25+ #Eritrean cyclists, representing 175+ communities in #Australia, #Europe & #NorthAmerica to deliver this message
Eritrean Communities & Organizations Memorandum to the UN
Presented by The Cycling Tour for the Truth, Peace, Justice & Eritrea (CT4TPJE) – 13 April 2015
We’re here today to urge the United Nations to lift the unjust sanctions imposed on Eritrea in 2009 and 2011, and to put an end to Ethiopia’s occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories so that this young nation can fully focus on its real enemies: underdevelopment as well as extremism.Because these problems have long, deep global and regional roots, we feel obligated to start with the following infamous words by John Foster Dulles, US Ambassador to the UN and later Secretary of State, to the UN six decades ago:
“From the point of view of justice, the opinions of the Eritrean people must receive consideration. Nevertheless the strategic interest of the United States in the Red Sea basin and the considerations of security and world peace make it necessary that the country has to be linked with our ally Ethiopia.”
Nothing much has changed the way Eritrea is treated by successive US administrations since these words were spoken. Under the cover of the United Nations the Eritrean people continue to be denied justice, and their nation’s integrity and sovereignty continue to be violated.
Therefore, today more than 25 Eritrean cyclists from ten different countries, representing over 175 Eritrean communities in Australia, Europe and North America, are here to deliver to you this message (the list of the communities that sponsored us is attached as an endnote with this memorandum). We are formally submitting their call and concerns!
The bike tour started in Göteborg, Sweden, on the 31st of March, made stops in 10 German and 3 Swiss cities and covered over 1700 km of distance.
The purpose of our project is to draw attention to the following:
- An end to Ethiopia’s illegal occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories, including the town of Badme
- An immediate and unconditional implementation of the border demarcation process as required by the 13-year old, final and binding, Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission decision;
- An end to the illegal UN sanctions imposed on Eritrea on December 2009, and then December 2011, which have long been proven to be based on totally fabricated and falsified “evidence” by Ethiopia and its enablers.
- And end to all the politically motivated and deliberate misrepresentation of Eritrea’s human rights record and the undeserved vilification of Eritrea.
Ethiopia’s Occupation: a Violation of Eritrea’s Sovereign Right
When both Eritrea and Ethiopia signed the Algiers Agreement of 2000, the United Nations was a witness and guarantor. The Algiers Agreement, brokered and authored by the UN, EU and US, had called for the delimitation and demarcation of the Eritrea-Ethiopia border and that punitive actions would be taken against the party that did not abide by its treaty obligations. The independent and neutral Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) delivered its unanimous final and binding delimitation decision on 13 April 2002 (thirteen years ago this day), and because of Ethiopia’s intransigence, the Commission which was ready to demarcate the border physically, was forced to opt for a virtual demarcation of the border. Demarcate it did and on 30 November 2007, it was presented to both parties, as well as the UN and the African Union, with detailed maps and coordinates for 146 primary and secondary pillars. Eritrea had fully accepted the decision; Ethiopia, however, encouraged by some permanent members of the UN Security Council, refuses to implement the decision calling it “totally illegal, unjust, and irresponsible”.
It also, in defiance of the EEBC’s order of July 2002, continues to build settlements of Ethiopians in sovereign Eritrean territories after expelling its original Eritrean inhabitants. This means this Ethiopian occupation is violating the Eritrean people’s right to live in peace in their own territory; it is also a violation of their right to development. Not only the right to development in the occupied territories, but by living under a continuous war-footing, Eritrea is being forced to sacrifice precious resources that could have been used for development to defend itself from an aggressive neighbor.
We have to warn that the silence of the UN is encouraging Ethiopia to provoke Eritrea into yet another bloodshed. As if the 30-year long war between Eritrea and Ethiopia was not enough, and as if the over 135, 000 Ethiopian and 20, 000 Eritrean lives that were lost during the 1998-2000 war did not matter, the UN Security Council is neglecting its main mandate, that of ensuring peace and security in the Horn of Africa. Thus, we have biked over 1700 km to call for an immediate and unconditional end of Ethiopia’s occupation.
UN Sanctions: Another Violation of Eritrea’s Right to Self Defense
Though the pretext for the unjust UN Security Council sanctions Resolution 1907 (2009) of December 23, 2009 and Resolution 2023 (2011) from December 5, 2011, were imposed on Eritrea to “serve” peace and security in Somalia, the past five years have made it amply clear, that they were designed to prop up the minority government of Ethiopia by punishing innocent Eritrea. First and foremost, the arms embargo, which prevents Eritrea from importing weapons, is an evil scheme designed to tie Eritrea’s hands behind its back and to enable the historically belligerent Ethiopia, a country responsible for the loss of hundreds of thousands of Eritrean lives in its 40 years of occupation, do more harm. This too is a violation of Eritrea’s right to self-defense and Eritreans’ right to live in peace.
The very forces that had orchestrated lies against Eritrea are still wreaking havoc in the region. As former Assistant Secretary for African Affairs and veteran Ambassador Herman Cohen, said it a year ago:
“Those of us who know Eritrea well, understand that the Eritrean leadership fears Islamic militancy as much as any other country in the Horn of Africa region. … In view of the absence of any intelligence, real or fabricated, linking Eritrea with Shabaab for over four years, the UN Security Council should terminate sanctions imposed in 2009 by UNSC resolution 1907.”
There is no, and there was no “intelligence, real or fabricated”, that linked Eritrea to any form of extremism in the Horn of Africa other than that what the Ethiopians have been peddling to the bankrupt Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group. It’s beyond any sense of logic to blame Eritrea, a victim of repeated terrorist attacks, of supporting extremists, be they in Somalia or anywhere in the region. All evidence indicates that most of these fabrications were generated by Ethiopian operatives at home and abroad, and by their highly-paid lobbyists in Washington, D.C., and other capitals, as well as the minority regime’s Western enablers serving as accomplices.
As for the Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group we are talking of a team that has lots of problems when it comes to credibility. This is a group that can not “execute its responsibilities and mandate with professionalism, impartiality and objectivity.” It is a group that is being influenced left and right “by political considerations outside of its mandate”. The disgraceful exit of Dinesh Mahtani, its financial expert, in the fall of 2014, after he was caught red-handed advocating for regime change in Eritrea on behalf of the UN, and prior to that the firing of Matt Bryden, its coordinator, for his dubious behavior as a monitor, are two latest cases that clearly indicate this team has completely lost its legitimacy as an impartial UN investigative body.
In fact, the UN is well aware that the group has lost its credibility among many UN Security Council members as well, including some of its permanent members like Russia and China. For example, the Russian Permanent Representative, Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, dismissed the team’s 2013 report as “dishonest and politically motivated.” The report was also dismissed by Norway, Italy, and South Africa. Even the Somali Government itself has wholesale rejected the Monitoring Group’s report.
As the leaked diplomatic cables clearly demonstrate, both UNSC Resolutions 1907(2009) and 2023(2011) were incubated in the U.S. UN office and hatched in Ethiopia. Ambassador Donald Yamamoto is quoted in one of the cables admitting that the US had “advised the Prime Minister and his senior leadership … any case against Eritrea should be raised by other countries. Any charges levied by Ethiopia would be viewed only in the context of their border conflict.”
The 2011 sanctions were also adopted under the same false accusations that were orchestrated by the US UN using Ethiopia and Kenya as actors. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, responding to the absurd accusation from Ethiopia, that said Eritrea had tried to bomb the annual gathering of the African Union Heads of States meeting in Addis Ababa had said “the Security Council was not presented with convincing proof of Eritrea’s involvement in that incident. We have not seen the results of any investigation of that incident, if indeed there was one.”
On the accusations by the Kenyan Government that Eritrea was supplying weapons to Somali extremists by plane, the UN Monitoring group itself admitted that it “has found no evidence to substantiate allegations that Eritrea supplied Al-Shabaab with arms and ammunition by air in October and November 2011. No evidence to substantiate the allegations that one or more aircraft landed at Baidoa International Airport between 29 October and 3 November 2011, or that Eritrea supplied Al-Shabaab in Baidoa by air with arms and ammunition during the same period.”
The US-Ethiopia conspiracy against Eritrea has reached as far as the U.S. giving a green light to Ethiopia to employ terrorist groups to attack Eritrea in the lowland. In one of the cables, Meles said, “one option would be to directly support opposition groups that are capable of sending ‘armed propaganda units into Eritrea Meles said that “the groups with the most capability to operate inside Eritrea are those ‘that you don’t like from the lowlands, like the Keru’ who he said would be ‘much better able to survive in Eritrea.’” This is the very same area and terrorist group that beheaded, in cold blood, Canadian Timothy Nutt, “Africa’s foremost economic geologist” on 12 April 2003. It is the same group that bombed an independence-day celebration in Barentu in 2004 and responsible for the March 20, 2015 attempt to sabotage operations of the Canadian owned Bisha gold mine in the vicinity of the area the Americans and Ethiopians were talking about 5 years ago.
All these US hostilities against Eritrea stem from the fact that Eritrea pursues an independent domestic and regional political and economic policy, it has refused to be subservient to its misguided policies for the region. As Professor Richard Reid, a history professor at SOAS, University of London, put it, US policy is biased in favor of Ethiopia and against Eritrea “for all sorts of reasons” one of them being:
“Eritrea was seen as a bunker state; they were less easy to control. Ethiopia had a more reliable military perhaps. Their policy was more directable and perhaps predictable. Whereas Eritrea, from the mid 1990s, it was clearly seen unpredictable and couldn’t be relied upon to do certain things that Washington might wanted to do.”
Denial of Remittance: violation of Eritrea’s Right to Development
The much talked about 2% Rehabilitation and Development Tax that Eritreans in the Diaspora pay, also had nothing to do with Somalia. This noble contribution has been a target of the US from as far back as 1999 (during the Eritrea-Ethiopia border war). A leaked US diplomatic cable from Asmara makes it clear that the Americans were bent in “disrupting the hard currency supply chain” so that they can “significantly and detrimentally impact the operations of the GSE”. We also read the Americans strategizing with the Ethiopians on this sinister scheme. The late Ethiopian Prime Minister is quoted to have said: “Isaias’ calculations would be shattered, if the U.S. and others imposed financial sanctions on him and particularly cut off Isaias’ funding from Qatar and other countries and the important funding from the Diaspora in the U.S” Another Ethiopian official from its Ministry of Foreign Affairs repeats “cutting off the flow of money to Eritrea was essential. Particularly, remittances from the U.S. were a major source of funding for Eritrea.” The Ethiopians were assured by US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Karl Wycoff,
“that the U.S. remains committed to achieving a UNSC sanctions regime against Asmara and continues to broaden the discussion beyond the P3 and Uganda with a hard push by USUN” and that “USG was also expanding efforts to undercut support for Asmara, noting for example he has been sent on a trip to Cairo, Riyadh, Jeddah and other cities both to promote efforts to undercut flows of support to Asmara.”
These clearly show that the US and Ethiopia conspiring to deny the right of the Eritrean people to development.
Eritreans in the Diaspora, like their other African brothers and sisters, have been sharing their meager resources with their relatives back in the homeland and they have been doing it for the past five decades. The Eritrean Diaspora is actively contributing towards the development of Eritrea so that generations to come can have a bright future. Compared to the need of Eritrea, the financial contribution of Eritreans in the Diaspora is fairly small, but its symbolic significance is paramount. The love and loyalty Diaspora Eritreans have for their ancestral land is peerless. This means the issue about remittances, cultural festivals, and the modest 2% Development and Rehabilitation contributions, the UN and some powers are targeting at the behest of those who do not wish Eritrea well is not about money. What they are after is breaking the loyalty Diaspora Eritreans have for their people and country of origin. It is this unfettered loyalty they are trying to break. For Diaspora Eritreans, their country of origin and its people are priceless. They know well that no amount of money they send back home matches the endurance and sacrifice the people inside Eritrea are making.
The independence of Eritrea was not a gift of some treaty signed in European colonial capitals; it is the result of the precious gift brought by the priceless sacrifices of its precious sons and daughters. Their sacrifice is what allowed us to reclaim our identity and our cultural heritage. Though we are outside Eritrea, Eritrea remains inside us. Eritrea has remained to become the fountain of our steadfastness and tenacity; our loyalty to our kinship is everlasting. We oppose any attempt that tries to disrupt this.
War and Occupation: Obstacles to Enjoying Full Human Rights
It is indisputable that foreign occupation results in the violation of the fundamental human rights of the occupied people. It creates a situation in which the people are victimized in many different ways, ranging from gross violations of their fundamental freedoms to physical abuse of especially women and children. This has been one of the principles that guided the mandate of the UN Human Rights Council in the past. Eritrean people’s rights are being violated by Ethiopia’s occupation. The establishment of settlements: population transfers into the occupied territories, are a form of “population transfer into occupied territory”. This systematic measure designed to expand and consolidate settlements is illegal under international law, so is the confiscation of land to build or expand settlements which is prohibited under International humanitarian Law (the Fourth Geneva Convention) which:
- Prohibits the expulsion of citizens from their land; Ethiopia’s mass deportations and expulsion of Eritrean inhabitants from the occupied territories, is in violation of this basic human right.
- Prohibits an occupying power from transferring “its own population into the territory it occupies”, Ethiopia’s program of settling its own civilians in the occupied territories around Badme, a fact the EEBC condemned and ordered it to stop as early as 2002 and which is still continuing is a violation of basic human right.
- Prohibits the confiscation of properties of citizens in the occupied territories; Ethiopia’s confiscation of property and land of those people it expelled from the occupied territories is another violation of a people’s right.
- Prohibits the destruction of cultural property; Ethiopia’s wanton and systematic destruction of Eritrea’s cultural heritage sites, including the desecration of cemeteries and burial grounds, is a violation of human rights.
As we stated above, Ethiopian occupation, coupled with the illegal sanctions and the international community’s indifference, is a systematic violation of the Eritrean people’s right to security, peace and development. Furthermore, the politically motivated attempt to drain Eritrea’s brain-power is a violation of human rights. Eritrea’s educated youth, those educated using Eritrea’s meager resources, are being lured away from a life of dignity to do menial jobs in Europe and North America. All this after enduring the ordeals of harsh deserts, merciless high seas, and the stress under unscrupulous human smugglers, traffickers, and self-appointed human rights activists who have made it a habit to live off the misery of others.
What is even outrageous is that this politically motivated brain drain scheme, purposely perpetuated by the US-led West, is being turned inside out in the sense that it is blamed on Eritrea. Eritrea, the victim, is now being accused of human rights violations by what we might term a racist process. The very same powers that are encouraging the non-implementation of the final and binding decision of the EEBC are shamelessly blaming Eritrea for prolonging the National Service. Worse yet, as if to whitewash the crimes of slavery on people of African origin, and the crimes of genocide and labor camps Europe committed on the Jewish people during World War II, terms like “slave labor” and “forced labor” are used to denigrate the noble contribution Eritrea’s youth are making to build their own nation, by serving as medical doctors, teachers, and engineers to give back to the population that educated them. We are calling for this insensitive and racist use of these terms to stop immediately.
In addition, Eritrea is being forced to go through a politically motivated process of a Special Rapporteur and Commission of Inquiry. This process is a well-planned vilification campaign designed to sully the name of a hard working people, government and nation. Particularly, the conduct of the UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, over the last two years has been neither that of an independent expert, nor that of an impartial observer. She has instead been one of an activist that is publicly engaged in an anti-Eritrea campaign on and off the cameras. The Special Rapporteur came to the job with preconceived notions about the Government and people of Eritrea, notions derived from her previous engagements with hostile anti-Eritrea groups and individuals. Her cozy association with several of these anti-Eritrea individuals and groups is also a matter of public record. Her reports are filled with verbatim regurgitations of the many unsubstantiated allegations produced by the minority regime in Ethiopia and its enablers the past 17 years. She does not seek to search for the truth or advance human rights in Eritrea. Almost all of her accusations are fabrications that border on plagiarism from unverified Internet sources. Some accusations are so outrageous designed to insult the intelligence of every member of the Human Rights Council. She tells of tall tales of “unaccompanied 7 and 8 year olds are crossing the border into Ethiopia to escape national service”. How would a 7 year old know the effects of a national service, of trying to escape from it? How would a 7 year old cross a hostile border area that is a challenge to adults let alone to minors? This is a good example on of how the Special Rapporteur doesn’t even take the time to read what she lifts from the Internet.
During the past decade and a half, the priorities of Eritrea have been to achieve food security, eradicate diseases such as malaria, decrease infant and child mortality rates and increase access to education to all sectors of the population. Based on its own and independent evaluations, it has achieved modest successes in all these efforts. However, Ethiopia’s continued occupation and the illegal sanctions are standing in the way of achieving the full enjoyment of development, dignity, security, peace and other human rights. Eritrea, a nation that is busy trying to improve the lives of its citizens by investing in education, healthcare and food security, should be encouraged and not punished. We believe a long-term and fruitful relationship between Eritrea and the other nations in the region is essential for maintaining peace and security, and fighting off poverty and extremism in the Horn of Africa.
Therefore, we ask the UN to do what is moral and ethical: to lift the unjust sanctions, compel Ethiopia to vacate Eritrea’s occupied territories and cease and desist the politically motivated process that is being played under the cover of human rights.
Eritrean Communities and Organizations in Australia, Europe and North America
Geneva, 13 April 2015