EBAC is pleased to note that over more than 11 years of advocacy, the overwhelming majority of the Ethiopian people, civic and opposition parties and prominent personalities, the media and others have provided us unwavering and steady moral, diplomatic and material support. On our part, we have been diligent in exposing the secret deal through press releases, the media, symposiums, research and the preparation of position papers that future generations of Ethiopians and succeeding governments could utilize in restoring Ethiopia’s legitimate rights to its lands. Ever since its formation, the Ethiopian Border Affairs Committee (EBAC) has been in the forefront of exposing the treasonous scheme of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to cede large tracts of Ethiopian lands to the Sudanese government. We reiterated and alerted the Ethiopian people and the international community at large that, if and when implemented, this treacherous and treasonous act is being perpetrated outside public view. It is detrimental to Ethiopia’s territorial integrity, national security, the wellbeing of millions and the peaceful coexistence of the Ethiopian and Sudanese people.
Despite the TPLF’s outright dismissal of its treacherous acts that take place in secret negotiations with the government of the Sudan, we have repeatedly conveyed to the Bashir Government that handing over a “good chunk of Ethiopia’s fertile farmlands, waters and other natural resources” will undermine peace, stability, and security of the region in the decades to come. We have gone on record that ceding Ethiopian lands is illegitimate, illegal and source of destabilization in the area.
In our official letter to the late Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, we informed him that his party or government “has no authority to cede any Ethiopian territory without the consent of the people of Ethiopia.” Meles was fully cognizant then and his successors now that the government in power would face unprecedented opposition and public uproar. This is why Meles and now Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn refuse to discloses the contents of the deal to the people of Ethiopia.
Instead, this treacherous act is carried out with the highest level of secrecy; and purportedly involving the regional government of Tigray and Sudanese authorities. Matters of this magnitude require transparency, open discussion, participation by the Ethiopian people and at least a modicum of debate within the rubber stamp Ethiopian Parliament. Today, Ethiopia is characterized by a suffocating political environment of closed political and civic space and the criminalization of press freedom. There is no meaningful opposition. Civil society has been decimated.
In light of this suffocating environment and the current State of Emergency, the TPLF dominated government and media still purport that “Not a single Ethiopian is displaced from his ancestral farmland” and that no agreement has been reached. This claim suggests to us that the TPLF knows well that it has no authority to redraw Ethiopia’s national boundaries or to cede any Ethiopian territory to the Sudan.
EBAC wishes to underscore once again that any secret agreement with the Sudan will neither bind the rest of the country nor contribute to stability and peaceful coexistence between the two countries. On the contrary, any such agreement and deal will undermine the long-established tradition of peaceful coexistence, mutual benefit and friendly relations between Ethiopia and the Sudan. The Sudanese government ought to understand that the TPLF dominated government is doing the opposite of what is in the long-term interests of the Ethiopian and Sudanese people. The TPLF does this for short term economic and political gains. It has a well-established tradition of abandoning Ethiopia’s access to the sea. It leases millions of hectares of land to foreign investors and selected TPLF supporters while Ethiopians starve etc.
The government of the Sudan should respect international law
The government of the Sudan should be aware that the TPLF has no right to abrogate this enduring and mutually beneficial relationship between our two countries for short-term political expediency. The current government of Ethiopia dominated by the TPLF won’t last forever. But Ethiopia will. Equally, the government of the Sudan should acknowledge and abide by international law that guides borders and is intended to anticipate and to avoid current and future conflicts. The TPLF scheme can and should be avoided at any cost. The government of the Sudan should therefore recognize the fundamental principle that governs an international boundary, namely that it is not arbitrary or capricious. Ethiopia’s boundary should not be a tradeable commodity that the TPLF can present as a gift.
The TPLF does not abide by such principles or norms or the rule of law or respect for the rights of indigenous people or the human and economic and natural rights of a country’s citizens or the long-term interests and security of the Ethiopian people. International law provides a compelling degree of continuity and finality to a country’s boundary. This venerable principle will be respected and observed in practice by citizens concerned only if the given boundary was established in accordance with law rather than political expediency practiced by the TPLF.
The TPLF led regime which seized power unlawfully does not have any respect for Ethiopia’s national interests. The TPLF has no legitimacy or legal credentials to cede Ethiopian territory and to create conditions that would trigger perpetual war in this highly volatile region. The TPLF thrives on ethnic and religious division; and prolongs its grip of its hegemony by undermining the wellbeing of Ethiopians and the long-term interests of the country.
EBAC has reiterated its belief that, in order to avert future conflict and war, both the Sudanese and Ethiopian regimes have an obligation to abide by the Anglo-Ethiopian Treaty of 1902 and an appropriate Boundary Commission that will carry out the demarcation process. No other secret arrangement that will affect Ethiopia’s 102 million people adversely will be acceptable to the vast majority of Ethiopians.
The latest news on this sensitive issue published on February 15, 2017 by the Sudan Tribune under the title “Ethiopia-Sudan border development conference kicks off on Thursday” came as a shock to the Ethiopian people and to EBAC. To our dismay, this potentially explosive deal and machination by the TPLF was not disclosed to the Ethiopian people. When asked the government of Ethiopia denied the deal and accused opposition groups of inflaming the issue. The fact is this. The TPLF-led government has a history of storytelling and utter denial of policy issues that affect the country and its 102 million people.
The Sudanese media has been forthcoming on the border issue. Quoting the Governor of Gadaref, Sudan Tribune announced from Khartoum that “The 18th session of the conference on development of the joint Sudanese-Ethiopian borders will be held on Thursday in Mekele, capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray region.” It is clear from the announcement that the demarcation of this contentious and explosive boundary and the ceding of territories to the Sudanese government will be carried out in Mekele under the auspices, guidance and directive of the TPLF, the ultimate beneficiary of this treasonous deal.
We quote, “Governor of Gadaref State Mirghani Salih Sid Ahmed told the official news agency SUNA, that the conference would be held with the participation of the border states of Gadaref, Blue Nile, Sennar and Kassala from the Sudanese side and Beni-Shangul-Gumuz and Amhara regions from the Ethiopian side.” He also said that Sudan shall “seek to retrieve the agricultural lands confiscated by Ethiopian farmers.” To the best of our knowledge, Ethiopian farmers never “confiscated” Sudanese lands. On the contrary, the TPLF acquiesced to Sudanese confiscation of Ethiopian lands.
Further, the motive behind the negotiations in Mekele is to legitimize the transfer from Ethiopia to the Sudan a tract of land that covers, at minimum “250 square kilometers and consists of 600,000 hectares,” some of the most fertile lands in Ethiopia. This fertile farmland that is suitable for large scale commercial farming and future textile and related industries is supported by a river basin flowing from Ethiopia. This includes the Atbara River, a major tributary to the mighty Nile.
This transfer and or any other future transfer of any lands from any part of the Ethiopia to the Sudan has no legitimacy and won’t bind succeeding generations of Ethiopians and Ethiopian governments. The social, economic, psychological and political and security costs to Ethiopia and the Ethiopian people will be immense. For example, food insecure and food aid dependent Ethiopia with a growing population, cannot afford to transfer these lands to the Sudan or to any government. It is a matter of survival for Ethiopia.
As EBAC has noted numerous times before, if this latest secret deal in Mekele takes legal effect, the TPLF dominated regime of Prime Minister Hailemariam will cede huge swathes of our ancestral lands to the Sudan without the consent of the Ethiopian people. This will occur despite more than 11 years of relentless protest from EBAC; and the vast majority of Ethiopian opposition groups. This is the reason why we call it treason. It is treason because it is unprecedented in the annals of Ethiopia’s long history.
In our considered view, this latest deal must be exposed and rejected by all Ethiopians at home and abroad. The consequences are far reaching and dangerous to the Ethiopian people.
Members of the EPRDF and Ethiopia’s Defense Forces must reject the deal because it affects Ethiopia’s national security interests. It is their responsibility to defend Ethiopia’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and national honor. No party or defense force with honor and dignity trades its own territory for money or political power. Members of Ethiopia’s Defense Forces must hold the TPLF leadership accountable for this latest treason against Ethiopia and against the Ethiopian people.
EBAC wishes to remind the global community that Ethiopians received this announcement with utter shock, resentment and anger. Neither the current generation of Ethiopians nor those of future generations will allow the deal to stand. The Mekele deal won’t be binding.
EBAC repeats its relentless pleas that hundreds of thousands of our people will be forced to lose their homes, farms and investments if the border deal is implemented without the participation and consent of the Ethiopian people.
EBAC believes that the lead responsibility to defend and preserve Ethiopia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty reside in the Ethiopian people. We have full confidence in the resolve and determination of the Ethiopian people to defend their country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
EBAC states unequivocally that the border deal of today hatched by the unelected TPLF and its allies in Ethiopia will be the ticking bomb of tomorrow. Since the TPLF has neither support in law nor received the consent of the Ethiopian people, it will fester as a major source of friction and tension between the brotherly peoples of Ethiopia and the Sudan.
EBAC notes that the Horn of Africa region does not need an additional source of insecurity and instability beyond those that already plague the region.
Accordingly, EBAC wishes to urge Ethiopians everywhere to make their voices heard as they have done repeatedly in the past.
We call on all opposition groups and the media to make their objections known.
EBAC urges Ethiopian academics and commentators to raise awareness concerning the dire consequences of the demarcation and the ceding of large swaths of Ethiopian lands to the Sudan.
EBAC calls on all Ethiopians to express their outrage at this treason by the TPLF through social media.
EBAC goes on record again and asserts its right to defend Ethiopia’s territorial sovereignty as defined by the 1902 treaty – and not by any other agreement that is reached behind the back of the Ethiopian people.
We go on record that we will not honor any boundary that results from the agreement of the TPLF led and dominated government that is devoid of any support or legitimacy among its own people.
Finally, EBAC goes on record that the current extremely narrowly- based regime of Ethiopia and the similarly discredited government of the Sudan are grasping at straws by using the border deal as a way of ensuring their political survival by a mutual exchange of promises foreswearing the use of their territories by organized movements seeking to overthrow their respective governments.
EBAC and its cohort of Ethiopian supporters will never compromise on Ethiopia’s territorial integrity, internationally recognized borders that have been defended by successive governments before the TPLF took power and the country’s long-term economic and security interests as well as national sovereignty.
Long Live Ethiopia