Date: Sunday, 22 April 2018
By Matthew Russell Lee, Video
UNITED NATIONS, April 21 – With the UN Security Council caught in yet another dysfunction, retaining sanctions on Eritrea even after acknowledging no current evidence of support to Al Shabab, on April 21 the US State Department announced that "Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Ambassador Donald Y. Yamamoto will travel to Eritrea from April 22-24 for bilateral consultations with Eritrean government officials, to meet with the diplomatic community, and to visit the Embassy’s staff based in Asmara." After that, "he will then lead the U.S. delegation to the U.S.-Djibouti Binational Forum April 24-25 in Djibouti, our annual dialogue on matters of political, economic, assistance, and security cooperation. Ambassador Yamamoto will travel to Ethiopia on April 26 to meet with Ethiopian government officials to discuss shared interests and concerns." UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, meanwhile, this past week meet with Ethiopia's Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonen, Inner City Press Alamy photos here, story here. Back on 14 November 2017 before the UN Security Council voted again on Somalia and Eritrea sanctions, Inner City Press asked the penholder on the resolution, the UK's Matthew Rycroft, if there is any evidence of Eritrea supporting Al Shabaab and if not, why not at least separate the two sanctions regimes. Rycroft acknowledged there is no evidence, but said discussions on separating the two hadn't been successful. Video here. Fromthe UK transcript: Inner City Press: On the Eritrea sanctions, is there any evidence that Eritrea has been supporting Al Shabab? And if there’s not, why aren’t there two separate sanctions regimes? Does the UK favour that? Amb Rycroft: "We did explore that actually with our Council colleagues and there wasn’t the appetite on the Security Council to do that. I think there has been progress on the Al Shabab issue. There’s no evidence at the moment that the Eritrean authorities have been supporting Al Shabab, and we very much welcome that. But as you know, there are other aspects to why there is a sanctions regime on Eritrea, and what we urge the authorities there to do is to engage with the monitoring group, to engage with the chair of the sanctions committee, so that those people can come back with that positive evidence which they say is there, and that would help change the dynamic in the Security Council." Later on the morning of November 14, after four abstentions from the combined sanctions, Inner City Press was informed by a well-placed wag that the UK was not opposed to splitting the two: "the UK would rather get 15-0 votes for Somalia then all these abstentions because of the Eritrea issue." We hope to have more on this. Back in May 2017, Rycroft said "six months ago, the Security Council was quite divided on whether there should be sanctions or not on Eritrea. Before the next decision on the sanctions regime on Eritrea, coming up in November, we are going to do a review today of whether there should be a sanctions regime. We, as penholder on that issue, are seeking to find a way to unite the Security Council so that there can be some specific measures in a roadmap that the authorities of Eritrea would need to meet in order to lift the sanctions regime. Our national position is that the conditions are not yet right to lift the sanctions. But that if Eritrea did some of the things which we will set out today then we would look at it on the basis of the evidence."
When the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the State of Eritrea Sheila Keetharuth held a press conference at the UN on October 28, Inner City Press went to ask her if she considered the impact of sanctions on Eritrea. Video here. She answered only in terms of arms embargo, they said she simply chose not to look at the issue.
On November 10, when Somalia Eritrea sanctions were voted on, five countries abstained: Angola, China, Egypt, Russia and Venezuela. Eritrea's charge d'affaires made a statement, which we've published on Scribd, here.
Before the vote, Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft a question; he spoke about the Somalia Eritrea sanctions helping to limit support to Al Shabaab. Video here. But the current lack of evidence of Eritrean support to Al Shabaab has been repeatedly cited. And there are new reports calling the SEMG and its former officials into question, here. We'll have more on this.
By contrast to Keetharuth, the Rapporteur on the Democratic People Republic of Korea Tomas Ojea Quintana answered detailed questions from Inner City Press about sanctions including unilateral sanctions on coal sales, for example. Is there no consistency between UN Special Rapporteurs? Video here.
There were only three journalists asking questions at the October 28 press conference - and yet Inner City Press was in 2016 ousted and evicted, and it is still under Antonio Guterres restricted to a minder. Petition here.