Global Policy Forum

Ethiopia-Eritrea Agreement Major Achievement

CNN Online / Associated Press
July 14, 1999

Algiers, Algeria - African leaders on Wednesday unanimously adopted a plan to bring an end to the bloody 14-month border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, calling it one of the major achievements of their last summit of the century.

But Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki told reporters nothing had changed and that Ethiopia was still blocking the route to peace.

"We do consider that this (agreement) is one of the achievements of the Algiers summit," Salim A. Salim, secretary-general of the Organization of African Unity told a news conference. He said he could not speak for the leaders of Eritrea or Ethiopia but insisted that progress was underway in ending the conflict over the 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) border. "We are on the way forward, but that does not in any way mean that our problems are over," he said.

Details were sketchy on how the Algiers framework agreement differed from one adopted a year ago at a summit in Burkina Faso. But diplomats and observers suggested that with Algeria as the new OAU chairman, diplomatic efforts would be more effective. Salim said Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika would lead the mediation, "either alone or with others."

The 11-point proposal adopted last year requires, among other things, that Eritrea withdraw its forces from the Badme area they occupied in May 1998. Efforts have failed to resolve the conflict because the two countries have not been able to agree on implementation of the agreement.

The summit also adopted a convention on the prevention and combating of terrorism and called on member states to sign it and the United Nations to convene an international conference.

The Algiers Declaration issued at the conclusion of the three-day meeting also called on the UN Security Council to immediately and finally lift all sanctions against Libya imposed after the bombing of a U.S. airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988.

The summit also agreed to ban governments that take power by force from attending future gatherings until they accept democratic reforms.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, speaking at the last day of the summit, mentioned Niger, Guinea-Bissau and the Comoros, whose leaders had staged coups in the last year. "We have decided last night that the governments coming to power by military force will not be allowed into the next summit," Mbeki said. "In the meantime, we will be working with them to return them to democratic society."

Bouteflika said a special OAU summit will convene in Libya from Sept. 6-9, to look at how to deal with renegade governments, as well as address the restructuring of the organization to help it prevent future conflicts. The OAU wants to be able to deploy an African force quickly to help resolve disputes.

It wasn't immediately clear what criteria would be used to determine which leaders would be banned or how far they must go toward restoring civilian rule. Many countries in Africa have military-backed leaders. Mbeki said those questions would be discussed in Libya. Zambian President Frederick Chiluba wanted the three African coup leaders banned immediately from any future forums and gatherings on the continent, but Mbeki insisted on working with them first to make sure they restore civilian governments or take steps toward it, diplomats said.

Mbeki also expressed hope for a partial peace agreement for Congo -- yet to be signed by the Congolese rebels trying to oust President Laurent Kabila -- despite the continuing fighting on the ground. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan met with Kabila and his allies from Zimbabwe and Namibia on Tuesday to discuss the role and size of a possible peacekeeping mission to Congo, Africa's third-largest nation.

Although the six nations involved in the 11-month Congo war signed a peace agreement last week, rebels who rose up against Kabila a year ago refused to sign because of internal squabbles. Rwanda and Uganda back the Congolese rebels, accusing Kabila, whom they put in power in May 1997, of failing to protect their borders from insurgents who attack them from bases in eastern Congo.

Kabila and his allies were reportedly pressing Annan to push for a speedy UN Security Council resolution authorizing the deployment of a large UN-backed peacekeeping contingent. Annan's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, said the secretary-general was reluctant to recommend a peacekeeping mission before the rebels sign the agreement.

More Information on Eritrea and Ethiopia


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