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Monday, 22 April, 2002, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
Eritrea and Ethiopia border ruling: Your views
Both Eritrea and Ethiopia have said they will accept an international ruling on their long-standing border dispute which caused a two-year war and around 80,000 deaths.

The two governments have both claimed victory - diplomats say neither side can admit to its people that the loss of thousands of men in battle was in vain.

The BBC's Martin Plaut says the 125-page ruling was sufficiently obscure for this to be possible.

The boundary was decided by a five-member panel of judges, treaty experts and international jurists at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

Have you been affected by the long-standing border dispute? What are your views on the ruling?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Thousands of families were torn apart- parents separated from their children and husbands from their wives

Charles Mkoka, Malawi, Blantyre
The Eritrea and Ethiopia border dispute has caused enormous problems and suffering to tens of thousand of both Eritreans and Ethiopians. Thousands of families were torn apart- parents separated from their children and husbands from their wives. Deportations occurred on both countries accusing the citizenry of both nation as being a "threat to national security." It is of paramount importance that the ruling by the five member panel of judges, treaty experts and international jurists at the Hague be accepted by all governments in the Horn of Africa. This will bring back peace to the war ravaged area were over 80,000 lives have been lost through bloody fighting. It is high time now that peace returns to the horn of Africa.
Charles Mkoka, Malawi, Blantyre

Every citizen of both nations has, undoubtedly been affected by the so-called border war. The border issue has never been of any concern to both people and the very cause of the war was far from to do with border. The ruling gangsters seated in both countries were allies when they fought the former regime in Addis, and they had a lot of promises one had made for the other, that they would fulfil when they both succeed to come to power. The very cause of the conflict was failure of any one of the parties to fulfil their promises and they brought up the border issue as a pretext to convince their citizens to stand on their side and fight for them. Apparently, both governments seem to accept the ruling of the international court. They would have accepted it whatever the ruling had been. But, it doesn't mean the end of their hostility. The war will soon erupt taking another shape.
Chebude, Ethiopia

It is good to hear the two countries have got the victory. If they are smart now, they will just focus on the their development. The border was not the real problem of the two countries. At least I am glad that both are happy for the time being. I am afraid they will come up with some kind of turmoil again as they cannot provide anything for the people to mask other issues.
Gelgil, Ethiopia

I have never had any hatred for Eritrea or its people before. Now I know what their government is about. After losing my relatives and a land that defined who I am, I wish the war never stopped, but it did with the pressure of the western world. We need to understand that a war between governments is always temporary, but a war between people never ends. The western powers, as usual, have managed to assure us that this time, the war is between people and we will see the unfortunate result of it.
Seyoum Berhe, USA

It is time for Eritreans and Ethiopians to rejoice- indeed the era of the dark days is over

Gebremeskel Yoannes, USA
The ugly war between the two sister countries is over for good. The president of Eritrea, Issias, and the Premier of Ethiopia, Meles, are among the best Africa could offer-the normalization of relations is very much on hand. It is time for Eritreans and Ethiopians to rejoice- indeed the era of the dark days is over.
Gebremeskel Yoannes, USA

I believe that now the war is over both countries should pay more attention towards its citizens- as an Indian child who grew up in Ethiopia, I have a special bond for the country and its people. Ethiopia has some much to offer to its people, but due to the constant political corruption, it's not been able to progress as it should. War is never an answer to peace. History has witnessed many nations going to war with other nations achieving little or nothing. It's the country's citizens and the poorest who suffer the most. My thoughts are with the people of Ethiopia.
Nick Patel, UK

The ruling by Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, Netherlands, is a clear victory for the peoples of Ethiopia, Eritrea and Africa at large. To prevent loss of life and property from land disputes is much greater than gaining or receding a piece of land here and there to the other nation. The leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea need to be candid in explaining to their people that peace with their neighbours is more important than conflict. They both need to move forward with development.

Neither of two nations should overplay the propaganda rhetoric of "we won and they lost." After all the people along those border lines have more in common than the boundary between them; they share the same culture, language and blood relations. All other African nations should learn a lesson from Eritrea and Ethiopia that land disputes can be resolved without going to war. They should also encourage those two nations to abide by the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague.
Handa Siangonya, USA

The April 13 border commission's ruling is a decisive one. Decisive in the term of a final say from the UN. But this does not guarantee peace between the two countries. This decision could be a milestone for those who needed peace since day one. Therefore, unless a conflict comes from one of the country's governments, I think the people of Eritrea and Ethiopia will live in respect and harmony.
Yohannes Gigar, Toronto, Canada

I think the ruling is fair and just

Yatyat, Ethiopia
I think the ruling is fair and just. Right now what we need (Ethiopians) is peace and development to our great country, but I don't think the current Eritrean dictatorial government will be happy about Ethiopia getting peace.
Yatyat, Ethiopia

As an Ethiopian/Canadian I am pleased that the time has arrived for the final decision. One thing that is not clear for me is that to whom does Badame belong to? There is a conflicting message as both countries claim it belongs to them.
Sharon Teklu, Canada

As an Eritrean I am glad that we received Badme, but also as an Eritrean I am sad that we spent three years fighting our cousins over nothing. I will cheer not that the key town went to us but that the war is finally over. Peace to both peoples, and to all who are in the Horn of Africa.
Efrem Gebrehiwet, Canada

Both countries should accept the ruling and go on in feeding their people, but the sad thing is that no one can satisfied the Amahras because they do not care about the suffering of the people. The only thing they care about, is land instead of people. I am sorry to say that in order to have ever lasting peace in the region, Ethiopia has to be divided again in three or two parts; most probably Ormo state and Amahra state and Tegray state, to ensure peace in the region.
kokob Amanuel, Etho/Eritrean

This is the saddest moment for all Ethiopians that our own government has betrayed the people and the country

Raya Rayuma, Australia
This is the saddest moment for all Ethiopians that our own government has betrayed the people and the country- but it doesn't matter, one day everything will be redone, the world will witness it in the near future. Being Ethiopian is enough evidence; we don't accept the decision.
Raya Rayuma, Australia

It is rewarding to hear at last that the governments have accepted the ruling even though not the civil population. They have started it violently and they were made to finish it peacefully. We will have time from now on, to concentrate on our main enemy - that is poverty. Please no more bloodshed, no more animosity.
Yonas Michael, Germany

There is no long lasting solution unless the Assab problem is solved-the current Ethiopian government doesn't represent the Ethiopian people.
Dereje, Ethiopian/American

I think we have to wait before making any comments. What we got at present is a map. When it is translated in to actual field distance, things will be different from what the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments are telling their people.
Estifanos, UK

I am still fearful that the fight might continue between vilages

Kidane Tsaedu, U.S.A
Yws, I was very much affected. My family members are still living in a shelter. I am glad both countries have accepted the decision. However, I am still fearful that the fight might continue between vilages. For example, Zalanbesa is surrounded by Eritrean villages called Ambesete Geleba to the west and to the south, hence the Ethiopians have to enter Zalanbesa from the south through Ambeste Geleb's farmland. Prior to the war the people of Ambesete Geleba prevented the Ethiopian Government from erecting telephone and electric poles on their land. As a result, when Ethiopia controlled the area it completely destroyed the five villages. When the the Ambesete Geleba people go back to their villages, there will be a problem, unless the Ethiopian Government changes route. I hope they do, and create a favourable atmosphere in areas that might reignite fighting.
Kidane Tsaedu, U.S.A

The government of Eritrea and the people have always maintained that the only sensible solution to the dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia was a peaceful settlement. Now that the verdict is in, Eritrea has emerged victorious in many respects, including its gain of much of the disputed areas. It is now time for the people of Eritrea to move on and build a promising future for their country in peace.
Huriy Ghirmai, UK

This conflict underlines the importance of the seemingly mundane task of physically demarcating borders. Most borders in Africa are not physically demarcated, leaving potential for future conflict. Good fences make good neighbours as they say, so all the friendly countries in Africa should make an effort to physically demarcate their mutual borders, referring any disagreements to independent arbitration. The African Union does not do much of value - setting up an independent arbitration body and proactively encouraging and implementing demarcation would be a good start. It could save thousands of lives and billions of dollars in future.
Tony, USA

I think there is a realistic chance now for the two countries to engage in alleviating poverty, famine and disease which are the real enemies of their people

Mekibib Dawit, Ethiopian/UK
I wasn't in Ethiopia during the two-year conflict although I was living the agony of every Ethiopian and Eritrean, every minute of it. Thank God, now that the two countries seem to have accepted the path of peace and are turning their face away from destruction and violence. I think there is a realistic chance now for the two countries to engage in alleviating poverty, famine and disease which are the real enemies of their people and they should seize this opportunity. Many people could say different things about the causes of the war in which thousands of young Ethiopians and Eritreans perished. To many outside observers it didn't make the slightest sense to go on war over pieces of barren land that have no economical benefit to either side. But if one look closely to the real causes of the conflict, it is possible to see that it had been brewing for some time and it had almost nothing to do with a border dispute but it happened mainly for two reasons; 1) it was the dream on the Eritrean side to subdue what they thought was an inferior guerilla force (EPRDF) in power and force them to accept unfair cross boarder trade arrangement that would be beneficial to Eritrea.

2) It was the fear of the Eritrean government that a stronger Ethiopia would not be in their national interest and destabilising it before that happens was the core of the ruling EPLF party foreign policy. After the Eritrean military backbone was crushed in June 2000, President Isaeias Afewerke woke up from his dream and realised two things 1) that the people of Ethiopia wouldn't be foolish enough to remove the ruling EPRDF from power while their sovereignty was violated. 2) Although he waged and won a great guerilla war against the brutal Mengistu regime, in conventional warfare the economically stronger and larger nation will always have the advantage and it was suicidal trying to confront it militarily.

This war (although it cost many lives) was therefore inevitable because of the misguided and unrealistic policies of the Eritrean regime. But I think the Eritrean regime seems to have learned from its huge mistake and accepted the decision of the court. I applaud them for that. I call upon both governments to engage in gradual normalisation process, which will be beneficial to both people. I am sure the future generations of Ethiopians and Eritreans will look back at their history and say what a mess we the present generations have made. Let's wake up and start tackling the real causes of the misery of our people.
Mekibib Dawit, Ethiopian/UK

I am very disappointed by the Ethiopian government, because we have won the war on the expense of our soldiers. So they did not have to go for an international arbitrator. It is our victory so it would have been better if the Ethiopian government to lay down the terms of agreement.
JJ Bret, Ethiopia

The ruling is unjust and a nightmare to many Ethiopians. It will create another century of confusion and will provoke war.
Tamrat, UK

As long as Ethiopia remains a land locked country, there will never be peace between these two countries

Ali Kedir, USA
I would have celebrated the ruling and the rule of law, if this has been done three years ago and before thousands of people have died on both sides. There is absolutely nothing to celebrate for Ethiopia. Ethiopia's national interest, is best served by getting Port Assab than a barren land, most Ethiopians have no idea where to locate on the map. TPLF literally gave away Ethiopia's access to the sea for thousands of years. I don't know any government in the world that would give away a land so strategic as Eritrea. Our forefathers have defended the land from European colonialism for centuries and TPLF just gave it away. As long as Ethiopia remains a land locked country, there will never be peace between these two countries. Soon or later, Ethiopians will demand what is theirs, and Assab is undoubtedly Ethiopian. You ask the people in Assab.
Ali Kedir, USA

Ethiopia is the loser out of this messy and bloody worthless war that killed more than 100,000 people. We were let down by traitors on both sides (the leaders) of the conflict. Hard to imagine Ethiopia without an outlet to the sea. Assab port will remain to be a bone of contention for sometime to come.
Wossen, England

The village of Badme, which was a scene of carnage, was part of Eritrea, and claimed to have oil and natural resources. Contrary to this claim was the fact that the two countries' leaders made it as excuse to divert the attention of their masses at periods approaching elections. The "fire works" was however set by western agencies who have probably tried to experiment the military capabilities of the long time brothers and enemies divided by colonial ideologies. Until when will Africans decolonise themselves? After "dog eating dog" what have the two brothers gained? At this period it is advisable that the two countries make meaningful changes and not attack each other in future. They must also practice free and fair democracy after all they have now identified themselves, politically and culturally.
Isaac Vukoni, Canada

I for one don't see how an Eritrean bus would ever cross that border and drive through my land, Tigray

Kethy, USA
So the dispute was simple that it took only five people in The Hague to resolve it?? So the death of the 80,000 on both sides was after all unnecessary? Isn't this pathetic. The five in The Hague have done their homework and that is drawing the lines in the 'dust' and as far as I am concerned that is just what this settlement is all about - a line in the dust to be covered only when the wind changes its direction. There is also one thing no Hague no nothing could heal and that is the bitterness and the betrayal we people of Tigray feel about the Eritreans. I for one don't see how an Eritrean bus would ever cross that border and drive through my land, Tigray.
Kethy, USA

We got what we fought for. The lives of our sisters and brothers were not lost for nothing.
Amanuel, Ethiopia

The governments of both of these countries may claim victory over the new border rulings, however, there is no victory when 80,000 people die over a situation that could have been prevented.
Selam, Ethiopia

I really don't understand why Martin Plaut nor Alex Last found the Decision document "obscure." I read through the whole document on Saturday and found it clear, fair and well worked out. Every decision that was made had an explanation to it in clear laymans terms and in my humble opinion, it was a job well done. The Ethiopian reaction of claiming victory the minute the decision was made is understandable. They had to once again lie and trick their population so as to diffuse the pressure.

In the case of the Eritrean government, they took their time to study the document properly lest they mislead the people unintentionally for the sake of popularity. The consequences of this decision are that in the future, Ethiopia will have no legal directive to invade Eritrea based on a border dispute. This is not to say that they will not do that but they cannot do it by blaming an "ill-defined" border. The real victory lies in the fact that just as back in 1896 when Ethiopia forced the colonial powers to recognise it a sovereign state after the battle of Adwa, now Ethiopia has been forced to recognize Eritrea as a neighbour and has been forced to accept their common boundary. This is no doubt Eritrea's victory and one that has come at a high price.
Zarou, Eritrean in Canada

Border decision




See also:

14 Apr 02 | Africa
13 Apr 02 | Africa
07 Mar 02 | Africa
21 Feb 02 | Africa
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