By Kirubel Tadesse
In Capital Newspaper, Monday, 07 November 2011, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
The Eritrean President Isayas Afewerki has requested a meeting with the United Nations Security Council to oppose a draft resolution currently in the final pipes proposing tougher sanctions against his regime for reported multiple violations of previously put arms embargoes.
If granted, the meeting would be a return visit for President Isayas to the UN headquarters in New York City in less than two months. In October addressing the general debate President Isayas called for the lifting of previous sanctions while it also promised cooperation with neighbors; both failed to impress the regional body Intergovernmental Authority on Regional Development (IGAD) which is pushing for the draft resolution.
Unveiled earlier this week, the calendar of the Security Council for November includes a consultation on the resolution that would impose additional sanctions on Eritrea.
The zero draft of the resolution has first proposed a ban of foreign companies from investing in Eritrea’s growing mining sector and a cut of transfers of their diaspora tax- two percent of their annual income that Eritreans living abroad pay to the Eritrean government through their embassies overseas. Eritrea’s 2.59 billion dollar economy is reportedly reliant on mineral resources such as gold, and the money sent from Eritreans living abroad.
It appears that the Eritrean president Isayas has requested a meeting with the Security Council before a possible vote on the draft resolution; likely a last major effort Asmara could produce to block the resolution.
Security Council members are currently negotiating the draft resolution proposed by Gabon and co-sponsored by Nigeria. The proposal comes in response to the findings of the latest report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, which concluded that Eritrea had committed numerous violations of the existing sanctions.
According to the report, Eritrea had continued to provide training, financial and logistical support to armed opposition groups throughout the region, in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia (including the Islamist rebel group Al Shabaab) and Sudan. It also said the government of Eritrea “conceived, planned, organized and directed” a failed bomb attack against the AU summit in Addis Ababa in January 2011; and Eritrea had continued to engage in arms trafficking; violating the arms embargo.
The Monitoring Group recommended, among other things, that the Security Council should consider encouraging UN member states to establish “rigorous due-diligence guidelines” for international financial institutions handling Eritrean funds as well as for mining companies operating in the country with respect to payments made to the government of Eritrea.
Eritrea categorically denies the report. The country’s foreign ministry refuted all the findings of the report and maintained that there was no conclusive evidence of any violations on its behalf.
Eritrea, including through its president’s speech at the annual general debate, tried to draw attention to the unresolved border dispute with Ethiopia.
A new report says a key issue for the Security Council is to say whether the Monitoring Group’s accusations against Eritrea are credible. “If the answer is yes, the key issue becomes whether imposing additional sanctions on Eritrea is the appropriate response and in particular whether it will have a positive impact on the situation and lead to the desired change in Eritrean behavior,” the security council report said.
According to this report, another key issue is what impact the proposed resolution will have on the already very difficult humanitarian situation in Eritrea.
While most members, with the exception of China and Russia, are reportedly open to consider further steps against Eritrea, they seem to be also cautious not have the measures entailed a negative impact on the Eritrean population.