Highlight: Ethiopian government wants sanctions to bankrupt the Asmaran regime, while leaving the remittance flow unchecked

Ethiopian Dep.PM asked United Nations (UN) Security Councils that ‘remittances should not be included in any sanctions regime’ that may be imposed on Eritrea.

Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegne made the statement in ‘the Informal Interactive Dialogue with Security Council members’ held on July 19 following Eritrea’s request for ‘a chance to present her case’. [Read about the meeting here]

The meeting was also attended by Kenya, Uganda, Djibouti and Somalia, which collectively make up the regional body IGAD.

Hailemariam Desalegne, who is current Chair of the Council of Ministers of IGAD, spoke in the meeting ‘on behalf of IGAD’ underlining that ‘we [IGAD member countries] speak collectively because we face a common challenge.’

It is to be recalled that IGAD’s Assembly urged for more sanctions on Eritrea in its Extra-Ordinary session. IGAD’s July 4th Communiqué reads:

[IGAD] calls on the AU(African Union) and the UN Security Council to fully implement the existing sanctions and impose additional Sanctions selectively on the Eritrean Regime specially on those economic and mining sectors that the regime draws on including the Eritrean Diaspora as well as ensuring compliance with previous decisions of the UN

However, Hailemariam Desalegne, who elaborated on what the new sanctions are meant to be said, after noting that ‘it is indeed time to impose concrete economic sanctions’ to deny the Asmaran regime the financial resources of ‘its destabilization and terrorist activities’, the regime is now ‘largely dependent upon two sources of revenue’.

The two sources are, according to Hailemariam:

  • ‘the funds extracted from the Eritrean Diaspora, both through its insistence on a 2% tax on all incomes, and by enforced fund raising activities’.
  • ‘the new mining developments in Eritrea’

However, he qualified his request saying:

Equally, of course, it should be noted that most Eritreans also depend upon remittances from relatives abroad and remittances should not be included in any sanctions regime.

But the 2% tax and the revenue from mining and the extraction industries must be subject to sanctions. The government should be prevented from having access to these funds.

Hailemariam’s insistence that remittance should be excluded from sanctions could be a gesture to pose a humanely face at the Security Council and probably to appease the Eritrean Diaspora – a significant part of whom failed to endorse the Ethiopian-backed opposition groups.

However, it is baffling how the Ethiopian government could hope to cut the Asmaran regime from collecting money from the Diaspora, be it by fundraising or tax, while leaving the remittance flow unchecked.

It is very likely that the regime will compensate the 2% tax by simply imposing a 2% additional tax on all money transfers from abroad. Similarly, the remittance could be used to transfer the cash the regime collects via ‘fundraising activities’ abroad. The very informal modes operandi of the regime should not be overlooked.

A sanction that fails to somehow regulate the remittance flow would be short of at least one of the two measures IGAD requested at the start of the month.

Hailemariam Desalegne‘s speech has also a few more curious and informative points:

As a matter of principle IGAD believes that regime change in any country is the sole responsibility of the people of that country. It is certainly not up to IGAD countries to choose what kind of regime should be in power in Eritrea. However, it is also true that when faced by continuous threats from a neighbor determined to disturb the peace through violence and terror, governments might find themselves in a difficult situation. It would be foolhardy to assume that countries can indefinitely tolerate the sort of reckless adventures that Eritrea has been undertaking against all of us.

The intended terrorist actions in January in Addis Ababa..….was also aimed at disrupting the January AU Summit held in Addis Ababa. Dozens of terrorists were recruited, trained in Asmara and then deployed. It’s not surprising that Eritrea has denied involvement, instead disingenuously claiming that this was Ethiopia’s internal problem. This however cannot stand up in the face of the detailed and concrete evidence we have at our disposal and which we have shared with members of the UN Security Council. Most of you are privy to the incontrovertible evidence we have.

The network that the External Intelligence Directorate of Eritrea has created in our sub-region extends from Mogadishu to Hargeisa, Khartoum to Juba, and Nairobi to Kampala as well as into Djibouti and Ethiopia. Eritrea has been caught red-handed engaging in terrorist activity. The whole plot to disrupt the AU Summit was conceived, designed, led and executed by the External Intelligence Directorate of Eritrea. There is now overwhelming evidence that Eritrea’s Embassy in Nairobi has been instrumental in support for the campaign of terror.

[Eritrea’s Embassy in Nairobi] disburses close to 70 to 85,000 dollars monthly to fund Al-Shabaab’s activities against civilians in Somalia and elsewhere in the region. The recent attempt to infiltrate terrorist cells into Djibouti and according to reliable sources, last July’s bombings in Kampala (given the code-name of “the Asmara retreat”) as well as mass of evidence on the plan “to turn Addis Ababa into Baghdad” demonstrated how Asmara’s terrorist activities span the whole region.

the IGAD countries …..discussions [and decisions] were based on the hard evidence produced by Djibouti, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

the regime in Asmara is a regime which is determined to destabilize the entire region. Its reasons are opaque, but its aims are very clear.

we [IGAD countries] strongly appeal to the Security Council to support us so that we will not descend into further turmoil. What we face as a region is a dangerous phenomenon on which the Council should give us its full cooperation to achieve peace and security. It is just not possible for the region to continue tolerate this sort of behavior by Eritrea which if unchecked could lead our countries into unimaginable chaotic situation. The Council has a responsibility to help us on this. The region awaits your decision.

You may read the text of Hailemariam Desalegne’s speech here.


Check the Eritrea Archive for related posts.

Daniel Berhane

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