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Open Letters

Bishop of Adigrat on Border Ruling

By Abune Tesfasellasie Medhin

August 26, 2003

H.E. Mr. Kofi Annan
The United Nations
1 United Nations Plaza, Room S/3800
New York. N.Y. 10017
The U.S.A.

May the grace and peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. As the Catholic Bishop of the Eparchy (Diocese) of Adigrat, Tigray, I wish to state that the territorial jurisdiction covers the whole of the Tigray State. During the recent hostilities between Eritrea and Ethiopia, the people on both sides of the border suffered untold hardships. Within my jurisdiction alone over 300,000 were displaced: their homes were destroyed; their cattle ran wild; their lands remained uncultivated; schools, clinics, and churches were looted, either severely damaged or totally destroyed. Zalambessa, for instance, was systematically bulldozed. Together we are still living with the dire consequences of that conflict, and in Zalambessa alone the Catholic Church lost 8 institutions.

When hostilities ceased and a Border Commission established all the people held high hopes that a secure, stable peace, based on justice would ensue for the people on both sides. To date, however, the information at hand seriously jeopardizes those hopes. Without prior consultation on the spot, arbitrary proposals are being presented that are highly injurious to security, stability and, therefore, a lasting peace. What is the logic that violates and sweeps aside the historical, legitimate rights of people? Without a settlement based on justice, the possibility of future dangers cannot be dismissed as arising from vague fears.

Several of the proposed areas of demarcation along the border flagrantly violate their historical and legitimate rights. Justice, therefore, would seem to have been relegated to oblivion. It is totally inconceivable, otherwise, that their social identity, economic, cultural, educational, religious and health services’ infrastructures should be axed. In this regard to have access to Zalambessa from the east, the region surrounding Alitiena, the people would be obliged to cross the border four or even five times. Without making a very long detour on foot there is no alternative market where they might sell produce or buy commodities. To understand, therefore, the catastrophic economic and social consequences do not call for any stretch of the imagination. They would be deprived of vital services and for which alternatives simply do not exist. For the Border Commission to suggest such draconian measures is the surest way to plant mines that could detonate in the future. With seemingly little regard for the prospects of enhancing the people’s quality of life, the suggested proposals in this regard are simply counterproductive.

To be explicit but not exclusive I am referring to areas around Endalgeda, Zalambessa – Alitiena line of accessibility, Badme, and Sheraro, etc. In some cases, flagrant cartographic mistakes, dating back almost 100 years, even though they were admitted at the time, would receive the sanction of international law, if these suggested demarcations should be enacted.

Parishes belonging to this ecclesiastical jurisdiction, the Eparchy of Adigrat, which were founded from here over 100 years ago and whose national status has never been questioned nor doubted, would be sliced off. This represents a totally arbitrary and undemocratic proposal by the Border Commission, as not once has either members of the Commission or their delegates taken the slightest trouble or shown the slightest interest in consulting those who would be so adversely affected.

As a Bishop I have at heart the well being of all the people, irrespective of their religious affiliations, living within this territorial jurisdiction. If I failed to speak out in the cause of justice and peace, I would be guilty of a grave dereliction of duty. Previously, the people living on both sides of the border in the areas I have mentioned have lived in peace. Now, why should their social harmony and mutually respected national identities be jeopardized without any prior consultation of the peoples affected on both sides?

Trusting that those who carry the awesome responsibility for implementing justice and peace may give my voice and that of the concerned millions their sympathetic and constructive consideration.

May God bless you and enlighten you with the spirit of lasting peace.

Abune Tesfaselassie Medhin
Bishop of Adigrat
This letter is sent also to  – The Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission, the Hague, Netherlands.
– President of the UN Security Council, Mexico Mission to the United Nations.
– Ambassador L.J.Legwaila, SRGS (UNMEE), Asmara
– H.E. Alpha Oumar Konare, Head – African Union – Addis Abeba
– Mr. Yves Gazzo, Head – Delegation of the European Commission in Ethiopia, Addis Abeba
– Mr. John D. Negropponte, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, New York.
– The Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the UN, New York.
– The Permanent Mission of the People’s republic of China to the UN, N.Y.
– Ambassador S.E.M.Jean-David Levitte, Delegation of France to the UN Security Council, New York.
– The U.K. Mission to the United Nations,, New York.
Copy to: – H.E. Seyoum Mesfin, Foreign Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Addis Abeba.
– H.E. Tsegay Berhe, President of the Regional State of Tigray, Mekelle.
– His Grace Abune Berhaneyesus D.Suraphieel, Metropolitan Archbishop of Addis Abeba & President of Ethiopia-Eritrea Episcopal Conference.
– Vatican Embassy – Addis Abeba


Open Letter to the UN Security Council Regarding the Current Impasse between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and the Irob-Case-for-Peace

By The Rev. Abba Tesfamariam Baraki
(Irob Community in North America)

January 19, 2004

Given the Security Council’s statement of January 7, 2004, regarding the so-called “peace process” between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the Irob Community is yet again forced to write this appeal letter to the United Nations Security Council on behalf of the people of Irob. Our letter is public to make sure that the position of the people of Irob is known to the entire world, as well as to the governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea.

As the Security Council knows, the people of Irob are one of the people who are directly affected by the Boundary Commission’s decision. Almost two years ago, the Boundary Commission decided, in a reckless and incompetent attempt at political compromise, to divide the people of Irob into two nations. In a move that only resembles the tragic division of the African continent between the European powers at the Berlin Conference (1884-1885), the Boundary Commission, without heed to the civil, political and human rights of the ancient and proud people of Irob, sliced an entire region of Northern (Endalgeda) and part of Western Irobland and gave the land and its people to Eritrea.

The international community, especially the United Nations under whose auspices the demarcation of the boundary between Ethiopia and Eritrea, by agreement of the parties, is supposed to take place, must be absolutely clear that any boundary resolution that does not include and directly address the wish of the people of Irob, and the land on which they reside, to remain Ethiopian, is a totally unacceptable situation.

Members of the Security Council, it is an understatement to tell you that our people, the ancient people of Irob, are one of the proudest Ethiopians in that nation of almost 70 million inhabitants. The people of Irob, and the land on which they reside, have been Ethiopian even before Italy set foot in the Horn of Africa, let alone the creation of the state of Eritrea. Consequently, the Irobland was neither colonized nor administered by Italy during or after the colonization of Eritrea. The Boundary Commission’s decision is without a doubt one of the cruelest acts committed in our lifetime. We have heard the words casus belli used to describe Badme, but truly, we are convinced that the casus pacis lies in the hills and valleys of our beloved Irobland and its inhabitants who passionately want to remain Ethiopian as ever.

The people of Irob have appealed their case to the international community in the days and months immediately following the Eritrean army’s invasion of Irobland in late May 1998. Our immediate concern after the invasion was the protection of the human rights of the men, women, and children of Irob, who were victims of horrible crimes under the hands of the Eritrean invaders. After the two governments signed the Algiers Agreement, we, again and again, appealed to the international community, including the Boundary Commission, to ensure the immediate release of abducted Irobs by the Eritrean army, the territorial integrity of Irob and the wish of the people of Irob to remain Ethiopian. Today, almost two years after the Boundary Commission’s decision, the people of Irob are as unclear about their abducted citizens as they are about their geopolitical future.

The people of Irob cannot reiterate enough their absolute rejection of war and violence and only seek the authority of this body to put this time of deception, madness, and arrogance behind them. After all, Irobs know first hand the horrors that come with war. The people of Irob, therefore, urge the UN Security Council to first and foremost seek to understand the evils that are certain to come with the implementation of the Boundary Commission’s decision. Just by blindly pressuring Ethiopia to accept and abide by the terribly flawed decision will not bring about genuine peace between the two countries. As Irob natives, we strongly believe that, unless the issues regarding the people and their ancestral land adversely affected are seriously and humanely addressed, the breakthrough on the current political impasse between the two countries will remain an elusive and impossible dream.

Any attempt to seek a negotiator between Ethiopia and Eritrea in order to facilitate a constructive dialogue is seen by us as an important event that may ultimately affect our people directly and, hopefully, positively. It remains, however, to be seen whether the two countries will decide to open an honest dialogue with each other. We, the people of Irob, who have been victims of unspeakable crimes in the hands of the Eritrean army, appeal to the Security Council to do your utmost to silence the disastrous drumbeats of war from the recent past that haunt our people every day.

If the Security Council is genuinely interested in seeing a resolution to the current impasse as well as lasting peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea, then it must understand that there can simply be no such resolution without a peace-package that does not include and directly involve the people of Irob and other similarly affected peoples in the border areas.

On behalf of the Irob Community of North America:
Respectfully Submitted by
The Reverend Abba Tesfamariam Baraki

CC: Secretary-General Kofi Annan, United Nations
African Unity
The European Union
President George W. Bush
Prime Minister Tony Blair


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