By Amanuel Biedemariam
If one asks what the contributions of the United Kingdom, Great Britain, England, Britain or The UK is in Africa, the answer will be a long list of crimes against humanity! That is an undeniable historical fact.
Britain divided Africa into pieces along ethnic, religious lines to divide and rule. They stole African resources reaping the benefits and giving nothing back to Africans. They enslaved Africa and used the human resources to develop England. For centuries they plundered, pillaged and raped Africa ruthlessly without any accountability. The British hunted African animals for financial benefits and games leaving a terrible legacy that impacts Africa to this day. They belittled Africans with arrogance and pomposity that reverberates into the psyche of present day Africa like tsunami-waves. They redrew African boundaries in ways that are unfit and unnatural for the people of Africa leaving a negative legacy with consequences that linger to date.
All in all, the impact of Great Britain in Africa has been one horrendous experience for Africans without any consequences for England. The legacies still plague Africa but what is incredible is the relentless audacity of the British to continue on the path of the dead empire. They are unapologetic and straight faced as they pursue their ill-conceived hegemonic agendas using the bully pulpit at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). One such example is what is happening in the Horn of Africa, particularly in Somalia.
Great Britain and Italy partitioned and colonized Somalia for extended duration. Following World War II and after independence, Somalia remained united until 1991. At the end of the Cold War, its president, Siad Barre, was ousted and Somalia became a failed state. Since then peace has eluded the Somalis and they are going through one horrific period at this moment in their history. This is a result of divisions Great Britain and other colonialists sewed as well as the legacies of the Cold War that littered Somalia with armaments.
The West has always been interested in the Horn of Africa region for different reasons. But, over the last ten years the focus has sharpened and the tact has been getting extremely aggressive. The West uses terrorism, regional stability, conflict resolution, democracy, peace, piracy and a host of humanitarian – related issues that arise from inner-conflicts as pretexts to get involved.
Historically and in reality no outside actor can solve problems between two brothers. Conflicts that take place within a country are best left to be resolved by the people. The Europeans as well as the US went through their own struggles and came up with their own solutions. But when it comes to Africa must the Europeans and the US get involved? Are they the best guardians for the interest of African people? Are Africans not capable to solve their own problems? Europeans, England and the US care better about the Somalis than the Somalis and Africans who are directly impacted? Is it crocodile tears?
On Thursday October 08, 2009 Britain’s U.N. Ambassador John Sawers called for sanctions against Eritrea for allegedly supplying weapons to the opponents of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Somalia in violation of a U.N. arms embargo. He cited the African Union, IGAD and a UN monitoring group (a group formed by the former failed Bush Administration diplomat Dr. Jendayie Frazer, avowed enemy of Eritrea) who provided the supporting evidence and the call to action. Previously, in an effort to link Eritrea to terrorism, the same group made-up stories about Eritrean arms shipment to Somalia as well as the claim of 2,000 Eritrean troops fighting alongside the Somali Islamic Court Union (ICU), which turned out to be a fabrication.
The fact is the TFG that is being promoted as a legitimate representative of the Somali people was formed in Djibouti by Dr. Frazer in the wee hours of the Bush Administration by pressuring IGAD and other African leaders. Dr. Frazer excluded the major stake holders and Eritrea from the so called Djibouti-Process and used a weak UN and AU to legitimize it. Dr. Frazer also established a parliament in exile without the participation of the main stake holders, Somali people. Eritrea was vocal in her opposition because the process failed to include the key stake holders and did not allow the Somalis to come with solutions to their own problems.
Eritrea is not the arms supplier of Somalia. The country is awash with arms supplied by Ethiopia. In violation of UN resolutions, Ethiopia sells arms to various Somali factions to fan the flames because the conflict serves its interest. In fact, Ethiopia invaded a sovereign Somali nation occupying it for over two years and committed major crimes against humanities. In addition, The Obama Administration is openly sending arms to Somalia. The US is also openly involved in the Somalia conflict under the pretext of fighting terrorism and piracy. In fact, citing the Grand Rapids Press, Press TV reports US is to make Blackwater-style entry into Somalia.
Eritrea is not a problem, is not the cause of the instability in Somali and not in a position to influence the situation in Somalia in the way they are claiming Eritrea could. Somalia is entirely surrounded by US and her allies making it nearly impossible for any other nation or entity to infiltrate Somalia.
So, why is the British calling for sanctions against Eritrea? Why do the British want to punish the people of Eritrea who are struggling to come out from years of exploitation by the West and from natural calamity?
The Purpose behind the Sanction Call
One of the most useful and important tool the West uses against the people of Iran or countries that don’t tow the line is sanctions or the threat of it. The threat of sanctions is equally as potent as the actual sanction because it discourages investment by scaring investors. If and when investors’ sense uncertainty, they may hesitate to invest. That is how they apply pressure to bring change by frustrating the leadership and people. It also puts pressure on countries like Russia and China for supporting countries the West labels rogue giving the West a PR upper-hand. It is a multi faceted approach that has proven effective and has been working for decades, flawlessly. For that purpose there is no a single day that passes-by without the US or UK talking about Sanctioning Iran.
Conversely, for the first time since her independence Eritrea is openly inviting and attracting foreign investment in various areas. Eritrea is going through some visible and inevitable economic transformation as a result of rich resources the country possesses. Eritrea is undeniably full of resources ready to exploit. Eritrea is also one of the most important strategic locations and very important because she sits in the middle between Sudan and Ethiopia. How Eritrea tilts will impact the geo-political games being played by the US and China. Eritrea is the foundation because if Eritrea falls in the hands of the West the Sudan will fall in a short time because Port Sudan is located very close to Karora in the border of Eritrea and Sudan on the Red Sea.
Therefore Eritrea is a natural buffer for Sudan. The Sudanese understand this and are working closely with Eritrea. This is also taking place in the back drop of the issues in Southern Sudan, Somalia and other fluid dynamic political situations in the region. The stakes are high because it can influence Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and South-Sudan countries that are client states for the US. It possesses far reaching implications than is publicly admitted by the US and the West who are totally focused in the area.
The reality is that there is a renewed scramble for African resources. As the need for these resources grows the desperation of some countries is growing larger. That is precisely what is happening in this case. The strategy they applied in Iraq, though erroneous, was nonetheless effective and they are trying the same strategy in Africa, in this case Eritrea.
Therefore, the British calling for sanctions against Eritrea is a desperate cry that is bound to get louder. All the client regimes in the region spearheaded by the alms-dependent Ethiopia are parroting the sanction song like a new song ad-nauseam. There are new names for Eritrea in think-tank circles names like Eritrea the”Spoiler”. These are the facts.
The Sun Never Sets for the British Empire
Are the British forgetful of the fact that it is their evil design that led to thirty year war for independence costing thousands of Eritrean lives? Do the British truly care about the Somali people?
First of, Britain has no moral authority to call for sanctions against any nation in Africa. If any one should be sanctioned it is Great Britain for all the crimes of humanities it committed, for crimes they have not atoned for, for stealing from Africans for centuries, and most importantly, for the exploiting Africans as slaves.
Secondly, Great Britain needs to return back the goods it looted from Eritrea. The Italian colonizers in Eritrea had built a functional railroad and ropeway (Teleferica) that was an engineering marvel of its time as well as an operational Marine Overhaul Station (Dry Dock) in Massawa. After defeating Italy in World War II, the British Military Administration (BMA) was solely responsible for destroying and looting major part of that system. The BMA also tried to partition Eritrea along religious and ethnic lines unsuccessfully.
Furthermore, The British have no credibility. The Blair Administration openly and blatantly misled the international community with a hoax claim of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) leading up to the Iraq WAR. The whole charade was designed to serve as a pretext to get access to the huge oil reserves in Iraq. It had nothing to do with justice, democracy or concern for the Iraqis.
In addition, The British does not support the Eritrean economy in any way. They don’t import any goods from Eritrea or provide any assistance to the people of Eritrea to make calls like that. Their main contribution is and has been to create problems for the people of Eritrea.
Throwing Stones from a Glasshouse
The mistake the British could make in Africa is to remind Black people of the terrible deed the British committed in Africa. It is also a mistake to call for sanctions to a country one has no economic connection with because that exposes British products worldwide as targets for boycott and rejection unnecessarily.
For example: Eritreans, Ethiopians and Africans in general are major consumers of British products. Smoothly, and for decades the British have sold many products around the globe. In Africa, Johnny Walker is one of the best selling high-end status-drinks that has turned into liquid Gold for the British. The same with cigarettes like Rothman, Dunhill and other cigarette brands. In addition The British do not grow tea but they have sold tea grown in poor countries like Kenya as English tea for decades. These are popular tea products like Twinings of London and many the like.
The government of Eritrea and others could simply prohibit the entry of Johnny Walker into their countries and set a precedent and effectively apply unspoken sanction against these products. It also empowers Africans because they now know they have leverage because they have the power to say NO to British products.
The people of Eritrea have never committed any crimes against the British people. It is arrogant, belittling, racist and stupid to instigate hostility simply because they think Eritrea should be subservient to their whims. The British do not hold the moral authority and they are not better than their Eritrean counterpart in any way.
The Eritrean people are humble, brilliant, hard working, independent, fierce and ready to make history by creating their own path. Eritrea is a nation born in defiance from the hurdles placed by the US and British for decades. Eritreans have no illusion to believe a just view can emerge from Great Britain, United Kingdom, England or Britain because history attests otherwise.
The British need to look at their history and make amends with the past by compensating Africans of lost resources both human and natural that was unlawfully attained. They don’t need to recycle hate and thuggish behavior that is unproductive and inhuman. Hence, it is incumbent upon the British people to engage better by treating Africans equally and live with Africans in peace because they stand to lose a lot if they keep pressing on the wrong path just as they have lost their imperial prowess.
(The writer can be reached at Awetnayu@hotmail.com)