The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to vote today (Monday) on whether to impose sanctions against Eritrea.
A UN report earlier this year accused Asmara of plotting to bomb an African Union summit in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. The UN said most of those arrested in the plot received training and orders from Eritrean officers.
The UN also says its Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea has documented evidence of Eritrean payments to individuals linked to the Islamic radical al-Shabab rebels in Somalia.
But Eritrea Information Minister Ali Abdu sharply denies the accusation saying Asmara has been pronounced “guilty even when proven innocent.”
The Security Council refused to delay today’s planned vote after Eritrea asked for an extension to allow President Isaias Afewerki to speak to the U.N. body. But logistical challenges, officials say, make it impossible for Mr. Afewerki to address the Security Council ahead of the vote.
Information Minister Abdu said Afewerki wanted to attend but did not get a visa to enter the United States. But U.S. officials said visas were granted within hours following Eritrea’s application.
In an August briefing, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Susan E. Rice said the “United States is very, very concerned about Eritrea’s behavior in the region. Its support for al-Shabab, its support to destabilize its neighbors is documented,” said Rice. “We’re profoundly troubled, and we have clearly condemned the support that Eritrea lent to the terrorist attack that was planned to coincide with the African Union summit last January in Addis Ababa.“
The United States, Rice said, supports additional pressure and sanctions being applied on Eritrea.
Asmara has also been accused by some of its neighbors of acting as a catalyst to destabilize the Horn of African region. Kenya recently accused Eritrea of supplying arms to Somali militants.
But Information Minister Abdu sharply denied the accusations. He called it yet another attempt to thwart Eritrea’s development agenda that will better the living conditions of its people.
“The more Eritrea succeeds in its development and prosperity, the more conspiracies and misguided policies against her is concocted by special interests in the U.S.,” said Abdu.
Abdi says that the anticipated sanctions against Eritrea are a travesty of justice.
“A special interest establishment in the U.S. believes that it’s about the U.N. charter, it’s about the rule of law and with that, it’s insulting the intelligence of member states and it’s making a mockery of the institution of the United Nations and its charter,” said Abdu.
He did not identify the “special interests,” but said nevertheless that they want to ensure sanctions are tightened against Eritrea at “whatever cost.” Abdu warns the anticipated sanctions will destabilize the entire region.
“We do believe that there is absolutely no justification for rushing into these kinds of destructive sanctions or this resolution,” said Abdu. “It’s designed to inflict more suffering on Eritrean people and it will create havoc in the Horn of Africa and it will have a very grave consequences for the people of the Horn of Africa.”