|WHO LOST ERITREA? From A "Model Relationship" To Mutual
15 December 2005
It must be a new low in relationships when a U.N. Secretary General "condemns" a member state while its leader
advises the Secretary General that his "good self" was not in a position to make judgment on moral standards.
A recent request by Eritrea to pull out certain U.N. troops alongside its borders with Ethiopia, along with a ban
on helicopter flights delivered a crippling blow to the Peacekeeping Mission, whose staffers have been doing their best while
the U.N. top echelon was lost in ponderosity.
A hurriedly visiting head of U.N. Peacekeeping Jean Marie Guehenno, was left cooling his heels two days in Asmara while
Eritreans indicated they were not ready to talk to him. Why did he go without adequate preparation? If it was to force the
Eritreans' hand, he was totally out of touch with reality. Eritreans are proud and tough fighters, not easily
intimidated by a lightweight diplomat parading as another special envoy. They are fed up of all those "envoys,"
expediently accommodated at their expense and on their behalf while, they are convinced, the Secretary General
continues to try confusing the issue of a binding decision on the demarcation line.
The Algeria Accord, singed by all, was not being implemented. The clear judgment for Eritrea on Badame was not
firmly followed. Instead, one envoy after another was appointed (deliberately, the Eritrean suspect) to avert pressing
Ethiopia to comply.
It may be that those who fought for thirty years against great odds are very sensitive to any perceived slight.
They may have felt since the beginning of their disagreement with Ethiopia that the current Secretary General
always tilted towards Addis Ababa, his first U.N. posting. They have no problem with Ethiopians around him or amongst
regular staff whose attitude have been exemplary. But they may point out to a political appointment earlier on of
someone who was a member of the Ethiopian Mangusta regime -- their deadly enemy -- as an adviser in the Secretary
General's office. Another political appointment of an adversary was duly noted. The multiplication of envoys and
what they felt was a backhanded treatment deepened their suspicion that the political deck at the 37th and 38th floors
of U.N. headquarters was stacked against them. A recent attempt to pressure them through an intended appointment of a
former U.S. Chief of Staff under President Clinton may have backfired.
It is a real shame that a promising relationship between the U.N. and Eritrea has soured that badly. The positive
U.N. role in the independence of that young dynamic country was so promising. In 1993, official reports by all
parties (including the Ethiopian government) described the U.N. role "as a model for such future endeavours elsewhere."
That official report added: "Both sides shared the goodwill and the determination to create a working relationship
which could foster close cooperation between them. The salubrious working environment that they created and the
good, official and personal, relationships that they succeeded to create facilitated formal and informal
consultations and agreement on all major issues."
That's a long way from the mistrust and tension of today.
Does it matter?
It does indeed.
For after all those colourful bubbles of mini-proposals on reform or civilization alliances burst, what shall remain
is what we have done to maintain our credibility and promote the human dignity of peoples who once trusted in us.
And Eritrea is just one clear example.