By Seble Ephrem,
WITHOUT playing a victim role, it is a historical fact the geopolitically strategic location of Eritrea has long been eyed with rapacious appetite by all Empire builders over several centuries – Egypt, Ottoman, Italy, Britain, the U.S., Ethiopia. Its exposure to such multitude of colonisers and various corporate exploiters vis-a-vis its continued survival and prevalence is not only astounding but should be a prime case study for anthropologists and other social scientists in the paradoxical resilience of the people of Eritrea against endless, insurmountable natural, economic, political and social hardships and barriers.
After the defeat of Italy at the end of WWII, the UK took control of all three Italian colonies in Africa eventually granting independence to Libya and Somalia, while deliberating with her U.S. and French allies on the fate of Eritrea over a ten year British Administration period, a period of large asset and infrastructure stripping.
John Foster Dulles, U.S. Secretary of State during D. Eisenhauer presidency declared:
“From the point of justice the Eritrean people’s point of view must be considered. Nevertheless, the strategic interests of the United States in the Red Sea Basin and world peace make it necessary that the country be linked with our ally, Ethiopia.”
Not without background support of the United Kingdom to this U.S. plan, and against the wishes of the Eritrean people, Eritrea was federated to Ethiopia in 1952. But this arrangement was not sufficiently satiating to Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie, who abrogated the federal state and merged Eritrea as the 14th province of his Empire.
The silence on the part of the US and UK at this flagrant reversal of their federal arrangement indicated consent.
For the Eritreans it was the last straw and they were left with no option but to embark on an armed struggle.
Thirty years of a bitter, brutal war against a mighty Ethiopian power that was financially, logistically and militarily supplied to the hilt in turn by the U.S. and later the Soviet Union, culminated in typical Eritrean victory against all odds in 1991. This was a lonely war for Eritrea – where the international community never lifted a finger or exerted their powers to halt the incessant injustice, no human rights activists raised a peep, no sanctions were passed on the perpetrators of crimes against humanity, no religious organisations used their connections to work on the social conscience of concerned bodies. If anything every one of these institutions was in the business of promoting their own area of interest, while the Eritrean people went through untold barbarity, dispersal, decimation.
Fast forward to 2009, while the Algiers Agreement final and binding decision on the Ethiopian Eritrean boundary remains in abeyance as a result of Ethiopia’s refusal to comply, and while the UN, U.S., AU, EU, the august witnesses and guarantors look away, a brand new design to further damage Eritrea in the form of UN sanctions 1907/2009 is drawn up alleging Eritrean involvement with Somali rebels. While this was cleverly made to appear as though it was an African initiative, the fact is it was primarily a plan drawn up by the UK.
On 8th Oct 2009 Associated Press reported the UK Ambassador to UN, John Sawars’, statement:
“Britain called Thursday for U.N. sanctions against the tiny Red Sea nation of Eritrea for supplying weapons to opponents of the transitional government in nearby Somalia in violation of a U.N. arms embargo.” He added “Britain stands ready to support such action”.
And S/RES 1907 (2009) was passed on unsubstantiated allegations.
As though this was ineffective, Eritrea was hit with yet another lot of unfair, unfounded sanctions 2023/2011 including an arms embargo.
Just like the whip that strikes and then whistles, the UK while continuing to play an unhelpful role in the ongoing knocking of all Eritrean developmental progress, it then has the gall to present as protector of human rights, of condescendingly directing Eritrean governance, of acting as purer than white and playing plaintiff and judge.
Against this succinct but complex background, 41+ Members of both Houses of the UK Parliament have recently been rushing to table their concerns over the Government of Eritrea. Many of these have long standing awareness and have seemingly stood by Eritrea and the historical unfair treatment she has been subjected to. They know full well the Eritrean war for independence has been to liberate the people from oppression and to create equitable opportunities for the people and national development and have been following the relentless efforts invested by the Eritrean Government to achieve such goals since the country gained independence only 23 years ago. Others are mostly responding to constituent momentum of economic issues as a result of increased asylum applications from people claiming to be ‘Eritreans’.
The fact is knowingly or otherwise, they are all responding to the U.S. led pressure to facilitate in the intervention of a Commission of Inquiry purportedly, a UN initiative, in their continued strife to punish Eritrea for standing up to safeguard her best interests. Eritrea is a sovereign state and has every right to refuse entry visas to unwelcome visitors, especially those that are so evidently politically motivated and mandated.
In light of the unimplemented Ethiopian – Eritrean Boundary decision and the constant Ethiopian and her allies’ openly declared threats and suspended state of emergency, Eritrea is forced to remain on alert, hence the extended maintenance of the national service.
The UK Government could and should now move away from whipping and crying foul and consider a more constructive route to achieving an all round solution by taking steps towards fairness and applying its own Rule of Law by looking at the real causes (rather than effects) of discord with Eritrea, a young country, and the Horn of Africa on the whole.
May 2015 be the year for improved and mutually positive global relations.