Open Letter to UN Sec.-Gen. Ban Ki-Moon
By Ethiopian Borders Affairs Committee / January 14, 2014H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-Moon
United Nations Secretary General
1st Avenue, 46th Street
New York, NY 10017
January 10, 2014
We, the undersigned representatives of various Ethiopian political parties, civic organizations and professional associations, have the honor to bring to your attention our strong protest against the secret border deal that the dictatorial governments of Ethiopia and the Sudan have recently been hatching.
The respective territorial limits of both countries were defined by the Anglo-Ethiopian Treaty of 1902 at the turn of the last century when Great Britain was the colonial power administering the Sudan. As is customary in international practice in delimiting national boundaries, the treaty provided for the setting up of a Joint Boundary Commission to be appointed by both sides to carry out the actual demarcation of the boundary on the ground. Upon completion of the demarcation process both parties were required to notify their citizens of the boundary as demarcated.
Despite the clear mandate of these undertakings, however, the treaty has remained a dead letter for over a century and, as a consequence, the boundary between the two countries has never been demarcated by a joint commission. Instead, contrary to both the spirit and letter of the provisions of the treaty, Great Britain appointed its own officer, Major Charles W. Gwynn, to unilaterally and arbitrarily demarcate the boundary without the knowledge and the participation of Ethiopian boundary commissioners. In the event, the demarcation line which resulted from this high-handed exercise greatly favored the Sudan while causing Ethiopia to suffer a corresponding amount of territorial loss.
Notwithstanding the fact that the demarcation of the boundary by one of the Contracting Parties cannot legally bind the other, nevertheless Sudan has over the years importuned successive Ethiopian administrations to accept the validity of the unilateral demarcation undertaken by the British. The consistent and unequivocal response of these administrations, however, has been to reject the validity of Sudan’s claims, calling instead for a negotiated settlement of the boundary on the basis of the original treaty with the full knowledge, participation and consent of peoples likely to be affected by the demarcation line.
As Your Excellency well knows, the international political system grants a considerable degree of importance to rights in respect of territory. The function of a boundary between states is the attribution of territory and, thus, the extent of a state’s territorial sovereignty. When the extent and limits of a state’s territorial sovereignty are determined solely and arbitrarily by one state to the detriment of the other, however, the boundary so determined becomes an enduring source of friction and tension between the adjoining states. It is precisely to avoid such a result that international law attributes to an international boundary a compelling degree of continuity and finality. Nevertheless, this venerable principle will be respected and observed in practice only if the given boundary was established in accordance with law. More importantly, a boundary regime can be regarded as final only where either of the states can clearly establish its legal credentials. In the case of the Ethio-Sudan boundary, this means that the treaty regime set up by the parties - and no other arrangement- was meant to govern the boundary and title to territory.
According to media reports originating in the Sudan, however, under the just-concluded secret deal between the President of the Sudan and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, huge swathes of our ancestral lands will be ceded to the Sudan. These reports have been received with utter shock, resentment and anger by Ethiopians at home and abroad. Neither the current generation of Ethiopians nor those of future generations will allow the deal to stand for it constitutes a serious violation of the treaty regime set up at the turn of the century and holds for naught the sacrifices of past generations of Ethiopians to preserve the territorial integrity of their country. We wish to add that thousands of our people will be forced to lose their homes, farms and investments if the border deal is implemented without their participation and consent.
We are not unmindful that members of the United Nations and their sitting governments like those of the Sudan and Ethiopia are clothed with a certain degree of legitimacy in the eyes of international law and politics, even as such legitimacy deprives ordinary citizens adversely affected by the decisions of those who rule them legal standing and recourse in such matters. And yet the actions of these officials who purport to speak in their behalf are bereft of any legitimacy in the eyes of the very populace whose interests they claim to represent. This is particularly true when it concerns highly sensitive and emotionally charged questions of territorial sovereignty. As such, the border deal of today hatched by unelected elites will be the ticking bomb of tomorrow. Since it has neither support in law nor received the consent of the Ethiopian people, it will fester as a major source of friction and tension between the brotherly peoples of Ethiopia and the Sudan. Needless to add, the Horn of Africa region does not need an additional source of insecurity and instability beyond those that already plague the region. Accordingly, we wish to entreat Your Excellency to use your good offices to any extent appropriate and possible so as to forestall the dangerous situation the border deal is otherwise most likely to engender now or in the future if it goes into effect.
In any case, we would like to go on record as asserting our right to territorial sovereignty as defined by treaty – and not any other agreement that is reached behind the back of the Ethiopian people. We reserve the right to not honor any boundary that results from the agreement of an unelected government that is devoid of any support or legitimacy among its own people. In closing, we would like Your Excellency to know that the current extremely narrowly- based government of Ethiopia and the similarly discredited government of the Sudan are grasping at straws by using the border deal as a way of ensuring their political survival by a mutual exchange of promises foreswearing the use of their territories by organized movements seeking to overthrow their respective governments. This survival instinct underlies the parties’ desire to make a border deal and to keep it from public scrutiny without consideration of its impact on the people of Ethiopia.
Please accept the assurances of our highest consideration.
Ethiopian Border Affairs Committee (EBAC)
Ethiopian People’s Congress for United Struggle (Shengo)
Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party-Democratic (EPRP-D)
Ethiopian Medhin Democratic Party (Medhin)
All Ethiopian Socialist Movement (ME’ISONE)
Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF)
Amara Democratic Movement Force (ADMF)
Ethiopian Democratic Hibrehizb Unity Movement (EDHUM)
Tatek Movement for Freedom, Democracy and Unity for Ethiopia
Tigrean Alliance for National Democracy (TAND)
Oromo Liberation Front (OLF)- led by General Kamal Galchuu
Ethiopian National Transitional Council (ENTC)
Moresh Wegenie Amara Organization (MWAO)
The Legitimate Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Exile
Gasha for Ethiopians
Ethiopiawint: Council for the Defense of Citizens Right
Beruh Ethiopia Democratic Movement
Ethiopian Civic Consortium in UK
Solidarity Committee for Ethiopian Political Prisoners – Canada (SOCEPP-Can)
Ethiopian Civil Society Support Group in London, Ontario
Anuak Justice Council
Dallas Support Committee
Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE)
Democracy For Ethiopia Forum in San Jose
Ethio-Canada Democratic Forum in Ottawa
Ethiopian Public Forum in Columbus, Ohio
Mahdere Andinet Ethiopian Association
Ethiopian Public Forum in Seattle, Washington
Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan
2210 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20008
Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma
Chairperson of the African Union Commission
P. O. Box 3243
(Old Airport Area)
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia