Yesterday the U.S. Treasury Department froze the assets of two Eritrean government officials ostensibly because “The United States is determined to target those who are responsible for the ongoing bloodshed and instability in Somalia,” said Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Director Adam J. Szubin. This begs the question: Who is responsible for the bloodshed and instability in Somalia? Somalia has been without a government since 1991. It experienced a brief semblance of law and order in 2006 under the Union of Islamic Courts, who opened the airport and seaport for the first time in 15 years.
On December 24, 2006 – that’s right, Christmas Eve – in direct violation of U.N. resolutions, Ethiopian soldiers supported by U.S. aircrafts, special-forces and navy gunships launched a full scale invasion of Somalia. Like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya the invasion led to unprecedented levels “bloodshed and instability” and radicalization. So why is the Treasury blacklisting two Eritrean officials? Szubin explains that
“By designating these individuals today we are taking action to support our partner governments in East Africa and the African Union Mission in Somalia in their efforts to dismantle al- Shabaab.”
These “partner governments” are primarily Ethiopia and Djibouti. Both have U.S. drone bases which were used in the invasion of Somalia and have been repeatedly used in a U.S. assassination program in Somalia and Yemen. Djibouti also has the largest U.S. base in Africa which operates as the de facto new U.S. African Command (AFRICOM). Ethiopia and Djibouti also both started border wars with Eritrea. To support these “partner governments,” the U.S. slammed through U.N. sanction resolution 1907 against Eritrea on Christmas Eve, December 23, 2009, for, you got it, [for] causing instability in Somalia.
The sanctions authorized the UN to list Eritrean officials that violate the weapons ban on Somalia and to freeze their assets. To date, the UN has not listed any Eritrean officials. UN reports have since found evidence of Eritrea’s involvement in Somalia to be inconclusive, negligible, insignificant, and/or ceasing before 1907 was passed. Even the treasury department doesn’t claim the two officials did anything improper after 1907 was passed in 2009. Thus, the continuing “bloodshed and instability” is due to the “partner governments” who have recently stepped up their occupation. Dumisani Kumalo, Chairman of the U.N. Security Council’s Somalia sanctions committee, had found that “Eighty percent of ammunition available at the Somali arms markets was supplied by TFG and Ethiopia troops” and that he views “continued presence of Ethiopian troops on Somali territory as a violation of the arms embargo as well as Ethiopia’s arming of “friendly clans.” Yet no Ethiopian official have been blacklisted by the Treasury or the U.N.
Unable to get any Eritrean on the U.N. list, in 2010 the U.S. Treasury unilaterally blacklisted Yemane Gebreab, a lead Eritrean diplomat, for involvement in Somalia. No explanation was given. All that may have been frozen was a few hundred dollars from an old student account he used while studying in the U.S. decades ago. Yesterday Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., stated that
“the sanctioning of two Eritrean military officials underscores the ongoing concern about Eritrea’s violations of Security Council resolutions.”
The U.S. is currently pressuring the UN, on behalf of their “East African partners” to target Eritrea. According to InnerCityPress, on June 15, 2012, in an unprecedented step, the U.S. and Ethiopia were able to nix a UN report on Eritrea’s compliance with the sanctions resolutions, pulling it straight off of the official UN ODS document website. This was done secretly without the consultation of other member countries in direct violation of U.N. procedural rules.
The U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea will issue a new report in the coming days. Past reports have accused Eritrea of having thousands of troops in Somalia and flying plane loads of weapons into Somalia, claims which have since proven to be false. It is anticipated that the new report will focus almost exclusively on Eritrea’s support of Ethiopian rebels and other internal issues, not the peace and security of Somalia.
Last year Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi openly declared his country would support Eritrean rebels to overthrow the government in Eritrea. The announcement was followed by multiple press conferences in Addis Ababa describing rebel strikes in Eritrea. Earlier this year, the Ethiopian military announced that it had attacked three targets in Eritrea itself. Eritrea wrote the UN calling for an investigation. The letter was ignored and no investigation ensued.
And so it goes at the U.N.
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