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CECCO: Solving On-going Border Occupation by Ethiopia Key to Bettering Human Rights

Eritrean-Canadian delegation - Senai Iman and Lambros Kyriakakos

CECCO: Solving On-going Border Occupation by Ethiopia Key to Bettering Human Rights In the Horn of Africa



Mr. Lambros Kyriakakos

Acting Chairperson of the Coalition of Eritrean Canadian Communities and Organizations


Subcommittee on International Human Rights

House of Commons

Ottawa, 03 June 2014

Chairman Reid and honourable members of the subcommittee,

I am honoured to be present before this esteemed institution today.  My name is Lambros Kyriakakos. I am the acting Chairperson of the Coalition of Eritrean Canadian Communities and Organizations (CECCO). As a proud Canadian of Eritrean descent, I have traveled all the way from Manitoba to share my submissions with you. I also wish to take this time to acknowledge the important work of this committee.

A little over 2 weeks ago, Canadian communities from coast to coast took the time to celebrate the Independence Day of their ancestral homeland, including my very own in Winnipeg.  As in many parts of the world, Eritrea is a country whose freedom was born at a very high cost. For Canadians of Eritrean descent, watching and participating in the development of Eritrea is of paramount importance. The issue of human rights has been a priority to Eritreans long before Eritrea gained its independence and we continue to equitably address the issue.

With your permission I would like to submit the following written testimony for the record.

CECCO is an organization that represents 7 major community groups across Canada; most of which have existed for the past 30 years and serve approximately 30,000 Canadians of Eritrean origin. We are a national body that represents Eritrean Canadian communities and organizations. Our primary purpose is to represent our communities’ collective voice, foster good relations between Eritrea and Canada, between the people of both countries, promote cultural exchange and trade relations.

1) Occupation of Eritrea’s Sovereign Territory

I would like to begin by saying that any discussion about human rights in Eritrea is inseparable from the acknowledgement of the long-standing and continued occupation of Eritrea’s territory by Ethiopia in violation and disregard of international law. I start with this point for the main reason that up until now the discussion about human rights in Eritrea has focused on the effects of a national security crisis and not its causes. When we speak of the impact that national security has had on national military service, migration, and expression rights it is a helpful exercise to look at the causal effect that geopolitics in the Horn of Africa has had on limiting Eritrea’s development. This is not a novel idea that we can lay much claim to but those of well respected Canadians who have had time to deliberate on peace in the Horn of Africa. These are the conclusions of another parliamentary committee, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, of 2003 to 2005.

In atestimony to that committee by the Former Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the then United Nations Secretary General’s Special Envoy to Eritrea & Ethiopia, the Honourable Lloyd Axworthy’s words still echo in the minds of our community members, when he stated that,

“the lack of resolution of the conflict is such a large and powerful force that impedes any efforts, whether it’s human rights improvement or poverty reduction or agricultural reform. It’s like that big 800-pound gorilla that’s sitting there, and you just can’t get around it. Until the conflict itself is resolved, any efforts in these other areas I think would be severely impeded.” 

This was said March 24, 2005 in front of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade here in Ottawa.

I come before you today, to implore you to act on those words from nearly a decade ago, and as the conclusion and resolution of the same committee to call on “the Government of Canada to increase the pressure on the Government of Ethiopia to accept, in full, the recommendations of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission, including the decision on the town of Badme.”

Hence it is a call to pressure Ethiopia to withdraw its forces from sovereign Eritrean territories and to allow for peaceful development between the two brotherly nations. Ethiopia’s act of non-compliance with international law and its treaty obligations poses a continued threat to peace and security in the region. It sets a very dangerous precedent AND REMAINS A CONSTANT THREAT TO ERITREA’S INDEPENDENCE, FREEDOM AND HUMAN RIGHTS.

A similar call to action was recently made by the International Crisis Group, a commonly cited think tank funded by the Canadian government and headed by former Canadian Supreme Court judge Louise Arbour, according to them, the international community erred seriously after the Eritrea-Ethiopia war of 1998 in not putting greater pressure on Ethiopia to implement the legally sanctioned international Boundary Commission’s finding that granted the disputed land to Eritrea. It is a widely held belief among Eritreans, that the continued occupation of sovereign Eritrean territory is a violation of the human rights of the Eritrean population, specifically the residents that are until today unable to return to their land.

These facts are important because Eritrea’s human rights situation is largely affected, by the fact that our government and our American and European partners are behind Ethiopia, no matter what it does, and have not acted in good faith to guarantee the peace in the Horn of Africa. The no-war no peace situation between these two countries is an impediment to development in all areas of the country’s objectives. Once you begin to strip away the biggest obstacle to development, you are able to have a frank conversation about human rights in Eritrea. This is, in the minds of many Canadians of Eritrean descent, a dangerous source of instability for human rights in Africa.  Understanding Eritrea’s relationship with Ethiopia is fundamental to an understanding of what lies behind the themes this subcommittee has decided to investigate. Failing to consider the totality of the context that precipitated the current situation risks being one-sided and taking a side on the conflict.

2) Impact of the Government of Canada’s Decisions on Canadians of Eritrean Origin

We have also appeared before you today to discuss what impacts, decisions made by the Government of Canada are having on Canadians of Eritrean descent. As Professor Richard Reid from the University of London put it, when referring to the UN sanction on Eritrea, that were later adopted by the Government of Canada,

“the punishment imposed [On Eritrea] is deeply unhelpful and unimaginative.”

In our view, the Canadian government’s adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1907 and its subsequent silence on our rights to exercise our dual citizenship effectively has generated a great deal of negative media hype and false perception of who we are as Eritrean-Canadians.  We are a hard working and peaceful community who have contributed to making Canada a truly multicultural society. At the same time, we are proud of our Eritrean heritage and many of us maintain strong cultural and economic links with our ancestral homeland. Because of it, we’ve witnessed what can best be described as inaccurate and imbalanced and at worst vexatious and frivolous representations by the media; namely the National Post and the Winnipeg Free Press about the ties we maintain with our country of origin. With headlines like “Eritrea raising money in Canada, financing terrorists to attack Canada” and “Protest links seminar to Eritrean terrorists”, we have had to bear the brunt of criticism in a misinformed narrative about our communities.

The impacts on our rights have been important and almost immediate. For example, some municipalities have begun refusing our organization the privilege to fly the Eritrean flag, a ‘non-political’ symbol belonging to all Eritrean-Canadians, during our annual national independence day citing that there were sanctions on Eritrea. Consider also a more serious issue like the vacuum that exists today in our ability to remit taxes to the Eritrean state. We have members who hold business licenses in Eritrea, others who wish to claim inheritances or own property that cannot do so because the government of Canada has not acknowledged our right to do so and the major banks have, as a result of the confusion, decided not to take any risks surrounding the transfer of funds. The confusion and controversy has been, by and large, the work of a small but determined group of political activists now living in Canada who see no harm in using our communities as a springboard for importing their political fights with the Eritrean government into Canada.  These are not individuals who participate in our events or help in delivering our social programs. They are content in trying to weaken our communities if it will help sway public opinion in Canada about regime change in Eritrea. Our message to them has always been clear, “Stop playing politics with our communities.” They have tried to attack every part of our community mandate, including the cultural and the musical events, we have held peacefully for the last 30 years. Before the media, they are self-described as journalists and human rights activists but to the vast majority of Canadians of Eritrean descent who know them, they are the same group who will resort to vandalism, intimidation, and sometimes violence to get their point across.

With regards to the Diaspora tax, Canadians of Eritrean descent maintain strong links with Eritrea but we are being prevented from effectively exercising our dual citizenship rights, by paying the 2% rehabilitation tax we voluntary remit to Eritrea each year. This tax is what allows us to contribute to the development of the country and allows us to benefit from access to important services and property rights in Eritrea. While the Canadians government has not directly prevented our members from paying the tax, our calls for the Government to expressly pronounce itself on the legality of the tax have gone unanswered and the lack of clarity surrounding this issue has caused the banks to make it difficult for Eritreans to exercise their dual citizenship more effectively. We wish to submit into the record a legal memo we have drafted, in consultation with our legal officer, on the legal status of the 2% rehabilitation tax under Canadian and international tax law, in the hopes it may provide some research material to this sub-committee. It may also be worth mentioning that recently, a Swedish parliamentary committee similar to this one recognized the right of their citizens to remit the 2% rehabilitation tax to Eritrea. The decision itself supports much of the research we have conducted. If there is a procedure whereby we could request a legal statement or a technical interpretation on the part of this committee that would elaborate on the legality of the tax similar to the one conducted by the Swedish parliament, we would gladly welcome it.

3) Human Smuggling

Lastly, we would also like to draw your attention to the tragic case of human smuggling in our region. Eritrea has called for a United Nations lead investigation on human trafficking in the Horn of Africa. We urge Canada to take the lead in calling for an independent United Nations investigation of human trafficking in the Horn of Africa, the Sahara and the Sinai. Canada has ratified the additional protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons and the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. Furthermore, internationally, Canada supports the prosecution of human trafficking as a crime against humanity under the auspices of the International Criminal Court. In accordance with this, we believe human trafficking needs to be seriously addressed in the region and the perpetrators brought to justice under international law.

4) Conclusion

In conclusion, we want to state that we value both our Canadian and Eritrean identities. We are a hard working and peaceful people who have contributed to making Canada a truly multicultural society and will continue to do so.

We have a growing concern over what can only be described as an assault against our peaceful community and a smear campaign against the Eritrean community and Eritrea, mainly orchestrated by politically motivated individuals and their supporters.

We are concerned that the Government of Canada appears to engage such individuals while it has neglected to engage the absolute majority of the Eritrean community.

We, the representatives of the majority of Canadian Eritrean communities across Canada, are here to categorically state that:

We have never been threatened or harassed to pay the 2% rehabilitation tax to the Eritrean consulate. And those of us that do contribute to the tax do it with our own free will in recognition of the sacrifice required to rehabilitate a war-torn nation. To date, no allegations of intimidation or harassment have resulted in any charges by the Crown.

Our objectives today, are three-fold:

First, to urge you to add pressure to the Ethiopian Government to comply with the decision of the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission and withdraw its forces from sovereign Eritrean territory, as the continued occupation of Eritrea’s territory is a violation of the human rights of the Eritrean population in itself.

Second, we come to seek protection for our rights as Canadians of Eritrean origin, because the ill perceived interpretation of UNSC Resolution 1907 and the Canadian government’s adoption of the resolution, encroaches on the rights as Canadians with dual citizenship. To protect our rights that is guaranteed by Canadian Charter of Rights.

Third, we came to call on Canada to take the lead in calling for an independent United Nations investigation of human trafficking in the Horn of Africa, the Sahara and the Sinai.

And finally, we request that you consult CECCO in the process of creating a more fertile ground for the improvement of Eritrean Canadian relations and human rights issues in the Horn of Africa. Consultation with CECCO will pave the way for a balanced perspective on Eritrea and related human rights issues. And it will enhance communication between the Canadian government and its Canadian-Eritrean community in Canada.

Thank You.

Source: CECCO

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CECCO: Solving On-going Border Occupation by Ethiopia Key to Bettering Human Rights Reviewed by Admin on 5:25 PM Rating: 5


  1. Wow Eritrean Canadians, thanks for your leadership! I hope all Eritreans around the world follow your initiative. I am so proud of you. You really covered all the areas that needed to be covered. It is nice to see some action.

  2. This is a discredited line of thought, purposely invented by Isaias Afewerqi to justify his usurpation of the Government and all the evils he has been perpetuating on the people of Eritreans.
    Although fear of being indicted of Human Right violation by the world community, among many others, including his dwindling base and fast growing genuine opposition, could have motivated him to change his stance against Democracy on account of woyane occupation of our territory, the fact that he changed while our land is still under woyane occupation, amply reflects his untrustworthy character.
    As Amaniel Eyassu ( asena)rightly said that if Isaias Afewerqi had died when he was sick with Cerebral Malaria, the number of monuments that could have been built in his honor would have been many too many to count. Now, having exposed his real identity and evil scheme, the only one that will be remembered is his infamy and notoriety.

  3. You are well known enemy of Eritrea and nobody is to fall to your crocodile tears. No Eritrean is for sale, sorry.

  4. Dawit
    You little retarded tribal goat, talk is cheap. You are either a Woyane beggar or a cheap Woyane boot licker. Either way, you have never and will never do anything constructive for Eritrea.

  5. Great Action indeed comrades of canada, I'm sure soon will be a chain that will follow all over the world..we'll move ahead..thank you for your resistance..

  6. Dear Dawit when I read your comment I read it just the opposite. There are people like you who likes forwarding offending messages but their hearts knows the truth. Thanks Ida and cane libero y have stated well.

  7. Kerenino Mad minded! By the way be human!

  8. Some Eriterians are negative minded and they can't know even the words they speak and write. Can we be a full minded person.

  9. Keep reading, if pilot Dejen Ande could break the underground dungeon of Isaias Afewerqi, you too will one day liberate yourself from the psychological chains with which he has been controlling you.

  10. That is what your master is doing with Eritreans, shutting them up in underground dungeon, metal containers with dogs like yourself.

  11. Whom would intelligent people call retarded: the one with dependent personality and cult worshipper, like yourself , or the one, like myself, who mercilessly exposes the shrouds of the evil Isaias Afewerqi?
    Of course, they would pick the one like yourself, who, wiggling his tail, does his master's orders like dogs.
    And what kind of people does Eritrea need, like yourself, or like myself?
    Of course, like myself, who use their God given mind in the service of their people, and not people with a frozen mind, like yourself.
    You see, you are the retarded, and not me. Wake Up, Liberate yourself from Isaias Afewerqi's bondage!!

  12. Nezom "nihna nisu nisu risina" reseayom they will come back as soon as the ship stated to sink, they are used to it during Dergue era.
    Those people are mostly those who run away during our struggle for independece, and now the think they can save their face by paying 2% and dancing, they are just Eritreans as Isias Afewerki.
    Weilekum deki 40, isubat nai economy, slaves of "mad dog".

  13. Stop imitating the malicious Isaias Afewerqi, who has weakened our people by sowing seeds of mistrust and animosity among ourselves . United and independent minded people are a lot stronger than people who are herded like sheep. We must get rid the monster Isaias Afewerqi and and his legacy totally, and over his ashes, build our people united under our own law.

  14. Stop repeating Isaias Afewerqi's tactics of distractions and diversions. Concentrate on the agony our people under the monster are going through.

  15. Agames always have Eritreans in their mind. Sick people.

    Worry more about the upcoming amhara/oromo revolution and your rapidly disintegrating nation.

  16. It will be fun watching Agame looters getting chased from Addis. Get your popcorn ready.

  17. Bingo!! UGUM EXPSOSED"RISINA".change ur nn and try again.

  18. Hey Rora, how are you doing? Was long since i didn't hear from you. As a follower of this respected web Madote, i know you as so, I mean as an stubborn opposer of the leadership of Eritrea..Does this have a personal problem? I mean something to do with you or your family members? I don't think the way the Eritrean leadership is the way you paint it..specially if I have to compare it with the hole world full of SHIT, sorry for this ugly word, i promise to my mom to be humble and not to use words like this, but is the reality..believe me if I have to compare GOE to the world, I could say the difference is like heaven and earth..were obviously heaven is Eritrea and its leadership. Nevertheless when the real evils do something good I'm obliged to recognize it for the sake of RATIONALITY, i guess you need to see inner yourself to find out this..

  19. Dear Cane! I don't have any personal vendetta against PFDJ, if you think what they are doing to my people is not personal. The current leadetship of Eritrea is as good as Dergue, Isepa or Weyane to me, they are destroying my people and it's values as they did Dergue through family disinterigation, mass exodus, jailing, torture.......etc.
    Did you heard Dejens interview that's exactly what i don't want to see in my beloved country to happen.
    As the other countries in the world(if you mean the west) i don't care, but at least they are eating 3 times a day, roof in their head and electricity in their houses.
    Wish you the best.

  20. Belae Siri Kerenino:
    What a sheer ignorance. Wow, I wonder about so called Eritreans like you who put more gaz to the fire to destroy their own country. Do you know about 54% of the Eritrean population is exiled. Don't worry, you will find yourself a second or third docile citizen in your own country. It will be for settlers who are far better than you. You are just destined to know up to your nose. You just know what you will it tomorrow. No more, no less. Check and learn, learn and learn.

  21. What a sheer ignorance. Wow, I wonder about the so called Eritreans like you who put more gas to the fire to destroy their own country. Do you know about the 54% of the Eritrean population is exiled. Don't worry, you will find yourself a second or third docile citizen in your own country, sad. It will be for settlers who are far better than you. You are just destined to know up to your nose. You just know what you will eat tomorrow. No more, no less. Check and learn, learn and learn

  22. Then in this particular letter, what one observe is UNITY of a community, amazing, unique

  23. And don't discount their counterparts, the woyane Trojan Horses. A genuine Eritrean must stand against these two, the woyane within and woyane-without. They are the same, although they wear the appearances of mutual hatred for each other for tactical reasons , Divide and Conquer.
    But however much beatings it takes, the spirit of Eritreans never prostrates, of which,the Hero, Dejen Ande, is the personification. Even from the ashes, we shall rise and wipe out our enemies. It is our destiny to defeat and humiliate them, and not with our own armaments but with their own. Of this, I have no inkling doubt.
    Genuine Eritreans,
    Those of you who have been procrastinating in the hope that Isaias Afewerqi and his inner tegaru would prove to be genuine Eritreans and work for the betterment of Eritrea, I tell you, you are just lending the villains precious time to inflict more damages on your country and people. It was the same vain hope that locked our Hero, Dejen Ande for fifteen years. Had he availed himself of the Golden opportunity that had presented itself when he was just incarcerated, he wouldn't have gone through the agony he went through. Learn from his bitter experience ; Give Up on these treacherous tegaru Now!!!! Stop Procrastinating!!

  24. 35 +yrs old should not fly MIG anyway. he could have been instructor, may be he does not have what it takes to be one. where ever he may land He can't even fly East African locust control.

  25. Go get a real job,Assenna can't pay enough for you to write on this page.

  26. Dear Cane! I just give little of my idea to Dawit Mekomen, i didn't mean to the article.

  27. I think you misunderstood me, i am not saying Dergue is good. I am saying i don't see any difference between the two regimes. Yes Dergue killed us as they are doing the PFDJ junta, Dergue made us left our country as they are doing the same, Dergue torture us as they are doing so........etc etc the list are countless.
    By the way can you mention any bad thing that Dergue had done that the PFDJ junta is not doing?
    As you mentioned things at home are going warm (if you mean change) , i hope so....i will be delighted.
    Selam misaka ikun.

  28. Boy! u need to grow mature. Becz, ur words tells me u r immmature. Issayas is "Jigna" u liked or not. u have a right to say what is in ur mind but that will indicate who u r. They had sang the song u sang for more than 40 years calling names Iseyas,,,,,, but he is doing his job. We need u to show us what have u done to eritrea rather than calling names to those working for the betterment of our country Eritrea. Otherwise, u and people like u will remain barking like dogs forever,

  29. There is no way we the true Eritreans will united with u and the people like u who r "Weyane's puppets"

  30. PFDJ is building Eritrea in all sense in the best way (consulting the best education system in the world -Finland-), health in the best way, food security in the best way, defending Eritrea in the best way against All, (puppets or servants), for my view is the exception in africa & else where..self RELIANCE motto in the best is a model. Men ab tekekel mengedi kem zelo, we'll see it soon..I believe as an pragmatic person facts..

  31. This is stupid and aggressive explanations. You said you represent majority of eritrean canadian community. This is false I am one of Eritrean community leader . we are non political community not like your community political missionary. Our community is base on non political but you star express you politics by calling our Eritrean canadian community. This misrespect and mis leading . stop being puppet by reading political history of sanction, war, tax. If you think the Eritrean government is doing great ,drop you canadian citizen and leave Canada.your citizen was given to you according citizen and immigration of canada that until you refugee claim case solve. Now you got a good government please leave to Eritrea as soon as possible and help them in development rather than broadcast it.


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