Eritrea says take this aid and shove it to the U.N.

Tigrai Online
March. 31 2011

Eritrea President Isaias AfwerkiIn a stinging rebuff to the United Nations and its anti-poverty efforts, Eritrea, one of the poorest countries in Africa, has told the world body that it wants out of its long-term development agreement because the U.N. makes the problem worse, not better.

The reason, given in a January 26 notification letter from the country’s powerful Finance Minister, obtained by Fox News, is that “aid only postpones the basic solutions to crucial development problems by tentatively ameliorating their manifestations without tackling their root causes. The structural, political, economic, etc. damage that it inflicts upon recipient countries is also enormous.” In other words, the government argues, U.N. aid does more harm than good.

Whether that critique, which echoes the complaints of many critics in wealthy donor countries, is the true reason behind the U.N.’s rejection is unclear. Fox News tried to contact the Eritrean finance ministry for further explanations, but was told that the finance minister, Berhane Abrehe, was “unavailable.”

For its part, a spokesman for the United Nations Development Program, which coordinates U.N. activities in the small but strategically placed nation, said that the U.N. and the government “are currently discussing what are the best possible arrangements for post June 2011, taking into consideration the government’s recently-articulated priorities. No decisions have been taken.”

The Eritrean rebuff is another blow for the United Nations in a desperately poor and strife-ridden area of East Africa where the world organization has been struggling to maintain its presence, effectiveness and credibility.

Eritrea (population: 3.6 million) has been a significant factor in the Islamic upheaval that threatens to convert the entire region into chaos. Since 2009, Eritrea has been under U.N.

Security Council sanctions, mostly aimed at arms trafficking, for its role in supporting the Islamic insurgency in nearby Somalia. The Somali civil war, in turn, puts pressure on Eritrea’s closest rival, Ethiopia, which occupies areas that Eritrea claims as its own.

Whether the Security Council sanctions have, in turn, provoked the latest clampdown on U.N. humanitarian activity is unclear.

Read the Original letter from the Eritrean Ministry of Finance (in pdf)