Under the Motto “The Right to Respond” Eritrean Embassy Responds [Archives:2000/29/Focus]

July 17 2000

As part of our venture to give everyone a chance to express their opinion, this week we give the chance to the Eritrean Embassy to respond to His Excellency Ethiopian Ambassador’s letter published two weeks ago on this very page.
“In its issue No. 27, dated 3/7/2000, your esteemed newspaper, the Yemen Times, published the response of the Ethiopian Embassy in Sana’a to an article written by Mr. Hassan Al-Haifi entitled “On Neighborly Relations on the Banks of the Red Sea” published on the same paper in its issue of 19/06/00, in which Mr. Hassan placed the responsibility for the war that has continued for the last two years equally upon the leaders of both Ethiopia and Eritrea. The Eritrean Embassy would like to bring the following points to the attention of Mr. Hassan and his readers to help them better understand the backgrounds of the conflict before making any drastic assessments.
In 1997, the Ethiopian Government requested permission from the Eritrean Government to allow its troops to enter Eritrean areas in pursuit of Ethiopian opposition groups who Ethiopia said had escaped inside Eritrea. In light of the corroborative relations that existed between the two governments before the war, Ethiopian troops were allowed into Eritrea. However, what they actually did had nothing to do with their Government’s initial request. In the first week of August 1997, they occupied the Eritrean village of Adi-Murug, expelled all the Eritrean residents of the area and destroyed all the Eritrean administrative structures in the area, declaring it part of the Ethiopian Tigray Administrative Zone.
Following this incident, President Isaias Afwerki wrote a letter dated 16/08/97 to the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Mr. Meles Zenawi, requesting him to take the necessary measures to correct the mistake committed by the Ethiopian troops in Adi-Murug. Nothing changed as the Eritrean Government waited for a positive reaction from the Prime Minister. On 12/08/97, President Isaias was compelled to write to the Ethiopian Prime Minister again repeating the same request. The Ethiopian Prime Minister responded by promising the President that he would indeed take all the necessary measures to correct the mistake. Look what the Prime Minister’s “necessary measures to correct the mistake” turned out to be.
The situation in the village completely deteriorated as Ethiopia attempted to create a status quo on the ground. On 08/11/97, a new map of the Ethiopian Tigray Administration in Mekele, incorporating huge areas of sovereign Eritrean territories including Adi-Murug itself. Consequently, the Authorities of the Tigray Administrative Zone and the Ethiopian army intensified their attempts to materialize their new map on the ground and set out expelling Eritrean citizens from several villages near the common border of the two countries, especially those around the southwestern Eritrean town of Baduma under the pretext that those villages belonged to Ethiopia according to their new map.
At this point, the Eritrean government tried to solve the dispute peacefully by proposing that a Joint Border Committee between the two countries be set up to seek the settlement of the dispute on the basis of internationally recognized colonial treaties. Although, the Ethiopian Government verbally seemed to accept the Eritrean proposal, it continued to procrastinate setting a date for the committee to meet. All the while, its army continued to occupy additional Eritrean territories by force and to expel Eritrean citizens from their homes and to replace them by new arrivals of Tigrayans brought from across the border in an attempt to create facts on the ground.
These developments reached a point of explosion on 06/05/98 when Ethiopian troops opened fire, in an unprovoked attack, on a group of Eritrean army officers who were on their way to meet their Ethiopian Military counterparts around the Eritrean town of Baduma to negotiate a peaceful end to the encroachments. Four of the Eritrean officers were killed. In an unexpected escalation, the Ethiopian Government sent the bulk of its troops to the common border of the two countries and on 13/05/98 its parliament declared war on Eritrea.
All of these developments as well as the subsequent Ethiopian behavior during the last two years of negotiations and the re-escalation of fighting verify without any doubt that the Ethiopian provocation have been a premeditated plan having nothing to do with a border dispute. This fact had repeatedly been declared to the public by the leaders of the Ethiopian Government in their interviews and statements to the media. They have shown no shame in declaring publicly that their objective is not to correct any ills that have been committed but to solely destroy the Eritrean Army, overthrow the Government and subjugate a sovereign country and its people.
It is only the obsessive expansionist mentality of the Ethiopian Government that may explain the rationale behind Ethiopia’s invasion of Eritrea all the while falsely claiming to commit itself to a peaceful settlement to the conflict. When in fact, it came time to sign the three documents of the peace agreement that it already accepted verbally, the Ethiopian government stalled and instead began another heavy offensive against the State of Eritrea, invading and destroying sovereign territory and at the same time expelling and killing its people.
Eritrea has accepted all the proposals presented by the OAU, namely the Framework Agreement, the Modalities for Implementation and the Technical Arrangements at face value, with no preconditions at all. Eritrea did so for no other consideration than to avoid the risk of additional bloodshed that loomed upon the two brotherly people of Ethiopia and Eritrea as a result of the policy of state vandalism propagated by the TPLF leaders in Ethiopia. It has been the challenge of the Eritrean people and its defense forces by aborting Ethiopia’s expansionist dreams that has forced the Ethiopian Government to come back to the negotiating table
Embassy of the State of Eritrea
Sana’a. 08-07-2000