From Africa News Dimension, Feb. 15:
Around 10,000 Eritrean-Americans marched from the White House to the Department of State in Washington , DC to urge the U.S. government to ensure the enforcement of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission’s (EEBC) “final and binding” decision to demarcate the border between the two countries.
Carrying banners with the slogans “Demarcation Now!”, “The Rule of Law Must be Respected”, and “Eritrea wants Peace!”, these peace march participants reaffirmed the EEBC’s decision and role as the only just and legal option for peace and stability in the region. The participants passionately called on the U.S. government to uphold its legal and moral obligations as a witness and guarantor to the Algiers Peace Agreements, and make sure that Ethiopia abides by the EEBC’s ruling without further delay or precondition. In a tremendous display of unity, they also advocated for the implementation of the EEBC’s decision to avert further conflict in the Horn of Africa, a region of strategic importance to U.S. security and the global war against terrorism.
Eritrean-Americans of all ages, braved the weather and traveled from all over the East Coast, as well as the Midwest and West Coast, and were united in a spirit of enthusiasm and activism for this historic event. Eritrean-Canadians were also remarkably well-represented at the march. The youth in particular, helped to lead the masses in spirited chants and maintain the crowd’s soaring energy and morale.
Mr. O. Thomas Johnson, Counsel for the State of Eritrea before the EEBC, confirmed that Eritrea has only demanded that the rule of law be respected in the demarcation process and defended the immutable importance of the EEBC’s decision. In addition, Mr. Ron Phillips, f ormer Senior Policy Advisor and Professional Staff Member of the House Armed Services Committee declared his pride to be a part of the peace march and emphasized that the U.S. government has an obligation to ensure that the EEBC’s “final and binding ” decision is implemented. Representatives Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Jim Moran (D-VA) also submitted statements in support of the peace march and the importance of the EEBC’s “final and binding ” decision.
Ambassador Yamamoto was presented with 22,000 signatures of concerned Eritrean-Americans and Friends of Eritrea, as well as signatories from all over the world, adding their voices to the thousands who are calling on the U.S. government to ensure immediate enforcement of the EEBC’s ruling. Furthermore, d elegations of Eritrean-Americans also met with their respective Congressional representatives and their staff members to convey their concerns and demand that the U.S. government guarantee strict implementation of the EEBC’s decision to demarcate the border.
Eritrean-North Americans stood together and spoke with one voice, demonstrating their solidarity with Eritrea and commitment to take action to fight for its people and interests. The peace march was a beautiful exhibition of pride and fervor and all who participated, whether in person or in signature, must be commended.
The march comesas the United Nations has formally protested to Eritrea over the arrest of 13 local staff members employed to monitor the disputed border. Another 30 staff are in hiding, in fear of being detained as well.
Recently Eritrea has clamped down on UN operations, in retaliation for the failure to implement the border ruling by an independent commission which ended the 1997-2000 war with Ethiopia. Ethiopia has not withdrawn its troops from the disputed border town of Badme, which the commission awarded to Eritrea. Eritrea wants the international community to put more pressure on Ethiopia to comply with the ruling.
Last year, Eritrea banned UN helicopter flights and called for the expulsion of Western peacekeepers. Then in January, Eritrea’s President Isaias Afewerki refused to allow a team of US diplomats and army officials to visit the border area.
Talking about the weekend detentions, Eritrean Information Minister Ali Abdu said, “We will not allow Unmee to be a sanctuary for fugitives,” he said. (BBC, Feb. 15)
Eritrea says the UN workers detained were not arrested, but picked up for “national service.” Eritrea’s ambassador the United States, Girma Asmerom, told VOA the employees taken to serve in the army, or in a medical or agricultural capacity. (VOA, Feb. 16)
Speaking on the Eritrea-Ethiopia tensions, US assistant secretary of state for African affairs Jendayi Frazier told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle’s Newslink for Africa “both are in violation of implementing the Algiers agreement… Eritrea has violated by not allowing UNMEE [United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea] to carry out its work of observing the border, and Ethiopia has violated it by not allowing the demarcation to go forward.” (Eritrea Daily, New Jersey, Feb. 15)