, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 6 – Eritrea has scoffed at fresh sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security council on Monday night for allegedly supporting terrorism and Somali Islamist rebels to destabilise the region.
A statement from the country’s Foreign Affairs Ministry in Asmara said the sanctions passed in New York were “illegal and unjust.”
“Eritrea categorically rejects the illegal and unjust sanctions resolution passed by the United Nations Security Council on Monday,” the terse statement sent from the Nairobi embassy said.
“The resolution is yet another injustice perpetrated on the Eritrean people and it will heighten tensions and stoke an already explosive situation in the Horn of Africa,” it added.
In the statement, Eritrea strongly blamed the United States for its woes and saw it as a cover up of what it termed as “failed policies in the region.”
“As it became evident to everyone at the Security Council, the sanctions were a result of undisguised United States hostility towards Eritrea. It was an attempt by the US administration to scapegoat Eritrea for its faulty and failed policies in the Horn of Africa,” the Asmara statement said.
Referring to a WikiLeaks document, Eritrea claims there is evidence “that this is part of a concerted US campaign to muzzle Eritrea and bring it under heel by intimidating the Eritrean people and imposing economic hardships on them.”
The sanctions are “also aimed at protecting and covering the crimes of the aggressive minority regime in Addis Ababa.”
UN Security Council dominated by US
“The sanctions resolution on Eritrea reveals that despite the massive transformation taking place in the world, the United Nations and the Security Council are still dominated by the United States and underscore the need for radical UN reform,” the statement said.
Eritrea further said it does not have confidence with the process that led to the final resolution to issue sanctions.
“The process that led to the resolution, during which the United States single-handedly prevented Eritrea’s meaningful participation and then turned the Security Council into a kangaroo court has further discredited the UN body,” the statement said.
Eritrea wonders why the UN Security Council has not imposed sanctions against Ethiopia which it accuses of continuing to occupy its territory.
Monday’s sanctions came exactly a week before the 12th anniversary of the Algiers Agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia.
“The Security Council, at the instigation of the United States has imposed sanctions on Eritrea twice, while at the same time refusing to take any measures against Ethiopia, which continues to occupy sovereign Eritrean territory in violation of international law and Security Council resolutions,” the statement said and termed the UN resolution as a “dereliction of duty and a cause of exacerbated conflict and instability in the Horn of Africa.”
On Monday night, the UN Security Council toughened sanctions against Eritrea which neighbouring governments accuse of plotting terrorist attacks and supporting Somali Islamist rebels.
A resolution, passed with 13 votes in favour, while Russia and China abstained, allows the council to increase the number of individuals and entities that can be hit with a travel ban and assets freeze.
Eritrea has been accused of supporting Al Shabaab Islamist militants in Somalia with finance and weapons. A UN sanctions monitoring group has linked the Asmara government to a bomb plot against an African Union Summit in Addis Ababa in January.
The Security Council demanded that Eritrea”cease all direct or indirect efforts to destabilise states, including through financial, military, intelligence and non-military assistance.”
It also condemned the alleged plot on the African summit.
However, demands made by Gabon and Nigeria, which drew up the resolution, to ban investment in Eritrea’s key mining industry and stop a government tax on remittances sent back by Eritrean workers abroad were dropped.
Several western governments felt the measures would harm Eritrea’s population. The Horn of Africa country is one of the world’s poorest.
Eritrea has strongly denied the claims made about its activities. But no Eritrean officials spoke at the meeting.
Before the vote, several East African leaders called on the Security Council to clamp down on Eritrea, which was first hit by UN sanctions in 2009.
“It is a problem of attitude of a certain clique in Asmara that has never grown up from a rebel group,” said Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. “It is a problem of lawlessness and reckless disregard for international law.”
“The regime in Eritrea insists on terrorising my people,” said Somalia’s President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.
After the vote, the US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said: “We have sent a clear message to the government of Eritrea that it must cease all illegal actions threatening international peace and stability.”
“Our goal is to show Eritrea that it will pay an ever higher price for its actions,” the US envoy added.
Eritrea broke away from Ethiopia in 1993 and fought a war with its neighbour from 1998-2000. Eritrea also has territorial disputes with Yemen and Djibouti which have led to clashes.
Eritrean forces “shot first then started talking,” Zenawi said.
Somali president Ahmed told the council how he had even asked late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi to convince Eritrea’s hardline president Isaias Afeworki to stop backing the Al Shabaab.
Gaddafi “informed me that that had been rejected. He also informed me that the (Eritrean) president clearly stated that reconciliation with my country would be impossible,” Ahmed said.
The Al Shabaab have been accused of carrying out bomb attacks in Kenya and other neighbouring countries and Kenya’s Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula said: “Eritrea has been supplying arms and ammunitions and other logistics to Shabaab.
“This is truly a hostile and an enemy act by a country that ought to be an active member” of the East African community, Wetangula said.
Afeworki had asked to personally address the Security Council but Eritrean diplomats said he did not have time to get to New York for Monday’s meeting.
The meeting’s date was fixed last Wednesday and US envoy Rice said Afeworki’s visa had been issued in “close to record” time.
Russia and China said they abstained on the resolution because of their traditional opposition to sanctions on individual countries.