Eritrea Ethiopia-Virtual Demarcation is Legal and Enforceable


It is hypocritical of the US Administration and its allies, to preach about the rule of law and human rights, while it has abused its international diplomatic and military influence to undermine the rights of the Eritrean people to live in peace within their own internationally recognized borders. It is also hypocritical to raise issues such as “prolonged national service”, “right to leave their country”, “excessive militarization” etc. etc. while it has encouraged the 12-year long occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories. Surely, the US and its allies cannot possibly believe that they are better poised to know what the people of Eritrea want and need…as there is no track record to prove it. There is instead is a 100 long and bloody history of subjugation and terror, of gross violations of their human rights, a denial of their rights to self-determination and independence, as they appeased successive Ethiopian regimes.

For today, let us re-visit the Eritrea Ethiopia border issue and specifically, the demarcation decisions of the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission which the US and its allies on the Security Council have decided to “kill” or put on the back burner, emboldening the minority regime in Ethiopia to continue with its occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories. As we shall see below, the “concerns” raised by the various states on the Security Council have been rendered moot, but more importantly the excuses made for not accepting the EEBC’s demarcation decisions, that there is no precedence, or that it is “legal nonsense” have been found to be disingenuous.

When the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) delivered its Final and Binding Delimitation Decision on 13 April 2002, Kofi Annan and the Security Council welcomed the Boundary Commission’s ruling, and hailed it as a “final legal settlement” of the Eritrea Ethiopia border dispute. Welcoming the decision as “an important milestone in the peace process”, Kofi Annan lauded the parties for their “continued and consistent reaffirmation” that the ruling was final and binding, in accordance with the Algiers Peace Agreement of December 2000. In its Press Statement read by Sergey Lavrov (Russian Federation), President of the Security Council, on the decision of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission on 16 April 2002 it said:

“…Members of the Security Council express their satisfaction that a final legal settlement of the border issues between Ethiopia and Eritrea has been completed in accordance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed by the parties in Algiers in December 2000. Members of the Security Council welcome the decision by the Boundary Commission, announced in The Hague on 13 April 2002, which is final and binding. Members of the Security Council underline their commitment to support the implementation of the Boundary Commission’s decision and to contribute to the completion of the peace process…”

Eritrea accepted the verdict and while Ethiopia accepted it at first, only to turn around and reject it as being “illegal, unjust and irresponsible”. The EEBC had “unequivocally” awarded Badme (the casus bellie for the Eritrea Ethiopia border conflict) to Eritrea, and Ethiopia refused to accept that decision. That began a five year long campaign to amend, revise, re-visit and revise the EEBC’s decision. Ever since the independent Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission rendered its final and binding decision on 13 April 2002, the minority regime in Ethiopia and its handlers have been trying to amend, revise and revisit that decision.

After waiting for over 5 years, the EEBC, due to Ethiopia’s refusal to allow for the expeditious demarcation of the Eritrea Ethiopia border in accordance with the Final and Binding EEBC decision, the Commission closed its offices and left the area. The Commission in its November 2006 Statement said that it was “ obliged to adopt another approach to effect the demarcation of the border” and complete its mandate to demarcate the Eritrea Ethiopia by placing coordinates on maps “virtual demarcation”, as opposed to pillars on the ground. The EEBC, in its Statement of 27 November 2006 explained its methodology:

“…Modern techniques of image processing and terrain modelling make it possible, in conjunction with the use of high resolution aerial photography, to demarcate the course of the boundary by identifying the location of turning points (hereinafter called “boundary points”) by both grid and geographical coordinates with a degree of accuracy that does not differ significantly from pillar site assessment and emplacement undertaken in the field. The Commission has therefore identified by these means the location of points for the emplacement of pillars as a physical manifestation of the boundary on the ground… Although these techniques have been available for some time, the Commission has not resorted to them because the actual fixing of boundary pillars, if at all possible, was the demarcation method of first choice. However, it is only possible to demarcate a boundary by the fixing of boundary pillars with the full cooperation of both the States concerned…”

On the same day, the EEBC sent a letter to the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry. It was in response to a letter sent by the regime to the EEBC and circulated at the Security Council. In that letter the EEBC responded to Ethiopia’s tantrums by stating the following:

“…This was not the first time that the Security Council has called on Ethiopia to fulfil its obligations in respect of the Demarcation Decision. Nor is Ethiopia’s failure to respond positively to such a call the first time that it has disregarded the call of the Security Council. It is a matter of regret that Ethiopia has so persistently maintained a position of non-compliance with its obligations in relation to the Commission… There is no basis for the suggestion that the Commission has been appeasing Eritrea. Nor can such a suggestion, however unfounded, obscure the fact that Ethiopia has itself been in breach of its obligations under the Algiers Agreement in several important respects…The truth of the matter appears to be that Ethiopia is dissatisfied with the substance of the Commission’s Delimitation Decision and has been seeking, ever since April 2002, to find ways of changing it… I regret that it has been necessary to address you in such direct terms but your letter — and the publicity that you have given it — have left me with no alternative. It would be unacceptable for an international tribunal to be exposed to the kind of criticism which you have lodged without replying to it in necessary detail…”

Ethiopia and its handlers conducted an orchestrated diplomatic blitz to stop the EEBC from moving forward with the new approach. As the American Embassy cables mentioned below show, there was never any genuine effort by the US and its partners to urge Ethiopia to abide by the rule of law. Instead, they promised to support Ethiopia’s intransigence and prevent the UN Security Council from taking any punitive actions against the belligerent regime. This undermines the credibility, integrity, neutrality and efficacy of the UN Security Council and undermines the confidence of member states who will rely on its judiciousness and impartiality in resolving border disputes in the future.

On 30 November 2007 speaking to Voice of America’s (VoA) Peter Heinlein about the “virtual demarcation” of the Eritrea Ethiopia border, Meles Zenawi said:

“…As far as the virtual demarcation of the boundary is concerned, I have heard well-respected diplomats and lawyers describe it as ‘legal nonsense’…Our lawyers agree with such characterization. Until the boundary is demarcated on the ground, it is not demarcated. As soon as it is demarcated, there will be relocation of administrations, police and so forth. But not before that. Only after actual demarcation on the ground. And we prefer to engage the Eritrean side in pushing forwards toward demarcation…”

Interesting that Meles Zenawi would insist on demarcation on the ground when it was his regime that prevented the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) from doing just that.

Meles Zenawi presumed to know more about the law than the distinguished members of the Boundary Commission and in a letter dated 27 November 2007, Ethiopia asserted that the demarcation coordinates set out in the Commission’s Statement of 27 November 2006 “are invalid because they are not the product of a demarcation process recognized by international law”.

Again, in its 18 January 2008 letter to the President of the Security Council Ethiopia claimed that virtual demarcation had “no validity in international law” and that the coordinates are invalid “because they are not the product of a demarcation process recognized by international law.” The regime’s lawyers and “respected diplomats” must know that while placing pillars is accepted practice, not all international borders are demarcated with pillars. New technologies bring new methods and approaches…As the EEBC said in its eloquent statement of 2006, “the feasibility and acceptability of the use of coordinates alone as a means of identifying international boundaries is clearly affirmed by the manner in which the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea deals with the limits of maritime claims by States.

Kathleen Claussen in “Invisible borders: Mapping out Virtual Law” dismisses Ethiopia’s arguments about precedence and legality of the approach used by the EEBC:

“…The actual process of carrying out all the calculations and measurements necessary for virtual demarcation varies depending on the technology employed. The most accurate and reliable method available today is stereophotogrammetry…Stereophotogrammetry is commonly used for marking points where it would be impossible to emplace monuments, such as on mountain tops. Geographers use stereophotogrammetry to ascertain a point that parties agree to on the basis of a particular set of stereo reference data. Thus, Ethiopia’s claim that there is no precedent for this type of demarcation is incorrect to the extent that stereophotogrammetry is used in these remote areas… With the precision and permanency of these geographic coordinates, this system would far out-last any monument and be less subject to abuse… many international lawyers concede that the monumentation principle is not, in fact, required by law. It is a purely technical operation of minor importance…”

The regime in Ethiopia has been emboldened by the US led international community to flout international law and the EEBC’s final and binding delimitation and demarcation decisions. Judging from the list of apologists the Ethiopian Prime Minister relied on for political and diplomatic advice and support in the past, we will once again see that the “well respected” diplomats are almost all from the United States and Europe. As for his lawyers, they are the same lawyers who advised him that the EEBC decision was “illegal, unjust and irresponsible”, the same decision that he was forced to grudgingly accept.

So who were these “well respected diplomats” who were advising Ethiopia and preventing the Security Council from taking punitive actions against the regime for it occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories for the last 12 years?

For that we will refer to the US Embassy cables as they are the most definitive-not hearsay or innuendos-straight from the horse’s mouth as they say…

  • A/S FRAZER DISCUSSES SUDAN AND SOMALIA WITH FCO, DFID- 27 November 2006[1]

According to this cable:

“…In meetings with FCO Minister for Africa Lord Triesman November 21 and Secretary of State for International Development Hilary Benn the next day, AF A/S Frazer stressed the need to adopt a UNSCR on Somalia flexible enough that frontline states could play a positive role.  She also floated the suggestion of a UK-Norway initiative to break the deadlock in the Eritrea/Ethiopia boundary dispute…”

That is her way of saying, let Ethiopia-a front line state- have a role in Somalia… she also tries to bring to the table another “initiative”-a time buying gimmick to appease the regime in Ethiopia. The cable goes on:

“…A/S Frazer expressed appreciation for Lord Triesman’s earlier offer of whatever support the UK might be able to provide to facilitate resolution of the Eritrea/Ethiopia boundary dispute, including use of the prestigious Lancaster House where historic agreements have been concluded in the past.  She said the USG has tried to revive the Boundary Commission process, but Isaias would not engage.  Triesman admitted he was not sure who could get Isaias to respond positively, and Lloyd added “it’s not clear we’re the right people,” because Eritrea sees the UK as biased in favor of Ethiopia.  Triesman was open to Dr. Frazer’s suggestion of a possible co-chair arrangement involving the UK and Norway. Both sides agreed that the Boundary Commission’s intent to proceed with “virtual demarcation” would do more harm than good.  The British indicated they were working indirectly to nudge the Commissioners away from that course of action…”

  • ERITREA-ETHIOPIA BORDER IMPASSE: DEMARCHE RESPONSE[2]-11 June 2007 -NORWAY

According to this cable, US diplomats:

“…discussed the Eritrea-Ethiopia border with Norwegian Deputy Permanent Representative Juul in the run-up to the November 27 deadline for demarcation by coordinates as imposed by the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC)… PolMinCouns and Poloff presented reftel demarche on June 5 to Norwegian Deputy PermRep Mona Juul, Military Advisor Arve Lauritzen and Political Counselor Berit Enge. Juul reported on a meeting between Norwegian Minister of State Raymond Johanson and Eritrean President Isaias in Asmara on May 30, which she described as a “frank, open discussion,” which nevertheless revealed that “not much had changed” on Isaias’ part.  Johanson and Isaias had spoken about “virtual demarcation” of the border, but Isaias had insisted that there be “stakes in the ground” before any dialogue with Ethiopia could begin.  Juul said that Johanson’s arguments for an economic normalization of relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea had not resonated with Isaias…PolMinsCouns asked if Isaias had given any indication of Eritrean intentions if demarcation by coordinates were to take place upon the EEBC’s scheduled departure in November, stressing that a major U.S. concern was what would happen after November.  Juul said Isaias had downplayed any threat of war and had blamed the escalation of tensions squarely on Ethiopia…”

  • UNSC—ENGAGING INDONESIA ON ETHIOPIA-ERITREA AND UNMEE REPORT -7 November 2007[3]-INDONESIA

“…Pol/C reviewed reftel points with Harry Purwanto, Director for North American Affairs at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DEPLU), November 8.  Pol/C–noting ongoing tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea–urged Indonesia to avoid commenting publicly on the substantive merits of any decision by the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC). He also stressed the need for countries to avoid putting any pressure on either country to take any specific action re the EEBC’s decisions or decision-making process…Purwanto expressed appreciation for the information and said he had so far not been aware of the issue.  He said he would review the matter with relevant DEPLU officials using USG-provided points.  Purwanto seriously doubted whether Indonesian officials would make any public statements on the Ethiopia-Eritrea border issue or on the work of the EEBC…”

  • SUBJECT: ERITREA/ETHIOPIA:  FRANCE CONCURS ON APPROACH FOR UNSC MEETING -9 November 2007[4]

“…Africa Watcher conveyed reftel demarche to MFA AF DAS for East Africa Helene Le Gal on November 8.  Le Gal commented that France agreed on the need to support U/SYG Pascoe’s efforts and to allow space for the parties alone, as signatories of the Algiers Agreements, to decide the effect of and whether to implement the EEBC’s virtual demarcation decision…Maintaining that American and French views were similar, Le Gal expressed dissatisfaction with the plan of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) for virtual demarcation of the border by map coordinates at the end of November.  Le Gal’s core objection was that the EEBC, which she called a valuable independent instrument, intended to disband after virtual demarcation.  Without the EEBC, there would be a need either to reinvent it by establishing a new international body or some sort to monitor the crisis or else the Security Council itself would need to play a more frontline role, which could further escalate tensions.  It was unlikely, however, that the French delegation would voice criticisms of the EEBC plan when the UNSC meets to consider the situation…”

SLOVAKIA REQUESTS CLARIFICATION ON UNMEE DEMARCHE -9 November 2009[5]

“…Poloff delivered reftel demarche to Ambassador Vladimir Lomen at the UNSC Coordination Unit at MFA. Lomen promised to share US concerns within the MFA and with Slovakia’s mission to the UN. Lomen opined that encouraging UNSC members to avoid statements on the merits of the EEBC’s demarcation decision and to avoid putting any pressure on Ethiopia or Eritrea to take specific steps to implement that decision is a departure from past US policy on this issue. …Lomen said Slovak policy on this issue would likely be made in New York, and encouraged Poloff to have USUN offer a more clear explanation of the reasons for this request to Slovakia’s mission to the UN…”

EEBC: ITALY IN AGREEMENT WITH U.S. ON APPROACH TOWARD NOVEMBER 30 DEADLINE -17 November 2007[6]

“…Poloff delivered reftel demarche to MFA East Africa Office Director Fabrizio Pignatelli November 15.  Poloff sought Italian agreement on a unified approach to avoid pressure on Ethiopia and Eritrea to implement the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) “virtual demarcation” of the border by map coordinates.  Pignatelli agreed enthusiastically with our points.  He said Italy fully supports UN Under Secretary General Lynn Pascoe’s attempts to mediate the conflict, saying it was our best chance for lowering tensions and resolving the disputes between the parties…Pignatelli said he thought the conflict now boiled down to a question of face saving for both sides.  Given Eritrea’s declaration in September that it would begin to remove its military forces from the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) as soon as demarcation begins, Pignatelli saw some room for hope, if enough trust could be restored to allow simultaneous commencement of demarcation on the ground and the removal of Eritrean troops from the TSZ.  To supervise such a coordinated, simultaneous action, Pignatelli thought it might be possible to extend the mandate of the EEBC with the consent of both parties…”

RUSSIA CONCERNED ABOUT POSSIBILITY FOR VIOLENCE IN THE HORN OF AFRICA-21 November 2007[7]

“…MFA International Organizations Counselor Albert Sitnikov told us on November 20 that while the GOR supported UNSC Presidential Statement 9169 urging both Ethiopia and Eritrea to accept and implement the EEBC’s delineation decision “without preconditions,” the GOR was opposed to the EEBC’s idea of “virtual demarcation” and believed it may lead to violence.  According to Sitnikov, Lavrov called virtual demarcation “legal nonsense.”  The GOR believed virtual demarcation falls outside of the Algiers Agreement and that it was up to involved parties how to demarcate the border.  He said Russia would have to support Ethiopian withdrawal from the agreement were the EEBC to insist upon virtual demarcation…Deputy Director for Africa Nikolai Ratsiborinskiy told us the EEBC’s current proposal had paralyzed the situation.  He noted that Lavrov had stated publicly that a virtual demarcation could destabilize the entire region, and the GOR believed signals from Asmara and Addis Ababa had hinted at their readiness to resume conflict…Commenting on the November 7 visit of Ethiopian FM Seyoum, Ratsiborinskiy said Lavrov told Seyoum privately the GOR would support Ethiopia’s opposition to virtual demarcation in the UNSC, but also warned Seyoum about statements and actions that could destabilize the fragile situation…GOR support for the UN Presidential Statement was carefully worded to support “delineation,” not “demarcation.” If Ethiopia does not recognize the EEBC’s virtual demarcation, the GOR has said it will be prepared to take its side in a UNSC debate…”

The US Embassy cables clearly show that, instead of upholding the rule of law and urging Ethiopia to abide by its treaty obligations, the United State and its allies were instead using their diplomatic clout to undermine the EEBC and its decisions regarding the Eritrea Ethiopia border. That does not bode well for peace, stability and security in our region, and it certainly does not give states much confidence in the UN Security Council (UNSC) and its ability to shoulder its moral and legal responsibilities. With so many new states being created and border conflicts on the rise, the UNSC will find itself irrelevant on issues relating to delimitation and demarcation of borders-matters of peace and security-its raison d’etre…

 

So is virtual demarcation “legal nonsense”?

No it is not and it is also not something Eritrea secretly created in the mountains of Sahel…it is a widely used method, and a preferred method as it is the most accurate… The coordinate-only demarcation method is of equal validity to that of erecting monuments or pillars.

As in all other aspects of our lives that have been affected positively by advanced technology and know-how, so has boundary-marking.  Technology and necessity have produced an alternative methodology. Simply discounting the new technology, especially by states where these technologies emerged from, is quite puzzling.

For reasons that are still unclear to all that have been following developments in the region, the Security Council, despite the fact that the EEBC has deposited the documents with the UN, remains mum on the issue. The Security Council endorsed the “virtual demarcation’ of the Iraq-Kuwait border and enforced its decision. Why is it then employing double standards today on the EEBC’s demarcation decisions? As we shall see below and has been attested to by Independent observers, the composition of the EEBC is more “legal” and impartial than the one created by the UN Secretary General in the case of Iraq-Kuwait.

The Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) was established pursuant to the 12 December 2000 Algiers Peace Agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia and its mandate was clearly spelled out in that Agreement. According to Article 4.15 of the Algiers Agreement:

“…The parties agree that the delimitation and demarcation determinations of the Commission shall be final and binding. Each party shall respect the border so determined, as well as the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the other party…

The parties handpicked the Commissioners after extensive vetting. Out of the 5 members of the EEBC, only one of the Commissioners was a UN appointee. The parties appointed 2 Commissioners each. The four Commissioners appointed by the parties were: Prince Bola Adesumbo Ajibola (appointed by Ethiopia), Professor W. Michael Reisman (appointed by Eritrea), Judge Stephen M. Schwebel (appointed by Eritrea) and Sir Arthur Watts, KCMG QC (appointed by Ethiopia). UN Secretary General Kofi Annan appointed Sir Elihu Lauterpacht as the President. The UN Cartographer served as the Secretary to the Commission.

On the other hand, the UN Iraq Kuwait Boundary Demarcation Commission (UNIKBDC) was not established by the two parties to the conflict as required by international law and the UN Charter. It was established pursuant to paragraph 3 of Resolution 687 adopted by the Security Council on 3 April 1991. Its mandate was also not agreed upon independently by the two parties, it was determined by the Secretary General as his 2 May 1991 Report to the Security Council will show. In that Report, Secretary General Javier Perez De Cuellar wrote:

“…After consultation with the Governments of Iraq and Kuwait, I will now establish a Iraq-Kuwait Boundary Demarcation Commission to be composed of one representative each of Iraq and Kuwait and three independent experts who will be appointed by me, one of which will serve as Chairman. The terms of reference of the Commission will be to demarcate in geographical coordinates of latitude and longitude the international boundary set out in the agreed Minutes between Kuwait and Iraq. The coordinates established by the Commission will constitute the final demarcation of the international boundary between Iraq and Kuwait. The Commission will take its decisions by majority. Its decisions regarding the demarcation of the border will be final…”

The Secretary General appointed Mr. Mochtar Kusuma-Atmadja, former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia as Chairman, Mr. Ian Brook, then Technical Director, Swedsurvey, National Land Survey of Sweden, and Mr. William Robertson, General/Director General of the Department of Survey and Land Information of New Zealand, as independent experts. Ambassador Riyadh Al-Qaysi represented Iraq and Ambassador Tarek A.Razzouki represented Kuwait. Mr. Miklos Pinter, Chief Cartographer of the United Nations Secretariat, was appointed Secretary to the Commission. The UN Secretary General spelled out UNIKBDC’s mandate. The delimitation formula was the 1932 Exchange of letters between the Prime Minister of Iraq and the Ruler of Kuwait.

As we can see above, while the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission was set up in accordance with general practice and parity, the UN Iraq Kuwait Boundary Demarcation Commission was not. Whilst the EEBC’s impartiality, independence and clear and coherent mandate was hailed and accepted by Eritrea, Ethiopia and the international community, including the Security Council, the same cannot be said about the independence and neutrality of UNIKBDC, its constitution or its politically motivated mandate.

Despite Iraq’s expressed reservations about the composition of the Commission, its mandate and its legality, succumbing to international pressure (Operation Desert Storm) it reluctantly accepted the terms and conditions set forth in Resolution 687. Suffice it to mention an excerpt from a letter dated 23 April 1991 sent by Ahmed Hussein, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, to the Secretary General to illustrate Iraq’s frustration with the Security Council and Resolution 687’s legality. The Iraqi Minister wrote:

“…just as we accepted resolution 687 (!991) despite our objections of and criticisms of its provisions, we will cooperate with you and nominate a representative of our government to participate in the Demarcation Commission, even if you take no account of the views and comments expressed above. We do this because the circumstances forcing our acceptance persists…”

The Secretary General was fulfilling a request by the Security Council to establish the Boundary Demarcation Commission. In responding to Iraq’s reservations about the proposed Commission and its mandate, the Secretary General was keen on stressing the Commission’s independence and methodology, in an attempt to assure Iraq of the Commission’s neutrality, in his 30 April 1991 letter to the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Javier Perez De Cuellar wrote:

“…It is up to the Commission to examine and identify the relevant documentation and to determine which technology or combination of can best be used for the fulfillment of its mandate. In my view, it would prejudice the work of the Commission and even hinder its independence if I were to go beyond the level of detail concerning the working methods of the Boundary Commission set out in my draft report…”

There were many that questioned Resolution 687’s neutrality and legality, but were powerless to do anything about it. Not only was it in contravention of Article 33 of the UN Charter and a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, it also contradicted the Council’s own Resolution 660 of 1990, which called on Iraq and Kuwait to resolve their differences through negotiations. It was cited as “the first in the annals of the international organization” and it raised many concerns and questions amongst the impartial members of the Security Council.

Article 33 of the UN charter is very clear as to what needs to be done when there is a dispute between member states. The Security Council does not have the mandate to amend, revise, revisit or change Agreements signed by two sovereign states.

Many independent observers and legal analysts considered Resolution 687 an immoral and politically motivated Resolution and one that was clearly ultra vires of the Security Council’s mandate under the UN Charter-even if it was acting under Chapter VII. The Resolution was labeled “iniquitous” and legal experts and analysts voiced their concerns and concurred that it constituted “a dangerous legal precedent”. Nonetheless, the Boundary Commission was allowed to execute its mandate and the Security Council immediately endorsed its demarcation decisions when delivered.

By its Resolution 833 (1993) adopted on 27 May 1993, the Security Council:

“…Welcomes also the successful conclusion of the work of the Commission. Reaffirms that the decisions of the Commission regarding the demarcation of the boundary are final; Demands that Iraq and Kuwait in accordance with international law and relevant Security Council resolutions respect the inviolability of the international boundary, as demarcated by the Commission, and the right to navigational access; Underlines and reaffirms its decision to guarantee the inviolability of the above-mentioned international boundary…”

As the EEBC noted in its Statement, “No doubt was expressed as to the legal acceptability of a “demarcation” by means of a list of coordinates”. The Security Council not only endorsed the UN Iraq-Kuwait Boundary Demarcation decisions, it also guaranteed its inviolability. The Security Council went on to enforce that decision and today Iraq and Kuwait have a secure and internationally recognized boundary. Ditto for Israel and Jordan.

Politics aside, what is important to note in this case is the fact that the terms of reference in the Iraq-Kuwait border demarcation provided that the international boundary be demarcated in geographical coordinates of latitude and longitude, as well as physical representations on the ground. The coordinates for the land boundary are physically demarcated by 106 monuments, approximately 2km apart, and 28 intermediate markers.

If virtual demarcation is “legal nonsense” or has no legal applicability, why did the Security Council accept the UN Iraq-Kuwait Boundary Demarcation Commission’s decision and endorse the virtual demarcation of the Iraq-Kuwait border and make efforts to enforce it?

If it managed to come up with mechanisms to enforce the inviolability of the Iraq-Kuwait international border, why can’t it also enforce the inviolability of the Eritrea Ethiopia border?

If the Security Council can endorse a decision delivered by a legally questionable body and enforce its decisions, why is it reluctant to endorse and enforce the EEBC decision when by all accounts and when compared, the EEBC is not only more independent and impartial but also one that both parties to the conflict chose and established?

Eritrea intends to take advantage of all technological advances to develop its war torn economy, to increase food production and ensure food security, and to develop its human and economic infrastructures etc. Eritrea understands that with advances in technology, there will be many changes in the methods used in various sectors including agriculture, education, communication, and a new approach to demarcation is no different. If the minority regime Ethiopia wants to remain in the dark ages, that is their choice, and the UN Security Council can help educate the backward regime and bring it to the modern. It should not be party to its ignobility and backwardness.

Surely, if Eritrea, a developing nation understands and accepts these new and innovative methods available for demarcating borders, and if the EEBC, a sound legal body composed of experienced legal scholars, also accepts them, what is preventing the UN Security Council and especially the United States and European states on the Council from accepting the EEBC’s demarcation decisions?

Kathleen Claussen writes:

“…The monumentation [pillars on the ground] approach might have made sense when no other means were available; however, in the twenty-first century, when the law has kept pace with technology in other areas of science, border demarcation should do the same. Moreover, inconsistencies among boundary commissions and the variety of state methodologies indicate a need for harmonization in order to clarify and establish coherent legal norms in this field. Virtual demarcation achieves that…The Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission has signaled a new approach for border-marking that, at the very least, merits jurisprudential and institutional consideration and has the potential to revolutionize boundary-marking and boundary-making…”

Ethiopia threatened to pull out of the Algiers Agreements and the US and its allies buckled…the fact is that boundaries remain even if treaties that created them, like the Colonial treaties of 1900, 1902 and 1908 that served as the basis for the delimitation decisions of the EEBC, are no longer in force.

Enforcing the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission’s demarcation decisions and calling on Ethiopia to vacate from sovereign Eritrean territories will go a long way in improving the lives of the people in both countries. The US led international community cannot decry the plight of Eritrean economic refugees and asylum seekers, and the “prolonged national service” in Eritrea, while refusing to address the cause of their discontent-the occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories and the economic and other sanctions placed on them.

The rule of law must prevail over the law of the jungle!


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