Large #Demonstration held by #Eritreans in the UK

Action Group for Eritrea Logo 3

By Action Group for Eritrea

On the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of the international ruling made by the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission, British-Eritreans and Friends of Eritrea held a demonstration in London on Monday 30th April 2012 outside the office of the Prime Minster, No. 10 Downing Street. The purpose of the demonstration was:

  • To call, as generations of Eritreans have done before, for the cycle of historic injustices against Eritrea to end.
  • To call for the guarantors of the Algiers Agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia to shoulder their legal responsibilities and take necessary measures to force Ethiopia to vacate the occupied Eritrean territories.
  • To call on the UNSC to annul and repeal the unjust and unfair sanctions imposed on Eritrea.
  • To call on the British Government, as a permanent member of the UNSC, to play its responsible role in pressuring Ethiopia to abide by its treaty obligations.

The demonstration started at 10:00 am and went on until 2:30 pm. Eritreans and their friends came from all over the United Kingdom, including Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester and Birmingham. The turnout was estimated to have been in excess of 1500 at its peak. Such a high turnout on a Monday morning, at very short notice, was indicative of the unity and dedication of the people to the cause. Among the demonstrators were friends of Eritrea who joined in the chanting. The police confirmed that the demonstration was peaceful and commended the orderly work of the group leaders.

After two weeks of non-stop downpour of rain, the sun came out in all its glory on the day of the demonstration giving the demonstrators the energy and vibrancy to make themselves heard as far as the offices of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, across the road.

The demonstration, while peaceful, was loud with chants and placards that read: No to Intimidation and Provocation, Stop Selling Arms to Ethiopia, We Stand against War and Terrorism, Stop Appeasing Ethiopia, Ethiopia – Vacate Eritrea’s Territory Immediately, Annul Unjust Sanctions, No to Sanctions based on Lies, Long Live Eritrea, etc.

Two thousand fliers were distributed to members of the public passing by which included civil servants, tourists and others. The flier highlighted the historic injustices against Eritrea in chronological order and listed the reasons for the demonstration.

Two thousand fliers were distributed to members of the public passing by which included civil servants, tourists and others. The flier highlighted the historic injustices against Eritrea in chronological order and listed the reasons for the demonstration.

A delegation led by Ahmed Mahmoud, the Head of the Eritrean Campaign Network for Peace and Development presented a letter together with a petition signed by approximately 2000 people to the Office of the Prime Minister at 12:30pm.

The letter reminded the Prime Minister that 10 years after the rulings of the Boundary Commission, Ethiopia still continues to occupy sovereign Eritrean territory in violation of the Algiers Agreement, a final and binding international arbitration verdict, various international laws and several Security Council resolutions.

The letter reminded the Prime Minister of Britain’s legal obligations as a guarantor of the Algiers Agreement and called on him to ensure Ethiopia’s compliance with its international treaty obligations and UNSC resolutions and withdraw from occupied Eritrean territory. The letter also called on the Prime Minister to call for the annulment of the unjust Security Council sanctions imposed on Eritrea and redouble the government’s effort for the establishment of a comprehensive peace in the Horn of Africa.

At 2:30 pm, a delegation led by Seble Ephrem, the Chairperson of the Eritrean Relief Association in the UK and representatives of the various sectors of the Eritrean community in the UK held a meeting with the Foreign and Commonwealth officials Allan Wilson, Chloe Hamborg and Lucy Ahad. The representatives conveyed clear and direct message of the growing anger and frustration felt by Eritreans from all walks of life as a result of the injustices that the people have been subjected to. They explained how British policy has directly contributed to the abuse of basic human rights of the Eritrean people, citing specific examples. They noted, with great sadness, that this has been the case historically and called on the Foreign Office to rectify its policy towards Eritrea.

The representatives also highlighted the absurdity of the sanctions imposed against Eritrea, the known political motives of the controversial figure heading the Monitoring Group and the lack of morality of the British Government in relation to the arms sales to Ethiopia while imposing an arms embargo against Eritrea in blatant violation of its right to defend itself against unprovoked attacks.

They also urged the British Government to shoulder its responsibility as a member of the European Union and as a permanent member of the Security Council and take measures to ensure that the final and binding decision of the Boundary Commission is implemented. Representing the younger British Eritrean generation, Ebrahim Ali candidly expressed the embittered feelings of his peers who he said are proud to be British as much as they are to be Eritrean, by highlighting a fundamental inconsistency in the policy of the Foreign Office in its approaches to the Eritrea-Ethiopia and Eritrea-Djibouti boundaries. He also noted how it seemed to him unreasonable that the Foreign Office was effectively supporting sanctions on the basis that Eritrea would not engage on dictated terms instead of evidence supporting the accusations against Eritrea.

Finally, a package of documents including over 30 relevant articles and thoughts of Eritreans written on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the EEBC ruling were handed in to further increase the awareness of the officials of the views of Eritreans across the globe.

In return, the officials from the FCO thanked the representatives and explained the position of the British Government on the issues raised with them. They confirmed that it continuously raises the matter with both Eritrean and Ethiopian governments and calls for peaceful settlement of the border in accordance with the decision of the Boundary Commission. With respect to the UNSC sanctions, it was stated that the British Government relies on the evidence presented by the Monitoring Group and its own intelligence and that it does not take Ethiopia’s accusations at face value.

The officials also stated that the British Government wants to develop its bilateral relations with Eritrea. To this effect, the UK hosted a high level delegation of the Eritrean Government and looks forward to the establishment of continued and mutually beneficial relationship.

The meeting ended with the delegates thanking the officials for the warm reception accorded.

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