To Nobody’s Surprise, Sanctions on Eritrea Renewed

(1) The Security Council voted to extend the mandate of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea (SEMG) and to continue the sanctions on Eritrea for another year.

(2) The vote was 11 in favor, 4 abstentions and 0 against.   The abstentions were Russia, China, Bolivia and Egypt.

(3) This means that in addition to the US, UK and Ethiopia, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Senegal, Sweden, Ukraine, Uruguay voted for sanctions.

(4) This also means that the “diplomatic offensive” of the Eritrean regime into Kazakhstan, following Senegal into the Saudi camp, not to mention Eritrean ambassador to Japan’s (Ambassador Estifanos’s) prolific use of Twitter condemning Haji Mussa to a life sentence in solitary confinement when he should have been focusing his attention on Japan appeared to have borne no fruit.  Also surprisingly, the insults the Eritrean regime pours on Italy, Sweden, UK and US, not to mention its instant recognition of Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukraine (Crimea), did not appear to have positively influenced the UNSC members.  Weird.

(5) This is similar to the votes taken in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 so claims of Eritrea’s climb out of isolation are vastly overstated.  But necessary propaganda to keep the restless mob in check. It is a psychological necessity to declare that, in all matters, victory is always just around the corner, if we just do exactly what we have been doing. Nkhid Tray: Andiamo!

(6) Since the original (2009) sanctions were primarily driven by two issues–Eritrea’s support for Al-Shabab and its failure to acknowledge its dispute with Djibouti–an argument has been made that since (a) there is no evidence that Eritrea supports Al-Shabab and (b) Eritrea has acknowledged its dispute with Djibouti, then, surely, the basis for the sanctions no longer exist and they must be lifted.  Even Newsweek (yeah it is still around) made this argument. Nothing good can come out of an article that cites Ambassador Herman Cohen as an authority: a man who was seriously arguing for Ethiopia to make the push for lifting the sanctions.

(7) This argument is flawed for the following reasons:

7.1 SEMG’s conclusion that there is no evidence that Eritrea is supporting Al-Shabab in the last four years says nothing over whether Eritrea did the previous five years;

7.2 This is relevant because If the Eritrean regime stopped supporting Al-Shabab after the sanctions were imposed, then this tends to argue that the sanctions were effective in moderating the regime’s behavior. Media-wise, it certainly was giving moral and political support for five years (including for two years following the sanctions) and now its head of state is no longer preaching about the moral imperative of supporting all Somali “resistance” (explicitly including Al-Shabab); he has now lined up behind a government he mocked relentlessly.  Halengi (the whip of) UN is strong, apparently.

7.3 More importantly, the mandate of the SEMG is not just to monitor whether Eritrea is supporting Al-Shabab and making progress in its dispute with Djibouti. To claim so is to fool oneself by selective reading of Resolution 1907 (2009) and Resolution 2023 (2011)  The mandate is:

7.3.1monitoring Eritrea’s support for Al-Shabab

7.3.2 monitoring Eritrea’s progress in its dispute with Djibouti

7.3.3 monitoring Eritrea’s co-operation with SEMG

7.3.4 monitoring Eritrea’s support for regional (Ethiopia, Djibouti) armed opposition groups by hosting, training and providing them materiel

7.3.5 monitoring Eritrea’s role in being a base, a transit hub for arms or whether it is importing or exporting them

7.3.6 monitoring to see how transparent Eritrea is with its mining revenues;

(8) The opening statement of the SEMG report does not begin with “for the fifth consecutive mandate, the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea found no evidence that Eritrea is supporting Al-Shabab.”  It begins with “for the fifth consecutive mandate, the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea was not permitted to visit Eritrea to meet with representatives of the Government or conduct investigations.”

(9) With respect to Al-Shabab, the report says that the Monitoring Group “has, for its fourth consecutive mandate, not found conclusive evidence of support provided by Eritrea to AlShabab.”

(10) As for the rest of the SEMG’s mandate,

10.1 The dispute with Djibouti is in some limbo with the Eritrean regime having told the AU fact-finding mission that it will get back to it after it checks the president’s very busy calendar. You know how he is always traveling all over the world, the world defined as distance between Asmara and Adi Halo.

10.2 Despite all the lies the Eritrea government told its supporters that Qatar only withdrew from the Djibouti side but not the Eritrea side of the border (how can Eritrea not know if Qatar had withdrawn or not from its own territories?), Qatar, which was part of the disinformation campaign for two months, fessed up to the SEMG, via an August 22 letter from  its ambassador to the UN, that the country withdrew its troops from the whole region (Eritrea and Djibouti) on the same day (June 13, 2017.)

10.3 For two whole months (June 13 – August 22), Qatar and the Gov of Eritrea were lying to the people of Eritrea that Qatar had only withdrawn from the Djibouti side of the border.  This made no sense to anyone who understood Qatar’s anger at Djibouti and Eritrea for taking sides with the Saudi alliance, and Qatar being triangulated by UAE forces in Asab and Yemen and would have been a sitting duck in the nowhere land of the Djibouti/Eritrea border. But the supporters of the Eritrean government–bless their hearts– have never been encouraged to develop their ability to think critically but to parrot sheepishly. That is how “nationalism” is defined in that corner.

10.4 The Eritrean regime is supporting every armed Ethiopian alphabet soup in Eritrea.  These include Patriotic Ginbot 7 (PG7), Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD), Benishangul People’s Liberation Movement (BPLM) and Tigray People’s Democratic movement (TPDM).

10.5 SEMG found that Eritrea was violating the sanctions by “providing Eritrean territory for training….availing of Eritrean territory for the launching of attacks on Djibouti and Ethiopia…supplying weapons and ammunition and other military materiel…permitting weapons and ammunition to move in and out of Eritrea.”

10.6 Of the four Ethiopian armed groups, SEMG found that the Eritrean regime is spending a lot of its energy to prevent TPDM (their four units) and BPLM (all of their 90 fighters) from disbanding or defecting, specially after their chiefs (Molla Asghedom and Abdulwahab Mahdi Issa respectively) defected back to Ethiopia.

10.7 With respect to TPDM, here’s a perfect example of how the regime of Eritrea squanders Eritreans lives:

”   …another TPDM officer, Solomon Tesfay, also known as Akabi Zela, attempted to escape from Eritrea.  When caught by the Eritrean military, Solomon killed six Eritrean soldiers before committing suicide.  Three of the four TPDM units were subsequently disarmed again and sent to an area near Fanko in the Gash Barka region, while the fourth unit remained at a camp a short distance west of the town of Haykota, on the road between Barentu and Teseney.”

So notwithstanding the sanctions, the Eritrean regime’s brilliant strategy to bring the Ethiopian regime to its knees is to arm its opposition, train them, then when they are disgruntled and want to go back to Ethiopia, to shoot at them and then let them shoot back at our own soldiers using the weapons we gave them.  It also includes squandering Eritrea’s treasury by providing a monthly stipend of $12,500 USD (190,000 Nakfa) to the impressive Ethiopian guerrilla group Ginbot 7, which has gained great acclaim across Africa for its military prowess.

10.8 Eritrea’s providing of a base to the United Arab Emirates (despite frequent screeches by the Eritrean regime that it would never, ever, ever allow any foreign power to have a base in Eritrea) was also considered a violation of the terms of the sanctions. Given the war crimes the Saudis and their allies are committing in Yemen, this is a very misguided policy that tarnishes Eritrea’s history as it is being done, very transparently, for one reason only: money.   A clear-eyed view of the antagonists would show that the Yemeni Houthi rebels are the equivalent of Eritrea’s liberation fighters but money blinds politicians.  A policy of neutrality would have served Eritrea very well, but a government like Eritrea’s which had isolated itself from everyone welcomes the first rich country waving cash.

(11) For three years (2006-2009), the Eritrean regime was warned that its foolish adventure in Somalia would result in sanctions.  For three years, it ignored the warnings.  Thus, when the sanctions came, it was no surprise to anyone (except the Isaiasists) and that’s why resolution 1907 (2009) was supported by Russia and China as well.

(12) After Isaias Afwerki foolishly trapped Eritrea into sanctions, when he should have known that once sanctioned, countries find it very hard to get out of sanctions, he continued his foolishness, for a while, until his closed system (epistemic closure) told him that if he stops shooting his mouth off about Somalia and tell his media to cool it about what great “resistance fighters and stakeholders” Al-Shabab are (after their bombing of civilians in Kenya and Uganda!), then the sanctions would be lifted.

(13) He and his advisors forget that unlike the Special Rapporteur (Sheila Keetharuth) whose report that its been denied access to Eritrea is reported to the Human Rights Council, the SEMG’s report that it has been denied access to Eritrea is reported to the Sanctions Committee, which is part of the Security Council.

(14) The Eritrean regime cannot give unrestricted access to the SEMG, and the SEMG will not settle for the Universal Studios Guided Tour that the Eritrean regime is fond of (Come And See! Hospitals! Schools! Solar Lamps!) and thus the stalemate.  The SEMG will never agree to a guided tour, and the Eritrean government will never allow SEMG to take all its satellite photos and visit all the military camps and interview all the colonels who know too much.

(15) Therefore–and I have to say this to my Eritrean compatriots who, every year, are lied to and told that the sanctions are about to be lifted–the sanctions will not be lifted.  Unless there is some “game-changer” like 9/11.   These could be:

15.1 American and British nationals held hostage by, say, Ginbot 7 and TPDM; the Americans and Brits are then freed heroically by elite commando forces of Eritrea’s Defense Forces and Ginbot 7 and TPDM are killed in the shootout when they are shot in the back (no witnesses)

15.2 Total government collapse in Ethiopia (where the Eritrean government and its supporters continue to make dire predictions of its imminent demise since 2005 and have been right for 12 out of the last 0 collapses) and/or Sudan which necessitates holding your nose and striking a deal with the Eritrean regime;

15.3 Some Black Flag operation.

15.4 Wait for a miracle

16. Until then, be prepared to read the same SEMG reports with only the first paragraph changing from “for the sixth consecutive mandate…” and “for the seventh consecutive mandate…”



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