EANC calls on Ethiopia to recognize territorial rights of Eritrean Afar people amid Red Sea access debate

Addis Abeba – The Eritrean Afar National Congress (EANC), a political organization representing the indigenous Afar people of Eritrea’s northern coastal region, has called on the Ethiopian government to recognize the territorial rights of the Eritrean Afar people. This comes as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Ethiopia should explore options for gaining access to the Red Sea.

In a statement released on 20 October, 2023, the EANC responded to recent comments made by Prime Minister Abiy, who emphasized Ethiopia’s strategic interest in securing access to the Red Sea. The PM argued that Ethiopia has an “inalienable right” to access the Red Sea, including the Port of Assab.

While acknowledging Ethiopia’s economic development needs and aspirations to utilize the Red Sea, the EANC stressed that the coastal territories and resources of the Dankalia region, where Assab port is located, are the traditional homeland and legal property of the Eritrean Afar people under international law.

The EANC further warned that any unilateral action by Ethiopia to gain control over the Port of Assab, in collaboration with the current Eritrean regime, would violate international laws and compromise Eritrean sovereignty. It would also undermine the right to self-determination of the Eritrean Afar nation in their homeland, the statement said.

The political organization also accused the Eritrean government, led by President Isaias Afwerki, of carrying out policies of marginalization, violence, ethnic cleansing, and illegal land seizures against the Afar people over the past three decades. According to the EANC, these actions have displaced tens of thousands of Afar people from their territories in Dankalia.

In its statement, the EANC called for consultations involving Ethiopia, Eritrean opposition groups, and representatives of the Eritrean Afar people on any proposals impacting the region. It emphasized that collaboration is key to stability and development in the region.

The EANC’s statement comes days after neighboring countries rejected PM Abiy’s comments, reigniting debates around Red Sea sovereignty. Eritrea was the first to respond, firmly rejecting “any talk of excessive Ethiopian access” through Eritrean ports. The statement from Asmara asserted that Eritrea’s “full territorial sovereignty and integrity” would not be compromised under any conditions.

Somalia took an even stronger stance, rejecting Ethiopian appeals to negotiate over potential Somali port access. Somali government ministers vowed to “retain full sovereignty and control over all of Somalia’s strategic economic assets.”

Djibouti also asserted its territorial sovereignty, acknowledging Ethiopia’s dependence on its main port at Djibouti while emphasizing its status as an independent nation. AS