Eritrea: UN sanctions continue

The United Nations Security Council in December expanded sanctions against Eritrea for continuing to provide support to Islamist militants, including al Shabaab, in Somalia. President Isaias Afewerki denies his country funds terrorism. 

Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda had criticized Eritrea and asked the council to pass the resolution, which was diluted from earlier drafts that sought to ban investment in Eritrea’s mining industry and outlaw imports of its minerals. Eritrea is said to be on the brink of a mining boom. Gold Investing News says it’s a relatively under-explored area that is known to host valuable minerals including gold, copper, zinc and potash.

The UN resolution expands sanctions imposed two years ago and demands of countries that they require companies involved in mining in Eritrea to exercise “vigilance” to ensure funds from the sector are not used to destabilize the region. A report by a UN monitoring group found Eritrea continued to provide political, financial, training and logistical support to al Shabaab and other armed groups.

China and Russia abstained from the Security Council vote, with the former maintaining its stance that sanctions do not work.

Neighbour Ethiopia, with whom Eritrea fought a bitter war in 1998-2000 and is still on hostile terms, was said to be disappointed that the original resolution had been so watered down. The ongoing unrest between Ethiopia and Eritrea continues to be a deterrent to the development of the mineral industry says Mbendi Information Services.

Eritrea is heavily dependent on earnings from the diaspora to survive. The UN says it uses “extortion, threats of violence, fraud and other illicit means to collect taxes outside of Eritrea from its nationals.” The resolution called on states to take action to make sure these oppressive practices stop. It stopped short though of demands by Gabon and Nigeria, (which drew up the resolution), to stop a government tax on remittances. Several western governments felt this and the mining measure would harm Eritrea’s population. Eritrea is one is one of the world’s poorest countries and is ranked 177th (out of 187) in the UN’s human development index.

A press release from the Eritrean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the resolution was “yet another injustice perpetrated on the Eritrea people and it will heighten and stoke an already explosive situation in the Horn of Africa”.

Eritrea and Ethiopia: A history of conflict

1952 Eritrea is awarded to Ethiopia as part of a federation.

1962 Ethiopia annexes Eritrea as a province sparking a 30-year struggle for independence.

1991 Eritrean rebels defeat governmental forces.

1993 Independence is overwhelmingly chosen in a referendum making Ethiopia into a landlocked country.

1998-2000 Border war with Ethiopia.

2000 UN brokers peace.

2002 International Commission to resolve the border dispute posts its findings but final demarcation is on hold due to Ethiopian objections.

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