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Eritrea's response to the queries presented by the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group

Senior Eritrean delegation participating at the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York - 24 SEP 2014


By Eritrean Mission to the UN

The following is Eritrea’s official written response to the queries raised on the 25 August 2015 letter by the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG).

Although Eritrea had fully responded to many of the questions presented by the members of the SEMG in the past and most recently during the interactive video conference on 21 August 2015, preside by the Deputy Political Coordinator Mr. Alferdo Fernando Toro-Carnevali, Eritrea wishes to submit the following written responses, dated 4 September 2015, and its five annexes with full expectation that they will be fully reflected and included in the final report of the SEMG.


INTRODUCTION

1. Eritrea commends the Chair of the Security Council Committee, H.E. Ambassador Rafael Dario Ramirez Carreno, for his effort to enhance a constructive dialogue and transparency in the work of the Committee as well as for facilitating the interaction with the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group. Eritrea also appreciates the role of the United Nations Secretariat.

2. Eritrea has on several occasions clearly and comprehensively responded, in writing and orally, to all questions and allegations of the SEMG. Unfortunately, Eritrea finds it inexplicable for SEMG to continuously ask the same question that have been unambiguously addressed.

3. It must be underlined that in the spirit of engagement and cooperation, in the past the SEMG had visited Eritrea two times; met twice with the Political Advisor to the President, Mr. Yemane Gebreab, in Paris and Cairo; and in 2015 held three video conferences with the Permanent Representative of Eritrea, Ambassador Girma Asmerom. Several formal and informal meetings have also taken place between the SEMG and the Eritrean Mission in New York.

4. With the hope that the SEMG will not ask the same question in the future, the Eritrean Government will once again respond to the questions raised by the SEMG in its letter of 25 August 2015 (Reference: S/AC.29/2015/SEMG/OC.86). However, while answering to the questions, we ask the SEMG to:


a) concentrate on its mandate of monitoring whether Eritrea is supporting Al-Shabaab in Somalia;

b) refrain from dealing with matters that do not fall within the purview of its mandate, such as the situation in Yemen and in particular the Ethiopia – Eritrea conflict, which are agenda items for the UNSC to handle. The UNSC has the full responsibility to urge Ethiopia to withdraw from sovereign Eritrean territory, including the town of Badme;

c) employ high standards of investigation methodology as stipulated in the Report of the Informal Working Group of the Security Council on General Issues of Sanctions (S/2006/997) which, inter alia, underscores the need for expert panels to rely on verified information and documents, and ensure that their “assertions are corroborated by solid information and that their findings are substantiated by credible sources”;

d) respect for Eritrea’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence

e) fully include and reflect in the main part of the SEMG reports Eritrea’s oral and written responses; and

f) in a spirit of transparency, share in advance its draft and final reports with the Eritrean government, as a concerned part.

II. SOMALIA

5. It is common knowledge to members of the United Nations Security Council, the Sanctions Committee and SEMG that the main reason for the sanctions against Eritrea were its alleged support to Al-Shabaab in Somalia and the relationship with Djibouti. In its report of 2014 (S/2014/727) and midterm report of March 2015, the SEMG stated that "it found no evidence of Eritrean support to Al-Shabaab". On its letter of 25 August 2015, it has also ascertained that "it had found no evidence of Eritrean support to Al-Shabaab during the course of the mandate." Eritrea welcomes SEMG's conclusion. As a result of this assertion and conclusion by the SEMG, Eritrea expects the Sanction Committee to recommend to the UNSC to immediately and unconditionally lift the sanctions against Eritrea.

III. DJIBOUTI

6. The case for lifting the sanctions which continue to be maintained six years on and without any justification is bolstered by the actions that the Eritrean government took way back in June 2010 when it, along with Djibouti, accepted the mediation of the State of Qatar. At that time Eritrea also redeployed its troops from the disputed territory, a fact that was confirmed by the State of Qatar in its letter to the UNSC on 6 June 2010. The mediation and redeployment were the key demands of the UNSC, both of which were fulfilled by the Eritrean Government, and which along with the affirmation of the absence of Eritrean wrongdoing should have led to the lifting of sanctions. But better late than never. It should be lifted immediately and unconditionally.

7. The SEMG raises the issue of developments in the Qatari mediation. This is an issue that should be addressed to the Government of Qatar not to Eritrea. Similarly, the issue of prisoners of war is the responsibility that both parties gave to the Government of Qatar. In the already mentioned letter of 6 June 2010, the Prime Minister of Qatar apprised the Security Council that "the issues of the POWs and the missing persons will also be settled under the supervision of the State of Qatar," as stipulated in Article (3) of the Agreement Between the Presidents of Eritrea and Djibouti.

8. In keeping with its practice of raising issues outside its mandate and mostly irrelevant information collected from dubious sources that have axes to grind against Eritrea, the SEMG asks about the alleged "kidnapping" of a Djiboutian soldier in the town of Rahaita in "No Man's Land." Aside from its pettiness and total irrelevance to the Eritrea-Djibouti issue, the SEMG is wrong on several counts. There was no "kidnapping" of a Djiboutian soldier by Eritrea. Rahaita is in Eritrea. Calling indisputably sovereign Eritrean territory "No Man's Land" is unacceptable.

9. Over the past six years, Djibouti has made it absolutely clear that it feels it is the beneficiary of the status quo in the Horn of Africa and consequently does not want a resolution of any differences with Eritrea, favoring instead to stoke tension between the two countries, including though futile efforts to subvert Eritrea.

10. But this is beside the point. The pertinent fact is that on Somalia and Djibouti, which were the main and adjunct reasons for the sanctions respectively, there is no justification to maintain the sanctions on Eritrea. They should be lifted immediately and unconditionally. There is no Eritrean involvement in Somalia and the Djibouti Eritrea issue is being handled by the Government of Qatar.


IV. ARMS EMBARGO

11. Eritrea has consistently stated as a nation whose territory is occupied by Ethiopia and is subjected to the threat of force its rights to self-defense should be respected as enshrined in article 51 of the UN Charter. Yet, Eritrea the victim is punished while Ethiopia the culprit is rewarded. Nonetheless, Eritrea has no violated any of the provisions of the arms embargo. The mention of MV Shaker-1 or any other ship docking at the Eritrean port of Massawa does not justify or constitute violation of the arms embargo. Especially when by its own admission the SEMG has stated that "the docking of the ship in Massawa port is not recorded in an international vessel tracking data base, the Group has access to"; and when it has also admitted that it has no information on the contents of the third container.


V. CONFLICT BETWEEN ERITREA AND ETHIOPIA

12. Despite repeated entreaties from the Government of Eritrea, the SEMG, against overstepping its mandate, has sought to involve itself into the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea and, moreover, doing so is a manner that totally ignores and disregards context, perspective and ramifications.

13. Once again Eritrea underlines that the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea is an issue between occupier and occupied. It is the full responsibility of the Security Council. It is not within the purview of the SEMG mandate. 

14. Ethiopia continues to occupy militarily and illegally large slices of sovereign Eritrean territory, again in violation of international law and its treaty obligation. Thousands of Eritrean families have been displaced from these occupied areas, having lost their farms, businesses and possessions.

15. For the past 13 years Eritrea has been calling on the international community, including the UN Security Council, to shoulder its responsibility and call on Ethiopia to respect its treaty obligation, the Final and Binding of 2002 Delimitation and 2007 Demarcation Decisions of the Eritrean Ethiopia Border Commission (EEBC).

16. The United Nations, which along with the United States, the European Union and the African Union witnessed and guaranteed the Algiers Agreement that led to the final and binding boundary decision between Ethiopia and Eritrea, continues to shirk their responsibility, thereby encouraging Ethiopia in its violation of international law and Eritrean sovereignty and territorial integrity.

17 Moreover, it is known to everybody and can be verified easily that Ethiopia continues to establish, arm, train, finance, deploy and command armed mercenary groups to destabilize Eritrea.

18. Furthermore, Ethiopia officials continue to threaten Eritrea. Most recently, the Ethiopian Prime Minister speaking to his Parliament on 7 July 2015 said, "Ethiopia will be forced to take appropriate action against Eritrea". The use or threat of force against any country big or small is a violation of the United Nations Charter and international law that should be condemned. The Security council must not tolerate Ethiopia's war threat and the occupation of sovereign Eritrean territory.

18.1 Eritrea has repeatedly, but to no avail, reminded the SEMG that it cannot ignore the reality and salient facts elaborated above and direct spurious charges, often based on tips from Ethiopian intelligence and military sources, against Eritrea. Dealing with the Eritrea Ethiopia conflict, context and perspective must be properly applied.

19. For the sake of peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia and the security of the region, Ethiopia must be urged to immediately and unconditionally withdraw from Eritrean sovereign territory, including the town of Badme.


VI. Yemen

20. The SEMG again steps out of its mandate to take up the issue of Yemen and includes in its report an amalgam of outright falsehoods, errors, inaccuracies and insinuations. We only mention it here because it is an additional example of the SEMG exceeding its mandate.


VII. FINACIAL ISSUES

21. Concerning the financial issue, unlike what some quarters try to insinuate, the resolutions do not restrict the Eritrean government from collecting the 2% Recovery and Rehabilitation Tax (RRT) from its citizens residing outside the country and does not also restrict the revenues it collects from the mining sector to be utilized for the development of the country.

22. It must be underlined that the provisions related to revenues from 2% Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Tax and the Mining Resources in Security Council Resolution 2023 (2011) are meant to look into the "potential use of revenue" for the destabilization of the region. To this date the SEMG has not found any evidence of any Eritrean transgression in this regard.

23. Once again since the SEMG has unequivocally confirmed that "it had found no evidence of Eritrean support to Al Shabaab". There is no justification for the group to pursue this issue which is based on hypothetical assumptions. However, for the record, Eritrea wishes to provide the following concerning the utilization of revenues from the 2% RRT and the mining sector:-

a) Recovery and Rehabilitation Tax (RRT)


  • all over the world, taxation is a legal obligation that must be respected and tax evasion is a criminal act that is not tolerated;

  • Eritreans residing inside the country are obliged by law to pay taxes. Eritreans residing outside as well are obliged by law to pay taxes on the basis of Proclamations No 17/1991 and 67/1995 (see annex 1 & 2).

  • in Eritrea, like in all countries, not paying the RRT has administrative consequences. But, they are not criminal measures that send someone to prison. The actions taken are denial of a business license, land entitlement, and other services against those Eritreans who fail to meet their legally required tax obligations. These enforcement measures are not and cannot be implemented "extraterritoriality" and cannot be considered "extortion, coercion, and intimidation etc. Nobody is detained for not paying the RRT and no Eritrean citizen with Eritrean ID or passport is denied from visiting Eritrea.

  • the purpose of RRT is symbolic burden sharing by the Eritrean citizens in Diaspora on the nation building activity of their country and an alternative source of financing for development. It is also consistent with the African Union Summit Decision that calls for the involvement of the African Diaspora in the social, political, cultural and economic development of their countries of origin

  • the 2% RRT is collect in a transparent manner, through Eritrean consular and diplomatic offices inside and outside Eritrea. It is not collected "discreetly" or "under coercion or intimidation" as some quarters continue to insinuate.

  • in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic ann Consular of 1961 and 1963, Eritrean Diplomatic Consular Missions, officers, regularly inform Eritreans residing abroad on their rights and obligations as well as the procedure on how and where the payments could be done. This is done openly and publicly through town hall meetings, seminars, worshops and online media outlets. The forms are posted in the mission's website for anybody to read and print. Moreover, those who fulfilled their obligations are given an official receipt as proof of payment on the spot.

  • all the revenues from the 2% RRT is transfered to the Department of Treasury of the Ministry of Finance;

  • the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, in cooperation which has branch offices all over the country, with all relevant government institutions and grass roots civil society organizations, is responsible for identifying those who meet the requirements for assistance. This file is regularly updated;

  • the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare allocates a monthly payment of 600.00 Nakfa for families of martyrs that is payable for a lifetime to the parents while limited until the age of 18 years for minor dependents and siblings of the martyrs. All war disabled fighters that could not be fully rehabilitated with employable skills are also beneficiaries of the monthly assistance. The disbursments are public information and are regularly reported and broadcasted in the national media outlets and posted at different websites. (annexes 2, 3 & 4);

  • the historical, moral, humanitarian and patriotic contents and values of 2% RRT is more significant and profound than its material dividend. The annual proceeds are modest and should not be overstated when compared with the goverment budgets of expenditures allocated to the families of the martyrs and war disabled veterans. For instance in 2014, the annual revenue from 2% RRT was $11,172,758.33 US dollars while what the government spent to support families of martyrs and war disabled veterans is over 27,000,000.00 US dollars. Therefore, the potential or probability of diverting RRT revenue to other activities is zero.

  • b) Revenue from the Mining Sector

    24. The same goes for the revenue for the mining sector wherein the SEMG continues to disregard its mandate by delving into practices of investors companies. Even though there are 17 foreign companies that have been granted mineral exploration and development licenses, it is only one plant that is at production phase. In fact, Eritrea started exporting its mineral resources at more or less the same period as when Resolution 2023 (2011) was adopted.

    25. The financial proceedings of the Bisha mining plant are issued on a quarterly basis and are available in the public domain, including in the Nevsun website. These financial reports include the proceedings that accrue to Eritrea in the form of corporate tax, royalties and dividents for anyone to read.

    26. The revenue Eritrea gets from Bisha is around 200 million US dollars annually. And this is prior to its debt servicing requirements for loans incurred for purchase of 30% equity from the company as well as substantial pro rata payments for the initial capital expenditures for the establishment of the plant prior to production.

    27. The income the Eritrean Government gets from a single Bisha mining operation is insignificant when compared to public and social expenditures such as education, health and food security. For example, in 2014, the Government of Eritrea's budget for education, health and food security alone was $328,894,753.00 US Dollars which is more than the 200 million dollars the country earned from the mining sector. Therefore, the potential and possibility of diverting resource to cover other activities is nonexistent.


    VIIL CONCLUSION

    28. Once again, as unequivocally confirmed by the SEMG, "There is no evidence that Eritrea is financially and militarily supporting Al-Shabaab in Somalia". There is also UN Security Council endorsed mediation activity by the Emir of Qatar to solve the issue between Eritrea and Djibouti, a process to which Eritrea remains committed. In this regard, the continuation of sanctions against Eritrea is not only unjustified by unwarranted. It must be unconditionally and immediately lifted.

    29. Moreover, in line with the post-2015 Development Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) that advocates that "no country or people should be left behind", sanctions definitely have negative implication on the social and economic development of the Eritrea people, in particular on the issue of poverty eradication agenda. It must be lifted immediately and unconditionally.

    30. Eritrea with 1,200 kilometers of coastline and more than 350 islands with 50% Christian and 50% Moslem population is an oasis of peace in the volatile Horn of Africa and the Red Sea Region. In light of the crisis in Yemen and the spread of global terrorism and extremism, Eritrea's capability to protect its security and territorial integrity should not be undermined or weakened. The unjust sanctions must be lifted unconditionally and immediately.




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