Ethiopia: Blowing Smoke


April 2, 2006: Eritrea's increasingly unstable president, Isaias Afewerke, is now seeking to limit non-governmental organizations' (NGOs) ability to operate in Eritrea and along the Eritrea-Ethiopia border. Eritrea has already limited UN access to the Eritrea-Ethiopia border zone. Since mid-2005 Eritrea has ordered approximately two-dozen NGOs to leave the country. Two recent examples are Concern and Mercy Corps (both are anti-poverty organizations.). The South Africa-based NGO Accord (African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes) has also received criticism. The common denominator in Eritrea's moves to expel the NGOs: Eritrea claims the NGOs "favor Ethiopia in the on-going territorial dispute." The Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) actually ruled in Eritrea's favor on the key town of Badme. Afewerke's seems to think that tossing out international organizations will somehow force "the international community" to compel Ethiopia to comply with the boundary commission decision. All it does is increase Eritrea's alienation and make Ethiopia seem more reasonable - even though it is Ethiopia who violated the agreement to abide by the EEBC's decision.

April 1, 2006: Ethiopia and the eight other nations agreed to create The Nile River Basin Commission. The eight other nations are Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo DRC), Kenya, Egypt, Rwanda, Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), Tanzania, and Sudan. Eritrea was the only Nile "riparian nation" not part of the agreement. Ethiopia is bigger and more politically powerful than Eritrea, and the exclusion reflects Ethiopia's regional political advantage over Eritrea. The Nile River Basin Commission will have its headquarters in Kampala, Uganda. The Commission will address water use issues.

March 31, 2006 -- Eritrea issued a statement that said the primary mission of UNMEE (UN Mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia) is border demarcation. Eritrea argues that UNMEE has no mandate beyond aiding the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC). At this point Eritrea wants to block any move by the UN and other international negotiators to force new negotiations regarding the border.


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