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The Human Rights Council’s Anti-Eritrea Agenda -- A recipe for a regional disaster African Union must reject now

Heads of States at the African Union Summit 2016

The Human Rights Council’s Anti-Eritrea Agenda -- A recipe for a regional disaster African Union must reject now

By Aghade (Ge’ez አግሃደ)*

*In my last commentary entitled Please don’t kid yourselves: The report of the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea is NOT“dead”, I pointed out how the sponsors of the commission managed to keep the anti-Eritrea agenda alive by extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, Ms. Sheila B. Keetharuth, for another year. I also indicated that the next case will likely be a complex one since the sponsors want to take it to both the UN General Assembly and the African Union. As promised, in this piece I will attempt to explain (with some details) why HRC did not accept the report of COIoE and yet the powers that be managed to keep the politically motivated case alive. I will also provide conclusive reasons why, I believe, the sponsors chose to take the next case up in a two-track process: the UN General Assembly and the African Union.

On July 1, 2016, we learned that the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) did not accept the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea (COIoE). The Commission asked the HRC to vote on its recommendations that the United Nations Security Council (UN-SC) refer Eritrea to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged human rights violations. The HRC did not accept the recommendations as presented not only because several stories of systematic “rape” and “murder” have been confirmed to be completely false, but also the poorly thought-out research methodologies used to construct the report posed huge risk to the Council’s already diminished credibility and the court at large.

Obviously, US diplomats were totally embarrassed by the sheer number of false information incorporated in the report, and they (along with some of their European allies who were all along uncomfortable with COIoE tactics) had no choice but to distance themselves from the report. The Deputy Political Councilor at the US Mission in Geneva Mr. Eric Richardson has been quoted as saying that the report did not have “sophistication and precision” that they were looking for[1]. Mr. Richardson comes from the office of Political Affairs that heads the Technical Specialized Agencies at the US State Department, and his office is tasked to feed UN bodies like the HRC with data, contact information, and intelligence in a way that help achieve the political objectives of the US Government. The report of the COIoE fell flat on its face in-spite of Mr. Richardson’s office close ties with the COIoE vis-à-vis some of the subversive “Eritrean” groups and operatives of the Ethiopian regime in EU. This was a serious setback for the US diplomats and everyone involved in this political boondoggle.

A setback, however, is just another setup for a comeback, as they say. We saw how the sponsors of the COIoE (mainly the US, UK and the regime in Ethiopia) managed to keep a lid on their anti-Eritrea agenda at HRC meeting by extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur – i.e. to conduct further investigations and travel to Eritrea to supposedly collect evidence of the alleged weapons of mass human right violations. Doesn’t this sound familiar? What about Dr. Hans Blix and the 2003 UN case against Iraq?[2] Indeed, this was essentially the highlight of the council’s final resolution on Eritrea. This time though the sponsors wanted to take this case up in a two-track process: the UN General Assembly (UN) and the African Union (AU).

Why did they choose a two-track process? In politics, effective organizational control is key for a successful policy outcome. The US and the regime in Ethiopia have significant control of the UN and AU, respectively. Moreover, this two-track process provides, in my view, threefold strategic advantage for the sponsors:

1) Force Eritrea to fight this politically motivated case on multiple fronts, largely within the halls of the UN in New York & the AU in Addis Ababa, which will be a daunting task under the watchful eyes of both the US and Ethiopian regime

2) Provide much needed momentum for the SR to “clean up” the rejected report of COIoE, as well as, escalate the propaganda war against Eritrea, specifically against President Isaias Afwerki and certain Eritrean officials so as to gain maximum media exposure, knowing that personalizing the issue will help attract bottom feeders of the media

3) Bait AU member states to get involved in a case that refers their fellow Africans to ICC, thereby making their current grievances against ICC null and void. (Further below, I will elaborate on this Machiavellian maneuver by the US and UK)

Indeed, the report of COIoE is far off from “dead”.

The Later Part of the Two-Track Process: UN General Assembly

We know the US want the SR to “clean up” the irregularities and the obvious out-right lies found in the report of COIoE as soon as possible (listen between the lines of Mr. Richardson speech at the meeting). Ultimately, their goal is to have the new/revised report (possibly with named Eritreans to be referred to ICC) discussed and adopted by UN-SC, which is the only UN body politic that can make such decision. Obviously, the diplomatic war against Eritrea will start after the report becomes ‘sophisticated’ and ‘acceptable’, and the US is expected to promote it within the halls of the UN. Taking this case through UN General Assembly will be long and arduous process. As always, the US and UK will likely have their handpicked African countries lead each step of this process at the UN.

It is highly likely, though, the US and UK would want the AU to initiate this process first so that they can claim something along the line….this is a case of, for, and by Africans!

The “Machiavellian” Part of the Two-Track Process: African Union

Interestingly, this AU track is more than just giving the Ethiopian regime a role to play in this process. This is in fact a sinister attempt by the US and UK to get Africans states involved in referring their fellow Africans to ICC and thereby making their current objections to ICC ineffective.

We know some potent interest groups in US and UK, including the Human Rights Watch, have been looking for a way out of the growing dispute between African States and the ICC[3]. In the last two years, powerful African head of states have been advocating for the AU to withdraw from ICC because they felt the court unfairly targets African leaders[4]. Presidents Jacob Zuma of South Africa, Ibrahim Mahama of Ghana and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda have been leading this charge, and recently Prime Mister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia joined this chorus of critics against ICC. At this time US and EU diplomats are not terribly worried about this revolt since not all African countries support the withdrawal from ICC – countries like Mali, Senegal, Ivory Coast, and Morocco are in full support of the ICC, while the regime in Ethiopia says it supports the idea but wouldn’t likely go for it, knowing fully there is no down-side for the regime for being on both sides of the debate, at this stage. At any rate, this case against Eritrea has provided the US and UK with an opportunity to pressure AU member states to get involved in the process, knowing any level of participation will ultimately make their current grievances against ICC null and void. In fact, western “hired guns” are already in action, as they have begun to flood the world-wide-web with their commentaries and political analysis on why the AU should investigate Eritrea for alleged human rights violations[5]. In this business, global “control” is the name of the game and AU members will not be allowed to have their dissenting cake and eat it too.

Moreover, it is clear that the AU process gives the Ethiopian regime the maximum influence over the matter as a ‘gatekeeper of AU’. The regime in Addis Ababa is known for using its notorious intelligence services to advance its own political agenda by intimidating AU diplomats and reporters[6]. Over the last 19 years successive Prime Ministers of the Ethiopian regime have openly and repeatedly declared war against Eritrea to achieve their long standing policy of “regime change”[7]. The US has turned a blind eye to these threats and continues to reward the regime with political, financial, logistical support. Therefore, the Ethiopian regime expected to stop at nothing to achieve this political agenda against Eritrea through this AU process.

Setting The Stage for Ethiopia’s War of “Regime Change” in Eritrea: An impending regional disaster

The real worry now is the regime in Ethiopia may perceive this case as a “blank check” to launch a full scale war against Eritrea in an attempt to achieve its 17-year old policy of “regime change”. Recently the Washington D.C. based Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) reported that the Ethiopian regime has been amassing large number of troops and heavy weapons in the Ethiopian-Eritrean border[8]. This troop movement follows the two-day military attack in June 2016 against Eritrean positions around the border town of Tsorona[9]. This is a tell-tail sign that the Ethiopian regime is preparing for full scale war, given Tsorona has shortest land route to Asmara, the capital city of Eritrea - about 69 miles/111 kilometers away.

The next full scale attack by Ethiopia against Eritrea will likely be “the one”, with horrifyingly disastrous consequences for the people of the entire region. As large number of Ethiopian troops and heavy weapons are being moved to the Eritrean border, the usual drums of war will follow soon with renewed promises to go all the away to Asmara. Time and again the regime in Addis Ababa continues to miscalculate the capability of its army to capture Asmara, the strength of the Eritrean Defense Forces, and its ability to rally the dissenting 94% of Ethiopian population around its war against Eritrea[10]. The reality is a full scale war against Eritrea more likely to destroy the fragile Ethiopian economy first, leading to further security crackdown, forced migration, more corruption, price hikes, and food shortages. With over 10 million Ethiopians at risk of hunger, it must be noted that the next full-scale war will inevitably end up far short of capturing Asmara but exacerbate the ongoing ethnic-fueled revolt against the regime in southern and western Ethiopia that could well engulf the entire country[11]. The violent clash that erupted two week ago in the Begemder region between pro-regime security forces of Tigrayan origin and well-armed local Welkaits does not escape this doomsday characterization[12].

Finally, a simple look at the HRC resolution on Eritrea (along with some of the speeches made by diplomats of US, Somalia, etc.) clearly shows the US and UK’s mischievous use of HRC to pursue their politically motivated agenda against Eritrea. This renewed case might provide momentum for the enemies of Eritrea or it might fall flat again, but given the seriousness of Addis Ababa’s war threat against Eritrea, the risk is huge for the entire region. If the African leaders do not do their part to defeat the destabilizing agenda of the Special Rapporteur Sheila B. Keetharuth and her sponsors, both heavily armed and vulnerable countries may likely devolve into chaos in a short period of time.

[10] Today, growing number of Ethiopians no longer see Eritrea as the enemy:

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