“Normalization can only come when there are credible parties. If a party fails to abide by an accord it has willingly and knowingly committed itself to, then how can there be normalization between those parties.”
By Daniel S.
Ten years have passed since the Eritrea-Ethiopian Border Commission (EEBC) passed a resolution on the demarcation of the border between the two countries. However, in a series of plots the resolution has been stalemated. Moreover, attempts are being ceaselessly pursued to divert the case from its rightful and lawful path and keep it in periphery.
It’s not new that Eritrea was subjected to flagrant injustice just because her true cause was not congruent with the interest of superpowers, which have been making and unmaking conflicts and resolutions. Is it perhaps a victim mentality to invoke this reality/fact? Some may ask. Well the answer is simple: hasn’t this reality been the rule of the game for these superpowers? Hence, invoking how John Foster Dulles candidly, though typical of the shocking cruelty of US policy makers, explained the strategic and political expediency in condemning Eritrea to unlawful federation with Ethiopia, albeit its right for self determination, could be anything but a victim mentality. Especially, since there is a striking resemblance between the above injustice and the stalemate sustained on the resolution of the EEBC by the “guarantors” of the Algiers Agreement, notably the US. Gro Nystuen and Kjetil Tronvoll have tried to politely put the “US’s geo-political interests and agenda of war on terror” as one of the three factors that has undermined the EEBC ruling. It is however the expediency for US politics and strategy that once again has become the hindrance for the resolution at the expense of Eritrea.
It is not surprising that the intensity, meaning and value of this case is perhaps only known to Eritrea, for it has had experiences of such in the past. It’s not the first time Eritrea was mediated through arbitration. Indeed the case of the Hannish Archipelago is a recent memory. There was no deadlock on the implementation of the resolution precisely because Eritrea adhered to the resolution in word and spirit. Didn’t Eritrea hope for more than it settled for? But the resolution had to be respected for it is binding. Why then should it be any different in the case of the EEBC ruling. Some have hastily remarked the shortcomings of the Algiers Agreement by suggesting the lack of mechanism for solving the implementation lest a dead lock happens. The fundamental question should have been, however, why should a deadlock happen when both party agreed to accept the EEBC ruling as final and binding? Especially so when there were “guarantors” of the agreement, and UN laws and conventions.
Yet others seem to conclude the failure of the resolution on its failure to address important issues of normalization between the two countries and refugee and displacement problem as a result of its implementation. This can amount to putting the cart before the horse. Normalization can only come when there are credible parties. If a party fails to abide by an accord it has willingly and knowingly committed itself to, then how can there be normalization between those parties. Whether intentional or inadvertently, such remarks and stands have sidelined the real issue and led it to a cycle of endless rhetoric. David Styan for instance has written “problems of trade and tariff harmonization, mutual investment regulations, and access of Ethiopia to Eritrea’s ports could be seen as a priority within the economic sector.’ While Nystuen and Tronvoll wrote “also left out of the agreement were directives regulating trans-border movement of migrant labor, petty merchants and pastoralists, and everyday border-crossing for family re-union and social gathering which are instrumental in stabilizing social-economic development.” While both arguments are good as far as the long term relation of the two countries are concerned, they could by no means come as a justification for the lack of implementation of the resolution. And in any case, they rather come as an aftermath of the resolution and in no way as a precondition to it. Besides as Article 4 (1) and (2) of the Algiers Agreement have clearly stipulated, both parties agreed the boundary commission should not have the competence to make decision based on what may seem reasonable; but only on the basis of colonial treaties and applicable international law.
Perhaps the world is full of examples of double standards, but in no other example is this clearer than on the case of the EEBC ruling. In what seemed a staged performance, many have suggested ways of ending the stalemate once and for all. However, one can not help but to ask where all these suggestions were during the Agreement? Why after the resolution? Why didn’t the Security Council demand both parties to accept the commission resolution? Why all the effort to annul the resolution? The list can go on and on. What makes this even more absurd is a suggestion calling “for a new demarcation as the decision is highly contested” as Nystuen and Tronvoll would have it. Other “theoretical option” as some seem to agree “is that both parties agree to resolve the dispute peacefully through some sort of settlement procedure, by asking the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the AU, UN or other institution to embark on a new arbitration process”. But what good can it serve to enmesh oneself from one resolution to yet another when the first one is being unlawfully and unjustly sidelined.
A telling story goes as follow; “A monkey fell in to a thorny tree and its whole body was covered with thorns. When others came to help, the monkey asked them to pull the thorn from its bottom so that it can sit down and pull the rest of the thorns by itself.” The fact of the matter is that the unconditional demarcation of the Eritrean-Ethiopian border is of utmost essence. Once this is settled normalization and lasting peace will naturally follow. While situations are as they are it might seem the world is failing Eritrea once again. But it is more than that because essentially the biggest casualty is justice.