The Eritrean Foreign Ministry on its October 18 letter sent to the chairperson of the African Union Commission, H.E. Dr. Jean Ping, urged Ethiopia from continuously violating IGAD’s rules and procedures. The letter also urges Ethiopia to respect Eritrea’s right of participation in any IGAD lead or sponsored meetings in the future.
This comes after Ethiopia unilaterally and illegally obstructed Eritrea by verbally abusing and threatening its envoy from attending IGAD’s 40th extraordinary session that was convened on the 24th of August 2011 in Addis Ababa contravening existing IGAD rules and procedures as well as Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Full content of the letter follows below including the original as an attachment.
Asmara, October 18, 2011
H.E. Dr. Jean Ping
Chairperson, African Union Commission
Allow me to avail of the occasion to extend to Your Excellency my warmest greetings and best wishes for the good health of Your person.
It is with utter disbelief that I have learned that Ethiopia has unilaterally and illegally obstructed Eritrea from attending IGAD’s 40th Extraordinary session that convened on 24 August 2011 in Addis Ababa. This diplomatic blunder, which contravened IGAD rules and procedures as well as Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, not only prevented our diplomat from performing his duties of representing his country; but also violated his person and was subjected to harassment at the hands of the Deputy Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, his security officers, and Sheraton Hotel guards.
I would like to bring to Your Excellency’s kind attention the following facts pertaining to the issues at hand.
It must first be established that if and when a point of order or rules and procedures are invoked by a member state in sub-regional, regional and international organizations: it is a standard practice for the Chair to solicit the opinion of the Legal Advisor. It is also the Chair’s mandate to allow the members of the organization to deliberate on the matter and to conclude the debate with a simple majority. IGAD, as a sub-regional organization, cannot and should not be an exception to these basic democratic procedures and practices.
Indeed, there are clearly spelt out methods and procedures to follow in the Agreement Establishing the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) signed in 1996 by the Heads of State and Government of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda.
It should also be established that the existing IGAD Charter and rules and procedures stipulate that:
• All members are sovereign and equal.
• No Member State has veto power or the right to prevent or block the participation of another Member State in any IGAD organized or sponsored meetings.
• There is no clause that delegates or empowers the Council or the Assembly of Heads of State and Government, to prevent a Member State from participating in any IGAD sponsored or organized meetings.
• The Chairperson and the Executive Secretary do not have the mandate to take unilateral decision or action.
• There is no article or clause that restricts a Member State from temporarily suspending or reactivating its membership.
It should further be established that the IGAD Charter is abundantly clear on membership rules and procedures. As Your Excellency, may be aware; out of the 24 Articles of the IGAD Charter, only two articles deal with the issue of membership. Namely,
Article 1 (A) states:
b) Membership shall be open only to African States in the sub-region which subscribe to the principles, aims, and objectives enshrined in the Agreement.
c) New members shall be admitted by a unanimous decision of the Assembly.
d) Application for membership shall be made by means of an official written request to the Assembly.
Article 22 states:
a) Any Member State wishing to withdraw from the Authority shall give to the Chairman of the Assembly one year’s written notice of its intention to withdraw; and at the end of such year shall, if such notice is not withdrawn, cease to be a Member State of the Authority.
b) During the period of one year referred to in the preceding paragraph, a Member State wishing to withdraw from the Authority shall nevertheless observe the provisions of this agreement and shall remain liable for the discharge of its obligations under this Agreement.
It is in view of this fact that Eritrea had officially informed in writing to all members of IGAD through its Executive Secretary, that it has suspended its membership effective from 21 April 2007. It is to be recalled that Eritrea was coerced into taking the decision to temporarily suspend her membership from IGAD in protest to numerous IGAD resolutions. The notable ones being those that sanctioned Ethiopia’s military invasion of Somalia, in outright violation of IGAD’s and UN Security Council resolutions that had inhibited military involvement of frontline or neighboring countries in Somalia.
It should be underlined that Eritrea is not a new member and is not applying for readmission, as it has not withdrawn from IGAD. Therefore, article 1 (A) and Art. 22 do not apply to Eritrea’s temporary suspension or reactivation of its membership. At this juncture, I must also mention, Your Excellency, that suspension of participation and withdrawal from an organization are two legally and substantially different concepts and actions.
It was out of this shared apprehension that Eritrea had not withdrawn but had only temporarily suspended its membership from IGAD. IGAD had never also ceased its engagement with Eritrea. It was out of this conviction that a year and five months after Eritrea’s temporary suspension of her membership that the 12th Summit of Heads of State and Government of IGAD, which gathered in Addis Ababa on 14 June 2008, had decided to send to a Ministerial Delegation to Eritrea.
I recall that as a result of this decision, a Delegation led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kenya Hon. Moses Wetangula and composed of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Sudan Hon. Deng Alor and the Executive Secretary of IGAD Eng. Mahboub Maalim visited Eritrea on the 14th and 15th August 2008.
I also recall quite definitely that the Delegation had an open and frank discussion with President of Eritrea, H.E. Isaias Afwerki. In this meeting the Delegation appealed to the President for Eritrea to reactivate its membership. As can be verified from IGAD’s own report and Press Release, dated 16 August 2008, Eritrea’s relationship and engagement with IGAD was never discontinued. IGAD’s Press release states that: “President Afwerki briefed the delegation on the reasons that led to Eritrea’s decision to suspend its membership in IGAD. He reiterated Eritrea’s continued commitment to the integration of the region. He emphasised the point that IGAD must be restructured so that it can be a strong vehicle for integration. He further reiterated Eritrea’s commitment to continue being engaged with IGAD. He thus designated Hon. Arefaine Berhe Minister of Agriculture of Eritrea, to be the focal person to deal with IGAD matters.”
According to IGAD’s report on the meeting with President Isaias, the Kenyan Foreign Minister, Hon. Moses Wetangula was also clear on Eritrea’s temporary suspension of its membership. The report states that “Minister Wetangula expressed to President Isaias that IGAD is not whole without Eritrea. The healing process has begun and he hoped that Eritrea will return back to the fold. He also observed that the suspension of Eritrea of its membership did not mean withdrawal.”
Based on the discussions and the understanding reached between the President of Eritrea and IGAD’s Ministerial Delegation, dialogue on the revitalization and consolidation of IGAD resumed between Eritrea and IGAD. Subsequently, numerous telephone and email communication took place between Eng. Mahboub Maalim, IGAD’s Executive Secretary and Eritrea’s Minister of Agriculture, H.E. Arefaine Berhe.
In recognition and appreciation of the consistent and frequent requests and appeals made by IGAD Ministerial Delegation, AU and International Development Partners such as EU; and in the spirit of reconciliation, peace and security and regional integration; as well as in recognition of the current economic and political dynamics of the world, Eritrea has finally decided to reactivate its membership to IGAD effective 25th July 2011.
Eritrea’s reactivation of its membership in IGAD is not only legitimate; it is also consistent with the current rules and procedures of IGAD. It is a positive decision that should be appreciated and commended by all peace-loving people and advocates of regional cooperation and integration. It is in this spirit and adhering to the current rules and procedures of IGAD, the Executive Secretary of IGAD, Eng. Mahboub Maalim on his communication of 28 July 2011, addressed to me, commended Eritrea’s reactivation decision as “Historic and Bold.” This should have sufficed as a confirmation to Eritrea’s automatic reactivation of its membership to the Authority, should there be any legal requirement for it after all.
At this juncture, it is important to give critical consideration that Ethiopia has been the Chair of IGAD for the last four years and that most of the Extraordinary Meetings of IGAD are held in Addis Ababa. This has given Ethiopia free hand to commit such unwarranted, deplorable and slanderous diplomatic acts against a Member State.
It should be recalled that Eritrea’s reactivation of its membership in IGAD should have been handled by the Member States of IGAD in accordance with the rules and procedures of the organization in the presence of Eritrea. It should never have been unilaterally handled by Ethiopia, the current Chair and host country, which used its security agents and Hotel guards to implement her slanderous political and diplomatic agenda of blocking Eritrea’s membership to IGAD.
The Deputy Foreign Minister of Ethiopia should never have gone to the Eritrean seat, and should never have requested the Eritrean diplomat to leave the meeting hall and should never have enlisted the security apparatus, which violated his person. The Deputy Minister’s actions violate Article 29 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which clearly states that “the host country has full responsibility to treat a diplomatic agent with due respect and to take appropriate steps to prevent any attack on his person, freedom or dignity.”
It must be understood that the flouting of the rules and procedures of IGAD as well as violations of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations by Ethiopia are motivated by her myopic political and diplomatic agenda that is meant to take advantage of Eritrea’s absence in IGAD meetings and deliberations. This belligerent act must be condemned by everybody unequivocally.
Therefore, in the spirit of defending and upholding AU’s regional economic integration vision and agenda and in order to maintain the integrity of our regional and continental organizations, I wish to seize this occasion for Your Excellency to urge the Government of Ethiopia to respect Eritrea’s right of participation in any IGAD lead or sponsored meetings without any precondition effective 25 July 2011.
Accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
Osman Saleh Mohammed
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Eritrea