Eritreans back UN sanctions as leaders blame Ethiopia

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According to local polls, most Eritreans support the United Nations sanctions imposed on Eritrea under the ‘repressive’ government of President Isaias Afwerki. Eritrea has repeatedly been accused of destabilizing the Horn of Africa since it gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year guerrilla war.

The UN voted to punish the pariah nation for illegally supplying arms to al-Qaeda-linked Islamic insurgents in Somalia [al-Shabab] who are battling the internationally recognized government in there, despite a UN arms embargo on Somalia. The resolution demands that Eritrea cease arming, training and equipping armed groups and their members, including al-Shabaab, that aim to destabilize the region or incite violence and civil strife in Djibouti. The resolution also imposes a travel ban and asset freeze on the Eritrean political and military leadership and other individuals, yet to be designated by a UN sanctions committee.

According to a non-scientific poll conducted by, 51.4% of the polled Eritreans said they supported the entire sanctions package, 7.1% said they supported part of the sanction, and 39.5% said they did not support the sanctions at all. Conversely, President Isaias Afwerki had warned that the international community would come to regret its decision while arguing that it does not have the resources to finance arm purchases to Somalia.

Blaming Ethiopia

The asset freeze is expected to curb the finances of the individuals and businesses who run the parastatal Red Sea Trading Cosatellite organizations who fund the Eritrean regime, and the travel ban is aimed at the military and political leadership of the Eritrean regime.

“The Security Council has decided to impose sanctions on Eritrea on fabricated lies mainly concocted by the Ethiopian regime and the US administration,” Araya Desta, the Eritrean envoy to the UN was quoted outside the UN meeting, as saying.

The arms embargo will cover imports and exports of arms to and from Eritrea. The UN monitoring group insists that Eritrea secretly shipped arms, including missiles and explosives, to Islamic insurgents trying to topple the Western-backed transitional government in Somalia. The UN calls on its member states to inspect all suspect air and sea cargo to or from Eritrea and Somalia.

U.S. and U.K. versus China and Libya

Susan Rice, US representative to the UN, told the assembly that: “We do not see this as the door closing on Eritrea, but on the contrary, we view this as another opportunity for Eritrea to play a more responsible and constructive role in the region. We did not come to this decision with any joy – or with anything other than a desire to support the stability of peace in the region.”

“The United Kingdom urges Eritrea to stop its illegal actions … and to engage constructively with international partners to help increase stability in the Horn of Africa. The nature of the international community’s engagement with Eritrea in future will depend on that response,” Britain’s UN envoy, Sir Mark Lyall Grant was quoted.

The resolutions were drafted by Uganda, as requested by the African Union. Nonetheless, Libya, the current African Union president, voted against the resolution stating that, it had been once targeted by UN sanctions over the Lockerbie bombing, and thus it opposed any UN sanctions on an African nation.

The 13-1 vote, with Libya against and China abstaining, represents an escalation of condemnation of Eritrea.

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