Following the search for peace, justice and civility in North-East Africa, an international tribunal at The Hague has demanded that both Ethiopia and Eritrea pay each other reparations for damages due to the 1989-2000 border war. Eritrea is to pay $10 million more to Ethiopia.
The Claims Commission, gave a monetary value to the damage suffered by both countries and the government of Eritrea has accepted the ruling of the tribunal and will freely pay compensation for villages destroyed, businesses and goods lost during the bloody conflict. However, Ethiopian demand for $1 billion of environmental damage was dismissed.
Ethiopia was awarded $174m, while Eritrea got $164m but Africa analyst, Martin Plaut, believes that the money, like the rest of the internationally supported peace process, will settle very little; the border between the two countries is still in dispute and tens of thousands of troops remain entrenched along the border, over its mountains and deserts.
When Eritrea gained independence in 1993 following a referendum, a poor border demarcation developed into military conflict and full-scale war in the late 1990s in which tens of thousands of people were killed until a fragile peace was achieved by the United Nations. According to Don Pickard, the chief legal adviser to Ethiopia, the amount did not reflect the level of damage suffered by Ethiopia during the war.
Eritrea enjoys a fragile peace and it faces the tasks of rebuilding its infrastructure and developing its economy after more than 30 years of fighting. The country is reported to exist on loans and the earnings of the diaspora and the government has been accused of repression and hindering the development of democracy. Ethiopia on the other hand has been plagued with devastating drought besides its border conflict with Eritrea.
The Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission was established and operates pursuant to Article 5 of the “December Agreement”: An agreement signed in Algiers on December 12, 2000 between the Governments of the State of Eritrea and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.
The Commission is directed to “decide through binding arbitration all claims for loss, damage or injury by one Government against the other, and by nationals (including both natural and juridical persons) of one party against the Government of the other party or entities owned or controlled by the other party that are related to the conflict that was the subject of the Framework Agreement, the Modalities for its Implementation and the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, and result from violations of international humanitarian law, including the 1949 Geneva Conventions, or other violations of international law.”
Ethiopia not satisfied
Meanwhile, Ethiopia has revealed its discontent over the compensation award given by the Hague-based Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission saying the award given to Ethiopia is too small compared with the grave crime of Eritrea.
This is a very small amount given the gravity of the crime of aggression committed by Eritrea as determined by the Commission itself, said Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on a press statement released on August 18, 2009.
“The amount of compensation, totally incommensurate with Eritrea’s offences, does not detract from the fact that Eritrea’s brutal actions in flagrant violation of international law has again come to light as the United Nations Security Council considers sanction against Eritrea for acts of destabilization in the Horn of Africa” said the ministry.
The Ethiopian government is dissatisfied with the commission’s ruling, after they (the commission) found out that Eritrea was the offender and had dragged Ethiopia into the grave war said the ministry. It also said, Ethiopia will further study the details of the final award and measures that could be taken to ensure what is owed to Ethiopia by Eritrea is settled.
Conversely, Eritrea welcomed the decision without complaint.
It is estimated that over 700,000 peoples died during the 1998-2000 border conflict between the two countries. Though the UN Security Council delineated the disputed boarder, the actual demarcation is not implemented up until now due to Ethiopia’s rejection.