In an interview1 regarding several issues by IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Networks, a UN organization), the Executive Secretary, Mahboub M. Maalim, of the IGAD (Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, a regional organization) commented on the Ethiopia – Eritrea dispute. To the interviewers credit, s/he asked a pointed and relevant follow up question to investigate further. The relevant excerpts are as follows:
IGAD Secretary: “There has not been any progress regarding the Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict. This [is a] fairly straightforward issue that requires the two principals to sit and discuss.”
IRIN: “Eritrea’s position is that the boundary commission ruling was final and binding, and the sides agreed beforehand that they will abide by it, so there is nothing to discuss except to implement the ruling.”
IGAD Secretary: “Ethiopia respects the ruling. But the parties must get together and say – yes this the ruling, how do we implement it? Even when a divorce has been granted, you go back to the house to agree what belongs to whom.“
This exchange is reveals a very clear bias in the thinking of the Secretary and consequently in the IGAD position on the conflict between two of its neighbors. Mahboub suggests that there is a necessary discussion between the two States regarding the division of property as one would have in a “divorce.” Either the Secretary is ignorant of the actual Agreement2 between the States and the Ruling3 by the Court of Arbitration, or simply negligent. The Ruling clearly delineates all points of the new boundary.4
What is of concern of course is that the Executive Secretary is supposed to come into any conflict between to member Stats as a neutral arbiter, however, the Executive Secretary is clearly toeing the Ethiopian line. This of course does not bode well for any immediate resolution, it will clearly take time for the new Eritrean Ambassador to the African Union (AU) to right the wayward IGAD ship.