“Eritrea’s unfaltering historical stance and robust solidarity on South Sudan was never adulterated by whimsical considerations in response to fluid or changing developments and realities … it is an indelible historical fact that is embossed on granite” – Eritrean Foreign Ministry
By Afarh Negash,
In his testimony before the U.S. House of Foreign Affairs Committee on ‘U.S. Policy Towards Sudan and South Sudan’ delivered on February 26, John Prendergast made two preposterous points related to Eritrea. He said that “allegations are increasing” of Eritrean covert support to South Sudan opposition; and, if an “independent investigation” proved these allegations credible then the UN Security Council “should consider expanding the sanction” on Eritrea.
What possible reason could there be for Eritrea who has showed unwavering solidarity with the struggle of the people of South Sudan to seek to “destabilize” that country? And what triggers such claims when Eritrea had stated its views on the current crisis in South Sudan publicly on several occasions. For instance, in his recent interview President Isaias Afwerki stated his country’s policy on the situation in South Sudan as follow:
“the conflict is a result of mismanagement of the nation-building process exacerbated by selfishness of leaders like Rick Machar; that a sustainable solution can only be achieved through internal political process; and, that the role of the international community should only be one that supports the government of President Kiir’s effort to consummate the complex and daunting task of nation-building. Moreover, Eritrea has reiterated to a visiting South Sudanese delegation that its commitment and support to the people and government of South Sudan is unflinching.”
Although Prendergast has not identified his sources, it is clear that he was repeating the allegations made by Ethiopia. According to multiple diplomatic sources, during the latest African Union Summit held this past January in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian Prime Minister was busy trying to convince the present delegations of Eritrea’s support for Riek Machar.
This is not surprising. Demonizing Eritrea is the central goal of Ethiopia’s regional policy. To this end, the Ethiopian Government has made a habit of concocting baseless allegations against Eritrea. Ethiopia, with the help of the US, has been bullying countries of the region to publicly accuse Eritrea of fabricated wrongdoings, or to at least not contradict its claims of Eritrea made on their behalf.
Officials in Addis Ababa take it up on themselves to analyze Eritrea’s relationship with the countries of the Horn. They unabashedly twist any positive developments and make mendacious claims to tarnish Eritrea’s image. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was candid enough to publicly admit that his Government has “a standing policy…to announce time and again that Eritrean regime is destabilizing the region, the Horn of Africa, not Ethiopia but the whole region.”
In its bid to maintain a political pressure on Eritrea, Ethiopia has continued its effort to falsely link Eritrea with crises in the region, many of which fomented by Ethiopia itself. As the initial and subsequent allegations made to impose and maintain the sanctions continue to prove false, many members of the Security Council are advocating for the lifting of the sanctions on Eritrea.
Ethiopia, afraid this sudden change in the mood of the international community may go after its refusal to implement the arbitration decision on its borders with Eritrea, is engaged in a frantic diplomatic and public relations campaign. In a leaked memo sent to some Ethiopian embassies including the ones in Sudan and South Sudan, the Foreign Minister instructed the embassies to make sure the sanctions on Eritrea are not lifted.
One thing that has become overtly clear to many in the international community is that since the imposition of sanctions on Eritrea, those who made allegations have yet to come up with concrete evidence. Despite the attempts made to link Eritrea with al Shabab, neither the accusing countries nor the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group have managed to produce evidence implicating Eritrea. Furthermore, attempts made to tie Eritrea to al-Shabab only resulted in making a mockery of UN Security Council members, causing some of them to take measures including blocking the Report of the Group on Eritrea.
Although the facts above speak for themselves, Prendergast and his ilk continue to peddle unfounded allegations. It is indeed unfortunate that US policy in the Horn of Africa is being steered by pundits whose goal is to perpetuate conflicts rather than to bring peace to the Horn, a region whose citizens are suffering from perpetual conflicts. In this event, using Eritrea as a scapegoat for the failure of their misguided policies, waging propaganda campaigns to defame the country, victimizing the people of Eritrea through sanctions, as well as aiding and abetting Ethiopia to continue its occupation of Eritrean territories will neither solve the intricate problems of the Horn nor will it help US interests in the region.
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