Atlantic Council shifts blame to rescue Eritrea from the wrath of USA
By Dilwenberu Nega
Tigrai Online, Ethiopian News, Sept. 17, 2016
On the 14 September the United States Congress' Foreign Affairs Subcommittee held a Hearing under the rubric: "Eritrea: A Neglected Regional Threat." In his opening statement, The Chairman of the Subcommittee on "Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, Rep Christopher H. Smith (Republican from New Jersey), presented a graphic picture of how the hopes and aspirations of Eritreans at Independence Day in 1993 have now been replaced by agony, stupor and despair. Full details is available on:
Subcommittee Hearing: Eritrea: A Neglected Regional Threat
The objective of the Hearing was to find out if the apparent slow down of Eritrea's torrent of emigration, as well as EU's limited engagement with Eritrea warrant a rethink on the part of the US. Mind you, the figure for "the slow down" of Eritrean immigrants now stands at 5000 a month.
While no one disputes the need for a Congressional Hearing on Eritrea at a time when television footage of rescued Eritreans has become a normal phenomenon for viewers of international news, critics of President Isaias Afewerki however express caution that supporters of the regime may seize the occasion to indulge in a public diplomacy exercise on behalf of the Eritrean tyrant. It's worth noting here that The Embassy of the State of Eritrea has already hired a former architect of the London Accord of 1991 – which called for the establishment of a Transitional Government in Ethiopia in tandem with granting self-rule to the EPLF – Under Secretary for African Affairs at the US State Department, Mr Herman Cohen, to lobby for a rapprochement between Washington and Asmara. And that suspicion by Eritrean opposition activists that special friends of the Eritrean tyrant will hijack the Hearing in order to engage in political broadcast on behalf of Isaias Afewerki transpired when the last witness took to the witness stand.
No sooner then had Ms Bronwyn Bruton, Deputy Director, Africa Center at the Atlantic Council, had started reading her witness statement than she made a deliberate abnegation of witness responsibility by diverting the matter under consideration to the now ebbing binge of street violence in some Ethiopian towns and cities. How this red-herring was not stopped by the Chairman as irrelevant to the subject under consideration remains mind boggling to observers, but it shows the extra mile the State of Eritrea is prepared to go to destabilize Ethiopia. Only last week, my Eritrean neighbor was ordered by the Embassy of Eritrea in London "to feign and join anti-EPRDF demonstrations in London and to sign the online petition to The White House." In an attempt to wrongly portray Eritrea as a beacon of stability in the Horn of Africa, Ms Bruton had the temerity to tell the Subcommittee that Eritrea is bracing to receive refugees from Ethiopia. Just pause for a moment and visualize a worst-case-scenario in which Ethiopia will leg it to Eritrea. Who in Ethiopia would think that an Isaias Afewerki, who has become a Herod to his own countrymen, will become a Saint George to Ethiopians? Hers then is wishful thinking gone awry, not to say, a whole load of rubbish.
Comparing today's Eritrea with today's Ethiopia, would be like comparing today's Libya with today's China. The two nations are as different as chalk and cheese.
Bronwyn Bruton is a personal friend of the Eritrean tyrant. Born in Mbabane, Swaziland, she did her PhD research in Eritrea during which time it is believed that she enjoyed unfettered access to anyone who is someone in the State structure. Eritrean human rights activists and critics of Isaias Afewerki talk about the prevalence of a "petticoat influence" whenever she visits Asmara, at a hefty cost to the Eritrean tax-payer. Like her male role model, Isaias Afewerki, Ms Bruton is keen to exhibit her fondness of demeaning Ethiopia's achievements over the last 25 years, and to malign EPRDF for not implementing the virtual demarcation of the Ethio-Eritrea border. According to her assessment, hundreds of thousands of Eritreans leg it out to Europe via North Africa, because Ethiopia refuses to implement the final and binding demarcation agreement. If this is not a fine example of a nonsensical argument, I really wish to know what else qualifies as a whole load of nonsense?
Now sit back and listen as Ms Bruton, freshly back from a luxurious workcation in Eritrea, tries in vain to defend the untenable position of the State of Eritrea following United Nations decisions to impose limited sanctions on Eritrea: http://www.voanews.com/a/2734041.html
And for your perusal, I offer you Ms Bruton's brazen argument that the US should instead focus on Ethiopia: http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/what-the-un-gets-wrongabout-rights-wrongabout-rights-in-eritrea
While The Atlantic Council's witness statement, to use an apt phrase, could lead to IRB laundering – getting an ethically questionable study approved by an institutional review board to mask the study's problematic data or methodology. (IRB= Institutional Review Board) - the GoE should seize this opportunity this to mount a highly honed public diplomacy offensive. There could be no denying the fact therefore that the recent upheavals in limited towns and cities, have tarnished the national image of Ethiopia and something must be done to swiftly address the adverse effects it is bound to have on Ethiopia's ongoing efforts to woo direct foreign investment.
Nor should the GoE allow the demarcation issue to continue to eclipse Eritrea's rampant violation of human rights as well as her penchant to foment acts of destabilization in Ethiopia. In this regard, it is worth considering to consolidate the already high octane diplomatic high octane diplomatic performance of our tried and tested Ambassadors in USA – Ambassador Girma Biru in Washington DC, and Ambassador Dr Tekeda Alemu at the UN in New York – with the dispatch of highly honed public diplomacy experts who would assist in the charm offensive of letting the world know that Ethiopia has bounced back from its tempest in a tea cup and now has the oomph to deliver its manifesto commitments. And when the likes of Atlantic Council indulge in jet-hosing the international community with a distorted view on Ethiopia's "negotiation before demarcation" stand, let us all tell the world: "We, Ethiopians believe in actual, and not in virtual."
Now back again to the Subcommittee Hearing on Eritrea. The remaining three witnesses – The Hon Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Assistant Secretary of African Affairs, US Department of State, Father Habtu Ghebre- AB, Director of External Relations, Canonical Eritrean Orthodox Church in Diaspora, and Khaled Beshir PhD, Board Member Awate Foundation – heaped accusations and condemnations on the iron-fisted rule of Isaias Afewerki and warned against a disinterested approach to Eritrea, against the restoration of full diplomatic relations with the United States and against the repeal of United Nations' limited sanctions on Eritrea.