Today marks the 13th anniversary since Eritrea and Ethiopia signed the Algiers Agreement. The agreement stipulates, among others, the creation of an independent Boundary Commission to demarcate the border and their delimitation and demarcation decision is final and binding.
When the Commission concluded its delimitation on April 21, 2002, they ruled Badme, the flash point town in which both countries claimed belonged to them, is within Eritrea’s borders. Eritrea accepted the ruling without delay, Ethiopia did not.
“…there is no way in hell that the decision on Badme which says it is part of Eritrea can be anything other than illegal and unjust.” said an emotional Meles Zenawi, the late Ethiopian Prime Minister.
Eventually, the Ethiopian regime used political jargon to cover up their rejection of the ruling. They went from calling the ruling ‘illegal and unjust’ to accepting it in ‘principle’. That principle came with a precondition, of course. They wanted dialogue before implementing the ruling. The only problem with this ploy is it’s illegal. It violates the final and binding clause of the Algiers Agreement.
Even if Ethiopian officials genuinely wanted dialogue, Eritrea is more than ready to accommodate them. As Girma Asmerom, Eritrea’s Ambassador to the AU said:
“if Ethiopia withdraws its army from occupied sovereign Eritrean territory including the town of Badme in the morning, dialogue between the two countries will start in the afternoon.”
For many people, it can be difficult to understand Ethiopia’s refusal to abide by Commission’s ruling. After all, this is the town Meles described as “some godforsaken village.” So why reject a ruling if Badme isn’t important to Ethiopia?
The problem with the so-called “border war” is it actually had very little to do with the border. Badme was just a pretext Ethiopia used to ignite a war in a failed bid to reoccupy Eritrea. When the conflict started in 1998, Eritrea barely had five years of de jure independence after fighting 30 years of war. Needless to say, fighting was the last thing on Eritrea’s agenda. As Bordoli Kiflai cleverly put it, Ethiopia “dishonestly tried to challenge our sovereignty; they tried to take it back claiming a five year warranty.”
Unfortunately, 13 years after the signing of the Algiers Agreement, Ethiopia is still allergic to peace. Its occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories violates the human rights of the people of Eritrea and is a major source of destabilization to the region. The UN, U.S., African Union and European Union need to shoulder their moral and legal obligations to enforce the boundary decisions through punitive sanctions for Ethiopia.
Failing to do so only undermines their credibility and efficacy.
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