Badme Border War (Eritrean-Ethiopian), 1998

The outbreak of hostilities between the once allied Ethiopian and Eritrean governments in May 1998 came as a surprise to many international observers. Eritrea had been absorbed into Ethiopia during the Italian colonial period, and Ethiopian president Meles Zenawi and Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki were long-time friends who had fought side by side during the nearly two decade Ethiopian Civil War which ousted the communist Derg regime. Shortly after the end of the civil war in 1991, a public referendum demonstrated the overwhelming public support for an independent Eritrea, which was peacefully established in 1993. Poorly defined colonial era borders in the remote and sparsely populated Tigray region quickly emerged as a source of tension between the two countries, specifically focused on which side of the border the town of Badme fell within. A few small skirmishes between border guards near the town in the spring of 1998 quickly erupted into full scale trench warfare. Both sides petitioned the United Nations for support, claiming the other was the invading aggressor. After nearly two years of fighting, tens of thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of displaced people, the two sides agreed to set up a UN monitored temporary security zone in the area surrounding Badme. The Ethiopian military was able to outmaneuver the Eritrean forces, but international courts ultimately determined that Badme and most of the surrounding area belonged to Eritrea.

EritreafiringEritrean artillery fires over the border, May 1998.



Statements of the Eritrean Government to the UN, 15 May 1998
Statement of the Ethiopian Government to the UN Security Council, 15 May 1998
Statements of the Eritrean Government to the UN Security Council, 20 May 1998
Statements of the Eritrean Government to the UN Security Council, 26 May 1998
Statement of the Ethiopian Government to the UN Security Council, 3 June 1998
Statement of the Ethiopian Government to the UN Security Council, 17 July 1998
Statements of the Eritrean Government to the UN Security Council, 14 August 1998
Statements of the Eritrean Government to the UN Security Council, 6 November 1998
Statement of the Ethiopian Government to the UN Security Council, 11 November 1998
Statements of the Eritrean Government to the UN Security Council, 24 November 1998
President Isaias Afwerki’s Speech to the OAU Central Organ Meeting, Ouagadougou, 17 December 1998
Statements of the Eritrean Government to the UN Security Council, 21 December 1998


Statements of the Eritrean Government to the UN, 15 May 1998 Top

Source: United Nations. “Letter Dated 15 May 1998 from the Charge D’Affaires A.I. of the Permanent Mission of Eritrea to the United Nations Addressed to the President of the Security Council,” S/1998/399, 15 May 1998. Retrieved from http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org

LETTER DATED 15 MAY 1998 FROM THE CHARGE D’AFFAIRES A.I. OF THE PERMANENT MISSION OF ERITREA TO THE UNITED NATIONS ADDRESSED TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE SECURITY COUNCIL

I have the honour to attach the following two statements concerning the sudden crisis between the State of Eritrea and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, issued in Asmara, Eritrea on 14 and 15 May 1998, respectively:

1. Statement of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Government of Eritrea
2. Statement of the Government of Eritrea calling for an independent
inspection

I should be grateful if you would kindly circulate the present letter and
its annexes as a document of the Security Council.

(Signed) Tesfa Alem SEYOUM
Chargé d’affaires a.i.

Annex I
Statement of 14 May 1998 of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Government of Eritrea The Cabinet of Ministers of the Government of Eritrea has held a meeting in Asmara today, Thursday, 14 May 1998, to consider the statement issued by the Council of Ministers of the Federal Democratic Government of Ethiopia which accuses Eritrea of inciting conflict and hatred and pursuing a policy of territorial expansion; condemns Eritrea, alleging that its army has invaded Ethiopian territory by crossing its borders; and warns that Ethiopia will take all the necessary measures to protect its territorial integrity. The Government and people of Eritrea are greatly saddened by the tone and contents of these grave accusations.

The Cabinet of Ministers of the Government of Eritrea noted that there have been, and continue to exist, border disputes in certain localities along the common borders between Eritrea and Ethiopia. These problems have been instigated by the unlawful practices of the Ethiopian army, which occasionally made incursions into these Eritrean territories, dismantling the local administrative structures and committing crimes against the inhabitants. But despite these periodic occurrences, the Cabinet asserted that the Government of Eritrea has been consistently endeavouring to resolve these recurrent problems through bilateral negotiations with the Government of Ethiopia in a calm and patient manner, cautious to not inflate the problem out of proportion and incite animosity between the two fraternal peoples. The Government of Eritrea has opted for this course of action because it believes that the international boundary between Eritrea and Ethiopia is very clear and non-controversial. It knows that the recurrent border incursions that continue to be perpetrated by Ethiopian forces basically emanate from the narrow perspectives of the Administrative Zones.

The Cabinet of Ministers further noted that a Joint Committee had been formed by both Governments to resolve these problems and to delineate on the ground the boundary line. The Cabinet of Ministers asserted that the Government of Eritrea has been exerting all the necessary efforts to expedite the process and facilitate the work of the Joint Committee.

But on Wednesday, 6 May 1998, while the Eritrean delegation was on its way to Addis Ababa for a meeting of the Joint Committee to discuss ways and means for accelerating its work, Ethiopian army contingents that had already penetrated into Eritrean territory in the areas around Badme (south-western Eritrea) opened fire and caused grave damage to Eritrean units that attempted to approach them for dialogue. This unprovoked attack subsequently triggered a cycle of clashes in the area. Furthermore, while continued talks were under way to resolve the tension provoked by the first attack, an appalling statement aimed at sending an unnecessary message to the peoples of both countries and the international community was issued by the Council of Ministers of the Federal Democratic Government of Ethiopia.

The Cabinet of Ministers reiterates its firm belief that the enduring mutual interests that exist and bind together the peoples of Eritrea and Ethiopia cannot be jeopardized by any border dispute. The Cabinet of Ministers accordingly proposes the following framework as a solution to the problem, which has been blown out of proportion.

1. The Government of Eritrea condemns the use of force as it firmly believes and upholds that border disputes of any kind can only be resolved through peaceful and legal means, and not through military means.

2. On the basis of this principle, each party shall publicly announce to the peoples of Eritrea, Ethiopia and the international community the territories that it claims – if any – and designate them on the political map with clear geographical coordinates. Each party shall also accept that the dispute cannot and should not be resolved by force but through peaceful negotiations.

3. Both parties shall agree that all negotiations and understandings that will be conducted henceforth shall be carried out in the presence and through the mediation of a third party. The latter will act as witness and guarantor.

4. Areas under “dispute” shall be demilitarized temporarily and be free from the presence of armies of both countries. The enforcement of this understanding shall be guaranteed by the third party. 5. If the above proposal for resolving the dispute through the involvement of a third party and without further complications is not acceptable, the matter should be referred to international adjudication.

The Government of Eritrea firmly believes that attempts to inflate the minor and temporary problem that has been created along the borders of the two sister countries will not serve the fundamental interests of the Eritrean and Ethiopian peoples. The Government of Eritrea pledges that it will, heretofore, spare no efforts to handle the present problem with the requisite patience and responsibility. It does not, accordingly, see any wisdom in precipitating tension through inflammatory campaigns.

The Government of Eritrea therefore calls upon the Government of Ethiopia to pursue a similar path that will promote the interests and goodneighbourliness of the peoples of both countries. The Cabinet of Ministers of the Government of Eritrea further reasserts its belief that the peoples of Eritrea and Ethiopia will maintain and preserve their mutual interests rooted in peace, good-neighbourliness and cooperation.

Annex II
Statement of 15 May 1998 of the Government of Eritrea calling for an independent inspection.

Persisting in its negative approach of imparting a dangerous dimension to the crisis that has unfolded in the past few days, the Ethiopian Government continues to accuse Eritrea of occupying Ethiopian territory by deploying tanks and heavy artillery in the area. As the statement of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Government of Eritrea issued yesterday, 14 May 1998, asserts, Eritrea has not violated the internationally recognized borders between the two countries to encroach on Ethiopian territory. The Government of Eritrea has, moreover, called for a total demilitarization of the areas claimed by either side to allow for the smooth and speedy resolution of the current crisis through the facilitation of a third party.

The Government of Eritrea in addition expresses its readiness to accept an independent inspection by any third party to verify the facts of the matter on the ground.


Statement of the Ethiopian Government to the UN Security Council, 15 May 1998 Top

Source: United Nations. “Letter Dated 19 May 1998 from the Charge D’Affaires A.I. of the Permanent Mission of Ethiopia to the United Nations Addressed to the President of the Security Council,” S/1998/414, 15 May 1998. Retrieved from http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org

LETTER DATED 19 MAY 1998 FROM THE CHARGÉ D’AFFAIRES A.I. OF THE PERMANENT MISSION OF ETHIOPIA TO THE UNITED NATIONS ADDRESSED TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE SECURITY COUNCIL

Upon instructions from my Government, I have the honour to transmit herewith a statement by Mr. Seyoum Mesfin, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, to the diplomatic community in Addis Ababa on the military aggression by Eritrea. I should be grateful if you would kindly circulate this letter and its annex as a document of the Security Council.
(Signed) Fesseha A. TESSEMA

Annex
Statement to the diplomatic community in Addis Ababa on the military aggression by Eritrea issued on 19 May 1998 by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia

Those of you who have been following Ethiopia’s and this Government’s foreign policy activities over the past seven years can hardly fail to appreciate how much we have been preoccupied with never again allowing our people to slide back into that most difficult period of war and destruction that was the fate of our peoples for three decades.

Over the last seven years, peace has been our fixation and because of the opportunities we squandered for decades and to make up for the time lost, time that was frittered away with so much abandon and irresponsibility in the past, we gave all we have – energy, time and resources – to the task of economic development.

We have also always been very conscious of one important point – our peace and Ethiopia’s stability and security could not be ensured without peace and stability in our subregion; that is why we have been so much committed to assisting in peacemaking and national reconciliation in our part of the African region.

We also have other reasons for having been so active in peacemaking in our subregion. It requires little reminding that our subregion has probably been one of the few regions of the world to have acquired a very damaging image internationally because of political instability, lack of security and war. We thought that this image needed to be changed, which perforce could be achieved only when the underlying reality of conflict and misunderstanding was solved. We thought that without success in this area, it would be virtually impossible to change the economic reality in our subregion which necessitated making our countries effective and worthwhile partners for others.

That is why the war of aggression against Ethiopia launched by Eritrea on 12 May 1998 has such immense implications for us and for our subregion. It is not simply anger that has been elicited by that blatant violation of Ethiopia’s sovereignty and of international law by Eritrea. It is also anguish because of its potential in terms of diverting us from our priorities. War cannot be our priority and it cannot be the priority of the Eritrean people. Honestly speaking, this crisis created by the aggression committed by the State of Eritrea is also an embarrassment, not only for Ethiopia but also for our region in general. I say this because I know, at least I can guess, what might have been in your minds when you heard about this ugly development between Eritrea and Ethiopia – two countries that have promised the world that peace is their priority and war making is not in their agenda and that have pledged to help bring about a new era of prosperity and peace in a subregion which has lost so much time in economic development and whose people have suffered so much.

But, as the Chinese saying goes, one cannot clap with one hand; you need partners for peace and, try as much as you can, if others fail to cherish peace and its rewards, your commitment alone will not suffice. That is the sad reality that we and our peoples have been made to realize by this Eritrean aggression.

I would now like to turn to the facts surrounding this sad event and to this aggression by the State of Eritrea. There has been a lot of prevarication and lack of transparency and sheer fabrication on the part of the Eritrean authorities regarding the events of the past week as well as the background to the Eritrean aggression. Accordingly, it is vital that the international community gets all the facts in connection with what has really happened between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

First of all, it is a fact that the borders between Ethiopia and Eritrea are not fully delimited and demarcated, this despite a series of agreements between Ethiopia and Italy, the then colonial power in Eritrea. As you all know, in subsequent years, since Eritrea was part of Ethiopia, border issues had no cause to figure prominently in relations between the people of Ethiopia and the people of Eritrea. Naturally, because the borders between Ethiopia and Eritrea were not fully delimited and demarcated, it would not be extraordinarily surprising if there were to be disputes between the two countries regarding various localities along their common borders following Eritrea’s independence, all the more so because, since the two peoples had lived under the same fold, a precise delineation of jurisdiction is bound to require patience and wisdom.

That was what was agreed by the two sides upon the overthrow of the military regime in Ethiopia and Eritrea’s de facto independence, which continued when Eritrea became formally independent in 1993. Specifically, the two sides, having acknowledged the existence of disputes between them regarding various localities along their common borders, agreed to solve these disputes through bilateral negotiations and also agreed, in the event of failure to resolve the issue in bilateral negotiations, to resort to third-party involvement, including eventually to arbitration, should that be necessary. This was the understanding between the two countries until 12 May 1998, when for reasons known only to the Eritrean authorities, decisions were made in Asmara to invade Ethiopian territory by deploying three brigades assisted by tanks.

Despite the statements coming out of Asmara about the localities invaded by Eritrean troops being Eritrean, the truth is that the locality of Badme and part of Shiraro, which are now under the occupation of Eritrean troops, have never ever been part of Eritrea, neither during Italian colonial time, nor during the periods of different regimes in Ethiopia. These localities in north-west Ethiopia have always been administered by Ethiopia and have always been under its jurisdiction. The Asmara authorities know this and the peoples of the localities know this. Any claim to the contrary is an absolute fabrication which has no basis in fact.

But the fact that these localities are disputed and are claimed by Eritrea, as others within the frontiers of Eritrea are claimed by Ethiopia, is something which both sides acknowledge, and it was on the basis of this realization that a joint commission was established between the two sides with the view to seeking peaceful resolution of the disputes.

Let me add here that because those localities within Ethiopia which are now occupied by Eritrea were disputed localities and because of Ethiopia’s conviction that Eritrea could not be a source of threat to Ethiopia, not only Badme and its environs, but the whole Ethiopian territory in that part of our country has been left virtually free of the presence of Ethiopian regular troops. Peace and security was thus maintained in Badme and its environs by local police and local militia, thus making that part of Ethiopia essentially a demilitarized zone. When Asmara decided to make the military move, it knew that its mechanized troops would only have before it, defending Ethiopian territory and its sovereignty, a local militia and local police, which indeed put up a heroic resistance, sustaining some casualties in the process. This is the background to this sad development in the north-western part of our country.

Eritrea wanted to create facts on the ground through military means and in flagrant violation of international law, thereby also violating Ethiopia’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity. This is also the background to the short statement issued on 13 May 1998 by the Council of Ministers of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia after approval by the Council of Peoples’ Representatives. That statement demands that “the Eritrean Government unconditionally and immediately withdraw from Ethiopian territory and cease its provocative and belligerent activity”. And the statement further makes it clear that “in the event that the Eritrean Government and the Popular Front do not desist from this dangerous action and withdraw from Ethiopian territory without any precondition, the Ethiopian Government will take all the necessary measures that the situation demands to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country”. There are few people in the world who have had a greater share of wars and suffering than the peoples of Ethiopia and Eritrea. As such, our Government is fully aware of the heavy burden of responsibility on its shoulders. This is one side of the ledger. On the other hand, this Government has the responsibility towards the Ethiopian people to ensure that their sovereignty is protected and defended and, to the international community, to ensure that those who violate international law and international legality so flagrantly and so irresponsibly are not rewarded. As such, Ethiopia has made it clear that negotiation on this latest development between Eritrea and Ethiopia and on the surrounding events and issues can take place only following the unconditional withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Ethiopian territory.

Some friendly countries, over the past few days, have provided their good offices to both countries to facilitate a peaceful resolution of this crisis created by Eritrea. We are appreciative of this gesture by common friends of the peoples of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Because of our keen interest to exhaust whatever diplomatic openings are available and because of the responsibility we have to do whatever is necessary, we have shown readiness to explain our position to these friends, the thrust of our message being that Eritrean troops would have to withdraw from Ethiopian territory unconditionally for negotiations to commence between the two countries on whatever disputes there might be between them. In other words, for negotiation to commence, there is no alternative but the establishment of the status quo ante in Badme and its environs that has prevailed prior to the invasion. It would be total irresponsibility on Ethiopia’s part to commence negotiations with those who started out deliberately to create facts on the ground through military means and then who try to assume a peaceful disposition. Aggression should not be rewarded and that is what the Asmara authorities are trying to achieve by trying to hoodwink the international community through various declarations from Asmara, including through the statement issued on 14 May 1998. The essence of that statement and its thrust is prevarication. Asmara condemns the use of force after committing aggression so blatantly. It talks about the temporary demilitarization of disputed areas after having invaded Ethiopian localities that have to all intents and purposes been demilitarized.

It talks about third-party involvement as if there had not been such an understanding prior to the Eritrean military aggression. It talks about the resolution of border disputes through mediation or arbitration as if these have not been already agreed to prior to the invasion. All these are attempts to pretend that there are other issues where there are none. Because all these are issues over which there is already understanding between the two sides. It appears to me that it should not be Ethiopia’s sole responsibility to send a clear and an unambiguous message to those like Eritrea, namely that violating international borders and violating international law is not a joke. You do not invade sovereign States and then invite them to talk. The Asmara authorities are trying to be smarter by half. But this duplicity should not be ignored by the international community because the implications are broad and serious. Nobody knows what the Asmara authorities might do tomorrow. Their pattern of behaviour is so dangerous that they need to be told right away enough is enough. They need to be told that there is international law and there are principles and norms governing civilized behaviour among States. To allow the Asmara authorities to get what they want through prevarication is to confirm to them that what the international community is governed by is the law of the jungle. This is the responsibility of the international community and it is also the responsibility of Ethiopia. Ethiopia also has the responsibility of protecting its sovereignty and dignity.


Statements of the Eritrean Government to the UN Security Council, 20 May 1998 Top

Source: United Nations. “Letter Dated 20 May 1998 from the Charge D’Affaires A.I. of the Permanent Mission of Eritrea to the United Nations Addressed to the President of the Security Council,” S/1998/417, 20 May 1998. Retrieved from http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org

LETTER DATED 20 MAY 1998 FROM THE CHARGE D’AFFAIRES A.I. OF THE PERMANENT MISSION OF ERITREA TO THE UNITED NATIONS ADDRESSED TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE SECURITY COUNCIL

On instructions from my Government, I have the honour to attach, once again, a statement by the Cabinet of Ministers of the Government of Eritrea concerning the sudden border disputes between the State of Eritrea and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, issued today, 20 May 1998, in Asmara.

I should be grateful if you would kindly circulate the text of the present letter, its annex and the enclosure to the States Members of the United Nations as a document of the Security Council.

(Signed) Tesfa Alem SEYOUM
Charge d’Affaires a.i.

Annex
Statement by the Cabinet of Ministers of the Government of Eritrea, issued on 20 May 1998

The Cabinet of MInisters of the Government of Eritrea held a meeting today, Wednesday, 20 May 1998, to review the developments that have unfolded in the past few days in the current crisis between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and issued the following statement.

1. The Cabinet of Ministers examined in depth the main source and root cause of the crisis between Eritrea and Ethiopia. In this regard, the Cabinet of MInisters identified the Eritrean territories that lie within the internationally recognized boundary of Eritrea but that have now been incorporated into the Tigray Administrative Zone according to an official map issued by the Ethiopian Mapping Authority in 1997 (see enclosure). The map carves out large swaths of Eritrean territory in the south-western (Badme area), southern (Tsorona and Alitena areas) and easter parts (Bada) of the country.

The Cabinet further examined areas in south-eastern Eritrea contiguous with the Afar Administrative Zone that have been occupied by Ethiopian troops in the past year.

The Cabinet reasserted that these facts demonstrate Ethiopia’s violation of the internationally recognized boundaries of Eritrea in contravention of the fundamental principles of international law and the Charters of the United Nations and of the Organization of African Unity. This objective has been pursued doggedly in practice in the past year.

2. The Government of Eritrea rejects the blatant violation of its territorial integrity.

3. The Government of Eritrea further rejects and condemns the use of force to resolve this and other similar problems as it believes that the solution lies in negotiations and peaceful means. It is on the basis of this principle that the Government of Eritrea demanded the reversal of the acts committed by the Ethiopian Government last year when it evicted farmers in the Badme area from their villages by burning their cultivated crops. Similarly, the Government of Eritrea rejected the logic of force and repeatedly requested the Ethiopian Government to rescind its acts when its troops forcibly occupied Bada (adi Murug) and dismantled the administration in the area. When the Ethiopian Government refused to heed these legitimate requests, the Government of Eritrea did not attempt to regain by force the occupied territories. Instead, it opted to seek a peaceful solution through bilateral negotiations and the formation of a Joint Committee.

4. The Cabinet of MInisters noted that the Ethiopian Government has been pursuing a deliberate policy of occupying Eritrean territories through the use of force to create a de facto situation on the ground. As such, it demands the withdrawal of all Ethiopian troops that have crossed the border illegally and who remain inside its territory.

5. The Government of Eritrea categorically asserts that it has not made any incursion into Ethiopian territory and reaffirms its readiness to facilitate inspection by any third party to verify the facts on the ground. Similarly, it calls for an independent investigation to ascertain the circumstances of the incident that occurred on 6 May 1998 and which accentuated the current crisis.

6. The Government of Eritrea again calls upon the Government of Ethiopia to publicly announce to the peoples of Ethiopia and Eritrea, as well as to the international community, the territories that it claims along the common border. These claims must be accompanied by the requisite documentation, maps and geographical coordinates. It cannot otherwise accept Ethiopia’s ambivalent position that argues, at times, that the boundary between Eritrea and Ethiopia is not known and delineated while at other times, it repeatedly threatens to declare war on Eritrea unless it withdraws from these territories whose entitlements it is not certain of.

7. The Cabinet of Ministers reiterates its proposal issued on 14 May 1998 for the temporary demilitarization of the areas of tension in order to defuse the present crisis that may entail grave consequences for both sides and until the problem finds a comprehensive and lasting solution.

8. The Cabinet of Ministers commended the initiatives undertaken by several friends and concerned parties to defuse the current crisis between Eritrea and Ethiopia and to facilitate a lasting solution, and reaffirmed its commitment to encourage these efforts without reservation.

9. In conclusion, the Government of Eritrea expresses its dismay at the inflammatory campaigns of inciting hatred and confrontation that are being conducted by the Government of Ethiopia and its mass media. Choosing to refrain from mounting a similar campaign, it calls upon the Ethiopian Governments and its mass media to desist from these activities.


Statements of the Eritrean Government to the UN Security Council, 26 May 1998 Top

Source: United Nations. “Letter Dated 26 May 1998 from the Charge D’Affaires A.I. of the Permanent Mission of Eritrea to the United Nations Addressed to the President of the Security Council,” S/1998/427, 26 May 1998. Retrieved from http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org

LETTER DATED 26 MAY 1998 FROM THE CHARGE D’AFFAIRES A.I. OF THE PERMANENT MISSION OF ERITREA TO THE UNITED NATIONS ADDRESSED TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE SECURITY COUNCIL

Subsequent to our two precious communications dated 14 and 19 May 1998 concerning the border crisis between Eritrea and Ethiopia, I have the honour to attach a document entitled “Basic facts on the present tension between Eritrea and Ethiopia”, issued by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Eritrea on 23 May 1998 in Asmara.

This document articulates the genesis of the border conflict that has developed into a crisis between my country, Eritrea, and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, which has terribly saddened my Government.

I should be grateful if you would kindly circulate the present letter, its annez and the enclosure as a document of the Security Council.

(Signed) Haile MENKERIOS
Ambassador
Permanent Representative

Annex
Basic facts on the present tension between Eritrea and Ethiopia

1. The present crisis in the relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia was triggered on 6 May 1997 by an unprovoked Ethiopian armed attack on Eritrean troops in south-western Eritrea. The fighting that ensued resulted in Eritrea bringing under its control the large swaths of its soth-western territory that Ethiopia had been occupying. Eritrean troops involved in the fighting stopped at Eritrea’s borders and did not infringe on Ethiopian territory.

2. The unprovoked attack of 6 May was the latest in a long string of violations by Ethiopia of Eritrean territory and sovereignty as well as of the understanding between the two countries to maintain the status quo on the borders pending a final agreement. Since these are too numerous to catalogue here, we will confine ourselves to the more recent and significant transgressions. Ten months ago, in July 1997, Ethiopian troops occupied the Adi Murug area of Bada, in eastern Eritrea, dismantled the Eritrean administration there and installed a new Ethiopian administration. A few days alter, Ethiopian authorities forcibly evicted Eritrean farmers from villages in the vicinity of Badme in south-western Eritrea, saying that they had demarcated the area as Ethiopian territory. Eritrea protested to the Ethiopian Government asking it to reverse those infringements, carried out by force, but the Ethiopian authorities, who had created new facts on the ground, refused to heed Eritrea’s call. These incursions have since continued, resulting in Ethiopian occupation of large tracts of land, particularly in south-western Eritrea.

3. The Ethiopian incursions were not isolated actions, as the Eritrean Government had initially thought. Indeed, they were part of an overall plan decided on at the highest levels to bring under Ethiopian control large swathes of Eritrean land that Ethiopia claimed. An official Ethiopian map of the Tigray region of Ethiopia (published 1997), shows Ethiopian territorial ambitions inside the clearly demarcted international, colonial borders of Eritrea. (See attached map.)

4. Eritrea has not been fixated on the issue of its borders with Ethiopia. Firstly, Eritrea’s borders with Ethiopia are among the most clearly defined colonial boundaries and Eritrea is confident that, if the need arises, it can secure its rights to its borders through peaceful and legal means. Secondly, in the light of the good relations that have existed between the two neighbours and their avowed objective of promoting regional integration, the Eritrean Government has believed that the issue of borders is of secondary significance and should not be allowed to obstruct the development of bilateral and regional cooperation. Consequently, Eritrea has consistently worked to resolve the tension arising from border issues quietly, peacefully and, as much as possibly, bilaterally. It did not go public when Ethiopian troops occupied the Adi Murug area of Bada and forcibly evicted farmers from the Badme area, razing their dwellings and farms to the ground. It did not issue ultimatums or threaten all-out war, as the Ethiopian Government has now done. It simply called for the formation of a joint committee to resolve the issue on the basis of the international, colonial borders between the two countries. Eritrea’s restraint, however, only encouraged the Ethiopian authorities, who might have misinterpreted it for weakness or lack of resolve, to push on with their flagrant violations of Eritrean sovereignty.

5. In light of the above, Ethiopia’s reaction to the more recent developments has been inexplicable and extremely dangerous. It has threatened war unless Eritrea withdraws unconditionally from territories it legitimately brought back under its control. Virtually the entire Ethiopian army has been brought to Eritrea’s borders. Meanwhile, the Ethiopian media is waging an inflammatory campaign, inciting hatred and confrontation. In a flashback to the old regime, calls are being made daily to “crush and annihilate the invading Eritrean army”. Consistent with the war psychosis it is creating, Ethiopia has stopped Ethiopian airline flights to Eritrea and the use of Eritrean ports, through which 90 per cent of its trade used to pass.

6. In a bid to justify its extremist and dangerous position, the Ethiopian Government has blown the situation out of all proportion and has resorted to a distortion of the issues and facts. It has centered its campaign on Badme, as if there are no other areas of tension. It has totally ignored the unprovoked attack of 6 May and the precious violations of Eritrean territory. The Ethiopian Foreign MInister went as far as alleging that the borders between the two countries are not delimited and demarcated and then went on to contradict himself by insisting that Eritrea had violated Ethiopian sovereignty in these same not delimited and demarcated areas.

7. The Ethiopian authorities have also intimated that the present difficulties are linked to the differences between the two countries over trade. There is absolutely no basis to these insinuations. While Eritrea, adopting a long-term perspective, had favoured more open trade and closer economic ties, the new arrangements preferred by the Ethiopian Government have not harmed the Eritrean economy in any way. Indeed they have come as a blessing in disguise, as they have unleashed new initiatives and entrepreneurship in the Eritrean economy. It is also worth mentioning that the conjecture contained in press reports that the fighting might be linked to mineral deposits in the area where the incident has taken place is totally unfounded.

8. In stark contrast to the Ethiopian approach, Eritrea has responsibly striven to defuse the situation and pave a way for a peaceful, lasting solution. It has called for the renunciation of the use of force. It has also proposed the demilitarization of all areas of current tension and the resolution of the issue through the involvement of a third party and on the basis of respect for the international and colonial boundaries. The above points are incorporated in the following five-point proposal presented by the Eritrean Government on 14 May 1998…. [FIVE POINTS OMITTED]

9. The Eritrean Government has welcomed and cooperated without reservation with the intiatives undertaken by friends and concerned parties to defuse the ciris and faciliitate a lasting solution.It will continue to do so until the problem is resolved.


Statement of the Ethiopian Government to the UN Security Council, 3 June 1998 Top

Source: United Nations. “Letter Dated 3 June 1998 from the Charge D’Affaires A.I. of the Permanent Mission of Ethiopia to the United Nations Addressed to the President of the Security Council,” S/1998/467, 3 June 1998. Retrieved from http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org

LETTER DATED 4 JUNE 1998 FROM THE PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF ETHIOPIA TO THE UNITED NATIONS ADDRESSED TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE SECURITY COUNCIL

With reference to the letter from the Permanent Representative of Eritrea to the United Nations addressed to you on 3 June 1998, and its annex, the press release by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Eritrea (S/1998/459), I have the honour to transmit herewith a press statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia issued on 3 June 1998.

I should be grateful if you would have this letter and its annex circulated
as a document of the Security Council.

(Signed) Duri MOHAMMED
Ambassador
Permanent Representative

ANNEX
Press statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia on 3 June 1998
The international community is well aware of the crisis that has developed between Ethiopia and Eritrea since the Eritrean aggression against Ethiopia on 12 May 1998, as a result of which Eritrea still occupies the Ethiopian locality of Badme and part of Shiraro. This aggression carried out by Eritrea with tanks and heavy weapons is now public knowledge and has been widely reported by the international media, including eyewitness reporters. Despite some prevarication, Eritrea would hardly deny this.

What Ethiopia has done in response to this unprovoked aggression is to denounce the aggression and call upon Eritrea to withdraw from Ethiopian territory. Ethiopia’s preference is for the crisis to be settled peacefully, in a civilized manner and legally. Ethiopia is for legality and for civility and not for war.

This is why Ethiopia has continued to cooperate to the maximum level possible with the facilitators. But even while the efforts of the facilitators has been under way, Eritrea has refused to desist from its provocative activities and from further attempts to create other facts on the ground. This explains the yet another attempt by Eritrea to take over additional Ethiopian localities in the past few days, specifically the localities of Aiga and Aliteina. It did not succeed. This latest aggression by Eritrea has also been widely reported by the international media. But Ethiopia was not diverted by this from allowing the efforts of the facilitators to continue and thus has desisted from aggravating the situation. In fact, what Ethiopia did was to ask members of the international media to leave the vicinity so that the work of the facilitators may not face undue complications.

But the Eritrean Government appears to have been set at continuing with the pattern demonstrated on 12 May 1998, because, convinced that there could not be eyewitness accounts of their aggression, they again decided to launch another attack this morning (the morning of 3 June) in the vicinity of Zala Ambesa, Aiga and Aliteina, an effort which, as usual, was designed to create facts on the ground, and which failed.

Because this latest aggression by Eritrea could not be confirmed by the international media, Eritrea thought it could get away with shifting the blame onto Ethiopia, thus the press release today by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Eritrea, accusing Ethiopia of aggression.

It is the position of the Ethiopian Government that Eritrea would benefit little by trying to hoodwink the international community. It would benefit little from trying to create additional facts on the ground. Its military aggression should stop and it should allow the facilitators to make a difference for peace. This is Ethiopia’s preference, as it has been since the first aggression was carried out by Eritrea on 12 May 1998. Eritrea’s attempt to create additional facts on the ground and, when this fails, to try to make Ethiopia appear as an aggressor like Eritrea, is increasingly becoming a new strategy of the Eritrean authorities. This is the whole essence of the press release by the Eritrean Foreign Ministry referred to above. It would be rather odd for Ethiopia, which has refused to respond in kind to the Eritrean aggression of 12 May and which continues to do the maximum possible to assist the facilitators, to now engage in activities that would harm this effort.

Eritrea should do likewise: help the facilitators as Ethiopia does, so that their efforts, conducted under difficult circumstances, can succeed, and so that this crisis can be solved peacefully. This is the preference of Ethiopia. It should be that of Eritrea as well. Eritrea’s cooperation with the facilitators is the only way to ensure the peaceful resolution of the crisis.


Statement of the Ethiopian Government to the UN Security Council, 17 July 1998 Top

Source: United Nations. “Letter Dated 17 July 1998 from the Charge D’Affaires A.I. of the Permanent Mission of Ethiopia to the United Nations Addressed to the President of the Security Council,” S/1998/662, 17 July 1998. Retrieved from http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org

LETTER DATED 17 JULY 1998 FROM THE PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF ETHIOPIA TO THE UNITED NATIONS ADDRESSED TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE SECURITY COUNCIL

Upon instructions from my Government, I have the honour to transmit herewith a copy of an updated memorandum on Eritrean aggression against Ethiopia and continued gross violations of the human rights of Ethiopians in Eritrea.

I should be grateful if you could kindly circulate the present letter and its annexes as a document of the Security Council.

(Signed) Duri MOHAMMED
Ambassador
Permanent Representative

Annex I
Updated memorandum by the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, dated 16 July 1998

Eritrean aggression against Ethiopia and continued gross violations of the human rights of Ethiopians in Eritrea

1. It is now over two months since the unprovoked and naked aggression against Ethiopia was launched by the Eritrean regime. It is well known to the whole world that the Ethiopian Government as well as the international community have been calling upon the Eritrean Government to pull out its invading force from Ethiopian territory and instead to seek a peaceful resolution to the conflict. NEvertheless, the Eritrean regime has so far turned down all the peace proposals in flagrant disregard of the peaceful intentions of Ethiopia, the proposals of the facilitators, namely, the Governments of the United States of America and Rwanda, the resolutions of the ORganization of African Unity (OAU), the United Nations Security Council and the European Union.

2. This being the indisputable fact known to the international community, the Eritrean regime has persisted with its empty rhetoric ad nauseam that it is committed to a peaceful resolution of the crisis between the two countries, and has continued to disseminate its baseless accusations against Ethiopia.

3. In this connection, the statement issued on 3 July 1998, by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Eritrea under the title “Ethiopia’s gross violations of the human rights of Eritreans living in Ethiopia,” circulated as an official document of the General Assembly and the security Council (A/52/974-S/1998/611), is the most recent attempt in the series of unfounded allegations levelled against Ethiopia by the Eritrean regime.

4. The statement is a familiar ply by the Eritrean authorities aimed at deceiving the international community and covering up the war of aggression against Ethiopia, that is, continue occupation of Ethiopian territory since 12 May 1998, over and above its gross violations of the Geneva conventions of 1949, which the whole world has witnessed in extensive detail, particularly in its air attack on Adigrat and Mekelle, targeting civilians shelling the social facilities in Zalambessa, Badme, etc., over a period of days. As such, it has come as no surprise to the Ethiopian Government. We believe that the international community will see this latest nefarious posturing by the Eritrean regime for what it really is – a futile attempt by a criminal to cover up his crime.

5. In the light of the above attempt to distort the facts, the Government of Ethiopia is duty-bound once agains to put the issue in its proper perspective and to bring additional facts and developments to the attention of the international community at large and relevant international organizations mandated to look into issues of this nature in particular.

6. As has been so commonly manifested in its crude practice of the use of force against civilians, the Eritrean Government once again unashamedly demonstrated its brutal actions targeting Ethiopian civilians….

[POINTS 7 THROUGH 20 DETAIL SPECIFIC INSTANCES OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS ON THE PART OF THE ERITREAN GOVERNMENT AND MILITARY]

21. On the contrary, the Ethiopian Government’s reaction to the unprovoked aggression by the Eritrean regime was based on the cardinal principles of international law and relevant conventions. Even weeks after the aggression was committed by the invading forces, the Ethiopian Government has not responded in kind and has exercised maximum restraint, even though it was fully justified to do so under international law. The defensive air strike by the Ethiopian Air Force only targeted military installations at the Eritrean Air Force base in Asmara. As far as the ground war is concerned, Ethiopia has continued to defend its territory from further encroachment by Eritrean forces. Moreover, it has treated prisoners of war taken as the result of the military engagement with Eritrean forces in the most human way. ICRC and other concerned agencies have full access to visit Eritrean prisoners of war.

22. Furthermore, the policy of the Ethiopian Government towards Eritreans residing in Ethiopia is based on the solid principle of friendship and a bond of common destiny. Even in the face of naked aggression and continuous provocation by the Eritrean regime, the Ethiopian Government is totally committed to respect the rights of Eritreans living in its territory and fully guarantees them the right to live and work in peace. Under no circumstances will the Ethiopian Government succumb to a tit-for-tat exercise with the Eritrean regime in the treatment of civilians in conflict situations.

23. However, the Government of Ethiopia, as a victim of unprovoked aggression, has taken precautionary measures on former EPLF combatants, members of the EPLF’s clandestine organization called “People’s Front for Democracy and Justice”, and conscripts who entered Ethiopia taking advantage of the visa liberalization policy, and on those who have been found contributing materially and financially to Eritrea’s war of aggression. These measures have been taken in full transparency and according to pertinent international norms and principles.

24. Moreover, Ethiopia has facilitated, and will continue to do so, for ICRC, concerned United Nations agencies and other intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, regular access to prisoners of war and temporarily detained Eritrean civilians, while the Eritrean regime, in spite of the promises it has made, has so far never allowed ICRC and other concerned United Nations bodies to have any access to Ethiopian civilian detainees and prisoners of war (annex III).

25. In the light of the foregoing, the Government of Ethiopia would like to reiterate, that he Eritrean Government has neither the moral nor the political standing to accuse Ethiopia of violating the basic human rights of Eritreans currently residing in Ethiopia. It is the Eritrean regime which is solely responsible for committing gross and flagrant violation of basic human rights and freedoms and principles of international humanitarian law. And yet it has the audacity to accuse Ethiopia of human rights violations. This behaviour is indeed a glaring demonstration of the extent of hypocrisy of the Eritrean regime.

26. The Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia believes that the United Nations, regional organizations and their member States have legal, political as well as moral responsibility to take all measures with a view to preventing the Eritrean aggressor from further grave breaches of International law….

[POINT 27 DETAILS REQUESTS FROM ETHIOPIAN GOVERNMENT TO UN TO SANCTION AND SPEAK OUT AGAINST ERITREAN AGGRESSION]

[ANNEX II DETAILS THE TIMELINE OF EVENTS FROM MAY 12 THROUGH JULY 15]

[ANNEX III PROVIDES AN ORGANIZATION CHART OF THE EPLF ORGANIZATION OPERATING IN ETHIOPIA]

[ANNEX IV REPLICATES A PRESS STATEMENT ISSUED BY THE RED CROSS ON POWs AND CONFLICT VICTIMS]


Statements of the Eritrean Government to the UN Security Council, 14 August 1998 Top

Source: United Nations. “Letter Dated 14 August 1998 from the Charge D’Affaires A.I. of the Permanent Mission of Eritrea to the United Nations Addressed to the President of the Security Council,” S/1998/759 14 August 1998. Retrieved from http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org

LETTER DATED 14 AUGUST 1998 FROM THE PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF ETHIOPIA TO THE UNITED NATIONS ADDRESSED TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE SECURITY COUNCIL

I have the honour to enclose herewith a communiqué issued on 14 August 1998 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, entitled: “Organization of African Unity’s facilitation and Eritrea’s response”. I should be grateful if you would kindly circulate the present letter and its annex as a document of the Security Council.

(Signed) Duri MOHAMMED
Ambassador
Permanent Representative

Annex
Organization of African Unity’s facilitation and Eritrea’s response

As the crisis in the relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea enters its fourteenth week, the Eritrean authorities are finding themselves closer and closer to a dead end as the facts work against them. It is to be recalled that following the recent meeting, at Ouagadougou, of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Ministerial Committee dealing with the crisis, at which the two sides were given the findings of the Committee that the Badme area was under Ethiopian administration prior to the period between 6 and 12 May 1998, the Eritrean authorities have changed tactics once again. It was the earlier assertion, made by the Eritrean President himself, to no less an august body than a committee of African Heads of State that visited him, that Eritrean forces had always been in Badme, that they are there to stay and should not be asked to withdraw from their own territory that prompted the OAU Committee to seek to establish once and for all who administered Badme prior to 12 May 1998. Obviously, this egregious falsehood, so flippantly and so vehemently told the Heads of State, was designed to undermine the resolution of the thirty-fourth Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the OAU, which, by endorsing the proposal of the United States of America-Rwanda facilitation, had, in effect, asked Eritrea to withdraw its forces from Ethiopian territory that they had occupied by force.

The verdict is now in. In the face of incontrovertible evidence, the OAU Committee conclusively affirmed that Badme has been administered by Ethiopia, unmasking the lie told it at the highest level in Asmara. But the Committee did not stop at that. It stated that what happened in Badme from 6 to 12 May 1998 constitutes a fundamental element of the crisis and that the challenge is to find a solution to that problem within the framework of a comprehensive settlement of the conflict in all its dimensions.

The OAU findings are very difficult for Eritrea to accept because they exposed a fundamental falsehood on which Eritrean arguments had been based. In a way, Eritrea expected that the OAU results would be bad for them. That was why they expressed reservations on the terms of reference of the OAU Committee of Ambassadors relating to the administration of Badme and its environs. Anticipating the worst, the leaders in Asmara began referring to the Badme issue as a “trivial”, “secondary” matter – a diversion. But aggression cannot be taken by OAU as trivial, and the resolve not to allow that it is rewarded cannot be diversionary.

Is sending the Eritrean army across the border spearheaded by three mechanized brigades to occupy a 400 square kilometre area trivial matter? What is so secondary about it when it is known that Eritrea’s aggression, in violation of the Charters of the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity, is a threat to peace or a breach of the peace? How can the cause of the conflict be described as a diversion? One can only conclude that only to an aggressor can such an action be considered trivial. To the aggressed, it is aggression. It is a crime violating international law on the inviolability of state sovereignty and territorial integrity. What Eritrea is saying today is that, alright, maybe Ethiopia did administer Badme prior to May 1998, but that the adminstration was illegal. Even earlier, Eritrean leaders had begun to hint that it was actually in 1997 that Ethiopia had encroached upon the Badme area and that it was only since then that the territory had been in Ethiopian hands. But this is the beginning of yet another lie, and we suggest that Eritrea not waste time peddling it because, once again, the facts don’t help.

– Was it because Badme was in Eritrean hands that a census was carried out by Ethiopia in 1994 registering 6,425 residents in the town and the surrounding localities?

– Was it because Badme was in Eritrean hands that no less than six Ethiopian elections were held in the Badme area between June 1992 and February 1996?

– Is it because Badme was in Eritrea that it elected a member to sit in the Ethiopian parliament? – Is it because Badme was in Eritrea that it had an Ethiopian local, district and municipal Government, a judiciary, peasants and local (Kebele) associations, police, a school and a health centre? Why was the Ethiopian administration issuing trade licences for Badme businessmen? Because Badme was Eritrean? How can Eritrea explain the 28 or more letters written by local Eritrean official bodies across the border to the Ethiopian administration of Badme requesting cooperation on this or that matter? Eritrean authorities have been communicating with the Badme administration, officially and in writing, since Eritrea’s formal independence in 1993 and years before the aggression by Eritrea against Ethiopia, recognizing the administration as a legal local administration of Ethiopia. It is these facts and the other massive body of evidence that compelled the Organization of African Unity fact-finding Ambassadorial Committee to conclude that Badme was under Ethiopian administration until the Eritrean aggression.

In our opinion, Eritrea’s leaders would do well to put an end to their fabrication of new stories, plots and sub-plots and face the inevitable. The facts don’t help them.

Clearly, what Eritrea is trying to do is to scuttle yet another effort by OAU at peacemaking – as it did to the United States of America and Rwanda and to all others of goodwill who tried to help. The OAU should recognize this and deal with this subterfuge accordingly.

As for Ethiopia, it was not because we needed proof that Badme belonged to Ethiopia that we went along and cooperated with the OAU’s efforts to verify who administered the area before May 1998. We cooperated with this effort because, although painful, we respected OAU and desired to facilitate its well intentioned task. It was obvious to us that OAU would conclude matters in our favour. After all, the facts cannot be changed and the facts were on our side. We simply wish to call the attention of OAU and all concerned with finding a solution to this crisis to the position of the Government of Ethiopia that the new round of prevarication by the Eritrean authorities should not be tolerated and that the appropriate steps should be taken to put the necessary pressure upon Asmara to listen to reason and to take the steps critical for the peaceful resolution of the crisis.


Statements of the Eritrean Government to the UN Security Council, 6 November 1998 Top

Source: United Nations. “Letter Dated 6 November 1998 from the Charge D’Affaires A.I. of the Permanent Mission of Eritrea to the United Nations Addressed to the President of the Security Council,” S/1998/1043 6 November 1998. Retrieved from http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org

LETTER DATED 6 NOVEMBER 1998 FROM THE PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF ERITREA TO THE UNITED NATIONS ADDRESSED TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE SECURITY COUNCIL

I would like to bring to your attention and that of the Security Council a development of grave concern in the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Amid Ethiopian threats of starting an all-out attack against Eritrea, in the words of the Ethiopian Prime Minister “not only to regain territories that belong to us, but also to go on further and teach the Eritrean Government a lesson”, the Ethiopian army has intensified in the past week its shelling of Eritrean villages and crop fields, causing civilian deaths and losses of property. In heavy Ethiopian shelling on 30 October 1998 in south-western Eritrea (Badme area), several villages were destroyed, more than 100 crop fields burned, and a farmer and a child instantly killed (more could die from the many wounded). On the same day, in the Senafe area, barrages of Ethiopian shelling similarly destroyed villages, burned crop fields and killed three peasants. There has been retaliation from our forces to stop Ethiopian shelling. Such intensified Ethiopian attacks coming on the eve of peace talks in Ouagadougou indeed attest to Ethiopia’s lip service to a peaceful solution and intention for war. Indeed, continuous intimidation and the threat and use of force by the Ethiopian Government is threatening the peace efforts that are being made.

The Eritrean Government reiterates its commitment to peace and has cooperated and will continue to cooperate in the search for a peaceful and legal solution. It has not and shall not resort to force, but if the constant Ethiopian threats, intimidation and attacks that we are witnessing persist, it will defend itself and will not bear any responsibility for the consequences. We ask the Security Council to take note of the prevailing situation and call upon it to demand that the Ethiopian Government cease its intimidatory threat of an all-out war and its attacks on Eritrean villages, peasants and their property, and that it commits itself unconditionally and irreversibly to a peaceful solution. We have consistently called for an immediate and unconditional cessation of hostilities with a view to creating an enabling atmosphere in the search for a peaceful process acceptable to both sides. Ethiopia continues to refuse, thus making our respective positions very clear.

We call upon the Security Council to insist on an immediate and unconditional cessation of hostilities and thus enhance the chance for the ongoing efforts of the Organization of African Unity, and other efforts, to succeed. I should be grateful if you would kindly circulate the present letter as a document of the Security Council.

(Signed) Haile MENKERIOS
Ambassador
Permanent Representative


Statement of the Ethiopian Government to the UN Security Council, 11 November 1998 Top

Source: United Nations. “Letter Dated 11 November 1998 from the Charge D’Affaires A.I. of the Permanent Mission of Ethiopia to the United Nations Addressed to the President of the Security Council,” S/1998/1061, 11 November 1998. Retrieved from http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org

LETTER DATED 11 NOVEMBER 1998 FROM THE PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF ETHIOPIA TO THE UNITED NATIONS ADDRESSED TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE SECURITY COUNCIL

I have the honour to transmit to you a copy of statement delivered on 11 November 1998 by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Seyoum Mesfin, to the diplomatic community in Addis Ababa on the crisis between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

As you are well aware, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) High-level Delegation on the dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea met at Ouagadougou on 7 and 8 November 1998 and submitted to both parties a proposal for a Framework Agreement for a peaceful settlement of the dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia, which Ethiopia has fully accepted.

I should be grateful if you would have the text of the present letter and its annex circulated as a document of the Security Council.

(Signed) Duri MOHAMMED
Ambassador
Permanent Representative

Annex

Statement made on 11 November 1998 by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia to the diplomatic community in Addis Ababa on the crisis between Ethiopia and Eritrea I am very much pleased to welcome you all to this meeting and I wish to thank you for having responded to our invitation.

You recall the first meeting we had in May, immediately following the Eritrean aggression against Ethiopia, at which time I had the opportunity to brief you on the tragic crisis imposed on us by the State of Eritrea. That briefing was made necessary, among other things, because the suddenness of the crisis and the unexpected nature of the invasion and the sharp deterioration in relations between the two countries that were least expected to be at loggerheads, much less be on a war footing, was a source of legitimate bewilderment to many. At that meeting in May, I tried to explain to you as best I could how we intended to resolve the crisis, emphasizing two points: our commitment to the peaceful resolution of the problem, and also underlining the imperative need for the aggression to be reversed and for the Eritrean forces to be withdrawn from occupied Ethiopian territory before serious talks could commence between the two parties on whatever disputes there might be between the two countries.

It is now almost six months since I had that opportunity to address you on this tragic development in our subregion, for which the Eritrean authorities assume full responsibility.

Today’s meeting with you and the briefing that I wanted to give you became necessary because of the very important event – an event which we all have been awaiting for sometime – which took place in Ouagadougou over the weekend. In a way the meeting that the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Highlevel Delegation had separately with our Prime Minister and the President of Eritrea, at which time the proposal of OAU for resolving the crisis between Ethiopia and Eritrea was made available to the two sides, was the culmination and the final result of a long and laborious process by the Organization of African Unity which included a fact-finding mission by an ambassadorial committee earlier, and a meeting at the ministerial level by the Committee in early August. Let me state from the outset how grateful we have been to the OAU heads of State and Government comprising the High-level Delegation, the Secretary-General of OAU, Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, and the secretariat of the Organization for the firm position that they have taken on matters of principle and for the fairness and the sense of responsibility that they brought to bear on this very complex task that was entrusted to them. If their effort has not succeeded so far, there is little doubt about who is to blame and this in itself is not a new story.

Now, coming to the factual account of the events that transpired in Ouagadougou, I would like the benefit of Your Excellencies to highlight the major points.

After having examined the proposal for a Framework Agreement for a peaceful settlement of the dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia and having received a satisfactory explanation for clarification it sought on a few points in the proposal, the Ethiopian side informed the High-level OAU Delegation that it would have no problem accepting the proposal tentatively or ad referendum, emphasizing that its definitive and formal positive response along the same line would be forthcoming following consultation in Addis Ababa within the leadership. I am pleased to announce here today that our Prime Minister has now decided to communicate to the Chairman of the High-level Delegation Ethiopia’s formal and definitive acceptance of the OAU proposal for peace. On the other hand, as must have been clear to the whole international community by now, the Eritrean response was the opposite. Eritrea has rejected the OAU proposal for peace. It is hardly possible for anyone who has been following this crisis closely over the past six months to have been surprised by the respective behaviour of the two sides. We are simply rediscovering the wheel again and again.

Ethiopia’s position has been consistent; so has been Eritrea’s. For Ethiopia there have been two issues which have always been given absolute priority and primacy as forming the basis for resolving this crisis. The first has to do with its preference for the peaceful way of resolving this crisis and not responding in kind in terms of force as long as it is possible to regain Ethiopia’s full sovereignty over its land without recourse to war. The second principle has to do with Ethiopia’s absolute refusal to agree to proposals designed to appease the aggressor and to reward aggression. We have been consistent in following these two principles to a fault and we intend to continue along this path without fail.

The OAU proposal submitted to the two delegations in Ouagadougou has been acceptable to Ethiopia because it does not aim to reward aggression and it is in principle essentially based on the resolution adopted on 10 June 1998 by the thirty-fourth Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity at Ouagadougou. In this regard, the clarifications that were given to the Ethiopian delegation by the OAU High-level Delegation on the key points of the proposal were the following:

(i) That the armed forces that would be redeployed or withdrawn from Badme and its environs are Eritrean troops;

(ii) That the reference to redeployment from Badme and its environs is meant to be understood as the withdrawal of Eritrean troops from all occupied Ethiopian territory and their return to positions held before

(iii) That the return of Ethiopian Civilian Administration includes the restoration of the Administration with its law enforcement organs minus regular troops.

The rest of the elements of the proposal are also consistent with Ethiopia’s preparedness to contribute to a successful resolution of the underlying disputes on the basis of the pertinent colonial treaties and applicable international law.

The fact that Eritrea has rejected the OAU proposals for a Framework Agreement, which in a characteristic manner intended to confuse others their Foreign Ministry in a press release issued on 9 November has referred to as talking points, is also very consistent with the previous behaviour of the Eritrean authorities.

Eritrea had earlier rejected the joint proposal submitted by the United States of America and Rwanda; it had poured cold water on the OAU summit resolution of 10 June 1998 and had tried to emasculate Security Council resolution 1177 (1998) of 26 June 1998 through selective reading and by pretending that it had not been requested to cooperate with OAU and to accept and implement the OAU resolution of 10 June 1998.

I am not, of course, in a position to brief you in details on what the Eritrean side might have told the High-level OAU Delegation by way of explaining its rejection of the OAU proposal for a Framework Agreement. But no doubt – and this was made clear in a press conference given by the President of Eritrea upon his arrival in Asmara – the reason for the Eritrean rejection of this latest proposal is the same reason which was behind their rejection of the United States-Rwandan proposal. That has to do with the failure of this new proposal by OAU to bless the Eritrean aggression and to appease and reward the aggressor. One could imagine the lack of civility with which the Eritrean delegation might have behaved in the course of the deliberation, fragments of which we, like the rest of the international community, have begun to receive from the international media.

Of course now, on second thought, it appears that the Eritrean spin doctors have started to spread confusion – as can be witnessed from the press release issued by their Foreign Ministry to which I referred above – not only about the outcome of the Ouagadougou meeting, but even about the nature of the very proposal submitted by OAU and the reasons why the meeting did not produce the hoped-for results. The absolute shamelessness of the Eritrean Government and the fact that the Eritrean authorities care very little about their credibility can be seen in this same press release, whose content amounts to an insult to the intelligence of its intended readers. Unbelievable as it may seem, the Eritrean authorities are now saying officially that there was no proposal by OAU, and that what they were given in Ouagadougou was talking points which would
be discussed at a future OAU Summit. In whose court the ball is now after this Ouagadougou meeting cannot bebdoubted for a moment.

But there is also another element in what the stance of the international community might be after this event, which almost everybody has been awaiting with great anticipation for some time.

Should it be necessary to refer to what Ethiopia was being asked to do until this event and was being told about what this or that section of the international community might do following a clear-cut decision and a clear-cut proposal by OAU? Now OAU has spoken and its is very clear in whose court the ball is in this regard as well.

In this respect, it is perhaps very appropriate to refer to the very paradoxical events that have unfolded over the past six months with regard to how some have been very eager to try to penalize the aggressed, Ethiopia, without even raising a finger against the aggressor, Eritrea, ostensibly with the aim of promoting and facilitating the peaceful resolution of this crisis.

The result, of course, unwittingly, has been to encourage the Eritrean authorities to persist, not only in their intransigence, but also in their lack of civility towards all those who have tried to make a difference for peace. The refrain in the advice, mixed with threats, given to us has always been, of course, to wait for this OAU decision, following which all would behave in line with principles, in conformity with the need not to reward aggression and appease those who have shown this unmistakable behavioural pattern of violating international law.

What kind of support would the international community now give to the Organization of African Unity with a view to strengthening its hand in this exercise? Would the attempt at almost coddling the aggressor come to an end and would all those prepared to contribute to peace-making in this subregion tell the authorities in Asmara to reverse their aggression? Would the pressure be now applied to those who deserve to be put under pressure instead of on those who have stood for legality, international law and civilized behaviour? These are now questions which the Ethiopian people are asking. Practical action on the basis of a positive response to all these questions would no doubt be not only in the interest of the Ethiopian people, but also in the interest of the Eritrean people, who cannot be presumed to be pleased with what is being decided on their behalf by a leadership which many, in their heart of hearts, believe or suspect lacks either rationality or sanity.

We are, on the other hand, encouraged by some indications that have emerged over the past few days with regard to steps that seem to have been taken by some. I am referring to the frank, honest and principled talk that the Eritrean authorities have reportedly started to hear from some countries. I can assure you that our whole region and its peoples would always remain indebted to them and to all those who would follow their examples. It is only frank and honest talk and action based on them that will convince the Eritrean authorities that they are alone in their belief and in their conviction that what the world has is the law of the jungle.


Statements of the Eritrean Government to the UN Security Council, 24 November 1998 Top

Source: United Nations. “Letter Dated 24 November 1998 from the Charge D’Affaires A.I. of the Permanent Mission of Eritrea to the United Nations Addressed to the President of the Security Council,” S/1998/1116, 24 November 1998. Retrieved from http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org

LETTER DATED 24 NOVEMBER 1998 FROM THE PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF ERITREA TO THE UNITED NATIONS ADDRESSED TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE SECURITY COUNCIL

I have the honour to forward to you the attached statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Eritrea issued on 24 November 1998, which is self-explanatory.

I should be grateful if you would kindly circulate the present letter and its annex as a document of the Security Council.

(Signed) Haile MENKERIOS
Ambassador
Permanent Representative

Annex
Ethiopia’s crocodile tears on fires it is igniting

The Government of Ethiopia is spreading false claims that “Eritrea has stepped up artillery shelling of its positions on the Zalambesa and Badme front lines in the past few days”. Addis Ababa has further tried to misconstrue the facts and associate “the stepped-up shelling” with the peace talks under way. In the first place, it is the Government of Eritrea that has been consistently calling for a cessation of hostilities as a measure of de-escalation and to create a more conducive climate for the peace talks. This express request was tabled by Eritrea at the Ministerial Meeting in Ouagadougou on 2 August 1998. It did not materialize because Ethiopia refused to countenance any arrangement of a formal ceasefire. Moreover, Eritrea fully embraced the draft resolution at the Twelfth Conference of Heads of State or Government of Non-Aligned Countries, held at Durban, South Africa, in September, that called on both sides to “agree to a cessation of hostilities”. But this clause was omitted from the final resolution owing to “vehement opposition from Ethiopia”.

At the Ouagadougou meeting of the Organization of African Unity High-Level Delegation on 7 and 8 November, Eritrea again pressed for an agreement on a cessation of hostilities. But Ethiopia’s invariable intransigence precluded any arrangement.

These are the true facts. Eritrea does not have any interest in an escalation of the conflict, and all its efforts in the past five months have indeed been geared towards seeking ways and means of reducing the existing tension. But it does respond to artillery fire and is routinely provoked by Ethiopia, whose Foreign Minister admitted as much last week when he stated that there were “exchanges on all fronts nearly every day”. Eritrea reiterates its call for an immediate cessation of all hostilities, which will bring an end to all artillery exchanges. It reaffirms that it will continue to exercise maximum restraint in the face of continued Ethiopian provocation. Eritrea further maintains that the placement of observers or independent monitors, to which Ethiopia has been objecting in the past, would help in averting these unnecessary exchanges or provide, at the minimum, independent verification of who is responsible for starting artillery exchanges. The Government of Eritrea would like to stress, moreover, that the damage and danger from sporadic artillery exchanges, grave as it is, pales in significance to that caused by Ethiopia’s continued massive, illegal and inhuman deportation of Eritreans from Ethiopia and the continued detention of thousands of Eritreans, including university exchange students, in concentration camps. The number of deportees is now over 36,000 and Ethiopia no longer cares to fabricate excuses for its expulsions. It is sad and telling that Ethiopia continues its gross violations of human rights with impunity. Although its appeals have, for the most part, fallen on deaf ears, Eritrea once again calls on the international community to publicly condemn and take urgent action to stop the uprooting of an entire community.


President Isaias Afwerki’s Speech to the OAU Central Organ Meeting, Ouagadougou, 17 December 1998 Top

Source: http://www.dehai.org/conflict/articles/isayasoau.html

Mr. Chairman

Your Excellencies
Allow me to begin by thanking President Blaise Compaore and the Government and people of Burkina Faso for the warm welcome and hospitality they have given us. I wish also to express Eritrea’s deep appreciation of President Compaore and the members of the OAU High-Level Delegation as well as members of the ministerial and ambassadorial committees for their tireless work for peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia. May I also express my gratitude to Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government and Ministers, for your commitment and for making time to come here to Ouagadougou, to contribute to the peaceful resolution of Africa’s numerous conflicts.

Your Excellencies,
It is now six months since the unfortunate conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia came out into the open. Over this period there has developed a better understanding about the facts of, and issues surrounding, this conflict. Today, the OAU has a clearer picture of the conflict than when it met here in Ouagadougou. Let me briefly touch on four of these main issues.

The Cause of the Conflict
The conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia is rooted in a border dispute. It has arisen because Ethiopia, in contravention of the OAU Charter and its sacrosanct principle of respecting boundaries inherited from colonialism, has flagrantly violated Eritrea’s inherited Italian colonial borders. Ethiopia’s aggression against Eritrea is manifested in an official Ethiopian map issued in July 1997, which Ethiopia has not yet rescinded, incorporating vast areas of Eritrea into Ethiopia. More ominously, Ethiopia has repeatedly used military force to bring under its occupation the areas in Eritrea that it coveted.

A lasting peaceful solution, therefore, requires that Ethiopia rescind its illegal claims on Eritrea, and declare without equivocation that it respects the colonial boundaries between the two countries that were delimited in accordance with the treaties of 1900, 1902 and 1908. It is these same boundaries that have constituted Eritrea’s frontiers since then. Although Ethiopia has paid lip service to respecting Eritrea’s borders, it has shown no intention of accepting and respecting them in practice. Towards this end, it has been pushing for a vague and ambiguous formulation, knowing full well that without a clear and unequivocal formulation the whole issue will be open to controversy and endless delay. This will mean that the technical work of demarcation, which is predicated on an unequivocal formulation, cannot be carried out expeditiously.
The OAU has been steadfast in its insistence on the wisdom of not tampering with the borders inherited from colonialism and this principle has been included in the “Elements for a Framework Agreement Submitted for Consideration of the Two Parties” that has been submitted to us. In light of Ethiopia’s intentions, however, I wish to bring to the attention of Your Excellencies that Eritrea is requesting of the OAU precise, legal language that will require the opinion of legal experts and ensure a speedy resolution, instead of leading to differing interpretations and endless controversy.

The Use of Force
While Ethiopia has remained silent on the fundamental issue of colonial borders, it has been deafeningly noisy on the issue of the use of force. Not only has it accused Eritrea of aggression and of using force to create facts on the ground, it has gone as far as accusing Eritrea of “worshipping the gun,” “having a fixation with the gun” and being obsessed with its “invincibility.” In the Aide Memoir that was sent by Ethiopia to Your Excellencies and from which I quoted the previous phrases, they also accuse Eritrea of a “peculiar mentality,” a “malady,” “disdain of the OAU and international law” and “contempt for civilized behavior and civility,” all in language that, to say the least, is far from civil.

Not content with misrepresenting the facts about the Eritrean-Ethiopian conflict, Ethiopia has also accused Eritrea of being a “source of tension and inter-state misunderstanding,” citing as proof Eritrea’s relations with its neighbours. But as everyone knows, Eritrea’s relations with Sudan have not been different in any significant way from that of Ethiopia and others in the region. As far as the dispute with Yemen was concerned, Ethiopia, prior to Eritrea’s independence, considered the Hanish Islands as part and parcel of its sovereign territory. Indeed the evidence presented by Eritrea to the arbitration tribunal relied to a large measure on documents provided by the current Ethiopian government, including the exercise of criminal jurisdiction over acts committed on the islands, regulation of oil exploration activities, and, even, a video tape of an inspection tour by the former President of Ethiopia, Colonel Mengistu, aboard the flagship ‘Ethiopia.’ The current government’s 180 degree turn is not surprising as it fits the pattern of covering the weakness of its case by resorting to a smear campaign.

Your Excellencies,
Ethiopia’s shrill and offensive language is designed to drown the facts in a sea of accusations. It is the classical case of a thief crying “thief!” at the top of his voice. Otherwise, the facts speak for themselves. Thanks in part to the work of the High-Level Delegation, it has now become clear that the conflict did not erupt from the blue on May 12, 1998. It goes back at least ten months earlier, to July 12, 1997, when Ethiopia sent two battalions of its army and occupied the Adi Murug area of Eritrea, dismantled the administration there and set up a new administration, thereby creating facts on the ground by force. On the same day, but in an area hundreds of kilometers away, it intensified its incursions in the Badme area. These incursions involved evicting Eritreans from their villages by terrorizing them, destroying their houses and burning their crops and bringing Ethiopian settlers to inhabit those villages.

If we were “gun worshippers,” as our Ethiopian colleagues who were our closest allies for 22 years have suddenly discovered, then we would have resorted to force to reverse the Ethiopian aggression. Instead, I wrote to the Ethiopian Prime Minister, whom I addressed as Comrade Meles in light of the closeness of our relationship and thinking, asking him to right the wrong and suggesting that we set up a Joint Border Commission to solve any border controversy bilaterally and amicably.

Ethiopia’s behavior was markedly different. Encouraged by Eritrea’s restraint, which it mistook for weakness, it continued its aggression by bringing more land under its control and displacing more and more people. Finally on May 6, 1998, it escalated its aggression by attacking an Eritrean unit. Ethiopia’s continued attacks over the next few days triggered a series of spiraling clashes until May 12 with both sides bringing reinforcements.
Ethiopia’s subsequent action was much worse. Unlike Eritrea, which for ten months patiently searched for a peaceful solution, Ethiopia, believing in its might as a big country and choosing the use of force, declared war on Eritrea on the morrow of the fighting. Concurrently, it stopped using Eritrean ports, cut air and telecommunication links, and deployed almost all its army along the Eritrean borders, including in areas where there were no border incidents. Two weeks later, it launched the ground war and, on June 5, it further escalated the border conflict by bombing the Eritrean capital Asmara. Once again, Eritrea was compelled to exercise its right of self-defense.
Even with the benefit of hindsight and Ethiopia’s subsequent actions, Eritrea does not regret the restrained and peaceful course of action that it took between July 1997 and May 1998. At the same time, it believes that Ethiopia should not be rewarded, by accepting its preconditions, for fomenting a crisis by, first, launching an attack, and, when this failed, for publicly declaring war and then waging war on Eritrea.

Your Excellencies,
I realize that in the face of opposing versions of events leading to the crisis, it might be difficult to pass judgement. That is why Eritrea has been calling from the outset for an independent investigation into those events, a position that has now been supported by the OAU High-Level Delegation. Regrettably, however, such an investigation has not been done and has not figured in the OAU’s framework.

Even without an investigation, however, one fact is beyond dispute—Ethiopia’s continued refusal to renounce the use of force. Indeed Ethiopia has mastered the use of the threat of force and warnings of imminent war in order to pressure the OAU and other concerned parties to impose its dictates on Eritrea. The pronouncement by Ethiopian officials on the eve of this Summit that unless a peaceful resolution is found soon, they will “bury Eritrea’s leaders in the holes that they themselves have dug” fits into that pattern.

Deportation of Eritreans and Confiscation of Their Property
Even more than Ethiopia’s aggression and its repeated use of force and continued threat to use force, what has done most damage to the relations between the two countries and threatens to poison them for many years to come is Ethiopia’s decision to uproot the Eritrean population in Ethiopia. So far many have been killed, thousands languish in detention camps, more than 1,500 of them in one camp near Awassa. Over 42,000 have been deported with their property estimated in hundreds of millions of dollars confiscated. The remainder of the Eritrean community lives terrorized, waiting for the moment when Ethiopian soldiers will knock at their doors in the middle of the night or pick them up from the streets, their workplaces or churches and mosques prior to deportation. Those deported include Eritreans working in the OAU, the UN office in Addis Ababa as well as for many African embassies.
As with other issues, so too in this humanitarian problem, Ethiopia has resorted to loud accusations and fabricated stories to hide that it only is carrying out the massive detention and deportation of civilians on account of their nationality. It has also attempted to justify its gross violation of our people’s human rights by branding them “spies.” But here at least, Ethiopia cannot get away with empty accusations as the OAU High-Level Delegation has made it clear that there is no “systematic or official action directed against Ethiopians in Eritrea.” I have asked that this fact be reflected in the OAU framework.

Redeployment and Administration
I am sure Your Excellencies will agree with me that the issues of redeployment and administration are closely linked with the location of the areas under consideration, whether they are in Eritrea or Ethiopia; and also with the causes of the conflict, that is, who used force, where and when. Since these vital questions have not been determined by an investigation, which Eritrea has been requesting for the past six months, any proposals for redeployment and administration need to take that fact into account.

In regard to redeployment, Eritrea holds that, with a cease-fire in place and military observers on the ground, demarcation can be done expeditiously without the complicated and time consuming disengagement of hundreds of thousands of troops. Eritrea, however, has no objection in principle to redeployment in the framework of demilitarization.

On the question of administration, Eritrea has repeatedly stated that, like all sovereign nations, it cannot countenance alien administration of its own territory and over its own population. Indeed, the question of administration cannot be separated from the issue of inherited colonial borders. Therefore for reasons of principle and the interest of not complicating and prolonging the conflict and practicality (since we are talking about a short period of six months), the suggestion of administration should be dropped altogether and focus placed on an expedited demarcation of the border, which will automatically solve the question of administration. In fact, Eritrea is convinced that, were it not for the preconditions and obstructions of Ethiopia, we could have moved, with a cease-fire in place, directly to demarcation and would have solved the problem by now, even without demilitarization.

Your Excellencies,
Even at the risk of taking too much of your time, I have spoken rather in length because so much confusion has been sown by Ethiopia. Last month here in Ouagadougou, I had given Eritrea’s initial, but considered opinion on the OAU’s “Elements of a Framework Agreement Submitted for the Consideration of the Two Parties.” Since then we have been studying those elements in detail. As we needed clarification on a number of issues, some of which we have been seeking answers for since the start of the OAU peace effort, we asked the OAU Secretary General, H.E. Dr. Salim, to visit Asmara for consultations and submitted to him our queries. Yesterday, I presented our opinion to H.E. Blaise Compaore, which is predicated on the fact that clarification on some of the pertinent issues that I mentioned earlier is not yet available.

Your Excellencies,
In the opinion I presented, Eritrea has reaffirmed its commitment to the three cardinal principles that will be the basis of a peaceful solution. On the fundamental issue of borders, we have requested precise, legal language, which we believe should pose no problem if there is a genuine commitment to respect colonial boundaries. We have asked that the paragraph on humanitarian issues be given substance and reflect the fact that it is only one party, Ethiopia, that is culpable. We have asked for reasons of principle and the interests of not prolonging and complicating the problem, that the sentence on administration be dropped. And, although we believe, given a cessation of hostilities, that demarcation can be done expeditiously, we have expressed our readiness to redeploy our forces within the context of mutual demilitarization.

Your Excellencies,
As expressed in its Aide Memoir and the Prime Minister’s letter that prefaced it, Ethiopia’s intention is to browbeat the OAU into imposing its dictates on Eritrea. It is threatening dire consequences unless it gets its way. It has openly stated that failure to accept Ethiopia’s viewpoint would amount to “an abdication of responsibility by the Organization of African Unity.” It has gone even to the extent of asserting that “not only the credibility of the OAU but that its very future is on the line.” At a time when the OAU is grappling with a number of conflicts, to suggest that not taking a partisan course of action in regard to one of them will take it down the drain is, I believe, a measure of the pretensions of the Ethiopian government.
With its futile attempts at intimidation, Ethiopia is trying to forestall meaningful and exhaustive discussion. Its transparent hope is not that progress is made in this Summit towards peace, but that the OAU’s effort comes to a dead-end. I am confident that the OAU, which through the tireless efforts of President Compaore and his colleagues in the High-Level Delegation has come closer than any other party to bridging the gap between the parties, will stay the course and help us achieve peace.

I thank you.


Statements of the Eritrean Government to the UN Security Council, 21 December 1998 Top

Source: United Nations. “Letter Dated 21 December 1998 from the Charge D’Affaires A.I. of the Permanent Mission of Eritrea to the United Nations Addressed to the President of the Security Council,” S/1998/1205, 21 December 1998. Retrieved from http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org

LETTER DATED 21 DECEMBER 1998 FROM THE PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF ERITREA TO THE UNITED NATIONS ADDRESSED TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE SECURITY COUNCIL

I have the honour to forward the attached briefing statement delivered by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the State of Eritrea, Haile Weldensae, to the diplomatic corps in Asmara on 21 December 1998 concerning the meeting of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Central Organ held on 17 and 18 December 1998 in Ouagadougou (see annex I). Also annexed are the speech of President Isaias Afwerki delivered at the Summit (annex II) and an excerpt from the communiqué issued on 17 December 1998 by the Fourth Ordinary Session of the Central Organ of the OAU Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution (annex III).

I would like to bring to your attention that Eritrea wants and is committed to a speedy, peaceful and legal solution of the border conflict with Ethiopia. To that end, it is cooperatively engaged in the OAU process, which has opened the door for discussions on the issues relevant to the peaceful settlement of the conflict as raised in the OAU proposal for a Framework Agreement. Eritrea has neither the interest nor the desire to engage in polemics with Ethiopian authorities on propaganda not directly connected with the proposals that are under discussion. The Ethiopian Government’s slanderous, provocative and inflammatory propaganda contained in the aide-mémoire it distributed to all members of the Central Organ and the public prior to the Ouagadougou meeting andrepeated in the speech of the Ethiopian Prime Minister at the meeting provoked the appropriate responses contained in the introductory remarks of my President’s speech and Foreign Minister’s briefing. Their statements, however, concentrate on addressing the substance of the issues.

Ethiopia’s leaders’ concentration on slanderous lies, provocations and threats against my country, Government and leadership reflects their intentions to divert substantive talks on the OAU proposals and their intentions to create pressure on Eritrea to bow to their dictates. Are Ethiopia’s leaders afraid of the facts that discussion on substance may reveal? Is that why they are trying to avoid and frustrate discussion on the contents of the OAU proposals for a Framework Agreement while OAU and Eritrea see that it is appropriate and necessary to have such discussions? Are we to bow to Ethiopia’s dictation of undiscussed acceptance of its own interpretations of the proposals? It is obvious, as explained in our previous communications to the Security Council and revealed in the statement of the Ethiopian Foreign Minister dated 11 November 1998 (S/1998/1061), that Ethiopia says it accepted the proposals with its own “clarifications”, which are not contained in the OAU proposals. Then why try to silence Eritrea by denying it the legitimate right to seek clarification on some and present amendments to other points of the proposal, a right that is wisely invited and noted by the OAU delegation and the Central Organ? The answer is obvious: Ethiopia has been consistent from the outset in its refusal to talk on substance, its attempts to divert the agenda from dealing with the root causes of the border dispute (its non-acceptance and violation of the border between the two countries established by clear treaties) and the developments that led to the eruption of the conflict (where an investigation of the facts will prove that it was clearly responsible). Ethiopia cannot be allowed to block the peaceful and legal settlement of the border dispute, which can easily be done by demarcating the border on the basis of established treaties, creating diversionary preconditions and muzzling discussion. The OAU process is continuing and Eritrea is fully cooperating with it, irrespective of Ethiopia’s attempt to divert discussion of the issues raised in the OAU proposals for a Framework Agreement with its slanders, provocations, obstructions and threats.

I should be grateful if you would kindly circulate the text of the present letter and its annexes as a document of the Security Council.

(Signed) Haile MENKERIOS
Ambassador
Permanent Representative

Statement issued on 21 December 1998 by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the State of Eritrea to the diplomatic corps accredited to Eritrea

Allow me first to thank you for honouring our invitation to attend this briefing on the summit of the Central Organ of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) that was convened in Ouagadougou on Thursday, 17 December 1998. For Eritrea, the summit of the Central Organ was important in giving us the forum and opportunity to explain in detail the origin and nature of the border conflict, the constructive proposals for peace that Eritrea has been advocating with consistency since the eruption of the crisis, as well as Ethiopia’s intransigence and periodic recourse to the language of force to preclude meaningful discussion to achieve peace.

Ethiopia’s presentation to the summit, best summarized by the aide-mémoire that it distributed on the previous day, was replete with deliberate omissions, distortions and outright lies. The Ethiopian regime shied away from talking about the substance of the conflict, its use of force in Bada in July 1997, the illegal map that it has issued or the incidents between 6 and 12 May this year that precipitated the crisis. Instead it tried to portray Eritrea as a country that “worships force” and is “bent on intimidating its neighbours”. The Ethiopian Prime Minister in fact tried hard to sanitize the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum, accusing Eritrea of violating the OAU charter in its relations with the Sudan. And although Ethiopia had considered the Hanish islands as part and parcel of its sovereign territory following the federation and subsequent annexation of Eritrea, the Ethiopian Prime Minister had the audacity to accuse Eritrea of claiming territory “with little cause and justification”.

But few could be taken in by these lies and transparent ploys. If anything, Ethiopia’s presentation only underscored the hollowness of its accusations, casting serious doubts on the integrity of the regime. I do not wish to take your time to sum up Eritrea’s position on the conflict, as these are well known to you and since the speech of President Isaias to the summit has already been circulated to you (see annex II).

You will also recall – indeed as I had briefed you in this same room at the time – that Eritrea had given its preliminary opinion to the High-level Delegation during the summit in Ouagadougou on 8 November 1998. The gist of our initial opinion then was that:
(a) The High-level Delegation cannot give judgement prior to conducting an investigation of all the incidents that led to the current crisis as stipulated in paragraph 7 of the Framework Agreement;
(b) Administration cannot be divorced from the issue of sovereignty.

Since both sides were expected to submit their full opinion prior to or at the summit of the Central Organ, Eritrea had requested a meeting with the OAU Secretary-General to ask for clarification on vital components of the Framework Agreement and the reports of the OAU Ambassadorial Committee, which was never given to Eritrea in full, although references from this report were incorporated into that document.

The Secretary-General visited Asmara on 12 December. The Government of Eritrea subsequently raised a number of questions – a complete copy of which has been circulated to you – concerning the location of Badme, the justification for “reinstated civilian administration” if the area under consideration is Eritrean with an Eritrean population, as well as for the purpose of conducting an investigation if it has no bearing at all on the terms of settlement of the dispute.

The OAU Secretary-General was not in a position to give clarification to these queries, explaining that on grounds of both procedure and competence, these will have to be considered by the full meeting of the Committee prior to the summit. While the answers to these queries were clearly vital for Eritrea’s full response, which can only be predicated on the clarification it receives, we nonetheless submitted our written opinion on 15 December to the High-level Delegation to underscore our commitment to the peace process. This letter has been circulated to you; let me read the main paragraphs:

“In the section on principles, Eritrea subscribes to the three cardinal principles, namely, peaceful resolution of disputes, rejection of the use of force and respect for colonial borders. In regard to the last principle, however, I wish to bring to the attention of Your Excellency and the OAU High-level Delegation that Eritrea requests that this principle be formulated in precise, legal language that does not brook any ambiguity and does not lend itself to differing interpretations, thereby impeding the technical work of demarcation. It is also Eritrea’s opinion that the timeframe for demarcation should not be left open-ended, but must be limited to a maximum of six months, which is more than enough time to finish the technical work of demarcation. “In the section on recommendations, Eritrea has the following opinion: “On the issue of redeployment and demilitarization, Eritrea holds that with a formal ceasefire in place and military observers on the ground, demarcation can be done expeditiously without the complicated and timeconsuming disengagement of hundreds of thousands of troops. Eritrea, however, has no objection in principle to redeployment in the framework of mutual demilitarization. It, therefore, requests a reformulation of recommendation 3 to read: ’In order to create conditions conducive to a comprehensive and lasting settlement of the conflict, the armed forces of both parties in the Mareb Setit segment should be redeployed, it being understood that this redeployment will not prejudge the final status of the area concerned’.

“On the issue of administration, Eritrea has repeatedly stated that, like all sovereign nations, it cannot countenance alien rule of its won territory. Indeed, the question of administration cannot be separated from the issue of inherited colonial borders. Therefore, for reasons of principle and in the interest of not complicating and prolonging the conflict and practicality, the suggestion of administration (i.e. the second sentence of recommendation 4) should be dropped and focus placed on an expedited demarcation of the border, which will automatically solve the question of administration. In fact, Eritrea is convinced that if it were not for the preconditions and obstructions of Ethiopia, we could have moved, with a ceasefire in place, directly to demarcation and would have solved the problem by now, even without redeployment.

“On the humanitarian issue, as the report that has been submitted to this summit of the Central Organ makes clear that it is only Ethiopia that has committed gross violation of the human rights of Eritrean nationals in Ethiopia; while, on Eritrea’s part, there is no ’systematic or official action directed against Ethiopians in Eritrea’, recommendation 8 must read to reflect this fact by dropping the clause ’put an end to measures directed against the civilian population’ and in 8 (b) the word ’compensate’ must be added so that the last few words read ’to compensate those persons who have been deported’.

“The remaining recommendations are positive and acceptable to Eritrea.”

The summit of the Central Organ had listened to the presentations of both parties and seen the report of the High-level Delegation. I cannot say that the discussions were exhaustive, limited as they were by the brevity of time and the fact that the summit had to grapple with five other conflict situations in the continent. Apart from the Sudan, which openly colluded with Ethiopia, the balance of comments recognized the progress that has been made as well as the need for continued work to bridge the gap between the two sides. Let me note here that as the report that was presented by the High-level Delegation to the summit makes clear, Ethiopia has accepted not the Framework Agreement, but its own amended version.

At the end of its brief deliberations, the summit adopted the High-level Delegation’s Framework Agreement, while at the same time noting the differing positions of the two sides. It further urged both sides to cooperate with OAU in order to create the necessary conditions for the implementation of the Framework.

Eritrea has subsequently notified the High-level Delegation that it is earnestly awaiting a satisfactory response to the opinions and queries that it has submitted so that it will be in a position to cooperate to create the necessary conditions for the implementation of the Framework.

Annex II
Speech delivered on 17 December 1998 by the President of
Eritrea to the meeting of the Organization of African
Unity Central Organ held in Ouagadougou

Allow me to begin by thanking President Blaise Compaore and the Government and people of Burkina Faso for the warm welcome and hospitality they have given us. I wish also to express Eritrea’s deep appreciation of President Compaore and the members of the OAU High-level Delegation as well as members of the ministerial and ambassadorial committees for their tireless work for peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia. May I also express my gratitude to Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government and Ministers, for your commitment and for making time to come here to Ouagadougou, to contribute to the peaceful resolution of Africa’s numerous conflicts.

It is now six months since the unfortunate conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia came out into the open. Over this period there has developed a better understanding about the facts of, and issues surrounding, this conflict. Today, the OAU has a clearer picture of the conflict than when it met here in Ouagadougou. Let me briefly touch on four of these main issues.

The cause of the conflict

The conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia is rooted in a border dispute. It has arisen because Ethiopia, in contravention of the OAU charter and its sacrosanct principle of respecting boundaries inherited from colonialism, has flagrantly violated Eritrea’s inherited Italian colonial borders. Ethiopia’s aggression against Eritrea is manifested in an official Ethiopian map issued in July 1997, which Ethiopia has not yet rescinded, incorporating vast areas of Eritrea into Ethiopia. More ominously, Ethiopia has repeatedly used military force to bring under its occupation the areas in Eritrea that it coveted.

A lasting peaceful solution, therefore, requires that Ethiopia rescind its illegal claims on Eritrea, and declare without equivocation that it respects the colonial boundaries between the two countries that were delimited in accordance with the treaties of 1900, 1902 and 1908. It is these same boundaries that have constituted Eritrea’s frontiers since then. Although Ethiopia has paid lipservice to respecting Eritrea’s borders, it has shown no intention of accepting and respecting them in practice. Towards this end, it has been pushing for vague and ambiguous formulation, knowing full well that without a clear and unequivocal formulation the whole issue will be open to controversy and endless delay. This will mean that the technical work of demarcation, which is predicated on an unequivocal formulation, cannot be carried out expeditiously. The OAU has been steadfast in its insistence on the wisdom of not tampering with the borders inherited from colonialism, and this principle has been included in the elements for a Framework Agreement submitted for consideration of the two parties that has been submitted to us. In light of Ethiopia’s intentions, however, I wish to bring to the attention of Your Excellencies that Eritrea is requesting of the OAU precise, legal language that will require the opinion of legal experts and ensure a speedy resolution, instead of leading to differing interpretations and endless controversy.

The use of force While Ethiopia has remained silent on the fundamental issue of colonial borders, it has been deafeningly noisy on the issue of the use of force. Not only has it accused Eritrea of aggression and of using force to create facts on the ground, it has gone as far as accusing Eritrea of worshipping the gun, having a fixation with the gun and being obsessed with its invincibility. In the aide-mémoire that was sent by Ethiopia to Your Excellencies and from which I quoted the previous phrases, they also accuse Eritrea of a “peculiar mentality”, a “malady”, “disdain of the OAU and international law” and “contempt for civilized behaviour and civility”, all in language that, to say the least, is far from civil.

Not content with misrepresenting the facts about the Eritrean-Ethiopian conflict, Ethiopia has also accused Eritrea of being a source of tension and inter-State misunderstanding, citing as proof Eritrea’s relations with its neighbours. But as everyone knows, Eritrea’s relations with Sudan have not been different in any significant way from that of Ethiopia and others in the region. As far as the dispute with Yemen was concerned, Ethiopia, prior to Eritrea’s independence, considered the Hanish Islands as part and parcel of its sovereign territory. Indeed the evidence presented by Eritrea to the arbitration tribunal relied to a large measure on documents provided by the current Ethiopian Government, including the exercise of criminal jurisdiction over acts committed on the islands, regulation of oil exploration activities and even a videotape of an inspection tour by the former President of Ethiopia, Colonel Mengistu, aboard the flagship Ethiopia. The current Government’s 180-degree turn is not surprising, as it fits the pattern of covering the weakness of its case by resorting to a smear campaign.

Ethiopia’s shrill and offensive language is designed to drown the facts in a sea of accusations. It is the classical case of a thief crying “thief” at the top of his voice. Otherwise, the facts speak for themselves. Thanks in part to the work of the High-level Delegation, it has now become clear that the conflict did not erupt out of the blue on 12 May 1998. It goes back at least 10 months earlier, on 12 July 1997, when Ethiopia sent two battalions of its army and occupied the Adi Murug area of Eritrea, dismantled the administration there and set up a new administration, thereby creating facts on the ground by force. On the same day, but in an area hundreds of kilometres away, it intensified its incursions in the Badme area. These incursions involved evicting Eritreans from their villages by terrorizing them, destroying their houses, burning their crops and bringing Ethiopian settlers to inhabit those villages.

If we were gun worshippers, as our Ethiopian colleagues, who were our closest allies for 22 years, have suddenly discovered, then we would have resorted to force to reverse the Ethiopian aggression. Instead, I wrote to the Ethiopian Prime Minister, whom I addressed as Comrade Meles, in light of the closeness of our relationship and thinking, asking him to right the wrong and suggesting that we set up a joint border commission to solve any border controversy bilaterally and amicably.

Ethiopia’s behaviour was markedly different. Encouraged by Eritrea’s restraint, which it mistook for weakness, it continued its aggression by bringing more land under its control and displacing more and more people.Finally, on 6 May 1998, it escalated its aggression by attacking an Eritrean unit. Ethiopia’s continued attacks over the next few days triggered a series of spiralling clashes until 12 May, with both sides bringing reinforcements. Ethiopia’s subsequent action was much worse. Unlike Eritrea, which for 10 months patiently searched for a peaceful solution, Ethiopia, believing in its might as a big country and choosing the use of force, declared war on Eritrea on the morrow of the fighting. Concurrently, it stopped using Eritrean ports, cut air and telecommunication links and deployed almost all its army along the Eritrean borders, including in areas where there were no border incidents. Two weeks later it launched the ground war and on 5 June, it further escalated the border conflict by bombing the Eritrean capital Asmara. Once again, Eritrea was compelled to exercise its right of self-defence.

Even with the benefit of hindsight and Ethiopia’s subsequent actions, Eritrea does not regret the restrained and peaceful course of action that it took between July 1997 and May 1998. At the same time, it believes that Ethiopia should not be rewarded by accepting its preconditions, for fomenting a crisis by first launching an attack, and when this failed, for publicly declaring war and then waging war on Eritrea.

I realize that in the face of opposing versions of events leading to the crisis, it might be difficult to pass judgement. That’s why Eritrea has been calling from the outset for an independent investigation into those events, a position that has now been supported by the OAU High-level Delegation. Regrettably, however, such an investigation has not been done and has not figured in the OAU Framework.

Even without an investigation, however, one fact is beyond dispute – Ethiopia’s continued refusal to renounce the use of force. Indeed, Ethiopia has mastered the use of the threat of force and warnings of imminent war in order to pressure OAU and other concerned parties to impose its dictates on Eritrea. The pronouncement by Ethiopian officials on the eve of this summit that unless a peaceful resolution is found soon, they will “bury Eritrea’s leaders in the holes that they themselves have dug” fits into that pattern.

Deportation of Eritreans and confiscation of their property
Even more than Ethiopia’s aggression and its repeated use of force and continued threat to use force, what has done the most damage to relations between the two countries and threatens to poison them for many years to come is Ethiopia’s decision to uproot the Eritrean population in Ethiopia. So far many have been killed, and thousands languish in detention camps, more than 1,500 of them in one camp near Awassa. Over 42,000 have been deported, with their property, estimated in hundreds of millions of dollars, confiscated. The remainder of the Eritrean community lives terrorized, waiting for the moment when Ethiopian soldiers will knock on their doors in the middle of the night or pick them up from the streets, their workplaces or churches and mosques prior to deportation. Those deported include Eritreans working in OAU, at the United Nations office in Addis Ababa as well as for many African embassies. As with other issues, so too in this humanitarian problem Ethiopia has resorted to loud accusations and fabricated stories to hide that it is carrying out the massive detention and deportation of civilians only on account of their nationality. It has also attempted to justify its gross violation of our people’s human rights by branding them spies. But here at least, Ethiopia cannot get away with empty accusations, as the OAU High-level Delegation has made it clear that there is no systematic or official action directed against Ethiopians in Eritrea. I have asked that this fact be reflected in the OAU Framework.

Redeployment and administration

I am sure Your Excellencies will agree with me that the issues of redeployment and administration are closely linked with the location of the areas under consideration, whether they are in Eritrea or Ethiopia; and also with the causes of the conflict, that is, who used force, where and when. Since these vital questions have not been determined by an investigation, which Eritrea has been requesting for the past six months, any proposals for redeployment and administration need to take that fact into account. In regard to redeployment, Eritrea holds that with a ceasefire in place and military observers on the ground, demarcation can be done expeditiously without the complicated and time-consuming disengagement of hundreds of thousands of troops. Eritrea, however, has no objection in principle to redeployment in the framework of demilitarization.

On the question of administration, Eritrea has repeatedly stated that, like all sovereign nations, it cannot countenance alien administration of its own territory and over its own population. Indeed, the question of administration cannot be separated from the issue of inherited colonial borders. Therefore, for reasons of principle and in the interest of not complicating and prolonging the conflict and practicality (since we are talking about a short period of six months), the suggestion of administration should be dropped altogether and focus placed on an expedited demarcation of the border, which will automatically solve the question of administration. In fact, Eritrea is convinced that were it not for the preconditions and obstructions of Ethiopia, we could have moved, with a ceasefire in place, directly to demarcation and would have solved the problem by now, even without demilitarization.

Even at the risk of taking too much of your time, I have spoken rather at length because so much confusion has been sown by Ethiopia. Last month here in Ouagadougou, I had given Eritrea’s initial but considered opinion on the OAU elements of a Framework Agreement submitted for the consideration of the two parties. Since then we have been studying those elements in detail. As we needed clarification on a number of issues, some of which we have been seeking answers for since the start of the OAU peace effort, we asked the OAU Secretary- General, Dr. Salim, to visit Asmara for consultations and submitted to him our queries. Yesterday, I presented our opinion to Blaise Compaore, which is predicated on the fact that clarification on some of the pertinent issues that I mentioned earlier is not yet available.

In the opinion I presented, Eritrea has reaffirmed its commitment to the three cardinal principles that will be the basis of a peaceful solution. On the fundamental issue of borders, we have requested precise, legal language, which, we believe, should pose no problem if there is a genuine commitment to respect colonial boundaries. We have asked that the paragraph on humanitarian issues be given substance and reflect the fact that it is only one party, Ethiopia, that is culpable. We have asked for reasons of principle and in the interest of not prolonging and complicating the problem, that the sentence on administration be dropped. And, although we believe that given a cessation of hostilities, demarcation can be done expeditiously, we have expressed our readiness to redeploy our forces within the context of mutual demilitarization.

As expressed in its aide-mémoire and in the Prime Minister’s letter that prefaced it, Ethiopia’s intention is to browbeat the OAU into imposing its dictates on Eritrea. It is threatening dire consequences unless it gets its way. It has openly stated that failure to accept Ethiopia’s viewpoint would amount to an abdication of responsibility by the Organization of African Unity. It has even gone to the extent of asserting that not only the credibility of the OAU, but its very future is on the line. At a time when the OAU is grappling with a number of conflicts, to suggest that not taking a partisan course of action in regard to one of them will take it down the drain, is, I believe, a measure of the pretensions of the Ethiopian Government. With its futile attempts at intimidation, Ethiopia is trying to forestall meaningful and exhaustive discussion. Its transparent hope is not that progress is made in this summit towards peace, but that the OAU effort comes to a dead end. I am confident that the OAU, which, through the tireless efforts of President Compaore and his colleagues in the High-level Delegation, has come closer than any other party to bridging the gap between the parties, will stay the course and help us achieve peace.

Annex III

Excerpt from the communiqué issued on 17 December 1998 by the Fourth Ordinary Session of the Central Organ of the Organization of African Unity Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution, held in Ouagadougou

DISPUTE BETWEEN ETHIOPIA AND ERITREA

The Central Organ considered the report of the High-level Delegation of OAU on the dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea. It congratulated the Delegation for the commendable efforts it had made in order to promote a peaceful andcomprehensive solution to the dispute.

The Central Organ took note of the respective positions of the two parties on the proposals of the High-level Delegation.

The Central Organ endorsed the proposals for a Framework Agreement submitted by the OAU High-level Delegation to the two parties, which constitute an appropriate framework for the resolution of the dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

The Central Organ wishes to commend the two parties for the confidence which they have placed in the OAU and for the cooperation they have extended to the OAU High-level Delegation in the performance of its mandate and for the restraint that they have shown.

The Central Organ urges the OAU High-level Delegation to remain seized with the dispute and calls upon the two parties to continue to cooperate with the Delegation with a view to creating the necessary conditions for the speedy implementation of the Framework Agreement. The Central Organ further urges both parties to continue to exercise restraint.

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