Ethiopia Fails to Withdraw From Badme: HRW

Ethiopia has not withdrawn from Badme, the village that triggered the 1998 war with its neighbor, Eritrea, Human Rights Watch says. Despite the 2018 rapprochement between Eritrea and Ethiopia, the disputed border has not been demarcated, said HRW, in its latest report about the human right status Eritrea.

Eritrean opposition groups that are in exile have been voicing their concerns over the demarcation of the border, which was expected to be executed after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD), pledged that his government would adhere to the terms of the Algiers Agreement.

The Algiers Agreement, signed in 2000, followed a lengthy and bloody border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea that has resulted in the death of more than 100,000 from both sides. When the war ended, a boundary commission spent several years delimiting a border between the two countries. Their decision reflected the two countries’ respective claims, along with colonial-era maps from the early 1900s.

The international community also backed the ruling, finalized in 2002, and both sides agreed to a U.N. boundary commission’s terms, although Ethiopia prevented the demarcation of the border later. However, even though demarcation of the border and the handover of the disputed Badme town to Eritrea would be executed after the rapprochement between the two countries last year, these are yet to be implemented.

Yet, Sophia Tesfamariam, Permanent Representative of the State of Eritrea to the United Nations in New York, in February 2019, suggested that virtual demarcation, using coordinates on maps, as opposed to putting physical monuments/pillars, is the most advanced modern technique used in demarcating land & sea borders.  No official and unofficial explanation, however, had been given if the two countries may be about to carry out border demarcation ‘virtually’ rather than using the traditional practice of planting concrete posts along the border.

Meanwhile, Eritrea’s tensions with Djibouti remain unresolved because Djibouti claims that Eritrea has not accounted for prisoners of war captured in a 2008 border dispute, HRW said. Eritrea has been led by President Isaias Afewerki since its independence from Ethiopia three decades ago. For long, Isaias used the absence of peace with Ethiopia to justify authoritarianism.

The July 2018 peace agreement between the two countries, which ended Eritrea’s diplomatic isolation, have not, as hoped, ushered in an era of respect for human rights in one of the world’s most repressive nations, according to HRW.  The government continued to conscript Eritreans indefinitely into the military or civil service for low pay, with no say in their profession or work location, and often under abusive conditions, the same source says.

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