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Sophia Tesfamariam, Permanent Representative of Eritrea to the UN: for Africa, the effect of the "grain deal" is minimal

Posted by: Semere Asmelash

Date: Wednesday, 26 July 2023

Sophia Tesfamariam: for Africa, the effect of the "grain deal" is minimal

Permanent Representative of Eritrea to the UN Sophia Tesfamariam - RIA Novosti, 1920, 07/26/2023
Sophia Tesfamariam, Permanent Representative of Eritrea to the UN

Western countries continue to talk about ways to restore the "grain deal" bypassing Moscow, while African leaders are preparing to arrive in Russia, where they will be offered solutions to food problems. About how Africa was used in the propaganda of the "grain deal", and what it was really designed for, about the pressure on African countries when voting in the UN General Assembly, about the threat to the Charter of the organization, about why the Security Council did not vote for an independent investigation of the undermining "Nord Stream", as well as Russian-Eritrean relations in an interview with RIA Novosti on the eve of the Russia-Africa summit, said the Permanent Representative of Eritrea to the UN Sofia Tesfamariam. Interviewed by Alan Bulkaty.
“The grocery deal ended a week ago. Everyone knows that only 3% of the grain reached the poor countries, particularly in Africa. Although initially the deal was presented as a humanitarian initiative. Do you think that it has achieved its goals in a year of existence?
– During the year, some Europeans received grain, which is good, because they also needed it. So an attempt to present everything as if only Africa wanted to get grain from Ukraine does not work here. It was not the way to solve the problem from the very beginning. As for Africa, yes - we got less than 3% of the grain. And Africa decided: instead of waiting, she would grow her own grain. Ethiopia began to produce its own wheat. Eritrea increased production by 20%. Other regions have done the same.

So the effect (of the "grain deal" - ed.) for Africa was minimal. But the propaganda in favor of the (Black Sea grain - ed.) initiative was huge. And Africa was used as a tool: (everywhere they say - ed.) “Africans are starving”, “Africa” sounds all the time, “everything for Africa”, “Africans will starve”. But everything turned out the same as with the COVID-19 vaccines: (it was said that - ed.) "Africans will suffer", "Africans will be hurt the most", but when it came to answering for words and providing vaccines Africa, this did not happen. The issue has been politicized. So the politicization of food aid is what killed this initiative. It has not started now, because of the Ukrainian problem. It has always been.and many other agencies. Nothing new.
So you weren't surprised?
- No. Not at all. We are tired. Africans are already tired and are not surprised - even when we hear that they have not provided the funds they promised. The Africans realized that this is all (empty - ed.) conversation. They (Western countries - ed.) put on a show, the name of Africa is used: Africa is this, Africa is this, Africa is rising, the African initiative.
– Do you think that they were not going to sincerely help the needy countries from the very beginning?
They weren't going to help. Africa is a cover. It's always a very convenient cover for whatever they want to do. In this case, it was a good way to blame the Russians while taking advantage of the Africans.
“By the way, did Eritrea get anything from this deal?”
– We bought grain from Ukraine. I don't know how much we got. But not within the framework of the "grain deal", but bilaterally and, probably, not even directly from Ukraine.
- By the way, about Ukraine - after the start of the NWO in March 2022, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution (the resolution called on the Russian Federation to withdraw troops from Ukraine - ed.). You were among the five countries that voted against this document. Why?
“Before what happened in February, for many years, NATO allies put pressure, pressure on Russia. They broke one promise after another, one agreement after another. They were engaged in containment of Russia. And in our understanding, Ukraine was allowed to be slaughtered. But from the very beginning it was clear to us who was to blame. This is not Russia.
We do not support aggression. We did not support the policy that was used to put pressure on Russia. They pushed Russia to action. In our understanding, this (SVO - ed.) Was more of a preemptive act of protecting their security than anything else. And for this reason, we have decided that we will not vote yes. And we adhere to this position today.
- Do you think that Russia was forced?
– Russia was provoked for 14 years. I remember that in 2014 our president spoke about provocations against Russia and about what might happen, what to expect in the future, about what NATO is and what they are doing in Europe . By the way, NATO, first of all, weakened Europe, turned it into a servant of the United States and its allies.
- I heard that there was pressure on the countries in the General Assembly to vote for the resolution in order to achieve the required number of votes for. This is true?
- We have negative reviews in the American press, we hear slander from all sides. But we are used to it, and it does not matter. So the truth must prevail. And then (before the vote on the anti-Russian resolution in March 2022 - ed.), I know there were several African countries that did not know for sure what exactly was happening. But I was encouraged that later, when voting on the following resolutions in the General Assembly, Africans began to more actively understand the issues, began to resist, began to say: we do not agree, only on the basis that you say so.
I think that we were at the very beginning, but more Africans began to follow us, especially when they (the West - ed.) tried to freeze the assets of Russia. I think that all countries of the Caribbean Community and all African countries have taken a common position. I think that this happened for the first time, and Western countries did not expect this. People are tired, these countries are tired of bullying, they don't want to be dragged into problems that don't belong to them in the first place. They have no accounts (with someone - ed.) in this confrontation. And they (the West - ed.) continue to insist: either you are with us, or you are against us. But you (the West - ed.) do not do this in African matters, whether it is a war in Sudan or a war between Eritrea and Ethiopia. We do not tell you whether you are with us or against us.
“I've always wondered how they exert that pressure?
- First of all, when they prepared the resolution, they did not involve us. They did not invite us to discussions. Even if they discussed something, they discussed it with those whom they considered like-minded people. All Europeans co-sponsored their resolution. That is, they force you to be there and take a position on an issue that you have never discussed, they force you to vote. I think by pushing these few resolutions in this way, they kind of lost the support, the sympathy they would have if they had shared these resolutions with us (in advance - ed.) and respected the countries.
– Are you talking about the UN General Assembly resolutions on Ukraine now?
– Yes, about the resolutions on Ukraine. They never once discussed them with us. They sent them the night before the vote. So it was mean. We either abstained or voted against.
– Do you have an idea of ​​how many countries are subject to such pressure and vote in the UN General Assembly the way the West needs?
– I'm sure that almost all African countries receive calls. Europeans come and try to tell you about the "huge Russian monster", they say, "Russia is doing this and that." However, they are not responsible for what they do. Responsibility for what led to the current situation has not come.
- Not blackmailed?
- No. They always try to convince that Russia is a "fierce beast" here. We tell them: you have your views, we have ours, we see things differently and maybe we are more neutral than you. If you want to achieve peace, it must be genuine, stable. There must be sincerity. Take responsibility for what happens and why, and make sure it doesn't happen again. But you are adding fuel to the fire, sending more and more weapons, now I hear cluster munitions are going there. There will be more death and destruction. This beautiful country Ukraine is destroyed. For what?
I am very sympathetic to the Ukrainian people, I am very sorry that he went through this. But I also sympathize with the Russians who have to do this to protect themselves, their country and their security. We wish them well and hope that common sense will prevail and sooner or later this will come to an end.
– Your country is a member of the Group of Friends in Defense of the UN Charter. Do you think that the UN Charter is currently under threat?
– If all member countries followed the principles of the UN Charter, I don't think we would have the problems that we have in the world today. I think he (the UN Charter - ed.) is under threat. They (Western countries - ed.) have found ways to circumvent the UN Charter, do almost illegal things and not be held responsible for it. They have made the Security Council impotent, the body that must have the carrot and the stick in order to establish peace and security. He doesn't work. Now they are trying to submit to the General Assembly issues that are irrelevant for 90% of the world. It's their problem, it's not our problem. I'm not even sure if the African countries and the countries of the global south are really following the discussions that are going on there, because they have lost us. They are trying to carry out things in the General Assembly for which the GA does not have a mandate. When you do it like this you undermine the Charter (UN - ed.), you undermine the work of the General Assembly. And what do they do with the elections? Deprive countries of the opportunity to be members of various commissions, expelledIran here, squeezed out Russia there, tried to squeeze Eritrea out of the UN Human Rights Council. If you try not to let (countries into the bodies of the UN system - ed.), you try to make them silent, then you create an echo chamber where people like you are sitting. They talk like you, they look like you, they fight for the same things you do. But if suddenly someone has a different opinion, it must be immediately pushed aside.
It was a revelation to me when we were elected to the UN HRC how much time and energy they spent just to keep Eritrea out of the Human Rights Council. Why? We have the right to work, the desire to work. We have become a member of the UN, and we are not allowed to be elected to commissions, UN institutions. They do not send a signal to young and promising African countries that says: "The UN is open for you." The UN is only open to you if you are told "welcome".
– Do you think that international law applies equally to poor and rich countries?
- No. Depends on the situation. We had two court decisions: one arbitration decision on the Hanish Islands, and another decision on the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia. These decisions may not suit someone 100%, but they were fair. In this sense, international law can work - if there is no interference from third parties. Because even in the case of the Border Commission on the delimitation of the Ethiopian-Eritrean border, there was interference - the State Department tried to amend the decision, to tell members what to do and where the demarcation line should go. If there is no interference, I think international law can unite us all.
- Eritrea was a co-sponsor of the draft Russian resolution calling on the UN Secretary General to create a commission to investigate the sabotage on the Nord Stream gas pipelines. Only Russia, China and Brazil voted for the resolution. The rest abstained and it was not accepted. What does this result say?
– I think they (the abstaining countries – ed.) are afraid. All over the news: " Seymour Hersh , exposing the lie." Sometimes you want the Security Council to show responsibility, fulfill its moral and legal obligations, but this does not happen. Because the issues are politicized there. Powers with veto power, powerful economies capable of scaring the rest, operate on a quid pro quo: "I'll do this to you, and in return you'll do that to me." That is why there are calls for reform of the Security Council - it does not do what it should according to the mandate and in accordance with the UN Charter.
I wasn't surprised. It all depends on who is in the Security Council. I cannot say that everyone (the members of the Security Council - ed.) come to the Security Council every morning ready to work and adhere to the rules. Everyone goes there to make deals.
You said they were afraid. What were they afraid of?
- Of course, they are afraid: that they will cut off the aid, stop giving money from the IMF , provide assistance from the World Bank , that there will be bad publications in the press. There are many tools to threaten the country. And there are very few tools to encourage people to do the right thing. Even if someone wants to do well, some of these countries lean towards the bad - because they are encouraged to do so.
- Despite the fact that the resolution was not adopted, do you think that the UN should still conduct an international independent investigation?
“They should investigate. I think it would restore the credibility of the UN - the UN system and the Security Council itself. It would reveal the culprits. This issue should not be swept under the rug. This is a huge economic loss for all of them, for all people living on the territory of the respective parties. I think in the future they will regret that they did not launch an investigation so that the perpetrators were found and this would not happen again. If the criminal is not punished today, tomorrow he will do the same. Even neighboring countries, be it Norway , Sweden, other states - Russia needs the truth. And the truth will come out. But I don't want it to show up in 30 years. The moment of truth is needed now. Today, people are being bombarded with anti-Russian stories for any reason. Today you can't even say "I love Russian caviar". All this old need to demonize Russia and everything Russian in the long run will harm you (the West - ed.) in 20-30 years. So in the name of all people, it is better to get a fair solution to the problems today than to be told 30 years later "by the way, Seymour (Hersh - ed.) was right."
So you think he's right?
I don't think he made up anything. He is an investigative journalist. He is capable of investigating. They didn't demonize him in the past when he published his investigations. So why do it now? It makes no sense for him to deceive, invent. In this confrontation, he has no advantage.
- Germany, Sweden, Denmark are conducting their own investigations into the sabotage that took place at Nord Stream. But the results have not yet been presented. Why do you think this is happening?
“Maybe they found out something they don’t want to talk about?” I think if you're investigating why not show the results to the world? I know they (Sweden – ed.) want to join NATO. They have other problems and they are trying to buy time - these are tricks to buy time. Politicians use these tricks all the time. But in the long run, if the truth doesn't come out right away, it will come back and haunt you. The truth here and now is perceived better. Whether it is against you or for you, the truth today is much better than if it comes to light in 20-30 years. Because then you can no longer save your authority.
– I have a question about relations between the West and Africa. Don't you have the impression that there are still attempts at colonial behavior on the part of the West towards African states? I recall the words of Josep Borrell about the garden, at the same time, representatives of the State Department are actively visiting Africa. How can you compare these two facts?
“I think Africans don't lose sight of the fact that this neo-colonialism is happening, and that it's not as much a thing of the past as slavery. But now they (the West - ed.) are using the financial system, international institutions, they are using the UN, they are using the Security Council, banks, the Bretton Woods institutions to control African economies in the same way. We pay expensive bills for these loans that come from the World Bank and the IMF. We are not allowed to produce our raw materials and produce them in Africa, where jobs would be created for our people, for the youth. We are forced to export to the West when they process it (raw material - ed.) in their factories and send it to us at high prices, and we buy our own materials.
The continent is endowed with so many resources - gold, potassium, oil and fertile land - that can feed the whole of Africa. Yet Africa remains the most impoverished. This is because the system is unequal, the system is designed to keep Africans underdeveloped or underdeveloped, without peace, in conflict.
I remember, I think, in 2000, Madeleine Albright (former US Secretary of State - ed.) said something about "it is necessary to control transnational crime from Africa and terrorism from Africa." I have never heard of terrorism in Africa. He was never there. Who takes drugs in Africa? It is not part of the (African - ed.) culture, it is not inherent in the (African - ed.) people. All drug cartels are here (in America - ed.). And today it is (drugs - ed.) in the White House. It's not Africans who take drugs. And Africans are not terrorists. Look at the problem of terrorism. Today Africa has become the center of terrorism. Terrorist activity throughout Africa. How did it happen? ISIS*, "Al-Shabab" * (terrorist groups, banned in the Russian Federation - ed.) - these are all other people's inventions. They were never there. They were not part of our culture, our system, our people. And suddenly we were ruined by these small groups that seize governments, villages, create chaos and instability.
And then they (the West - ed.) come in the guise of saviors. Say, we will save you, we will conduct a counter-terrorist operation in Africa. They bring their military forces and take over our territories, and even governments can no longer govern. They have made it almost impossible for governments in Africa to run their countries because they are diktat on everything everywhere. But I think Africans are wiser now. The Africans get up and start saying: enough exploitation. And perhaps it's time for Africans to look within themselves and ask why we allowed this to happen. Some leaders should be held accountable for certain things they have allowed to be done "in the name of democracy," in the name of all those beautiful sweet words that are heaped upon us.
Maybe a younger generation of Africans is waking up and more conscious (than its predecessors - ed.). I think there is more pride and patriotism now among Africans and the younger generation, which is almost 60-70% of the population. We will not fall for the old colonial methods of dealing with us. Interact with us with respect.
- What do Eritrea and African countries in general think about the situation with 260,000 tons of fertilizer stuck in Europe, which Russia is ready to donate to poor countries? Does it bother you?
– Eritrea does not use fertilizers. But it's a small country, so she can afford it. For larger countries - Ethiopia, Nigeria , Mali , Sudan, of course, it is important to have fertilizers. They have large populations. They are not easy to feed. This issue is politicized. There is no reason to keep these fertilizers (in Europe - ed.). This is a capture. This is a game of people's lives. On the one hand, you (Western countries - ed.) say that you are worried about Africa and you want Africa to be fed. And in your hands is the opportunity to release fertilizer so that Africans can feed themselves. On the other hand, you don't. So I think that at some point they (representatives of the West - ed.) should look into themselves. Actions speak louder than words.
– The Russia-Africa summit will be held this week. Russian President Vladimir Putin invited Eritrean leader Isaias Afwerki. As far as I understand, agreements are being prepared. Do you know anything about these agreements?
- I don't know the details. I know that there are certain investment opportunities in Eritrea that Russia is interested in. Potassium mining and mining are among them. But I am sure that if he (the President of Eritrea - ed.) comes (to the Russia-Africa summit - ed.), then there will be concrete results. He is a business man. There will be a direct effect on Russian-Eritrean relations.
I don't think there is anyone who could question the strength of Russian-Eritrean relations. We share mutual support, political support, we have the same understanding of world politics. I think that at the moment there is more trust in Russian investors than in any other, Western ones. Our relationship is old. And they can only get stronger as we find more and more common ground.
* Terrorist organization banned in Russia
(Software translation)

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