The United Kingdom’s Foreign Office has made good on its threat to retaliate against the Eritrean regime’s decision to hold British nationals and to deny them consular access: it has restricted the movement of the Eritrean regime’s ambassador to the UK and told him that his regime is no longer allowed to impose “2% tax” on Eritreans with British nationality.
The UK decision was taken after pleading for 5 months with the Eritrean regime to provide access to four British nationals who have been detained in Eritrea since December. On April 5th, the UK had promised “robust action” if the Eritrean regime continues to deny consular access to its nationals.
On April 8th, the Eritrean Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded that it had “been handling the affair of ‘British nationals detained in Eritrea’ with utmost prudence and patience” and that it would refrain from “delving into diplomatic, propaganda, press and PR campaigns.”
Whatever “prudence and patience” the Eritrean regime was exercising expired on April 30 when the Eritrean president gave an extensive interview to state media on domestic, regional and international issues. As we reported, President Isaias dismissed the British government’s request that his government comply with Geneva Conventions regarding its four nationals who were arrested after an exchange of gunfire in the Red Sea. “They had heavy weaponry, goggles, snipers…what were they doing there?” he said, equating their presence in Eritrea as that of a burglar in a house. The emphasis, he implied, should be on why the burglar is in the house, and not what his rights are now that he has been caught. He said that although his government had not publicized it, there were also other incidents, particularly since gold was discovered in Bisha, of heavily armed people who, presumably, have been detained.
Subsequently, Thomas Mountain, an American transplant who, for the last 11 years, has been functioning as the Eritrean ruling regime’s trial balloon courier for every “news” that even the regime is too embarrassed to publish via its own media, reported that the “British mercenaries were caught red handed in the midst of preparing an attempt to assassinate the top leadership of the Eritrean government in the port city of Massawa on the Red Sea.” Thomas Mountain reports:
“…the professional killers were discovered almost by accident by a woman taking a shortcut home through an adjacent out-of-service salt flat. The woman noticed, as all good Eritreans should, that sa’ada, white people, were taking photos (with telephoto lenses) somewhere they were not allowed. These Brit ‘diplomats’ took their sweet time scoping out their firing points and parameters of their potential killing field for their discoverer had to walk almost a mile to the nearest police station to report this and then the police had to drive the roundabout route to the spot in question.”
This is the third time that the Eritrean regime, or its approved spokespersons, have claimed that Isaias Afwerki was the target of an assassination attempt. The other alleged failed assassination attempts were allegedly co-ordinated by US Envoy to Eritrea Anthony Lake and the G-15 dissidents in 2000; Sudan’s Omar Beshir government in 2004; and now the British. No evidence was presented to substantiate any of the claims. According to wiki-leaks, President Isaias Afwerki lives under constant fear that the US Navy will send a cruise missile to his residence in Massawa or that other unspecified enemies will poison him—resulting in him switching dinner plates with his subordinates frequently.
This is not the first time that a Western government has restricted the movement of Eritrean ambassadors or questioned the legality of the 2% income tax that the Eritrean regime imposes on Diaspora Eritreans. In August 2007, the government of the United States ordered the closure of the Eritrean consular offices in Oakland, California and restricted the movement of the Eritrean ambassador in Washington, DC to a 25-mile radius of the Eritrean Embassy. The United States explained the move as a retaliation for the Eritrean regime’s violations of international protocols such as opening and inspecting diplomatic pouches, restricting the movement of US embassy staff in Eritrea and denial of visa to visiting US officials. In April 2010, Yemane Gebreab, the political director of the ruling regime PFDJ (and whose brainchild is the regime’s youth affiliate, the Y-PFDJ) was classified as a “extraordinary threat” to American national security by a presidential decree (Executive Order 13536.)
Notwithstanding this order, Yemane Gebreab, who was granted limited visa to attend the United Nation’s General Assembly 65th Session (September 2010), secretly traveled to Washington, DC to meet with the so-called “Eritrean Cultural & Civic Center”—a ruling party social club—about fundraising. In May 2004, the same so-called cultural and civic center was raided by the FBI on suspicion that it was illegally transmitting funds. The stash of money and data found in the premises were confiscated. [Related: Was An Extraordinary Threat To US National Security Visiting DC? http://awate.com/was-an-extraordinary-threat-to-us-national-security-visiting-dc/] Earlier this month, Yemane Gebreab was not only granted visa to attend the YPFDJ National Conference in Norway; it appears that the government of Norway paid for his trip as well as all the 400,000 Norwegian Kroner in expenses incurred by YPFDJ which, according to its spokesperson’s claim, is not in any way related to the PFDJ.
On December 2009, the UNSC voted to impose sanctions on Eritrea (with only Libya voting no and China abstaining.) The sanctions restrict the movement of the ruling party’s military and diplomatic officials, freeze the ruling party’s assets and impose an arms embargo. A sanctions committee has been looking into the regime’s mechanism of transferring funds to Somalia and American law enforcement official.