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On July 19, 2011, in a briefing at the State department meant to bring attention to the drought and famine conditions afflicting over 11 million people in the Horn of Africa, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson reprehensibly stated “there are many more in need in Eritrea, where a repressive regime is refusing to provide data on the humanitarian needs of its people”. That statement is not only inflammatory and entirely self-serving but completely politically motivated.
To begin with, how can Mr. Carson ascertain with certainty “that there are many more in need in Eritrea” when he doesn’t even know the true facts on the ground in Eritrea? It’s reprehensible that Mr. Carson and the State Dept. would use the current conditions in the Horn to try to take political pot-shots at the Eritrean government. It is worth pointing out that there are currently tens of thousands of Diaspora Eritreans vacationing throughout Eritrea. Any hint of starvation or famine would have made it out.
Second, Mr. Carson should be reminded that his Ethiopian ally Meles Zenawi just recently publicly announced that Ethiopia would be buying over $100 million dollars’ worth of tanks from Ukraine. This is against the backdrop of the drought/famine in Ethiopia and at a time when the Ethiopian government is appealing for nearly $400 million to feed nearly 4 million of its own citizens.
What makes this even more perverse is that recently IGAD, at the behest of the Ethiopian government and in concert with the US administration, is calling for increasing the sanctions against Eritrea, “specifically targeting Eritrea’s mining revenues and Diaspora remittances”, which would/could be used by Eritrea to not only feed itself without having to rely on aid handouts, but develop its economy.
In light of this, Mr. Carson and the US State Department’s statement ring not only hollow, but are deeply shameful and disgusting. They should stick to trying to help the people of the Horn, rather than using it as an excuse to try to shame or embarrass the Eritrea. And if Mr. Carson and the US State Department are genuinely interested in the well-being of Eritreans, as they claim they are, the US should be voting against sanctioning the country’s meager resources and compounding Eritrean’s problems.