Regrettably, New African’s article on “Eritrea-Ethiopia Tensions” (July 2016), uncritically relied on two Africa “experts” for its perspectives on Eritrea. Both are avowed Eritrea detractors who haven’t been in Eritrea for almost two decades. Consequently, the narrative projected was replete with a litany of factual errors, bias and inherently flawed analysis.
The author even indulges, taking his cue from Dan Connell, in un-professional and libellous invective on the person of the President. Connell is no ordinary journalist. He is a self-professed agitator for “regime change” in Eritrea, a known operative – “an embedded mole and foot soldier” – doing the bidding of higher powers. He distorts Eritrea’s reality to rally support for his zealous “liberating mission” – another “white man’s burden”, so to speak.
The oversight isn’t limited to lack of full disclosures of the informants’ motives. Ethiopia’s unprovoked aggression against Eritrea last June is depicted as merely another episode in a perennial “border dispute”. Both countries agreed to settle their “border dispute” through international court adjudicated “final and binding” arbitration. Eritrea accepted the ruling. Bur Ethiopia’s decision to renege on its treaty obligations has and continues to stoke tension. This, however, doesn’t diminish the legality and finality of the settlement.
Ethiopia’s attack in June had nothing to do with the putative “border dispute”. Ethiopia’s regime doesn’t deny this indelible fact either. Its confused and contradictory press statements dithered from blanket denial to belated rationalization of its unlawful act as a “response to subversive proxy activities. Besides distracting from Ethiopia’s obvious internal quandaries, the attack was intended to advance ocher hostile agendas.
Furthermore, among numerous errors and misconceptions, the author states: the” international community has always viewed Eritrea’s existence with disdain”. This sweeping generalization is grossly inaccurate.
True, Washington has persistently opposed Eritrea’s legitimate national rights at every historic juncture. Successive US administrations supported and armed Ethiopia’s wars against Eritrea. Post-9/11, with Ethiopia christened an “anchor” state, an ally in the crusade against terror, misguided US policies resurfaced. Washington has gone co extreme lengths to provide diplomatic support for Ethiopia’s refusal to abide by the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
Influential though the US may be, a bellwether of international behaviour it isn’t. Eritrea enjoys normative diplomatic and economic cooperation with all other major powers, countries and multilateral institutions: including UN agencies, the AfDB and the AU. For instance, this year Eritrea and the EU signed a €22o m agreement slated for energy development. Foreign investment, particularly in the extractive-industry, remains high with numerous multinational companies participating.
To portray Eritrea as “an isolated, hermit kingdom” is thus a deliberate distortion peddled mostly by US-funded outfits. As one “Western embassy” in Eritrea emphasised to a Danish Fact Finding Mission: “Eritrea has fallen victim to a massive propaganda campaign from other countries, especially Ethiopia and its allies … Human rights reports from international NGOs either lack knowledge of Eritrea or they are part of the propaganda against the country.”
These detractors deliberately maintain that Eritrea’s “self-reliance” policy is isolationist. The policy champions an independent political line. Economically it mobilises one’s own resources and internal capacities for development. It aims to develop self-confidence that leads to an unswerving commitment to stand on one’s own feet rather than be subjected to the denigration that comes with aid-dependency and its crippling conditionality. Assistance is acceptable provided equal partnership is consented to. As attested to by independent observers, the policy isn’t without its success.
Eritrea is one of a few African countries to meet most of the UN Millennium Development Goals by achieving considerable success in health and education, without donor aid.
Within chis milieu, some are mobilised to distort this remark able African experiment. Eritrea’s achievements in the face of sustained hostilities aren’t inconsequential to the repertoire of African experiences. To parse its lessons requires a sincere, contextualised examination. Context is everything!
- H.E. Estifanos Habtemarlam, Eritrean Ambassador, UK & Eire