Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Ethiopia/Eritrea: border dispute continues

Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a bitter two-year war in 1998 over the demarcation of their border. In 2000, they agreed to let an independent border commission decide the matter and agreed to accept the Commission's ruling as "final and binding". Last year, the Boundary Commission ruled that Badme - the small town at the heart of the dispute - is part of Eritrea. Ethiopia has refused to accept the decision.

There are domestic reasons for Ethiopia's stance.
Diplomats say there is no question that Prime Minister Meles is under enormous domestic pressure to bring about changes to the controversial ruling. Yet Ethiopia's earlier appeals for concessions to the ruling have fallen on deaf ears.

While Ethiopia is ready to let certain sectors be marked out, officials say that demarcating contested areas - in particular the town of Badme - could fuel another war.

Eritrea, meanwhile, is totally opposed to a sector-by-sector demarcation and insists the ruling was “final and binding and should now be implemented in full.

... That domestic pressure [in Ethiopia] began to manifest itself last week when 15 opposition groups united, announcing an anti-demarcation ticket as their strategy for the 2005 elections.
Ethiopia had sent a letter to the UN Security Council asking the UN to wade in. The request was rejected and Ethiopia told to accept the border ruling.

Demarcation of the border was/is supposed to start this month ... and end by mid next year.