Statement on the 2000 Algiers Agreement and Its 23rd Anniversary - In response to the US, EU, and UK

December 14, 2023

On December 12, 2000, Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement in Algiers known as “the Algiers Agreement” to end the 1998-2000 Ethio-Eritrean Border War. On December 12, 2023, recognizing the 23rd anniversary of the agreement, the United States (US), European Union (EU), and United Kingdom (UK) expressed their support of the agreement as a means of maintaining peace and stability in the region. However, the Algiers Agreement should not be the benchmark and point of reference for peace and stability in the Horn of Africa. The agreement has always been rejected by the Ethiopian border communities it affected, it has been violated repeatedly since the first major violation of the agreement by Eritrea in 2005, and the validity of the agreement expired as soon as the Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF) breached Ethiopian sovereignty and invaded Tigray in November 2020. Instead of calling for and ensuring the full implementation of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement in Pretoria on November 2, 2022, which includes the withdrawal of Eritrean forces currently occupying parts of northern Tigray, the US, EU, and the UK made disappointing and counterproductive statements by giving weight and credibility to a repeatedly violated, flawed, and invalid agreement. 

Firstly, regarding the Border Commission’s decision in 2002 as part of the Algiers Agreement, inhabitants of the lands in question and those most affected by the preceding war were not consulted in the decision-making process. Among those who suffered the most during this war were the Irob, Tigray’s indigenous minority group with a population of between 30,000 and 40,000. Living in Irob district on the Eritrean border in the northeastern part of Tigray, the Irob were subjected to war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the EDF in the dark during the 1998-2000 war. However, the suffering and threat to the Irob experienced during the two years of war did not end with the Algiers Agreement. The agreement itself and the subsequent border decision–which included giving Eritrea one-third of the Irob’s ancestral land—is a threat to the existence of the Irob people and violates the international laws that protect indigenous minorities.

Secondly, despite the Border Commission’s decision and the agreement, Eritrea and Ethiopia did not implement the resulting border demarcation. The agreement was violated on multiple occasions, as hostilities between the two countries did not cease–resulting in a “no war, no peace” situation. For over a decade after the agreement, Eritrea continued to raid border community areas and kidnapped civilians and stole livestock. Furthermore, Eritrea obstructed the work and mission of the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) established per the Algiers Agreement several times until the UN Security Council was forced to terminate UNMEE’s mandate because Eritrea ordered them out of the 25 kilometer Temporary Security Zone (TSZ).

Twenty years after the Algiers Agreement was signed, Eritrea rendered the agreement null and void by brutally invading all of Tigray in November 2020, breaching Ethiopian sovereignty, and committing a genocide in Tigray. For over three years, Eritrean forces have committed some of the most heinous crimes to be committed throughout the Tigray Genocide–including massacres, extrajudicial killings, wholesale destruction, and brutal and systematic sexual violence. Therefore, calling for the borders “demarcated” in the Algiers Agreement to be respected is not only an insult to those in areas of Tigray currently occupied by the Eritrean forces and all their victims, but is also dangerous as the agreement is used as a justification of Eritrea’s occupation of Ethiopian territories. The Eritrean government and its supporters claim that Eritrea is not occupying Tigrayan territories as they were “awarded” to Eritrea by the Border Commission. However, even if the Algiers Agreement were not voided by the Eritrean invasion of Ethiopia in 2020, Eritrea is still occupying Tigayan territories that were not “awarded” to it in 2002. As part of its genocidal war against Tigray, Eritrean continues to violently occupy and besiege Tigrayan territories, including about 60% of the Irob district going far beyond the one-third “awarded” to it–as illustrated in the map (Map 1).

Thirdly, the “peace agreement” signed in 2018 was not a recommitment to the Algiers Agreement and Border Commission’s decision as portrayed by the US, EU, and UK, but a pact between the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments to unleash their genocidal war on Tigray with a Nobel Peace Prize as cover. For there to be peace and stability as stipulated by the US, EU, and the UK, there must not be a commitment to the Algiers Agreement nor a glorification of the 2018 agreement, but a commitment to the November 2022 Cessation of Hostilities Agreement. All non-federal forces, including Eritrean and Amhara regional forces, must leave constitutionally Ethiopian and Tigrayan territories to pre-war borders (November 3, 2020, positions) and justice must be served for the countless victims and survivors of the Tigray Genocide.  

Finally, to resolve the unsettled and yet to be demarcated boundary between Ethiopia and Eritrea, we recommend the following:

  1. Eritrean forces must withdraw or be removed from all Tigrayan (Ethiopian) constitutionally recognized territories to pre-war borders immediately inline with the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement signed in Pretoria in November 2022;
  2. Eritrea and its genocidal forces must be held accountable for the Tigray Genocide and the victims must get justice;  
  3. The border dispute between the two countries must be settled and demarcated in a way that complies with the applicable international laws and ensures a lasting peace between the two countries; 
  4. The decision of the 2002 Border Commission, particularly regarding the Ethiopian territory of Irob, has neither colonial, historical nor administrative justification as is evident in the decision itself. All of Irob has always been administered under Ethiopia. There is no exception to this per any recorded history and lived reality. Moreover, the Commission’s decision violates the international laws that protect indigenous minorities. Hence, the whole of Irob, land that is ancestral to the Irob people, should remain in Tigray, Ethiopia, as it has always been.
  5. If the Border Commission’s decision is to be used as a basis for settling the borders despite the invalidation by Eritrea–given both countries agree to use it as a basis without violating applicable international laws–the border communities on both sides should be active participants and the source of evidence based on mutual agreement(s) for disputed areas. 
  6. The United States, European Union, United Kingdom, and the International Community at large must press the Ethiopian government to implement the Pretoria CoHA in full and immediately—including the withdrawal or removal of the Eritrean and Amhara forces from all of Tigray.