Is President Obama’s Wind of “Change” Blowing Towards Eritrea?

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President Obama today states that “our policies toward Cuba have gotten us nowhere
President Obama today states that “our policies toward Cuba have gotten us nowhere.” The misguided and harmful policies towards Eritrea won’t get the U.S. anywhere either. Time to pursue a policy of engagement with Eritrea.

By Berhane Alazar,

LATELY, albeit somewhat belated, the wind of Obama’s once promised “Change” that never was, and under whose jargon Senator Barack Obama got help to win the highly contested US presidency, finally seems to have picked up some steam. From establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba today to, possibly, reclassifying the Palestinian Hamas faction as a “Nationalist” organization seems to have set the tone.

Closer at home, a rush of diplomatic activities seemingly expressing a desire to work with the Eritrean government have been forthcoming from nations and organizations that were demonizing Eritrea for actions she was no party to – for many, many years.

That being the case, one can’t help but wonder if the apparent “Change of heart” is genuine? At any rate, let’s just take a look at some short synapses of the current events that appear to be signaling a friendly gesture towards Eritrea and the Eritrean people:

On December 16, 2013 – published an article titled: “Time to Bring Eritrea in from the Cold – By Hank Cohen” in which Mr. Cohen stated:

In view of the absence of any intelligence, real or fabricated, linking Eritrea with Shabab for over four years, the UN Security Council should terminate sanctions imposed in 2009 by UNSC resolution 1907”. He further stated:

Since European Union governments have maintained normal relations with Eritrea since the country’s independence, one of the European members of the UN Security Council should propose a resolution to end the sanctions. The US should agree to abstain rather than veto such a resolution“.

Of course to Eritreans and to all the non-partisans around the world, it would never be appropriate for the US to do anything (including ‘abstaining‘) short of lifting those unjust and illegal sanctions it imposed on Eritrea under fabricated stories. Anyway let’s read on.

Mr. Cohen’s comment was quickly followed by Mr. David Shinn, a distinguished diplomat and former US Ambassador to Ethiopia, who wrote in January 13, 2014 under the title: “Time to Bring Eritrea in from the Cold (But It’s Harder than It Sounds)” in which he stated:

I agree with Cohen that it is long past time to end the stalemate between Ethiopia and Eritrea. It is also time for the United States to try again to improve relations with Eritrea“.

He further added:

I accept there is no solid evidence that Eritrea is continuing its support for the al-Shabaab terrorist organization in Somalia, thus removing this argument from the list of reasons that obstruct better relations.”

Again let the truth be told, Eritrea has never supported Al Shabab. So stating “[Eritrea] is not ‘continuing’ to support Al Shabab” is puzzling, to say the least. But it is a good start nonetheless. At any rate, Mr. Shinn continues:

Previous Attempts to ‘Bring Eritrea in From the Cold’ Have Proved Difficult, but We Should Still Try“.

Mr. Shinn, could it be possible that the condition under which Eritrea was invited to the so called “Out of the cold” campaign was done with actions that did not safeguard its independence and sovereignty? I would think such one-sided actions would be a no starter and if they failed, no one should be surprised.

Mr. Princeton Lyman, a diplomat and former United States Ambassador to Nigeria and South Africa, wrote on the, of January 14, 2014 under the title: “Previous Attempts to ‘Bring Eritrea in From the Cold’ Have Proved Difficult, but We Should Still Try” stating:

Ambassador Cohen is right that ending the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea is long overdue and would be of great benefit to both countries and the region. The same is true for better relations between Eritrea and the US.”

Finally, writing about the unsuitability of the forces in the Horn region, in the “Al Monitor” of the Middle East publication, Mr. Ephraim Sneh, a retired Israeli general stated:

But there is one thing the United States can do. Opposite Yemen, on the other side of the straits, lies Eritrea. Over the last decade, the United States has espoused a policy designed to isolate and weaken the country. The wisdom of this policy should be reconsidered, given the new regional configuration. Eritrea is not a Jeffersonian democracy, but neither are the vast majority of African states. Now is the time to take Eritrea out of its isolation and allow it to rejoin the family of nations. We must remember that radical Islam has no foothold in Eritrea, and religious coexistence is a stable force there. With murderous Sudan to its north and the new Yemen to its east, Eritrea can fill a positive role in the Red Sea

The heightened surge of diplomatic activities including the acceptance by Eritrea about 3 dozen ambassadorial credentials from around the world, including many of the countries that are members of the European Union, Russia, China and India, one would have expected the US wouldn’t be the one that was left out in the “Cold”. But for reasons that are only known to the US policy makers, the US was conspicuous in its absence from the major countries’ diplomatic accreditation to Eritrea.

The question that everyone that follows the silly US position vis-a-vis Eritrea is: “Why is the US stubbornly dogged in a no win situation”? Why all the arrogance while it is fully aware that Eritrea was sanctioned unjustifiably by America’s heavy-handed interference in the dissemination of misinformation provided to members of the UN Security Council and beyond?

Come-on, Mr. Obama, you can do better than that. You can rectify the bad rap you’ve been getting for being in the unenviable spot as the “First Black American President to illegally and unjustifiably blacklist a proud black African state, Eritrea“, all under your watch!

Mistakes do happen and many of them can be corrected. But that correction can only be done by you, Sir. In doing so, Mr. President, you will feel good about yourself for clearing your conscience by rectifying some clearly wrong actions that you may have been advised to take. Furthermore, such a noble and astute deed will remain in your legacy as the president who corrected some wrong actions rather than the one who help made the lives of Eritreans even harder.

It is high time, Mr. President, that you take the lead and lift the unjust UN sanctions your administration imposed on Eritrea, thereby creating a conducive environment for Eritrea to work with the United States on a win-win situation.