H.E. Ambassador Ahmed Tahir Baduri
Chairman of Delegation
General Debate of the 57th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
New York, 20 September 2002
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start by congratulating you warmly, Mr. President, on your unanimous
election to preside over the 57th session of the United Nations General Assembly.
Your election is a pride to you and your country, the Czech Republic. The Delegation
of the State of Eritrea assures you of its full cooperation and support. Allow
me also to extend to your predecessor, His Excellency Dr. Han Seung-soo of the
Republic of Korea, my delegation's deep appreciation for a job well done during
the 56th session. Profound appreciation is also due to our Secretary-General,
Mr. Kofi Annan, for his tireless effort to make our United Nations more responsive
On a happy occasion, Mr. President, my delegation welcomes the Swiss Confederation
to the family of nations with great pleasure. We commend the decision taken
by the Swiss people in allowing their great country to become a full member
of the United Nations. The same goes to the soon to be the 191St member of our
organization, the Democratic Republic of East Timor, a country whose sovereignty
and independence has been won with sweat and blood like that of my own. Warm
welcome from Eritrea, East Timor!
The fifty-seventh session of the General Assembly is taking place at a time
when the wounds and scars from the 11 September terrorist attack, a year ago,
over three locations on the soil of the United States are still healing. Grief,
pain and anger are still lingering.
At a gathering to commemorate the first anniversary of the attack here at the
Headquarters last week, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, "On September
11th, grief enveloped the world -- not only out of solidarity with the people
of the United States, but out of shared loss. More than 90 nations lost sons
and daughters of their own -- murdered that day, for no other reason than they
had chosen to live in this country. Today, we come together as a world community
because we were attacked as a world community."
The loss of almost 3,000 innocent lives in a single day is so painful. The
Eritrean people share the pain and the grief and reiterate their condolences
to those who lost their loved ones and stand in solidarity with the American
people in this trying time. Indeed, attacks of 11 September have inevitably
changed the way we live and the way we see our world. This day has symbolized
the alarm clock that rung around the world to wake us up all. My delegation
regrets that it took attacks of these magnitudes to shake us from our unwatchful
Terrorism is not a new phenomenon to my country. The State of Eritrea has lived
it since its formal independence in 1993 as the youngest country in Africa.
The Eritrean Islamic Jihad Movement and the so-called Eritrean Popular Islamic
Conference who have been created and sponsored by Al-Qaeda and other regional
and international Islamic groups to perpetrate subversive acts in Eritrea for
the last ten years. In 1994, Eritrean security forces intercepted an assorted
group of terrorists, who included in their ranks, Al-Qaeda-trained nationals
of several countries. In 1995, this group murdered, in cold blood, four Belgian
tourists inside Eritrea. Sporadic cross-border acts of terror and subversion
continue to this day. In a statement contained in document S/1997/517 of 7 July
1997, my government had warned the international community, first the then Organization
of African Unity and later the United Nations Security Council, that international
terrorist threats from extreme fundamentalist Islamic groups are on the way.
The Eritrean Jihad terrorist movements, which are members of the Al-Qaeda network, are now part of the so-called Alliance of Eritrean National Forces. This umbrella organization has bases and physical presence in some neighbouring and a number of western countries. These groups continue to obtain sanctuary as well as financial and other forms of assistance in western capitals.
As the fight against international terrorism assumes high priority warranting concerted action, the Government of Eritrea requests full cooperation and joint action from the countries where these terrorist elements live, plan and launch their operations. At this juncture, I also wish to reiterate to this august Assembly that the people and Government of Eritrea will continue to fight terrorism in all its forms.
Despite the declaration of the year 2000 as the year to end conflicts and
to start a new peace momentum in Africa by the 1999 OAU Summit in Algiers, conflicts
continued their heavy tolls on the African peoples in many countries of the
continent. It is indeed disappointing.
I come from a sub-region of Africa, the Horn, where conflicts and wars have
been a way of life for many decades. The Horn of Africa is a sub-region that
has seen many misfortunes. Re-occurring conflicts over the past decades claimed
hundreds of thousands of lives, displaced a staggering number of populations
and sent millions out of their countries to live as refugees in foreign lands.
The internal conflict in the Sudan is now the longest standing one in Africa.
Under the framework of the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD),
a sub-regional entity, the State of Eritrea, together with the other member
countries, is doing its best to bring about a resolution to this conflict. We
have come a long way to bringing the conflicting parties to a faceto-face talk.
There are encouraging signs but we cannot congratulate ourselves yet. Our considered
success is when quieter days of peace, stability and sustained prosperity prevail
in that sisterly country. I must admit that we need the help of the international
community to end the suffering of our brothers and sisters in the Sudan.
In the same vain, the problem in Somalia, another sisterly country in the Horn,
continues to be a serious one that the international community cannot ignore.
The vicious conflict in Somalia would have a long-term catastrophic humanitarian
consequence if the international community abandons this unfortunate country.
The United Nations and the world community at large must help the Transitional
National Government of Somalia to stabilize peace and security of the country.
The international community should rush to save Somalia.
Now, on a positive note, Mr. President. Let me tell the good news to this
august Assembly on the border conflict between my country and Ethiopia. On 13
April this year, the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC), a panel of
five judges established by the Algiers Agreement, made a judicial ruling on
the entire 1,000 kilometers border between the two countries. The people and
Government of Eritrea are pleased to see a legal solution to this conflict that
they never chose.
My government believed, from the very beginning, that this conflict could not be settled by might but by peaceful means only. The pacifist A. J. Muste said it all, "There is no way to peace. Peace is the way".
The Boundary Commission has drawn the new border and is currently in the process of physically demarcating the lines on the ground. Completion of the demarcation is expected in the next few months. According to the Algiers Agreement, which both countries signed, the decision of the Commission is final and binding. Eritrea has reiterated its acceptance of the Commission's decision of 13 April 2002. Thus, Eritrea believes that territorial claims and counter claims ended on that day. In legal terms, the conflict ends here too.
Now that the conflict is legally put to rest, the people of Eritrea want to leave this awful experience behind them and move on with life afresh. As Carl Bard said, "Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending." What matters is the destination point. The people and Government of Eritrea are committed to turning things around.
At the end of this saga, Mr. President, my delegation finds it so fitting to pay tribute, at this General Assembly, to our peace-loving friends and partners who helped us to get here. Allow me therefore to particularly thank the former Organization of African Unity, now the African Union; President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria; the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan; the Government of the United States of America; and the European Union. We are grateful to them all for their valued efforts in this difficult and long peace process.
The year 2002 saw five important international gatherings aimed at bringing
peace, security, human dignity and economic prosperity to the peoples of the
world, big and small. The International Conference on Financing in Monterrey,
the Second World Assembly on Aging in Madrid, the Special Session on Children
in New York, the World Food Summit in Rome and lastly, the World Submit for
Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. The promises and declarations of all
these international events are tied in with the Millennium Declaration Goals
(MDGs). As we all know, the MDGs embrace the key dimensions of human development,
i.e., poverty, hunger, education, health, stated as a set of time-bound targets.
These targets express halving income-poverty and hunger; achieving universal
primary education and gender equality; reducing under-five mortality by two-thirds
and maternal mortality by three-quarters; reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS;
and halving the proportion of people without access to safe water. The base
year being 1990, these targets are to be achieved by the year 2015.
Despite the promises of globalization and in spite the many initiatives launched
to help the continent at different times, Africa's economic growth is still
lagging far behind. The success of development in Africa will still depend on
the political will of the rich countries to financially help on one hand, and
full ownership and effective execution of national development programmes by
the African countries themselves on the other.
Having said these, let me now, for the interest of our partners, reiterate
the five core principles underlying Eritrea's development strategy:
(a) Developing the capabilities of our people as the principal asset and driving force of our development endeavor;
(b) Establishing strong public-private sector partnership;
(c) Striving for self-reliance and avoiding chronic and debilitating dependency
(d) Protecting the environment from the adverse effects of development programmes; and,
(e) Establishing effective development partnership with multilateral and bilateral development agencies, governments, and non-governmental organizations.
I will be remissed if I don't bring to the attention of this august Assembly,
the looming drought that has threatened the lives of over one million men, women
and children in Eritrea. The failure of vital rains expected in the months of
April and May has put these lives at risk. Famine is eminent if timely international
aid does not reach the Eritrean people. I wish to use this occasion, therefore,
to appeal to the donor community to respond to this pressing humanitarian need.
In conclusion, I wish to express my delegations confidence in you, Mr. President,
that under your able leadership, the 57t session shall see much success.
Thank you for your attention.