31 December 2017

Eritreans Questioning Effectiveness of UN Sanctions

Photo: Ethiopian Herald
Eritrean refugees protesting in Ethiopia.

It is recalled that Eritrea has been under sanction for the last 9 or 10 consecutive years. And the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has recently extended the sanction. The underlying reason to extend the sanction, as to the council is that the regime in Asmara could not yet be refrained from its destructive behaviors.

The council noted that the regime has been and is thus far destabilizing the region in general and Ethiopia and Djibouti in particular. The Ethiopian Herald has stayed with Eritrean refugees of various backgrounds such as university instructors, politicians and activists living here in Ethiopia quite for a long time, ranging from 8 to years.

Regarding the underlying reasons of the sanction from the very beginning, Bereket Berhane (PHD), a pathologist at St. Paul's hospital Millennium Medical College and university instructor expressed to this reporter in his interview with The Ethiopian Herald that the reason which forced the UNSC to initially impose a sanction against Isaias 9 or 10 years ago was related to the coming of the Islamic court of Somalia to power and the intervention of Ethiopia and America in the country. In other words, it was following regime's all inclusive support it has been providing to Al-shabaab.

Bereket noted that the United Nations' human right commission has also accused the regime of crimes against humanity, later on. "So, if a given regime is accused of such crimes, it is in other words illegitimate. The international community has already considered the regime as a revolt system. To one's surprise, there are a number of charters under the African Union (AU) which the regime in Asmara has not signed such as democracy, election, governance among others. Moreover the rights to children, people's charter, the right to education, the right to the youth are on the other hand, among the AU charters the regime has already signed but not yet implemented," he indicated. In simple terms, the AU has over 50 charters which are all violated by the regime in Eritrea, he reiterated.

Leul Gayim is another Eritrean refugee who have been living here in Ethiopia since the independence of Eritrea. He shared the idea of Dr. Bereket that the main reason to the sanction in those times was the situation in Somalia. As said by him, the regime used the situation in Somalia during those times as a golden opportunity to get a strategic trench that paves the way to Isaias' nightmare. As to Leul, that was not however, what the sisterly and brotherly peoples of Somalia really deserves from its Eritrean brothers and sisters during those difficult times. But, sadly, Isaias has been backing those terrorists in the Somalia with firearms, trainings, among others instead of working in collaboration with other legitimate forces to pacify the nation. Moreover, the other most saddening issue in this regard is that he has also been deploying its military as part of its efforts to achieve its mission in general and to indirectly attack Ethiopia, the nations which the regime considers as its primary enemy at the list of its hit list through Somalia.

As per Leul, the underlying reason behind Isaias' motive to behave in such a way emanates from its nightmare to be the superior in the horn by weakening all other rival forces in and around the region. He also expressed that Isaias' scorn to Eritreans is also another factor in addition to that. One can simply proof the regime's scorn to Eritreans just by taking what Isaias has, once up on a time, responded to Aljazeera in an interview about democracy and election; he proudly responded on behalf of all Eritreans that democracy and election may be considered after 20 or 30 years or more. This, according to Leul, indicates the extent of his disdain to the people of a sovereign nation. "It is clear that, the obvious agendas that should come on a table after freedom and independence are democracy, peace, development just to mention a few among others. However, Isaias had to mystify the people with such mechanisms for the regime was not, from the very beginning, capable of ensuring all these," he said. It is due to all these and other factors which are not mentioned here that various analysts mention the regime as the mafia, bandit and contrabandist system, he furthered.

Leul furthermore marked that the most surprising thing pertaining to Isaias' behavior is not only he has the fantasy to become the dominant of the horn region but he also tries to show off on the respective nations of the region by all possible means. One can proof that simply by taking what the regime had tried against the great lakes region, then in 1994 and 1995 against Yemen and Sudan, then in 1996 against Djibouti and then lastly since 1998 up to now against Ethiopia, Leul added. He said, "The regime has been since then signing various contracts with whomever extremists groups and nations Isaias thinks can help him realize his ambition irrespective of their being legitimate or not."

The very upsetting point here is not only terrorism is a condemned act internationally but also the people of Eritrea have nothing to benefit from that, but the regime itself, Leul accentuated. Regarding the regime's logic to generalize that X or Y country or group as is its enemy, Leul stated that all forces who are against its cohort thinking to be the region's super power are all its enemies. Leul on the other hand stressed that the people of Eritrea and the regime in Asmara must be seen separately; they are two extremes. The regime is basically the historic enemy of Eritrea and Eritrean for it had been and is still acting against their human and democratic rights and interest. The people of Eritrea, for instance needs peaceful neighborhood and regional integration; but the regime sadly stands contrarily. In this regard, Isaias can collaborate with all forces who are against Eritreans even with beasts so long as he believes he could make quite a little benefit from that.

The other noteworthy and surprising point on the subject at hand, as stated by Leul, is that he (Isaias) have been working round the clock to destabilize the region even when Asmara was a member of the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD). "So, as to me, the regime should have punished even beyond the sanctions imposed against it so far. It is known that the United Nations Inquiry Commission has openly reported that there are terrible abuses in Eritrea. The report shown that the nation is being administered with the culture of fear, there is no a rule of law. The inquiry commission has made it an open secret to the rest of the world that Isaias is administering the people of Eritrea by torture," Leul restated. By the way it may be the only regime in history which ignites fire between people by equally assisting the two antagonistic parties fighting against each other in the war front of Yemen, he reiterated. The regime is reported to have deployed more than 180 Eritrean soldiers in Yemen engaged in aggravating the humanitarian disaster which is said to be as the most destructive crisis these days. This is the most worrying issue which is not considered by the UN monitoring group and the African Union (AU) as an agenda.

The concerned bodies such as the United Nations Security Council and AU should have punished it beyond that. He furthered, "As far as I know, the case of a given regime that commits crime against humanity has to be seen by the International Criminal Court. But, sadly, no one could pay attention to the mourning of the Eritrean people."

Mengisteab Girma, another Eritrean refugee, who is living in Addis Ababa since 2007 on his part said that all the sanctions which are imposed against the regime so far could not make Isaias bring the intended behavioral change, so the international community should devise another mechanism in addition to that.

Ashenafi Teklay is also an Eritrean refugee who lived here in Ethiopia for more than 8 years. He is also amid hoe Eritrean refugees who have got access to join and attend their tertiary level education here in Ethiopia. He on the other hand commented that whenever Isaias decides any decision, he does not worry about its possible long and short term consequences both for Eritreans and the region. "This is what saddens me more than anything. What he focuses on is solving his own current problems resulted from the consecutive sanctions against his regime," he expressed. As to him, he would be really pleased if the sanction could be lifted for it could not meet its target against the regime apart from exacerbating the peoples' economic hardships.

In response to that Leul said the sanction has nothing to do with the peoples' affairs directly or indirectly as it is imposed on carefully selected issues of the regime which have nothing to do with Eritreans.

Having expressed that such thinking may emanate from lack of detailed information about the issue, Dr. Bereket, for his part said in this regard that it is not the sanction which is aggravating the economic hardship of Eritreans. The sanction is highly targeted; it only focuses on arms embargo, checking of ships which enter to Eritrea just like what happened to the ship from North Korea in the past recent times, travel ban, financial transaction against hand count sinful and criminal politicians and military officers of the regime, restrictions of property movements. So, it has no influence on the people of Eritrea in any way. If truth has to be told, it is rather the regime itself it has imposed a sanction against the people by preventing donors from providing various kinds of aids to the people.

Dr. Bereket on the other hand argues that it is not fair to use the word System whenever one talks about the regime in Eritrea. As to him, if it has to be mentioned in such a way, there must be the three branches of government. In the case of Eritrea, these three branches are under the jurisdiction of one person.

With regard to the direct and indirect influences of the sanction, Bereket said that all the sanctions have no influence against the regime, Isaias is rather benefiting from that as the youth who should fight against its enemy is emigrating due to the multifaceted crisis in Eritrea. "To one's surprise, last month, I was in Zala anbessa area with a journalist who is a close friend of mine. We stayed there for quite a few minutes, but, miserably, we saw 59 Eritreans coming to Ethiopia within that very short moment. And 21 of whom told us that each of them have paid 100,000 Nakfa to an individual trafficker. You can imagine, if this much people could cross the border by an individual trafficker; there is no doubt that the regime is making money from that. This may be the only regime being protested by children and the elderly society. I have never seen and heard a 93 years old man revolting against a given regime. This indicates the extent of the peoples' anxiety," he furthered. As stated by Dr. Bereket, the issue of Eritrean refugees is unique from the entire refugee camps all over the globe run by the UNHCR in that the majority of the Eritrean refugees are what is called an accompanied children and minors. The situation is in other words, worse than that of in Bangladesh, Iraq, Syria, Yemen. As a result, by now, there are over 300,000 Eritrean youths registered as refugees.

According to Bereket, the regime has also officially announced that it is prohibited to any Eritrean to have more than 3000 Birr in his\her pocket. For this reason Isaias has publicly ordered every Eritrean to deposit all his\her money in the state run bank. Any money irrespective of whether it is gained through remittance or by the sweat of their brows domestically must be deposited. The very saddening point in addition to that, as to Bereket is that they are permitted to withdraw a maximum of 3000 Birr regardless the amount of the money they deposit may be.

No one has the right to make any decision with his own money. Consequently, security forces are authorized to stop and check anyone with a swollen pocket and bring those who have more than the specified amount of money before the court, so no one can run his own business. Moreover; in Eritrea, farmers cannot even sell their own produces in markets, he reiterated. According to him, they are officially ordered to submit to the regime.

To sum up, all the refugees told to The Ethiopian Herald that they all agree with the extension of the sanctions. They all expressed the sanctions as very critical though they have brought no change as opposed to what they were intended. According to them, they are however, exposing the disgracefulness and gruesomeness of the system.


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