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Letter from Eritrea’s Ambassador to the UN: A Review

By Professor Asayehgn Desta
Tigrai Online April 20, 2021

In her letter on April 16, 2021, addressed to the current President of the United Nations Security Council (H.E. Mr. Dang Dinh Quy), Eritrea’s Ambassador to the United Nations (H.E. Sophia Tesfamariam Yohannes) vehemently disagreed with the statement on the crisis in Tigray given by US Permanent Representatives to the closed UNSC Session. In the same vein, Ambassador Tesfamariam didn’t want to accept the report forwarded by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on the crisis in Tigray Region because she thinks that they glossed over the facts.

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Going one step further, Ambassador Tesfamariam argues that OCHA should have refrained from blaming the Eritrean soldiers for the behavior of other countries’ soldiers that might have been involved in committing sexual violence under similar circumstances.  

Ambassador Tesfamariam argues that the allegations of rape and other crimes lodged against Eritrean soldiers by the US representative and OCHA are not only outrageous, but could be considered as a vicious attack on the culture and history of the Eritrean people.

A summary and review of the content of letter is explored below.    

Summary:

While narrating about the eruption of the conflict in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia, Ambassador Tesfamariam makes a strong claim that the war was primarily instigated by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Presumably based on the information given to her by the Eritrean Ministry of Information, Ambassador Tesfamariam asserts that the war in Tigray started because the TPLF had a strong desire “to naturalize Ethiopia’s largest army contingent, confiscate its weaponry and seize power in Ethiopia through violence, and subsequently invade Eritrea.”

Seemingly concerned about Tigrayans, Ambassador Tesfamariam blames the TPLF for precipitating unprovoked attacks during the critical harvest months in the Tigray Region. Ambassador Tesfamariam argues that innocent civilians in the Tigray Region should have not been victimized. Since hunger is an urgent concern of the moment, she disingenuously suggests that “humanitarian assistance needs to be delivered to the victims.”  

Though Ambassador Tesfamariam blames the United Nations OCHA for spreading sugarcoated evidence, she concludes by thanking the UNSC member states for insisting on adherence to the “established rule.”  

Concluding her letter, Ambassador Tesfamariam brings to the attention of UNSC that Eritrea and Ethiopia have agreed—at the highest levels—to initiate the withdrawal of Eritrean forces and the simultaneous redeployment of Ethiopian contingents along the “international boundary.”

Review:

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Based on ahistorical facts, Ambassador Tesfamariam claims that the war crisis that has been rupturing in Tigray was intentionally started by the TPLF.  A brief review of the actual events, however, indicates that two years before the war exploded, Abiy and Isaias were deeply involved in designing strategies to invade the region of Tigray. That is, Abiy initiated the war because he had deep animosity against members of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front for openly opposing his run to become the leader of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and eventually the Prime Minister of Ethiopia.

More importantly, Abiy launched the war on Tigray because the Tigray Region was defiant in holding regional legislation elections in September 2020, contrary to the addendum to the Ethiopian Constitution approved by the Federal House of Peoples Representatives, which stated that elections in Ethiopia needed to be postponed for a year or more until such time that the World Health Organization declares that the global threat from the coronavirus pandemic is over.

Instead of fabricating disingenuous, unrelated stories, Ambassador Tesfamariam should have known that Abiy was Eritrea’s secret agent. Thereby, Abiy knew that Eritrea’s President Isaias Afework dreamed of getting relief from the deeply traumatic experience he endured with the 1918-20 Ethio-Eritrean conflict, which meant annihilating his archenemy, the TPLF, completely removing them from power. Given this, Abiy teamed up with Isaias—the most hideous human rights violator—to engineer and execute the war in Tigray.

It could be either that Ambassador Tesfamariam was appointed  to lie for Isaias’ government, or that in being a member of Isaias’ sole political party, the People's Front for Democracy and Justice she is scared to be sacked by Isaias; it is a shame that Ambassador Tesfamariam seems not to know that Isaias’ young army forces (puppies) purposely dehumanize the Tigrayan civil population because they were brainwashed to believe that TPLF was the core enemy that prevented Eritrea from becoming the Singapore of Africa.

If Ambassador Tesfamariam has not been kept informed of what is happening in the Tigray, it is vital that she know that Isaias’ armed forces have committed a variety of horrible atrocities in Tigray. For example, Isaias’ armed forces have ruptured water pipes, slaughtered animals, looted valuable items from the region’s residents, hospitals and clinics, restaurants, and educational centers, and have gone to the extent of inflicting damages on historically noted monasteries and mosques.

I agree with Ambassador Tesfamariam that Eritreans are well known for their history, national and cultural identity, and respectfulness. In addition, as stated by Ambassador Tesfamariam,  ”rape and sexual assault” are considered to be crimes in Eritrean culture. Thus, should we not trust the International Commission on Human Rights, the European Commission, and the United States and other humanity-concerned organizations when they tell us that they have systematically documented that “Eritrean” armed forces have raped, mutilated and sexual assaulted many young girls, women and nuns in Tigray? One possible explanation is that over the years, Isaias has created a subculture that might be at variance with the larger Eritrean culture.

Instead of succumbing to misinformation and outright denying that Tigrayan women are faced with various forms of sexual assault by Isaias’ armed forces, and especially given that the ambassador is a woman and a mother, she needs to get out of her diplomatic office and be brave enough to take a calculated risk. She will sleep better if she undertakes objective research in this domain.  Otherwise, what she claimed about Isaias’ armed forces—that they cannot be involved in the hideous sexual acts because they are products of Eritrean culture—will haunt her forever.

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Open Letter to President Biden - Urgent Call to End the Genocidal War in Tigray, Ethiopia
Dear President Joseph R. Biden,
It is with enormous respect that we, the Security and Justice for Tigrayans in Ethiopia, write to you today to urge you to act with utmost urgency to end the genocide and ethnic cleansing in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. The anguish and suffering the people of Tigray are facing is so great that it requires the leader of the free world to bring it to a full stop. We believe this challenge offers a test for the United States as it stands in defence of its democratic and human rights values and a true measure of its success in sharing these values with the world.