July 18, 2012

Statement by H.E. Mr. Araya Desta, Permanent Representative of Eritrea to the United Nations

during an informal consultation with
the Security Council Committee established pursuant
to resolution 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning
Somalia and Eritrea

H.E. Mr. Araya Desta

H.E. Mr. Araya Desta

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished  Delegates,
Good afternoon!  Let me take this opportunity  to express  my delegation’s  appreciation  to You, Mr.  Chairman,  and  through  you  to  the  members  of  the  UN  Security   Council  Committee established pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009), for arranging this informal consultation. Eritrea greatly values its engagement  with the members of the Committee and looks forward to regular consultations in the future.

The delegation  of Eritrea  has noted that the Somalia  Eritrea  Monitoring  Group  has issued  its latest annual report on 26 June  2012. However,  Eritrea  has not as yet received  a copy of the report. This contravenes the fundamental legal principle of the “equality of arms”.  As a country of concern, Eritrea has an inalienable right of respond to the allegations made by the Group; and for  this  to  occur  Eritrea  must  be  provided  with  all  the  relevant  documents  that  purport  to establish  its culpability.  But in the case of the “Monitoring  Group”  reports,  which are almost always leaked to the press before the Security Council considers them-including the present one, the pattern  has invariably  been  to bloc Eritrea’s  access  to the accusations  levelled  against  it, while it has granted access to others. It is worth recalling, last year the Monitoring Group report was presented  by an international  civil servant  to the meeting of IGAD  Heads of State in an attempt to sway their opinion towards calling additional sanction against Eritrea. Similarly,  this year, a news agency was granted access to the report as well as an interview with the coordinator of the Monitoring Group.

Apart from this legal aspect of the matter, one wonders why unwarranted pressures are exerted to deny  Eritrea  access  to  the  reports  if  their  contents   were  really  the  product  of  rigorous, professional, balanced, and verifiable investigative processes? The inordinate secrecy that has shrouded  the reports cannot  be explained  by exigencies  of “confidentiality” although  this may conceivably  be  invoked  to  conceal  the  real  truth.  The  real  reason  lies  in  the  fact  that  the accusations  are essentially  political and are not based on solid evidence.  In the circumstances, Eritrea deplores this untenable method and pleads for appropriate remedial action.

As   Eritrea   presents   this   incomplete   preliminary   reply,   it   reserves   the   right   to   file   a comprehensive response when it receives, as it is entitled to, the full report and its annexes.

Several portions in the latest report are not new but simple regurgitations  of innuendos peddled in  earlier  reports.     These  refer  to:  the  2%  recovery  tax;  revenue  from  mining;  Eritrea’s “continued involvement in harbouring, training, and financing armed opposition groups in the neighbouring countries, especially Ethiopia”; and Djiboutian POWs.

Mr. Chairman,

Eritrea  has  adequately  refuted  these  allegations  in its  earlier  communications.    To  recap  the salient points:

1.  The 2% recovery and rehabilitation  tax is levied in accordance with the legislative act of the National  Assembly  that  was passed  in 1994.     One  wonders  why the Monitoring Group persists in its misnomer to dub it “Diaspora  tax”, and in this particular report as “extraterritorial  tax”, when it knows full well that its correct appellation is “2% recovery and rehabilitation  tax”.    In any case, it must be acknowledged  that the tax predates the baseless portrayal contrived now to link it with purported “acts of GOE regional destabilization”.    Revenues from this tax are not substantial and they are funneled, as the proper appellation  indicates,  for developmental  programmes in a country  that had bled for three decades during the national war for liberation.  The developmental  burden in the country has not certainly  been mitigated in the last 13 years of Ethiopian occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories and the myriad hostilities that principally emanate from US Administrations.    These taxes have never been enforced  extra-territorially  and they are not collected through “threats, harassment and intimidation against individuals concerned or their relatives in Eritrea” as the SEMG report falsely claims.     Indeed, the presumed evidences  on  “coercive   measures”  of  collection   are  based  on  interviews   with  “42 Eritreans   living   abroad”.        But,  is  this  a  representative   sample?   Who  are  those interviewed?   How can the SEMG ascertain whether the testimonies are not lies peddled for political purposes?  And, how can denial of services to those who fail to pay their tax obligations be misconstrued as harassment and intimidation?

Furthermore,  it  must  be  noted  that  Eritrea’s   detractors,  particularly  certain  US  and Ethiopian officials, have always been obsessed with finding ways and means of stopping both remittance to individual households and the recovery tax.  Indeed, during Ethiopia’s third offensive against Eritrea in May 2000, some senior US officials   –  the current US Permanent Representative  to the UN chief among them – were mulling over taking these precise unilateral measures.   In this regard, this is what Jane Perlez reported in the 22″ct May 2000 edition of the New York Times: “… As the Ethiopians step up their assault by bombing targets near Eritrean  Red Sea ports, the diplomats  say they are still talking to both sides.  But they are also considering  more severe sanctions, like limiting the ability of the Eritreans  to collect  remittances  from friends  and relatives in the United States”. So the theme remains constant.

2. The “Monitoring  Group” computes the presumed maiden earnings to the Government of Eritrea that may have accrued from the Bisha Mining Plant in 2011, and jumps the gun to recommend  various intrusive  measures ostensibly  to ensure that “these  revenues are not spent in violation  to UNSC resolutions”.   The “Monitoring  Group”  does not provide a shred of evidence that the Government  of Eritrea has in the past diverted revenues from mining  to “acts  of regional  destabilization”.    It does  not even  care  to know  how  the capital expenditure of the investment was financed.   In any case, sheer speculation and groundless  presumptions  cannot  surely  be standards  for imposing  financial  restrictions that impinge on a country’s  sovereign  budgetary rights.   And why single out the mining sector?  Or are these unwarranted intrusive measures designed for creeping application to other prospective sectors in the Eritrean economy?      Unless checked at the outset,  this perilous road will ultimately end up mortgaging the sovereign decisions of the country on budgetary and financial matters and cannot possibly be justifiable or acceptable.

3.  The “Monitoring  Group” finally admits that “it has no evidence to support the allegation of direct Eritrean support  to Al-Shabaab during the current mandate”.   The admission is acknowledged with obvious resentment and uncalled-for caveats, omissiOns and “rationalizations”.   But it remains a very critical piece of information.   We must indeed recall  that  the  principal  reason  why  Resolution  1907  was  imposed  against  Eritrea  in December  2009  was  its  presumed  support  to  this  group.    The  bogus  accusation  of Eritrea’s  “delivery  of  three  plane  loads  of  arms  to  Al-Shabaab  through  the  town  of Baidowa”  was  also  deliberately  peddled  in  November/December  last  year just  weeks before the imposition  of Resolution  2023.   In effect,  the “Monitoring  Group” does not have a case against Eritrea.   Eritrea enjoys good neighbourly  ties with the Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda and Kenya.  Its border dispute with Djibouti is being addressed through a process that both parties have consented  to.   By the “Monitoring  Group’s” latest report, “Eritrea is a marginal actor in Somalia, with little, if any influence, either positively or negatively   on   the  course   of  events”.         So,  how   does   the   charge   of  “regional destabilization” hold?     We  shall  address  the changed  emphasis  on  Ethiopia  that  the “Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group” tries to desperately introduce in later sections.  The Monitoring Group also alludes to “continued relationship of Eritrea with arms dealers and facilitators in Somalia that has been known to have provided services and support to Al­ Shabaab”.   This is ridiculous as it clearly contradicts the SEMG’s  own earlier admission. It also magnifies the realization of the “Monitoring  Group” that its case is hardly tenable.

4. As addressed  in previous communications,  Eritrea is ready to discuss in good faith all pending issues with Djibouti within the framework of the Qatari facilitation process.

Mr. Chairman,

We now proceed to address the new additions in the Report.

5. The Monitoring Group falsely accuses Eritrea of “violating the arms embargo through the smuggling  of  weapons and ammunition  for commercial  sale  via Sudan”.    As  usual, it heaps  insult  on  General  Teklay  Kifle  and  alleges  that  he “receives  at  least  US$  3.6 million per year in proceeds”.   The arms smuggling that the Monitoring Group attributes to this General is then mingled with “the more lucrative activity of human trafficking”. As we explained in detail in our response last year, Eritrea is the victim of organized and targeted  human  trafficking  that  has  been  pursued  deliberately  by  its  adversaries  to weaken its human resources.   There are also individual criminals and fugitives from the law who are embroiled in this act.  The Monitoring Group clearly lacks ingenuity when it tries to accuse the Government of Eritrea for a violation of the arms embargo and simultaneously claims that it is also an accessory to human trafficking.

6. The “Monitoring  Group”  gives away its game when it tries to associate  Eritrea,  albeit indirectly, with the killings of the tourists in Ethiopia on 17 January 2012.  This is despite its earlier assertion which reads: “The SEMG has seen no evidence to suggest that the Government of Eritrea bears direct responsibility for the killings of Erta’Ale  with respect to the planning or conduct of the operation”.   But then, it speculates  that since “Eritrea continues  to host, train and support  ARDUF, some  recent ARDUF  trainees  may  have been  involved  in  the incident”.      How  the “Monitoring  Group”  can  deduce  Eritrea’s “indirect  responsibility”  from these flimsy circumstantial  and speculative  considerations is difficult  to understand.   The critical question  is: does this emanate from professional ineptness and very low standards, or, does it betray ulterior political motivations?

7.  In our  view,  the main  reason  why  the SEMG  has invented  this “remote”  connection between Eritrea and the tragic episode in Erta’Ale is because it has instructions to absolve Ethiopia  from its recent acts of regional destabilization  by rationalizing  its provocative acts of aggression  against Eritrea.   Indeed,  what is curious in the MG report is the total omission  of any reference of the repeated and publicly announced  attacks that Ethiopia has unleashed against Eritrea in the past six months.    But as its unfounded but principal case on “Eritrea’s role in destabilizing Somalia” has evaporated in thin air, it has changed tack to fabricate new allegations focused on Ethiopia.  The problem with this narrative is Ethiopia’s well-known practices and publicly stated agendas.   Ethiopia is arming and supporting Eritrean armed groups; it pursues a policy of regime change; and, it continues to occupy sovereign Eritrean territories in flagrant violation of international law.

8.  The  Monitoring   Group   asserts   that  the  arms  embargo   has  severely   “affected   the operational readiness of the Eritrean Air Force”.   On the one hand, this is not consonant with  its  accusations   of  Eritrea  for  violating   the  arms  embargo   through  organized smuggling.  But more importantly, one wonders why and for whom this information is proffered.     Does assessment  of Eritrea’s  Air Force and inclusion  in its report of aerial photographic analysis of the ERAF really fall within its purview?   Especially  when we recall that in the original accusations of Eritrean destabilization  of Somalia, the Air Force was not implicated in any way.  And when sovereign Eritrean territories remain occupied by a belligerent Ethiopia which may be contemplating  additional acts of aggression, is the SEMG oblivious to Eritrea’s  legitimate rights of defense as enshrined in Article 51 of the UN Charter?

Mr. Chairman,

Eritrea had registered, on various occasions and through several communications  in the past, its strong  reservations  on  the workings  of  the Monitoring  Group  and especially  in regard  to its untenable reliance on testimonies of subversive groups and elements as well as other adversaries who harbor ill will to the people and Government  of Eritrea.   As illustrated  above,  the latest report only reinforces our well-founded conviction on the lack of neutrality, integrity and professionalism  of this Monitoring Group.   As we continue to place importance on constructive engagement with the Security Council, I wish to take this occasion to renew our earlier invitation for the Security Council Sanctions Committee  to visit Eritrea for extensive discussions  with the Government.

Let  me  also  renew  our  consistent  call  on  the Security  Council  to lift  the  unjust  and  unfair sanctions imposed on Eritrea as i) the initial and principal accusation of Eritrean support to Al­ Shabaab has now been proven to be non-existent; ii) Eritrea remains committed to the facilitation by the State of Qatar to overcome its differences  with the Republic of Djibouti;  iii) the events over  the  past  year have  clearly  shown  that it  is in fact  Ethiopia  that  is actively  engaged  in destabilizing  Eritrea  in  addition  to its continued  occupation  of sovereign  Eritrean  territory  in violation of the UN Charter;  and iv) Eritrea enhances its positive contributions to regional peace and security.

I thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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