Philadelphia Eritrean Community Seminar a Success

The Eritrean community in Philadelphia, Pa, held on December 1, 2012 a successful seminar, which drew several noted speakers and a large audience from across the Mid-Atlantic states.

Yohannes Andemichael, chairman of the Philadelphia hzbawi mekete, introduced the speakers—Dr. Asgede Hagos, Dr. Yacob Fisseha, Dr. Berhe Habte-Giorgis, and Dr. Ghidewon Abay Asmerom. Also included, but not present, among the speakers was Prof. Senai Andemariam, who teaches law in Eritrea.

The seminar focused on “The UN, AU, IGAD and Eritrea: Promises not Fulfilled.” Dr. Asgede, in his introductory remarks explained why it is important for Eritreans to keep their eyes on these organizations because they have been used as tools in repeated attempts to perpetuate various injustices against Eritrea and undermine its people’s right to self determination.

Dr. Yacob spoke at length on “a history of US unremitting and unfortunate negative policy towards Eritrea.” He said, “The historical record of the last seventy years shows U.S policy towards Eritrea has been unfriendly and outright threat to the latter's sovereignty and existence as a nation. Unfortunately, despite the current desire and wish of Eritreans to see friendly relations with Washington, the trend seems unabated.” Many of these policy measures towards Eritrea, he added, can be seen as acts in favor of Ethiopia's designs to acquire, annex, and destabilize Eritrea. This has been most distressing to Eritreans who long for a more friendly and just relationship with the United States. Eritreans believe that until the United States examines Eritreans' complaints against the historically unfriendly acts committed against them and seek ways to mend it, the future unfortunately cannot realistically be expected to be any better.

Dr. Yacob further showed how any rational person of integrity would be hard pressed not to understand why Eritreans blame the United States for decades of unremitting animosity and reflective negativity when it comes to Eritrea. “The United States from a secret tampering with the South African member of the UN-Commission for Eritrea, an independent Commission of Investigation on Eritrea in 1950, to vigorously campaigning to weaken the Eritrean nationalist Ibrahim Sultan's visit to New York to address the U.N. General Assembly supporting Eritrean independence; to arming Ethiopia while putting a unilateral arms embargo against Eritrea at a time when the international press was reporting that Ethiopia was beefing up its forces for another ‘war with Eritrea’ in 2008, to illegally calling for the reversal of the Ethiopia-Eritrea Border Commission's ‘final and binding’ decision on the flash point town of Badme; to attempting to push an economic sanction against Eritrea in 2011 while at the same time accusing Eritrea of not allowing international organizations to feed its allegedly starving people; and finally, to its agencies concocting false accusatory information and secretly feeding it to the Somali-Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) so the latter could submit it as its own in its report to the UN Security Council as evidence against Eritrea's alleged violation of the selective embargo against arms supply to groups in Somalia” has time and again worked to undermine Eritrea.

In a summary of his 40-page paper he sent to the seminar, Professor Senai addressed the case of Eritrea’s membership and participation in IGAD from a legal point of view. The action that prompted the research took place on August 11, 2011 when officials of the minority regime of Ethiopia and their security operatives tried to block Eritrea’s Chargé D'affaires when he tried to attend an IGAD meeting at the Sheraton Addis in the Ethiopian capital in an attempt to put Eritrea’s membership into question. The study, an exhaustive legal analysis of IGAD’s founding agreement, its actions during the time when Eritrea suspended its membership from April 27, 2007 to July 25, 2011, as well as the experiences and practices of other regional and international organizations, concludes: “No legal case has been, or can be, made out of the Agreement or IGAD’s rules and procedures to argue that Eritrea is not a member of IGAD.”

Dr. Berhe, who focused on the African Union (AU), described the organization as “an instrument for the re-colonization of Africa.” Though the AU “embraces broad economic, social, and political objectives, which eventually are expected to lead to an integrated Africa, he said, it has become “the first international organization in the world that allows intervention in the internal affairs of member countries.” And “this stance is considered extreme opposite of the principles of the OAU which upheld the principle of respect for sovereignty of member states and non-interference in the internal affairs of member states.”

Dr. Berhe added that “the AU is in the process of establishing the institutions necessary for its operations. The area where the organization is gaining international visibility is in sending troops to trouble spots such as Somalia. However, lack of money to cover the expenses of the military interventions makes the organization dependent on the U.S. and the European countries. This situation makes the AU serve the interests of its financiers and not those of the continent and its people. The outside forces also control the outcomes of elections by using the electoral process and free press to remove leaders who do not follow their orders and by supporting leaders that toe the line.”

Dr. Berhe also noted that “the inordinately high influence Ethiopia has on the organization, starting from the inception of the OAU, has made the African Union a virtual extension of the Ethiopian foreign ministry and accessory in the framing up of Eritrea and putting it under UN Security Council sanctions.”

Dr. Ghidewon, speaking on the impact of the United Nations on Eritrea and the Eritrean people, said, “The 65-year UN record on Eritrea, unfortunately, is one of betrayal, indifference and outright bias against the right of the people of Eritrea for an independent, peaceful and prosperous existence.” Adding, he said, “the UN Eritrean record clearly shows that the UN, time after time, had been used by the powers that didn’t want to see an independent Eritrea in the first place and after its independence, couldn’t stomach the emergence of a prosperous Eritrea that is truly independent.”

Dr. Ghidewon underscored that this UN history of betrayal continues unabated. “Though the UN was forced to accept the fait accompli of Eritrea’s independence in 1991, the international body went back to its old record of bias and indifference against Eritrea when the minority regime in Ethiopia declared war on Eritrea in 1998. Though the UN was the guarantor of the Algiers Agreement of 2000, it chose to remain silent when Ethiopia boldly rejected the final and binding decision of the neutral Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC). In fact, to-date the UN has to say a single word of condemnation of Ethiopia for refusing to implement the final and binding demarcation decision of 2007. Instead it was seen to accommodate Ethiopian belligerence by attempting to create alternative mechanisms. This being the UN’s sad record with the “elephant” of the Ethio-Eritrea border conflict, the same organization decided to slap Eritrea with sanctions on an “ant” of an alleged border dispute with Djibouti and a phantom connection of Eritrea’s support to Somali insurgents. As the UN’s own monitoring group was forced to admit in its latest report, there was no evidence of Eritrea’s involvement in Somalia. By the UN’s own admission more than 80% of the weapons that are being used by the Somali insurgents were supplied either by the Ethiopian Government, the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, or the UN backed US financed African Union forces.”

“Right now,” Dr. Ghidewon said, “the UN Human Rights Council is also being used to cook stories of human rights abuses in Eritrea. The US is also coordinating this unholy alliance of countries to accuse Eritrea of human rights abuses, countries that have yet to put their own human rights houses in order, countries like Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia.”

Finally, Mrs. Freweini Tekeste presented the Philadelphia hzbawi mekete a beautiful framed mekete poster given by the DC hzbawi mekete group. And at the end of the seminar delicious food was served by the Philadelphia YPFDJ and the rest of the night was given to the usual patriotic guayla with DJ Amanuel Yebio.