About the Report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea By Prof. Messay Kebede


Messay Kebede

I post this short memo to explain why I did not sign the petition protesting against the report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in which it is stated, among other things, that “crimes against humanity have been committed in Eritrea since 1991.” I have agonized over the issue for many days until I realized that my dilemma originates more from the wording of the petition than from the moral scruples of clearing a regime of the accusations of aninfluential international body.

What stroke me first is the malaise that I felt at the idea of not signing the petition. I could not dismiss the impression that the refusal to sign actually means that terrible violations of human rights do not occur in neighboring Ethiopia. Surely,knowing the complexity of the ties between Eritrea and Ethiopia and their present belligerent attitude toward each other, a report that targets Eritrea as a violator of human rights suggests that Ethiopia is the lucky exception in the Horn of Africa. Indeed, whether one likes it or not, the condemnation of Eritrea had one unmistakable implication: it suggests that, had the UN, as the moral conscious of the global community, observed horrific violations of human rights in Ethiopia, it would have denounced them too in the same irrevocable terms. Since it did not, one must infer that the Ethiopian government is free of such acts.Clearly, in singling out Eritrea, the UN is but absolving the TPLF government so that my refusal to sign turns me into a de facto accomplice of its atrocities.

I have read the indignations posted here and there over the request asking Ethiopians to participate in the signing of the petition. Some agree with the UN report about the violations of human rights in Eritrea; others remind that Eritrea’s secessionist ideology is responsible for the current problems of Ethiopia so that one should never associate in any way with a known enemy. Opposed to these are those urging us to sign, essentially for two reasons, which are:  (1) In terms of human rights, what happens in Eritrea is not worse than what happens in Ethiopia; (2) the Eritrean government is an ally in that it gives full support to Ethiopian opposition forces fighting to remove the TPLF government.

I could see in the arguments of those who oppose the signature of the petition nothing but a vindictive attitude. If in singling out Eritrea, the UN Commission is in effect in complicity with the Woyanne regime, you cannot argue that it is the concern for human rights violations that motivates your refusal to sign. You perfectly know that by excluding the case of Ethiopia, the UN inquiry loses all credibility. But then, the consistent and justifiable position is to sign the petition because you expose bias or preferential treatment. Your signature is not a support for the Eritrean government: you denounce hypocrisy. It is a judgment on an international body whose major legitimacy is its assumed impartiality.

As to the arguments of those who call for our signatures, I find them to be too calculative, too inspired by the principle that the end justifies the means. We can appreciate the support that Eritrea gives to opposition groups without, however, denying the violations of human rights. In so doing, we appeal to the common interest of the two countries, which is a pragmatic attitude that falls short of implying that the UN report is based on erroneous facts.  Moreover, that the two countries have a comparable record of human rights violations should in no way compel us to downplay the one at the expense of the other. The irony is that the attitude is no different from that of the UN: we condemn the one we dislike and remain silent as regards the one we like or do business with, even though similar crimes are committed by both.

I maintain that a petition denouncing the UN report is legitimate and expedient, but it must be inspired by moral outrage at the partiality and hypocrisy of the international body. It must be clearly directed at the UN while also denouncingthe attempt to turn Ethiopians into an accomplice of the Woyanne regime by sponsoring a document of human rights violations that fails to mention Ethiopia. That is why I ask those Ethiopians who invited us to sign the petition to come up with a new one in which the focus is more on the UN than on Eritrea. This will enable us to display to the world the complicity of the UN and the Woyanne regime, while at the same time denouncing the unilateral attempt to destabilize Eritrea on grounds that have little to do with human rights, since the same violations are tolerated in the case of Ethiopia.
Prof. Messay Kebede is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Dayton in the United States. He taught philosophy at Addis Ababa University from 1976 to 1993. He also served as chair of the department of philosophy from 1980 to 1991. He earned Ph.D., University of Grenoble, France

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Posted by on June 24, 2016. Filed under FEATURED. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

4 Responses to About the Report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea By Prof. Messay Kebede

  1. Concerned Citizen

    June 25, 2016 at 11:53 PM

    “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” the bible teaches us this truth. Therefore, it is imperative to love yourself first to reflect the same love on your neighbor. Now, whether we believe it or not the hands of TPLF-thugs are all over the place on this current UN endeavors to demonize Eritrea’s government. How TPLF-thugs doing it? First, money talks: they got money: EFFORT, METEC…Second, TPLF-mafia groups have been managed to perpetuate the war going on in Somalia and play anti-terrorist game for the west (primarily, US and UK). The west in return hands every resource available to TPLF-thugs knowing that these mafia groups are subjecting Ethiopians incalculable sufferings. The Wests just want to preserve their interest in horn of Africa geopolitical region.
    Both Eritrea and TPLF-thugs governments are not obviously innocent. The Wests pick Eritrea and will use Ethiopia’s bad gene TPLF-thugs to remove Eritrea’s government and replace it with whatever suite the players. It is like the saying they (TPLF-thugs) are our (US and UK) bad guys. In so doing, TPLF-thugs will perpetuate its domination in our Ethiopia through divide and rule principle and may eventually fulfill the TPLF-thugs dream of the republic of Tigrai. Eritrea has been like what they are accused of for the last 20 something years, so, why now the Wests (using their right hand UN) and TPLF-thugs are all of a sudden stand up for human right?
    I think that TPLF-thugs understand that Susan Rise/Obama will play along with them and intensify the accusation the next 6-7 months and try to replace president Afeworki and undermine opposition groups, if possible, dismantle them. However, opposition groups are now all over Ethiopia and managed to infiltrate even TPLF-thugs security and military apparatuses. Whoops-a –daisy. I know that Pro. Messay Kebede know and understand all these and beyond. TPLF-mafia groups have not learned the last 25 years about the very nature of human dignity and I hope anyone expect TPLF-thugs to get epiphany and stand up for human right now. Thus, let us take care of our problem (TPLF-thugs) first. I don’t preach righteous than God. Love yourself first and then you can love your neighbor the same way.

  2. Visitor 16

    June 26, 2016 at 8:54 AM

    I do agree that the Eritrean government is a repressive and violent regime against its citizens and its neighbours. It deserves a condemnation according to the UN report. No one can deny the clear violations of human rights in Eritrea. But it is not comparable at all to the human rights problems in Ethiopia. Violations of human rights existed in Ethiopia at a grand scale in your time during the Derg regime. And now violations do exist but very minimal. Rather, the mal – administration associated with corruption is very pronounced and it needs to be wiped out. However, comparing Eritrean human rights violations with Ethiopia is out of touch and out of reality.

    European countries and now the UN have reported the scale of migration of Eritreans which is becoming a chronic problem in Europe. So problems which are open and wide for everyone to witness can not be considered for comparison purposes. The UN reporters came to speak with Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia. The Eritrean government didn’t allow them to enter Eritrea. This by itself tells a story that the Eritrean government has a subject to hide from the outside world. The Eritrean government is not willing to tell its side of the story. The reporters while in Ethiopia, were free to travel and enjoy the existing peace. They didn’t blame Ethiopia at all. May be there is no reportable issues as you would like to assert. Singing the petition in support of Eritrea would have been a contrary to your argument of human rights and those who signed the agreement want to preach us about human rights in Ethiopia. What a shame. They indulge and articulate their opinions against Ethiopia and time and again they told us they stand for respect in human rights. Now, they sign petitions for a proven human violator rouge state. We know they are themselves violators of human rights and they don’t have a firm stand to benefit Ethiopia and Ethiopians. Them and yourself are preachers of hate and there is none you would benefit ordinary Ethiopians. All you wanted is a regime change and at any cost, even siding with the enemy, is your political agenda.

  3. AGA

    June 26, 2016 at 9:14 AM

    Dr Messay’s commentaries were generally balanced and insightful. Not this one. He made a circular argument in an apparent attempt to appease everyone but ended up saying nothing while probably offending many. I expected him to have the moral courage to call a spade a spade; condemning Eritrean politicians’ atrocities does not and cannot mean condoning Ethiopian politicians’ behavior.

  4. mer

    July 1, 2016 at 1:25 PM

    some of you people i agree with and some i strongly disagree. ethiopia in all my years of living here has been the most perfect country i could ask for and i could never ask for more! sure, the government has its imperfections but which country’s government actually is? so please i have given up on trying to tell people online that we can live peacefully and happily if we all just think like a the peace loving and brave people we all are! please just stop for a moment and thank God that helped us with all the hardships in the past and we are finally governed with a real democratic government. like i said it is no way near perfect but with all of our work it may finally be!