About the Report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea – Messay Kebede

June 25th, 2016 Print Print Email Email

I post this short memo to explain why I did not sign the petition protesting against the report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in which it is stated, among other things, that “crimes against humanity have been committed in Eritrea since 1991.” I have agonized over the issue for many days until I realized that my dilemma originates more from the wording of the petition than from the moral scruples of clearing a regime of the accusations of an influential international body.

What stroke me first is the malaise that I felt at the idea of not signing the petition. I could not dismiss the impression that the refusal to sign actually means that terrible violations of human rights do not occur in neighboring Ethiopia. Surely, knowing the complexity of the ties between Eritrea and Ethiopia and their present belligerent attitude toward each other, a report that targets Eritrea as a violator of human rights suggests that Ethiopia is the lucky exception in the Horn of Africa. Indeed, whether one likes it or not, the condemnation of Eritrea had one unmistakable implication: it suggests that, had the UN, as the moral conscious of the global community, observed horrific violations of human rights in Ethiopia, it would have denounced them too in the same irrevocable terms. Since it did not, one must infer that the Ethiopian government is free of such acts. Clearly, in singling out Eritrea, the UN is but absolving the TPLF government so that my refusal to sign turns me into a de facto accomplice of its atrocities.

I have read the indignations posted here and there over the request asking Ethiopians to participate in the signing of the petition. Some agree with the UN report about the violations of human rights in Eritrea; others remind that Eritrea’s secessionist ideology is responsible for the current problems of Ethiopia so that one should never associate in any way with a known enemy. Opposed to these are those urging us to sign, essentially for two reasons, which are: (1) In terms of human rights, what happens in Eritrea is not worse than what happens in Ethiopia; (2) the Eritrean government is an ally in that it gives full support to Ethiopian opposition forces fighting to remove the TPLF government.

I could see in the arguments of those who oppose the signature of the petition nothing but a vindictive attitude. If in singling out Eritrea, the UN Commission is in effect in complicity with the Woyanne regime, you cannot argue that it is the concern for human rights violations that motivates your refusal to sign. You perfectly know that by excluding the case of Ethiopia, the UN inquiry loses all credibility. But then, the consistent and justifiable position is to sign the petition because you expose bias or preferential treatment. Your signature is not a support for the Eritrean government: you denounce hypocrisy. It is a judgment on an international body whose major legitimacy is its assumed impartiality.

As to the arguments of those who call for our signatures, I find them to be too calculative, too inspired by the principle that the end justifies the means. We can appreciate the support that Eritrea gives to opposition groups without, however, denying the violations of human rights. In so doing, we appeal to the common interest of the two countries, which is a pragmatic attitude that falls short of implying that the UN report is based on erroneous facts. Moreover, that the two countries have a comparable record of human rights violations should in no way compel us to downplay the one at the expense of the other. The irony is that the attitude is no different from that of the UN: we condemn the one we dislike and remain silent as regards the one we like or do business with, even though similar crimes are committed by both.

I maintain that a petition denouncing the UN report is legitimate and expedient, but it must be inspired by moral outrage at the partiality and hypocrisy of the international body. It must be clearly directed at the UN while also denouncing the attempt to turn Ethiopians into an accomplice of the Woyanne regime by sponsoring a document of human rights violations that fails to mention Ethiopia. That is why I ask those Ethiopians who invited us to sign the petition to come up with a new one in which the focus is more on the UN than on Eritrea. This will enable us to display to the world the complicity of the UN and the Woyanne regime, while at the same time denouncing the unilateral attempt to destabilize Eritrea on grounds that have little to do with human rights, since the same violations are tolerated in the case of Ethiopia.

  1. Dawi
    | #1

    Major Dawit Girogis the other day came out with a piece opposing the UN report because of it being “double standard”; he wrote how Saudi Arabia gets away from worst crimes by giving “bribes” and “blackmails” its way out of condemnation”.

    The fact is even if others like Saudi Arabia with money gets their way out of condemnation, it doesn’t change that Eritrea committed the crime.

    Ethiopians know it; starting with the “referendum” itself and the holding of former Ethiopian soldiers as slaves was the mother of all crimes against Ethiopians to begin with.

    So signing a “petition protesting against the report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights” is not only wrong for Ethiopians to do but, is a treason against country.

    I commend Prof. Messay for taking such a stand.

    & others with money, is not a defense in my opinion.

    Who ever commit a crime should do the time! even if they happen to be a small time crook.

    | #2

    Dear ABUGIDA’s
    I often hear that some people say and take it
    as an issue why Eritrea remained to be outside
    and independent of WOYANE lead Ethiopia and try
    to make a political issue out of it ?
    But wait a minute !
    Did they or Did any sane person expect that Eritrea
    after that long independence struggle to be under
    WOYANE and WOYANE lead Ethiopia ?
    come on !
    I do not think even the Oromia, SNNPR, Ogaden or any
    other nation likes it to be under WOYANE rule and Woyane
    lead Ethiopia let alone a fiercly independent republic or
    nation like Eritrea .
    The only and only time Eritrea will be or reconsider being part
    of Ethiopia is only when WOYANE or WOYANE like administration is
    entirely and completely eradicated from Ethiopia and replace with
    a just democratic government and that governs with the rule of Law.
    And I do not think Ethiopia was as such the last 25 years and it was
    the duty the Ethiopians should first do before complaining and lamenting
    why Eritrea was part of WOYANE’s Ethiopia.
    It was a totally misplaced point of view of any Ethiopian
    that had entertained such a view the last 25 years.

  3. Ittu Aba Farda
    | #3

    Putting the author’s article aside, I have read a news article related to this UN report on another website. It tells a recent meeting between the US Secretary of State and Eritrean official and the report has been watered down since then. it tries to leave us with an indication that the regime in Asmara will be doing new things that will open the doors of Washington and its allies for better relations. That is nothing but good news. If this is true that Eritrea is mulling to come to the fold that could lead to a permanent peace in that region, it is something to be thankful to the policy makers of Good Ole USA. One life is too many. Precious lives have been lost is senseless wars during the last 50 years and the most recent 20 years. Both countries should immediately stop propping up armed groups hell bent on violent form of opposing a regime. Just picture this. Can you imagine how both countries shoot into a developmental stratosphere industrially if they decide to coexist as they are now peacefully? I can. Both countries have largely very industrious peoples. They are both very fast learners and always eager to acquire new technology. With a combined population of more than 100 million, the sky would have been the only limit. With one respecting the sovereignty and dignity of the other including their own citizens, it is nothing but roaring lions on the Horn!!! Roaring Taiwan on the Horn!!! I am a dreamer for the people who produced me, that very proud and glorious people!!! I am going to keep that dream and hope alive until I die. Insha Allah!!!

  4. Dawi
    | #4

    Brother Ittu Aba Farda said:

    [[..Roaring Taiwan on the Horn!!!....Insha Allah!!!..]]

    Ittu warrior,

    Roaring Taiwan is cool, as long as Eritrea accepts “One China Principle”! as the PRC.

    I am not kidding; unless maybe Isayas gives an interview on that subject in Amharic that is, just like his advisor on ESAT. ;-)

    While we are at it, I assure you that I won’t be complaining in case EPLF claims the whole enchilada [government of all China] just as ROC/Taiwan de jure at this moment.

    EPLF just like ROC has all the reasons to claim Ethiopia. Unlike PRC, TPLF/EPRDF didn’t do that. Imagine what Sebhat/TPLF reaction would be then? It shall be embarrassing for sure.

  5. Dawi
    | #5


    Seriously though Ittu – I don’t mean to confuse you; the chances of Isayas “claimiing” Ethiopia or even giving an interview in Amharic is probably far-fetched and even maybe for him equivalent to withdrawing from the town of Badme – “the sun never rising again”! :-) remember that phrase?

    That doesn’t mean we don’t know Eritrea had been part of Ethiopia for 3000 years except between 1890 and 1952. The name Eritrea did not exist before 1890 until the Italians named that part of Ethiopia after they colonized it. “The Italians, on 1 January 1890 officially named their colony, after Latin term ERYTHRAEM MARE i.e. Red Sea.” Richard Pankhurst, The Ethiopians, (Oxford: Blackwell pub. Ltd, 1998, p. 186).

    Having said that, the Ethiopian Government has been waiting until Isayas invades Ethiopia and Isayas is waiting until OLF/ONLF and others are strong enough to break up Ethiopia to invade. It seems we are waiting for that scenario to fulfill for real.

    | #6

    Moreover, emergent Eritrea in its image of 1991 – 1997 can be a
    good prototype for the future Ethiopia United Horn Republic as
    an exemplary state that its political culture and governance system
    transcends Ethnic / Nationality, religious and other sub National
    identities and forms AND negates all the narrow & extremist ideologies
    that emanate and sustain such failed political orientation and culture.
    So using Eritrea as a prototype and exemplary state in the Horn region
    would and will only benefit the future course of the Horn or Ethiopian
    republic politics and unity of the peoples.
    This is a missed opportunity by the TPLF/EPRDF government in 1997/98
    like the other missed opportunities by minority rulers of Ethiopia before. The only way forward for Ethiopia and the Horn region is only
    to continue its decentralization and autonomy of the regions to match
    to rise to the standards that Eritrea puts in on the table and follow
    all the decentralized autonomous regions to follow Eritrea’s leadership
    as has been always in the decades long struggle to free Ethiopia and
    the Ethiopian people into freedom, Liberty and democratic system of
    Thus as much as centaralized/ Unitary system is not a solution; federalism or decentralization based on ethnic/nationality identity
    is also not a viable solution as it falls under the trap of lower
    sub-national identities and only follows the course of former USSR
    and Yugoslavia and not the federal structure of other countries like
    Brazil, UK or USA. Moreover, one can not follow communist type /structure
    of Federalism while building capital and capitalist system and vice versa
    Can you also imagine how much it would be un viable ( or impossible ) for
    the USA to adopt Soviet (former USSR ) type of Federalism without comp-
    -romizing its economic system ?
    In opinion # 2 above third line from the bottom
    please add NOT (typo error) and read as :
    ….why Eritrea was NOT part of Woyanes’ ruled Ethiopia….
    Thak you

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