Peaceful Settlement of the Ethio-Eritrean Conflict is an Idea Whose Time Has Come | By Dr Yacob Haile-Mariam

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While we may cautiously rejoice over the new day that has dawned on Ethiopia in recent months with tantalizing promises, we unfortunately cannot say the same thing about Eritrea. Nonetheless we cannot wait until Eritrea is on the same keel with Ethiopia in matters of democracy and other elements which characterize each of the two countries.

It is now a common knowledge that the two fraternal countries Ethiopia and Eritrea have been marooned in no war no peace quagmire. While this situation may be preferable to the possible slaughter of tens of  thousands of young men and women in a useless war, it is nonetheless a situation which cannot  be sustained for long. It may explode into a conflagration any day without notice. It is therefore absolutely necessary to come to some sort of negotiation and settlement without  delay.
In this effort to restore peace kudos is due to the Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr. Abiy for initiating a call for peace which we hope and pray his counterpart President Isayas will reciprocate with similar gesture. It is our fervent hope that the two leaders will totally expunge war as a means for settling conflict between the two fraternal peoples. It is incumbent on all Ethiopians to encourage and support our Prime Minister (my first time in my life to say my Prime Minister) in his effort to bring about peace between these two countries whose destinies are inextricably  intertwined not only by blood but also by geo-political realities prevailing in the region. After all
both are referred to as by some protagonists as “habash”  followed by poisonous reptile.  It is our hope that Eritreans will also stand up and be counted just as their Ethiopian counterparts in favor of peace and brotherhood.
Congratulations is due to the young and not so young people at home and abroad who in recent years have taken up peace and reconciliation as the the only way  out  of the quagmire the two countries have been plunged   into by myopic leaders who could not see beyond the tip of their noses. In this effort I am tempted to mention the indefatigable Prof.Tesfatsion Medhane who from day one has been struggling to bring these countries closer together despite the fact that  so many  anti unity forces were stacked against him.
The dangerous stalemate existing now is the consequence of involving foreigners in the mediation and settlement of the conflict following the 1998-2000 war which claimed  the lives of tens of thousands of young people on both sides. The Algiers Agreement which was brokered by a longtime enemy of Ethiopia Abdelaziz Bouteflika who worked all his life to the dismantlement of Ethiopia in fact widened the chasm instead of closing or narrowing the  gap and bringing them closer. The Agreement and the decision of the Border Commission established by both Eritrea and Ethiopia never addressed vital issues such as giving Eritreans  free access to the vast Ethiopian market and allowing them to  invest in Ethiopia if they wished. The greatest lacuna in the Agreement and decision was however the failure to address Ethiopia’s right of access to the sea through its own port of Assab. While Ethiopia pays more than two billion dollars a year  to Djibouti for port services and its security is always under threat any  agreement for durable peace without addressing the issue of Ethiopia’s access to the sea through its own port is  indeed a pipe dream because no country willingly subjects itself to be asphyxiated within a walking distance to the sea. Ethiopia has the dubious distinction of being the largest landlocked country in the world with the shortest distance to the sea.
The Border Commission indeed delineated the border assigning Badme to Eritrea as per the agreement between Ethiopia and Italy. However Badme had always been under the Ethiopian administration, the people paying tax to the Ethiopian authorities, being represented in the Ethiopian Parliament and  Italian  or Eritrean Government never contesting Ethiopian ownership. Under these situations Eritrea is interdicted from raising the question of ownership  under the legal theory known as “effectivite’” which means one cannot lay a claim to anything it had abandoned for a long time and it has been under use by another person with the knowledge of the original owner. The lawyers representing Ethiopia never raised the matter and therefore the Commission awarded Badme to Eritrea. This is just one example among many where Ethiopia gave away its rights because of poor representation of Ethiopia at the Commission.  The Commission as per the Algiers Agreement was required to delineate and demarcate the border between the two countries. This meant drawing lines on paper showing  the border and planting border markers such as pillars.However Ato Isayas kicked out the UN Peace  Keeping Force which was entrusted with the enforcement and supervision of the work of the Commission. The Border Commission fearing for its safety  followed suit and packed and left the area without demarcating the border as was required by the Algiers Agreement.Therefore the assignment of Badme to Eritrea is not a done deal yet even by the reckoning of the Border Commission.
For lasting peace and for restoring the brotherhood that existed between Ethiopians and Eritreans the Algiers Agreement and the decision of the  Border Commission should be scrapped and denounced by both parties. The Agreement and the Border Commissiondecision were based on illegal colonial treaties which the UN abrogated in 1947, Italy renounced them after its defeat  in war and Ethiopia cancelled them in 1952 by Order 6/1952 published in the Negarit Gazetta. Therefore the Agreement and the Border Decision are ab initio illegal and therefore  null and void. In addition equality of arms between the two countries did not exist as nobody represented Ethiopia’s interest in earnest. In fact Ethiopian representatives objected to the assignment of Tsorena to Ethiopia and forced the judges of the Commission to award it to Eritrea.
Finally Eritrea and Ethiopia should not seek external mediators for settling the conflict they are mired in now. This is a quarrel within a family and as such should be settled by elders and intellectuals of the two countries who  traditionally are quite adept in settling conflicts. While I have full confidence in our Prime Minister I hope Ato Isayas realizes that this is hopefully  a new day in Ethiopia where the interest of the country reigns supreme as opposed to parochial ethnic interest which has been leading our country down a dark alley.
The writer, Dr Yacob Haile-Mariam, can be reached at



  1. I think the author needs more reading or research on the whole process of how these two parties or countries went to war, then the Algerians agreement and finally the verdict of the boundary commission “final and binding” agreement. when conflict arises, the two parties talk to resolve the case, but they failed to negotiate and went to war. later, they asked for arbitration. they signed Algeris agreement which was final and binding by the results of the border commission.No the only solution is for Ethiopia to withdraw its troops from Badmme.

  2. Surely, you weren’t sober when you wrote this article. You try to advocate for peace but at the same time you violate the very peace agreement between the two countries. By the way, Ethiopia never owned outlet to the sea. It was using Eritrean sea ports.
    Are you a Doctor? What, Yewushet Doctor? You are a liar. Your piece is full of garbage.
    The border issue between the two countries is settled once and for all. What is left is that Ethiopian to pull it forces from Badme and its environs.
    Peace will never come if Ethiopia doesn’t pull out from Badme. Period!
    Weyane (the subhuman) Yatefahal ante kimalam ahiya.

  3. What you have written is a complete nonsense. I assume that you know about the rule of law more than anyone, but your opinion on the Algiers agreement are all but twisted facts. Badme must be returned to the Eritrean people who are the rightful owner as per the agreement which was endorsed by the Ethiopian authorities themselves . All you mentioned about negotiations come only after the implementation of the Hage decision. I think it doesn’t require anyone to have a terminal degree in law to understand this. I couldn’t comprehend you Dr Yacob on this issue, I know you love your country, we all do, but violating the rule of law and trying to make peace doesn’t do any good to Both countries. I am very sorry for you having such a distorted stand on this issue.

  4. This article is rubbish. Complete rubbish. You can expect only rubbish from Weyane and its affiliated writers. Fake Dedebit PhDs.

  5. Stifanos, wedinakfa, “Dr. Yacob”, Mikael,
    The article is not meant for you. So you don’t need to worry about it or waste your time trying to understand it.

  6. Shabo: You are just like your cousins-the woyanes. You never try to win through a logical argument, but through character assassination, name calling, terrorizing etc.
    When are you two groups going to civilize? Even living in the West does not change you. I think the problem is in your genes-bad genes. Better consult Crisper technology to get rid of your bad genes.

  7. Dear Dr. Yacob:
    I read your article intently and tried to be on your shoes. I know you are trying to put the Ethiopian interest first, like any other Ethiopian who loves his/her country.
    But for you to claim that the President of Algeria, Mr.Bouteflika was the enemy of Ethiopia and therefore the agreement should be nullified, is very cheap shot. When you claim something, as a good Dr., at least try to substantiate it with facts.
    In addition, there were other mediators [AU, EU, UN,and the USA], too. This reflects, either you are not well versed with the facts about the agreement or you are intentionally trying to bamboozle your readers. If it is the former, I suggest for you to go back to the drawing board and study the facts.
    You appear to assume that the situation of “No peace no war”, is in the interest of Eritreans. Don’t you understand that it is a tactic devised to weaken Eritrea and Eritreans. Other tactics include twisting facts and using the likes of Medhanie Fessahzion and Bereket H/Selassie.
    To conclude, the peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia can only materialize only when Ethiopia accepts fully the EBBC decision. No more no less.

  8. agazian !!!
    Unity of Tigrai -tigrini is inevitable . Plot of the old emperors will fail .
    One strong Tigrigna speaking people !!!!

  9. Garbage information from negative immortal people. Time is coming to respect each otjer difference and work for mutual benefit. People are tired of old hatred logic. The border decision is final and binding. Some retired educator shall eat social assistance where ever they are. Instead of just writing garbage idea.

  10. shall not provide this unfair and biased information to the Eritrean people. This is trash.

  11. Dr. you should perfectly fit your little brain. Since your opinion is garbage i will simply pass it as irrelevant and waste of time. By the way, how is the soon Yugoslavia to be Ethiopia doing lately ?

  12. Eritrea is gone, let will be no war, Ethiopians will not stomach Eritreans, they are gone if they want to wage war again against Ethiopia or its interest, there is no Zenawi to save them from Ethiopians rage. I fi the want live in peace they must learn to mind their own business and leave Ethiopia alone PERIOD. Ethiopia can not support them anymore. Let their Arab masters help them and we wish them good luck.
    May god bless the people of Ethiopia and Eritrea.

  13. With such a hatrade filled attitudes and feelings even after years of stagnation and despair, i still believe the relationship between the two countries need to be really strict! Some of you talk that Algers nonesense. For me that agreement is but an extension of neocolonialism agreed by two foriegn collaborators who should regret it now. And am sad to learn about tge ignorance of all these people commenting here. Haha Badmie is never an issuefor Issayas… trust me. Its the economy! Read independent articles on Eritrean economy if you doubt it

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