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Border Demarcation Priority: People or Land?

By Engineer Ghirma
August 08, 2007

By accepting the cock-eyed decision of the Boundary Commission, Ethiopia has resigned to the bolts and nuts aspects, so to speak, of the physical placement of pillars on the ground. Eritrea (Isaias Afweki) maintains that the citizenship of the people who live along the border doesn’t really matter, as long as he gets a few kilometers of extra land. He thinks that citizenship can be rammed down people’s throats, once the boundary is established in accordance with the Delimitation of the Border.

Ethiopia’s stand is that the people who live along the contested border matter very much indeed; and the split-up of families poses a threat to permanent peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Therefore, Ethiopia has offered a process, whereby negative impact on families who live along the border can be averted. In response, Isaias Afwerk has deployed his army of “farmers” backed by massive military hardware; which in my opinion renders the Algiers Peace Agreement null and void. Sooner or later Ethiopia will have to re-establish the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) by whatever means necessary. For the record, the PFDJ government of Isaias Afwerki has recently objected to the extension of the UNMEE mandate for another six months (until January 31, 2008).

Many prominent intellectuals have offered their own versions on how they saw the border demarcation process. Trust me, I am not an “intellectual”; far from it! I am just a “country engineer” who has followed closely the volatile nature of the issue(s) at hand. The primary issue is, in my opinion, nothing else but about the people who live along the eventually to become boundary between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Isaias maintains that once the line is drawn on the ground, the people who live on its side of the border have two choices: (1) Accept Eritrean citizenship, and get to stay on their own land; or (2) If they persist on their Ethiopian identity, it would be ground for deportations; and thereby Ethiopians would be evicted from their land by Isaias Afwerki. On the other hand, Ethiopia would never abandon its people in the hands of a vicious tyrant. Therefore, Ethiopia has proposed a dialogue with the PFDJ government of Isaias Afwerki, to satisfy and uphold the choices of the people who live along the delimited border; thereby guaranteeing permanent peace between the two countries.

Let me begin with the situation of the Kunama people. They have for generations maintained that they are Ethiopians. During the struggle for the liberation of Eritrea (1961-1991), the Kunama stood against both ELF and EPLF; and they would not voluntarily allow military operations on their territory. For their noble stand, they suffered horrendously. In the 1998-2000 war as well, thousands of Kunama people were internally displaced (IDP); and thousands currently live in refugee camps inside Ethiopia. The first contingent of Kunama refugees are in the process of resettlement in USA. The deranged “vocal” Eritrea’s Diaspora is crying foul; and has declared that the Kunama must really be Ethiopians. I consider that to be a breath of fresh air! Indeed, Kunama are Ethiopians, and their territory lies within Ethiopia. Kunama cannot be blamed for being manipulated by Italy and Great Britain; nor the 1902 insensitivity of Emperor Menelik II and his representative Dej. Ghebreselassie. Ethiopia must now demand justice for the Kunama people.

The Boundary Commission had initially determined that Tserona was inside Ethiopia. However, the Commission reversed its assessment, claiming that Ethiopia had conceded Tserona to Eritrea. In the EEBC report, Chapter 4 paragraph 4.69, Ethiopia stated that: “…Fort Cordona, Monoxeito, Guna Guna and Tserona were mostly undisputed Eritrean places”. Based on this admission by Ethiopia, the EEBC stated under paragraph 4.70: “As to Tserona,...is an admission of which the Commission must take full account. It is necessary, therefore, to adjust the Treaty line (1900 Treaty) so as to ensure that it (Tserona) is placed in Eritrean territory.” I hope that some day our Ministry of Foreign Affairs will explain the Tserona case to the Ethiopian people (I am not aware that they have already done so). Tserona can be characterized as a lottery won by Isaias Afwerki! The Tserona debacle needs to be revisited by our Ethiopian “intellectuals” for further scrutiny; regardless of whether they are physically taller or shorter (including Prof. Tecola Hagos) than our highly competent P.M Melles Zenawi! Having said that, I also blame EEBC for not relying solely on the 1900 Treaty, without any adjustment whatsoever, in handling Tserona’s legitimate location inside Ethiopia

The case of Irob Land is very volatile. All hell will break loose if Irob people are divided based on some fictitious line on the ground. And I mean real hell! For first hand information about Irob People and Irob Land, please read an article written by Dr. Tsegay Berhe http://www.irrob.org/articles_on_irob.html (if you cannot follow the link please copy into your browser). The idea that any part of Irob Land can be part of Eritrea is ludicrous. It will never happen. During the Eritrean struggle for independence, along with the Kunama people, the Irob people were also among the Nationalities who were abused by ELF and EPLF for non-participation. The 1993 “referendum”, according to my sources, was not even held in Irob Land because Isaias knew what the outcome would be. Irob people are united to continue fighting for the retention of their Ethiopian identity, more than ever before.

The Afar people hate Isaias Afwerki’s gut! They don’t mince words when they articulate their stand on the question of Nationality. The Afar people of Ethiopia have full rights within the Ethiopian Constitution, including cessation; as partners of the Nations and Nationalities of Ethiopia. Their brothers and sisters across the border (Eritrea) however, have no rights; period. So, guess where they would rather live? It is up to the Afar people to decide; and not some tyrant whose only interest is in an artificial line that might give him a few extra square kilometers of land. The skewed point of reference used in the delimitation of the boarder along Bure in the Eastern Sector, may have given Eritrea that town (or part of it). The time has come for the people of Bure and Asab to voice their opinions in a much sought dialogue, both by Ethiopia and the UN. Isaias Afwerki is scared of any dialogue because he has a good sense of where it might lead.

The right thing to do, in my opinion, is to scrap the illegal “referendum” of 1993; because its outcome has been a disaster for the Eritrean people. The land of Zer’ay Deres, Lorenzo Taezaz, Abraha Debotch, Moges Asghedom, General Aman Michael Andom, to name just a few, deserves much better than “King” Isaias Afwerki. Under the Ethiopian Constitution, the Eritrean people will prosper; and at the same time compliment the history of Ethiopia, of which Eritrea has been part and parcel since time immemorial. As for Wedi Afom, only the mentally challenged Eritrea’s vocal Diaspora have failed to acknowledge that their “king-patriarch” is 100% Tigrawai. To Ethiopians, Isaias Afwerki is just a “bad seed” or

Related articles by Engineer Ghirma:

Isaias Afwerki: King and Patriarch of Eritrea
Isaias Afeworki Must Set Eritrea Free
“Vocal Eritrean Diaspora: Eritrea’s Worst Enemies
Isaias Afwerki: Fidel Castro Wannabe

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