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SAHAN-ETHIOPIA Report on Human Trafficking and Smuggling Shoots Itself in the Foot

According to Yemane Gebremichael, Eritrea's Minster of Information, Matt Bryden, former chair of the SEMG was fired for receiving illegal payments to churn out falsified reports on Eritrea. He is now the head of SAHAN-Ethiopia report which is, predictably, accusing Eritrean diplomats of human trafficking without evidence. 

SAHAN-ETHIOPIA Report on Human Trafficking and Smuggling Shoots Itself in the Foot

A 39-page report entitled, “Human Smuggling and Trafficking on the Horn of Africa-Central Mediterranean Route” was launched on 19 February 2016 during a consultation meeting organized by the new IGAD Security Sector Program (ISSP) office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The report is said to have been prepared at the behest of primarily the Ethiopian government. The Report said:

“…Between June and September 2015, a team from Sahan, operating auder [under] the auspices of ISSP, conducted primary and secondary research on the presence and operations of human smuggling and trafficking networks in Ethiopia, Sudan, and Libya, with special emphasis on operations. Sahan personnel worked in close consultation with government officials from Ethiopia and Sudan, and received excellent cooperation from some European countries, notably the UK and Italy… the Sahan team adhered strictly to the standards and evidence required of the United Nations Expert Groups…”

In essence, the study was commissioned by the Ethiopian government and the information contained in the report was also provided by them.

The SAHAN-ETHIOPIA report contains this disclaimer:

“…The information and views set out in this report are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of IGAD, the IGAD Security Sector Program (ISSP) or Sahan Foundation. Neither IGAD nor Sahan Foundation nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein…”

Obviously, it cannot be an IGAD document as there are other member states in IGAD, namely Eritrea, Kenya and Uganda, who did not participate in the production of the said document. So this author believes it is safe to call it a SAHAN-ETHIOPIA report and not an IGAD-SAHAN report as touted in the Ethiopian media.

The SAHAN-ETHIOPIA has nothing new to present except to rehash and give credence to unsubstantiated allegations found in the discredited reports by the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea (COIE) and the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) once headed by Matt Bryden. They too relied on “intelligence” provided by the regime in Ethiopia.

Associating the SAHAN-Ethiopia  report with the Intergovernmental Agency for Development (IGAD), the regional organization in the Horn of Africa is not only immoral, but desperate. If the intention was to give the report some semblance of credibility-it doesn’t. It is actually an insult to the intelligence of not just the people and the leadership in the region, but also that of those who may rely on SAHAN in making policy decisions. This contemptuous ploy by Ethiopia and its handlers (as it has been done before) may fool some, but not politically astute analysts and observers in the region.

The co-opting of UN frameworks and other international institutions has been central to the foreign policy strategies of successive Ethiopian regimes and the minority regime ruling Ethiopia today, a certified master of deception and distortion, is no different. It has refined diplomatic deception and distortion to an art. It has also become the norm and almost a job requirement in the production of any study or “research” on Eritrea to have, on the “research” team someone with a public record of animus directed at Eritrea. The regime in Ethiopia’s anti-Eritrea radar can spot them from a distance, and rein them in under its fold, usually using threatening and coercive methods, including blackmail, to do its bidding. Its dirty work. So it comes as no surprise that Matt Bryden would be enlisted to carry out the latest outrageous slander against the people of Eritrea and their leadership.

This is not the first time that this regional organization is used as a tool to advance external interests in the region with the mercenary regime in Ethiopia playing a leading role. The latest shenanigan by the regime in Ethiopia and its partner in crime, Matt Bryden, compromises the independence and neutrality of IGAD and the continued manipulation of this regional body by Ethiopia and its handlers, further erodes the organization’s efficacy and integrity.

The timing of the SAHAN report is also quite transparent. It comes at the heels of the 7626th Session of the UN Security Council in which majority of the Council members-exceptions being the three permanent members US, UK and France (P-3), favored lifting of the illegal, unfair and unjust sanctions imposed against the State of Eritrea. The latest SEMG report cleared Eritrea of any wrongdoing.

The Russian Federation said:

“…with respect to Eritrea, we are pleased to note that the Monitoring Group found no evidence that the Eritrean government is supporting the armed group Al-Shabab. There is still no provision of convincing evidence which would point to the country conducting destabilizing activities. Here we think attempts to strengthening pressure on Asmara are counterproductive. We once again call on the Monitoring Group to use in its reports only verified information…”

Russia’s sentiments were echoed by others on the Council. For example, H.E. Julio Helder Moura Lucas, Deputy. Permanent Representative, Angola, said he was pleased to note that there was no evidence that the Government had been supporting Al-Shabaab. The Council should take note of that and take decisions accordingly.

But it was H.E. Rafael Darío Ramírez Carreño, Permanent Representative of Venezuela to the United Nations and Council President for February that hit the nail right on the head when he said that none of the reports had shown a link between Eritrea and AlShabaab and Qatar was mediating the territorial dispute with Djibouti and its troops were keeping the peace. If the two reasons for imposing sanctions on Eritrea were no longer present, the time had come to reconsider the scope of the sanctions against Asmara. He also said that the Monitoring Group was overstepping its mandate in offering unsupported information, notably on the Eritrea-Ethiopia dispute, which fell outside its reach.

This latest development at the Security Council was inevitable and has obviously ruffled feathers in the Ethiopian capital and has become a source of great trepidation for the minority regime in Ethiopia, which engineered the sanctions resolution to begin with.

As the record shows, the minority regime worked closely with Susan Rice, the former US Ambassador to the United Nations in getting the sanctions resolution against Eritrea using IGAD and the African Union. In 2009, during the Obama Administrations first year in office, IGAD was manipulated by the United States and Ethiopia to bring “stand alone sanctions” against the State of Eritrea. As the 17 August 2009 leaked American Embassy cable showed, during an August 13 meeting with US Ambassador Rice, Ethiopian Charge D’Affaires Fesseha Tessema discussed plans to work with IGAD to agree on the components of a new draft resolution sanctioning Eritrea. According to the cable , Rice and the Ethiopian officials discussed sanctions against Eritrea and how to get IGAD on board:

“…In an August 13 meeting with Ambassador Rice, Ethiopian Charge d’Affairs Ambassador Fesseha Tessema said he was encouraged by the African Union’s recent call to sanction Eritrea for its support of armed opposition groups in Somalia and asked for U.S. “help and encouragement” in the creation of a new UNSC sanctions resolution… Ambassador Rice emphasized that any new sanctions resolution should be an Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) initiative led by Uganda in the Security Council. She recalled IGAD’s prior lack of consensus on a sanctions framework for Eritrea during its June visit to New York, and stated that any new resolution should reflect the common ground between Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia…In response to Ambassador Rice’s question about the position of China and Libya vis--vis sanctioning Eritrea, Tessema stated that China would not oppose the African Union’s recommendation for new sanctions…”

Soon afterwards, IGAD, Chaired by the Ethiopia, adopted a resolution which was then taken to the African Union Peace and Security Council, also headed by Ethiopia. The July 2009 African Union circus in Sirte, Libya, and the machinations of the then US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and Ethiopia are well documented. No doubt this latest “IGAD” initiative is an attempt to duplicate Ethiopia’s previous efforts.

Since Ethiopia took the Chairmanship in 2008, the validity of referring to IGAD as a ‘regional organization’ has been increasingly questioned. Ethiopia has single-handedly hosted and chaired virtually all meetings of the IGAD policy-organs. An astute observer of the Horn said that “we can safely conclude that IGAD has shifted from being a Regional Organization into a forum run by one of its member States-Ethiopia”. It should be noted here that Ethiopia continues to hold on to key positions within the organization, including the Chairmanship. According to the author’s sources in Ethiopia, Berhane Gebre-Christos, State Minister for Foreign Affairs is said to be searching for an executive position at IGAD as a way to ensure himself a lucrative retirement package.

Suffice it to mentions other key positions held by card carrying members of the ruling clique…

The IGAD Security Sector Program (ISSP) is headed by an Ethiopian, Commander Abebe Muluneh, The regime in Ethiopia recognizes that the “war on terror” pretext has run its course in the region, and has placed itself in another profitable arena-that of security. While the ISSP replaced the IGAD Capacity Building Programme Against Terrorism (ICPAT), it did not replace the head which remained Ethiopia. At the helm, IGAD’s Director of Peace and Security is Tewolde Gebremeskel, also an Ethiopian and a card carrying member of the TPLF ruling clique. General Gebre Adhana, Commander in Chief of Ethiopian forces that invaded and occupied Somalia in 2006 and a card carrying member of the TPLF, served on IGAD’s Somalia Peace and Reconciliation Committee. Special Envoy of IGAD, Lissane Yohannes is a card carrying member of the TPLF clique in issues relating to Sudan.

Case of the fox watching the chicken coop…

The Ethiopia-SAHAN report relies on reports produced by Ethiopian officials and incorporated into the 2011 Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group report which was authored by Matt Bryden, its former Chair. At the time Security Council members questioned Matt Bryden’s voluminous report (with the exception of US Ambassador Susan Rice) and he was subsequently removed when he chose to use the unsubstantiated allegations to prematurely prejudice Eritrea’s position and sully Eritrea’s reputation before the report was even presented and discussed in the Security Council. Members of the Security Council voiced their stern disapprovals of his conduct and contents of the SEMG report he produced, with “evidence” provided by the regime in Ethiopia and “western intelligence sources”.

H.E. Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s Ambassador to the UN had his doubts. In rejecting the findings of the 2011 SEMG report, he said that the Council wasn’t given “probative information…” on the wild Ethiopian accusations presented in the 2011 SEMG report. But Susan Rice had a different opinion. On 5 December 2010, when Inner City Press asked Rice about the lack of independently verifiable evidence in the SEMG’s report, she unashamedly and arrogantly stated the following:

“…The Ethiopian Government enabled every embassy in Addis Ababa that wished to come and view the evidence themselves. Some took the opportunity to do so; others didn’t. I don’t understand the basis for Russia’s claim that the evidence was not available or not compelling. From the United States’ point of view, we have every confidence in the veracity of that evidence…”

It should be recalled that it had come to light that US intelligence were in cahoots with the SEMG in the planting of evidence in Somalia to use against Eritrea. Since the establishment of the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG), there have been several calls on the UN Security Council to address the SEMG’s lack of independence, the apparent anti-Eritrea bias, and undue US and Ethiopian influence on its work.

SAHAN-ETHIOPIA Report on Human Trafficking and Smuggling on the Horn of Africa-Central Mediterranean Route uses discredited information found in the 2011 Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group’s and the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea reports. The report also comes at a time when the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea is preparing to deliver its oral presentation at the UN Human Rights Council amidst a global condemnation and rejection by Eritreans to its baseless, fabricated and insulting report. SAHANETHIOPIA report unashamedly proffers this unsolicited advice:

“...Interviews with dozens of those who were confirmed as Eritreans suggest nothing to contradict the recent findings of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea...there is little evidence from this study to support recent arguments for the re-classification of Eritrean asylums seekers in Europe as simply “economic migrants”…”

It is an insult to the intelligence of the people in the region and their leadership to present the latest SAHAN-ETHIOPIA collaboration as being an “independent” study. Shoddy and littered with the stench of the Ethiopian regime’s wild accusations and distortions, it shoots itself in the foot.

Why not wait and allow the process at the UN Human Rights Council take its own course? Matt Bryden and his Ethiopian collaborators must have heard about the rejection of the COIE report and the thousands of letters of personal testimonies submitted to the Council by Eritreans globally.

Like the 2011 SEMG report authored by Matt Bryden, this SAHAN-ETHIOPIA report is filled with unverifiable accusations based on the testimony of nameless witnesses and has also failed to exercise due diligence in verifying many of the factual and legal claims made by its informants. By his own admission, Bryden did not consult Eritrean officials or members of the vast Eritrean Diaspora communities to gather his information about Eritrea. Bryden has a well-documented history of abusing his position to plant erroneous “evidence” against Eritrea.The SAHAN-ETHIOPIA report accuses Eritrean diplomats and officials without providing any evidence for making the wild and preposterous accusations. Matt Bryden and his cohorts ought to know a few facts about Eritrea before he parrots such ludicrous accusations made by the minority regime in Ethiopia against a government and people he knows very little about. Unlike the regime in Ethiopia, the government in Eritrea has never denied its citizens and has not only acknowledged them, it has also granted amnesty to the ones that left the country illegally and has made it easier for them to come back to their country and freely associate with Eritreans in the Diaspora communities. If that makes them culpable, so be it. The welfare of the Eritrean people everywhere is the primary responsibility of Eritreans and across Europe and in the United States, Eritreans will do whatever it can to alleviate the suffering of their compatriots who lured out of their beloved country and trafficked across the Sahara and Sinai, now find themselves locked in detention centers, underground holding cells, living in train and bus depots, condemned housing complexes and facing xenophobia and hate crimes across Europe.

It comes as no surprise to find that the regime in Ethiopia that denied the citizenship of the thousands of Ethiopians who were used as cannon fodder in its aggressive war of invasion and occupation of Eritrea in 1998-2000, is today denying the presence of hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians who have fled its repressive rule and find themselves in limbo across the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. According to UNHCR and European diplomats, Ethiopia is the largest producer of refugees and migrants in the Horn of Africa, yet their own government denies their existence. They are all labeled “Eritreans”, but have no proof of Eritrean citizenship-something the real Eritreans can produce at a drop of a hat. It seems Ethiopians lose their citizenship rights if they leave their country illegally. Eritreans do not.No doubt Ethiopia and SAHAN have found a new lucrative source of funding with the restructuring of certain IGAD organs, but it is the responsibility of donors to make sure that they are funding legitimate studies. The political exploitation of “human trafficking” and “international security” will not advance the peace, stability and security of the Horn region and will also not alleviate the suffering of those victimized by human traffickers and smugglers in Ethiopia and Sudan.

If IGAD is really interested in finding the root cause of instability and insecurity in the Horn of Africa, it needs to go far. IGAD members should call on Ethiopia to abide by the final and binding decisions of the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission, over two dozen UN Security Council resolutions and the African Union and UN Charters and vacate without any preconditions from sovereign Eritrean territories, including Badme.

If IGAD is really interested in stemming the flow of migrants to Europe, it can call on European and other western nations to change their asylum quotas for “Eritreans”, stop luring Eritreans with false promises, DV lotteries and visas. Close UNHCR and other holding camps in neighboring states that encourage flight and leave frightened and confused youth into the hands of greedy trafficker and their payers.

Allow me to end with these words from a senior Israeli diplomat on Africa, Ambassador Avi Granot, who is the head of the Africa Division in Israel’s foreign ministry. He was responding to SEMG’s (Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group) outrageous allegation that “Eritrea is in the business of trafficking weapons and persons to Sinai via the Sudan.”

…I served 17 years ago as ambassador to Ethiopia. One of the things I learned in the region is that lying is a justified means to achieve greater opportunities…

The SAHAN-ETHIOPIA report is just that…a pack of rehashed lies.  

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