Djibouti is more free/independent today than landlocked Ethiopia – Fikreselassie

12 Feb

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory
Source: SBS


Meles Zenawi’s contradictory position on Assab

A. Meles gives interview to IRIN October 39, 2003.

    Q: Ethiopia is seen by some as the spoiler, that it’s stopping the peace process from moving forwards. Do you fear that your international credibility could be at stake?

    A: Well if international credibility is based on whimsical assumptions, that could be a problem. In that case the problem is in the whimsical assumptions rather than with us. I can’t see how people could consider Ethiopia as the spoiler. We are saying publicly, repeatedly, we are not going to fire a single bullet at anybody. Fullstop.

    Q: Can you foresee any eventuality according to which Ethiopia accepts that Badme is in Eritrea?

    A: Had Badme legally been part of Eritrea I would have accepted it without any hesitation. But I know the place inside out, and so I know the established practice of the parties because I have been around that place for many years. And there is no way in hell that the decision on Badme which says it is part of Eritrea can be anything other than illegal and unjust.

    Q: But Eritrea will never accept that Badme is in Ethiopia. It seems an intractable situation.

    A: Well justice will have to prevail, fairness will have to prevail. When we were told Asmara is not Ethiopian, when we were told Assab is not Ethiopian we said – sure, if the Eritrean people think that Assab is Eritrea and not Ethiopia, that’s alright. And we went to Asmara and celebrated with the Eritreans the independence of Eritrea.

    Badme is not bigger than Asmara. Badme is not more important than Assab by any stretch of the imagination. It is some godforsaken village. So it’s not about territory. According to the latest rendition of the Boundary Commission, Badme would be 800 metres inside Eritrea. What’s 800 metres in a country as big as Ethiopia? What’s 800 metres compared to what we willingly and happily gave up as Eritrea? It’s nothing. But it’s 800 metres which we are told is something it has never been, and something that it will never be. That’s the point. That’s the crux of the matter.

    Q: But in the interest of peace, as you say it’s a godforsaken place – isn’t it better to let it go and move on?

    A: Sure, if injustice was the mother of peace, we would do that.

    Q: So for Ethiopia, what’s the bottom line?

    A: The bottom line is peace, we don’t want any mess-ups here. We want to focus on our development efforts. We have no quarrel with the Eritrean people. We want to get on with our business and we hope the Eritrean people will also get on with their business. Some people have made the wrong decision, let’s not let that wrong decision mess up the peace here – that’s the bottom line.

    Q: The US envoy Mr Yamamoto was here, and he’s gone to Eritrea. Did he have any concrete proposals for the two sides?

    A: No he didn’t have any specific thing in mind. What he had in mind was that this should not lead to war and we agreed on that. We agreed there should be some sort of dialogue. But at this stage it would be jumping the gun to talk about the specifics.

    But it is a first and crucial step [to moving the process along] and we are very pleased that the US administration has taken that initiative.


B. VOA interview June 26, 2000

    OA: Mr. Prime Minister, I would like to raise the question of Assab, although I know you addressed this question repeatedly. Opinions expressed in some quarters say that as Ethiopia is now negotiating from a position of strength, she has to make sure that her right to use the port of Assab is respected, since failing to do so would nullify all the sacrifices paid. These quarters also say that in applying to Eritrea the OAU Charter principle that colonial boundaries that existed at the time of independence should be maintained, Ethiopia may also be considered a colonial power. Other opinion givers raise the question of Assab against the background of the recent controversy over supply of relief assistance through Assab. Your comment?

    Meles: “Well, talking about Assab the Ethiopian Government has repeatedly stated that Ethiopia has no wish whatsoever for forcefully occupying Eritrean territories. The question of forcefully occupying Assab is against international law. It is also against the principle and belief of the Ethiopian Government. So this is beside the point.

    “On the other hand, the issue may be raised from another viewpoint. There is that understanding in international law that there should exist an arrangement by which land-locked countries can be assured of having guarantees for having port services. It is in that sense that some people say their right of using the port of Assab should be respected. Indeed this is an issue to be raised. Thee is nothing in this demand that violates international law.

    “The point is that this matter should be perceived in light of the interests of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Well, if we make use of the Port of Assab, it is inevitable that we make payments for the Port owners in proportion to our utilization of the port and as long as we do so according to international law. So if we use the Port of Assab, the benefit is not only for us, but for Eritrea, too. On the other hand, if we decide against using Assab, then the fate of Assab would remain to be a mere source of drinking water for camels. I made this clear to the diplomats. No more, no less. If we do not use the port of Assab, then the Eritrean government won’t get a single cent from Assab.

    “So Assab is not an issue on which we have to battle. There are various alternative ports. We are already making use of these alternative ports. In using these alternative ports, we have not lost anything. But by our not using Assab port, the Eritrean government has lost considerable income. So our use of Assab port, as long as this is undertaken according to international law, is not something that we seek by submitting an application. So that is why we did not raise the issue during the present negotiation.”

See also this.

C. Source: Ethiopian Embassy (London)

    Q: Are there mistakes that you regretted or you took some lesson out of over the past 18 years since you have been in office? Could you perhaps consider the loss of Assab as one of the most regrettable mistakes of your administration?

    PM Meles: I have never claimed to be a deity; only gods are supposed to be free from mistakes. There is no question whatsoever that me and my party have made mistakes. We will get into that at a more appropriate time, this is still work in progress and there will be time when we can be evaluated more objectively.

    The party does evaluate its performance from time to time. Where it makes major policy mistakes, it publishes both. The issue of the Port of Assab is not one of those mistakes that the party felt it made. As far as my personal contribution in that exercise is concerned, although it goes without question that I have made mistakes as part of that collective leadership and individually, that is something I would be happy to discuss at some future date.

    Q: I was going through the interview you gave to the Financial Times where you hinted that you did not agree on the border war with Eritrea. Nevertheless, you were forced to carry out the decision by the majority. Can you tell us what part of it you did not like, after all Ethiopia was forced to launch a defensive war?

    PM Meles: There was no difference of opinions in the ruling party with regard to the unprovoked aggression by the Eritrean government and the decision to fight back at the same time when seeking peaceful way out.

    But there was a difference of opinion in relation to specific measures taken during the war. For example, I was not personally sure that all the Eritreans who were asked to leave Ethiopia had posed a clear and present danger to Ethiopia’s security. That does not mean that none of them were a security threat; I was sure some of them were. With those who were a security threat, I had no problem asking them to leave. I was not sure every one of them did pose an immediate and clear security threat to Ethiopia. There were also a number of differences of opinions about the peace negotiations.


E. Tamrat Laynie on Meles decision to give away Assab


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