The 2% Tax Controversy Used As A Distraction

Swedish-Eritrean citizen holding a sign that reads "I pay 2% with joy and Pride"
Swedish-Eritrean citizens holding a sign that reads “I pay 2% with joy and Pride”

By Yohanna,

It is hardly surprising that the controversy around the Diaspora tax has attempted to creep back into the spotlight again, quite conveniently so with only a month ahead of the anniversary of the EEBC ruling on April 13th that is yet to be implemented.

The debate of the Diaspora tax collected by the Government of Eritrea dates back to 2009 alongside the false allegations of the government aiding terrorist groups in Somalia, as a pretext to impose the unwarranted sanctions. The Diaspora tax fell under vicious attack forming headlines all over media outlets. 

Upon the recent revelation of some Eritrean British individuals attempting to lodge criminal charges against the Ambassador of the State of Eritrea in London, it’s an issue that requires some light to be shed on. First and foremost, it goes without saying that an Ambassador cannot be held as a legal body in the host country, as he is protected by international law and is considered diplomatically immune. So if those characters were aware of this why would they attempt to seek criminal charges that would inevitably collapse?

The most plausible motive would be publicity. As soon as the charges were lodged, the infamous Martin Plaut picked up the story in the hopes that it would cause uproar in social media and form a distraction from the focus matter of the EEBC ruling implementation that is 12 years too late. But what is increasingly worrying is that there is a journalist such as himself that are circulating stories such as this, resulting in colossal misinformation of events.

The British government, those that are challenging the 2% tax and, I am sure, Martin Plaut himself are more than aware that there is no tax collection at the local Embassy in London. This is simply illustrated by the ‘evidence’ they brought forward. The receipt that was believed to be the evidence of the Embassy perpetrating illegal collection of tax is in fact issued in Asmara, where 2% tax is collected according to international law, completely exempting the Embassy.

By providing phony evidence to obstruct the course of justice, it makes me question the motives of those individuals and their supporters. As an Eritrean, it is very upsetting to use false allegations to distort the actual truth whilst ignoring the larger predicament we are in.

For instance, according to Martin Plaut’s article, it is mentioned that there is a payment that is directly for the purpose of the military. However, in the receipt it is referred to as ‘Mekete’ i.e. Popular Defence, which covers anything from providing for martyrs’ families to everything else. But even if for a second we were to assume the money was going to the military, is that ludicrous considering that we have been actively patrolling our borders, again due to the failure of implementing the EEBC ruling?

In the midst of all those arguments for and against the 2% tax, I think we are missing the most important fact surrounding this issue. It is not illegal to decline paying any taxes to the Eritrean government. The 2% tax is an Eritrean citizen’s duty to pay if and only if the individual expects governmental services in Eritrea.