Africa’s Cuba: Eritrea Endures 13 Years of Illegal Occupation and Sanctions

by Elias Amare

Eritrea, a thoroughly secular nation of six million people that won its independence from much larger Ethiopia, has been subjected to withering sanctions imposed at the behest of the United States. The U.S. and Ethiopia make the ludicrous claim that Eritrea has aided the Islamic fundamentalist Al-Shabaab, in Somalia. “Punishing innocent Eritrea based on false premises has neither brought peace to Somalia nor security to the Horn of Africa.”

Africa’s Cuba: Eritrea Endures 13 Years of Illegal Occupation and Sanctions

by Elias Amare

Ethiopia continues to occupy sovereign Eritrean territories, including the town of Badme, the casus belli for the conflict.”

Monday, April 13, was the 13th anniversary of the ruling of the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC), and the continued illegal occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories by Ethiopia since then. Also, it’s been well over five years since the US engineered unjust sanctions at the UN Security Council against Eritrea in late 2009.

In a “Global Action Day of Resistance,” Eritreans and their friends worldwide held rallies, online petitions, cycling tours, etc., to protest these injustices against Eritrea, a country in the Horn of Africa that many progressive analysts are recognizing as the “Cuba of Africa.” In the US, Eritreans in the Bay Area, California, held a protest rally in Oakland.

In Europe, more than twenty five cyclists from ten different countries (Canada, Denmark, Eritrea, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK), starting in Goteborg, Sweden, stopping over ten German and three Swiss cities, are rode over 1700 km, highlighting along the way the truth about Eritrea and its people and how, despite repeatedly being wronged by the west, the country is forging forward and has become an oasis of peace and harmony in the Horn of Africa.

The demands of this Eritrean Global Action Day of Resistance are:

An immediate and unconditional implementation of the 13-year old, final and binding, boundary decision and an end to Ethiopia's illegal occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories, including the town of Badme; and

An end to the illegal UN sanctions imposed on Eritrea in December 2009, which have long been proven to be based on totally fabricated and falsified “evidence” by Ethiopia and its handlers.

Ethiopia’s Occupation: a Threat to Regional Peace

The Algiers Agreement was signed in December, 2000, in Algeria by President Isaias Afwerki for Eritrea and by the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi for Ethiopia and witnessed and guaranteed by Secretary General Kofi Annan on behalf of the United Nations, Senator Reno Serri (EU Special envoy for the Horn of Africa) on behalf of the European Union, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on behalf of the United States, Secretary General, Salim Ahmed Salim representing the Organization for African Unity (OAU), now the African Union.

The Algiers Agreements, brokered and authored by the US State Department, called for the delimitation and demarcation of the Eritrea Ethiopia border and that punitive actions would be taken against the party that did not abide by its treaty obligations.

 The independent and neutral Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) delivered unanimously its final and binding delimitation decision on 13 April, 2002, and because of Ethiopia’s intransigence the Commission, which was ready to demarcate the border physically, was forced to publish its virtual demarcation decision on 30 November, 2007. Eritrea had fully accepted the decisions; Ethiopia, however, has rejected it calling it “totally illegal, unjust, and irresponsible” and has refused to abide by the EEBC’s demarcation directives. Ethiopia, in breach of international law and its obligations under the Algiers Agreement, continues to occupy sovereign Eritrean territories, including the town of Badme, the casus belli for the conflict. As the EEBC had stated it in its final report, “Ethiopia has so persistently maintained a position of non-compliance with its obligations in relation to the Commission.” Furthermore, Ethiopia has failed to comply with the Commission’s Order of 17 July, 2002, that required Ethiopia to “return to Ethiopian territory of those persons in Dembe Mengul who were moved from Ethiopia pursuant to an Ethiopian resettlement program since 13 April, 2002.”

UN Sanctions: a Travesty of Justice

Though the pretext for the unjust UN Security Council sanctions on Eritrea, first on December 23, 2009 (Resolution 1907) and the other one from December 5, 2011 (Resolution 2023), were to “serve” peace and security in Somalia, as the past five years have made it clear, punishing innocent Eritrea based on false premises has neither brought peace to Somalia nor security to the Horn of Africa. The very forces that orchestrated lies against Eritrea are still wreaking havoc in the region. Former US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs and veteran Ambassador Herman Cohen said it well a year ago:

Those of us who know Eritrea well, understand that the Eritrean leadership fears Islamic militancy as much as any other country in the Horn of Africa region. … In view of the absence of any intelligence, real or fabricated, linking Eritrea with Shabaab for over four years, the UN Security Council should terminate sanctions imposed in 2009 by UNSC resolution 1907.”

There is no, and there has never been “intelligence, real or fabricated,” that links Eritrea to any form of extremism in the Horn of Africa other than what the Ethiopians provided the Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group. All evidence indicates that most of the fabrication against Eritrea has been generated by Ethiopian operatives at home and abroad, its highly-paid lobbyists in Washington, D.C., and other capitals, as well as the Ethiopian minority regime’s Western enablers.  

As for the Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group, this is a group that has lots of problems when it comes to credibility. This is a group that cannot “execute its responsibilities and mandate with professionalism, impartiality and objectivity.” It is a Group that is influenced left and right “by political considerations outside of its mandate.”  The disgraceful exits of Dinesh Mahtani (its financial expert), in the fall of 2014, after he was caught red-handed advocating for “regime change” in Eritrea on behalf of the UN, and before that the firing of coordinator Matt Bryden for his dubious behavior as a monitor, are two latest cases that show this monitoring group has completely lost its legitimacy as an impartial UN investigative body.

There is no, and there has never been ‘intelligence, real or fabricated,’ that links Eritrea to any form of extremism in the Horn of Africa.”

In fact, the group has completely lost its credibility among many UN Security Council members, including some of its permanent members, Russia and China. In response to the Group’s 2013 report, the Russian Permanent Representative, Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, dismissed it as “dishonest and politically motivated.” Besides China and Russia, the Group’s report was also dismissed by Norway, Italy, and South Africa. Even the Somali Government itself has wholesale rejected the Monitoring Group’s report.

Both UNSC Resolutions 1907 (2009) and 2023 (2011) were incubated in the U.S. and hatched in Ethiopia. US Ambassador Donald Yamamoto is quoted by one of the Wikileaked cables admitting that the US had “advised the Prime Minister and his senior leadership ... any case against Eritrea should be raised by other countries. Any charges levied by Ethiopia would be viewed only in the context of their border conflict.” The 2011 sanctions were also adopted under the false accusations orchestrated by the US using Ethiopia and Kenya as actors. On the absurd accusation from Ethiopia, Ambassador Vitaly Churkin of Russia said, “the Security Council was not presented with convincing proof of Eritrea’s involvement in that incident. We have not seen the results of any investigation of that incident, if indeed there was one.” On the accusations from Kenya, the UN Monitoring group itself admitted that it “has found no evidence to substantiate allegations that Eritrea supplied Al-Shabaab with arms and ammunition by air in October and November 2011. No evidence to substantiate the allegations that one or more aircraft landed at Baidoa International Airport between 29 October and 3 November 2011, or that Eritrea supplied Al-Shabaab in Baidoa by air with arms and ammunition during the same period.”

Eritrea has refused to be subservient to misguided US policies for the region.”

This US-Ethiopia conspiracy against Eritrea gets as far as the US giving an approving nod to Ethiopia to employ terrorist groups against Eritrea. One of the Wikileak cables says: “Meles said one option would be to directly support opposition groups that are capable of sending ‘armed propaganda units’ into Eritrea. Meles said that the groups with the most capability to operate inside Eritrea are those ‘that you don't like from the lowlands, like the Keru’ who he said would be ‘much better able to survive in Eritrea.’” This is a jihadist terrorist group that had murdered a Canadian geologist in cold blood in western Eritrea and is responsible for the March 20, 2015 attempt to sabotage at the Canadian owned Bisha gold mine in Eritrea in the vicinity of the area the Americans and Ethiopians were talking about 5 years ago.

All these US hostilities against Eritrea stem from the fact that Eritrea has refused to be subservient to misguided US policies for the region. As Professor Richard Reid, a history professor at SOAS, University of London, put it, US policy is biased in favor of Ethiopia and against Eritrea “for all sorts of reasons” one of them being:

“Eritrea was seen as a bunker state; they were less easy to control. Ethiopia had a more reliable military perhaps. Their policy was more directable and perhaps predictable. Whereas Eritrea, from the mid 1990s, it was clearly seen as unpredictable and couldn’t be relied upon to do certain things that Washington might want to do.”

Denial of Remittance: Violation of Eritrea’s Right to Development

The much talked about 2% Rehabilitation and Development fund that Eritreans in the Diaspora pay, also had nothing to do with Somalia; it has been a target of the US from as far back as 1999 (during the Eritrea-Ethiopia border war). A leaked US diplomatic cable from Asmara makes it clear that the Americans were bent on “disrupting the hard currency supply chain” so that they can “significantly and detrimentally impact the operations of the GSE [Government of the State of Eritrea]”.

We also read in the Wikileak cables that the Americans were strategizing with the Ethiopians on this very evil scheme. As the Late Ethiopian Prime Minister said then, “Isaias' calculations would be shattered, if the U.S. and others imposed financial sanctions on him and particularly cut off Isaias' funding from Qatar and other countries and the important funding from the Diaspora in the U.S.” Another Ethiopian official repeats in the Wikileak cables that “cutting off the flow of money to Eritrea was essential. Particularly, remittances from the U.S. were a major source of funding for Eritrea.” The Ethiopian officials were assured by US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Karl Wycoff “that the U.S. remains committed to achieving a UNSC sanctions regime against Asmara and continues to broaden the discussion beyond the P3 and Uganda with a hard push by USUN” and that “USG was also expanding efforts to undercut support for Asmara,” noting for example he had been sent on “a trip to Cairo, Riyadh, Jeddah and other cities both to promote efforts to undercut flows of support to Asmara.”

The USA and Europe are continuing to bankroll Ethiopia’s defiance and aggression.”

Despite all these conspiracies and hostilities, however, Eritreans believe a long-term and fruitful relationship between Eritrea and the other nations in the region is essential for maintaining peace and security, and fighting off poverty and extremism in the Horn of Africa. Therefore, Eritreans and their friends are demanding that all progressives urge members of the UN Security Council to do what is moral and ethical: to lift these unjust sanctions against Eritrea.

During the past decade and a half, the priorities of Eritrea have been to achieve food security, eradicate diseases such as malaria, decrease infant and maternal mortality rates and increase access to education to all sectors of the population. Based on its own and other independent evaluations, Eritrea has achieved modest successes in these efforts. However, Ethiopia’s continued occupation of Eritrean territories and a de facto state of war is violating Eritrean people’s right to development, dignity, security and peace. All this has been made possible because the USA and Europe are continuing to bankroll Ethiopia’s defiance and aggression.

Eritreans worldwide are therefore calling on all progressive peace- and justice-loving friends and organizations to support their demands for peace and urge their national governments to reign in the lawless minority regime in Ethiopia that continues to wreak havoc over the lives of the peoples in the Horn of Africa region in general, but the people of Eritrea in particular.

Elias Amare is a journalist/researcher and peace activist based in Asmara, Eritrea. To learn more about Eritrea’s struggle against unjust imperialist sanctions visit http://eritrean-smart.org/