“… the UN’s power derives primarily from its ability to persuade rather than its ability to coerce; that is, its normative power and legitimacy derive from the view that it is ‘above politics’ and is representative of the international community… ” – (Michael Bennett)
Last week was emotionally charged for Eritreans around the world. It began with Ghirmai Ghebresellasie at the New York Marathon, as the young 20 year old made history on the streets on NY. His impressive win, with the whole world watching, was truly amazing. The world would know Eritrea again.
In the United States, the Marathon fever was quickly overshadowed by the US elections. The brief reprieve from the highly charged campaigns was welcome. Whilst there is relief that the campaigns have come to an end, the ramifications from the results of the US elections are still reverberating across the United States.
Donald Trump is now the President-Elect and the Republicans have taken over both the Senate and the House. Hillary Clinton, the first female candidate for the US Presidency, lost her bid and so did some Democrats. No doubt her loss is a reflection the people’s disappointment with the Barack Obama Administration that promised change, but delivered more of the same-or worse. Eritrean Americans worked hard to elect Obama, they raised funds and worked in his campaigns across the country.
They voted in great numbers, some for the first time. They had the audacity to hope and believe. Their hopes were dashed within months of his taking office. Eritrea, became the first country to be sanctioned by his Administration. The illegal and unjust US-Ethiopia engineered sanctions remained throughout his tenure – a black mark on his legacy.
Susan E. Rice, the then US Ambassador to the United Nations said that the sanctions were an “African Initiative”, but as the record shows, it was in fact a US-engineered sanction resolution.
Ethiopia played a nominal role in getting IGAD and the African Union to call for sanctions against Eritrea, with the help of several US officials, including US Ambassadors in the Horn. The facts uncovered since reveal a diabolical collaboration between the US Ambassador and Meles Zenawi, the late Prime Minister of Ethiopia, to engineer “stand alone sanctions” against Eritrea using the two regional organizations, the Intergovernmental Agency for Development (IGAD) and the African Union. The US Administration sought to punish Eritrea for not toeing Washington’s line on Somalia. Somalia, it turned out, was just a pretext.
Within a few days of the adoption of the illegal, unfair and unjust sanctions resolution 1907 (2009), it had become abundantly clear that it was NOT an “African Initiative”, that Africans had absolutely nothing to do with it. Libya, the chair of the African Union in 2009 opposed the sanctions at the UN Security Council and the 28-member Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CENSAD) issued a press release condemning the sanctions resolution against Eritrea. Eritrea was accused of supporting Al Shabbab, but there has never been any evidence presented, to support that allegation.
Eritrea maintained then, and as it does today, that it had provided no support to Al Shabbab and there were many that came to the same conclusion. The UN Secretary- General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Mr. Ahmedou Ould Abdallah said then:
“…there was much talk of such involvement [Eritrea’s support for the Islamist group al-Shabab], but there was no way for me to monitor that situation or to know the truth of such a claim…”
In 2008, Dumisani Kumalo, Chairman of the Security Council’s Somalia sanctions committee, said that the Monitoring Group had found that “Eighty percent of ammunition available at the Somali arms markets was supplied by TFG and Ethiopian troops” and that he views “continued presence of Ethiopian troops on Somali territory as a violation of the arms embargo as well as Ethiopia’s arming of “friendly clans.” “Eighty percent of ammunition available at the Somali arms markets was supplied by TFG and Ethiopian troops,” Kumalo said in the written text of his remarks to the Security Council.
He stated that the committee viewed the “continued presence of Ethiopian troops on Somali territory as a violation of the arms embargo” on Somalia, where warlords, Islamist insurgents and Ethiopian-backed Somali government forces clash almost daily. The monitoring committee received details of some 25 military flights by Ethiopia into Somalia and knew that Ethiopian troops had brought military equipment into the country to arm “friendly clans,” Kumalo said. But it was Eritrea that was scapegoated and punished…
On 6 June 2006 Herman Cohen, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, speaking on PBS
“… [Ethiopia is] feeding false intelligence about terrorists being hidden and that sort of thing, because the Ethiopians are deadly afraid of Muslim control and also they have their own Muslim problem among the Oromo ethnic group in Ethiopia. So they want to keep the Islamists out of power, and they will bring the U.S. into it, if they can…”
And Ethiopia did.
With tacit approval of, and diplomatic and political cover from, the US, Ethiopia invaded and occupied Somalia in December 2006. It created the greatest humanitarian disaster in the region and cost the lives of millions of Somalis who were displaced from their home and villages, and international crimes were committed against them by the marauding Ethiopian army.
For the last 7 years, the US and Ethiopia have managed to divert international attention away from Ethiopia’s role in Somalia’s destabilization, by maintaining sanctions on Eritrea without ever producing an iota of evidence to support the allegations. Despite the fact that the sanctions were illegal and unjust, Eritrea remained in compliance and repeatedly called for the lifting of the sanctions.
For 7 long years, Eritrea fought to clear its name and set the record straight, to undo the injustice. Today, Eritrea has been vindicated-again. On 10 November 2016, for the 4th time, the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) said that it had found no evidence to support the allegations that Eritrea supported Al Shabbab. The damage to Eritrea’s reputation is immeasurable, but today, the truth has prevailed. The Security Council has also finally acknowledged (taken note):
“…that during the course of its current and two previous mandates the SEMG has not found any evidence that the Government of Eritrea is supporting Al Shabaab…”
Actually, it is the 4th time that the SEMG is stating that it has not found evidence to support the allegations against Eritrea. Most importantly, the people of Somalia, and all citizens of the Horn region, who may have believed the 7 year long vilification campaigns against Eritrea, also now know the truth. They now know that Eritrea has/had nothing to do with Al Shabbab. They know that Eritrea is a partner for peace, not instability.
Eritreans around the world hoped, despite the odds, that the illegal sanctions would finally be lifted. But that did not happen. This is further evidence that the sanctions had nothing to do with Somalia or its peace, stability and security, which in fact took a worse turn after the sanctioning of Eritrea in 2009.
Although the Security Council adopted resolution 2317 (2016), there were 5 countries that abstained: Angola, China, Egypt, Russian Federation, Venezuela, while 10 countries, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal, Spain, Ukraine, Uruguay joined France, the United Kingdom and United States voted in favor of the resolution. A growing number of countries are showing their support for Eritrea.
Matthew Rycroft, UK’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative lamented as much in his Tweet:
UK aims for #UNSC unanimity. Before abstentions on Eritrea today, succeeded every time this year – 14 unanimous UK-led resolutions.
— Matthew Rycroft (@MatthewRycroft1) November 10, 2016
With one-third of the Council washing its hands off the Resolution on Eritrea, it’s the Council’s legitimacy that is now in question – again. The myth of “collectivity”, essential for the legitimacy of the institution, is fast eroding. The Security Council is in danger of losing its legitimacy if it continues with such illegitimate actions. The UK’s Ambassador should be more concerned about undoing the injustices against Eritrea, and other countries, instead of keeping score.
The United States, which had relied on and vouched for the SEMG seemed reluctant to accept its findings. Isobel Coleman, the Deputy Ambassador said the following in her Statement:
“…While the Monitoring Group has not found evidence of Eritrea’s support for Al Shabbab, it is difficult to corroborate this information because the Monitoring Group has not been allowed to visit the country in 5yrs..”
When the SEMG states four times that it found no evidence to support the allegations against Eritrea, what is it that the US thinks it will find by visiting Eritrea? The US had no problems accepting its findings in the last five years, although this was not always preceded by a visit to Eritrea…why is it now asking to “corroborate” its findings? Moving goalposts will only serve to undermine the credibility, integrity and efficacy of the Security Council…not to mention its legitimacy
Congratulations to Ghirmai Ghebreseallie’s and the people of Eritrea on his historic win…
A luta continua, vitória é certa!
Extracts from Statements of some UNSC Member States
Mr. Ramírez Carreño (Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela)
The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela abstained in the voting on resolution 2317 (2016), for we believe that the part referring to Eritrea, as presented to us, is unfair. ….In the case of Eritrea, sanctions should have a clear road map towards a conclusion. By maintaining prolonged sanctions, as we are currently doing, there is no political purpose beyond serving the national interests of members of the Council or of regional situations that, as bilateral issues between countries…
Mr. Wu Haitao (China),
Proposal submitted at the Resolution drafting process (Operative paragraph 33): Acknowledging that during the course of its current and two previous mandates the SEMG has not found any evidence that the Government of Eritrea is supporting Al-Shabaab, requests the SEMG to present a report to the Committee within 120 days on recommendations of lifting sanction measures imposed to Eritrea, including benchmarks and timeframe on lifting the sanctions.
Mr. Lucas (Angola)
Regarding Eritrea, it should be noted that, for the third consecutive year, the Monitoring Group has found no evidence of Eritrean support to the Somali terrorist group Al-Shabaab. The sanctions regime has proven to be fruitful, but it must be terminated when the reasons for its establishment no longer exist.
Mr. Iliichev (Russian Federation)
In its reports three years in a row, the Monitoring Group concluded that there was no evidence of Eritrea providing assistance to Al-Shabaab and that the border dispute with Djibouti has been settled through Qatar’s mediation. Allegations that Eritrea is allegedly supporting regional armed groups are uncorroborated. It therefore looks as if the reasons that led to the need to impose sanctions simply no longer exist. The sanctions regime against Eritrea has not taken that into account, and they have remained unchanged. In that regard, perhaps the time has come to draw up a road map for the gradual lifting of sanctions against Eritrea, as suggested by a number of delegations in the course of work on the resolution.