Yemane Gebreab, Presidential Advisor
This interview was translated from Arabic using online software
November 23, 2017
In an interview with Al-Masry Al-Youm, Yemane Gebreab said that Egypt was suffering from African absence and political stalemate in the era of former President Hosni Mubarak, pointing out that President Al-Sisi has re-established its leading position in Africa. The text of the dialogue:
Q: How did you develop Egyptian-Eritrean relations through your work as a "political adviser" to the Eritrean President?
Yemane Geberab: The development of Egyptian-Eritrean relations, in this current form, is the responsibility of the Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, since his experience and knowledge of this issue is old and profound. Since Eritrean independence, his opinion has been in favor of Egypt's support, because he believes that the region will not develop and grow until Egypt returns to its leadership role on the African continent. Eritrean President was pushing for a frank dialogue with the Egyptian leadership to remind them of this role. Egypt is a large country, economically, socially and politically. It was a pioneer country on the continent and this is in the interest of the region.
Q: President Isaias Afwerki, dealing with more than one political system in Egypt, what is the real difference that the Eritrean government experienced under President al-Sisi?
During the era of former President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's role was characterized by political absence and stagnation, especially in the Horn of Africa, although it represents its strategic depth. Unfortunately, this stalemate affected the region, but after the June 30 revolution, we noticed that the current political administration has a new concept of Egypt's role internally and externally. Thus, there was harmony between the two sides. This was in satisfaction of this Egyptian orientation at the political, economic and diplomatic levels, and in a short time, relations have developed rapidly and, more importantly, the great leap of Egypt's role on the continent of Africa and the Middle East region.
Q: Explain the Egyptian stalemate in the era of former President Mubarak? How was that situation broken?
Egypt, under the Mubarak era, had other priorities in its foreign policy. It headed north towards the United States of America and the European Union. It focused on the file of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the rights of the Palestinian people. The internal situation in Egypt at the time was both economic and cultural. The Middle East region has been stagnant. Despite these policies, Eritrea's relationship with Egypt was not bad at all, but we needed Egypt and its strong role, and we were bitterly talking with the Egyptian leaders about the necessity of returning to their natural place in front of the world, and review and formulate its policy in the region again.
The crisis broke out immediately after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power. Egypt's policy became more balanced. The focus on building Egypt internally, working to achieve security and stability, addressing internal issues calmly and equitably, and addressing the needs of the Egyptian people. The cornerstone of the return of the Egyptian role once again.
Q: How did the relationship between the two countries change from friendship to political hostility in this way?
Ethiopia and Eritrea were partners during the war of liberation against the Mengistu military regime, but after gaining independence, the Ethiopian regime believed that Eritrea was the main obstacle to its desire to implement and manage some of the wrong policies in the region, but ultimately the Ethiopian side was able to isolate itself, and succeeded in creating a confrontation with the Eritrean government, despite the fact that we are closer to them geographically, politically, but because they seek "Tigrayan nationalism", they remain in power by tearing down the Ethiopian society. Ethiopia has committed a grave mistake when it decided to create political hostility with Eritrea, even though our country is near and strategic depth to them. Ethiopia's policy against Eritrea is "mad" and not a rational policy, and in the end, Ethiopia is living under the most difficult situation.
Q: In October last year, Ethiopia officially accused Eritrea of supporting opposition elements in their country. Why do the accusations in Addis Ababa always refer to Eritrea??
The problems in Ethiopia lie in the fact that the Ethiopian regime does not recognize its real problems, and therefore always tries to indict outside elements, accusing Eritrea and Egypt of while supporting the opposition in Ethiopia, although those protest movements began before Eritrea's independence, due to the domination of a small group in control of power and state resources, and thus the accusations sent are simply an escape from recognizing the nature of the real problems. Ethiopian officials have appeared in their media, talking about the presence of Egyptian army camps in Eritrea, which is not true, and there is not one single Egyptian soldier currently on Eritrean territory.
Q: Do you think Ethiopia is disturbed by the Eritrean-Egyptian rapprochement? And why?
Any development in Eritrea causes trouble for Ethiopia, and sees it as a setback and loss, this is the thinking of the Ethiopian mind.
Q: Can we find a chance for a close dialogue between Ethiopia and Eritrea?
There is no negotiation or dialogue with Ethiopia, although they have offered this matter more than once, we are steadfast in rejecting, as the decision of the International Court of Justice on the demarcation of the border, a final and binding decision, which must be implemented. There is no dialogue. And I recall that, after the verdict, they offered us more than once to many compromises and concessions, but they have no choice but to withdraw from our occupied territories.
Q: How are international sanctions imposed on you, and Ethiopia is occupying your territory and refusing to implement an international judicial decision? Why does not Eritrea move internationally in this direction and what are the real reasons for imposing such sanctions?
The sanctions imposed on us stem from the wrong foreign policies of the United States of America over the past quarter of a century in the entire region. Unfortunately, America has great control over matters in the Security Council. Any suggestion of Ethiopia's violations against us is rejected by the Security Council, especially the United States of America.
In June 2016, Ethiopia launched a major military offensive on Eritrea and we called for an urgent meeting in the Security Council to discuss the attack. Our request was rejected. Even former US National Security Adviser Susan Rice, under the administration of former US President Barack Obama, was defending Ethiopian interests, before US interests.
Q: So what does America want from Eritrea?
Before World War II, Eritrea was a colony, but after the war we were supposed to have independence, but America saw that its interests corresponded to the exploitation of Eritrea, even the then US Secretary of State said, "We know that Eritrea has the right to Independence, but America's interests in the East Africa region require Eritrea to remain part of Ethiopia." America also had a military base in Asmara under Emperor Healy Selassie from the 1950s until the overthrow of the monarchical regime in Ethiopia, but after Eritrea's independence we refused to let them return. Again, when the war broke out between Eritrea with Ethiopia, America sided with the Ethiopian side at our expense, and I stress that Eritrea is not against America, but we have our own view on how to run the country.
Q: Why did Eritrea not use its good relations with Egypt to enter as an intermediary in your crisis with America, especially as the latter enjoys good relations with the Egyptian side?
I do not think that we need international mediation with America. At the same time, we see that there is a noticeable change in the policy of the current American administration. There is a certainty that American policy in the region, especially towards Eritrea, will not work. The United States is beginning to understand that Eritrea is in a sensitive and strategic region, a stable and secure country, and it can play a constructive and positive role in the region.
Q: Do you think that these changes could turn the situation upside down in the future and make America press Ethiopia to implement the ICJ's decision to withdraw from your territory?
It is important to focus on the bilateral relations between the two countries only, because this is part of the big problem, the situation in the region is intertwined, and the relations between the countries are influential, because we are not isolated from the world, and America must understand that its relations with all countries are influential in various parts of the region, otherwise nothing will change on the ground, and we are always trying to talk to them about rethinking the issues of the Horn of Africa in general.
Q: How do you read the Renaissance Dam crisis?
The largest economic projects in Ethiopia are political projects, including Renaissance Dam, infrastructure development projects, construction of huge buildings and many other economic projects, all of which are political projects and deceptive manifestations to give a picture to the world that Ethiopia is a big country with Africa's fastest growing country.
Q: What is Ethiopia's political goal behind the dam?
The current system in Ethiopia is rejected by the Ethiopian people because it was adopted in the formation of his government to exclude certain ethnic groups at the expense of some other ethnic groups, and the disruption of society, and inequality between them, and the constitution allows the separation of any nationality from the state. It's goal is to try to show Ethiopia the world that it is a strong state in the region. This is the real goal of the regime in Ethiopia, and not the goal is the development of the state, especially that all the economic projects that promoted Her Ethiopia, in recent years, has failed A huge failure, and caused heavy losses of the people's money and external debt, and Ethiopia must benefit from the many sources of the sources of the Nile, but without prejudice to the interests of the downstream countries.
Q: How does Eritrea deal with media distortion attempts?
This distortion does not bother us at all, but we deal with it through domestic construction in the first place, developing Eritrea, building the economy, achieving security and peace and stability, and secondly by developing our relations with the countries of the Horn of Africa by, Egypt and the Gulf States on the other.
Q: What about Egypt's role through its membership in the Security Council and some other international parties in lifting the sanctions imposed on you?
Unfortunately, despite this Egyptian and international aid, the Security Council refuses to lift the sanctions on Eritrea, despite the evidence of our international innocence of support for the Al-Shabab in Somalia, so the justification for the sanctions is over. However, the sanctions continue. At the same time, the Security Council sees no violation of Ethiopia. International law and Security Council resolutions over the past 15 years, without imposing a single penalty on them!
However, there are other accusations against you, namely human rights violations. Some Western media have confirmed that the United Nations has tried to send more than one UN commission to verify these violations, but you refuse. Is this true?
The sanctions imposed by the Security Council in New York are different from the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Eritrea cooperated with the Security Council sanctions committee and visited the country more than once. We also met members of this committee abroad more than once. One of these meetings was in Cairo, We also welcomed more than one visit to Eritrea to ascertain their suspicions and to allow the discussion of officials, but this cooperation did not yield anything positive. After every visit to Eritrea, they provided false reports and did not include the evidence we gave them, so we refused to visit them again, Where they last visited them 4 years ago, but we did not reject Est The dialogue with them so far.
Unfortunately, the Council accuses us of sending 2,000 Eritrean soldiers to support Al-Shabab in Somalia. After a while, they confessed that they were wrong, and then again accused us of sending two heavily armed planes to support Al-Shabab. They also admitted their mistake, yet again accused us of trying to organize a terrorist act against African leaders during an African meeting in Addis Ababa. We invited the High Commission for Human Rights in Geneva, called for cooperation with them, visited us three times and waited for another visit in November.
Q: Is there a plan to stop illegal immigration from your country to European countries?
Eritrea's development and reform plans have reduced immigration rates from 2016, and the current world is also witnessing a significant decline in the number of young migrants.
But what we were surprised about was the speech of former US President Barack Obama: "We are ready to help young people, women and children who want to emigrate to the United States from North Korea and Eritrea." Unfortunately, there is no real equity on countries'. Eritrea's collapse has not and will not be achieved.