Since the Eritrean invasion of the region, the continuity of the Irob people as an undivided entity in the Ethiopian setting is being threatened. This danger overtly started in 1998 when the Eritrean Armed Forces invaded and occupied part of the Irobland and some other Ethiopian territories.
Understanding the consequence of the occupation, the Irob people had gallantly resisted the invading Eritrean forces that were equipped with tanks and artilleries. The Irob militia had heroically fought for days on the battlefields of Aiga, Maychia, Makata and other localities defending its homeland. Initially, the militia managed to repel the invading forces. But, due to a lack of any backing from the Ethiopian government, the invading Eritrean forces eventually succeeded in occupying most of the region. They stationed in Irobland for two long years and engaged themselves in destructive acts. In those two years, rape, desecration of holy sites, abduction of citizens, destruction of all sorts of development plans, demolishing schools, extrajudicial killings, deforestation, expropriating private and public domains, etc. were the daily routines of the invading force. Citizens were abandoned and left on their own without any internal or external assistance. They were forced to live in caves and bushes. The communities’ social fabrics were intentionally dismantled. The losses and destruction witnessed in the whole war zone are enumerable and the extent of damage done is incalculable. The only journalist, a VOA reporter, who coincidentally happened to be in the area at the time, was ordered by the Ethiopian authorities not to report on the events. The Ethiopian people and the world community at large were unaware of the heinous crimes perpetrated by the invading Eritrean forces. Because the invaders had purposely blocked the area from journalists and other potential witnesses. At the time, the Ethiopian government did not do anything to rescue its citizens who were kept captive.
THE CONFLICT RESOLUTION ATTEMPT
At the initial stage of the conflict, the US and Rwanda had presented a peace plan to both Ethiopia and Eritrea to help avoid further escalation of the conflict. Unfortunately, the proposal which would have saved many lives, properties and the environment was instantly rejected by the Eritrean regime. Although the initial peace proposal failed, the then OAU continued with the endeavor of the peaceful resolution of the conflict and came up with a framework agreement and the modalities for its implementation. The fate of this proposal was no different than the previous one as it was again rejected by Eritrea. Ethiopia had no option left but to evict the invader from its territories by force.
Hence, after two years of preparation, the gallant Ethiopian defense forces waged a war on all fronts against the occupying army and in no time the enemy started fleeing in total disarray. Within less than 12 days, the enemy army was not only evicted from the Ethiopian territories, but was driven to the gates of Asmara, the capital of Eritrea. The regime in Eritrea was encircled by the Ethiopian armed forces and it was on the verge of total collapse. The military victory was not without cost. Although no official data is available, the sacrifices sustained by both sides are immense.
However, for reasons still unknown to the Ethiopian public, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia at the time, the late Mr. Meles Zenawi, suddenly declared a unilateral cease fire and told the Ethiopian armed forces to withdraw from the strategic posts they occupied deep in Eritrea. Thus, the advance of the Ethiopian armed forces had been halted and the regime in Asmara was saved. Not only was it saved, but it was also allowed to be a party on equal footing to sign the so-called “Framework Agreement and the modalities for its Implementation” in Algiers. Through this shameful agreement, the invader was made a winner of the cause it lost on the battlefield.
The Algiers agreement and the Eritrea-Ethiopia Border Commission's (EEBC) decision of The Hague endangers Irob minority. According to the Eritrea-Ethiopia Border Commission (EEBC) delimitation coordinates, 1/3 of Irob land is ceded to Eritrea. There is no time in history that these areas were under the administration of the political entity now known as Eritrea, be it pre-colonial times, during colonial administration of the entity, or after. These areas being ceded are the most fertile areas of the Irob-land and densely populated. A little less than half of the Irob population resides in these areas.
The following localities of Irob, relatively highly populated villages, were ceded to Eritrea by EEBC established by the Algiers Agreement: Aburta, Adaagena, Ad‘daga, Adogabo, Ado-Nago, Aftih, Angara, Awda, Ayeeha, Dadoh, Da(t)‘ggarab, Dalawot, Denay, Enguraele, Gaabihar, Gafanat, Garassa, Haahayti, Haidile, Hambokale, Herra, Hido, Kaarima, Kafna, Karankar, Koora, Madaba, Maera, Makata, Mariyayto, Massidage, Maytsia, Miblaehakale, Mugullay, Sabatit, Serekle, Yunga, etc. from northern Irob and many fertile villages such as Agarali-Boho, Araato, Dire, Islamto‘da, Karedha, Kerensasa, Koora, Quololmishela, Tinkeito, Wankabo, etc. from western Irob have been awarded to Eritrea as well. Please read "Some Facts About Irob People", Suba Hais, 1998 article for more details.
Ceding a large part of the Irob territory to Eritrea means letting the Irob people wither out. To allow the division of this small minority between two nations amounts to denying it the right to preserve its identity and deciding on its termination altogether. Therefore, it is an irresponsible act which violated also 1992 UN Declaration on Minority Rights and should not be tolerated by any standards. Irobs deserve to remain Ethiopians and undivided as they have been for centuries. The Irobs are proud Ethiopian citizens by birth and by choice and there should not be a power that disposes them from their citizenship rights. To the contrary, they need a government that can help them protect their choices and rights.
IAA’S PLAN REGARDING THE BORDER
IAA is gravely concerned about the compounded problems stemming from the Algiers agreement. It is carefully following every development around the border decision, which will determine the survival of the Irob-community. IAA is also concerned that the historic records, collected from Irob individuals and organizations by the government as evidence during the border dispute, were not returned to the rightful owners. Therefore, IAA is prioritizing the following action items under this project:
- Avert the threat of Algiers Agreement that would divide Irob minority between two countries. IAA shall do whatever it entails to preserve the Irob minority’s indivisibility, because that is a matter of survival as a community. IAA will deploy all available advocacy tools, including legal avenues, if necessary, to annul the disastrous EEBC decision.
- Keep the Irob community and the global public in the loop about major developments on border matters and mobilize their support.
- Work with the Ethiopian authorities and international organizations to ensure the outcome of the border decision is just and fair.
- Do all in its powers, including legal means, to return the lost public and government records.