Eritrea: a country singled out before universal principles

Articles - General

After the culmination of the Second World War, the right to self-determination was recognized as a universal principle, to become a rule in the new world order. The UN Charter proclaims that one of the aims of the United Nations is “to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principles of equal rights of self determination of peoples and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace”.

However, the reality did not correspond to the declaration. Regarding Eritrea, UN dishonorably violated its own affirmed principle when it decided to federate Eritrea with Ethiopia without consulting the Eritrean people. Ensnared between collapsing European colonialism and Ethiopian expansion, on the one hand, and UN negligence, on the other, Eritrea experienced a secondary colonialism. Secondary colonialism (third world colonialism) is not the outcome of imperialism powered by capitalism (Awet 2013, 5). Jordan Gebremedhin in his book “Peasant and Nationalism in Eritrea” tells us the paradoxical nature of Ethiopian colonization: “Only imperialist nations can have colonies… colonialism demands industrial production and capital. Feudal Ethiopia did not posses any of this” (Jordan 1989, 24). The nature of colonialism is, however, the same for the colonized whether it’s black or white, capitalist or feudalist. Alain Fenet said that the “Eritrean people, a people subjected to foreign domination: thus we see that in 1950 such can still be done - deny a colonial people the right to self-determination and transfer it to the sovereignty of another”. Ever since its establishment, UN has persistently victimized the people of Eritrea. When former colonial possessions were granted independence, Eritreans were denied their right of self-determination and an imposed federation gave Ethiopia an opportunity to buy time and make arrangements for annexation.

The same year (1950) the General Assembly passed a federal resolution 390 A (V) which in effect deprived the Eritrean people of the right to self-determination, UNGA confirmed self-determination as a fundamental human right. The resolution was adopted despite the warning of Ibrahim Sultan, one of the Eritrean representatives at the UN who cautioned that: “The people of Eritrea do not accept any type of colonialism: black or white. If the decision you make is to force us to struggle for the protection of our identity and the establishment of our freedom, you the members of the UN shall be held responsible for the war that will rage in East Africa.” The following words by John Foster Dulles pronounced before the UN demonstrates the manner in which Eritrea became part of Ethiopia. “From the point of view of justice, the opinion of the Eritrean people must receive consideration. Nevertheless, the strategic interest of the US in the Red Sea basin and considerations of security and world peace make it necessary that the country be linked with our ally Ethiopia.” The federal resolution was, thus, contrary to the principle of the right of self-determination of the Eritrean people and principally planned to satisfy the geo-strategic interests of super powers. Additional ironic historical coincidence was that the federation was put in force on September 11, 1952, the same year that the UNGA adopted a resolution recognizing the right of peoples and nations to self-determination as a pre-requisite to the full enjoyment of all fundamental human rights and that every United Nations member shall respect that right (The case of Eritrea, 116). Extra additional sarcastic historical coincidences of the UN bodies also happened during the final abrogation of the federation and the annexation of Eritrea in 1962.

The Atlantic charter, the UN charter, international law, declaration of human rights and various conventions related to human rights and self-determination of people were not applied to the Eritrean people. The injustices to which our people have been subjected before and after Eritrea’s independence by the established institutions contributed a lot to the general erosion of confidence and trust on such institutions. The reason for international conspiracy and deplorable apathy on every case of Eritrea was hard to discern. Eritrea has been repeatedly victimized and denied the same right which the United Nations affirmed as a universal principle for no reason but for narrow and short term interests.

The Holy Scripture has a narration that goes, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and said, ‘Give me justice against my adversary’. For a while he refused…” (Luke 18; 2-3). Eritrea, like the widow in the story has persistently appealed for justice. Unfortunately, like the judge in the story, the UN stubbornly turned a deaf ear to the legitimate complaint. When ignored, the people of Eritrea resorted to taking up arms (1st Sep 1961) to free themselves from Ethiopian domination and gain their own independence and, thereby, provided the best possible proof of their existence as a people. The only time that Eritrea became part of Ethiopia was solely when the UN imposed federation and satisfied the interests of superpowers spellbound by Eritrea’s strategic importance during the cold war rivalry.

The unchanging behavior of UN allowed history to repeat itself. The deplorable dereliction on Ethiopia’s continued occupation of Eritrean sovereign territory and the current imposition of the unjust sanctions on Eritrea continue to embarrass and dishonor the institution and, more importantly, compelled Eritrea to go through challenging conditions. The Ethio-Eritrea federation that was effected on September 11, 1952 was systematically dissolved in 1962 and Eritrean was annexed by Ethiopia in front of the UN. Now, after 55 years of this dishonorable event, we see the final ruling of the Ethio-Eritrea boundary commission, which was made on April 2002, still unimplemented. Ethiopian tradition to let audience hear promises that they will never execute continue to this day. In the 1950s Ethiopia, tutored and guided by “others”, came up with a bunch of reasons and claims to federation and annexation of Eritrea. Now, with the support and advice of “others” it came up with deceptive alternatives, dishonest dialogues and promises accompanied by threat of force to thwart the final and binding nature of the EEBC verdict.

“Eritrea has never been economically viable”, “Eritrea possesses neither religious nor linguistic unity” and other fraudulent reasons were used to impose federation. During that time capitalist Eritrea was much more developed than feudal Ethiopia. And if that was the case why were the former Italian colonies, Libya and Somalia, which were much poorer than Eritrea, granted independence? Regarding the diverse nature of Eritrea, which African country, with the exception of Somalia, has racial, religious and linguistic unison? After six decades, the institution’s hibernated emotion of harming Eritrea were awakened. Likewise, allegations of Eritrea’s connection with alshebab, which were later invalidated by the ESMG as fabricated and nonexistent were used to impose the unjust sanction. The accusations were crushed in the face of the noninterventionist nature of Eritrean foreign policy and in face of reality. The case can best be explained by the Eritrean saying: “kibeluwo zideleyu abagumbah zagra yibliwo”, meaning “if they want to eat a horn-bill, they call it guinea fowl”.

1st Sep 1961 was a daybreak we launched a unifying and emancipatory revolution to throw off Ethiopian colonial oppression. This momentous event came as a great beacon light of hope to oppressed and forgotten people who had been seared in the flames of injustice and prejudice. The 30-year-long Eritrean struggle for independence was the last resort measure taken in the face of UN failure to sanction Ethiopian violation of the UN Resolution and the failure to recognize the right of the Eritrean people to self-determination in the first place.

After independence the fixed hostility of super powers toward Eritrea, the negligence of UN to carry out its responsibility, the adventurous stance of the Weyane regime in Addis Ababa, the ineptness of AU and the laxity of the guarantors of the Algeris peace accord collectively endorsed affliction on Eritreans. In the 1950s Eritrea was singled out and deprived of its right to self-determination and independence and presently it has been subjected to unjust sanction and others. The continued discrimination and injustice of the UN and super powers pushed Eritreans, although it did not frustrate them to look for their own remedies. In the past international and regional (Ethiopia) aggression left Eritreans with no choice but to fight and we did it. At present, too, our patience has reached its breaking point. The unreasonable delay of the implementation of the EEBC, the prolongation of the occupation of Eritrean territory by the Weyane regime, the continued unjust sanction and other diplomatic conspiracies and military provocations against on Eritrea may jeopardize, once again, world peace. The criminal and lukewarm of UN in the face of Ethiopia’s grave violation of international law and the hasty, unfair and baseless punishment of the victim must be over before it instigates retaliatory measures. We are the people who knew the science and path to acquiring freedom. Once again we remind the international community to work for the practicability of international law and agreed universal principles for the sake of international and regional peace and stability.

Great military thinker Karl Von Clausewitz wrote of war as “the continuation of policy by other means”. The “no war no peace” condition supported by collusion and machination of the architects of global strategy are part of the misguided policy of the riders of the international system to arrest Eritrea. As in the past federation and subsequent annexation were designed to grab Eritrea before it tasted the fruit of independence, now sanctions with hollow titles and continuous backing of Ethiopia to extend its illegal occupation of Eritrean territory have been carefully designed to grab Eritrea before it tasted the fruit of development. Although international conspiracy and treachery are sustained with regularity and potency they will be sacrificed on the altars of their own injustice and the Eritrean popular resistance. The arrogance of Ethiopia and the silence of the UN and other concerned bodies only hardened the will and determination of the Eritrean people and helped to develop their own survival skill. “Victory to the mass”, “self-reliance to progress” and “social justice for peace” are the slogans of the people and leadership of Eritrea.

Simon weldemichael
Adi Keih College of Arts and
Social Sciences

Last Updated (Saturday, 28 October 2017 00:41)