Eritrean diplomat asks: ‘Why is the Sudan conflict not an important issue’ for the UN?

Short Url
Updated 29 September 2023
Follow

Eritrean diplomat asks: ‘Why is the Sudan conflict not an important issue’ for the UN?

Eritrean diplomat asks: ‘Why is the Sudan conflict not an important issue’ for the UN?
  • Permanent Representative to UN Sophia Tesfamariam urges Africans to strengthen institutions, find own solutions in interview with Arab News
  • Discussed challenges facing continent, underscores need for reforms to make UN more effectual organization

NEW YORK CITY: Even as the 78th session of the UN General Assembly came to an end on Tuesday, it was clear that the curtain was not about to come down on the conversations about the tensions between the Global North and the Global South, the UN’s role in an emerging multipolar world order, and the stubborn persistence of conflicts and inequalities worldwide.

In a candid interview on the sidelines of the event in New York, Sophia Tesfamariam, the permanent representative of Eritrea to the UN, shared with Arab News her insights on the current state of affairs in the world, with a particular emphasis on the situation in violence-torn Sudan and the dynamics of African diplomacy.




Sophia Tesfamariam, Eritrea's ambassador to the UN, believes the internecine conflict in Sudan is not just due to the big egos of rival warlords but also a result of "external interventions, historical and more recent, often driven by military and economic interests." (Arab News photo)

A seasoned diplomat, she pulled no punches in discussing the myriad challenges facing her region and the wider world, while underscoring the need for reforms to make the UN a more effectual institution, for the forging of true partnerships that respect African voices, and for African nations to take charge of their own destinies.

Tesfamariam also offered her perspective on the origins and consequences of the conflict in Sudan, Eritrea’s neighbor to the west, which continues to escalate and shows no sign of abating amid continual reports of atrocities and human rights violations, including sexual violence and the disposal of corpses in mass graves.

FASTFACTS

Eritrea, which gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993, occupies a strategically important area in the Horn of Africa.

The country’s representative to the UN, Sophia Tesfamariam, wants UN chief Antonio Guterres to be vocal about African issues.

The conflict in the country between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces has so far killed more than 4,000 people and wounded at least 12,000. It has displaced 5.3 million within Sudan and sent a human tide of refugees into neighboring countries, including Eritrea. In the western Darfur region, the scene of a genocidal campaign in the early 2000s, the conflict has morphed into ethnic violence, with the UN and rights groups reporting that the RSF and allied Arab militias are attacking African tribes and clans.




This picture taken on September 1, 2023 shows a view of destruction in a livestock market area in al-Fasher, the capital of Sudan's North Darfur state, amid the war between the Sudan Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Security Forces. (AFP)

Tesfamariam described the shock that was felt in the region as Sudan descended into turmoil, saying it was something “that should have never happened” because it goes contrary to “the culture of the Sudanese people, their history, their background.”

She added: “For Sudanese people to have warring in the middle of their towns, the middle of the cities, this urban warfare is new. It’s not something that anybody can get used to.”




A handout picture taken on April 19, 2023 and obtained from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on April 21 shows a crowded ward at a hospital in El Fasher in Sudan's North Darfur region, where multiple people have been wounded in ongoing battles there. (Photo by Ali Shukur/MSF/AFP)

The crisis cannot be attributed solely to a battle of egos between the leaders of the two military forces, Tesfamariam said. Rather, she believes “this final act” is the result of the external interventions, historical and more recent, often driven by military and economic interests, that have hindered the ability of the Sudanese people to take charge of their own destiny and development since gaining independence.

Although the Sudanese people initiated the revolution that led to the overthrow of President Omar Bashir in April 2019, their aspirations were seemingly hijacked by various external interests, regional and international, which contributed to the ongoing clashes between factions within the country, according to Tesfamariam.




This picture taken on September 17, 2023 shows a raging fire at the Greater Nile Petroleum Oil Company Tower in Khartoum amid fighting between the regular army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. (AFP)

“And this, to me, looks like what triggered these two sides (the SAF and RSF) to finally see who gains an upper hand,” she said.

“If you’re going to peel back the pieces like an onion to see where the source of this conflict is, at the source of all this you will find intervention to be the culprit.”

The conflict, which began on April 15, came on top of an already dire humanitarian crisis that has been ravaging Sudan for decades. Things have become so desperate that about 25 million people need aid just to survive, but humanitarian agencies are hamstrung by lack of access, precarious conditions on the ground, and bureaucratic restrictions on their movement both into Sudan and then to the places where the needs are most acute.

Tesfamariam highlighted the historical relationship between her country and Sudan. There was a time, for example, when Sudan was a welcoming host of refugees from Eritrea, during the latter’s struggle for independence from Ethiopia, which lasted for decades and ended in 1991.




An Ethiopian woman walks carrying packages on her back in the border town of Metema in northwestern Ethiopia on August 1, 2023. (AFP/File Photo)

“We don’t do refugee camps,” she said. “These are Sudanese. This is their home. They can come any time. And if they need to take refuge in Eritrea today, the communities of Eritrea will welcome them as one of their own as they welcomed us when we were going to Sudan.

“So, the humanitarian situation for us is something of a historical necessity, almost, an opportunity to pay back the Sudanese people for what they did for us and are continuing to do for us all these years.”

As for the international community, Tesfamariam voiced disappointment about its failure to force the feuding factions to agree to a lasting truce, despite many attempts.

“24-hour ceasefire, 48-hour ceasefire — what do these mean?” she said. “How does it give you hope as a person living in a city to know that the guns are going to stop for 24 hours? And then what happens after 24 hours?

“So, these meaningless, endless ceasefire negotiations that go nowhere tell me the international community is not serious about bringing an end to the conflict in Sudan, and the warring parties are not serious in their commitments to their people.”




A convoy of the World Food Programme (WFP) are seen in the village of Erebti, Ethiopia, on June 9, 2022, on their way to Tigray, where hundreds of thousands of people were displaced from their homes by war. (AFP/File Photo)

Tesfamariam reflected on what she described as “the total ineptitude and total failure” of the UN system, including the Security Council, where, in her view, double standards are now the order of the day.

“Where is the interest?” she asked. “There are people dying on the streets of Sudan. But you have spent many, many meetings, and even many General Assembly meetings, on Ukraine. Why is Sudan not an important issue for you?

“I think this total lack of interest says a lot about the UN and its structures, and the way it works and its failures and its inadequacies to resolve issues for which it has been created.

“(The total lack) of any credible action by the (Security) Council tells me that it may not be what we think it is — this governing body that can bring peace and security to all of us — and maybe they’re leaving us to our own devices. And that’s a dangerous way to go.

“What exactly is the UN here for? It makes me wonder. So this continuous call for reform of the Security Council, reform of the General Assembly and what it can do and what is viable to do, I think, will continue. And these will be the examples that we will raise in the future to say, ‘Where was the UN?’ And I am sure future generations will also be inquiring about that.”




Eritrea's UN envoy Sophia Tesfamariam laments “the total ineptitude and total failure” of the UN system in seeking a solution to the Sudan crisis. (AFP/File photo)

Tesfamariam called on Antonio Guterres, the UN’s secretary-general, to “pay attention” and be vocal about African issues.

“Right now, there is no voice for Africa,” she said. “Yes, it is good they tell you ‘African solutions for African problems.’ But when you come right down to it, if there’s no third party involved, nothing happens. Nothing moves.”

While there is indeed a growing sense that African issues should primarily be addressed by the African Union and sub-regional organizations, Tesfamariam said she has noticed a big discrepancy between theory and reality.

Despite the rhetoric of “African solutions for African problems,” she contended, the AU does not seem to be afforded the same weight or resources as its European counterparts, including the EU.




US Secretary-General Antonio Guterres should “pay attention” and be vocal about African issues, according to Eritrean Ambassador Tesfamariam. (AFP)

“Is the AU office here (at the UN) as fortified and given all the resources and attention and ability, and even the mandate, to interact with the UN the same way as the EU is?” she asked.

“I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s there. But can we just blame it on the EU or the UN and others for not taking an interest? What are Africans doing, also?”

She continued: “Why is it that when the AU meets every year, the first wave of people who come in, sit down to listen to your discussions are the Europeans and the Americans? Do you get the same respect and luxury to go and sit in the EU meetings in Europe to find out what they are discussing? No.

“So why do you continuously relegate yourself to these kind of positions for Africans? But when you cannot pay your own bills, when everybody else is funding every single project that you have all over the place, he who pays the piper picks the tune.

“How do you say no to the largesse that’s coming from EU, from the UN and other agencies that will dictate what should be done with your agency? Why does finance have to be the center of it all? I think if Africans come up with the solution, they will also find ways to finance the projects and initiatives they are trying to push.” 




Leaders of African Union member states join a family photo session during a recent assembly  in the city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Union needs to strengthen itself, grow more assertive and become a vocal advocate of African interests, says Eritrean Ambassador Sophia Tesfamariam (AFP/File photo)

To start with, according to Tesfamariam, the AU needs to strengthen itself, grow more assertive and become a vocal advocate of African interests. Next, she underscored the need for Africans to take responsibility for their own issues, strengthen regional and continental institutions, and find their own solutions to problems.

She criticized the current financial dependency in Africa on external entities, arguing that it often leads to the dictation of terms by donors that might not align with Africa’s interests.

“Africans themselves have got to take responsibility,” said Tesfamariam. “We need to start looking at ourselves, to do some soul-searching and say, why are we not doing more to strengthen our own regional and continental institutions?




A file photo shows Eritrea's UN Ambassador Sophia Tesfamariam speaking during a UN General Assembly meeting. (AFP/File photo)

“These institutions can’t just be a talking shop anymore. In practical terms, what are we doing to respond to the needs of our people, of our region? How do we form partnerships — not ‘who-gives-and-who-receives’ kind of partnerships but real partnerships, where we share interests and then do things together for the benefit of global security?”

While conceding that efforts to make a dent in the “entrenched” international architecture is still “a work in progress,” Tesfamariam added: “We are not giving up now.”

She pledged to continue to work to amplify Africa’s voice in international forums, taking heart from the fact that “over the years we’ve been able to find more like-minded people.”

She added: “I am not here alone. If I felt alone before, I now have a mutual grievance society at the UN whose members feel exactly the way Eritrea feels — that same frustration with the UN and its ineptitude in some of the things, and with our failure to coalesce as a group to make a difference, to bring change to some of the issues that we have raised here.”

 


Russian envoy visits Lebanon, calls for restraint on all sides as Israel launches more strikes

Russian envoy visits Lebanon, calls for restraint on all sides as Israel launches more strikes
Updated 19 July 2024
Follow

Russian envoy visits Lebanon, calls for restraint on all sides as Israel launches more strikes

Russian envoy visits Lebanon, calls for restraint on all sides as Israel launches more strikes
  • Hezbollah targets 3 Israeli settlements ‘for the first time’ with dozens of drones in response to ‘attacks on civilians,’ vows more will follow
  • Prime Minister Najib Mikati concerned about deteriorating situation despite ‘external reassurances’ it is under control, government source says

BEIRUT: Russian diplomat Vladimir Safronkov held talks with Lebanese officials in Beirut on Friday during which he emphasized “the need for all parties to exercise restraint in preparation for reviving the peace process.”

After a meeting with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Safronkov, the Russian foreign minister’s special envoy to Lebanon, stressed the importance of strengthening relations between their nations.

He also met the speaker of the Lebanese parliament, Nabih Berri, whose office said: “The discussions focused on the developments in Lebanon and the region in light of Israel’s continued aggression against Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.”

Safronkov’s visit was part of a regional tour. It was preceded by a stop in Saudi Arabia and followed by a trip to Israel, a government source in Lebanon said.

Prime Minister Mikati is worried about the “deteriorating situation on the southern front, like other Lebanese officials, despite external reassurances that the situation is under control,” the source added.

Safronkov’s visit came amid an escalation of the conflict between Hezbollah and the Israeli army along their shared border, as the former deploys new types of heavy missiles to the battlefield.

The government source said an Israeli assault on the village of Jmaijmeh in the Bint Jbeil District of southern Lebanon on Thursday night did not bode well for the prospects of peace. An airstrike destroyed a three-story building, killing four people and injuring 14. Among the dead was Ali Ahmed Maatouk, from the village of Sir El-Gharbiyeh, who was said to be a leader in Hezbollah’s Radwan Force.

Hezbollah responded on Thursday night and Friday morning with an aerial attack by “a squadron of assault drones on the Filon base (the headquarters of Brigade 210) and its warehouses in the northern region southeast of the occupied city of Safad, targeting the positions and accommodations of its officers and soldiers.”

The group said it carried out another aerial attack “with a squadron of assault drones on the newly established headquarters of the Western Brigade … south of the Ya'ara settlement, and targeted the positions and accommodations of its officers and soldiers.”

Israeli media reported that dozens of rockets were launched from Lebanon toward Western Galilee while Safronkov was holding talks in Beirut.

Hezbollah said it had targeted the settlements of Neve Ziv, Abirim, and Manot with dozens of Katyusha rockets “for the first time” since hostilities began nine months ago. It said the assaults were in response to “attacks on civilians on Thursday in southern Lebanese towns,” and vowed that “any attack on civilians will be met with a response against new Israeli settlements.”

Amid the threats, Israeli forces carried out attacks on several locations along the border. Warplanes targeted the village of Hula, and shortly after paramedics arrived at the scene there a second attack took place nearby, injuring some members of the emergency crews and narrowly missing others.

Hezbollah’s attacks on Friday included one it said targeted the “Ruwaisat Al-Alam site in the occupied Lebanese hills of Kfarchouba with a heavy Wabel rocket, manufactured by Islamic Resistance fighters, which directly hit the site, partially destroying it and causing fires.” The group also used a Burkan missile and anti-tank missiles in its assaults.

The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Friday that about 70 rockets had been launched by Hezbollah at Israel since that morning.

Hezbollah reportedly struck Israeli artillery bunkers in Khirbet Ma’ar and soldiers in their vicinity with dozens of Falaq and Katyusha rockets. The group also targeted the Metula military site with artillery shells, and Israeli soldiers in the vicinity of the Ramim barracks were attacked with a Burkan missile, Hezbollah said.

The Lebanese Resistance Brigades said it took part in military operations against Israeli positions and had targeted “Al-Raheb site with guided missiles and artillery shells, hitting it directly.”

On Friday, Hezbollah mourned the death of member Mohammed Hassan Mostapha, 37, from the village of Aitaroun in southern Lebanon.

The Israeli army said on Thursday night that a 25-year-old officer serving at its Ma'aleh base had died of injuries caused by a drone explosion in Golan.

 


DP World, Evyap Group merge Turkish operations to form major international logistics hub

DP World, Evyap Group merge Turkish operations to form major international logistics hub
Updated 19 July 2024
Follow

DP World, Evyap Group merge Turkish operations to form major international logistics hub

DP World, Evyap Group merge Turkish operations to form major international logistics hub
  • Merger capitalizes on the strengths of two major ports on the Marmara Sea

DUBAI: Emirati logistics firm DP World and Evyap Group, a Turkiye-based consumer conglomerate, have merged their Turkish operations to form a new international logistics hub, Emirates News Agency reported.

The newly formed entity, DP World Evyap, sees DP World assume a 58 percent stake in Evyapport and Evyap Group secure a 42 percent share of DP World Yarımca.

It capitalizes on the strengths of two major ports on the Marmara Sea, enhancing Turkiye’s pivotal role in global trade. The key maritime gateways will be rebranded as DP World Evyap Yarımca and DP World Evyap Korfez.

DP World Evyap will help meet the region’s growing demand for sophisticated logistics, increase Turkiye’s export and import volumes, open up new sectors, and strengthen the country’s growing status as a major hub in global supply chains.

The merger will result in a total of 2,088 meters of berthing space and the ability to accommodate more than one ultra-large container vessel at the same time at both terminals. The total annual container handling capacity will also exceed 2 million TEUs, as the integrated operation expands to include project and heavy-lift cargo services.

Furthermore, DP World Evyap will benefit from advanced road and rail connections, as well as faster turnaround times, with a team of over 900 logistics experts geared to optimizing cargo journeys.

“DP World’s vision is to lead global trade to a stronger, more efficient and sustainable future. Our strategic partnership with Evyapport advances this strategy in Turkiye, one of our most important markets. We’re delighted to bring enhanced end-to-end solutions to our customers and the many benefits in speed and efficiency of this union,” DP World Group Chairman and CEO Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem said.

Evyap Holding CEO Mehmed Evyap added: “This partnership combines the global expertise of DP World and the local knowledge of Evyapport and strengthens our presence in the port sector as we expand our investments in this field.

“The new company will shorten operation times, increase service diversity and add value to our customers and Turkiye’s trade with efficiencies achieved across the two partnership terminals.”


FAO, Jordan to provide agriculture training to 120 women

FAO, Jordan to provide agriculture training to 120 women
Updated 19 July 2024
Follow

FAO, Jordan to provide agriculture training to 120 women

FAO, Jordan to provide agriculture training to 120 women
  • Agreement will bolster the skills of 120 women in the Jordanian governorates of Balqa, Jerash, and Ajloun

AMMAN: The UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the Jordan River Foundation have signed an agreement to support women in agriculture through vocational and technical training, Jordan News Agency reported on Friday.

JRF provides local communities and refugees with economic opportunities through its Community Empowerment Program, improving standards of living.

The agreement will bolster the skills of 120 women in the Jordanian governorates of Balqa, Jerash, and Ajloun. It will include a technical and vocational training program that will teach project management and financial literacy, in addition to skills in the processing of carob, sumac and honey.

By improving technical and administrative capacities, the agreement aims to empower women to start agricultural initiatives, enhancing their standard of living and raising household earnings.
 


UAE, Seychelles central banks ink MoU to facilitate cross-border transactions

UAE, Seychelles central banks ink MoU to facilitate cross-border transactions
Updated 19 July 2024
Follow

UAE, Seychelles central banks ink MoU to facilitate cross-border transactions

UAE, Seychelles central banks ink MoU to facilitate cross-border transactions
  • First MoU to establish a framework to promote use of local currencies in settling bilateral transactions
  • Second MoU entails collaboration on services of instant payment platforms, electronic switches, messaging systems

DUBAI: The central banks of the UAE and Seychelles signed two memoranda of understanding on Friday to promote the use of local currencies in cross-border financial and commercial transactions, as well as to link payment and messaging systems between the two countries, the Emirates News Agency reported.

The agreements were inked by CBUAE Gov. Khaled Mohammed Balama and CBS Gov. Caroline Abel in Abu Dhabi.

The first MoU aims to establish a framework to promote the use of local currencies in settling bilateral commercial transactions, developing the exchange market, and facilitating bilateral trade and direct investment, remittance settlement, and financial market development.

Under the second MoU, both parties will collaborate and benefit from the services of instant payment platforms, electronic switches, and messaging systems by directly connecting them in accordance with the countries’ regulatory requirements.

This includes connecting the CBUAE’s Instant Payments Platform, which is being developed as part of the Financial Infrastructure Transformation Programme, to the Seychelles’ similar platform to facilitate mutual acceptance of local cards and transaction processing.

Balama said that the signing of the MoU reflects the central bank’s desire to expand its ties with regional and international counterparts in order to strengthen the UAE’s economic and commercial partnerships around the world.

“The use of the two countries’ currencies for cross-border financial and commercial transactions reflects the growing trade, investment, and financial cooperation and contributes to reducing costs and saving time in settling transactions. This helps in developing the foreign exchange market in the UAE dirham and the Seychellois rupee, leading to enhancing trade exchanges, investments, and remittance between the two countries,” he explained.

Abel added: “For small open island economies like Seychelles, the importance of an effective and efficient financial system to facilitate trade cannot be overemphasized. In this regard, the MoUs just signed between our two central banks, guided by the relevant and applicable laws to safeguard the soundness and integrity of our respective financial systems, can assist this endeavor.”

She stated that the agreement to establish the necessary framework for promoting the use of UAE dirhams and Seychelles rupees in cross-border transactions will improve trade relations between stakeholders in both jurisdictions.

“With the Central Bank of Seychelles spearheading efforts to modernize and develop the Seychelles national payment system, in line with the government’s digital economy agenda, the opportunity to collaborate on interlinking our payment and messaging systems will facilitate the processing and settlement of cross-border financial transactions between the two countries,” Abel said.
 


US must restore funding to UN aid agency for Palestinians, rights body warns

US must restore funding to UN aid agency for Palestinians, rights body warns
Updated 19 July 2024
Follow

US must restore funding to UN aid agency for Palestinians, rights body warns

US must restore funding to UN aid agency for Palestinians, rights body warns
  • America, the largest historical donor, is now a ‘shameful outlier’
  • Major aid cutoff in January followed unproven Israeli allegations

LONDON: The US must restore funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, said Human Rights Watch on Friday.

The organization’s appeal also referred to the UK, which, until it was lifted today, had also suspended crucial funding to the largest relief group in Gaza.

In January this year, UNRWA said that 16 countries had suspended donations to the agency.

These included the US, UK, Australia, Austria, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Sweden.

After today, the US is the only country with an active suspension.

The aid cutoff followed Israeli allegations that 19 UNRWA staff, out of the agency’s 3,000 employees, had taken part in the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel.

But an independent review released on April 20, as well as a UN investigation, found no evidence to support the allegations.

UNRWA officials also said that Israeli authorities had failed to provide evidence supporting the claims.

Last week, the US and UK both endorsed a set of UNRWA commitments “recognizing the serious humanitarian, political and security risks that would result from any interruption or suspension of its vital work.”

But despite signing the statement, the US has yet to resume funding to the agency.

Akshaya Kumar, crisis advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, said: “The US is now a shameful outlier as most donors have resumed funding UNRWA.

“Cutting off aid was disproportionate to the allegations against UNRWA from the start. Palestinians in Gaza are facing catastrophic food insecurity, massive shortages of medical supplies, and repeated displacement, and there’s no substitute for UNRWA’s networks, experience, and capacity to provide relief.”

UNRWA, which relies on crucial donations from national governments to carry out its work, has warned that it faces a financial crisis as a result of the stalled funding.

Washington has historically served as the largest donor to UNRWA, and contributed one-third of the agency’s budget last year.

But the US Congress has passed a law forbidding any new funding to UNRWA until at least March next year.

In response to the Human Rights Watch appeal, officials from the Joe Biden administration claimed that US funds were diverted from UNRWA to other aid agencies operating in Gaza.

As a result of Israel’s war, 90 percent of Gaza’s population has been displaced, and 96 percent are expected to face crisis or worse levels of food insecurity by September this year.

Despite the agency’s urgent humanitarian work in the enclave, it has faced a sustained campaign by Israel resulting in reputational and physical damage.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in January that “UNRWA’s mission has to end.”

The country’s foreign minister, Israel Katz, said that the agency would “not be part of the day after” in Gaza.

Human Rights Watch has also documented two cases of UNRWA aid workers being struck by Israeli munitions despite having relayed their locations to the army’s personnel.