14 November 2021
Eritrea Focus statement on the US sanctions and the Tigray war
The Tigray war that began on 4 November 2020 has resulted in terrible suffering for those involved in Ethiopia, particularly Tigray, Amhara and Afar, and the wider Horn of Africa, especially Eritrea.
This tragic conflict did not have its origins in the events of early November last year. The war is the result of plots hatched in Asmara, Addis Ababa and Mogadishu going back to 2018, when President Isaias and Prime Minister Abiy negotiated what seemed to be a “peace deal”, and subsequently brought in the Somalis. There are reports of hundreds of thousands of deaths in the conflict as well as grotesque abuse, including systematic rape of women and girls.
The people of the Horn have been caught up in this relentless and unnecessary war for over a year. The Eritrean people have paid a heavy and terrible price for the decision taken by the unelected President who has never had a mandate to govern.
Conscripts caught up in “National Service”, or drafted in the sweeps of our towns and villages, have laid down their lives in their thousands or been dismembered and injured in a cause few understood, and none had the opportunity to consent to. The horrific tales of abuse inflicted on civilians in the current war, including systematic or wide spread rape goes against our core values, which are ingrained in the very fabric of our society. These atrocities will be a blot on our nation’s reputation that cannot be erased.
Eritrean refugees who had sought sanctuary in Ethiopia found their camps besieged by Eritrean forces and others. Thousands had to flee once more, deeper into Ethiopia, or were captured by Eritrean troops and sent back to Eritrea against their wills. Some were forced to join the Eritrean military to fight in this senseless war. There have also been reports of Eritrean refugees being attacked by Tigrayan forces, which warrants an investigation to bring those involved to justice.
Families across Eritrea have had to live with the misery of losing their children or living without information about their fates. Living standards – never high – have fallen still further and there are endemic shortages of basic necessities.
President Isaias and the elite that surround him in the military and the PFDJ are responsible for taking our country into this war and for the death of many of our people. It is not first time he has dragged our people into a senseless conflict since 1991. Previous conflicts have involved Eritrean troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Yemen and Djibouti. Twice we have gone to war with Ethiopia. The President thrives on conflict and disorder in order to remain in power.
Eritrea Focus has been clear since its foundation that we stand with the people and against the dictatorial regime: but this stand has consequences. We know there is no easy path to freedom. We therefore support developments which hold out the prospect of renewal, peace, human rights and democracy for our people.
Pressure is mounting against President Isaias not only from within the country but internationally too. We welcome this, as a means of bringing about the democracy for which our people sacrificed hugely during the 30-year armed struggle to liberate the country from Ethiopian occupation and untold repression.
Eritrea Focus therefore strongly and unequivocally welcomes the decision by the United States government to impose sanctions against President Isaias’s closest associates and the ruling party as well as against the Hidri Trust and Red Sea Corporation, the PFDJ’s main instruments of war and exploitation. The decision highlights the fact that the PFDJ is a key partner in the Ethiopian war and an obstacle to peace.
These sanctions are targeted at weakening the regime’s economic organs, not our people who have been under their own government’s economic sanctions for three decades. The Eritrean people have lost everything at the hands of the regime, and have nothing more to lose.
The US sanction measure are, therefore, not designed to attack our people; rather they strengthen their ability and determination to rid themselves of the dictatorship. As the President said in his speech in February 2021, Eritrea has “no economy” and given that this is the case it is a fallacy for the regime to now complain the US sanctions will hurt the people.
We are grateful to the American government and its people for standing full square with our people in their hour of need by imposing these long overdue economic sanctions. We very much hope others, including the UK and the EU will follow America’s exemplary and bold action. Eritrea Focus will do its utmost to lobby for such an international action because money is the only thing the regime in Asmara understands.
As the war continues, we know there will be unavoidable suffering and loss of life. We call for the end of the conflict and the withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Tigray and the rest of Ethiopia. We also condemn all atrocities committed against the people of Tigray, Eritrean refugees and the people of Ethiopia. President Isaias and his elite bear sole responsibility for the suffering and tears of our people. They will be held to account.