.


“Axworthy told reporters that Eritrean citizens were also hurt by the lack of a final resolution to the border dispute, the cause of a 1998-2000 war for which only a fragile peace accord is in place”.


This is an outright distortion of publicly available and well-documented facts and reflects Mr. Axworthy’s denial of the existence of the border ruling beyond any doubt. There is no “lack of final resolution to the “border dispute” in whatever form or however you say it, Mr. Axworthy and your denial and or equivocation of the existence of the border ruling doesn’t negate its existence but exposes you equally defiant as Ethiopia for no one else is contesting it. What is there is lack of upholding and implementing the final resolution to the border because of your incessant attempts to undermine the resolution in favor of Ethiopia instead of compelling Ethiopia to comply with the resolution unequivocally as it has committed and agreed to by treaty of Algiers, and UN inaction to break Ethiopia’s defiance.


The Algiers peace accord has been well crafted and designed to only succeed with built-in and tested mechanism to ensure its successes and is solid. That it didn’t go Ethiopia’s way doesn’t make it fragile but makes Ethiopia defiant and recalcitrant, for no one else is contesting or disputing the agreement. Moreover, it makes Ethiopia more deserving of the consequences of its defiant stance. It is an affront, disrespectful, and offensive to those that brought about the Algiers peace accord for you to label it “fragile peace accord”, but what do you care?


“The leaders of both nations "have to take into account that this is having a serious (impact) on opportunities for a lot of people in both countries," he told reporters at a news conference. Mr. Axworthy, they say “repeating a lie doesn’t turn it into truth”. No matter how you turn and twist the issue, the truth is that Eritrea has done what is required of it by treaty of Algiers, which is the only established standard for peace and stability between Eritrea and Ethiopia: It has long and unequivocally accepted the decision of the border decision and has long been ready for its implementation as decided and determined by the commission well in compliance with Algiers. If you are looking for some one to blame “for not taking into account that this is having a serious impact on opportunities for a lot of people in both countries” then you find them in Ethiopia, for it is Ethiopia that forcibly prevented the progress of the implementation of Algiers.


“Instead of bickering over the demarcation line, the two sides should be looking first at how to improve the lot of their populations, said Axworthy, who was named to the special envoy post last year.”


Semantic twisting and linguistic acrobatic aside, no one is bickering over the demarcation line. That is another lie. The demarcation line has long been conclusively and ultimately determined and established, the verdict is out, case is closed, and Eritrea has long accepted it unequivocally. Ethiopia’s flagrant non-acceptance of the verdict does not constitute bickering but makes Ethiopia defiant, for no one else is bickering over that. The call for strict adherence to the Algiers peace accord is a call to uphold basic international norm of abiding by binding international agreement and can never constitute or be perceived as bickering save Mr. Axworthy perceives the world in reversed order. The cause for whatever the populations of both countries are going through is Ethiopia’s defiance of the border ruling. And if the cause is not eliminated the effect will persist, that is the order of things in the universe and not vice versa, sir.


“Axworthy said he had been pleased at the tenor of his discussions with Zenawi, who he said "has properly identified" key areas that can bring about stability on the border: water, energy and transportation”.


Leaving Mr. Axworthy’s toadying to PM Meles aside, who are you trying to fool here Mr. Axworthy, sir? Or do you simply don’t understand the order of things in the universe? Eritrea and Ethiopia went to war over a dispute over sovereignty of their shared border, not because of problems with water, energy and transportation in the border area. Now, what is preventing Ethiopia from developing water, energy, and transportation in the border region? Answer: Lack of stability of the shared border. Hence and consequently, the need to develop water, energy, and transportation or the lack thereof is not an excuse not to accept or to defy the border ruling but an excellent reason to accept the border ruling because it will eliminate the lacking stability and bring peace and stability in the border, which are requisites for any development projects and prosperity in the border area. Mr. Axworthy, it is a simple matter of putting cause and effect in the right order. There is no detour. You can’t go around the cause and remedy the effect because it will relapse as long as the cause persists.


Finally, your concern for the people of Eritrea is well appreciated, but rest assured that there is no need, whatsoever, for you to be worried about it. The people of Eritrea have gone through a lot, endured a lot, and are ready to endure more because they have no option but to prevail. And Eritrea will prevail for it is not asking for any thing more or less than strict adherence to basic international norms. Thank you.