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Eritrean prez cites causes of terrorism; voices frustration with Sudan

Asmara, Eritrea, July 21, 2004 - Eritrean President Isayas Afewerki has said the main cause of terrorism is lack of social justice in this world. He reiterated that the action taken by the US and its allies to combat terrorism is in fact assisting terrorism to further strengthen and sophisticate its organizational structure. However, he said "terrorism must be condemned and eradicated". Isayas also discussed relations with Sudan, accusing it of "evil activity" yet spoke of the need to build good neighbourliness. The following is an excerpt from the interview broadcast by Eritrean radio on 18 July; subheadings inserted editorially:

[Interviewer] How did the government of Sudan or the opposition view Eritrea's role in resolving the political problem in Sudan [rest of the question indistinct]?

Relations with Sudan

[Isayas] [Sentence indistinct]. Our stance to bring peace in Sudan is firm. Because it is a question of principle. it is directly linked with our national interest and our national security as well. To live in peace and harmony with your neighbour is just like living in peace in your own house. It is a question of principle and not only goodwill.

If we evaluate correctly the progress made in Sudan in the past 15 years, even before 1991 [before independence of Eritrea] is very clear to us all, even the recent evil activity carried out by [the government of Sudan]. The strategic relations we had, have at present and that we will have in future with the people of Sudan is natural [words indistinct]. However, this natural relations in the past 15 years went out of its path and entered into unnecessary wearisome task. As a consequence both peoples lost tremendously, although it is difficult to quantify the loss. [Sentences indistinct]. Although it does not concern us directly, but lets talk on the solution of the problem. Because we do not either dictate or prescribe a solution. However, the solution for all the prevailing problems in all parts of Sudan [words indistinct] when did it arise, how did it developed to its present situation and how will it be resolved, this is not something that one needs to talk in detail about.

If a lasting peace is to prevail in Sudan, truly speaking, if we are to establish good neighbourliness, cooperation and even integration with Sudan, the current situation must change. [Passage omitted: More on Eritrea's role on Sudanese peace efforts in Kenya].


[Interviewer] Now I want to ask you about terrorism, which at present has become a major topic of discussion in the whole world. First how do we categorise fundamentalism as terrorism and how do we analyse terrorism? Why did the West become more concerned about terrorism after 9/11 terrorist attack, while Eritrea alone had fought terrorism for over 16 years in a very successful way? What is the role of Eritrea at present in the global fight against terrorism? [Rest of question indistinct].

[Isayas] [words indistinct] The main cause of the problem, whether it is terrorism or any other problem, is lack of social justice. You might have an opinion on the way it is handled, but it is very hard to tell on the cause of the problem, it might have connection with international or regional disputes, it might have links with cold war, as well.

However, even the internal problems prevailing in various countries are due to the lack of social justice. If national wealth of a country is not equally distributed among its people, it brings about frustration, anxiety and dispute.

If national justice and cultural justice does not prevail in a country, the problem it would bring to the country is not something small and simple. Will the problem lead to dispute or not, could it be solved in a different way or not, is terrorism a solution - these are some of the questions that would arise.

However, terrorism is not a solution to any problem. But, the cause is there. You can take any method to solve the problem, but still the cause is there. The [bad] relations between various countries emanates from the an equitable, unreasonable and unjust relations prevailing between the countries. [Passage omitted: More on cold war].

So, it is difficult to say that peace and stability can prevail in various parts of the world when there is lack of social justice in this world. When the lack of social justice reaches a dangerous level, the problem can burst and lead into unwanted situation. However, terrorism cannot be used as a method to resolve problems [of a country]. To the contrary, it further complicates the problems and creates unnecessary disputes. [Passage omitted: More on social problems of a country, cold war].

[Words indistinct] the handling introduced after the 9/11 situation had lost its direction and was deceptive, because it was trying to resolve the problem by creating enmity and unwanted confrontation by twisting the peoples problems and lack of social justice in a different way. One part of these issue is that, if one comes out with a programme which says that since Christians are being disadvantaged, we should annihilate and exterminate Muslims, this kind of politics does not work without putting into consideration the situation of every country or society.

Failure or frustration of various programmes or agendas leads to fundamentalism and then to desperation, and desperation, rather than resolving the problem, further complicates it.

In fact, it attacks both friends and enemies together. So, a system that hinders a society's peaceful complacency cannot be accepted and justified. So the system is similar while the consequences are different. Here terrorism must be condemned and the stance against terrorism must be clear. On the handling and the method followed to resolve it, even those who claim that they are fighting terrorism, are they really handling the case properly, even if it is America and its allies, are they really handling the issue properly?

I say there is no one single understanding. Putting aside the history that existed during the Cold War, the developments that followed 9/11 situation, it has created complications due to the distorted and wrong handling of the case, and this is clear to any innocent person who is following the situation.

No easy solution

Truly speaking the problem in handling the issue is not something that you can see a simple matter. Because the measure taken by the US or any other countries to annihilate or combat terrorism is in fact encouraging and assisting terrorism to strength its capacity, sophisticate its organizational structure and increase its lesion and damage. Hence, the US or other countries cannot bring any justification to that end.

When we say that it does not mean that we have an eloquent or a better solution. But, since we had been fighting the menace for a long time, terrorism cannot be solved through missiles or modern and sophisticated technology of the century. The social, cultural, financial, political and security issues must be handled and solved properly. However, no matter whether you have missiles, modern technology and big muscle, you cannot solve the issue even by suppressing others, it is unthinkable to do that.

Between the measures that must be taken to resolve the problem and [sentence indistinct]. If the whole wealth of a country is monopolized by a handful of people, while then the remaining 90 or 95 per cent of the population is living a miserable life, the majority would be forced to take some sort of action, and not necessarily terrorism, but all the same the said problem must be addressed properly.

If you are a citizen of a country and you are marginalized, and you cannot even get one chance when others are more privileged than you, it is impossible to tolerate the whole issue. But that does not mean you should choose terrorism. But the problem must be resolved. All the problems - social, economic, cultural, security and political issues - must be resolved in totality. I do not say that the current system of handling the problem is properly addressing those issues. This is because other interests are influencing it and as a result it has lost its direction. Than resolving the problem and annihilating terrorism, it is taking actions that complicates further the whole problem. [Passage omitted: More on the problem and the measures taken to resolve it].

In conclusion, I say terrorism must be condemned and eradicated, and the efforts under way to resolve the lack of social justice must not be forgotten and put aside as well. [Passage omitted: More on terrorism threat in Eritrea from Sudan and the efforts under way].

Source: Voice of the Broad Masses of Eritrea, Asmara, in Tigrinya