Editors Note:-Entangled within a tumultuous history of conflict and shifting alliances, the narrative between Ethiopia and Eritrea echoes the echoes of a border war that erupted in May 1998, reaching its formal conclusion through the Algiers Agreement of December 2000. However, two decades since that pivotal accord, the promised peace remains elusive, embroiling the region in a persistent state of ‘no-war, no-peace’. This article navigates the convoluted path of broken agreements, geopolitical complexities, and the intricacies of recent events, shedding light on the contradictory stances of key global players, such as the United States, the European Union, and the United Kingdom. It delves into the recent peace treaty, the impact of TPLF (Tigray Peoples Liberation Front), and the arduous journey toward reconciliation, all amid the enduring quest for stability and resolution in the horn of Africa
The Algiers agreement was a peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia, signed in December 2000 to formally end the border war that started in May 1998. The signing ceremony was attended by top officials from the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and the African Union. The agreement created a boundary commission to demarcate the border and a claims commission to assess the damages caused by the war.
After hearing the arguments of the Ethiopian and Eritrean representatives, the boundary commission gave its final and binding verdict on 13 April 2002. Initially, Ethiopia claimed it got what it wanted and warned Eritrea to accept the ruling. However, Ethiopia later backtracked and rejected the binding and final boundary ruling. The late Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, called the boundary commission’s decision unjust and an illegal ruling. Despite repeated warnings from the boundary commission, the late Prime Minister continued to resettle Ethiopians on Sovereign Eritrean Territories, and the demarcation of the border was blocked by Ethiopia. Tired of Ethiopia’s continuous obstructions of its work to put pillars on the ground, the boundary commission virtually demarcated the border and ended its mission. Consequently, a no-war, no-peace situation persisted between the two countries for 20 years.
In May 2018, the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF), which held power in Ethiopia for 27 years, was pressured by the Amhara and Oromo youth revolt to leave power and return to Tigray. The Ethiopian government, under the leadership of new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, announced on 5 June 2018 that it fully accepted the Terms of the Algiers Agreement and the subsequent verdict of the boundary commission. However, the withdrawal of the Ethiopian Army from areas awarded to Eritrea and subsequent demarcation of the border were again blocked by the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front. In the middle of the stalemate, on 3–4 November 2020, forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) launched attacks on the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) Northern Command headquarters in Mekelle and bases in Adigrat, Agula, Dansha, and Sero in the Tigray Region, marking the beginning of the Tigray War. Also, the TPLF launched more than a dozen missile attacks on the world heritage site capital city of Eritrea, Asmara. The actions of the TPLF created a clear threat to the national security and sovereignty of Eritrea, and Eritrea supported the Federal Army in three rounds of its wars with the TPLF Army.
Following the devastating defeat that the TPLF sustained in the third round of the offensive launched by the Ethiopian Federal Army, supported by Eritrea, the TPLF and the Ethiopian Federal government signed a peace agreement in Pretoria, South Africa. In the peace treaty between the government of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) that was signed on 2nd November 2022, the parties agreed to cease hostilities and resolve their differences peacefully. Accordingly, the Eritrean Army withdrew from Tigray to the boundary line delimited and virtually demarcated by the Ethiopia and Eritrea Boundary Commission.
THE PRESS RELEASES OF THE UNITED STATES, THE EUROPEAN UNION, AND THE UNITED KINGDOM
On the 21st anniversary of the signing of the Algiers agreement, December 12, 2023, the United States not only reiterated its support for the Algiers agreement but also implored both countries to respect the borders as established by the Boundary Commission. The European Union and the United Kingdom also released similar statements.
In many prior press releases, especially when representatives of the United States, the European Union, and the United Kingdom return from their repetitive visits to Tigray, it has become almost a fashion that they demand the Eritrean Army withdraw from Tigray (Ethiopia). However, in all their written and verbal communication, they do not mention from where in Tigray the Eritrean army needs to withdraw. Although markings were not made on the ground, due to TPLF’s refusal, the Ethiopia and Eritrea boundary commission virtually demarcated the boundary. Accordingly, it is easy to read the coordinates based on the Global Positioning System (GPS) and identify the Ethiopian villages from Tigray that are allegedly occupied by Eritrea. Instead, the representatives of the US, the European Union, and the United Kingdom have chosen to release contradictory verbal and written statements that emboldened the TPLF to demand the withdrawal of the Eritrean Army from sovereign Eritrean territories. TPLF rejects the Algiers Agreement, the boundary commission’s decisions, and still aspires to re-occupy sovereign Eritrean territories. Thus, knowingly or unknowingly, the representatives of the United States, the European Union, and the United Kingdom are adding fuel to the fire.
Although they were the guarantors of the Algiers agreement and committed to punishing the party that violated the agreement, in the past twenty years, the United States, The European Union, and The United Kingdom did not pressure the TPLF-led Ethiopian government to accept the final and binding boundary decision and allow its implementation. Instead, they turned a blind eye to its intransigence and gave immense political, military, and economic support to the then TPLF-led Ethiopian Government and conspired to put stringent unjust, and illegal UN sanctions on Eritrea. There is no doubt that the misguided policies of the United States, The European Union, and The United Kingdom prolonged the suffering of the people of the two countries and destabilized the whole region. Due to its smaller population size, Eritrea was forced to prolong the National Service Program beyond the initially planned 18 months. It is true that no one lives in the past, but it would be a great mistake to forget it.
If there is an honest desire to bring peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea, now is the right time for the United States, The European Union, and The United Kingdom to redeem themselves. First, they should stop making unverified claims about the current positioning of the Eritrean Army, and second, they should demand the immediate demarcation of the border in line with the Algiers agreement and subsequent final and binding boundary decision. There is no other solution to the problem.
Victory to the Masses and Eternal Glory to Our Martyrs.