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The Issue of the Irobland

HIS EXCELLENCY MR. JEAN-ROBERT GOULONGANA
Secretary-General

Africa Caribbean & the Pacific – European Union
Group of States, Joint Parliamentary Assembly
Avenue Georges Henri, 451

B-1200 Brussels, Belgium

FAX: (32) 2 735 55 73

E-mail: sg@acpsec.org

VIA FACSIMILE, POSTAGE, AND EMAIL

May 1, 2003

Subject: Petition L-43/2002 (The Issue of Irobland)

Your Excellency,

I have received the European Parliament, Committee of Petitions, letter dated 1 April 2003 informing me that the petition filed on behalf of the people of Irob has been duly referred to the Africa Caribbean & Pacific Group of States-European Union Joint Parliamentary Assembly for consideration. This letter attaches both the Irob Community’s petition (Cry for Justice), to which I was a signatory and the letter of Mr. Nino Gemelli, Chairman of the Committee on Petitions. The Chairman has stated in his letter that the “Committee on Petitions considered your petition during its last meeting and declared the issues which you raise therein admissible in accordance with the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament, insofar as the subject matter falls within the sphere of activities within the European Union.”

More than two years after Ethiopia and Eritrea fought one of the bloodiest wars in modern history, and despite the Algiers Agreement and the establishment of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission in the Hague, the question of the boundary is as tenuous as ever. Despite various decisions by the Hague court, the two countries are today as deeply divided over the boundary as they were on the eve of war in May 1998. Sadly, the Boundary Commission has been utterly incompetent in its ability to not only provide a just and fair decision regarding the boundary but to bring about peace and reconciliation between the two nations.

Even more excruciating to the people of Irob is the Boundary Commission’s careless dissection and placement of significant towns, villages, and hamlets of Irobland within Eritrea. The people of Irob choose today, as they have chosen for hundreds of years, to remain undivided, as citizens of Ethiopia. To deny them this basic choice would be a fundamental infringement of their human rights and a heavy miscarriage of justice.

Immediately following the Boundary Commission’s decision on April 13, 2002, the people of Irob in Ethiopia and in the Diaspora rejected this unfair decision. In fact, the people of Irob had petitioned the Boundary Commission before it issued its fateful and flawed decision. However, despite their complete and vocal rejection of this decision that would dissect the people of Irob under two different nationalities, the people of Irob still attempted through various communications, statements, and appeals to have their voice heard by the Boundary Commission. But they received a deaf ear. To add salt to injury, on March 21, 2003, the Boundary Commission wrote its “Observations” (the document is available at http://www.pca-cpa.org/PDF/Obs.EEBC.pdf). The Boundary Commission’s statements in this most insulting document are proof positive to the people of Irob that their fate can in no way be irreversibly decided by this Commission. The people of Irob have therefore no other option but to appeal to other parties, including the European Union, to intervene in this burning issue of Irobland. The people of Irob need not remind the European Union, and this body, of its commitment and respect for human rights and the rule of law.

The Irob Community has come to the conclusion that the Boundary Commission is not able to dispense fairness and justice. It is incapable of doing so. It is incapable of doing so because it has proved that it has not been able to:

(1) Understand that Irobland has historical pre-existence before the creation of the entity called Eritrea by Italy in the 19th century. Irobland has never been part of Eritrea or administered by Eritrea, or by its colonizer, Italy. The entire region of Irob, undivided, remained in Ethiopia after Italy was ejected from Ethiopia and Eritrea. Irobland, undivided, remained in Ethiopia during the British administration of Eritrea. Undivided Irobland remained part of Ethiopia until April 13, 2002, five Boundary Commissioners, who did not even visit the area, decided to partition it for the sake of political compromise.

(2) Understand that the people of Irob endured extreme suffering under the invading Eritrean army for two years (1998-2000) when Eritrea made its territorial claim. Irobs were subjected to some of the worst violations of human rights. Some Irobs lost their lives and their limbs by landmines viciously planted by the Eritrean troops. Others were uprooted from their homes, suffered malnutrition and disease, and all of this, under the eyes of the international community. The international community utterly failed to address their suffering under the hands of Eritreans. To award over one third of Irobland to a government that sent its troops who raped women, randomly pillaged hamlets and villages, that did not even exercise restraint from abducting Irobs in the middle of the night, from their homes, including members of the clergy and women religious, would truly be one of the cynical acts of this century.

(3) Understand that its verdict cannot bring about a lasting and a peaceful solution for the peoples of Ethiopia and Eritrea; it is rather designed to cause and pass on for generations of Ethiopians and Eritreans, anger, resentment, vengefulness, rancor and extreme bitterness that can only lead to conflict and bloodshed for generations to come. As we all know, violence and revenge are cyclical.

(4) Understand that being so arrogantly unconcerned and irresponsive to the persistent demands and appeals of the people of Irob to remain in Ethiopia makes the Commission look like it is afraid of the truth. How can the Commissioners not be concerned about the fact that they look so unfair and biased? The people of Irob have written in the past that admitting an error and correcting it, is truly an act of God.

(5) Understand that the land of Irob, which is viewed by the people of Irob and other Ethiopians as being equally as important as the symbolic and disputed town of Badme and its environs, must be a force to be reckoned with. Not understanding the highly negative impact of a decision on an entire ethnic group shows complete lack of interest in the daily affairs of human beings for whom all the laws of human rights are written in the first place!

How can the Joint Parliamentary Assembly simply observe this from the sidelines? How can this body, that was founded on the sacred principles of the respect and protection of human rights ignore this outcry?

I am aware of the fact that both Ethiopia and Eritrea are members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific-European Union Group of States. Having read the Partnership Agreement of between the member states and the Rules of Procedure of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, I feel obligated, as an Irob native, to remind the two nations and this respected Joint Parliamentary Assembly – whose role is stated as “a substantial part of the work of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly is directed towards promoting human rights and democracy and the common values of humanity” – of their obligation to respect and defend the human rights of the people of Irob located on the disputed border of Ethiopia and Eritrea. I urge and challenge the Assembly to carefully reflect and positively consider the humanitarian and social justices issues affecting the people of Irob particularly according to the Article 9 of the Resolution, (www.acpsec.org/gb/cotonue/accord1.htm) which declares:

The Parties refer to their international obligations and commitments concerning respect for human rights. They reiterate their deep attachment to human dignity and human rights, which are legitimate aspirations of individuals and peoples. Human rights are universal, indivisible and inter-related. The Parties undertake to promote and protect all fundamental freedoms and human rights, be they civil and political, or economic, social and cultural…(n.2).

I also remind the Parliament that it is “a democratic, parliamentary institution which aims to promote and defend democratic processes in order to guarantee the right of each people to choose its own development objectives and how to attain them.” (www.europarl.eu.int/intcoop/acp/20_01/default_en.htm)

I am confident that the Joint Parliamentary Assembly will not be a mere spectator in this unfolding tragedy. I urge this body to at least send a delegation to the land of Irob and see for itself, these people who passionately consider themselves Ethiopians, who are about to be forced into unwanted citizenship, or who are about to be uprooted from the land of their ancestors. The people of Irobland, regardless whether they live in Adgadi-Are (or Enda-Algeda), Bocnaiti-Are (or Enda-Bocnaito) and Hassaballa are only interested in living in peace, raising their children, to thrive, and to be ultimately laid to rest in their country of birth, Ethiopia. The innocent and voiceless people of Irob, are gazing towards you with their eyes full of hope. Give them the merit they deserve as human beings by acknowledging and considering promptly their plea.

Awaiting justice for the people of Irob,

Reverend Abba Tesfamariam Baraki
An Irob-Ethiopian-American Citizen

Washington, D.C., USA

May 1, 2003

CC:

(1) Dr. Pa’o Luteru, Assistant Secretary-General,

Political Affairs and Human Development Department

pao@acpsec.org

(VIA E-MAIL)

(2) Mrs. Natallie Corrie-Kordas, Expert,

Humanitarian Matters & Civil Society

dnatallie@acpsec.org

(VIA E-MAIL)

(3) The European Parliament

Brussels, Belgium

FAX: (32-2) 284 69 74 or (32-2) 230 69 33

(VIA FAX)

(4) PRESS RELEASE

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