afrol News, 12 June - Exiled Eritrean opposition parties and NGO's protest against the Netherlands' plans of increasing its economic support to the Eritrean regime. The increased Dutch aid and economic cooperation "would negatively affect the struggle of the Eritrean people for democracy and human rights," they hold.
Oppositional Eritreans are mobilising against the Dutch Minister for Development Assistance, Mrs. Eveline Herfkens. Ahmed Nasser, Chairman of the Eritrean Liberation Front-RC (ELF-RC), wrote to Mrs Herfkens, reminding the Minister of the long list of human rights violations committed by the Eritrean PFDJ regime and that "the regime has failed for eight months to meet the demands of the international community" to respect basic rights standards.
Also the Eritreans for Justice and Democracy - Benelux (EJDB) have contacted several Dutch parliamentarians - known to be critical towards the Asmara regime - asking them to take "prompt and effective action" to prevent the enhanced Dutch-Eritrean economic cooperation. The Netherlands should not be the country "breaking the ranks of the countries of the EU in their unflinching demand for the minimum respect of ... fundamental rights by the Eritrean government," EJDB advises.
The protests from exiled Eritreans come after plans of intensifying the Dutch-Eritrean cooperation had leaked out. It was learned that a 15-year port reconstruction project as well as salt mining, fishing and fish exports accords presently are under serious consideration in the Ministry of Development Assistance. These plans would have significant effects on Eritrea's war-damaged economy.
The Netherlands are one of Ethiopia's main donor countries. According to the Ministry, Dutch cooperation with Eritrea and neighbouring Ethiopia "is based upon two pillars; the durable fight against poverty and the furtherance of international peace, security and stability," the latter "pillar" mainly referring to the Dutch contribution to the UN peacekeepers on the Eritrean-Ethiopian border.
Answering a parliamentary request earlier this year, Minister Herfkens recognised that the "domestic situation in Eritrea deteriorated rather quickly and reached its lowest point by September 2001." The Ministry had reacted to this and followed the EU's policy of freezing "new commitments, with the exception of co-financing the World Bank's demobilisation programme," which recently was approved.
The Minister however held that a "further isolation of the Asmara government" would be difficult and dangerous and "may have negative implications on the peace process." Excusing the deteriorating human rights situation Herfkens said that "domestic developments may influence the progress of the peace process and vice-versa." Amsterdam would however "continue to monitor the Eritrean domestic developments scrupulously," she assured.
The exiled Eritreans were not against "friendly aid that might remain, irrespective of the possible changes of governments, on the ground to the benefit of our people," Nasser wrote the Dutch Minister. "Nonetheless, such kind of aid must be seen in the context of the prevalent political reality so that to score its objectives properly. Otherwise, the dictatorial regimes would utilise any aid to consolidate their suppressive instruments to elongate the time of their continuity on the helm of power."
EJDB was concerned that the new accords, which now are being elaborated and presented for approval were "in total disregard of the ever heightening attacks by the Eritrean power circles against all the fundamental rights in the country." Worse still, the new accords came "without any credible and apparent attempt by the Dutch government to exert serious pressure on the Eritrean authorities to abide by the most elementary rules in favour of the advancement of democracy."
Contrary to Minister Herfkens' statement that the human rights situation in Eritrea had reached its "lowest point" in September 2001, exiled Eritreans hold that the situation in their home country "has only gone from bad to worse" since the European Parliament condemned Eritrea on 7 February this year.
Nasser reminded the Minister of the "the fifteen senior government officials who publicly called for reform last year, the unspecified number of journalists, academics, and elder citizens who have been arrested and held incommunicado without charge since 18 September 2001." Further, the private press, which has been critical of government policies, was still "entirely banned and the whole mass media is totally monopolised by the regime." He saw no improvements.
Sources: Based on Dutch
govt, Eritrean opposition and