UN Monitoring Group Tries to Deny Eritreans Right to Remit to Relatives in Africa
UN Monitoring Group Tries to Deny Eritreans Right to Remit to Relatives in Africa
Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group Attempts to Stop Eritrean Diaspora from Sending Help to Needy Relatives
At a time when developing regions like Africa are trying to get their immigrants in the West to give back to the communities they left behind, a UN group mandated to monitor arms shipments in and out of the Horn of Africa is working hard to deny Americans of Eritrean origin the right to remit assistance to their relatives in the Red Sea nation which is suffering from 40-years of war.
The African Union is establishing the African Institute for Remittances (AIR) Project to get the African diaspora especially those in the West to give back to their respective communities in the continent. This effort is fully supported by the European Commission, the African Development Bank as well as the World Bank. The principal objective of the project is to “build the capacity of the Member States of the African Union, remittance senders and recipients and other stakeholders to develop and implement concrete strategies and operational instruments to use remittances as development tools for poverty reduction.” As a result, “African Ministers are now actively engaged in designing a structure that will support their nations in leveraging remittance flows for poverty reduction and economic growth.” According to the director of African Union Social Affairs, "Remittances help Africans across the continent contribute to social development, support new businesses and help children stay in school.”
The Eritreans in the Diaspora like their other African brothers have been sharing their meager resources with their relatives back in the homeland and they have been doing it for the past four decades. The African Union is acknowledging that:
“The Diaspora actively contributes towards the development of the continent through various ways including remittance flows and technological transfers. Over 25 million African citizens receive an estimated amount of 40 Billion USD annually in the form of remittances from their relatives abroad. If channeled into the proper sectors in terms of investments, these flows will be of great benefit to Africa's sustainable development. Initiatives such as African Remittance Institute will enable recipients to use a banking system that will not only channel the money as investments but will also reduce the cost of sending the money. This in turn will effectively increase the efficiency and volume of flows coming into the continent from the Diaspora around the world.”
This being the case about other Africans, the UN Monitoring Group for Somalia and Eritrea is trying to deny the Diaspora of Eritrean origin this very same opportunity of helping their kith and kin in the home continent.
Denying children of Eritrean heritage the right to connect with their roots
One of the ugly legacies of slavery in the Americas is an attempt to dehumanize African Americans by cutting off any links they had with Africa. They were forced to forget their languages, cultures and proud history. What the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group and its sponsors are attempting to do by targeting Eritrean cultural festivals is a modern version of this. These Eritrean festivals have never been about money, but about reconnecting children of Eritrean Diaspora with their African roots. As Africans their parents want them to gain from the fountain of African history, culture and languages. Nothing secretive, nothing hidden about this agenda. However, the people who do not want Africans to come together, to preserve their identities and cultures, and remain connected to their roots are now in an evil scheme of stopping these, empowering activities using a fraudulent cover claiming that they are fund-raising schemes. This is a total fabrication that has a racist undertone.
As usual, the fabrication of the Monitoring Group is:
“The solicitation by PFDJ of voluntary contributions includes an increasing reliance on fundraising at folklore festivals and other cultural events organized across Europe, North America and in countries where political rallies are forbidden. A secondary purpose of these events is typically to allow PFDJ agents and activists to gauge loyalty to the party within diaspora communities. …. PFDJ raises a growing percentage of its funds through diaspora cultural events, such as concerts and folklore festivals. These are rarely, if ever, officially registered as political events, but rather as fundraisers for charitable causes — a tactic that may be prosecuted as fraud in some jurisdictions.”
These festivals in the US, which at various times have been attended by high State Department officials, have everything to do with cultural exhibits and musical concerts. They are free to non-Eritrean who want to attend them, and if there they have a political aspect to them is where Eritreans officials brief the audience about developments going on in Eritrea. However, those who do not want to see Africans remain in touch with their roots are falsifying the nature of these festivals. They cannot swallow the fact that young people are coming by the thousands to get a taste of Africa.
Targeting Eritrea’s Development and Rehabilitation Tax
Compared to the need of Eritrea, the financial contribution of Eritreans in the Diaspora is fairly small, but its symbolic significance is paramount. The love and loyalty Diaspora Eritreans have for their ancestral land is peerless. Let’s make one point clear, the issue about remittances, cultural festivals and the modest 2% Development and Rehabilitation contributions, the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group is targeting at the behest of those who do not wish Eritrea well is not about money. What they are after is breaking the loyalty Diaspora Eritreans have for their people and country of origin. It is this unfettered loyalty they are trying to break. For Diaspora Eritreans, their country of origin and its people are priceless. Diaspora Eritreans know well that no amount of money they send back home matches the endurance and sacrifice the people inside Eritrea are making. The independence of Eritrea was not a gift of some treaty signed in European colonial capitals; it is the result of the precious gift brought by the priceless sacrifices of its precious sons and daughters. What these brave souls gave cannot be repaid by Diaspora Eritreans, or any living Eritrean for that matter. Their sacrifice is what allowed us to reclaim our identity and our cultural heritage. Though we are outside Eritrea, Eritrea has remained inside us. Eritrea has remained to become the fountain of our steadfastness and tenacity; our loyalty to our kinship is everlasting. No sanction will disrupt it.
In fact the whole hoopla about the 2% is not aimed at punishing the government of Eritrea, those targeting it know it is a pittance, but they are determined to punish the Diaspora, first for speaking up against the injustices the people of Eritrea suffered under unjust measures of the United Nations and second for refusing to give up their cultural heritage and being unwilling to severe their ties with Eritrea. This is at the heart of the matter. It is this we want to highlight and people will be shocked how much has been brewing and for how long to this evil end.
Taxing Citizens: Eritrea is not an exception
May of 2012, two US Senators, Chuck Schumer of NY and Bob Casey of Pa., introduced a bill titled “Ex-PATRIOT” in Congress. It stands for: “Expatriation Prevention by Abolishing Tax-Related Incentives for Offshore Tenancy”. It was in reaction to Eduardo Saverin’s relinquishing his US citizenship in September of 2011. It is widely believed that the 30-year old Brazilian-born, Harvard-educated co-founder of Facebook made his move for financial reasons. As a co-founder of Facebook he is worth more than $4 billion. Some are accusing him he did it to “reap the benefit of tax savings by becoming a permanent resident of Singapore, which levies no capital gains taxes.” Apparently his move has denied the United States about “$67 million in taxes” and that is why all the anger directed at him. The Ex-PATRIOT bill is designed “to re-impose taxes on expatriates like Saverin even after they flee the United States and take up residence in a foreign country.” The bill “would also impose a mandatory 30 percent tax on the capital gains of anybody who renounces their U.S. citizenship. The plan would bar individuals like Saverin from ever reentering the United States again.”
It is not only Saverin, according to the Wall Street Journal, “Americans abroad are renouncing their citizenship in greater numbers, …globally, 1,781 Americans renounced their citizenship last year” alone. Why are wealthy Americans renouncing their US citizenship? They don’t want to pay taxes. “The U.S. is the only country that taxes its citizens on their world-wide income, no matter where they live.” As the WSJ article puts it:
“The U.S. rule – not so different from war-torn Eritrea’s – has its roots in desperate national conflict. The first U.S. income tax, enacted in 1861 in the early months of the American Civil War, levied a 3% tax on incomes over $800, but a 5% tax on income earned in the U.S. by any citizen of the United States residing abroad. The aim was to prevent wealthy people ducking their military and civic obligations by fleeing the U.S. in its time of crisis. In 1864, the tax was expanded to include income from all sources, no matter where generated. Scholars say this happened as the proud sense of being a citizen of the U.S. – with all its opportunities and obligations – first flowered out of the battlefields.”
The United States “levies personal income tax on all its citizens: not only on its residents – citizens or non-citizens – but also on its citizens who do not live in the country. All citizens of the United States are taxed under the same personal income tax system, regardless of whether they live in the country or abroad” and no matter where you earned the income.
What is good for the goose is not good for the gander!
As we saw above, the United States is one of those countries that require a full income tax from all its citizens no matter where they live. And it has been doing it for the past 150 years. Eritrea also requires its citizens to pay taxes no matter where they are, but nowhere near what the US requires its citizens outside the US to pay. Eritreans outside Eritrea are only required to pay 2% of their taxable income; not a full income tax like that of the US. The US tax rates on taxable income (i.e. after the deductions allowed by law are subtracted from your gross income) range from 10% to 35%. Eritrea’s 2% is one-fifth of the US’ lowest income tax rate. Not only that, Eritrea is a country pulling itself up by its bootstraps; on the other hand the US has the largest economy in the world. Furthermore, the last time the US sustained infrastructure damage due to war, other than the Oklahoma and 9/11 terrorist attacks, was over six decades ago--the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 1941. Eritrea on the other hand was forced to start from below zero when its 30-year war of independence ended in 1991. And before it got a chance to rehabilitate itself, only 5 years after its official independence, the same country that had wrought 5 decades of ruin and terror to Eritrea, Ethiopia, declared yet another war in 1998. Eritrea was forced to go through another devastating cycle of war. Like the 30-year war, this war also resulted in a lot of damages. Ethiopia intentionally destroyed agricultural projects, power plants, bridges, schools, hospitals, even houses of worship; even heritage sites were not spared. This on top of the horrendous suffering to the population, particularly those bordering Ethiopia who have suffered the most. The clouds of war have yet to cleared; Eritrea’s occupied territories have yet to be vacated; Ethiopia has yet to accept and implement the final and binding border decision, and Ethiopia has yet to renounce its appetite to reoccupy Eritrea. As recently as the first quarter of this year, Ethiopia openly admitted that it had attacked deep inside Eritrea’s territory. This means, except for those who want to deny reality, Eritrea’s need for development and rehabilitation is very evident. And unlike Ethiopia which between 2001 and 2010 got $24.72 billion in aid, Eritrea got almost nothing.
This being the case, why is it a tiny fraction of that is good for the goose, not good for the gander? In other words, if a wealthy nation like America saw it fit to demand its citizens pay a full income tax, why is the US trying to deny the Eritrean Diaspora the right to participate in the development and rehabilitation of their war devastated economy? Why is the US and its allies who are financing the war-mongering of Ethiopia to the tune of billions, trying to tie the Diaspora Eritreans’ hands to their back so that they would not help Eritrea, modestly, to have a home-grown, self-reliant and sustainable development?
The excuse given is of course is that Eritrea is using the revenue from its Diaspora Tax to arm Somali insurgents. However, the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group Report had openly admitted that it “found no evidence to support allegations of direct Eritrean support to Al-Shabaab” and that “Eritrea is currently a marginal actor in Somalia, with little, if any, influence, either positive or negative, on the course of events.” They are also telling us that Eritrea is financing all the insurgents in the Horn. This doesn’t make sense for two reasons: First as we will see below any person who can do simple calculation will find out that Eritrea’s ongoing rehabilitation and development projects cost many folds of what is being collected from the diaspora, so Eritrea cannot be financing insurgents with money it doesn’t have. Second, organizations like the OLF, are 40 year old. It definitely is not surviving because of Eritrea’s financing, but the Oromo peoples’ desire to be free. To present their struggle as if it is Eritrea-inspired and Eritrea- financed is to deny the suffering of the Oromo people and demean their strong desire to determine their own destiny.
The Genesis of the Malicious Plan
Below, we are going to exhibit the genesis and fingerprints of the conspiracy that matured into UNSC Resolution 2023(2011). We will see an intensive and coordinated campaign by Ethiopia, with US support, to stop the “flow of Diaspora remittances”. The reason at the beginning didn’t have the cover: to stop Eritrea’s financing of Somali insurgents or Ethiopian opposition. The aim of cutting off remittances was to create a rift between the Eritrean government and the Diaspora. The design was to use the Diaspora to dictate terms inside Eritrea. In other words, the plan was designed to emasculate the government of Eritrea in order to make it an obedient client state. It also had another design: to strengthen Ethiopia’s hand by strangulating Eritrea economically. In addition, we will see how what was tried to institute during the border conflict with Ethiopia in 1998-2000 has remained unchanged; except today it has found a convenient cloak. In other words, the intention has not changed….only the excuses and pretexts have.
This plan has its genesis with the 1998-2000 Eritrea-Ethiopia war. At the time, those handling the US mediation between Eritrea and Ethiopia, two of whom also happen to be in charge of US policy for Africa today, thought by “limiting the ability of the Eritreans to collect remittances from friends and relatives in the United States" Eritrea will acquiesce to their unfair demand that Eritrea should make all the compromises because they wanted “Meles to come out of the war stronger” (emphasis added).
The cables from Asmara to Washington give us a clear picture of what the plan was. Here is a distilled quote: “reduce the flows of critical funding from the diaspora; … …The remittances sent and the taxes paid by the diaspora are a critically needed revenue source for the GSE and we believe that the diaspora must be educated and exposed to the realities of the Isaias regime. … Doing so will, we believe, also lead to diminished remittance flows and may encourage members of the diaspora to speak out - and these are voices to which the GSE might listen.”
Here we have it, before there was Islamic Courts Union, before Al-Shabaab was born, “cutting remittances” was in the offing. Why? To what end? The cables again make it clear; the aim was to force Eritrea to toe Washington’s line or to do what Washington wants it to do. The cables say “While conversations have begun on mechanisms to restrict the transmission of diaspora remittances, we recognize that there would be many ways of circumventing restrictions (e.g. third-country transfers, informal mechanisms, etc). Thus we believe it is critical to offer the diaspora an alternative perspective to GSE propaganda and undercut their motivation to support the GSE. Also critical to this effort will be the continued restriction on the movement of GSE-sponsored fund-raisers in the U.S.”
The prediction by this action and others was that "With nearly no exports, an inability to produce enough domestically to meet the basic needs of the population, and its continued large-scale procurement of military supplies and equipment, the GSE will continue to be dependent on hard currency to survive. Disrupting the hard currency supply chain would significantly and detrimentally impact the operations of the GSE.” It is after these messages that Washington announced the closure of the Eritrean Consulate in Oakland, California. That was August 2007. As per Jendayi Frazer’s briefing at the State Department, the cover was “reciprocity” for Eritrea’s restriction of movement to American Embassy staff in Asmara. This was insincere to say the least. As noted above, Washington had already taken “reciprocal measures” by restricting Eritrean Embassy members in Washington, DC not to go beyond a 25-km radius from the city center.
However, Frazer had blown the cover when she was answering questions. She admitted that with the Consulate closure, the US would “hope that the Eritrean diaspora would be able to influence that government because it is the source of significant remittances. In fact, there's a two percent tax on the income of Eritreans living abroad to try to influence that government to open up to end the human rights violations and to move towards a more democratic governing, you know, through elections and other means. --- I believe it certainly will impact their ability to collect money from the Eritrean community and the United States” Still the main reason for “cutting remittances” was not as they started telling the world: to bring peace to Somalia. The aim was to pit the Diaspora and the Eritrean Government against each other. On the other hand, for the first time, Washington made it clear from that point on how the above plan will materialize and what the excuse was going to be. Frazer repeated the Somalia Monitoring Group’s lies of 2006, by saying “Eritrea has played a key role in financing, funding and arming the terror and insurgency activities which are taking place in Somalia, and is the primary source of support for that insurgency and terror activities.” So started, the official manufacturing of non-existent links between Eritrea and Somali extremists—a circular “self-corroboration” of sorts. Here is how one article described where the SEMG gets its stories for its reports and how US officials later use these reports:
“The report referred to is UN Security Council document number S/2008/769. Reviewing that document suggests that the relevant part was compiled by US representatives to the UN and is, by implication, credited to the Monitoring Group on Somalia. However, it appears from reading the UN report that, in producing its Somalia document, the USA was highly instrumental in writing the passage which it now quotes, providing what amounts to self-corroboration.”
The intention of the campaign to dry off remittances was not hidden. There were some diplomats in Asmara who challenged US diplomats there on the motive of closing the Oakland Consulate: “In separate meetings upon hearing the news the Egyptian Consular Officer, Mohammed Wagih Abdallah, and the Netherlands Charge Robert Lanschot pressed CDA further, asking if the decision was an attempt by the U.S. to restrict the flow of hard currency Eritrea receives from the diaspora in the U.S. CDA repeated that the U.S. action was due to the ongoing restrictions placed by the GSE in violation of the Vienna Convention…”
After the original architects of the plan to cut off Eritrean remittances were voted back into office with team Obama, they came with vengeance. Talk of using the UN Security Council to implement this plan took center stage.
It has to be remembered the current US Ambassador to UN was the first person who, as early as 1999, started the vilification of Eritrea by throwing the accusation: "that Eritrea has delivered large quantities of weapons and munitions to self-proclaimed Somalia President Hussein Aideed for the use of a violent faction of the Oromo Liberation Front. The terrorist organization Al-Ittihad may also be an indirect recipient of these arms." Somalia, OLF and terrorism are all used in these two sentences and they are the core of the fabrications of the Monitoring Group against Eritrea. One can say this is the “Genesis 1:1” of the sanctions against Eritrea .
In short, the fabrication that “Eritrea is fighting a proxy war with Ethiopia in Somalia” also started with the same source. With this and the cables as a background, fast forward to see Deputy Assistant Secretary Karl Wycoff assuring “Meles that the U.S. remains committed to achieving a UNSC sanctions regime against Asmara and continues to broaden the discussion beyond the P3 [US, UK and France] and Uganda with a hard push by USUN. He said the USG was also expanding efforts to undercut support for Asmara, noting for example he been sent on a trip to Cairo, Riyadh, Jeddah and other cities both to promote efforts to undercut flows of support to Asmara.” Here you have it Part One of the US-Ethiopia collusion to punish Eritrea.
Starting in 2009 the USUN mission became the nerve center of the “sanction Eritrea to save Ethiopia movement.” IGAD’s member nations were given a part to sing in order to bring about the long-awaited plan to maturity. Ethiopia, being the prima donna, opened the show. Meles lines’ were “cutting off remittances from the U.S. to Eritrea would have a significant impact on denying Eritrea’s ability to procure arms and weapons for extremists” He “suggested that Isaias' calculations would be shattered, if the U.S. and others imposed financial sanctions on him and particularly cut off Isaias' funding from Qatar and other countries and the important funding from the Diaspora in the U.S. Isaias still imposes a mandatory 2 percent of salary tax on all Eritreans living overseas. Nonpayment results in family members in Eritrea being denied food ration cards” and began begging the US to “redouble sanctions efforts and especially to reconsider targeting remittances as what he called a ‘key instrument’ for pressuring Asmara. Citing as examples his own Amcit, ethnic-Eritrean cousins, he said, ‘If the U.S. were to insist that paying taxes to Asmara is a felony, it would be easier for them to resist the tax. The Diaspora could say, 'We can't pay you…’ From Minister of Foreign Affairs, Seyoum Mesfin, to Ethiopia’s State Minister of Foreign Affairs Tekeda Alemu the chorus line for Ethiopia was the same: “…cutting off the flow of money to Eritrea was essential. Particularly, remittances from the U.S. was a major source of funding for Eritrea,… condemning Eritrea would help the Eritrean community in the U.S. to justify diaspora non-payment of taxes (2 percent of salary) to the Eritrean government. Currently, those who do not pay, face imprisonment upon return, and imprisonment of family members living in Eritrea…” “…the UNSC should first approve the general concept of sanctions against Eritrea, then determine what sanctions to impose. He thought that the sanctions should include …efforts to cutoff remittances from the U.S. and other countries.…”
By this time not only was the campaign to cut off remittance in full throttle, but the bold lie that Eritrea uses “extortion, threats of violence, fraud and other illicit means to collect taxes outside of Eritrea from its nationals” had also began to take shape. The lie that has taken 23 pages in the latest Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group’s Report is essentially an attempt at “transubstantiation” of the above Meles and Co. lies: “Nonpayment results in family members in Eritrea being denied food ration cards … Currently, those who do not pay, face imprisonment upon return, and imprisonment of family members living in Eritrea.”
Development and rehabilitation: Eritrea’s single focus
The key reason Eritrea got in trouble with the West starting in the mid 1990s was it stated what it wanted was not a fish but the know-how to fish. Self-reliance-minded Eritrea truly believes in the maxim “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Clearly this was not popular with the NGOs whose very existence is making handouts to poor Africans and in the process pocketing a big chunk of it to themselves. Despite all the obstacles and the undeserved negative publicity “Eritrea has been praised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for ‘commendable progress … in primary education and health, as well as in infrastructure development’” . Thanks to an excellent stewardship of its resources, its commitment to social justice and equitable development, and despite all the sabotages it is facing, Eritrea is set to meet 6 of the 8 UN Millennium Development Goals.
In Education: Since independence access to education has improved significantly, particularly in the rural areas. For example, here is a record of Eritrea’s progress in this sector:
“In pre-school the gross enrolment had gone up from 6,461 (4.3%) in 1991/92 to 46,108 (21.6%) in 2010/11 and the net enrolment has increased from 9,471 (4.9%) in 1999/2000 to 31,084 (14.6%) in 2010/11. … Enrolment at the elementary level has increased from 150,982 in 1991/92 to 311,589 in 2010/11. Similarly, at the middle level enrolment has increased from 27,917 in 1991/92 to 154,589 in 2010/11.... the number of secondary schools has increased significantly from 25 in 1991/92 to 89 in 2010/11. 38 of the 89 secondary schools are located in rural areas. Enrolment has markedly increased from 27,627 in 1991/92 to 100,027 in 2010/11. ... Student enrolment in all Eritrean Institutions of Higher education (IHE) in 2010/11 academic year was 12,039, out of which 7,360 (61.1%) were enrolled in Degree and 4,679 (38.9%) students in diploma Programs. Compared to the 2000/2001 academic year, enrolment has increased about two and a half times from 5505 to 12,039 students in 2010/11 academic year. Over the same period female enrolment has also increased from 738 to 3,300.”
This being the current status, Eritrea still needs help and contrary to what its detractors say, it has never refused aid in education. As the African Union stated goal, Eritreans in the Diaspora also want children to stay in school. They want children of nomads and pastoralists to have an opportunity to go to school. This is where the Development and Rehabilitation tax and remittances are going. Diaspora Eritreans are committed to ensuring this progress is not stalled or reversed. We thus condemn every attempt to deny Eritrean school children the opportunity of getting an education. Investing in education is the only way Africa can fight the brain drain it is facing and Eritrea is no exception.
Health: In the past 21 years of independence, only 7 of them in relative peace, Eritrea has shown a stellar progress in providing health services for its citizens. Eritrea “is one of only four in Africa likely to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for maternal health, and one of a handful which met the ‘roll back malaria’ targets set by the 2000 Abuja Declaration.” The number of Hospitals in Eritrea had nearly doubled from 16 to 28. The number of Health Centers has shown a ten-fold growth going to 56 from 5, and the number of Health Stations has shown a 250% growth by going from 72 to 252. Eritrea has also seen a “reduction in infant mortality from 81 per 1,000 live birth in 1991 to 42 per 1,000 live birth in 2010 and in under-five mortality rate from 148 per 1,000 live birth in 1991 to 63 per 1,000 live birth in 2010. The maternal mortality ratio has decreased from 998 per100,000 live births in 1995 to 486 in 2010. Eritrea is one of very few exceptions in Africa who are on truck in both MDG4 (Child Health) and MDG5 (Maternal Health). Trends in Life expectancy are usually taken as a summary or resultant of trends of many other health indicators. Life expectancy at birth increased significantly from 49 years in 1991 to around 60 years at the moment. … access to health care with in 10 Km radius, increased from 46 percent at the time of liberation to over 75 percent at the moment . Around 60 percent of the population live with in 5 Kms from a health facility. .. Doctor to population ratio has increased by more than 100 percent from 1:37,500 in 1991 to 1:13:000 at the moment, while nurse to population ratio has also increased by more than 100 percent from 1:9,500 in 1991 to 1 in 3,400 at the moment.”
Public Works: At the time of liberation in 1991, Eritrea had a road network of 6,920 km which was completely destroyed due to the 30-year to end Ethiopian occupation and due to deliberate neglect of maintenance. In 2010, after 20 years of diligent intervention, the road network grew to 15,100 km, (1,300 km Asphalt, 3,800 km gravel and 10,000 km earth). In addition, a total length of 899 m of bridges, 3 airports, 17 dams, and several irrigation schemes were built at the cost of 10.568 billion nakfa.”
This is a cursory look of where Eritrea’s money is going. No matter how fungible money is, a simple calculation will show that Eritrea cannot afford to misuse its resource and yet achieve this miracle. We are certain the government of Eritrea is spending every penny it gets to the reconstruction and building of the nation. That is why we adamantly oppose any effort by anybody of denying us the right to participate in the development and rehabilitation of our country of origin.
There is no other testimony to Eritrea’s commitment for development than the gratifying scene of Eritrea’s import making it to the hinterland from the port city of Massawa on the very same day the UNSC was trying to pass Resolution 2023 on Dec. 5, 2011. The Massawa-Asmara road was clogged by “the hundreds of new heavy duty lorries, firefight trucks, tankers and heavy duty construction and agricultural machineries like wheel Loaders, Excavators, Motor Graders and Fork lifters” that were making their way to Asmara. It also shows where Eritrea’s money is being spent. It is this progress of development that the Monitoring Group is trying to arrest. It shouldn’t be allowed to do so.
Dubious method of collecting evidence
The Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group admitted “ In order to assess the methods employed by the Eritrean government and PFDJ to collect extraterritorial revenue, the Monitoring Group conducted forty-two interviews with members of the Eritrean diaspora in East Africa, the Middle East, Europe and North America. However, because of fear of retribution by the Eritrean authorities, nearly all requested anonymity.” What the Monitoring Group deliberately hides is how big the Eritrean Diaspora is. Knowing that size would show how representative and scientific this sample size of 42 interviewees is? There are more than a million Eritreans in the Diaspora. Are 42 individuals out of more than a million truly representative? At the same time how random is that interviewing? Can we really say the sample was unbiased? We are being told “nearly all requested anonymity.” How do we really know “A”, “E”, “I”, “O” or “U” really exist? As any student of elementary statistics knows, in order for a survey to be representative, it is critically important that one has a large number of randomly-selected participants in each group a survey is conducted. Sure, out of a million one can easily find 42 people who are not happy for different reasons; but it doesn’t mean every Eritrean feels that way, or is opposed against the tax?
One of the Monitoring Group’s source is “Ephraim initially refused to sign, arguing that he had in fact left Eritrea legally, having declared himself as a student in South Africa for seven years. However, the Embassy official told him that since he did not return to Eritrea upon completion of his studies, Ephraim was now considered “illegal”, and as a result was required to complete and sign the “regret letter”.
Here is a student who had a free college education in Eritrea, was sent to South Africa on a scholarship on the expectation he was going to return to Eritrea to payback the people who paid for his education out of its meager resources. Instead of returning to Eritrea, or having the decency to pay pack the money that was used to educate him, out of the money he is earning in Sweden, is now collaborating with the Monitoring Group so no other child will get a chance at the education that he freely got. How debased can a person and those who used him as a source could be? Unless this fellow is being compensated in the tune of hundreds of thousands in Sweden, the tax the Government of Eritrea is asking him to pay wouldn’t even cover the air-ticket that took him to South Africa let alone for the scores of thousands that was paid for his education by the government of Eritrea. We are certain the other 41 interviewees, if they are real, could have the same skeleton in their closets. Is this then a representative and unbiased sample? Hardly!
If the majority of Eritreans in the Diaspora have never been asked how they feel about the Development and Rehabilitation tax, if they were never asked whether they feel they were being “coerced, threatened or they were under extortion” by the Eritrean government to pay their taxes, then it is only a political adventure to make this the center piece of an accusation.
As citizens of Eritrea many of us are proud of the modest amount we are contributing to Eritrea. In our opinion, 2% is too little for a country that is doing its best to make the lives of its citizens better. The majority of us live in a society where the minimum service tax for any hospitality service is 15%. Contributing a mere 2% is not too much? Furthermore, if the UN Security Council which repeatedly promised Eritreans that it “Decides to remain seized of the matter of the final and binding border ruling" does the right thing and compel Ethiopia to implement the ruling Eritrea would not need any of the Development and Rehabilitation tax or even our remittances. We are witnesses to the fact that every penny we contribute is being used for development projects Eritrea has embarked on. We are proud of what is being done in regards to building schools, hospitals, roads and dams. But we condemn in the strongest terms all attempts to deny our right to remit to our relatives back home, to pass our proud African cultural heritage to our children and to remain faithful and law abiding citizens of Eritrea wherever we might be.
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