By Daniel Berhane,
AS ONE of the greatest cities in the world, London is renowned for many things, and has been crowned “the most influential city in the world” and “the ‘best city in the world” among other things. Similarly, London, as global media power and a great center for influential think tanks and research institutes, it comes on top in hosting events addressing Eritrea’s political, diplomatic, and economic issues in the last decade.
From the several reports and papers produced by Chatham House, the world-leading international affairs think tank –including a report predicting the collapse of the Eritrean economy in a matter of months – to the recent intensive several events concerning human rights and migration that were held in some London Universities. These great institutions have become a platform for presenting biased reports; and spinning a politically motivated garbage as a scientific production that are then presented at the United Nations, including in human right hearings and used to justify sanctions, and to tarnish the image of Eritrea in the wider media.
After having a free rein in these great institutions for years, there came, an alternative narrative, “Eritrea, through the lens of Business Ethics and Sustainability” in the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies Russell Square London at the end of last year. However, these interest groups’ reaction was an extraordinary attempt to stop the event from taking place; that is pretty rich coming from groups who claim to advocate for democracy.
Of course, unlike, these groups, the Solicitors International Human Right Groups (SIHRG), does not have any conflict of interest; and the report authored by Vice Chair of SIHRG, Ruby Sandhu, was also a result of a visit to Eritrea – including field and research trip to the mining site.
By barely looking at the individuals and interest groups or the foot soldiers, delivering such programs without the main international and regional actors that have their own interest, is like not seeing the forest for the trees.
The USA has not only been at the center of obstructing the implementation of Eritrea-Ethiopia border ruling, but it has also been actively working to bring about a “regime change” in Eritrea through economic, political, military and other forms of pressures. While these are the fundamental causes of the main challenges Eritrea finds itself, the USA, with the support of its regional agent, Ethiopia, has been employing the regional and international organizations as well as through extensive funding of Eritrean individuals and groups to blame the Eritrean government for the consequences that it deliberately helped to create.
While the gigantic Western Human Right organizations have deliberately ignored this fact and depicted it as excuse, the report, Eritrea, through the lens of Business Ethics and Sustainability, has rightly put it as “distorted narrative and flagrant disregard of Eritrean sovereignty by the west and through a one lens narrative.” Furthermore, the report highlights the extensive financial and political support that are provided to Ethiopia by the West.
Having tried, every means to bring Eritrea to its knees, Eritrean economy is now at the top of the target. The mining industry started off well in the early 1990s with a few mining companies engaging in exploration, however, this was brought to halt when the conflict resumed with Ethiopia. Overcoming enormous obstacles, Eritrea has managed to get back into developing the mining industry. Eritrea has now 17 companies engaged in exploration and one that has reached in production stage.
This has sent shock waves through Ethiopia and some Western powers. Urging his partners in crime for sanction on Eritrea, this is what the Former Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin said: “if you think Eritrea is a problem now with no economy, wait until it is flush with cash,” according to Wikileaks Cable dated, Tuesday, 26 May 2009.
Of course, the USA, using its power and influence, initially imposed the first sanction mainly targeting Eritrea’s capability to defend itself from Ethiopia’s aggression that was adopted by the Security Council two days before Christmas day in 2009. Then the USA went for the kill targeting Eritrean economy in December 2011.
Susan Rice, USA’s Ambassador to the United Nations, declared
“Yes, the United States is very much interested in additional pressure and sanctions being applied on Eritrea. This is something that we’ll continue to discuss and debate in the Security Council. But from the U.S. point of view, we think that that is timely.”
True to her words a bit watered-down – from an earlier draft that seek to ban companies from investing in mineral resources and prohibit the payment of a remittances tax- yet with strong references to both targets, sanction was imposed by the Security Council on December 5, 2011.
The process of imposing the sanctions were riddled with manipulation, bullying and lies including the most wild and fictional allegations that ‘Eritrea plotted to bomb the African Union Summit in Ethiopia‘ and the ‘presence of 2000 fully equipped combat Eritrean troops supporting for Islamist rebels in Somalia‘.
Having used false allegations and misinformation to justify the sanction, the supposedly independent body – the Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) – have recently reported that it found no evidence of Eritrea support to Al-shabaab, yet the sanction remains intact.
However, it does not stop there, the USA and Ethiopia, have moved to the their next target to pressure Eritrea using human rights as pretense. They are now claiming to be the guardian angels for the Eritrean people, pouring their tears down for the suffering of Eritrean people and and accuse the mining companies for using “slave labor”.
The USA has utilized vast resources to pressure Eritrean government on the ground of human rights; while it is the main responsible party for the cause of the instability and prolonged state of war between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Utilizing the UN as a platform for prosecuting the victim through the politically motivated UN Special Rapporteur, and financing several NGOs that supposedly advocate for human rights in Eritrea.
At a top on the hit list is Eritrea’s mining industry, the “human rights groups” are now working to sabotage the progress that has been made through their false allegations of “slave labor.” National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has also been kind enough to allocate funds for an organization that is dedicated for this cause “raise awareness with international mining companies about forced labor used at mining sites in Eritrea and provide support to and moderate its online dialogue forum for Eritrean diaspora.”
As the BBC Journalist and a strategist for groups against Eritrea, Martin Plaut, gloated “41 British Parliamentarians – from all political parties – have backed a motion condemning the abuse of human rights in Eritrea and the role of mining companies in exploiting the forced labor that results from compulsory military service.” A good reason for these groups to give themselves a pat on the back.
Martin Plaut made his debut on the Eritrean internal political scene at the beginning of the new millennium with the headline that Eritrean people were to “boycott war dead ceremonies” in his report published in the BBC news prior to the Eritrean Martyrs’ Day. He then went to attend the event in London where he witnessed thousands of Eritreans in attendance, putting him in a great shame.
The purpose of all his reports is to advocate for a particular agenda. This is just one example of many, here, even if he were informed by handful of Eritreans that they were going to boycott the most important day in Eritrean calendar, he could have waited few days until the event and report if this was indeed true; but since his agenda was to encourage Eritreans to stay at home he reported it prior to the event.
Martin Plaut has also been instrumental and at the center of most of the events organized in the UK think tanks and research institutes. He also presented papers to undermine Eritrea’s stand in the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia; and devising a strategy on how to weaken and overthrow the Eritrean government for the anti Eritrea elements; which included the revision of Eritrean history in order to discredit and dishonour the government and Eritrean nationalism at large.
This man is not only to be found attacking Eritrea but he goes out of his way to defend Ethiopian regime. For instance in a meeting – titled “Somalia: a year after Ethiopia’s intervention”- that was hosted by the Royal African Society at the Centre of Africa Studies in University of London, Martin Plaut strenuously opposed the speaker, Dr Ahmed Samatar’s evidence backed assertion that invasion of Somalia had the prior approval of the USA. He claimed that Ethiopia invaded Somalia to protect its national interest.
Seated by his side, was Patrick Gilkes, who was at least honest enough to say “I work for the Ethiopian government” and went on to claim unconvincing he had the real evidence that the Ethiopian government was in fact told by a high ranking US general not to invade Somalia.
The fundamental question here is that, are the ongoing efforts to undermine Eritrea -by all means possible- by all these elements and the USA government at large, really out of the concern for the human right of the Eritrean people and Eritrean national interest?
The best way to answer this question would be, first to look at the measures and actions that one, be it an international body, a government, or an individual, should be taking to truly support the human right of the Eritrean people and Eritrean national interest.
First and foremost, comes peace and stability in the region namely putting the illegal occupation of Eritrean territory by Ethiopia to an end and ensure Ethiopia respects the legally demarcated border. This would reduce the need for having a large army and bringing the focus of the Eritrean government and people to the main issues at hand – economic, political, and social developments.
Hence, taking the pressure off Eritrea’s very hostile neighbor with population of sixteen times bigger than itself, armed to the teeth with fire power and fully supported by the West, is a fundamental step to restore normalcy to Eritrea.
Despite this, the human right groups, the anti Eritrea elements and the USA, continue to dismiss this enormous problem as excuse; while at the same time using it as the main strategy to weaken Eritrea. The strategy of no-war-no-peace jointly with official UN sanction and numerous pressures on Eritrea by the USA, has brought about considerable economic, social and other problems.
Although the Eritrean people have been able to withstand these hardships because of their resilience that was built over a century of turbulent past, the state of affairs have led for many Eritreans to leave the country and facing great difficulties in a process.
This is an area where enemies of Eritrea can claim victory as they see it as a main propaganda tool and shed crocodile tears for the suffering of Eritrean people. The irony is , on one hand, the USA imposed illegal sanction in the name of UN and creates obstacle in resolving the problem between Eritrea and Ethiopia, on the other hand, it decries human right violations through its human right groups and pressure Eritrea through politically motivated United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea.
Moreover, the USA has been implicated in this matter as the leaked cables exposed its policy in encouraging Eritrean youth to leave their country. Using its massive global influence, USA pressured its allies for blanket acceptance of all Eritreans as refugees, which led for many thousands of people from other countries to claim asylum as Eritreans.
Israel was one of this country that invited Eritreans in a such way eight years ago. Israel was not even ready as it did not have a system for seeking asylum, therefore the UNHCR was in charge of processing the asylum claims. The only thing that was required to qualify for the paper was to be an Eritrean.
Second, any one who claims to be concerned for the well-being of the Eritrean people, would not try to sabotage the development that Eritrea is registering in the mining industry. The badly needed hard currency, could help in easing pressures to meet basic needs and support the economy. Eritrea’s enemies, however, find it as their worst nightmare- fearing the government might actually better deliver in improving the lives of Eritrean people.
Ethiopian regime has in particular requested the USA to utilize its resources and influence to put stop the mining campaniles in Eritrea. Despite earlier setbacks, enormous efforts are being made by the several groups and individuals hobnobbing with top politicians in the corridors of power with aim of sabotaging the progress in Eritrean mining industry.
The fabricated stories and the images that have been painted of the Eritrean mining industry, are being challenged by reports from extensive field visits that have been carried out by the Solicitors International Human Right Groups (SIHRG) and others.
The mining companies have had nothing but great things to say about Eritrea as business destination- in contrast to the negatively painted image of Eritrea internationally. Dr. Tim Williams articulated this in a simplest way “fantastic people,” “fantastic geology” and “the government is honest and obeys its own laws,” at seminar in the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies Russell Square London.
Eritrea has also set a great example for other less developed countries with its careful and strategic mindset, with sustainable development at the center of the policies, and ensuring the income is shared with the business partners fairly; and protecting the environment through legal agreements and practices.
The formation of the national mining company and educating a work force equipped with science and technology, is another strategic approach that has a great potential for future Eritrean generations to compete in the mining industry globally.
Dr. Tim Williams says “You only have to show an Eritrean once,” pointing to the Eritrean talented and fast learning workforce. Further more while out working in field with large group of eighteen, Dr. Tim says “I am the only non Eritrean.”
Eritrean people have paid enormous price to secure an independent country that owns its destiny and peacefully coexist with their neighbors. This has been greatly undermined by the competing powers in the Horn of Africa particular by the role of the USA, which has been exasperating the conflicts through its regional agent, Ethiopia, from bad to worst.
The USA and the groups that are being mobilized to undermine Eritrean national interest, have no moral authority to preach about human right to Eritrea. USA’s moral authority was lost when it violated the collective human right of Eritrean people when it decided to support the annexation of Eritrea by Ethiopia against their wish over sixty years ago; and still pursuing the same immoral policy that violates their rights until this day.
In keeping up with the information age and changing world, American foreign policy-makers need to review their policies. The people of the Horn of Africa have become well articulate and aware at spotting western tricks, shenanigans and more importantly through the consequences these policies that wreaked havoc in their lives.