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AU Panel urges new approach to settle Ethiopia-Eritrea border dispute

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

December 17, 2010(ADDIS ABABA) - The African Union’s Panel of the Wise, at its 9th assembly in Algiers, Algeria, has urged a launch for a new and binding peace process to resolve the long-standing border row between Ethiopia and Eritrea, an AU press release says.

Between 1998 and 2000 the neighboring east African countries fought a border war over the town of Badme, which resulted in the deaths of over 70,000 people.

In 2000, Eritrea and Ethiopia signed the Algiers Agreement which forwarded the permanent court of arbitration at The Hague. Both parties agreed in advance to comply with the ruling of the border commission.

A UN Border Commission, mandated to examine the dispute, awarded Badme to Eritrea. However Ethiopia has refused to accept the ruling.

The African Union’s Panel of the Wise held from December 12-14 expressed concerns over the stalled border crises saying a lasting solution was needed.

“The Panel noted with regret that 10 years after the signing of the Algiers Peace Agreement, the Peace process between Ethiopia and Eritrea remains stalled,” said a communiqué issued following the meeting.

The panel urged the chairperson of the commission to envisage useful initiatives to help the countries resolve the outstanding issues and work towards the normalization of relations.

The boundaries of Ethiopia and Eritrea follow a frontier defined by the Ethiopian-Italian Treaty of 1902, while Italy ruled Eritrea as a colony.

However, the frontier near Badme was poorly defined in the treaty, and since Eritrea declared independence from Ethiopia in 1993 both nations have disputed where the boundary actually lies.

Despite the UN border ruling, some inhabitants of Badme consider themselves to be Ethiopian citizens.

The border crises still remain tense with fears of a possible return to war.


At the meeting The Panel of the Wise said it has reviewed the current situation of continent’s peace and security, reiterating its concern at the continuing scourge of conflict in Africa.

The panel encouraged the African Union (both the AU Commission and the Peace and Security Council) and the Regional Mechanisms for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution to continue and intensify their efforts towards the resolution of current crisis’ and the consolidation of peace where it has been restored.

In more general terms, the panel stressed the opportunity to work towards the launching of a regional and comprehensive approach to address the challenges of good neighborliness, peace, security and development in the Horn of Africa. It also encouraged the AU Commission, in close coordination with the regional body IGAD and with the support of AU partners, to undertake preparatory consultations to that effect.

The panel called for a comprehensive strategy to deal once and for all with border conflicts in Africa, which it recommended should be developed by the AU Commission and the other regional economic groupings in Africa.

Further, the panel noted that its current meeting was taking place at a particularly important moment in the history of Sudan, with a self-determination referendum scheduled to be held in southern Sudan on 9 January 2011.

The panel expressed its full support to the efforts being deployed by the AU, through the AU High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) on Sudan, under the leadership of President Thabo Mbeki, for the settlement of both the outstanding issues in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and the post-referendum arrangements.

The communiqué also emphasized the imperative of promoting an inclusive and comprehensive political process in Darfur. It expressed support for the peace initiatives being undertaken by the AUHIP and the joint AU-UN Mission in Darfur in collaboration with Qatar.

The panel also hailed the efforts being deployed by the AU towards the promotion of peace and reconciliation in Somalia. It urged the Somali parties to redouble their efforts in order to successfully conclude the transition, and called on the international community, in particular the United Nations, to provide the required support to the ongoing efforts, including the strengthening of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), as decided by the PSC during its meeting of 15 October 2010.

The Panel of the Wise, which was established under Article 11 of the Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council (PSC), is mandated to support the efforts of the PSC and those of the Chairperson of the Commission, particularly in the area of conflict prevention, according to the union’s press statement.

The Panel, under the leadership of former Algerian President Ahmed Ben Bella agreed to hold its next meeting in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, in February 2011.