Special Commentary
Something is rotten in the state of Ethiopia!
Ethiomedia | May 5, 2008
Anti-Ethiopia tyrant Meles Zenawi and Sudanese dictator General al-Bashir
Ethiopians are clearly under a mercenary rule. The problem is as simple as that. But the 'philosophy' of the educated makes the simple fact complex. Examples of misleading conclusions abound in the writings of many well-meaning compatriots. Some describe Meles as a Leninist bound by the concepts of "Revolutionary Democracy" (Dagmawi), or a dictator in the same basket with Emperor Haile-Selassie and Col. Mengistu H. Mariam (Golto Aila), and still others define the ruling clique as a Tigrian minority regime (Genet Mersha). These are very misleading conclusions because Mr. Meles and members of his hardcore inner circle are neither Leninists nor dictators. They are profoundly anti-Ethiopian elements who first infiltrated TPLF to help consolidate the secessionist war of Eritrea against Ethiopia, but ended up seizing power in Ethiopia, and hence mercenary. (Photo shows al-Bashir of Sudan (R) and Zenawi, who has ceded a 1600-km of stretch of land to Khartoum. With the blessing of Meles Zenawi, a Sudanese army has burned several farm settlements, and taken Ethiopian farm workers as prisoners).
After 17 years, it is all too familiar…

First, it was access to the Red Sea. Meles handed over the Port of Assab, along with everything else, to secessionist Eritrea, permanently landlocking Ethiopia. Next came Badme and all the areas we lost along the northeastern part of the country. Meles set the country up for a total diplomatic defeat from the jaws of absolute Ethiopian military victory, and delivered Badme over to Eritrea (after turning over documents weakening Ethiopia’s claim) in binding international arbitration. Then Meles invaded Somalia, a stateless country long in the throes of clan warfare. In just over a year, Meles created one million internally displaced people and the second most desperate humanitarian crises in the world today. Now, from all indications, it appears Meles has done it again! He has delivered Tach Armacho, Quara, Metema and Abdris on a silver platter to none other than the Butcher of Darfur, Omar Al-Bashir. Would somebody please tell us what in God’s name Meles is doing to Ethiopia?

Something is very, very rotten…

In Hamlet, Shakespeare penned the immortal line, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” Well, something is very, very rotten in the state of Ethiopia! Just a few months ago, Meles and his sleazy criminal gang shed crocodile tears for Ethiopian sovereignty when the United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 2003. Meles trotted out the Ghost of the Treaty of Wuchale to condemn and mock Emperor Menelik for giving away Ethiopian territory to the Italians. Then he vowed never to allow Ethiopia to become a “banana republic run from Capitol Hill.” His toady ambassador to the U.S., Samuel Assefa, chimed in and damned Congress for interfering in the business of a “sovereign country with a proud history of independence”. And Meles’ consigliere, Bereket Simon, defiantly bellowed to the international press: “This is a sovereign country which has never bowed to any foreign aggression.” Today, Meles and his rotten gang are busy auctioning off Ethiopian territory to anyone with cash. What a rotten dirty shame!

Distraction Campaign by Meles

We find it curious that Meles should assemble so much distraction right after his embarrassingly farcical elections. He has sponsored the African Athletics Championships in Addis Ababa at great public expense (9 million people are starving throughout Ethiopia) to give the impression everything is hunky-dory in Ethiopia. Now, we find out that “negotiations” that he has been conducting with the Sudanese government for the past four years have borne fruit; bitter fruit for Ethiopia, we believe. As long as Al Bashir will support Meles and his criminal gang to stay in power, he can have any Ethiopian territory he wants, for a small fee, of course. But we are not distracted. We are very much focused on the facts of Meles’ surrender of Ethiopian territory to the Butcher of Darfur.

The facts on the ground are partly as follows: For the past several years, information has been leaked out by Meles’ regime that secret “negotiations” are underway with the Sudanese over border demarcation. Recently, boundary pillars were established allegedly demarcating the boundary lines between Ethiopia and the Sudan. Residents in Tach Armacho and surrounding areas have defiantly pulled out these marker pillars causing retaliatory action by Meles’ goons. Presently, Sudanese troops occupy Tach Armacho and other border towns. Numerous people in the area have lost their farms and agricultural tools. The VOA and German Radio have broadcast interviews with local residents to confirm the facts of the Sudanese occupation and plunder. At least one government official in the area has obliquely confirmed to VOA the existence of an arrangement to deliver the border towns to the Sudanese for unspecified benefits to Ethiopia. There is ample testimonial evidence from individuals in the area who have been required to sign papers recognizing Sudanese sovereignty; those who have refused to do so have been hauled into Sudanese courts for prosecution. Meles has ignored requests by various groups for clarification on the transfer of sovereignty and Sudanese occupation of the border area in the vicinity of Tach Armacho. It is on this evidence that we offer our analysis of this developing situation.

Meles’ Sale of Tach Armacho and Border Areas to the Sudan

We sincerely believe that Meles may have sold Tach Armacho to the Sudanese in a private sale. We have come to this conclusion after exhausting all other reasonable explanations, and consulting international legal experts on territorial transfers. Our legal experts tell us that nations exchange or transfer territory to each other in formal public legal instruments known as “cession treaties”. Such treaties are complex legal documents which specify, among other things, exact lines of demarcation, including degrees of latitude and longitude, the rights of immediate possession of the transferee country and the rights of compensation of residents in the territory to be transferred, the right of property in any public lands, buildings and fortifications, withdrawal of troops, if any, and transfer of legal documents and archives. Such a treaty would also specify the benefits to accrue to the transferring state, whether in terms of monetary payment or other accommodations. Accordingly, we are informed that if Tach Armacho and adjacent towns were to be “ceded” (transferred) properly under international law to the Sudan, such transfer would have be accomplished, for instance, by the equivalent of a Treaty of Tach Armacho and Border Areas. Meles has presented no such treaty to his parliament or to the people of Ethiopia. In fact, there has been no public discussion whatsoever of the transfer of Ethiopian territory to the Sudan.

This obviously leaves out the possibility of a “secret treaty” or bilateral agreement between Meles and Al Bashir, particularly in light of the complete absence of any public statements or declarations on the issue by either dictator. Our experts tell us that there could be at least two major problems with such a deal. First, any secret deal would be an illegal and unconstitutional act on the part of Meles. “Meles could no more transfer Ethiopian sovereignty over the border areas to the Sudan secretly than a thief could lawfully transfer valid title to a stolen item to another thief.” Meles’ actions would be “ultra vires” (beyond the scope of his lawful powers as the purported prime minister of Ethiopia). Second, any secret deal over the border areas may be binding on the two dictators while they are in power, but it does not in any way lawfully bind Ethiopia or any successive Ethiopian governments.

Proper Transfer of Sovereignty Under International Law

Legal experts inform us that nations do not hand over territory to other nations from their back pockets. In situations other than military conquest, nations almost always give up territory under their sovereignty because of a judgment of an international judicial tribunal or as a result of an arbitration or mediation award. For instance, contrary to all logic, Meles agreed to binding international arbitration to turn over Badme to Eritrea after Ethiopian troops had decisively defeated the invader and sacrificed 100,000 lives. (This is not to suggest that Meles would not have happily turned over Badme to Eritrea, the country of his pride and joy, a la Tach Armacho.)

In some cases, a nation may turn over land to another to avoid consequences that far outweigh the value of the territory. In 1978, Israel agreed to return the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt as part of a peace treaty to avoid the recurrence of future wars. In other situations, a country may transfer territory to achieve overriding economic or political objectives. In 1997, the United Kingdom transferred its sovereignty over Hong Kong to China, improving relations with China while insuring economic and political autonomy for the people of Hong Kong.

There are no circumstances that justify cession (transfer) of the Tach Armacho border areas to the Sudanese. There are no territorial disputes between Ethiopia and the Sudan in arbitration, mediation or other tribunals. The Sudan has filed no valid claims before an international tribunal or body asserting a claim to the territorial areas in question. The Sudan has not demanded U.N. action or action by regional organizations to enforce its claims. Ethiopia and the Sudan are not in a state of war. There are no imminent hostilities that could lead to the outbreak of war between the two countries. There are no manifest benefits to Ethiopia that could result from the handover of the border towns in question. Could there be any valid reasons that justify the secret transfer of the border areas to the Sudanese? We find none, and therefore conclude that Meles has negotiated a deal with Al Bashir for the financial benefit of his criminal gang.

Sudanese Irredentism over Tach Armacho Border Areas

We believe any claim by the Sudan’s over Tach Armacho and the other border towns is an irredentist claim (naked land grab) motivated by the desire to unlawfully expropriate fertile Ethiopian lands. We believe Sudan’s claims are based on inaccurate and historically unsubstantiated arguments and boundary lines supposedly drawn when the Sudan was under British colonial rule. The fact of the matter is that the boundary lines between Ethiopia and the Sudan in the Tach Armacho contiguous areas are well established. Since the time of Menelik, Ethiopian border guards have protected Ethiopia’s territorial integrity in the area. The so-called British map was drawn arbitrarily and is widely regarded as highly inaccurate. Area residents, some in their eighties and nineties, who have intimate knowledge of the historic boundaries and disputes reject Sudan’s territorial claims as meritless. Expert committees who have studied the claims and relevant documents have established that the Ethiopian border actually covers territory well inside the Sudan. They have demonstrated that Sudan should be ceding territory to Ethiopia, not the other way around.

Unconstitutional Transfer of Sovereignty

Any transfer of Tach Armacho and the other border areas by Meles to the Sudan is in violation of his own constitutional duties. Article 86, which “prescribes the constitutional basis for Ethiopian foreign policy” requires that Ethiopia’s “foreign relations (be) based on equality and mutual benefit; ensuring that international agreements entered into, protect the interests of Ethiopia.” Ethiopia is required to “respect international laws and agreements that respect Ethiopian sovereignty and are not contrary to the interests of its peoples.” Article 74 requires the prime minister to “submit periodic reports to the Council of Peoples' Representatives on the state of the country, the activities of the government and its future plans” and “safeguard and abide by this Constitution”. What benefit does Ethiopia get by turning over the border areas to the Sudan? How does the turnover of these areas “protect the interests of Ethiopia”? How does this turnover “respect Ethiopian sovereignty”? Why hasn’t Meles made the terms of his secret “agreement” with Al Bashir public?

And we did not speak up….

When the phony and sanctimonious defenders of Ethiopian sovereignty berated the U.S. Congress for passing a bill to improve the human rights situation in Ethiopia, we did not speak up. When Meles systematically dismembers our motherland and sells pieces of it to Ethiopia’s enemies, we pretend to be deaf mute. But there is a high price to be paid for silence. We should all learn from Pastor Martin Niemoller’s message to the German people, particularly to its intellectuals, following the Nazi rise to power. He said, “The Nazis came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist; and then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist; and then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew; And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.”

When Meles and his criminal gang seized power and said, “Our loyalty is with Eritrea, and we will defend Eritrea to the end," we did not speak up because we were gripped by stunned disbelief. They made sure our country became landlocked. When Badme was turned over to Eritrea in international arbitration, we did not speak up because we were not Tigreans. When Meles went on a rampage in Oromiya, we did not speak because we were not Oromos. When he strafed Afari villages because they said the entire Red Sea littoral of Afar homeland is an integral part of Ethiopia, we did not speak up because we were not Afaris. When Meles massacred hundreds of Ethiopians in Gambella, we did not speak up because we were not Anuaks. When he massacred CUD supporters and jailed their leaders, we did not speak up because we were not CUD members. Today, when Meles slices off 1,600 kilometers of our homeland and hands it over to a foreign government, we will not -- we must not -- stand silent anymore! If we choose silence once again, soon there will be no more Ethiopians or Ethiopia to speak of.

We have reason to believe that Meles has auctioned off pieces of Ethiopia not only to Eritrea and the Sudan, but also to Egypt over Nile River water rights. He will not stop until he has sold every inch of our homeland. We must UNITE and say, enough is enough. We repeat our call for bridge-building so that Ethiopians from all ethnic and political groups can join in a struggle to expel these mercenaries out of our country. Meles believes Ethiopia is some sort of terra nullis (land belonging to no one) which he can hand out as personal largesse to anyone with or without cash. We believe Ethiopia belongs to Ethiopians; but if we do not speak up and join together, it will surely be a playground for merciless mercenaries! The question before us is crystal clear: When Meles does nation-destruction, shouldn’t we be doing nation-building?

[Ed. We thank our legal experts for taking the time to explain to us technical issues discussed in our commentary.]

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