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Tuesday, 16 April, 2002, 20:49 GMT 21:49 UK
Analysis: Horn border town still disputed
Eritrea and Ethiopian delegates signs the peace agreement in Algiers in 2000
Ethiopia and Eritrea signing the peace treaty in 2000
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By BBC's Martin Plaut

On Saturday, the boundary commission sitting in The Hague delivered its verdict on the border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

But despite months of deliberation by a team of the world's most eminent judicial experts, the commission's decision appears to have left some issues in dispute.

We will not hand over our peace and democracy for the sake of Assab or any other issue.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
In particular, the report fails to produce maps showing which country had won the town of Badme - the town at the heart of the dispute.

This may have been an attempt by the lawyers to avoid being seen to take sides on such a sensitive subject - but it has left both sides claiming that the town is theirs.

Click here to see a map of the new border

Badme is still in Ethiopian hands, despite the fact that some experts believe it now lies about four or five kilometres west of the border, inside Eritrea.

Journalists visited the town on Monday and met the district administrator, who said that he was awaiting an official decision from Addis Ababa - but was of the strong belief that historically and traditionally Badme belonged to Ethiopia.


Despite this controversy, The Hague ruling has managed to chalk up a number of achievements.

It has been welcomed and accepted by both governments, who see it as an opportunity to end the controversy over the border issue.

Eritrean refugees
Hundreds of thousands were forced to flee their homes during the war

Both countries can now get on with the critical tasks of developing their countries - which are among the poorest in the world.

It also seems to have resolved the status of the key port of Assab, which was Ethiopia's main outlet to the sea before the war.

This was not officially the subject of the report, but is now unequivocally in Eritrean territory, despite protests from the Ethiopian opposition.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who has come under pressure from the Ethiopian opposition on this issue, remarked:

"We will not hand over our peace and democracy for the sake of Assab or any other issue."


There is still a great deal for the border commission to do.

It has to work with the UN cartographer to begin laying out exactly where the border runs on the ground.

It will need the support of both countries to overcome the many mines laid in the area, and also require their support in moving men and materials around this remote border region.

Even without the controversial issue over who controls Badme, the road to peace will remain bumpy for both countries, for some time.

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See also:

12 Apr 02 | Africa
Tense Horn awaits border decision
07 Mar 02 | Africa
Horn border ruling delayed again
24 Feb 02 | Africa
UN envoys upbeat after Horn tour
06 Feb 02 | Africa
Ethiopians await border results
14 Dec 01 | Africa
All quiet on Eritrea's frontline
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