EU and UN propping up the repressive regime in Eritrea are morally wrong.
By Petros Tesfagiorgis
First of all I express my sadness for the kidnap of innocent Amhara students in Dembi Dolo University, Oromo region. It is a gross human rights violation and should be condemned unequivocally.
Abiy Ahmed became Prime Minister of Ethiopia in April 2018 and he wasted no time to announce his agenda of peace. Soon he made peace with Eritrea. When PM Abiy released all political prisoners and extended amnesty to all the opposition movements mostly based in Eritrea, there was hope that Isaias will follow Abiy’s footsteps. But the repression in Eritrean continued unabated. Abiy Ahmed showed no concern about the pains and suffering of the Eritrean people to the extent that he lobbied for Eritrea to become a member of the UN commission of human rights. The UN allowed this to happen ignoring the report of its inquiry commission which concluded that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in Eritrea since 1991. (1)
With such powerful evidences the UN should have brought Isaias to the International court of justice. The EU, on its part, gave Eritrea $22 million for road construction using forced/slave labour.
It has become crystal clear that For Dictator Isaias Afworki, Abiy Ahmed, EU and the UN the life of the people of Eritrea does not matter. They are all in bed together in perpetuating the human rights violations in Eritrea. In this case the EU and UN are abandoning their responsibility of defending victims of gross human rights violations.
Today Eritreans at home and in Diaspora are facing exceptionally challenging odds. The fundamental question is what can be done? The Diaspora living in the Democratic countries of the West can exploit the freedom of expression in those countries and launch concerted and well organized appeal and protests against the decision of the EU and the UN. In these endeavour The Eritrean Mass Movement (Yiakl) can play a leading role.
The EU gave Eritrea $22 million for road construction using forced/slave labor. The decision caused outrage in human – rights circles.
The New York Times in its article titled “How Forced Labor in Eritrea Is linked to EU- funded Projects wrote “As it aims to stem the flow of migrants from Africa and bring about change in a dictatorship, the European Union is spending millions on projects in forced conscription,”
January 8, 2020: By Martina Stevie-Gridneff: BRUSSELS – The European Union spent 20 million euros last year in Eritrea, hoping to help stem an exodus from the repressive African country, which is consistently one of its biggest sources of asylum seekers.
January 23,2020 – Martin Plaut – Eritrea: EU News: The EU Parliament’s Rapporteur to the Committee on Budgetary Control, Michele Rivasi has released a report in which she asks critical questions about the use of Eritrean conscripts in EU funded road projects.
All these shows that the people of Eritrea are not alone. There are people the world over who advocates for justice, democracy and peace. What is missing in this outrage is the voice of Eritreans in Diaspora. Their voice could have been the catalyst for more international support.
We the Eritreans have a just cause. We are witnessing the EU and UN empowering a dictator instead of empowering people. The Eritrean just seekers have to be guided by conventional wisdom of “power to the people that symbolizes the struggle for democracy and justice.
The EU can even be sued and the United Nations can be exposed through worldwide demonstrations and lobbies.
Eritrea Focus is concerned about this issue. On 23 January 2020 Eritrea Focus has distributed the APPG (All Party Parliament Group on Eritrea Press release). APPG has elected new chair and came up with more members. On its part it is raising timely issues in the parliament. I quote from the press release.
For Immediate Release
“ Yesterday afternoon Kate Osamor MP was announced as the newly elected Chair of the APPG for Eritrea. Kate brings her experience as Shadow Secretary of State for International Development and as long time Chair of the APPG for Nigeria.
The APPG has already spoken to the UK Ambassador to Eritrea and has invited the Eritrean Ambassador to Parliament for a frank private discussion on areas of concern and potential cooperation.
The APPG has also invited Human Rights Watch and academic experts on Eritrea to give evidence in Parliament on indefinite military conscription in the next few weeks. The officers hope to begin formal hearings in an enquiry on UK/Eritrean relations in the near future.”
The question is what next? The Eritrean people at home and in Diaspora are expecting to see action by just seekers who claim to be “the voice of the voiceless”. I have written two articles recommending protests and demonstrations when the 22 health centres run by the Roman Catholic Church were closed. Some commentators said “demonstrations and lobbies are diversion from the real mission of getting rid of the repressive regime.” This is gross misunderstanding. In democratic countries demonstrations, protests and campaigns are the main tool of struggle. Here are 2 successful examples.
- In 1982 the EPLF got an ear that the Soviet Union is to supply the Ethiopian Military Junta (Derg) nerve gas to use against the EPLF. The mass association in UK organised a big demonstration. Dr Stuart Holland– a labour MP has taken the responsibility to raise the issue with the Soviet Union. As member of the International socialist he had an access to authorities in Moscow. (See photo). Although the fighters made gas masks there was no sign of any gas. Dr Stuart Holland – wrote a book titled “Eritrea- Never Kneel down “on his return from his visit in the field.
- Last year during the 41th session of the UN commission of human rights there was a strong lobby by PFDJ and supporters – to pass a motion to end the work of Special Rapporteur, Daniela Kravetz (Chile) who replaced Sheila B. Keetharuth in October 2018. Many International human rights activist and Eritrean organizations frantically lobbied representative of many countries to reject the motion. They then prepared a protest letter signed by 31 organizations to the United Nations. The impact was huge and it was a success. The majority vote was in favor of letting the Special Rapportier continue her work.
Protest Action is a potent weapon in a struggle for justice. However engagement with the right audience in the right way is a key to success. This time the engagement is very specific it is with EU and UN. Also campaign to rescue refugees stranded in Libya is essential as well as helping refugees suffering from depression. In UK alone 4 youth have committed suicide within 2 years. Recently one youth committed suicide in Switzerland.
EU and UN propping up the repressive regime in Eritrea is morally wrong. To protest and demonstrate is the right thing to do.
Beyond the feeling of déjà vu, both Abiy and Isaias in 2020 are entering dangerous unchartered territory to subjugate the TPLF and consolidate the power of Isaias to continue repression. The people of Eritrea have shunned Isaias and are establishing a power mass movement to get rid of him. In such a situation the alliance of the people of Eritrea and Tigray is critical and it is the only way forward. Together they can be the tower of strength to frustrate the evil design of the two friends and pave the way for justice, peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia one hand and respect the sovereignty of Eritrea on the other. However the Eritrean civil and political organisation has to be bold enough to make a stand. Thus the cooperation of TPLF and EPLF to defeat the huge army of the “Derg” during the long years of armed struggle is an inspiration that can be emulated. They are strategic allies.