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How will a Child victim of the Unjust sanction on Eritrea view the US as he grows older?

Eritrean children in traditional Tigre attire

An Open Letter To President Obama

How will a Child victim of the Unjust sanction on 
Eritrea view the US as he grows older?

Dear President:

Firstly, allow me to express my humble wishes for a happy holiday season to you,to your family and to the people of the United States. As people across the continents celebrate the season, hundreds of millions exchange good wishes and gifts along the tradition which originated from the offering of the gifts to baby Christ by The Wise men. Well, despite rampant commercialization, Christmas, as you may gather, is centered on the story of a persecuted child and his family which survived at last to be revered and/or worshiped by the masses.

Mr. President,

It is unfortunate that for the last four years, to say the least, Eritreans remember with a sense of betrayal as well as challenge the day of 23rd of December 2009 when the unjust sanction was furtively placed upon Eritrea by the UNSC, all lead and initiated by your administration. It all came back full circle as the persecution of a nascent nation of Eritrea starts anew after a mere seven years of break. Nevertheless, contrary to the objectives of its initiators and handlers, the unjust sanction has only resulted in the deceleration of progress by Eritrea, but also brought unexpected burden to several European and other governments which, in one form or the other have been associated or availed themselves with the futile efforts to compromise the hard won independence of Eritrea. However, it is not that hard to find its impact on the lives of and other alien residents.

In one sunny early afternoon, when the city centre of the capital, Asmara is quieter, a small boy barely three himself is seen playing on the side walk creating for himself a space while his mother sitting at the corner, waiting for the generosity of passersby, is squinting through in her covered face as she watches her son and try to protect what is left of her dignity as a caring mother. If it were not short of  resources, the government of Eritrea wouldn't have allowed for a second such conditions which are out of the bounds of our values and would have placed this impoverished mother in a decent domicile where she can raise her child and let him live like a child in the appropriate environment.

Mr. President,

In the historic visit you made at the AU last August, you stressed throughout your speech of a key key virtue of our common humanity--DIGNITY.

<< Dignity — that basic idea that by virtue of our common humanity, no matter where we come from, or what we look like, we are all born equal, touched by the grace of God. Every person has worth. Every person matters. Every person deserves to be treated with decency and respect. Throughout much of history, mankind did not see this. Dignity was seen as a virtue reserved to those of rank and privilege, kings and elders. It took a revolution of the spirit, over many centuries, to open our eyes to the dignity of every person. And around the world, generations have struggled to put this idea into practice in laws and in institutions.>>

There is also an interesting segment on the progress made in the health of women and children in Africa; by the way, despite all the challenges it has been facing, it is one of the sectors which Eritrea has been having successful achievements—also with partnership of those who RESPECT her choices of the models of development.

<< Propelled by this progress, and in partnership with the world, Africa has achieved historic gains in health. The rate of new HIV/AIDS infections has plummeted. African mothers are more likely to survive childbirth and have healthy babies. Deaths from malaria have been slashed, saving the lives of millions of African children. Millions have been lifted from extreme poverty. Africa has led the world in sending more children to school. In other words, more and more African men, women and children are living with dignity and with hope.>>

Mr. President,

Imagine as the child grows up to find out the reason/s for the indignant condition that he and his mother had been going through. We can only imagine if he would identify himself as one of the child victims during the challenging era of sanctions which among other things has robbed his childhood and the dignity of his family.The possibilities, that as he grows older and becomes aware of his conditions as a child and develop negative views against the United States is obviously insignificant per se, but such views which could also develop into unpredictable perspectives can be taken as a token of similar responses that could have negative cumulative effects over time and space. This child who is exposed to undignified living may grow and see himself and his cohorts with the same light as those who suffered under the sanctions placed against Iraq in the nineties.

Mr. President,

It is an open secret how the United States decided or was dragged to go to war against Iraq. Before such misguided policy that has now crippled Iraq, the most devastating regime in the history of economic sanctions had taken the lives of as many as a million Iraqis, the vast majority of them children. In a 60 Minutes aired interview, the then US ambassador to the UN, Mrs Madeleine Albright, answering to the question “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And — and you know, is the price worth it?" bluntly said, “ I think it is a very hard choice......but the price—we think the price is right.” She latter expressed her regrets making such inhumane comment. However, the reality is that there are many individuals in powerful positions in business and politics with such a mindset inherently bereft of any EMPATHY.

Mr. President, time and again, especially after the end of the Cold War, the United States has been driven into conflicts that has brought in chaos rather than the declared objectives for starting the wars. Within the Labyrinth of the US foreign policy making apparatus, there are those who either initiate or act as key catalysts to such utterly destructive policy decisions that have not only regional but also global implications. Apart from the consequences to the human dignity of those impacted, the price of the blowback is also not as manageable as those behind such human disasters might think or un-empathically calculate.

Is the destruction of Iraq and the sufferings of its citizens “worth the price?”

Is the invasion of Libya which has now left the nation divided and dangerously unstable “worth the price”?

Is the conflagration of the chaos that has resulted in the displacement of a quarter of the Syrian population “worth the price”?

Mr. President,

Despite the intensive hostilities to which it has been incessantly subjected to, Eritrea through its sheer values and blessings has avoided to be one of those unfortunately doomed to be among the “ price is worth it” category. As always, Eritrea is ready to play its key role towards the stability, peace and development of our region that benefits ALL Its citizens and those who share its values and blessings do resort to their own common values of respect, resilience and resistance against all odds.

That may answer the question posed at the beginning of this letter; but are such responses found in many places that have been at the receiving end of the “ price is worth it” strategies which are not only driven by self-interest but also by mindset that not only lacks some sense of empathy but doesn’t have it at all.

Mr. President,

To conclude, putting in mind the direct or indirect “persecution” of nations and regions , I would humbly share my wishes for the New Year. One as an Eritrean citizen and the second as a global citizen, like many, concerned with the regional as well as global implications of  US foreign policy which  has been devolving since the end of the Cold War.

*** That your administration corrects its misguided policy towards Eritrea and makes sure that the unjust sanction is lifted soon.

*** That less and less destructive military adventures occur, conscientious individuals, specially progressives in the United States, devise ways and means by which individuals who are posed to hold key reigns of political power, elected or appointed, are put under appropriate psychological/psychiatric scrutiny before acquiring the authority to making decisions which could possibly result in “the price is worth” outcomes gravely impacting entire nations, regions and millions of lives.

Mr. President,

It sounds that my first wish is half way through as we start observing positive signals from the activities and statements of the US embassy in Asmara and the factual reappraisal of positions on Eritrea by influential exUS officials who are more than familiar with the politics of our region.

As for the second, I can only make a wish upon a wish in that the child playing on the sidewalk of city centre does grow with Eritrean values of Justice to contribute, in any capacity along his peers, towards supporting and empowering those persecuted and exploited, to live lives of DIGNITY as citizens of their respective nations and above all as human beings.

Respectfully Yours,

Haileab Luul Tesfai

December 20, 2015

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