Bringing Eritrea ‘in from the cold’ needs real policy changes by Eritrea’s government – By the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ethiopia
Every year or two, there’s a wave of suggestions that it might be time for the US to try and once again engage with Eritrea. The latest such effort came in December from former US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa (1989-1993), Herman Cohen in a piece entitled: “Time to Bring Eritrea in from the Cold”. Ambassador Cohen now heads a lobby firm but his recommendation was picked up by former US Ambassador to Ethiopia, David Shinn and by the former US Ambassador to South Africa, Princeton Lyman, both of whom supported the idea but argued (on the same website) that this might not be easy. Ambassador Shinn thought the idea was “harder than it sounds”, while Ambassador Lyman in a masterly understatement said previous efforts by the US had proved “difficult”. They are likely to continue to be so. Only last October, the Eritrean regime publicly blamed the US (and later the UN) for the Lampedusa tragedy when 366 Eritreans, mainly youngsters, were drowned trying to reach Italy, having fled from their own country. This sort of rhetoric is a commonplace of the Eritrean regime which in the past has claimed the US created the 1998 Eritrean-Ethiopian war, and suggested the 9/11 atrocity was carried out by the US itself. Nevertheless, Messrs. Cohen, Shinn and Lyman seemed to think: “we should try”.
In principle, of course, no one would disagree. Everyone would like to see Eritrea change policies and lose its status as a pariah state, but none of these comments by former US diplomats, get to the heart of the problem. This lies in the nature of the regime in Asmara and, leaving aside its highly repressive internal activities, its external policies. Others, besides the US have tried to improve relations with Eritrea over the years. None have been more than minimally successful. The reasons are simple and relate largely to Eritrea and President Isaias’ insistence on ignoring all norms of international behavior and international relations. Eritrea has repeatedly demonstrated over the past 23 years that the fundamental principles of its external policies are force, aggression and violence, either open or clandestine. These attitudes also characterize its internal policies. President Isaias operates with little understanding or interest in the wider world, which he has tended to ignore, especially when it fails to treat him with the exaggerated respect he apparently believes he and Eritrea deserve.
In the past neither efforts to establish trust nor attempts to negotiate have made much progress. It is only now as sanctions have begun to cause problems with remittances and offer a possible threat to mining operations which provide the major source of revenue to keep senior army officers and party leaders quiescent, that awareness is creeping in that the regime is facing deep and real economic and social problems. The most recent IMF estimates are that Eritrea’s per-capita GDP adjusted for purchasing power parity will grow only around 1.7% between 2013 and 2018, a mark that will lead to the nation being ranked as the second-poorest country in the world before the end of the decade. This is despite the input of some quite substantial profits from mining, though there have widespread claims that these are dependent upon what amounts to “˜slave labor’.
At the center of the argument of Messrs Cohen and Shinn is the issue of Eritrea’s relations with Ethiopia. Both seem to accept the idea that President Isaias’ hostility to the outside world, the US and everybody else, is caused by insecurity in the face of a continued threat posed by Ethiopia, seen of course, as a US ally. The excuses for the increasing sacrifices demanded of the population is provided by the threat of the “evil, hostile, menace of Ethiopia,” or by the machinations of the US and its control of the UN and indeed almost everybody else. Indeed, to paraphrase an older US diplomat, referring to Stalin’s policies after the Second World War: “A hostile international environment is the breath of life for the prevailing internal system…” The “threat” of Ethiopia is the standard official line provided by Eritrea and has provided the excuse for keeping national conscripts mobilized since 1998, but it no longer appears to be working. The population is hemorrhaging at a rate of 600 people a week across the border with Ethiopia and similar numbers to the Sudan, in spite of shoot to kill orders along the frontiers. According to the UN Special Rapporteur for Eritrea, some of those now crossing the border are unaccompanied children as young as five or six.
In fact, any external danger to the concept or reality of an independent Eritrea vanished in 1991 when the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) took power in Ethiopia. The EPRDF played a major role in helping the EPLF win its war for independence. Once in power in Addis Ababa it immediately encouraged the assumption and recognition of Eritrea’s independence. There has been no change of policy since, despite Eritrea’s invasion of Ethiopia in May 1998.
Messrs. Cohen and Shinn go into some detail of the 1998-2000 war, but much of their comment is inaccurate. They also miss the central point, noted by the UN Claims Commission –”Eritrea violated Article 2, paragraph 4, of the Charter of the United Nations by resorting to armed force to attack and occupy Badme, then under peaceful administration by Ethiopia as well as other territory…in an attack that began on May 12, 1998…”. (Claims Commission’s Partial Award Jus Ad Bellum (December 19, 2005), paragraph 16). The war was the result of Eritrea sending pre-prepared mobilized infantry and mechanized brigades across what was, at the time, the accepted administrative border between the two countries. It was a very clear case of aggression.
Eritrea’s defeat in June 2000 and its signing of a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, followed by the Algiers Peace Agreement in December, produced no change in attitude. The Algiers Agreements required the creation of a 25 kms wide Temporary Security Zone along the border inside Eritrea, and the deployment of a United Nations Peacekeeping Mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) to monitor this and the ceasefire. UNMEE was also given the task of providing logistical and security assistance to the demarcation exercise which was due to follow the Decisions of the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission, announced in April 2002.
Eritrea began its efforts to underline the Algiers Agreements prior to 2002, and subsequently ignored Ethiopia’s acceptance of the EEBC Decisions in November 2004. Ethiopia had originally raised some concerns over the EEBC Decisions, but after failing to get satisfaction for these, it made it clear it was prepared to proceed to demarcation in conformity with international practice, and consistent with the Algiers Agreements and their aim of bringing about sustainable peace and the normalization of relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea. However, as soon as Ethiopia accepted the EEBC Decisions, Eritrea openly began to flout the Algiers Agreements, persistently violating the TSZ and imposing restrictions on UNMEE. By 2007, the UN Secretary General noted in a report to the Security Council that the Eritrean troops that had illegally entered the Transitional Security Zone in October 2006, not for the first time, had remained, and that Eritrea had also deployed additional troops accompanied by tanks and heavy armament. He described Eritrea’s restrictions on UNMEE as representing “a serious violation of the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities of 18 June 2000, the 2001 Protocol Agreement of 17 June 2001 concluded between Eritrea and UNMEE, and relevant Security Council resolutions…”. When these activities met with no more than mild verbal criticism from the Security Council, it steadily expanded its activities until it had taken over the whole TSZ, rendering the Algiers Agreements, including the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities, effectively null and void. The Security Council did pass a number of resolutions demanding Eritrea remove all restrictions on UNMEE, but it took any action and in February 2008 the situation reached a point where UNMEE, humiliatingly, was forced to withdraw.
This demonstration of UN weakness encouraged Eritrea in its bellicosity, its aggressiveness and its disregard for international norms, and another example followed almost immediately. In June 2008, Eritrea invaded Djibouti and seized several strategic locations just inside northern Djibouti, including the islands of Doumeira and Kallida. In subsequent fighting nearly sixty Djiboutian soldiers were killed or wounded, and a senior officer and 18 others captured. Eritrean losses amounted to around 200 killed or captured. President Isaias denied there had been any clashes and persisted in this despite all the evidence of fighting. Eventually, two years later, in June 2010, following mediation efforts by Qatar at the request of Djibouti, Eritrean troops withdrew from the border areas, though the government still refused to admit there had been any conflict. A Qatari observation force was deployed to monitor the border area until a final agreement could eventually be reached, but no progress has been made in releasing Djibouti prisoners of war or in reaching a settlement as President Isaias still denies that anything happens. This time, the Security Council did react and imposed sanctions. Subsequently, with no apparent change in Eritrea’s attitudes or policy over Djibouti, extremist support or destabilization policies in the region, the Security Council, not unreasonably, repeated its belief that Eritrea was a threat to international peace and security, and extended sanctions by another 16 months, to the end of 2014.
Another area of activity by Eritrea which also led to the imposition of UN sanctions was over Eritrea’s persistent interference in Somalia and its support for extremist and terrorist organizations there. After the fall of the ICU in Somalia in December 2006, Eritrea gave refuge to Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys and other leaders of what later became Hizbul Islam and supported its anti-government operations in Somalia with planeloads of arms as well as training and funds. These activities included support for Al-Itihaad, Hizbul Islam, and Al-Shabaab, and the UN Monitoring Group produced detailed evidence of its transactions. President Isaias has also repeatedly insisted that Al-Shabaab and similar organizations must be considered Somali stakeholders, claiming despite all evidence they are not terrorists and they should be brought into government. Eritrea, unlike all other IGAD states, refused to recognize either the TNG or the current Federal Government of Somalia. It even withdrew from IGAD in anger that other IGAD states refused to follow its line, though it has now asked to return. It hasn’t changed policy. In 2013, the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea issued two separate reports and concluded that Eritrea had diversified its support for extremist operations to Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda and Yemen in addition to fronting a number of business operations.
This is, indeed, a government that relies so totally on the fiction of external threats to maintain its own internal legitimacy that whenever and wherever the fantasy appears threadbare, it has deliberately recreated it with another outbreak of violence or aggression. This is in the conflicts it started with Yemen in 1996/7, Ethiopia in 1998-2000 and Djibouti in 2008. On other occasions it has repeatedly backed opposition forces, extremists and known terrorists, consistently attempting to destabilize Ethiopia and Somalia and interfere in the internal affairs of Sudan and later of South Sudan. Its foreign policy has, in fact, consistently and persistently continued to demonstrate a pattern of aggression and hostility.
In fact, like any bully, Eritrea rapidly backs down when faced by firm action. Indeed, it is clear from past experience that the government in Asmara only responds to the threat of superior strength. Nothing less will produce change. As the UN Monitoring Group reports for both 2012 and 2013, as well as a mass of additional evidence, make clear, Eritrea has continued its efforts at regional destabilization. There has been no change of policy, merely some misrepresentation and verbal fiction. To lift sanctions now would send very much the wrong signals, giving Eritrea a green light to continue its policies of aggression and regional destabilization.
The lack of movement, whether in normalizing relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia, in response to UN sanctions over regional destabilization or UN demands over the conflict with Djibouti, is quite clearly the responsibility of Eritrea, and Eritrea alone. It has nothing to do with Ethiopia or Eritrea’s border “dispute” with Ethiopia. Bringing in Eritrea “from the cold” can only come after a visible change of attitude in Eritrea, with implementation of a fundamental shift in attitude, an end to all aggressive policies, dismantling of training camps for extremists and terrorists, abandoning support for armed opposition groups and all other efforts to destabilize its neighbors. This needs to be accompanied by acknowledgement of the necessity for dialogue and acceptance of the norms of international diplomacy and adult relationships. Then and then only the lifting of sanctions and Eritrea’s reintegration into regional organizations and international politics might follow.
This response was first published on the website of the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry.
The days of the ethiopian government fabricating lies & misinforming the public and world is over. All there previous lies have been exposed through out time, wether it be from the imagery ‘2000 well armed strong Eritrean soldiers’, which was proven to be false, not a single Eritrean soldier was found in Somalia, when ethiopia once again invaded yet another country Somalia in 2006 which displaced over a million Somalis, killed & raped women & children, which seems to be the habit and culture of the ethiopian mercenary army. And there’s the attempt to bomb the AU in the capital of ethiopia, addis abeba, by the ‘OLF & Eritrea’, which ended up being a false flag operation by the ethiopian security forces, which wikileaks revealed. There’s so much more of the lies that the ethiopian government had created & that had later been exposed, it’s just too long to be mentioning them, as it is endless.
But let me come back to this what looks like a panicky response by the ethiopian government, once again full of lies, it will take 10+ A4 pages to expose all the lies & disinformation but ill just point out a few, starting from the top.
1) The US is in fact involved with human trafficking Eritreans, and the Eritrean government says it has evidences of this and has asked to be an investigation, but without even this, the US president obama, was caught on video, saying the following
â€œI recently renewed sanctions on….. Eritrea, we’re ‘partnering with groups’ that help woman & children escape from the grip of their abusers, we’re helping other countries (to my understanding,such as it’s puppet ethiopia, help in trafficking Eritreans, which ethiopia is doing) step up their own efforts, And were seeing results(im guessing his talking about the results he has accomplished by making Eritreans stranded in refugee camps for years in ethiopia & elsewhere, being victims of all sorts of tragedies, like the lampadusa incident)
2) The ethiopian claim on ‘Eritrea suggesting 9/11 atrocity was committed by US’, is an outright lie, as usual. After 9/11, the US was seeking help from Eritrea on how to fight terrorism, as Eritrea had experience in effectively combating terrorism, when Eritrea was a victim of osama binladin when he was in Sudan. The the then US secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, went to Eritrea to learn from the experienced modern warfare experts in Eritrea.
Anyone can do a quick google search to verify what im saying. We Eritreans believe in the Truth.
3) The ethiopian government quoting the IMF’S 1.7% economic growth is just laughable, when infact that figure is coming from one of there fellow ethiopian named Abebe Aemro Selassie, who is the IMF’S Deputy Director for its African Department, and is not just any ethiopian, but was part of it’s government, so it’s not a surprise once again to see the lying, deceitful ethiopians cooking up fake statistics, to score short-lived & narrow political points. The truth of the matter is that Eritrea is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, according to the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), and that’s despite the fact that Eritrea refuses billions in dollars of aid. While ethiopia is one of the most aid dependant nation in the world, it fills ashamed & that’s why it fills the need to make up imaginary statistics about Eritrea, inorder to make itself look & fill better, how truly pathetic.
There is much much more to be exposed here, but as i first stated it will take a long time, i haven’t even started yet and look how much i wrote. Perhaps ill continue on another day. But regardless the articles written by former US Assistant Secretary for Africa, Mr Cohen, has got alot of people panicing on the prospect of Eritrea-US relations improving, not knowing that Eritrea will survive & keep growing stronger, with or without the US.
Are the Ethiopia/Woyanie losing it totally? This article is a clear indication they are finally feeling the heat. Let us face it, Ethiopia can not live deceiving the whole world forever, and at some point all the lies will get back and bite Woyanie’s ass. That is for sure
Any body noticed that the famous deceiving scheme “..5 point peace plan” and the “we accept in principle” nonsense is totally absent from the article above? In its place, now Woyanie/Ethiopia is claiming the EEBC ruling is void, because Eritrea violated the agreement or some kind of hallucination like that
â€œI served 17 years ago as ambassador to Ethiopia. One of the things I learned in the region is that lying is a justified means to achieve greater opportunities.â€
These are words of a senior Israeli diplomat on Africa, Ambassador Avi Granot, who is the head of the Africa Division in Israel’s foreign ministry. He was responding to Ethiopian intelligence agents feed SEMGâ€™s (Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group) outrageous allegation against Eritrea.
We also saw recently three formal US ambassadors have affirmed that there is no intelligence that can support the series of groundless charges and habitual lies by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopian against Eritrea.
The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry is well known for fabricated stories. They even massacre their own citizens to fabricate lies.
In a report from 2006 marked â€œSecret ; Subject: Ethiopia: Recent Bombings Blamed on Oromos Possibly the Work of GOE [Government of Ethiopia]â€ â€œClassified By: Charge [dâ€™Affairs] Vicki Huddlestonâ€, â€œAn embassy source, as well as clandestine reporting, suggests that the bombing may have in fact been the work of the GoE security forces.â€ (Cable reference id: #06ADDISABABA2708.)
I love this article; it clearly indicates that Addis isn’t rushing to buy into what these senile x-United States diplomats are lobbying for on behalf of the lunatic in Asmara and his generals; paid for by their Egyptian masters running Asmara. I also like how the article was not posted first on the same platform along with all these senile U.S. diplomats who would say anything as long as the Egyptian generals are paying for it.
Addis should proceed with the policy it had been implementing for the past decade; continue to receive our brothers and sisters fleeing the lunatic and his generals, and place them in our universities, while leaving the regime in Asmara to suffocate to death. Then, sometime in the not too distant future, the lunatic and his generals in Asmara would fall apart at the weight of their own delusional grandiose, and Addis can conduct a LEGITIMATE REFERENDUM with the help of the enlightened new generation it had helped to create. And nope, this is no pipe dream; after all, the most powerful politicians in Addis currently are of Asmara decent; we are all brothers, why, then pay for two expensive states?
… Asmara descent ..
If Asmara is not into brotherhood, then it had to pay the price of Assab for a truly peaceful coexistence with Addis. With Assab back in its hands, Addis can indulge the lunatic and his generals in Asmara with their delusional grandiose; but will never, ever, pay to sustain it!
If the United States wants to babysit Eritrea, it is up to them! But any involvement of military collaboration of the U.S. with Eritrea (as Herman Cohen suggested) will certainly trigger arms race in the Horn of Africa. They know that very well – that’s why they are based in Djibouti! U.S. officials clearly understand the geo-strategic power balance in the region, including the intent of Egypt! Any foreign element who wants to babysit Eritrea militarily should not expect Ethiopia to sit and watch! The region is fragile – Do NOT mess with it!!!
Thank you Dr.for pointing out the destructive activities of the Eritrean regime and the measurements taken against him.The small country of Eritrea, only 23 years after gaining independence from Ethiopia, has emerged as one of the largest sources of refugees in Africa – as well as one of the most militarized societies in the world. It is increasingly displaying signs of withering state structures and an unsustainable humanitarian situation. Although Eritrea is sometimes referred to as the North Korea of Africa, a more appropriate point of comparison may be Somalia and its descent into civil war. The already fragile security conditions in Eritreaâ€™s neighbouring states mean that its collapse could have major implications for regional stability. Somalia, a nation-state of about nine million people with a strongly cohesive cultural history, a common language, a common religion, and a shared history of nationalism–failed, and then collapsed. How could that have happened? There are many possible explanations, but destructive leadership predominates. Similar trend is happening in Eritrea.But one fact that must be clear for everyone is this has nothing to do with the problems of Eritrea and Ethiopia.It is Solely the result of Isaiasâ€™s Arrogant and Ignorant Policy nationally and Internationally. So in order to bring peace for the region and bring Eritrea from the cold this Arrogant. Ignorant,rent seeker Attitude of the Eritrean regime must be changed categorically.
I would just like to remind the daydreaming ethiopians that are commenting here on africanarguments, that no matter how many times you lie or express your fantasized ill wished version of the Eritrea, it doesn’t & will not make any difference to the Reality on the ground.
@Addis Alem & observer
It is ethiopia that has been ‘baby-sitted’, pampered & looked after throughout it’s history, from haileselassie who ran away to Britain, begging for help when Italy invaded ethiopia, to the time the US was giving huge military & diplomatic support to ethiopia when it was fighting the ELF & EPLF( both Eritreans), even the israelis were training ethiopian commandos to try & defeat both Eritrean organisations, but suffered huge defeat at the hands of the Eritreans, and then came the USSR giving enormous military support to ethiopia, and we all know what happened to both the Soviets & ethiopia, at the hands of EPLF. Even the current ethiopian government TPLF was co-created, armed & trained by Eritrea’s EPLF, the EPLF even took the TPLF all the way to the ethiopian capital with its tanks & personal in 1991, in affect placing its own puppets in ethiopia, and lets not forget the Eritrean commandos that were protecting the late ethiopian prime minister Meles zenawi in ethiopia up until the referendum of Eritrea in 1993, so who has really been ‘ baby- sitted’?
Eritrea is one of the few nation’s in this world nowadays, that has no military ties with the US or any other country for that matter, where as ethiopia is not only receiving military aid & training from the US & NATO, but is also hosting US military & drone bases, so who is the one that is being baby- sitted?
You ethiopians love to lie and just talk, you get brave when foreigners are backing you, but even still you can not defeat the land of the Brave Patriotic Eritreans.
These is exactly how Addis want the Asmara lunatic, his greedy gnenerals and cadres to behave .. delude themselves that they are the special ones. We love it for them to continue playing this deranged game that is bound to wither them away soon enough, and lay the ground to conduct a LEGITIMATE REFERENDUM that would be in the best intrest of all abesha people, not the Egyptians.
Oh, you mighty tegadelties .. the chosen ones .. play on … please play on.
Haile Selassie defended the country as much as he could. The country was fully defended by the Ethiopian army under his leadership. Mussolini resorted to using weapons of mass destruction (mustard gas/phosgene) when he couldn’t push through the massive Ethiopian defense line – he came for a revenge anyway! Mussolini’s own two biological sons were pilots involved in the bombing – so Mussolini took this personally a family matter!!! He also used butt-giver africans like you in his army – if I have to remind you that as well! Using chemical weapons has made it easy for Mussoloni’s to have an easy ride – Haile selassie had to fully resort to diplomatic avenue. Nonetheless, Italian army never really controlled all of Ethiopia – patriotic guerrilla resistance continued throughout the mountains of Ethiopia!
Let’s also not forget the full-scale Arab support you get during the civil war – which continues to this day – “from Cairo with love”! But but that love involves giving your butt. As I said before, you need to go to your empty port – your butt seriously needs a wash – a saltwater “lavaggio”!!! You guys had been too generous to foreign invaders with your butts.