SEVERING THE ETHIO-SUDAN BORDER ISSUE FROM OUR PERPETUAL POLITICAL CULTS, EGOS AND FEUDS SO AS TO SEEK VIABLE AND FAIR SOLUTION TOGETHER – By Dagmawi Dawit
In our effort to secure fair and equitable border demarcation with Sudan, we shall exert our maximum effort to assess our previous demarcations along with their peculiar facts and circumstances, laws of Ethiopia, customs, treaties we signed and subsequent amendments, administrations we had in our border areas, and international laws followed by other countries to demarcate their borders. It is in Ethiopia’s best interest that this border demarcation meets the minimum thresholds set by international law, laws of Ethiopia, and the treaties and amendments signed by both parties. (more…)
In our effort to secure fair and equitable border demarcation with Sudan, we shall exert our maximum effort to assess our previous demarcations along with their peculiar facts and circumstances, laws of Ethiopia, customs, treaties we signed and subsequent amendments, administrations we had in our border areas, and international laws followed by other countries to demarcate their borders. It is in Ethiopia’s best interest that this border demarcation meets the minimum thresholds set by international law, laws of Ethiopia, and the treaties and amendments signed by both parties.
In spite of its recent flaming status, the Ethio-Sudan border discourse has not come as a surprise. We have been hearing oops and hooplas of this issue for more than 35 years. Suspicious that this issue may be (might have been) mishandled as a result of inefficiency or deliberate neglect of Ethiopia’s national interest, most of us are sensing awe even when we hear the talk of the border let alone the actual demarcation. Regardless of this, the government of Prime Minster Meles Zenawi seems destined and “determined to execute” the demarcation pursuant to the treaties Ethiopia had signed with Sudan, other probative evidences, and applicable international laws.
Parities and different groups in several nations are known for working together when it comes to their national interests. Recently, the United States Presidential candidate Barack Obama said, “We may call ourselves Democrats and Republicans, but we are Americans first” when it comes to the national interest of the United States. It shows that as long as there is willingness from any opposition groups to work together with one another, a common ground is not out of reach. For example, recently the United States Religious groups, the staunch supporters and defenders of pro-life, were heard saying that they could find a common ground to work with pro-choice presidential candidates. On the same token, we may call ourselves CUD, UEDF, EPRP, TPLF, OLF, ONLF, etc., but we are Ethiopians first. The current ethnic politics of Ethiopia may not suit to this statement but that does not change the fact that we are who we are.
It is also true that we Ethiopians have not been working together for the benefit our national interest for a while. However, it does not mean that we do not see eye-to-eye on all matters. For example, whenever archeologists extracted historical sites and objects, we tend to own the news across the board. Furthermore, in his millennium speech, the Prime Minister was heard talking about the millenniums old proud history of Ethiopia deviating from his usual “100 year old history” speech. If we are willing to own our history and working to reserve it for our children and the generation to follow in a similar manner, why do not we own our current destiny together? Why don’t we start from the demarcation of Ethiopia and Sudan border?
All Ethiopians (EPRDF and its Supporters, Opposition Parties/Fronts and their supporters, and the rest of us) have rights and duties to participate in this decisive moment of the demarcation of our border. Injecting political tones into this issue may generate unforeseen hurdle on our cooperation across the aisles. Therefore, we have to approach the border issue circumspectly and use our wisdom akin to the biblical King Solomon. Thucydides once said:
A private man, however successful in his own dealing, if his country perishes, is involved in her destruction; but if he be an unprosperous [sic] citizen of a prosperous city, he is much more likely to recover. Seeing, then, that States can bear the misfortunes of individuals, but individuals cannot bear the misfortunes of States, let us all stand by our country.
If we consider wisdom, madness, and folly as a competitive solution of our border issue, wisdom will rule over folly as Devine shines over devil. As the wise man follows the light while the fool walks in the dark, if we choose the status quo of the last forty years of bickering, the solution will be far from us, and how much we are better of in our own personal lives, we will contribute for the destruction of our own country unless we are willing to work together on such matter of national interest. Hence, working together is a must without a secondary alternative and the wisdom we cannot afford to loose.
II. BACKGROUND FACTS AND VIEWS
1. Ethiopia and Anglo-Egyptian Sudan signed agreements in 1902 and 1907 regarding their borders. Sudan, currently the largest country in Africa, was ruled jointly by Britain and Egypt from 1899 until achieving independence at the beginning of 1956. On the other hand, Ethiopia is Africa’s oldest independent country; apart from a five-year occupation by Mussolini’s Italy, it has never been colonized.
2. The 1902 Ethiopia and Anglo-Egyptian Sudan border agreement was more of an agreement on Nile River than our western frontier. Despite Emperor Menilik’s strong argument to maintain full control of the land between the Ethiopian escarpment and the White Nile, the agreement failed short to incorporate his bargain as the British were adamant to the full control of the flow of the Nile.
3. Article I of this treaty marked the boundary from Kher Um Hager in Gallabat, to the Blue Nile and the Baro, Pibor, and Akobo in Melile, and then to the intersection of latitude 6º North with longitude 35º East.
4. Article II of this agreement also states that a Joint Frontier Commission would be established by the two signing parties. Then, Major Charles W. Gwynne of Great Britain conducted a border survey in 1903. For our great disappointment, Gwynne’s survey was based on British’s unilateral interest in a total abandonment of Article II of the agreement barring Ethiopia from the process of demarcation. Furthermore, he did not personally set foot steps to each and every territorial land when he was conducting his flawed survey on paper. His survey lacked the fundamental principle of aligning a boundary. Gwynne later admitted the deficiency of his survey by making excuses on him being in hurry and short on supplies . Now we know better than any time before that Gwynne Line was demarcated not based on natural boundaries, sensible geometric boundaries, or ethnic boundaries.
5. Article IV of the 1902 agreement reserved Ethiopia’s right to claim back its territory, a land Britain used for trade, if Sudan would not remain under British authority. Pursuant to this Article, in the aftermath of its independence, on 15th of October 1956, Sudan handed back this territory to Ethiopia .
Nonetheless, since the beginning of the 1970s, consecutive Sudanese governments would change their minds and start claiming territorial land from Ethiopia. In 1972, His Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I, in response to the Sudanese government’s demand set up a “Bureaucratic Committee” (herein after “His Majesty’s Committee”). This committee’s findings couldn’t uncover any evidence except the flawed Gwynne Line. Therefore, its findings were rejected by the “Counsel” of Ethiopian Government .
Yet again, during the Dergue regime, the Sudanese returned to Ethiopia with same demand for territorial land. By then, a committee consisting Professors Mesfin Woldemariam (Chairman), Tadesse Tamirat, Meried Woldearegay, Dr. Birhanu Abebe, and the late Worku Tefera was established. This committee ( herein after “Researchers Committee”) conducted a ground breaking work by uncovering letters which would help correct the flaws of Gwynne Line amending the 1902 and 1907 treaties . Furthermore, Mengistu’s and Sudanese governments held a meeting in Khartoum, Sudan in 1980 and reached an agreement to restructure the joint border commission . However, this effort was cut short when EPRDF toppled Mengistu’s regime in 1991.
6. EPRDF has been dealing with this issue since the early 1990s, and we have been told by Prime Minster Meles Zenawi it is still a work in progress.
III. MISTING PROBLEMS AND THREATS OF THE DEMARCATION
We Ethiopians are not at our shining moment in history. First and foremost, we are the poorest people on the face of globe stricken by recurring famine and drought and dragged by inefficient development policies. We have a country where endless wars are being fought and senseless and despicable pro-communism and pro-ethnic political agendas as well as a politics of regional favoritism have been pursued. While pro-communism and the old politics of regional favoritism had faded away, a new form of politics of regional favoritism and pro-ethnic agendas are still pursued, and as a result, we are yet again in our mistiest cycle.
These are not in anyways exhaustive lists of Ethiopia’s tribulations that kept hampering her development and security. Ethiopia kept her independence by fighting dozens of wars against her neighbors and Europeans. For instance, from 1998-2000, a border issue with Eritrea took Ethiopia to a senseless war and put her on international spot light, and the issue is still lingering. However, it is not just with Eritrea but with other neighbors that we have unresolved border issues. Most of Ethiopia’s frontiers have not been “properly demarcated and whatever the kind of government we have, it has to deal with this issue one way or the other.” It is apparent that except the ones with British Somalia and Kenya , none of other borders of Ethiopia seemed demarcated.
Currently, on our plate is the Ethio-Sudanese border issue. It will be morally wrong to assume the demarcation as an easy task. By their nature, border demarcations have been troubling tasks even for friendly countries like the United States and Canada. In our case, however, it is not only the nature of the boundaries by themselves but also our decades old political cults, egos and feuds which have been reigning since the 1960s that threaten the chances of getting Ethiopia fair and equitable border demarcation.
1. POLITICAL CULTS
“A delusion held by one person is a mental illness, held by a few is a cult, held by many is a religion”. Believer in God myself, I do not agree that a religion is a result of people’s delusion but a work of a Devine from the Heavens up there. However, it is convincingly delusions held by our politicians that kept dragging our country to the ditches. Vision is not our leaders’ best suits, and a good numbers of them are blindfolded by politics of hate and unproductive bickering. Conventional wisdom is far from them and yet to be attained.
It is widely accepted that political cult involves a thought in terms of us vs. them with “total alienation of ‘them’, intense, though often subtle, indoctrination techniques used to recruit and hold members, and charismatic cult leader.” In the aftermath of the demise of our last Monarch, political groups and fronts were mushrooming in all corners of the country with their cult leaders unwavering discourse of socialism and communism, Soviet, Chinese or Albanian style. All were swamped by Political cults with a mix of ethnic, regional, and unconventional nationalism innuendo and with fixate belief that outside each cult all are evil and threatening. They have been organizations that remolded individuality to conform to the codes and needs of their political cults, instituted taboos that precluded doubt and criticism, and “generated an elitist mentality whereby members saw themselves as lone responsible leaders struggling to bring enlightenment to the enemies surrounding them” . Alternative and competing explanations were not merely erroneous but worse. These parties have not had opponents but enemies and frequently dreamed about their ultimate annihilation. Leaders of fronts/parties who did not clinch to the power encouraged their followers to fanaticize about how the people of Ethiopia would be like when they seized government power. Ethiopians were subjected to stress and fatigue, social disruption, isolation and pressure, self criticism and humiliation, fear, anxiety, and paranoia.
The curses of political cults are still upon us, the recent and the most dangerous ones being ethnic and some form of unconventional nationalists. For ethnic cults, power had to be assumed by few groups from their ethnic groups, and all others are considered as oppressors, narrow nationalists, chauvinists, or warmongers. Opposing their agenda is considered as declaring a war against their ethnic groups or an attempt to commit genocide against their ethnic groups. In all of these, ethnic political cult followers would justify their support and actions as the deeds of angles alike.
Furthermore, some nationalist political cults, having deep-rooted communist ideology though claimed abandoned, consider themselves as the Jesus Christ of Ethiopia. They strongly believe Ethiopia shall be saved from dictatorial governments and embark on meaningful developments when they and only they seize state power. As a result, any alternative idea is reactionary and degenerative and is not considered as competing.
Few Ethiopians, who have joined these cults, may view these ethnic and unconventional nationalist groups as positive reflections for their members by bringing love to one another, securing safety and freedom from other evil political groups, granting a sense of belonging and enjoyment from holding offices, fulfilling a special purpose in their lives, and making them part of the cause that could lead Ethiopia to prosperity and development.
This political bickering is not going anywhere overnight. It will probably take few months or years to fade away. If we are for Ethiopia, let’s see beyond our political groupings, cults. The border issue is not going to depose a government or bring any political group to power. If we work together, a fair border demarcation is achievable, and our country will benefit from our effort, but the reverse would hurt Ethiopia. Hence, let’s work together.
2. PARTY EGO
Most of us, as a group or an individual, are not good in avoiding destructive egos. However, it is not to mean that ego is always a drawback and has never been productive in our day -today life. When it is used wisely, its return is in fact impressive; however, the reverse confiscates every productive potential we ought to have. Only egos with humility, curiosity and veracity can be an asset in ones life.
Right after the demise of the last Ethiopian Monarch, several parties came into existence. However, none of them have been willing to listen what the other parties would bring to the table useful to the development of Ethiopia, good governance, and democracy. According to most of them, only their idea, program and agenda would bring good to Ethiopia. Any individual or groups who have any alternative idea is an “enemy” of Ethiopia. For example, for EPRDF, any party who has an alternative to its ethnic federalism and revolutionary democracy is an enemy of the people, a criminal who committed treason, a criminal who is set to commit genocide against the people of Tigray. Similarly, there are some opposition parties who consider themselves as a vanguard party of all political groups of Ethiopia. They put themselves at the forefront of a mass action, movement, or revolution, but they are invariably long on talks and short in actions. Both groups are far less approachable and engaging. Ethiopians do not feel that they are the parties to follow. They are secretive, and transparency could not be fond in their nature. Ethiopians keep them at bay and they fear what these parties would do and how they would react to any alternative political agendas and ideas. As a result, their egos end up being an obstacle even to our vital national interests.
They are the kings of destructive ego with no “empathy, humility or self-awareness, having a hurtful, destructive impact, without realizing it.” Furthermore they are preoccupied by others’ agendas instead of improving their own, “rigidly adhere to their opinions, even when confronted with new information, defensive, and constantly seek recognition and acceptance.”
Both groups need to raise self evaluation. At least for the purpose of the Ethio-Sudan Border issue, we beg them in the name of mother Ethiopia and her poverty and disease stricken people, to think and act passed their political egos.
3. HATRED AND LEADERSHIP FEUD
Leaders are the ones who define the political and social fabric of Ethiopia. We still have leaders with the mentality of feudalism who wish to treat governmental functions as private property that they could loan, give away, or pass on to their children. We also have militant communist party leaders, who work hard to the demise of Feudalism, Capitalism, and Bureaucratic Capitalism. Some ethnic communist leaders have fought fierce war against what they called “Oppressor Ethnic Group” and established ethnic government, and yet other ethnic communist leaders have already declared war against the same “Oppressor Ethnic Group” and are itching to take government power. On the other hand, it is true every where in the world that visionary leaders are hard to come by, but in Ethiopia they are exotic. Recently we haven’t seen Ethiopian visionary leaders who could have been the builders of a new dawn, working with imagination, insight, and boldness.
Furthermore, our ethnic political parties are bringing uncalled hatred amongst us. The government and some opposition parties/fronts are manipulating this hatred to stay in and clinch to power, respectively. A continuous effort is needed to heal the past and the current wounds of hatreds and pre-empt the future ones.
Ethio-Sudan border is an issue of Ethiopia’s national interest. We have to care less about the kind of leader we have and be humble to one another. Because our national interest, Ethiopia’s goals and ambitions in achieving a fair border demarcation, is at stake, the issue of political leadership is secondary. The border will outlive the current government, opposition parties and the rest of us.
The universal principles of international law enshrined in the UN Charter and other international legal documents govern the international border demarcation. It is true that Sudan believed it has a territorial claim from Ethiopia. However, the evidences the Researchers Committee had uncovered shows that Sudan’s claim could not be substantiated and is without meritt.
It is well remembered that the decision to sign the Algiers Agreement with Eritrea was fatally wrong. The worst wrap was, however, Ethiopia’s officials and lawyers argument at EEBC. Fekade Sheawakena noted that they made huge mistake by arguing based on treaties which were abrogated by the time Italy invaded Ethiopia instead of administration argument, a border argument which can veto other kinds of arguments of the same category. Ethiopian authorities’ errors did not end there. The day the EEBC announced its decision they told us Ethiopia won the case. Later Seyoum Mesfin would admit that that announcement was a mistake blaming it on his lack of legal skill. However, we all know that Ministry of Foreign Affairs used to have a finest Legal Department in the country. Seyoum might have failed to consult his lawyers before he announced the lost case as victory or the department should have been filled with incompetent lawyers.
Professor Mesfin and most of us have a good reason to worry and be suspicious that the good Minister is set to fail yet again in the matter of Sudan and Ethiopia border. Seyoum Mesfin’s stress on Gwynne Line alone and his failure to mention the letters which had amended or altered the Gwynne Line is alarming. Therefore, we would like to remind Minister Seyoum to consult with:
1. His Legal Department if it has capable lawyers and replace them if they are not,
2. The Researchers Committee members (who uncovered evidences (letters) which would help make our case) Professors Mesfin Woldemariam, Tadesse Tamirat, Meried Woldearegay, Dr. Birhanu Abebe,
3. Professor Yacob Arasno of Addis Ababa University, a Political Science and International Relations expert who made extensive research on Ethiopia and The Nile,
4. Professor Abdulmjid’s alike in his own government,
It has to be further noted that:
1. Ethiopia’s border is inviolable. Any territorial claims on Ethiopia by neighboring countries or attempts to unilaterally change Ethiopia’s border shall be repudiated.
2. Ethiopia has border issues with Eritrea, Sudan and Italian-Somalia, we have to come up with a policy which designed to ensure the sovereignty, inviolability, and integrity of the territory and serve and defend Ethiopia’s national interests and security in its border areas shaped on the bases of its laws, normative-legal acts of Ethiopia, and universally recognized norms and principles of international law and is implemented by means of the purposeful, coordinated activity of organs of state power, local self-government organs, public associations, and citizens in accordance with their rights and powers in this sphere.
3. Border security constitutes the state of protection of the vital interests of the individual, society, and state in Ethiopia’s border area; hence, ensuring Ethiopia’s border security presumes the creation and improvement of the normative-legal base, which determines the powers and regulates the activity of the state, society, and the individuals in the border area, and also establishes penalties for damaging Ethiopia’s national interests. Hence, protecting our border from Tigary all the way to the Kenya border shall not be neglected. The government has a responsibility of protecting its citizens being arrested from their homes and farms and taken to the prisons of Sudan.
4. Ethiopian government shall use its best lawyers’ advice to make Ethiopia’s case. Moreover, even though the administration argument is the strongest argument of all, Ethiopia shall use the letters the Researchers Committee uncovered in the 1980s as Gwynne Line does not reflect what Ethiopia deserves. Gwynne Line was “unilaterally made or superimposed colonial boundary.” Ethiopia shall not accept it.
Finally, we have to be cautious that if EPRDF and opposition parties/fronts decide to politicize the Ethio-Sudan border issue, Ethiopia will end up loosing its own land as all important voices potentially would fell on deaf ear. Because Ethiopia deserves a fair border demarcation and the stakes and the dangers of engulfing national and interstate wars are high unless we ought to solve the border issue fairly and equitably, we have to severe the Ethio-Sudan border issue from our perpetual political cults, egos and feuds in order to work together.
God Bless Ethiopia!
 Mesfin Woldemariam, Tenkek Enbel, http://www.mesfinwoldemariam.org/docs/boundary.pdf
 Please see, Gambela Today at http://www.gambelatoday.com/modules.php?name=Extras&mod=7
 Mesfin, Supra.
 Fekade Shewakena: http://www.ethiomedia.com/abai/the_ethio_sudanese_border_flap.html
 Mesfin, Supra
 Several nations of our world see cult in relations to unconventional religion. Religious groups such as The Order of the Solar Temple, Heaven’s Gate, and the group that followed the Rev. Jim Jones to Guyana are widely considered as cults, with a record number of suicides committed by their members as religious rituals.
 Cult, Unknown author.http://skepdic.com/cults.html
 Dr. Margaret Singer and Janja Lalich, CULTS IN OUR MIDST, by (Jossey-Bass Publishers, April 1995)
 David Marcum and Steven Smith in Egonomics: What Makes Ego Our Greatest Asset (Or Most Expensive Liability)
 Fekade Shewakena, Supra