October 15, 2016

Statement by H.E. Mr. Osman Saleh, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Eritrea

during the General Debate of the 71st Session of the United Nations  General Assembly
26 September  2016, New York

Mr President, Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year  the people  of Eritrea  have been  celebrating the  silver jubilee  of their country’s independence since 1991. During the difficult years of the war for independence, very  few people  believed that  Eritreans  and  their  leadership were capable of this historic achievement as the odds were overwhelmingly stacked against them. Unlike in other liberation struggles, it was both superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, and not one or the other, who sought to crush by armed force their aspirations for self-determination. But the Eritrean people and their liberation movement, the Eritrean people’s Liberation Front, the predecessor of today’s People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, believed in the  justness of their cause and in their own determination and capability to win the war fair and square, to prevail in an unequal battle.

The  post-independence  struggle  for  nation-building  too  has  been  complex  and difficult. We have been compelled to commit precious human and economic resources to defend ourselves against wars of aggression and subversion. 

We have suffered the occupation of our sovereign territory in violation of international law and a binding international arbitration. We have been  subjected to  incessant hostility,  sanctions, economic,  financial   and   diplomatic  pressures   as   well   as   armed   attacks   and psychological warfare.  Our people,  in particular our youth,  were targeted, through policies that actively encouraged their migration, leading to much suffering and loss of life in the hands of human traffickers, policies whose inevitable outcome was then presented as evidence against Eritrea. No  less an authority than President  Obama stated publicly that he had “renewed sanctions on some of the worst abusers, including Eritrea.” And he added, “We are partnering with groups that help women and children escape from the grip of their abusers.” The objective was “regime change” as a prelude to bringing Eritrea to its knees.

In the face of this concerted onslaught, few gave Eritrea a fighting chance. We were routinely written off, our imminent collapse predicted with regularity.  But once again, resilient Eritrea and Eritreans at home and abroad were able to forge, through their patriotism, cohesion,  sheer determination and sacrifices, the capability to resist the onslaught on their nation and to protect their hard-won freedom. And after a difficult decade-and-half,   Eritrea  is now on the up. Most of the Millennium  Development  Goals have   been   achieved.   The   economy    is  rebounding.    Infrastructure    is  being   built. Favourable  conditions  are being  created to provide  youth with  ample opportunities   for quality   education,   vocational   skills,   decent   living   conditions   and   active   political participation,   The country’s  regional and international  engagement is growing. The counter-productive policy of isolating Eritrea is slowly but surely failing.

Mr. President,

The  pressures,  coercion  and  hostility  that  Eritrea  has  faced  are  by  no  means exceptional or distinctive. In our region, the Horn of Africa, they are only one element of a misguided policy pursued over a quarter of a century that has fuelled violence, conflict, instability, fragmentation as well as extremism and terrorism.  Throughout the world, many nations who cherish dignity and independent decision making, uphold the sovereign equality of nations, seek to chart political and economic paths suited to their conditions and benefit more from their human and natural resources have faced the wrath of those who wish to cling to their domination and privileges as well as all manner of coercion and subversion, including sanctions, blockades, and armed interventions. More  generally,  unsustainable policies  of greed and pillage  and the reckless resort to unilateral pressure and force to secure unilateral advantage instead of seeking common ground and mutual interests is pushing the world on an extremely dangerous path. The very survival of the planet and humanity are in grave danger due to unsustainable systems of production and consumption and the attendant large-scale wastage.

In this context, Eritrea wishes to point out that the pending decision by the United States to  adopt legislation that nullifies national sovereign immunity constitutes a violation of international law and a dangerous precedent with grave implications.

Mr. President,

Even as the challenges and dangers we face are grave and stark, our world is still full of possibilities and opportunities. The global balance of power and wealth is changing, with new sources of growth, dynamism and innovation, not only in the celebrated emerging economies,  but also in many other countries. In both  industrialized and developing nations, ordinary people are making their voices heard and their actions felt, by mobilizing, organizing and fighting against the domination of the few and for a more equal and just world. Calls for the respect of international law and norms and for the overhaul and revitalization of the United Nations and global financial institutions with a view  of making  them  more representative   and democratic  are more widespread and insistent  and often backed  by concrete  initiatives  and concerted  actions.

In our region, the Horn  of Africa,  the past two decades have generally  been  a period  of missed  opportunities,   of  zero-sum   games,  of repeated   conflicts   and  setbacks.  Even today,  the  situation   remains  fraught  with  risk  and  danger.  Yet  recent  developments indicate the possibility   of an opening  for a new beginning,  for re-launching  the vision of the  1990s of a peaceful,  progressive,   economically   dynamic  and  cooperative  Horn of Africa.

Mr. President,

Eritrea  often speaks  of the hostilities  and injustices  it has suffered,  of the difficulties  it has  faced,  of the valiant  struggles  of its people.  This  is an experience   it shares  with many other peoples  and nations;   and it does inform  its views  and policies.  Yet, Eritrea does not dwell  on the  past,  but prefers  to look to the future.  It is keen  to build  on its encouraging   achievements    to  transform   its  economy   and   society,   to  achieve   the Sustainable  Development   Goals  mainly  by relying  on the energy,  skills  and initiative of its people  and  the judicious   use  of  its natural  resources.   It  is also  determined  to work  actively  and constructively,   and in collaboration  with  its neighbours,   for peace, stability  and prosperity   in the  Horn  of Africa  and Red  Sea regions.  It seeks to foster relations  of solidarity  and mutual  support  with  all nations,  peoples  and  organizations that  fight  for  a world  free  from  the  scourges  of war  and poverty  and the  respect  for human  dignity.  Finally,   Eritrea  is resolved  to engage  with  all nations  in modesty  and self-confidence.

Thank  You, Mr. President

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