1. At the request of Ethiopia, the Secretariat of the IGAD Sector Reform Program (ISSP), on 16 December 2016, presented a briefing to the Security Council Committee, established pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning Somalia and Eritrea.
2. The briefing was conducted in closed consultation, in an informal setting, on "the multiplicity of serious transnational security threats in the IGAD region". The IGAD Secretariat circulated a "Confidential Draft" on the subject matter at an earlier date to the United Nations Security Council with the caveat that the circulated report included "preliminary findings only". We are told that the "full report is scheduled for April 2017".
3. In the "Confidential Draft", IGAD announces that it launched in April 2015 a "Transitional Security Threats Initiative (TST) to promote cooperation between Member States, as a first step towards the establishment of a regional TST Centre".
4. Eritrea welcomes the establishment of the TST Centre as well as its precursor; the IGAD Security Sector Programme (ISSP). Back in 1994, when IGAD was revitalized and its remit broadened to include a robust framework of regional security cooperation to prevent and resolve intra-State and inter-State conflicts, Eritrea was an ardent advocate and proponent of this notion. Eritrea maintained then - as it does now - that the aspirations and associated architecture of regional economic cooperation will remain fragile and unsustainable until and unless Member States create effective mechanisms of preventing and resolving costly conflicts that may arise within and between them. In the event, Eritrea believes that the TST can indeed constitute, under appropriate circumstances, a vital component in the tool box of the envisioned mechanisms that the region has to chart out to deter turmoil and funnel the region's substantial capacity and endowments in the pursuit of national/regional economic development.
5. Unfortunately, these lofty objectives were and remain compromised due to the short-sighted and harmful policies of the Ethiopian regime. In its dogged desire to "isolate" Eritrea, the Ethiopian regime continues to violate fundamental tenets enshrined in the IGAD Charter to block Eritrea's resumption of its activities in the organization. Sadly, IGAD's rotating chairmanship has been monopolized by Ethiopia since 2008 to serve this selfish purpose and in breach of the normative practices of the organization.
6. Under these anomalous circumstances, it is clear that IGAD's purview and programmes in general, and the presumptuous contents and recommendations of the Confidential Draft in particular, cannot have any relevance or credence in regard to Eritrea. As a matter of fact, the section on Eritrea contains nothing other than Ethiopia's usual, worn-out, invective against the country though it is packaged this time, rather disingenuously, in "IGAD's" garb.
7. Operative Paragraph 7 of the Confidential Draft states that the document was compiled by an "Independent Research and Evidence Team operating under the auspices of the ISSP". This oblique clause conceals the fact that one of the principal entities involved in the preparation of the Report is SAHAN Research - an outfit founded and directed by Matt Bryden, the former Chairman of the Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) who was later discharged from his duties by the UN under compromising circumstances. As it is well-known, Matt Bryden was the principal author of the fabricated SEMG report in 2009 accusing Eritrea for sending 2000 troops to Somalia. This was the primary justification for imposing UNSC Sanctions Resolution 1907 (2009) on Eritrea. Ethiopia is thus trying to bring back to the scene, through the back-door, the discredited Matt Bryden in its desperate attempts to induce the extension of the unwarranted UNSC sanctions against Eritrea.
8. For all these reasons, Eritrea strongly objects to the submission and consideration of the Confidential Draft by the UNSC; even in an informal setting.
9. The Draft report is replete with gross misrepresentation of facts and events in its substantive section on Eritrea. While it asserts, in several operative paragraphs of the Draft Report, that the ONLF and Al-Shabab have "tense and hostile ties... given their divergent ideological perspectives", the authors bend backwards to insinuate Eritrean "proxy support to Al-Shabab using the ONLF as a conduit". The desperate ploy is transparent indeed. The SEMG has established, for four years in a row, that there is no support to, or linkages whatsoever, between Eritrea and Al-Shabab. Ethiopia's primary motive of commissioning and submitting, at this point in time, the Confidential Draft to the UNSC under the convenient umbrella of IGAD is thus to cast aspersions on this indelible truth.
10. The Confidential Draft describes activities and operational modalities of several armed Ethiopian opposition movements. Then it proceeds to dub "some of them", without specifying which ones, as "terrorist organizations" simply because "that is how they are seen by Ethiopia". This is despite its admission, in the same breadth, that "they are not designated as such by the United Nations". The authors of the Draft do not apparently know, or they have deliberately ignored, the fact that most or all of these groups were coalition partners with the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) party both during the armed struggle against the Mengistu regime or in the subsequent transitional government that they all set up in the aftermath of the fall of the latter.
11. The worst part in this sloppy depiction is the outrageous attempt to associate Eritrea with "the provision of improvised explosive devices (IEDs)" that these groups reportedly employ in their military operations. To dramatize this point, the authors stress: "Eritrea's propagation of this expertise is therefore of serious concern to the region". As explained above, literally all of these groups were former comrades-in-arms with the regime in Ethiopia in earlier times. These devices and other methods of warfare are in fact their stock-in-trade. To gloss over these realities in order to weave trumped up charges against Eritrea underscores the ineptness of the authors of the document as well as the inveterate malice of the Ethiopian regime which has and is unscrupulously using the IGAD forum to advance its sinister agenda against Eritrea.
12. The Draft report has a full chapter on Ethiopia. In this chapter, it talks about purported military/terrorist threats that Ethiopia faces. But it does not probe or discuss Ethiopia's sponsorship or involvement in acts of destabilization against its neighbours. Ethiopia supports several subversive and terrorist organizations against Eritrea, including the Al-Qaeda trained Eritrean Islamic Jihad and other armed groups such as the Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization (RASDO), the Kunama Liberation Front, and the Saho Liberation Front etc. Several of these groups routinely issue press releases and communiqués from Ethiopia on subversive/terrorist acts conducted against soft targets in Eritrea from their military bases in Ethiopia. There is no reference to these matters in the Draft Report on "Transnational Terrorist Threats" in the region. Equally important, the Draft
Report is silent on Ethiopia's continued occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories in violation of international law; its pronounced policy of "regime change" in Eritrea; and, the periodic acts of aggression it commits against Eritrea in spite of their grave ramifications to regional peace and security.
13. Operative paragraph 8 of the Draft Report states that the "Team personnel worked in close consultations with government officials from concerned Member States". It further reveals that "with the knowledge and consent of Member States, team members travelled to Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia". It even talks about the travel of one member of the Team to Tanzania although the latter is not, and has never been, a member of IGAD. The Team did not however travel to Eritrea although it dedicates a full and invective chapter of its Report to Eritrea. This act alone speaks volumes on the credibility, impartiality, objectivity and professionalism of the Team and its work.
14. Not satisfied with all these hollow accusations against Eritrea, the Draft Report dedicates three operative paragraphs to Eritrea's presumed "violations of the UNSC arms embargo". In the first place, this is not within its purview as there is a full-fledged UNSC body - the SEMG - tasked with carrying out the job. Still, the Draft Report recycles a spurious story to cite the interdiction by a French naval vessel on 20 March 2016 of a "stateless dhow in the Indian Ocean carrying significant quantity of weapons, including 2,000 Kalashinkov-pattern assault rifles, sniper rifles, and general purpose machine-guns and anti-tank guided missiles". The Draft Report then states: "the French authorities assessed that the weapons originated in Iran and were likely destined via Eritrea for Somalia and/or Yemen... If so, the shipment constituted a potential violations of resolution 1907(2009) ... ". How is Eritrea responsible for arms that originate from Iran that may be destined to Yemen or Somalia? This is too trite to merit any response and only underscores the fallacy and nefarious motive of the whole report.
15. In conclusion, Eritrea has been the victim, in recent years, of repeated trumped up charges and falsified reports by hand-picked" expert groups" to advance the political agenda of harassment of certain powers. This unwarranted witch-hunting of Eritrea once and for all has to end and Eritrea urges members of the UNSC to terminate the sanctions regime.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
27 January 2017