Royce's ill-advised campaign against a young African nation continues

The Organization of Eritrean Americans (OEA) once again expresses profound dismay by Republican Congressman Ed Royce’s continued ill-advised campaign against the young African nation of Eritrea based on groundless charges fabricated, orchestrated and pushed by the Red Sea nation’s traditional enemy to the south, Ethiopia.

Speaking at a hearing on Somalia sponsored by two House Foreign Affairs subcommittees—subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, and the subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade--on July 7, 2011, Congressman Royce repeated all the baseless charges he has been throwing at Eritrea for several years now in a misguided attempt to have this African nation designed as a state sponsor of terrorism.

In fact, this has come to look like a summer ritual. In June 2009, he introduced an amendment to a Houses bill seeking such a designation; however, the United States House of Representatives overwhelmingly rejected the effort. Then last summer, he sent a letter to US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in yet another attempt to tar Eritrea with such a label, claiming Eritrea supported insurgents in Somalia.

We would like to think that the Congressman is uninformed or misinformed about the facts on the ground in the Horn of Africa in general and Eritrea in particular. Otherwise, it is preposterous to try to link Eritrea to terrorism. For example, last year he continued to advance his campaign at a time when the world, from the UN Secretary General on down, was commending Eritrea’s peaceful efforts in the region; he continued his decade-old effort to tar this young African nation which is trying to recover from 40-years of war with Ethiopia. Last year, Eritrea and Djibouti signed a peace agreement negotiated by the Government of Qatar to resolve their border dispute. Other organizations praising Eritrea’s actions to bring about stability in the region were the European Union and the African Union.

Congressman Royce is probably uninformed about the critical role Eritrea has been playing to help stabilize the situation in Darfur, Sudan. Just this week, as a result of Eritrea’s effort, the Sudanese Government and Movement for Freedom and Justice of Darfur signed an agreement in Doha. Eritrea was highly commended for its efforts in bringing the two sides together and its overall contributions in trying to stabilize the troubled Horn of Africa region of Africa.

In general, his is a campaign that fails to distinguish between those who fight against terrorism and those who sponsor or support it. This young African nation has been fighting terrorism since long before September 11, 2001—since the mid 1990s when bin Laden set up shop in neighboring Sudan. Eritrea was in fact his first target. It is still fighting against two of alQaeda’s cells that bin Laden created in the 1990s—the Eritrean Jihad Movement and the Eritrean Islamic Salvation Movement—that Ethiopia has been coddling as part of the so-called alliance it finances and trains to destabilize Eritrea.

Again, we urge Mr. Royce to travel to the region to see for himself the complex issues that define this volatile part of Africa and, most importantly, to devise ways to bring about peace in this strategic region at the southern flank of the Middle East. The OEA, which has been diligently working to build US-Eritrea relations, welcomes the opportunity to work with Mr. Royce to further enhance the friendship of the two nations and thereby
bring peace and stability for the Horn of Africa region.

A sound US policy for the Horn of Africa requires a thorough understanding of the complexity of the issues that define the crises that engulf the region. The OEA believes that a short-sighted policy for the Horn is likely to jeopardize long-term U.S. interests in the region, and even the rest of the continent.

Organization of Eritrean Americans (OEA)