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Book chapter Book chapter
Title:Law and Politics in the Ethiopian-Eritrean Border Dispute, 20022019
Author:Abbink, JonISNI
Book title:The 19982000 Eritrea-Ethiopia War and Its Aftermath in International Legal Perspective: From the 2000 Algiers Agreements to the 2018 Peace Agreement
Editors:de Guttry, Andrea
Post, Harry H.G.
Venturini, Gabriella
Geographic terms:Ethiopia
Subjects:boundary conflicts
Abstract:On 5 June 2018, the Ethiopian-Eritrean boundary dispute was officially brought to an end by the decision of the new Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announcing 'full compliance' with the 2002 Decision of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC). This concluded a 16-year period of disputation and stand-off in which little had happened, neither in terms of mutual agreement on the exact boundary line and its demarcation on the ground, nor in relaxing cross-border social and economic relations. The nature of the EEBC Decision, while a major new piece of international case law on boundary dispute arbitration, was chiefly responsible for the 16-year delay in its acceptance. This chapter examines some points of fact, interpretation and reasoning of the EEBC Decision (and the underlying 2000 Algiers Agreement's mandate), contending that it detached its legal interpretation from relevant political and historical realities providing the context of production of the alleged legal facts in 'colonial treaties' and politically motivated map-making. The EEBC did neither use the leeway of judicial discretion available to it in the resort to and use of 'applicable international law'. The acceptance in 2018 of the EEBC decision by the Ethiopian PM was not because of its legal persuasiveness but due to sound political expediency regarding the aim to restore relations with Eritrea and wider regional stability. Actual demarcation of the Ethio-Eritrean border in the light of normalised relations will facilitate the meeting of local practicalities and needs of human communities that the EEBC did not and could not take into account.