Defining Eritrea's 'Ill-Defined' Border

I am writing in response to the article "At the Root of an Odd African War: Money" (June 22), about the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia. I was very disturbed to find many factual errors.

The article reports the two countries had been "haggling over their ill-defined border since Eritrea was given independence from Ethiopia in 1993." This border happens to be one of the most clearly demarcated borders in Africa. There were three treaties signed in 1900, 1902, and 1906 between Italy, Ethiopia, and France that clearly point out the borders. These borders remained unchanged even after Eritrea was forcibly annexed to Ethiopia. That is to say, for over 90 years there has been a very clear definition of where Ethiopian land ends and where the Eritrean territory begins. I would hardly call that "ill-defined".

It also says, "The Italian Embassy in Asmara volunteered to dig out every map drawn during Italy's occupation of Eritrea from 1890 to 1952, but, according to an Embassy official who asked that his name not be used, neither of the two parties expressed much interest." I don't know about the interest of Ethiopian officials in these maps but I can tell you that Eritrean President Issaias Afewerki used the very same colonial maps when he addressed his country on television on May 14, 1998. He said, "We, Eritrea and Ethiopia, did not demarcate the border on our own. It was there already. But what is astounding is the fact that the border in question is demarcated by a straight line and gives no room for confusion. This may confuse local people but should not baffle government authorities."

The article also alleges that "from interviews with diplomats and analysts in both capitals are the outlines of a conflict engineered by Eritrea largely for economic reasons." How can the conflict be "engineered" when it is so clearly a matter of one country invading the territory of the other? Ethiopia, along with many African countries signed the 1963 Organization of African Unity treaty that upheld the validity of colonial maps and the present government has taken upon itself to to decide what colonial borders are worth observing and what are to be disregarded.

I have read and enjoyed the Monitor for many years and hence was reasonably irritated to see such unfounded facts for an article in an otherwise exceptional newspaper.

Sewit Tekeste


Independence for Kosovo

Your editorial "Kosovo: Words vs. Action" (June 22), touches on some good points but it cripples on a major point. Your editorial states that granting autonomy for Albanians of Kosovo could resolve the crisis. No! Autonomy is not the solution to the problem of Kosovo. It will only prolong the genocide for ethnic Albanians. Nothing indicates the Kosovars should be tied to the Serbs. The Kosovars are Albanians; the Serbs are Slavs. The Kosovars speak Albanian, and the Serbs Slavic. The Kosovars use the Latin alphabet, and the Serbs the Cyrillic. The Kosovars are overwhelmingly Muslim, the Serbs Orthodox. The Kosovars are autochthonous; the Serbs are invaders in the Balkan peninsula. The Kosovars have the Albanian culture, unlike Serbs.

A right solution to the crisis in Kosovo is the separation and independence from Serbia. Independence for the Albanians of Kosovo may help reduce inter-ethnic antagonism, cleansing may disappear, and war would no longer be mandatory. It seems that the more intense the violence in Kosovo, the more likely it is that independence will be the only option.

Ilber H. Gashi

North Bergen, N.J.

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