The UN Security Council voted to toughen sanctions against the Eritrean regime on Monday, Dec. 5 afternoon.
Prior and after the vote, on Monday, the Council members and concerned countries including Chair of the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) Premier Meles Zenawi (via videoconference) spoke on the matter.
Read below the transcript from the Department of Public Information of the United Nations.
[Dec. 5, 2011 – The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and was suspended at 10:45 a.m., reconvening at 3:07 p.m. before concluding at 3:41 p.m.]
The Security Council met to consider peace and security in Africa, for which it was joined in the morning by a number of speakers via video- and teleconference.
ISMAËL OMAR GUELLEH, President of Djibouti, said that since the beginning of its aggressions against his country, Eritrea had long ignored efforts to resolve the dispute in a responsible manner. The people of Djibouti had welcomed the mediation accord signed in 2010 under the auspices of Qatar. But, unfortunately, the signing of that accord had not changed the views of Eritrea, which flagrantly continued its kidnapping and forced recruitment of young Djiboutians, who returned to the north to perpetrate terrorist attacks in Djibouti. His Government would never allow the Eritrean regime to carry out such attacks and, to that end, it had arrested rebels who were trained and sent by Eritrea to conduct such attacks. Weapons sent by the Eritrean regime had also been intercepted and that information had been conveyed to the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), as well as to the United Nations.
Continuing, he said that, despite article 3 of the mediation accord, which stipulated that all parties would make available information on the 19 disappeared soldiers being held in Eritrea, that country still had not done so. For its part, Djibouti had sought to meet the accord’s requirements by inviting the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to meet with deserted soldiers from Eritrea. Although two of the Djiboutian soldiers, who had been held since June 2008, had escaped from a detention camp in Eritrea, news of the other 17 soldiers was unavailable. He called for their immediate release without condition.
In addition to promoting regional instability, Eritrea threatened international peace and security, he stressed. Shirking sanctions, Eritrea had chosen to flout calls by the Council and regional organizations to change its behaviour. He called on Council members to support the resolution presented today on behalf of IGAD’s members. The present text was necessary because the previous resolutions and sanctions did not seem to contain Eritrea’s actions.
SHEIKH SHARIF SHEIKH AHMED, President of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, said his people had been suffering from terrorism. His Government had tried to reconcile with those groups, but interference by the Eritrean authorities had prevented that. Al‑Shabaab and Al-Qaida had the support of the Eritrean Government by sea, land and air. The Eritrean regime had the ability to deliver assistance to Al-Shabaab from Eritrea to Somalia.
He said that although Somalia had no direct borders with Eritrea or a history of bad relations, current circumstances had caused much suffering in his country from the actions of Al-Shabaab. He had tried to resolve problems with Eritrea, including with common friends, such as the late Muammar Qadhafi, who had called upon them to leave Somalia and reconcile. That proposition had been rejected. Mr. Ahmed said he had also attended a Sahel country meeting. Eritrea had not. He had called on Mr. Qadhafi to convince the Eritrean President not to intervene in Somalia. That request had also been rejected. Embassies in Kenya and elsewhere were aware of financial transactions and of military advisers being sent to Somalia to conduct training and attacking African Union forces.
The regime in Eritrea had insisted on terrorizing the Somali people, and diplomatic talks had been rejected, he said. While he truly regretted the plight of the Eritrean people, the interests of his country and his neighbours were being harmed. IGAD did not usually meet in the absence of a member State unless the situation was dire. It currently was.
MELES ZENAWI, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, also speaking as Chair of the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), said that as a region, the countries addressing the Council today were not complaining about the domestic policies of the Eritrean Government. They might or might not like those policies, but that was a domestic matter. Nor was it a “family quarrel” between Ethiopia and Eritrea. All member States of IGAD had gathered to express the same opinion, namely that “Eritrea is a prime source of instability for the whole region”.
Of course, he said, Ethiopia also had a problem with Eritrea, which, according to the assessment of an independent panel, had started when Eritrea had invaded Ethiopia. Nevertheless, the 2002 delimitation decision had been accepted by Ethiopia without preconditions. His Government might not like the decision, but it had made clear that it accepted it unconditionally. The demarcation of boundaries on maps was a fiction, and Ethiopia was asking Eritrea to engage in dialogue in order to move towards demarcation, just as Nigeria and Cameroon had. “This is what grown-ups do,” he said.
He said Eritrea had invaded islands held by Yemen before it had invaded Ethiopia. It had also invaded Djibouti, first denying it had done so, and then admitting it had by withdrawing and allowing Qatari troops to replace its own. Further, it had publicly stated it would arm and train any group willing to remove the regime in Khartoum. It had characterized the regime in Somalia as a puppet regime and was arming Al-Shabaab to further destabilize that country. The problem was not a lack of communication, but one of attitude, resulting from a certain clique in Asmara that had never grown up from a rebel group. It was also a problem of lawlessness.
Appealing to the Council to act, he said an absence of action would imply that the countries in the region were on their own and must defend themselves. That was not a choice they wished to make. IGAD had been actively involved in the current resolution before the Council, and while he was personally disappointed that much of the “teeth of the resolution” had been removed, the text would still convey the right message. “We ask you to act, and to act decisively,” he concluded.
MOSES WETANGULA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kenya, said the Council must focus its sharp attention on Eritrea. Serious peace and security challenges plagued the region. IGAD had been a committed player in addressing those issues. He regretted that Eritrea continued to engage in hostile activities. As it stood, the region was not coming to the Council for the first time. The Council was already seized of the matter; he was asking it to enforce a sentence that had already been passed on an offending party.
Kenya had suffered from those hostile activities, he said, including attacks on tourist areas, kidnappings committed by Al-Shabaab and other incidents. The result had been a statement by Eritrea saying that Al-Shabaab did not pose a significant threat to the region.
Efforts to clean up the Al-Shabaab menace were ongoing even as Eritrea was supplying arms to the group, he said. Two or three years ago, Kenya had expelled an Eritrean diplomat on proof that the individual had been involved in arms transfers to Mogadishu. Kenya had suffered from other actions, including an explosion in a refugee camp that killed one police officer and injured civilians. Normally, after such incidents, Al-Shabaab issued statements, among them, a claim that the skyscrapers of Nairobi were legitimate targets, he said.
It was now time for the Security Council to act on the resolution before it, presented by IGAD members. The text had been unanimously supported by all the countries, and he had no doubt that Council had the will, means and capacity to deal with the situation. A stable, right direction was a step towards peace and security in the region. “To fail to sanction Eritrea is to add a feather to the cap of impunity,” he said. That would not help the region in any way.
MULL SEBUJJA KATENDE, Ambassador of Uganda to the African Union, said his country remained committed to the decisions regarding the border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea. It hoped that the Council would respond to the request by IGAD to take action against those individuals found to be supporting Al-Shabaab and other terrorists in the Horn of Africa. Noting that Uganda had troops in Somalia, he said his Government hoped those would be able to do their job and return home safely.
Action on Draft Resolution
When the meeting resumed in the afternoon, ALFRED MOUNGARA MOUSSOTSI (Gabon) said the States of the Horn of Africa had drawn the Council’s attention to the destabilizing activities carried out by Eritrea. Despite appeals by the international community and the African Union, Eritrea had failed to comply with relevant Security Council resolutions. Thus, IGAD had requested new sanctions, emphasizing the need to lay down conditions for peace in the region.
In response to that urgent appeal, his country had felt it was necessary to co-sponsor the resolution, which, among other things, requested that Eritrea comply with it and other resolutions. He pointed out that operative paragraphs 9 through 13 related to economic issues, and he urged Council members to adopt the resolution. The text aimed to lead to peace and security in the region.
The Council then adopted resolution 2023 (2011) by a vote of 13 in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (China, Russian Federation).
RAFF BUKUN-OLU WOLE ONEMOLA (Nigeria) said his country had always approached sanctions with gravity. In 2004, as Chair of the African Union, Nigeria had brought Eritrea and Ethiopia together for talks. Beyond any sanctions, the opportunity for a political solution to challenges in the region should not be closed. The current state of tension would undermine peace and progress in the long term.
He said that comprehensive and lasting peace should be the goal, and he encouraged Eritrea to comply with all the provisions of the resolution. Just as the future of the region depended on political will, international support was also needed. The security of all States was intertwined, and more serious and concerted efforts should be deployed in the region.
MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom) expressed concern about Eritrea’s disruptive activities in Somalia and the region, and its non-compliance with previous Council resolutions, particularly resolution 1907 (2009). He underlined the Council’s readiness to consider additional measures in the event of further non-compliance. He urged Eritrea to comply with this and all other Council resolutions, and he urged all States in the region to end conflict, demarcate borders and work together to find peaceful solutions and protect civilians, with the aim of delivering peace and security. As today’s resolution stipulated, the Secretary-General and the Council would keep Eritrea’s actions under continuous review, adjusting them in light of its compliance or non-compliance.
PETER WITTIG (Germany) said the situation in the Horn of Africa had led to the adoption of resolution 1907 (2009), which established sanctions that had never been an end unto themselves. Nor were they meant to punish Eritrea. Unfortunately, however, Eritrea had failed to comply, and Germany was concerned that Eritrea continued to support armed opposition groups, particularly in Somalia. Moreover, Eritrea continued on a path to self-isolation. The Council and the Sanctions Committee had discussed at length and in depth the scope of a reinforced sanctions regime. The present text had in mind the fate of the Eritrean people. It was calibrated and did not impose new economic sanctions. Nor did it increase the burden on the Eritrean people. It demanded further transparency from Eritrea, which must stop all activities that destabilized the region. He called on the neighbouring countries to cooperate in good faith with Eritrea. At the same time, IGAD should swiftly decide on Eritrea’s request to reactivate is membership.
DOCTOR MASHABANE (South Africa) said instability had resulted in a humanitarian crisis in the region. He condemned any acts by Eritrea that led to destabilization. Resolution 1907 (2009) had been adopted to address that. He hoped the additional measures contained in the present resolution would not adversely affect the people of Eritrea.
He called on the Monitoring Group to follow its mandate and closely guard its independence in the work it did to assist the Council. He welcomed Eritrea’s desire to rejoin IGAD. The current resolution should complement the political process, which would ensure lasting peace in the region. The African Union had committed itself to assist countries to resolve problems, and he called on all parties to work with the African Union to reach a solution.
He was disappointed that Eritrea was not afforded the same opportunity to address the Council along with others in the morning. He had voted in favour of the resolution with a hope that it would help to address the challenges in the region.
LI BAODONG (China) said his country understood the security situation in the region. He supported the settlement of African issues by African ways and by Africans, and hoped the African Union played a positive role in this issue. In that regard, China would continue to do its best to offer assistance.
Adopting a prudent view of sanctions in general, he said, China believed such restrictions could affect people’s livelihoods. For that reason, China had abstained in the vote on a similar resolution in 2009. Settlement of disputes between parties through dialogue was a principle that had led to China’s active part in drafting the current resolution. However, he believed there was room for improvement. Regrettably, the rush to vote on the text had resulted in its ultimate failure to reflect the legitimate concerns of Council members, including China’s. The Council’s Sanctions Committee should further explore the issue. Based on the above points, China had abstained in the vote on the current resolution.
NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon) reasserted the principles of State sovereignty and non-interference. He underlined the Djibouti Agreement and the Kampala Accord of 9 June, as well as the road map agreed on 6 September. He expressed satisfaction with Qatar’s efforts to help resolve the border conflict between Djibouti and Eritrea, and he called for continuing efforts to achieve the Council’s objectives, particularly the issues of boundaries and prisoners of war. Lebanon was concerned with the findings of the Monitoring Group as expressed in its July report, as well as Eritrea’s continued pursuit of efforts to destabilize the region. Thus, it supported the resolution, which provided a clear message on the need to implement all Council resolutions and to address all issues through dialogue to ensure stability in the Horn of Africa.
SUSAN RICE (United States) said resolution 2023 (2011) extended a message to Eritrea that it must cease all action threatening peace and security in Africa. Recalling events leading to today’s adoption, she noted that two years ago, the Council had adopted resolution 1907 (2009) in response to Eritrea’s continued arming of groups in Somalia. Targeted sanctions had been imposed, but the Council had continually received evidence that Eritrea supported armed groups in the region, and had not resolved its border dispute with Ethiopia. Additionally, the Monitoring Group had provided evidence of an “appalling” planned attack on the January 2011 African Union Summit.
She said that, according to the Monitoring Group, Eritrea was funding its activities through its diaspora tax. The Council had responded by imposing tougher sanctions that showed Eritrea that it would pay an ever higher price for its actions. The Council was also concerned by the use of mining funds to finance violations of sanctions. The guidelines called for in the text would provide best practices to help countries protect themselves from unintentionally contributing to Eritrea’s violations.
The resolution provided further opportunity for Eritrea to show its good faith, including through releasing information on the status of Djiboutian combatants missing since June 2008, she said. Eritrea must also cease all activities to destabilize the region and to support armed groups in the Horn of Africa. The United States hoped the text would convince Eritrea to reorder its priorities.
She said that Eritrea must confirm through its actions that it was ready to re-emerge as a law-abiding State. Until that time, the Council was committed to robustly implement the sanctions it had applied. She hoped Eritrea would not squander that chance.
GÉRARD ARAUD (France) said that two years ago, the Council had adopted resolution 1907 (2009), following which the Eritrean authorities had failed to meet the Council’s expectations. The most recent Sanctions Committee report showed that Eritrea had continued to destabilize the region. In addition, it had done nothing to resolve border issues with Djibouti or to address reports on prisoners of war.
He said the current sanctions were without impact on the Eritrean population. In addition, the sanctions that had been decided upon could be reversed. He called upon Eritrea to commit itself to putting an end to its destabilizing activities.
Council President VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation), speaking in his national capacity, said his country had abstained in the vote on the current resolution, even though he understood the many concerns expressed today by IGAD member States. Russia was categorically against terrorism in all its forms. However, regarding certain reported incidents, the Security Council had not been presented with proof of the perpetrators of the reported attack. When it came to guiding the Security Council, he said guidance should be given by the resolution, and not by another body, which could lead to different interpretations of the text.
His concerns about the current resolution included the issue of the diaspora, as well as the inclusion of phrases that could have double meanings. Diplomatic work needed to be done and broad and multifaceted dialogue was needed to establish peace in the region. He called on all parties in the region to conduct such a dialogue to move towards a settlement of the issues.