What Could Sanctions Do Against the Eritrean Government? Eritrean Refugees Reflect On the Effectiveness of UN Arms Embargo

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Eritrea has been under sanctions for more than a decade and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has prolonged the sanction recently saying the regime did not refrain from destabilizing the region in general and Ethiopia and Djibouti in particular.

During the announcement of the extension of the sanctions the two countries have expressed agreement on the importance of the decision. When some Eritrean scholars, politicians and activists living here in Ethiopia for quite many years agree with the extension of the sanctions, some others on the other hand contend the effectiveness of sanctions against the regime.

The first point the Ethiopian Herald dealt with them is what the underlying causes of the sanction are.

Dr. Bereket Berhane (PHD), a pathologist at St. Paul’s hospital Millennium Medical college says the arems embargo were sanctioned agaisnt the eritrean regime following its destructive involvement and support of the Union of Islamic Court (UIC).

He elaborated that the regime has reportedly deployed more than 180 Eritrean soldiers into Yemen and are engaged in aggravating the humanitarian disaster which is said to be as the most destructive crisis these days. This is the most worrying issue than the previous ones which is not considered by the UN monitoring group and the African Union (AU) as an agenda.

Furthermore, the United Nations human right commission has accused the regime of crimes against humanity. So if a given regime is accused of such crimes, it is in other words illegitimate.

In other words, the international community has considered it as a revolt system. There are various charters under the 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 among the AU charters the regime has already signed but has not implemented. To your surprise, AU has over 50 charters; however, the regime in Eritrea has violated them all.

Leul Gayim, an Eritrean refugee who lived here in Ethiopia since the independence of Eritrea claims that he is an active participant in the Eritrean politics.

One can simply understand its behavior by looking at what the regime tried on the great lakes region, then around 1994 and 1995 on Yemen and Sudan, then in 1996 on Djibouti and then lastly since 1998 up to now on Ethiopia. So, it has been since then making various covenants crafts with whomever extremist, groups and nations the regime thinks can help it realize its ambition irrespective of their being legitimate and illegitimate.

As to him, the regime is manipulating the situation in Somalia as a good opportunity to have a strategic trench. Isaias has been backing terrorist groups in Somalia with firearms, trainings, among others instead of working in collaboration with other legitimate forces to pacify the nation.

Besides that it has been even 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. The very saddening point in this regard is not only terrorism. Its a condemned act but also the people of Eritrea have nothing to benefit from that but the regime itself.

A noteworthy point on the subject at hand is that the regime was working round the clock to destabilize the horn of Africa even when it was a member of Inter Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD). “So, as to me, the regime should have been punished even beyond that. It is known that the United Nations Inquiry Commission has openly reported that there are terrible abuses in Eritrea. The report shows that the nation is being administered with the culture of fear, there is no rule of law. So, the concerned bodies such as the UNSC and AU should have taken more corrective actions.

“As far as I know, the case of a given regime that commits crimes 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 an Eritrean refugee, living in Addis Ababa for more than 10 years on his part mentioned that all the sanctions which are posed on the regime so far could not make it bring any behavioral change, so the international community should devise another mechanism in addition to that.

Ashenafi Teklay , another Eritrean refugee who lived here in Ethiopia for more than 8 years on the other hand commented that he would be pleased if the sanction could be lifted for it could not meet its target away from aggravating the peoples’ economic hardships.

In response to that Leul said that 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.

Dr. Bereket, on his part said in this regard that it is not the sanction which is exacerbating the economic hardship in Eritrea. The sanction is highly targeted and only focuses on arms embargo, checking of ships which enter to Eritrea just like what happened to the ship from North Korea, travel ban, financial transaction against hand count sinful and criminal politicians and military officers, restrictions of property movements. Otherwise, the sanction has no influence on the people of Eritrea in any way. It is rather the regime itself that has imposed a sanction on the people by preventing donors from providing aids to the people.

With regard to the direct and indirect influences of the sanction, Dr. 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 the enemy is migrating due to the political 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 for a very few minutes, but, sadly, we saw 59 Eritreans crossing to Ethiopia within that very short moment. And 21 of whom told us that they have paid 100,000 Birr each 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 benefiting from that. ” he furthered.

The issue of Eritrean refugees is unique from the entire refugee camps all over the globe run by UNHCR in that the majority of them are an accompanied children and minors. Currently there are over 300,000 Eritrean youths registered as refugees. According to the doctor, the regime has announced that it is prohibited to any Eritrean to have more than 300 Birr in his\her pockets. For this reason the regime has officially ordered each and every Eritrean to deposit all their money in the state run bank irrespective of the source and are permitted to withdraw a maximum of 3000 Birr regardless of the total amount of their deposit. 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.

In a nutshell, they all agreed that extending the sanctions is very critical though the sanctions have not brought the desired outcome other than at least exposing the barbarism of the system.

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