Over the weekend the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, raised the eyebrows of regional and international leaders, not to mention Eritreans and Ethiopians worldwide. To the Ethiopian Parliament, “to proceed [with] full border demarcation […] Eritrea, the options are two – either the regime changes its existing ill-ideologies or must be ousted.”1 Further, he continues, “We believe in dialogue, we have actually knocked on the door many times and they haven’t responded.”2
Both of these comments are aimed not at the domestic or regional audiences but at an international audience. But what could be the purpose of this, and why now? Well the latter could be answered by broadening the lens. On the day before as the latter comment, Ethiopia’s ally for over 150 years, the United Kingdom, suggested this, “[Britain] stands ready to support [sanctions].”3 Now this seems all and well given evidence of Eritrea negatively affecting the situation (in particular advancing terrorists). This evidence however, does not seem to materialize either within the UN Security Council or outside of it.
Contrary to the opinion of the US State Department, the Congressional Research service stated, “If there is one country where the fighting of extremists and terrorists was a priority when it mattered, it was Eritrea.”4 This statement only in part suggests that what the UN Security Council alleges, is not the case. In short, what the Government of Eritrea has envisioned for Somalia is a broad group of Somali elements coming to a consensus on their future, “Why should others categorise the political groups in Somalia, ostracise some and legitimise others? Why not facilitate a process of reconciliation?”5 This would seem to a fair and balanced position, “The Eritrean objective is to see a peaceful, stable and united Somalia. You can’t do this by imposing external governments against the choice of the Somali people.”6
As far as Meles Zenawi’s comment that Eritrea has not responded to Ethiopia’s dialogue recommendation, well this is simply false, “He further underlined that as long as sovereign Eritrean territories remain under occupation, engaging in dialogue about any issue is totally illogical.”7 Simply speaking, Eritrea has called for just the implementation of the original peace deal. In a sense, Eritrea’s rejection of dialogue as precondition to demarcation is a test of Ethiopia’s resolve to implement a treaty for which it has already agreed. Without this implementation would it be responsible to engage in new negotiations (as dialogue would represent), what would be the cause without proof of implementation of other agreements?