The Saga of the UN Monitoring Group and Eritrea

Opinions News Sophia Tesfamariam

SEMG drifts into uncharted territory to dwell on tangential issues to prolong mandate and give new lease of life to the unwarranted sanctions

Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group dwell on tangential issues to prolong unwarranted Eritrea sanctions
The saga continues … faceless, nameless entities continued to funnel information to the SEMG and Eritrea is asked to disprove the allegations. Political horse-trading, equivocation, and/or lame excuses should not be rule of the game this time round.


It is that time again. The annual ritual at the United Nations where the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) presents its findings, and Ethiopia and its handlers find way to prolong the SEMG’s mandate, and with it the illegal sanctions on Eritrea. It’s has been the predictable circus at the UN since the US and Ethiopia engineered the unjust sanctions resolution 8 years ago.

The African Union (AU) and the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) served as the “African faces”, in what Susan E. Rice, the then US Ambassador to the United Nations, announced the sanctions against Eritrea as an “African Initiative” on 23 December 2009.

It should be recalled that the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CENSAD) with 28 nations, rejected the sanctions resolution 1907 just a few days later. In addition:

• The IGAD and the Africa Peace and Security Resolutions were passed under the chairmanship of Ethiopia. Ethiopia and Djibouti played accusers, judge and jury

• The IGAD and the Africa Peace and Security Resolutions were passed under the chairmanship of Ethiopia.

• The Chair of the African Union (Libya) opposed the sanctions at the UN Security Council

Although Ethiopia and its handlers continue to tout it as an “African Initiative”, with the release of the WikiLeaks American Embassy documents, the behind the scenes shenanigans of the Ethiopian regime and the US Mission in New York have been exposed.

The Ethiopian representative at the UN, who worked closely with the US Mission in New York to engineer the sanctions regime against Eritrea said this in a New York Times opinion post on 12 December 2012:

“…the sanctions were imposed at the request of the African Union, which has troops in Somalia fighting Al Shabaab; and that a group set up by the Security Council found that Eritrea was aiding and abetting terrorism in Somalia…”

The reports by the UN Monitoring Group that claimed 2000 Eritrean forces were fighting alongside the Union of Islamic Courts have long been discredited and the minority regime in Ethiopia was the source of that “faulty intelligence”.

If it was the African Union that was seeking sanctions against Eritrea, why were there no other Africans involved in the liaisons and meetings with US officials? Why were Ethiopian cadres doing all the leg work? Judging from the US Embassy cables, Tekeda Alemu and other members of the Ethiopian regime, with the help of Susan Rice and the US Mission at the United Nations, birthed the sanctions resolution against Eritrea. Suffice it to mention a few examples:

1. Ethiopia to the P-5: Time For Eritrea Sanctions

“…Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin on May 22 called in the UNSC P-5 Ambassadors to urge them to follow-up on the InterGovernmental Authority on Development’s (IGAD) May 20 call for Security Council sanctions against Eritrea…

In a separate meeting with the P-5 ambassadors on May 25, Ethiopian State Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr. Tekeda Alemu said he planned to travel to New York on May 29 to press the UNSC on Eritrea in person… Canada, he said, through its mining concessions, would soon be providing Eritrea with hundreds of millions of dollars, and he commented that “if you think Eritrea is a problem now with no economy, wait until it is flush with cash…”

2. Ethiopia Pressing For UNSC Sanctions on Eritrea

“…Dr. Tekeda called in the P-5 Ambassadors on June 18 and summarized the recent IGAD trip to the UN as having made progress in gaining UNSC support for the IGAD and AU call for sanctions on Eritrea, but concluded that more work was necessary.

Tekeda met with special Africa Advisor Bruno Joubert in Paris and Somalia experts in London. In New York, TFG Foreign Minister Omar, along with Ambassadors assigned to the U.N. from Djibouti, Uganda, and Kenya, joined Tekeda in meeting the UNSC representatives.

Tekeda said the Libyans were very receptive to Eritrea’s accountability in destabilizing Somalia… Dr. Tekeda said the African Union had already endorsed the IGAD agreement to seek sanctions on Eritrea …

The U.S. Ambassador urged Tekeda that if Ethiopia and the IGAD countries wanted UN support, then Ethiopia and IGAD must secure a clear statement by the African Union of support for IGAD’s position…Tekeda added that he was mindful of comments made by the UNSC member states for further work by IGAD to secure full support from the African Union member states, and not just Ethiopia and Djibouti, which have direct problems with Eritrea…”

3 . Seyoum Mesfin and Tekeda Alemu urge P-5 to support sanctions

“…Ethiopian FM Seyoum and his deputy, Dr. Tekeda, on July 7 called in the Ambassadors from the P-5 to urge them to convey to their capitals the urgency of supporting sanctions against Eritrea. Seyoum noted that Tekeda, who led an Intergovernmental Agency for Development (IGAD) delegation to New York in June, was told by the UNSC that the IGAD resolution calling for sanctions on Eritrea would hold more weight if the African Union was also supportive because IGAD only represented East Africa, and some of its members had differences with Eritrea.

Seyoum said the African Union at its early July summit in Sirte, Libya passed a resolution, with Eritrea as the only dissenting voice, in support of the IGAD resolution… Tekeda stressed that the UNSC should first approve the general concept of sanctions against Eritrea, then determine what sanctions to impose. He thought that the sanctions should include a selected travel ban against senior Eritrean officials, and efforts to cutoff remittances from the U.S. and other countries…”

4 . Record of your conversation with Charge D’Affaries Michael Gonzales

“…Dr. Tekeda stressed that the threat of sanctions against senior Eritrean officials had a clear chilling effect in Asmara. Dr. Tekeda specifically noted the Sanctions Committee’s consideration of Yemane Gebreab as being a critically important move.

(Note: Dr. Tekeda had a list of individuals targeted by the Somalia Sanctions Committee which included Yemane. End Note.)

Dr. Tekeda stressed that, although Yemane may not make ultimate decisions in Eritrea — a province reserved for President Isaias — he certainly advises Isaias, and his inclusion among those sanctioned would be a critical signal to Asmara that the international community is sincere in its interest in ending Eritrea’s destabilizing activities in Ethiopia…”

The 13 June 2009 cable shows the collaboration between Tekeda Alemu and Susan Rice and their intentions to hoodwink Africans and the Security Council by presenting their initiative as an “African Initiative”:

“…A delegation from the Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) met with Amb. Rice on June 10 to press for UNSC implementation of sanctions against Eritrea as called for by recent communiques of IGAD and the African Union (AU). The delegation, led by Ethiopian State Minister Tekeda Alemu and Somali Foreign Minister Mohammed Omaar, agreed that action needed to be taken against Eritrea… Tekeda made a case for more forceful sanctions, claiming that the TFG faced imminent collapse, and implying that only Ethiopian assistance had helped it survive thus far. (NOTE: While Omaar was titular head of the IGAD delegation, Tekeda paid him little deference. End note.)

In Ethiopia’s view, Tekeda said, “we don’t have much time” to enact sanctions against Eritrea, adding “we want to see results within a week.” (C) Amb. Rice advised the group to reach agreement on a specific package of measures and counseled that the initiative would be more viable in the Council, if packaged as an African consensus proposal rather than one driven by Eritrea’s estranged neighbors Ethiopia and Djibouti…”

But she had more advice for her partners:

“…Rice also urged the group to draw a link to the situation in Djibouti when drawing up its proposal to sanction Eritrea. To punish Eritrea for its activities in Somalia while ignoring Djibouti would send an inadvertent signal that Eritrea could continue to invade its neighbors with impunity, she said…”

Whilst there were many accusations against Eritrea coming from Ethiopia and its surrogates, there has never been any independently verifiable evidence provided to substantiate any of their allegations. There were many fair individuals who disagreed with the narrative on Eritrea and Ethiopia managed to have them removed or else had their voices muffled.

For instance, South African Ambassador to the United Nations Dumisani Kumalo, Chairman of the U.N. Security Council’s Somalia Sanctions Committee told Reuters on 23 May 2008:

“… corruption in the lawless Horn of Africa country was rampant…”elements” of the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM, and Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) were involved in arms trafficking activities, which have the potential to undermine the peace process…

Eighty percent of ammunition available at the Somali arms markets was supplied by TFG and Ethiopian troops… 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…Arms and military hardware are mainly transported to Somalia by boat and airplane, but traffickers also use horses and donkeys, making shipments difficult to track…”

Addressing a 29 May 2009 Press Conference, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, UN Special Representative for Somalia admitted that there was no evidence to support the outrageous allegations leveled against Eritrea:

“…As for the support of Eritrea for the Islamist group al-Shabab, he said that there was much talk of such involvement, but there was no way for him to monitor that situation or to know the truth of such a claim. Asked about other foreign rebel fighters, he said the rebel leaders had extended a welcome to such fighters and there was wide information available on them…”

As this author has stated several times in the past, the minority regime in Ethiopia and its cadres, are persons who are themselves involved in the criminal milieu that defines Somalia today, and can hardly be considered to be credible sources and yet, the SEMG continues to rely almost entirely on the Ethiopian regime to build its case against Eritrea.

When questioned about the sources of all the erroneous allegations against Eritrea in 2012, Susan E. Rice said that the “evidence is classified to protect the identity of US allies who provided it”. It is not hard to figure who these allies are…

In four consecutive reports, the SEMG has said that it had found no evidence to support the allegations that Eritrea supported Al Shabbab in Somalia, yet its mandate was prolonged and with it the sanctions on Eritrea.

So, the saga continues… faceless, nameless entities funnel information to the SEMG, Eritrea is asked to disprove the allegations…. the merry go round and moving goal posts continue… so much for the credibility, integrity and efficacy of the UN Security Council – now reduced to serving as a bully pulpit to advance ulterior political agendas of the powerful veto wielding minority and their allies.