VARIOUS: PERMANENT COURT OF ARBITRATION AT THE HAGUE HANDS BORDER RULING TO FORMER FOES ERITREA AND ETHIOPIARecord ID: 639543
- Title: VARIOUS: PERMANENT COURT OF ARBITRATION AT THE HAGUE HANDS BORDER RULING TO FORMER FOES ERITREA AND ETHIOPIA
- Date: 14th April 2002
- Summary: NAIROBI, KENYA (APRIL 11, 2002) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) MOUSTAFA HASSOUNA, REGIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, SAYING "These two countries are probably very close to coming to some sort of the conclusive decision concerning their borders and that conclusive decision can cut either way it can be positive in that they accept the arbitration of the Hague, or it could such that this is another opportunity to divert domestic attention from internal problems and should I say beat the war-drums again. But I think the concern has always been that once a border has been fought over, arbitration sets in the two parties are compelled and are under a lot of obligations to accept the conclusions of the Hague."
- Reuters ID: LVA8L8VOXR34CWM2A3S83UK3JL8A
- Location: VARIOUS LOCATIONS IN ERITREA AND ETHIOPIA
- Country: Eritrea Ethiopia
- Duration: 00:00:42
- Topics: Legal System,Conflict,Politics
- Story Text: The Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague has
handed its border ruling to former foes Ethiopia and Eritrea
in a move seen as a key step to cementing peace in the Horn of
Africa after the two countries' 1998-2000 border war.
But the two countries were at loggerheads within hours
after receiving the ruling by neutral experts that Addis Ababa
said vindicated its land claims.
Just hours after the Permanent Court of Arbitration at
The Hague handed its border ruling to both countries, Eritrean
state television said Ethiopia was lying by saying the court
had awarded Addis Ababa land it claimed was its territory.
The court will publish its decision only on Monday but it
handed its ruling to both countries on Saturday (April 13).
This father's fear and worry for his child as he races his
injured child into a waiting car - and hopefully, to a nearby
hospital reflects the feelings of hundreds of thousands of
others involved in the border dispute which has turned into a
bloodshed and a conflict pitting former brothers against each
This was the height of the Eritrea and Ethiopia border
conflict in May 1998. This may have not been the worst either
side had seen of the war. About 70,000 people lost their lives
in a two-year border conflict featuring gruesome trench
warfare and the uprooting of some of the poorest people on
Hundreds of soldiers were left to rot in the open fields
as others went on to fight in the war.
Many, both soldiers and civilians, were puzzled about what
they were fighting for. The contested area is a scrubby 400
square kilometre patch of land.
"It's a very difficult question I think. The conflict is
just border conflict I think in the Ethiopian side they say
that the Eritreans aggressed us - military aggressions and on
the Eritrean side no we didn't aggressed this is what we hear
only," said an Eritrean detainee, Brook Tesfay.
Forgetting a war which was fought ruthlessly, and which
many did not understand, is proving difficult, relations
between both countries remain extremely bitter.
But until the court publishes its decision there is no way
of assessing the diametrically opposing views.
Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin, speaking after
the Ethiopian cabinet met and accepted the ruling, was in no
doubt that the new frontier vindicated Ethiopia's land claims.
He called the decision fair and legal and said territory
awarded to Ethiopia included the villages of Zalamebessa,
Aiga, Alitena, Yona Shihak, Kolobirda, Adi-Kutu (central),
Badme, Bada and Bure.
But in the Eritrean capital Asmara, state television said
Ethiopia was lying.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has urged both countries
to accept and implement the decision of the court and the
The court was given the job by a December 2000 peace accord
and examined colonial treaties, international law and evidence
provided by both sides. The border will now be marked on the
ground, a hard task in a region still heavily mined.
The United Nations and its representatives have made many
efforts to help settle the confict in the past.
Earlier this year, Ambassador Ole Peter Kolby of Norway
heading the United nations mission to both Eritrea and
Ethiopia visited the Mereb river area, a significant landmark
which sets the two countries apart, a location which both
Ethiopia and Eritrea had tried to control during the war. A
bridge has now been built by the United Nations as a symbolic
"This is a bridge between mines and we hope that through
our efforts here, jointly, we can build this bridge again
in order to establish normal relationship between the
countries and allow you to build your countries and common
future," Kolby said.
For many Ethiopians, other key issues include their demand
for control over the Red Sea port of Assab for their
landlocked country of 67 million, and opposition to Eritrea's
1993 independence from its much larger neighbour.
However, the border commission has no mandate to examine
those two matters.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has faced signs of
disquiet about the prospect of the commission's ruling, with
demonstrations by the opposition calling for the experts to
restore Ethiopia's access to Assab.
Meles has been criticised by the opposition for allegedly
being too lenient towards Eritrea. Eritrea, a former province
of the much larger Ethiopia, was granted independence in 1993
with Isayas at the helm and the personal blessing of Meles.
The two men fell out in the years that followed, allowing
niggling disputes over economic issues and a patch of
territory at Badme deteriorate into all-out war in 1998.
Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, Annan's special representative
to Ethiopia and Eritrea, said that there were no signs of
tension along the border region, now monitored by U.N.
peacekeepers patrolling a so-called temporary security zone.
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