By Teodros Brehan, Fairfax, Virginia

July 30, 2000


I.                          INTRODUCTION

For the first time in Ethiopia’s history, a clique at the helm of power is recklessly surrendering national sovereignty over land that is rightfully Ethiopian without consultation with anybody, least of all the people of Ethiopia.  Through sheer lack of commitment to the Ethiopian cause, the current Woyane leadership is arbitrarily arrogating to itself the power to make decisions of fundamental importance without undertaking the necessary traditional safeguards to ensure the legitimacy and validity of such decisions.  In 1993, this involved (1) facilitating the secession of Eritrea without consulting with any legitimate institution or undertaking a referendum; (2) the inclusion of the Assab Region as part of the Eritrean package when it was evident that the Assab Region had long ceased to be part of Eritrea; and (3) the agreement to surrender everything on the Assab Port, including Ethiopia’s oil refinery, without any worthwhile arrangement over Ethiopia’s rights.  Ethiopians did not as yet recover from the shock brought about by these treasonous decisions, when, in the year 2000, Meles Zenawi hit them again by declaring to proceed to a border demarcation without raising the issue of the Assab Region during the on-going peace negotiations with Eritrea.  Once again, the Ethiopian people were not going to be privy to a decision of fundamental importance to them.

Democratic nations often shudder at the thought of surrendering, without sufficient guarantees, the power of making such decisions of fundamental importance to even a genuinely elected representative national assembly.  Several times, even undemocratic regimes, like military juntas, take such matters of fundamental importance so seriously that they go out of their way to call for a referendum to ensure that a decision of such magnitude has a democratic basis. But not the EPRDF regime in Ethiopia.  This regime is making such decisions as if they are mere executive orders, oftentimes without even consulting its own rubber-stamp parliament.

Responsible governments either leave matters involving serious national interest to a referendum by the larger population, or at least ensure in a constitutional provision that only the supermajority of a genuinely elected representative national assembly can make such ultimate decisions. Decisions which fail to go through such indispensable constitutional procedures will not be accorded the validity and legitimacy needed to make them authentic.  Thus, for example, in reference to treaties, Article 46 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (“Vienna Convention”) provides that if the violation of consent given by a state “was manifest and concerned a rule of its internal law of fundamental importance,” such state can declare that it shall not be bound by the treaty.  Actions which violate matters of “fundamental importance” will forever carry the stigma and can be attacked by any future regime.  At the local or national level, they would serve as rallying points for popular opposition.  On the international level, such invalid and illegitimate decisions could become objects of contention upon the emergence of a new successor regime.  International law and legal practice are not lacking in numerous instances wherein the actions of unconstitutional, illegitimate, and dictatorial regimes were said not to bind the people and the state where the actions taken by such regimes are manifestly devoid of this basic essence of validity.



How is one to approach the subject of the restoration of Ethiopia’s legitimate rights to the Assab Region?  One should not overlook the serious disadvantage that Ethiopia finds herself in her search for a final solution to this issue as a result of the misguided and reckless official statements that are being made by a gullible, arrogant, and “know-it all” dictator currently at the helm of power in Ethiopia.  Despite this disadvantage, this paper discusses the following:
 (1)  Despite the disarming and damaging statements by Meles, can Ethiopia, after forcibly restoring her rights over the Assab Region, legally defend her action before the international community? (2) Can Ethiopia legitimately raise the restoration of the Assab Region at the current peace talks? (3) If the Meles regime refuses to follow through the above two alterantives, what are the legal and diplomatic consequences if a successor regime in the future forcibly restores the Assab Region to Ethiopia? (4) What are the rights of the Afar people now or in the future under international law? 


It is possible that Ethiopia’s enemies are going to force her to accept the secret, collusive, fraudulent, and coercive agreements that Woyane and Shabia entered behind her back by raising the principle of “pacta sunt servanda,” i.e., agreements bind the parties, as endorsed in Article 26 of the Vienna Convention.  In case of a forcible restoration of her rights over the Assab Region, these same foes are going to raise the principle that nations may not resort to force in the settlement of international diputes.  There is also a third, but less serious, doctrine which Eritrea, knowing how unfair, unjust, and legally flimsy her occupation of the Assab Region is, is trying to hide behind, i.e., that African colonial border arrangements are sacrosanct.  Many of the solutions to these questions may be in the realm of the international political regime and diplomatic stewardship, especially if Ethiopia, now or in the future resorts to a forcible restoration of her inalienable and natural rights over the Assab Region.  This paper presents some  preliminary ideas that are purely intended for the much needed and urgent debate that Ethiopians everywhere must engage to at least put on record that any decision made by the Woyane regime without genuine, constitutional, and democratic consultations shall not bind Ethiopia and to forewarn the international community about the invalidity of this Woyane exercise.  We should also be aware of the fact that in international law and politics, as it is obvious, there hardly are any ready answers to any question and by the end of the day the party who has done its homework well and has claims that meet the demands of fairness and justice, unlike the claims of Eritrea, will win the hearts and minds of the international community.


III.  THE BASES OF ETHIOPIA’S CLAIM FOR THE RESTORATION OF THE ASSAB REGION                                                                                                     

For any state on earth there is nothing more sacred than its sovereignty.  Hence, any decision that involves instances like diminution of sovereignty, annexation or cession of territory, and the demarcation of a border regimes which could result in surrender of territory cannot be left to the whims of a dictator, or to the collusive and secretive arrangements by a handful of self-appointed political leaders.  Such decisions need the participation of the larger population in a debate, and the latter’s affirmation of them through a referendum, or, at the least, through a decision by the supermajority of a genuinely elected representative body like a national assembly.  Any action by a political leadership which is not up to this test could be declared null and void from the start or invalid after a closer scrutiny in the eyes of local and international public opinion. 

Ethiopians do not seem to care much about the departure of Eritrea and any future presentation of the secession of Eritrea for a referendum by a genuine democratic regime in Ethiopia might only be a nominal exercise, to give constitutional legitimacy to an illegitimate act of a usurper dictatorial regime.  However, Ethiopians have made it clear uninterruptedly and unequivocally that the inclusion of the Assab Region as part of Eritrea, without the matter having been consulted to Ethiopians through a referendum or through the deliberations of a genuine democratic parliament are violations of matters of fundamental importance and sovereignty to Ethiopia.  Since a non-elected regime has condemned sixty million people to a land-locked status when it was all clear that an internal law of the land has by then made the Assab Region a part of the Autonomous Region of Afar, the rightful owners of the coastal area, and since Woyane cannot at will alter this internal law without submitting the matter to a constitutional debate, any future government can raise this violation of Ethiopia’s internal law to repudiate current arrangements, even if they are U.N. sanctioned, and legally restore the Assab Region back to Ethiopia.  Besides, since Italy’s colonial arrogance, evidenced by the geographic arrangement which shut Ethiopia from her sea coast by creating a roughly 300 miles (north-south) by 25 miles (east-west) border along the Red Sea Coast, is so blatantly obvious, it cannot stand the test of fairness and justice even by the arbitrary criteria typical of colonial border arrangements and cannot be respected in perpetuity, even if that means violating the “respect to colonial borders” regime, the only regime wherein Eritrea is getting succor from these days .

At the local level, the voidness and invalidity of the act could serve as the rallying point to bring down the political leadership responsible for such action by any means.  At the international level, this would serve as a sufficient warning to other states, international organizations, transnational companies, and nationals of other states that a future, successor regime may repudiate or refuse to succeed to any agreements, deals, contracts, treaties, and understandings that were made with the assumption of the legitimacy or validity of such void or invalid acts of a usurper regime.

As its first act of state, the successor regime will repudiate or refuse to succeed to the void or invalid action of the previous regime, and would cite as evidence the undemocratic nature and composition of the regime, the collusive, treasonous, and conspiratorial nature of the decision, the violation of basic constitutional principles by the usurper regime in making the decision on the matter of ultimate sovereignty, the lack of popular support for the illegal and undemocratic decision at the time made as evidenced by demonstrations and oppositions before international and diplomatic forums, publications, etc.



The Ethiopian scenario satisfies the above criteria.  The only problem with the above scenario is that only a successor regime can take advantage of it because of possible so called collateral estoppel claims, i.e., you can’t take back your word.  The current Woyane regime has tied its hands by having taken actions and making gullible statements which have implications on itself, if not on a future, especially constitutionally elected government.  Aside from handing Ethiopia’s sea coast on a silver platter in the face of enormous local opposition and international surprise, look what Meles had to say on July 5, 2000 to the rubber-stamp parliament during a staged question and answer session: 

Question:  Ethiopia is a land-locked country.  . . . What right does Ethiopia have for exercising her right of access to Assab Port provided for in international law?

Meles:  Concerning utilization of the Port of Assab, . . . [s]ome say that as we do not have gateway to the sea, we have to use force and occupy it.
. . . [But] trying to take away a land that belongs to an internationally recognized country is terrorism in the eyes of international law.

The fact of the matter is Meles and his cohorts gave away Ethiopia’s Red Sea Coast without going through normally acceptable mechanisms at the local level to ensure the legality of the transfer under international law.

The mere fact that the collusive regimes of Meles and Isaias secured the endorsement of the U.N. under Boutros Ghali cannot override the local element necessary to ensure the validity of the act since, to borrow from the Vienna Convention, this “violation was manifest and concerned a rule of [a state’s] internal law of fundamental importance.”  Meles might jump and say that the transfer of the Assab Region was done in accordance with the Woyane constitution.  But that constitution lacked legitimacy in its preparation and endorsement and hence cannot be characterized as Ethiopia’s “internal law of fundamental importance.”  The whole arrangement was done by two rebel groups who do not have the constitutional power to hand over or annex territory of a sovereign nation.  International law, especially as evidenced in the Vienna Convention Articles 49, 50, 51, and 52, and which we cite for analogy, doesn’t recognize actions taken through fraud which may include collusion, or through corruption, coercion, and similar inherently illegal mechanisms.  While the secession of Eritrea was done with the blessing of Boutros Ghali, the Egyptian United Nations Chairman at the time, since the action in reference to the Assab Region was void ab initio, i.e, void from the very start, for the simple fact that by then the Assab Region was not part of the Eritrean province of Ethiopia, but has for several decades been accorded a separate autonomous status administered by the very inhabitants, the Afaris, Ethiopia in the future may even be able to challenge the validity of that blessing by Boutros Ghali.



The following facts are the givens in the current scenario:  (1) Shabia started the war and enormous human and material damage was incurred to restore the status quo ante;
(2) Shabia has proven that it will not respect the internationally recognized rights of passage and access to the sea for land-locked countries by its actions which included the following:  confiscation of merchandise on international transit to and from Ethiopia; confiscation of grain donated by the United States destined for drought victims in Ethiopia; unilateral and arbitrary imposition of tariffs and customs on goods passing through the port of Assab; imposing exorbitant price on fuel shipped to Ethiopia by the Assab Oil Refinery; (3) Shabia has, in a deliberate and cruel fashion rounded up, detained, and forcibly relocated, and murdered up to 20,000 Ethiopians living and working at the Port of Assab when the war with Eritrea started; (4) Shabia has forcibly resettled and/or detained a huge number of the Afar population in the Eritrean hinterland with the purpose of altering the demographics in case of an eventual demand by the Afar people for their internationally recognized right for self-determination; (5) Shabia for long continued to refuse to give access to the International Red Cross and other international human rights organizations obstructing them from making a true assessment of the human rights situation of all Ethiopians detained, dislocated, and resettled within Eritrea; (6) Shabia has started a war with all its neighbors including Yemen across the Red Sea; and (7) Shabia continues to refuse to sign international human rights conventions.

                                A.            Defending A Forcible Restoration Of The Assab Region

With an able diplomatic and public relations effort, after a forcible restoration of the Afar Region, the above facts could have served, or could even serve, as sufficient grounds for Ethiopia to convince and win the hearts of the international community as to why she was forced to resort to a restoration of her rights to the Assab Region.  Coupled with the countless historical, topographic, demographic, geographic, and psychological arguments that such a diplomatic and public relations mission could muster, Ethiopia could win enough hearts to secure a political resolution of the problem. 

The current global environment, I believe, is very sympathetic towards Ethiopia, one reason being that even Italy had had a hard time convincing the world that the Assab Region that thinly extends for several hundred miles along the Red Sea Coast, curtailing Ethiopia’s access to the sea which lies only less than twenty-five miles from her border, was the result of a fair and just arrangement, as evidenced by the almost total agreement at the UN General Assembly in 1949-1950 that Ethiopia indeed needed her own sea coast.  However, because of the very unfairness of the colonial concept, a border as glaringly unfair as Eritrea’s was accepted by the colonial powers so long as Italy, a European nation, was administering it.  I don’t think Eritrea could for long enjoy such a preferred status once enjoyed by a European colonial power by sticking to a shallow “colonial-treaties-are-sacrosanct” argument.  A fair, just, and equal arrangement will restrict Eritrea to the land above the Mereb river only. 

Look at the West African nations that extend from Senegal down to the Equatorial Guinea.  Every effort was made by the colonial powers to ensure those small thin nations have an opening to the sea coast for the simple reason that they each then were regions under the colonial administration of Britain, France, or Spain.  The colonial powers understood the importance of a sea access when it concerned them, but not so when it involved Ethiopia.  Even Belgium was given a secure access to the sea to benefit her large territory, the Congo, by forcing a strip of land over Angola, despite the Cabinda enclave.

Unfortunately for Ethiopia, she was the only black and independent African nation, and Europeans could only reduce her to a de facto inferior status, i.e., a nation without a sea coast.  Imagine such a condemnation at time when airplanes were yet unknown, and imagine also that the sea was only less than twenty-five miles away from her border.  The motive of Italy in seizing Assab was obvious:  To asphyxiate Ethiopia until it became an easy prey for further colonial ambition, as evidenced in the Wuchale Treaty, which was designed to make Ethiopia an Italian protectorate.  Eritrea’s insistence to hold on to the Assab region is for the same purpose, as evidenced in her abuse of control of the port by confiscation, imposition of arbitrary custom duties, and the harassment, detention, murder, and dislocation of Ethiopians.

The several land-locked states in the African hinterland and elsewhere in the world are so hopelessly far away from any sea coast, and do not have the historical, demographic, topographic, and psychological connections as Ethiopia has to the Assab Region, they can only dream about the sea.  Eritrean current argument that Ethiopia is not the only land-locked state on earth is thus so void of substance because of its blatant hypocrisy.  Bolivia is perhaps the only land-locked country that could come close to the Ethiopian situation, with a little more than a hundred kilometers distance from the Pacific, and look what has happened to Bolivia.

Since the seizure of the Bolivian port of Antofagasta by powerful Chile in 1879, the date that started the “Bolivian national neurosis,” there had been numerous wars between Chile and Bolivia, numerous changes of government in Bolivia, with each successor regime demanding that Chile return the sea coast that was unfairly taken from Bolivia.  The Organization of American States demanded Chile to give a strip of coastal territory permanently to Bolivia.  Bolivia still has a 7000-strong naval force and celebrates her Day of the Sea.  The only reason that has stopped Bolivia from reasserting her legitimate rights to a the sea coast continues to be that Bolivia is the poorest country in Latin America despite the large size of its territory and Chile is so powerful.  The reason for the long Chilean coastline on the Pacific and hence the reason for its peaceful co-existence with Argentina is the Andes Mountain range which is a natural barrier against Argentina.  Thank God the Ethio-Eritrean scenario is not the same as that between Bolivia and Chile.  In the recent war, the Eritrean claim of invincibility has been forever shattered.  Isaias who once declared “Might is right,” would be willing to pay millions to take back that statement so well recorded in the annals of history now.  Hence, since Ethiopia’s claim for the restoration of the Assab Region is so just and fair, it will not be hard to imagine that Ethiopia will reassert her right, if not by the Meles regime, by another successor regime.

Meles in his staged question and answer session exaggerated about the reaction of the international community if Ethiopia resorts to a forceful restoration of her sea coast.  What should we expect in the short term if Ethiopia forcefully restores her sea coast?  The Security Council may condemn Ethiopia’s forceful restoration of her sea coast and might impose some form of economic sanctions, to last a little while, to silence the Eritreans.  But more cautious, reasonable, and constructive minds will emerge since Ethiopia’s action has justice and fairness behind it.  While Ethiopia’s traditional foes will cry afoul, a serious diplomatic and public relations effort will I believe be able to convince reasonable minds, and there are thousands of Ethiopians ready and willing, intellectually, logistically, and financially to commit for that noble and most-enduing effort world-wide.


                                B.            What The Meles Regime May Demand At The Current Peace Talks

Meles Zenawi has uncatogrically refused to raise the issue of Assab at the current peace talks advancing a most frivolous argument, i.e., only camels would roam over Assab unless Ethiopia uses it and hence, Eritreans should beg Ethiopia to use it.  Given such attitude, the likelihood that Ethiopia will ever raise the issue of the Assab Region at the current peace talks is nil unless Meles, the dictator, changes his mind.  If that time ever comes, the diplomats who are handling the peace talks on behalf of Ethiopia can find wise counsel from a recent piece posted on the internet by Professor Negussay Ayele entitled Reflections on border regimes and colonial treaties on the Horn. 

Professor Negussay convincingly puts to rest the question of whether colonial treaties would be applicable to the border demarcation saying that “there are no valid or pertinent treaties to invoke” for several reasons including the nullification of old treaties between Ethiopia and Italy upon Italian invasion and incorporation of Ethiopia in 1935, the act of federation of Eritrea with Ethiopia in 1952, the act of annexation of Eritrea by Ethiopia in 1962, and  Ethiopia’s redrawing of her internal map in 1987, including the restoration of the coastal region to the rightful owners, the Afars.  Thus, Ethiopia should refuse to be bound by any colonial treaties, and as a result, Eritrea’s claim that colonial boundaries in Africa are sacrosanct doesn’t apply to the Ethiopian scenario.

Ethiopia has huge sums of reparation and compensation demands against Eritrea, and since Eritrea started the war, Eritrea should accept the consequences of her actions and should not be allowed to present a list of her demands for counter- compensation or reparations against Ethiopia.  Ethiopia, as the aggrieved party, and as the party that won the war, should exact compensation and reparation from Eritrea.  Eritrea is a poor country and will not be in a position to pay the huge amount of compensation and reparation that Ethiopia will lodge against her, which includes in particular, confiscated international merchandise at the Assab Port en route to Ethiopia, in itself a serious violation of the international rights of passage and access to the sea.  The demand for the cession of territory, rather than for financial compensation, is not unheard of.  Over the several centuries, including the Second World War and the Arab-Israeli conflict, international peace arrangements or negotiations have included cession of territory, just as an example, as one alternative to break an impasse.  Moreover, for Eritrea the Assab Region is only symbolic and being so far away from Eritrean centers of activity, difficult to manage and defend, especially given the hostility and current war of liberation of the Afar inhabitants, and a more powerful state always waiting to restore the territory to its former and rightful status. 

As Hailu Zewge, in a superb article posted on the internet and entitled, Towards a new beginning said, “Eritrea will have to decide between a tenuous future fraught with menace, and a more placid relationship with Ethiopia,” and Hailu posed surrender of the Red Sea Coast to Ethiopia as the only alternative for this placid relationship to emerge.  An infusion of reason in Eritrean minds demanding enormous cool-headedness on this issue will save the day for both countries.  This arrangement, which may appear simplistic, is perhaps the best and the most peaceful.  Each side will go its way with Eritrea retaining the Port of Masssawa, and Ethiopia restoring her right of sovereignty over the Assab Region and I don’t see why Ethiopia and Eritrea cannot engage in such visionary and ultimate solutions with mutual advantages for the peoples of both countries.



In 1993, Woyane handed on a silver platter the Assab Region and made Ethiopia, a country of sixty million people, land-locked, thereby paving the road for the cycle of violence that it recently found itself and those on the horizon awaiting the country.  There is no denying of the fact that no kind of debate, referendum, free discussion was ever conducted on this matter of “ultimate importance,” an issue of national sovereignty, even before the rubber-stamp parliament when the Woyane regime gave its blessing to the idea on a letter Meles wrote to Boutros Ghali..

The Woyane regime even to this day continues to have extremely questionable legitimacy.  Upon its seizure of power in Addis Ababa in 1991, it was a ragtag of mostly illiterate peasant army recruited from a minority Tigrean ethnic group, with NO experience in political governance and international diplomacy, coming more with a sense of vengeance against the majority than with a cool-headed and genuine desire to bring about change.  There is ample evidence that it was acting collusively with Shabia, that most of the agreements affecting Ethiopia’s national interest between these two groups were not the results of democratic public deliberations, but exclusively the results of secret deliberations between Meles and Isaias.  Nobody to this day, except perhaps the conspirators themselves, knows the real content of these secret agreements and as a result Ethiopians are to this day left in the dark about a matter of serious national concern affecting them, their children, and above all, their beloved country.

Upon the emergence of a new, successor regime that has rid itself of Woyane elements, the first Act of Government that would be taken will be the refusal to succeed to any kind of secret agreements, agreements concluded collusively between Woyane and Shabia, and all agreements that were forced on Ethiopia by Shabia and its Woyane cohorts.  While under the basic rules of contract and under international law, the rule regarding agreements is pacta sunt servanda, i.e, agreements bind their parties, this rule has well-recognized exceptions that are used among civilized societies since time immemorial.  These exceptions are that if, upon the time these agreements were made, there were external factors that vitiated these agreements, such agreements are null and void.  Among the grounds well-recognized under international law are the rules regarding secret agreements, agreements secured by fraud and the collusion between some of the parties which affects the rights of other parties, corruption, coercion, and unequal treaties.  One will also be able to cite to several instances in the past where the official acts of unconstitutional rebel regimes were denied any legal validity when those illegal regimes were overthrown and replaced by constitutional regimes.

At the international level, with the proper diplomatic work and garnering of support, such illegal and void acts by the Woyane regime could be denied any recognition of legality and validity.  In such occasions, an action by a determined successor regime, especially a democratic regime, to reverse such illegality or invalidity and its consequences would be accorded authority and will win support.  Instances in several parts of the world and particularly in Latin America abound where the acts of unconstitutional regimes were denied any validity with the repudiation of such acts by the successor government.  Even the concern of  Mr. Herman Cohen, communicated to Meles Zenawi that his treasonous action is going to make Ethiopia land-locked, to which Meles responded flippantly and dismissively, will serve as a piece of evidence to a future successor regime in its eventual attempt to prove the collusive nature of the Woyane and Shabia action.  Besides, in contradiction to what Meles is saying, as we witnessed recently in the media frenzy during the May-June 2000 battles between Ethiopia and Eritrea, there is enormous support among the general public, the international media, and diplomatic community for Ethiopia’s genuine demands to reclaim her sea coast from the Eritrean usurpers.

The Red Sea Coast had been Ethiopia’s access to the sea for most of the millennia.  There are flimsy and easily refutable claims that the Ottoman Empire and Egyptians controlled the coastal region temporarily in the past.  Italian occupation of the strip of coastal land in the last decades of the nineteenth century was not with the desire to create such blatantly and manifestly unfair geographic monstrosity, called Eritrea, but more for use as a spring board for Italy’s dream of creating the so called Impero Italiano dell’Africa Orientale, and controlling the landmass extending from Eritrea in the north, Ethiopia in the middle, and Somalia in the south. 

Woyane’s surrender of Ethiopia’s sea coast to the step-children of Italy, the Eritreans, whose geographic limit was the Mereb river could only have been the result of a collusion between the two kinfolk, Isaias and Meles.  The Eritreans above Mereb have nothing to do with that strip of land below Mereb since they were not supposed to have succeeded, if at all, to the Impero Italiano dell’Africa Orientale master plan in toto but only to their own locale, the area north of Mereb.

Woyane took this ultimate decision without even a pretension of a democratic debate on the issue, or a referendum by Ethiopians, or the approval by a supermajority of a genuinely elected representative body.  In fact, it made the decision in the face of expressly and unequivocally declared opposition to this decision by the Ethiopian population as evidenced by the following:  (1) countless demonstrations in all parts of the country and in the Diaspora; (2) the assassination by Woyane and Shabia forces of Ethiopia’s genuine children at the Addis Ababa university who were demanding a referendum on the secession of Ertirea and the illegal transfer by Woyane of the Port of Assab; and (3) an endless stream of publications on the private media by Ethiopian journalists and  intellectuals denouncing the collusive, illegal, undemocratic, and unconstitutional Woyane decision.



There is no one denying the fact that in the final analysis the inhabitants of the region, the Afar people, will be the final arbiters as with whom they want to live in political association.  This is the right of nations and nationalities which is well ensconced in Article 1 of the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which declared:  “All peoples have the right of self-determination.  By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”  Shabia cannot stop them from achieving this internationally recognized right.  This fact is so evident that, it explains Shabia’s continued inhumane plan to remove the people from this region and resettle them deep inside Eritrea despite their avowed opposition for such a plan.  A statement by the Red Sea Afaris Democratic Organization declared from Asayita, the Afari capital, on June 8, that the shameful regime in Asmara “has been displacing Red Sea Afaris and taking them to Seraye and Akale Guzay localities,” as “part of a wider plan to clear Assab and Massawa areas of Afar nationals.”

Ethiopia, upon the liberation of the Assab Region and restoring the previous Autonomous Afar Region, should not impose her will on the Red Sea Afaris, and should only encourage them to join in a consensual union with the rest of Ethiopia.  Because of the symbiotic relationship between the Afari sea coast and the Ethiopian hinterland that existed over the millennia, it will not be far-fetched to assume that Afar Autonomous Region will forever opt to be with Ethiopia.  The fact that already the much larger Afar territory and the large majority of the inhabitants have been part of Ethiopia during the rule of Haile Sillassie and Mengistu, and are at the corner of Ethiopian unity, despite the divisive propaganda of the current EPRDF regime along ethnic lines, would, I believe, encourage the Red Sea Afaris to join their brethren.


VIII.                 CONCLUSION

This is not the first time in Ethiopia’s history when her enemies conspired to deny her natural access to the sea.  The Ottoman Turks, the Egyptians, and the Italians tried it and for short periods of time in history succeeded.  Now the Meles regime with a seriously questionable legitimacy and commitment to an Ethiopian cause, in collaboration with an ethnic kinfolk across the Mereb, has once again put Ethiopia in harms way.  Even the admonitions of international diplomats like Mr. Herman Cohen, about the dire consequences of making Ethiopia land-locked, were flippantly and dismissively ignored.

There is still time for the current regime to correct this treasonous act that has shackled sixty million people and denied them their rightful claim to a sea coast.  If the current regime thinks it will avoid future conflicts on the matter by not proceeding with the final execution of this unfinished business, it definitely is acting like the ostrich:  It is just hiding its neck in the sand.  Further conflict is inevitable.

The question of the Assab Region is not something that will go away by gullible declarations, secret arrangements, executive black-out of discussions, or frivolous protestations.  The land and the people will always be there.  Ethiopia has survived for centuries and hence the Assab question will be back on the agenda if not resolved now once and for all.  The Ethiopian public should continue, through demonstrations both inside and outside the country, protestations, publications, lobbying, etc. to make everyone know that Eritreans do not belong in that strip of territory called the Assab Region.  Such uninterrupted oppositions to an oppressive arrangement that the collusive and secret dealings between two rebel groups put us in are perhaps the among the major pieces of evidence a future government of Ethiopia will present to reassert Ethiopia’s natural and inalienable rights to the Assab Region.  The more and louder the cry, the better we will be heard, and the closer our success.