In Hindsight: The Secretary-General's Report on Eritrea
On 29 August, the Secretary-General reissued the report on Eritrea (S/2012/412) initially circulated to Council members on 8 June. In resolution 2023 of 5 December 2011 (which condemned Eritrean violations of resolutions 1844, 1862 and 1907 and imposed new measures to prevent Eritrea from using the diaspora tax or revenues from its mining sector to commit further violations), the Council had requested the Secretary-General to report on Eritrea’s compliance with the provisions of that as well as previous relevant resolutions.
While it is not uncommon for the Secretary-General to reissue reports for “technical reasons” (usually followed by an asterisk at the end of the document symbol), in this case the new version had been significantly revised, replacing the 8 June report altogether with no indication in the new document that it was reissued. The withdrawal and later revision of the original report seem to be surrounded by some controversy and further analysis may be of interest.
As reported in our July Monthly Forecast, soon after receiving the Secretary-General’s report on Eritrea on 8 June, Council members were informed in a letter that it had been withdrawn. The official explanation was that it needed to be revised because of some omissions in the first version and that it would be reissued later in the month.
The withdrawal of the report seems to have caused some consternation among Council members. Most members seemed to agree that the report did not offer much added value (it was seen as providing a summary of already known facts), but they were not satisfied with the explanation offered for the withdrawal even after it was discussed with the Secretariat in informal consultations under other matters. The Secretariat apparently alluded to the fact that the report had not met Council members’ expectations.
While the matter was not openly discussed, it seemed widely understood that these complaints came from the US and that the Secretariat had been under pressure to withdraw the 8 June report. In particular, it appears the US argued that any reference to the lack of progress in the implementation of the decision of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) would be outside the Secretary-General’s reporting mandate. (It should be noted that it was apparently the US that initially pushed for resolution 2023 to include the request for a report, whereas other members were less convinced about the usefulness of asking the Secretary-General to report on something that was essentially one of the main tasks of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea.)
When comparing the two versions of the report (both can be found on our website at www.securitycouncilreport.org), one of the differences is indeed that the 29 August report contains no reference to the unresolved border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea as a relevant issue, whereas the 8 June report in paragraph 44 states that “The lack of progress in the implementation of the decision of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission continues to negatively affect the multifaceted and complex regional dynamics in the Horn of Africa and the normalization of relations between the two countries. A comprehensive approach should be adopted by states in the region, IGAD [the Intergovernmental Authority on Development], the African Union and the United Nations to address the broader aspects of the conflict in the region, including the long-standing border stalemate.”
Apart from this, a main difference is that the 29 August report is considerably shorter than the first report (four pages instead of eight). The descriptive part is shorter and has been updated to reflect the conclusions of the report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, which came out on 13 July (S/2012/545). Both versions emphasise that the Secretariat “does not have independent means of assessing Eritrea’s compliance with the provisions of resolution 2023.” The 29 August version also notes that “the report of the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group provides authoritative information on Eritrea’s record of compliance with the provisions in resolution 2023.”
Among Council members there was clearly some unease about the procedural aspects of the handling of the report, with some describing it as unprecedented. There was also concern about the future impact of perceptions that the Secretariat had given in to outside pressure. At this point, however, there does not seem to be any interest in pursuing these issues further. Also from a more substantive point of view, Council members seem to agree that the report does not merit further consideration. As is clear from its conclusions, the report adds little to the analysis already presented by the Monitoring Group, whose report was thoroughly discussed in July by the 751 and 1907 Sanctions Committee on Somalia and Eritrea.
The Monitoring Group reported that it found no evidence that Eritrea was directly supporting the terrorist group Al-Shabaab but that in all other respects Eritrea had failed to comply with Council resolutions and remained a destabilising force in the region. Following these discussions, the US proposed six additional sanctions listings for approval by the Sanctions Committee, including two Eritrean nationals: Tewolde Habte Negash and Abraham Goitom. (The same individuals were designated for sanctions by the US Department of Treasury on 5 July.) So far, Council members have agreed to designate only two of the six that were proposed. There is a hold by some members on the other four, including the two Eritreans, and it seems unlikely that the hold on the latter will be lifted any time soon. Also, it appears there are some differences in the Committee over the Monitoring Group’s recommendation to send a letter to Eritrea to request information on Djiboutian prisoners of war, with Russia having refused to agree to a draft letter proposed by India in its capacity as Committee chair.