Ethiopia has announced on Tuesday to fully implement the Algiers Agreement and the “Final and Binding” decision of the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) ruling that gave the town of Badme, which was the flashpoint of the war, and surrounding territory to Eritrea.
This decision was made in a communique issued by the Executive Committee of the ruling EPRDF during its first meeting today since the new PM Abiy Ahmed took office.
The Algiers accord was signed between Ethiopia and Eritrea on December 12, 2000, to put an end to the bloody two-year conflict of 1998-2000 that claimed the lives of 19,000 Eritrean and over 98,000 Ethiopian soldiers.
Eritrea and Ethiopia have remained on a war footing as Ethiopia had, until now, refused to accept the ruling of the border commission.
As a result, Ethiopia had refused to withdraw its troops out of the disputed territories, leading Eritrea to accuse Ethiopia of forcefully occupying its territory.
For the last 16 years, Eritrea has pressed the UN security council, who has the power to exercise its legal authority of enforcing the delimitation and demarcation determinations of the EEBC, to honor its obligations as a guarantor to the Algiers Agreement, however to no avail, courtesy of the United States.
Eritrea had, therefore, refused to any kind of talks without the prior acceptance by Ethiopia of the commission’s decision and withdrawing its occupying force from all Eritrean territories, leading to a sixteen-year long no-war, no-peace stalemate.
“The Eritrean government should take the same stand without any preconditions and accept our call to bring back the long-lost peace of the two brother nations as it was before,” the EPRDF communique posted on Facebook reads.
Eritrea had accepted the EEBC’s decision as it was announced on 13 April 2002. Rather it took 16 years for Ethiopia to realize the boundary commission’s decision is the only viable road to peace between the two countries.
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Eritrea will certainly dismiss this latest Ethiopian pronouncement unless it was followed by the unconditional withdrawal of its forces from Eritrean territories.
Eritrean Information Minister, Mr. Yemane G/Meskel, once told the BBC that relations with Ethiopia can be mended but it largely depends on Ethiopia’s commitment to Algiers and EEBC accords.
“The ball has stayed for too long in Ethiopia’s court. There is no dispute as the litigation process ended 16 years ago. Ethiopia needs to honour its treaty obligations and respect Eritrea’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by withdrawing from occupied territories – including Badme.”
Ultimately, although today’s decision came 16 years later, it is still an important and encouraging step to end the 20-year conflict once and for all.
There is little doubt that the people of Eritrea and Ethiopia would greatly benefit from peace and normalization of relations. However, the horse should come before the cart. Peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea can only be possible and sustainable with respect for and observance of the Algiers Agreement to the letter.
So, let Ethiopia walk the talk.