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UN Security Council Passes Sanctions Resolution on Eritrea

The United Nations Security Council today voted to expand sanctions on Eritrea and warned mining companies to exercise greater “vigilance” in doing business with the African nation.

The 15-member council approved a resolution 13 to 0, with Russia and China abstaining, that broadens the scope of an asset freeze and travel ban imposed on Eritrean individuals and entities in 2009. In addition, UN member states “shall undertake appropriate measures to promote the exercise of vigilance” in their dealings with Eritrea’s mining industry.

Eritrea’s $2.59 billion economy relies on mining and gold that has drawn investment from companies including Canada’s Nevsun Resources Ltd.

The push to punish Eritrea was triggered by a UN report in July that said its government planned a failed plot in January to disrupt the African Union summit in Addis Ababa by bombing civilian and governmental targets.

The resolution ties Eritrea directly to the attack. The government of Eritrea denies any involvement in the plot.

The current text is watered down from an October draft that banned companies from investing in mineral resources and prohibited the payment of a remittances tax.

The resolution now “condemns” the use of a 2 percent tax paid by Eritreans abroad “for purposes such as procuring arms and related materiel for transfer to armed opposition groups” and “decides Eritrea shall cease these practices.”

Eritrea has been ruled by President Isaias Afeworki, a former rebel leader, since it gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993. The UN has already sanctioned the Horn of Africa nation for supporting al-Qaeda-linked terrorists fighting to topple the Western-backed government of Somalia.

In a Dec. 4 statement from its foreign ministry, Eritrea said there “is absolutely no justification for rushing a sanctions resolution that is designed to inflict suffering on the Eritrean people.”

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