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The Eritrean People Demand Negotiations Now PDF Print E-mail
Written by ECP   
Sunday, 01 November 2009 01:34

ብዕለት 2007/04/27 ኣብ ዝነበረ ጽንኩር ኩነታት ኣብ መንጎ ኤርትራን ኢትዮጵያን ውግእ ከይውላዕ ይስጋእ ኣብ ዝነበረሉ እዋን፡ ኣውራኳ ውጥረት ሶማል ዓለምለኻዊ ስግኣታት ፈጢሩ ስለዝነበረ ሰልፊ ጉባኤ ኤርትራ እዚ ዘንጸላሉ ዝነበረ ኲናት ንኸይባራዕ እዚ ሰነድ ነዚ ንምግታእ ብመርበብ ሓበሬታ ተዘርገሐ። ኣብዚ መድረኽ’ዚ ሰልፊ ጉባኤ ኤርትራ ኣደልዲሉ ንህዝባዊ ዲፕሎማሲ መስመር ንኸማዕብል ብዕቱብ ይሰርሓሉ ኣብ ዘሎ እዋን፡ ነዚ ዕላማታት ዘብርሁ ጽሑፋት ብቐጻሊ ነውጽእ ኣሎና።




The Pillars of People’s Diplomacy


Let us explore two aspects of people’s diplomacy in Eritrea. The internal aspect of people’s diplomacy is born from the desire of the Eritrean people to live together in unity and internal peace. The dynamics of this desire is expressed in the debate surrounding the draft constitution. The external aspect of people’s diplomacy emerges from the need to live in peace and cooperation with our neighbours. The internal aspect of people’s diplomacy can be resolved by establishing constitutional pluralism, while the external aspect focuses on partaking in a collective project of avoiding armed conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea. In a situation of extreme tension, where regular diplomatic channels have collapsed (as in the case of these two neighbours), the people may act, en masse in a demonstrative form or other forms of protest associated with social revolution - for the purpose of avoiding an impending catastrophe. When such a context obtains it can be said that the conditions for people’s diplomacy have attained relevance.


2a. People’s Diplomacy as a Fire Escape 

Is there a strategic relationship between the Ethiopian and Eritrean states?  Judging by the history of conflict between these neighbours a claim of this magnitude can hardly be made. Is there a strategic relationship between the Ethiopian state and the Eritrean opposition? No. Such a relationship would assume that the Eritrean opposition has attained international recognition. Is there a strategic relationship between the Ethiopian ruling party and the Eritrean opposition? No. The relationship between a ruling party and opposition forces is often based upon good behaviour and utility. Is there a strategic relationship between the Ethiopian and Eritrean peoples? Yes! Even in a situation of war, we assert that there is a strategic relationship between these two fraternal peoples - despite temporary disturbances in their relationship. People’s diplomacy can contribute to the stabilization of political tremors as it can normalize abnormal relations. It can also be safely asserted that in circumstances where there is good will between these two neighbourly peoples the possibility of fostering strategic relations between their respective states may be available in the future.        


2b. The Eritrean View of the Conflict

The Eritrean regime sees the conflict as a matter of accepting the decisions of the border commission, and marking the international border between the two neighbors on the ground. 


2c. The Ethiopian View of the Conflict

The Ethiopian government sees the conflict as matter of sovereignty and requires that certain adjustments be made to the decisions of the border commission - via negotiations - in order to remove the causes of future tensions. 


2d. International Arbitration Versus Face-to-Face Negotiations

The boundary question took its present form because both Eritrea and Ethiopia decided to submit the border dispute to international arbitration. An alternative course could have been eyeball-to-eyeball negotiations between these two neighbors. An agreement reached via this diplomatic method could have been presented to the relevant UN bodies for international legitimation. This type of negotiation, if successful, is known to lead to a reasonably stable peace, while decisions reached by international bodies tend to lead to the argument: “you accepted the conditions of the game willingly, now you need to accept the results”.


The border issue has been resolved by the Border Commission; yet, Eritrea and Ethiopia are still rearing to go at each other’s throat. The peace plan of the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Mr. Meles Zenawi, rejects war in favor of negotiations, and accepts the decisions of the Border Commission - in principle - leading to mutual corrections of sticky issues. Let us now consider the sticky issues:


3. Identifying Sticky Issues


3a. Ethiopian Sticky Issues


Ethiopian proposal focuses on some territorial adjustments in the Badume and Ali Tena areas in exchange of the Tsorona locality.


3b. Eritrean Sticky Issues

From the territorial adjustment point view, the military implication of Ali Tena to the canyon and sea-port of Arefaile, and subsequently, the sovereignty of Eritrea is a sticky issue that requires a thoughtful approach. There are also developmental sticky issues in the Dankalia region. The first of these is an agricultural region that is central to the food security of the inhabitants of Beda; the second is a salt production area that is essential to the cash economy of Dankalia. 


3c. Negotiations Now

The proponents of people’s diplomacy call for immediate negotiations between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Negotiations are inevitable one way or the other. The Eritrean government holds the untenable position that the demarcation of the border is merely a technical issue that does not require a political summit between the leaders of both countries. It is important to keep in mind the fact that the international tribunal did not workout the rules that govern the implementation process. The implementation process requires detailed political and technical agreements regarding troop withdrawals, de-escalation, and other related matters. Drawing the international border on the ground is not solely a technical matter – it is primarily a political matter. The Eritrean regime needs to grasp that political negotiation sets the conditions for the consummation of the technical aspects of the border decision. This means that the two countries must negotiate in order to discuss the implementation annex and international legitimacy issues. The question is: should the Eritrean regime negotiate before war breaks and, by so doing, gain the peace, or wait for war to break out and repeat the US/Rwanda catastrophe? The president of the Eritrean regime must negotiate now!


3d. Negotiations Pay

The next task, directly related to the question of implementation, is the important matter of ratification. The implementation of the decisions of the border commission needs to be complemented by ratification on the part of the parliaments of Ethiopia and Eritrea. In the case of Eritrea, only an elected Eritrean parliament can ratify the international decisions of the border commission. This means that there must be democratic elections now! 



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