What Needs to Be Done About Eritrea’s Refugee Crisis? Eritrean Has No One to Blame but Itself

Syrian refugeesIt is not unusual for the Eritrea regime to repeat its make believe claims regarding Ethiopia and the region in general. However, it not always we find respected institutions engaged in such intellectually bankrupt propaganda. Sadly, that was the case with the recent article published by the Nordic Africa Institute.

We are referring to the article written by a Senior Researcher and Associate Professor of the Institute Redie Bereketeab. It is entitled “Eritrea’s refugee crisis and the role of the international community”. It contains numerous errors and fallacies. However, let us point out only a few of them.

The writer claimed that: “UN resolutions from 2009 and 2011 imposed sanctions on Eritrea for its alleged support to the Al-Shabaab terrorist organization and for its failure to resolve the dispute with neighbouring Djibouti. The accusations were later expanded to include Eritrea’s support for Ethiopian opposition groups. These resolutions have elicited moral outrage among many Eritreans. They deny that there is any credible, objective and valid evidence of Eritrean support for Al-Shabaab. Certainly, so far no objective academic research has verified such support.”

Contrary to his claim, Eritrea has a widely known reputation as a regional spoiler and exporter of insecurity. Indeed, Eritrea’s belligerent foreign policy resulted in the sanctions imposed on the Eritrean regime through resolution 1907 (2009). Specifically, the United Nations Security Council prohibited the Asmara regime from “harbouring, financing, facilitating, supporting, organizing, training, or inciting individuals or groups to perpetrate acts of violence or terrorist acts against other States or their citizens in the region”. Moreover, the Security Council established a Monitoring Group to investigate whether Eritrea abided by the resolution.

The reports of the United Nations Monitoring Group have been consistent in demonstrating Eritrea’s destabilizing role.

For example; with regard to Ethiopia, the Monitoring Group found out: “the Monitoring Group has obtained testimonials and evidence that Eritrea continues to support armed opposition groups from neighbouring countries, notably the following in Somalia and Ethiopia: The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF); The Tigray People’s Democratic Movement (TPDM); and Ginbot Sebat.”

Concerning South Sudan, the Monitoring Group stated: “The Monitoring Group investigated allegations that Eritrea facilitated and in some cases provided weapons to three armed groups in South Sudan: Riek Machar’s group (Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition), George Athor Deng’s rebel forces, and the David Yau Yau group. The Monitoring Group received information from senior officials of the Government of South Sudan that Eritrea delivered military equipment to the Machar forces on four occasions in 2014. In addition, South Sudanese authorities informed the Monitoring Group that they had captured arms that Eritrea provided to the Yau Yau group and to George Athor Deng’s rebels.”

With regard to Djibouti; the Monitoring Group found out: “The Monitoring Group continues to note the lack of any progress on article 3 concerning prisoners of war of the Comprehensive Agreement, signed on 6 June 2010 by Djibouti and Eritrea under the auspices of the Government of Qatar. Djiboutian officials informed the Monitoring Group that there are still 17 Djiboutian being held by Eritrea. Well-informed sources with contacts within the Qatari and Djiboutian leaderships told the Monitoring Group that the mediation process has stalled. The Government of Eritrea has yet to acknowledge that it holds Djiboutian combatants or to provide information on their current condition.”

The writer also claimed that “Ethiopia’s rejection of the ruling, its constant threats to overthrow the Eritrean government and its concerted efforts to isolate Eritrea heightened the country’s state of insecurity and stoked constant fears of war. This in turn led to tight control of citizens, intolerance of deviant views, closing of private media, etc.”

This is a fallacious point of view often seen among less informed writers. However, it is the main smokescreen that the Asmara regime has used to disguise its irresponsible domestic policies.

Indeed, the bankruptcy of the perspective was noticed by the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea. The Commission’s preliminary report has explicitly recognized that the smokescreen as follows:

The dominant dimension of the situation in Eritrea appears to us to be the so-called state of “no war, no peace” often referred to by the government of Eritrea. This has become the pretext for almost all the State’s actions that generate and perpetuate human rights violations in the country.

We are consciously using the word “pretext”: the so called “no war, no peace” situation is indeed not a status recognized under international law. It is an expression abusively used by the Eritrean authorities to disregard international human rights law as if Eritrea was in a legal limbo, while other countries have experienced the uncertainty linked to international conflicts without resorting to such drastic curtailing of freedoms and violations of rights.

The smokescreen is not just an erroneous view but a dangerous tool that damned the whole society into militarized, and non-stop indefinite universal national service. As many pointed out, today, most Eritreans have no hope for their future: national service, whether in a military unit or in a civil assignment, is the only thing that from the age of seventeen they can expect to spend their life doing; paid between less than one and a maximum of two dollars a day. On such wages, they struggle to fulfil their basic needs, let alone think about raising a family.

Under this pretext, the Constitution has never been implemented and the National Assembly is not sitting; there is no rule of law in the country; and no one is being held accountable for violating the rights of groups or individuals.

Under this pretext, the Government has curtailed most freedoms, from movement to expression; from religion to association. It has created a condition in which individuals feel that they have hardly any choice with regard to the main decisions in their lives: where to live, what career to pursue, when to marry or who to worship.

Indeed, there is no much excuse to be made for Eritrea’s unruly behaviour with regard to its neighbours or the international community. We have long observed Asmara’s interminable denial, diversion and confusion tactics.

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