Isaias’ Helter-Skelter Foreign Policy – By Seyoum Tesfaye
“Calls on the Council to urgently consider applying targeted sanctions on relevant Eritrean authorities including visa restrictions for President Afewerki on travelling to the EU;” (European Parliament resolution on Eritrea case of Dawit Isaak) If you were
“Calls on the Council to urgently consider applying targeted sanctions on relevant Eritrean authorities including visa restrictions for President Afewerki on travelling to the EU;”
(European Parliament resolution on Eritrea case of Dawit Isaak)
If you were to read and somehow entertain a certain modicum of self- underestimation, and blindly accept the hyperbolic interpretation of the so-called new foreign policy posture by Iasias’ regime as expressed, in some of the web based yellow journalism, by the most jingoist hyper nationalist “writers” you will be an easy customer that will be more likely to purchase a fertile, farm with a functioning milk factory and a full time gardener, on the moon with Maria Theresa coins. Stay on earth with both feet firmly anchored on reality. Do not confuse the new frequent flier status of the “president” with a historic diplomatic breakthrough- it is short on substance, flashy in style but more importantly it is a pure Helter-skelter foreign policy unfolding.
Like a frantic untrained swimmer, who is trying not to sink in the deep end of a lake too big for his novice status, the Eritrean President is looking for a diplomatic lifesaver to grasp. Uganda, Equatorial Guinea and the trip to New York to attend the 66th session of the UN General Assembly are part of the huge knee jerk behaviour generated by the inevitability of a stronger sanction within coming few months. The primary captive audiences for this energy depleting frantic effort are the people of Eritrea.
As far as the rest of the world is concerned no one is buying the enhanced Kabuki Dance. From Sweden to Djibouti the real enfant terrible behaviour and crass action of the regime is well documented. The Somali-Eritrea Sanction and Monitoring Group has meticulously recorded the true actions and behaviours of the regime. Facts are hard to refute. The leopard has not changed his skin.
According to Shabit.com September 12,2011 edition- reporting on an interview concerning Isaias’ trip to Equatorial Guinea- the media outlet controlled by the Eritrean Ministry of Information stats that:
“President Isaias said that there should exist a strategy that could resolve basic issues in view of the fact that neither the 30-year old OAU nor the African Union (AU) that replaced it failed to meet the expectations of the peoples of the continent.” .
The all-knowing president makes a swiping conclusion that the old OAU and the New AU are failures. Previously he has stringently condemned IGAD, Arab League; American policy on Somalia, PLO’s a two state policy, the 1993 Oslo Accords all as failures. Too many to keep track of.
In a meeting with handpicked few Eritreans in Uganda he went on a tirade stating that “we can withdraw from and return to IGAD at any time”, contrary to the charter, rules and guidelines of IGAD. Of course the President’s baseless sweeping declaration was proven wrong and repudiated by the 40th Extraordinary IGAD ministerial session on August 24, 2011 in Addis Ababa.
Let us see one more example of the utter bankruptcy of the regime’s one man driven foreign policy:
“The Government of Eritrea does not support a two-state solution for the Palestinian question nor does it subscribe to the notion of an accomplished fact. Neither does it endorse other public relations exercise, for such a ploy would but only complicate matters and delay a solution.”(Shabait August 4, 2011- Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Release)
Who asked the Eritrean government i.e. Isaias what his opinion is on the Two State solution? Did the Palestinian Authority ask the Eritrean government for advice? Not to the best of my knowledge. This is an example of the ingrained arrogance and self- aggrandizement tendency of the present day Eritrean leadership that keeps exposing its lack of capacity to correctly assess its limitations and mend its ways.
On January 17, 2009 Mr. Isiaias gave interview to the National News of the then South Sudan. In his own words:
“Within three years since the singing of the Comprehensive Agreement (CPA), the situation further deteriorated. We could say the situation is going out of hand. The government of South Sudan has received more than five billion dollars. Where this amount of money gone? If we ask how many roads have been constructed; to what extend has the supply of potable water being made available, what health service has been provided, what job opportunities have created, development and investment projects have been implemented in South Sudan? The answer is definitely none. Instead of perusing unity, ethnic and clan divisions became rampant Instead of good governance, a corrupt system has been established, he said.” (As quoted by the Atlanta based writer- Luk Kuth Dak on April 2, 2009 in an article entitled Should Isaias Afewrki be welcomed in South Sudan)
Assume the reverse. If a leader of another country was to travel to Asmara and give an interview with the same level of criticality about the absence of freedom in Eritrea will it ever make it to the front page of the Eritrean media? No. This is a president of a dysfunctional state presumptuously diagnosing another nation’s internal policy-a pyromaniac assuming the role of a fire chief.
Few days before the president heads for New York the EU “The European Parliament resolution on Eritrea case of Dawit Isaak” is made public making Isaias’ and his pundit’s effusive rhetoric on fresh diplomatic breakthrough a mere charade. The resolution recommends “banning” the president of Eritrea and his ruling clique from traveling to Europe as well as “suspending” the self-reliant state’s “development assistance”. Here is an example of a triumphant earthshaking diplomatic victory under the omniscient presdent, the kind that TV ERI should be eager to share with the people of Eritrea.
So what is behind the sudden appearance of the Eritrean president in New York? The real threat of a more robust sanction is hanging on Isaias’ head like swords of Damocles. The gravelling that was started in a meeting with Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in at the birthday celebration of The Republic of South Sudan is now being transformed to the City that Never Sleeps: New York.
Yemane’s “Preliminary Response to the Somalia –Eritrea Monitoring Group Report” did not convince a single nation to reject the monitoring group’s definitive report. Sanctions are not negotiated retroactively. Nor are they dismissed because of government sponsored petitions. For a government that has no sense of legality or rule of law it might seem so. But the sanction issue is a legal issue. The legal issue is simple and direct: Has the Eritrean government complied with all the decisions of resolution 1907. The answer is also straight and simple: NO. When you fail to comply there is a penalty. Bravado and wild rhetoric do not sway the Security Council. The issue now is how severe will the next stage of the sanction be. Can a 10 to 15 minutes “We are Just Being Pick On” speech by the president convince Europe, US and Africa to candle Resolution 1907 and refrain from imposing extra sanction? No.
Isaias’ effort is like a foolish farmer who has a habit of closing the barren after the horse has bolted. By confusing being obdurate with being principled and arrogance with self-confidence, he has single handedly destroyed any sense of institutionalized and expert based modern diplomacy from emerging in Eritrea. By strictly subordinating the fundamental national interest of the State of Eritrea to his power monopolization agenda he has managed to put Eritrea under this no win situation.
He will have his ten minute on the podium and the world will hear words we Eritreans have gotten sick and tired of hearing for over a decade. But the world will see one of the remaining authoritarian tyrants make a feeble attempt to cast a wide accusation, hopefully minus Nikita Khrushchev’s Shoe Banging and Hugo Chavez’s “The Devil Came Here Yesterday” tantrum, against the United States and all other western Powers. A four o’clock speech with few audiences immediately destine for the archive.
Isaias’ desire to meet with the President of America will just have to stay a wish unfulfilled. It is unlikely that the US will reward this rouge regime with an audience with president Obama after the utterly contemptuous way he treated Secretary Clinton, Assistant Secretary Carson and other members of the State Department. Not even a chance for a corridor encounter- curtsey greeting- should be given to Al –Shebaab’s mentor and financer. US should resoundingly repudiate any move for diplomatic rehabilitation by the Eritrean regime until it is ready to repudiate its harboring of regional theorists and willing abandons his authoritarian ways at the minimum.
The most important reason, from my perspective, for the president’s visit to New York is to try to give one last Hurrah to his dwindling PFDJ members in North America. The- by invitation- only- meeting to be held somewhere in New York is based on a desire to shore up the base by overstressing the underlining official paranoia of “we are under attack” followed by please open your purse and wallet before the inevitable sanction becomes a done deal.
The voices of democracy will be heading to New York as well from all corners’ of North America. Eritreans, Eritrean Americans and Eritrean Canadians will demand that the sanction on the regime and its elites be strengthened, and the wish and will of the people of Eritrea for Justice, Human Rights and Democracy be allowed to resonate in the halls and chambers of the United Nation dousing the voice of the tyrant.
Yes to Sanction and No to Tyranny.