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Condoleezza Rice Misleading Congress
October 29, 2007
By Sam B.
In a testimony to the House Judiciary Committee on Middle East Policy US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice provided a disingenuous and misleading testimony in her reply to a question from Congressman Payne regarding the Eritrea Ethiopia conflict.
Congressman Payne asked; “the Ethiopia-Eritrean situation, and bottoming the demarcation of the borders had not been accepted by Ethiopia, our big ally in Africa … And I wonder if our administration is urging.
Ethiopia to accept the agreement that they said they would accept from The Hague as relates to the border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia.”
Condoleezza Rice gave a two part misleading statement, if not an outright lie when she stated:
“It has been difficult to talk to Eritrea, frankly. We've had trouble getting them to talk to us. And I sent our assistant secretary to talk with Mr. Isaias, and he didn't see her.”
And went on to add;
“So while we are saying to the Ethiopians that certain things need to be done, it would be very helpful if the Eritreans would show a little bit more interest in what the United States has to say.”
Of course their “big ally in Africa”, Ethiopia, has refused to accept and implement the “final and binding” ruling from The Hague. The agreement that lead to The Hague ruling was an agreement the United States authored to major part and signed as a witness and guarantor. Their “big ally in Africa” would have acquiesced if the United States had pressured it to honor its treaty obligation. After all, as Ignacio Ramonet in Le Monde Diplomatique article, ‘Servile States’ writes:
Unfortunately, it has been quite sometime since US’s “big ally in Africa”, Ethiopia, has been “reduced to the demeaning status of satellites.” A “vassal” that is told what it does and obeys without reservation, as its existence is directly linked to the alms that it receives from its benefactor, the United States. The notion that the US has asked Ethiopia to abide by international law and Ethiopia somehow managed to refuse, if the situation that might culminate into yet another war was not so serious, is laughable.
That said Condoleezza Rice’s statement that she sent her “assistant secretary to talk with Mr. Isaias, and he didn't see her” is either a lie, or, she does not know what she speaks of. Either way is unbecoming of a person of her position. Rice’s assistant secretary, Jendayi Frazer, statements contradicts hers.
When a reporter asked Jendayi Frazer if the Government of Eritrea refused her visa to inter the country in 2005 or since, or if they have refused to see her, she answered:
Jendayi Frazer on may occasions made it clear that she had no intention to speak to the President Isaias Afwerki. In fact she made it abundantly clear that she was “welcome to come to the country” and hold talks with anyone. However, as the assistant secretary stated, her “only purpose of coming [to Eritrea] is to go to the border” and not to see the President as Condoleezza Rice falsely claimed in Congress.
Condoleezza Rice’s other false claim is that that the US “had trouble getting them [ Eritrea] to talk to us”.
Here again the record shows otherwise. For instance a New York Times October 5, 2007 report by Jeffrey Gettleman states:
“American diplomats have been quietly working with the Eritreans to push Darfur’s ever expanding galaxy of rebel groups to peace talks scheduled for the end of October in Libya.”
The fact that “American diplomats have been quietly working with the Eritrean” is not controversial at all. Even Condoleezza Rice’s assistant secretary, Jendayi Frazer, has said that she has communicated with Eritrea “through private channels” and “through diplomatic means -- talking to their ambassador here and our ambassador talking to the government officials in Eritrea”.
Condoleezza Rice’s statement; “It has been difficult to talk to Eritrea”, makes little sense when one considers that not only have “American diplomats have been quietly working” and communicating with Eritrea “through private channels” and “through diplomatic means”, but also US Congressmen such as Donald Payne and US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, have both visited Eritrea and held talks not only with the President of Eritrea but also Eritrean Defense Minister, General Sebhat Ephrem, and others.
It is even more bizarre when one considers not only the diplomatic access the United States enjoyed in Eritrea but also the unfettered access the US Defense Department has enjoyed in Eritrea, from US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, to the multiple visits of General Tommy Franks, commander in chief of the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM). Even Visiting US Navy commanders have been able to freely meet all levels of Eritrean military command. Ensign Lauren A. Kent, a US Navy Ship, USS Hopper, Public Affairs writes:
USS Juneau, a US Navy Ship, followed the visit by USS Hopper and again it was welcomed by Eritrean military commanders such as chief of staff of the Eritrean naval force, Brig-Gen Fitsum Gebrehiwet, Maj-Gen Haile Samuel, as well as, the American ambassador to Eritrea, Mr. Scott H DeLisi.
At that visit “the Eritrean navy chief of staff, Brig-Gen Fitsum Gebrehiwet, disclosed Eritrea’s readiness to cooperate with the US naval force in maintaining peace and security in the Red Sea region and that it will continue its fight against terrorism. He added that the visit of the USS Juneau will promote further bilateral relations of both countries’ naval forces.” (ERINA)
One could go on elaborating the unimpeded access the US administration had to all levels of Eritrean Government and Military. It is absolutely bizarre for Condoleezza Rice to claim that “it has been difficult to talk to Eritrea” and that she “had trouble getting [ Eritrea] to talk to [her]”. Eritrea has shown more than “a little bit...interest in what the United States has to say.” This is not to say that US Eritrea relations are at their best. To the contrary, it is to make the point that the issue is not US’s “difficulty to talk to Eritrea.” The problem lies in United State’s negative meddling in the region, from Somalia to Sudan, all over the Horn of Africa and beyond.
Any relations between Eritrea and the US (or any other country) can only be “based on mutual interests of the two countries”, as President Isaias Afwerki stated. What Condoleezza Rice has “trouble” with and finds “difficult” to understand is why Eritrea is not willing to slavishly be “reduced to the demeaning status of satellites” and “vassal” and behave accordingly, just like the US “big ally in Africa”, Ethiopia. It might help her to recall what Eritrean Information Minister Ali Abdu said. Unlike the US “big ally in Africa”, Eritreans as a result of their sacrifice, resourcefulness and hard work, “don’t live on their (the US) handouts” or anybody else’s handouts for that matter. As such Eritrea has no need for masters but mutual partners.
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