Eritrea, in the Horn of Africa’s fallen states Kaleidoscope…



Friday November 20, 2009

Move at U.N. to sanction Eritrea over Somalia links

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – A draft U.N. Security Council resolution calls for an arms embargo against Eritrea and travel bans and asset freezes for members of its government and military for aiding Islamist insurgents in Somalia. The resolution, obtained by Reuters on Thursday, was drafted by temporary Security Council member Uganda and has been circulated to other members of the 15-nation panel, U.N. diplomats said. The United States and other council members accuse Eritrea of supplying al Shabaab rebels with money and weapons as they fight to topple the fragile U.N.-backed transitional government of Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, the official leader of the virtually lawless Horn of Africa nation. The fighting in Somalia has killed nearly 19,000 civilians since the start of 2007 and driven 1.5 million from their homes. Among the measures called for in the draft is a ban on all sales to Asmara of “weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment, and spare parts.” The draft also calls for a ban on providing Eritrea with “technical assistance, training, financial and other assistance, related to the military activities.” The Security Council, African Union (AU) and United States have all warned Asmara against destabilizing Somalia. Eritrea denies supporting al Shabaab and has said that the threat of U.N. sanctions is of “no concern at all.” A U.N. arms monitoring body — which was set up to record violations of a 1992 arms embargo on Somalia — has said Asmara was sending plane- and boatloads of munitions to Somali rebels, as well as providing them with logistical support. It was not clear when the council would vote on the resolution. Diplomats said it would need to be revised if it was to avoid a veto from China and Russia, which dislike sanctions in general. The resolution would authorize U.N. member states to inspect “all cargo to and from Somalia and Eritrea” via land and sea if there were grounds to suspect that the cargo included banned items. It would also impose a travel ban and freeze the assets of the “Eritrean political and military leadership” and other Eritrean individuals and firms suspected of supporting the hard-line Islamist rebels. Somalia has been mired in chaos for nearly two decades and there is little sign the latest attempt to establish central government is proving any more successful than the 14 previous efforts since a dictator was ousted in 1991.

Eritrea warns West against imposing sanctions

Thu Nov 26, 2009 1:16pm GMT
* U.N. reviewing sanctions against Asmara * Isaias says Somalia efforts are failing By Jeremy Clarke ASMARA, Nov 26 (Reuters) – Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki said the international community would regret moves to impose sanctions on the country, a government website said on Thursday. The U.N. Security Council is reviewing draft plans for punitive measures against the Red Sea state, which could include an arms embargo, travel bans and asset freezes for members of Eritrea’s government and military. The Asmara authorities are accused of backing an insurgency in Somalia by funnelling funds and weapons to rebels battling that country’s U.N.-backed transitional government. “The distorted and baseless anti-Eritrea accusations and intended measures in connection with the Somali issue would be a resort the authors and implementers stand to regret,” state-run website shabait.com quoted the president as saying. “There is no reason at all for Eritrea to send arms to Somalia where there exists huge arsenal of armaments for a long time and is still the centre of arms sales.” The president was critical of recent attempts to impose peace in the anarchic country. “The course being pursued by the international community in general and the forces directly involved in the Somali issue in particular has failed to bear any fruitful outcome,” he said. The draft proposes a ban on all sales to Asmara of “weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment, and spare parts”. It would also impose a travel ban and freeze the assets of political and military leaders and other Eritrean individuals and firms suspected of backing the hardline Islamist rebels. Some analysts fear sanctions would punish a population already hit by drought and the global economic crisis, and that it may prove a rallying cry for the government. But one Western diplomat defended the proposed measures. “They strike the right note between being too egregious to enforce upon a poor country, and being too soft to put any pressure on the government,” the diplomat said. “We shouldn’t underestimate the travel bans and asset freezes, this economy relies on the financial and moral support of the diaspora, which requires local officials drumming up support in other countries and carrying money back in.” Fighting in Somalia has killed nearly 19,000 civilians since the start of 2007 and driven 1.5 million from their homes. (Editing by Daniel Wallis and Victoria Main) ((Email: nairobi.newsroom@reuters.com; tel +254 20 222 4717)) (For more Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: africa.reuters.com/)

———- ————– Mail & Guardian Online Oct 08 2008

Eritrea slams US over arms ban

Eritrea — in a government statement sent to Agence France-Presse on Wednesday — slammed the United States for imposing an arms ban over concerns that the Red Sea state was aiding terrorists in the region. Washington announced the ban on Monday, accusing Asmara of supporting “terrorist groups” in Somalia. “This unwarranted measure is purely prompted by the frustration of the US administration with the misguided policies it has been pursuing in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and the Sudan,” the Eritrean Foreign Ministry said. Washington has in the past threatened to add Eritrea to its list of rogue states, which includes countries such as Iran, Syria, North Korea and Cuba. “US authorities could not substantiate the unfounded accusations they levelled against Eritrea in the past as a sponsor of terrorism. In the event, they have concocted this indirect ruse as a last-ditch effort to cover up their blunder,” the statement added. Ties between the two have been frosty over the past few years, with Asmara accusing the US of backing arch-foe Ethiopia in its border dispute with Addis Ababa, and Washington arguing that the small African state was backing Islamist groups in the region, an allegation denied by Eritrea. “In our region, groups and elements that the United States often dubs as terrorists are, in reality, those that Washington itself, and its surrogates in the Horn of Africa, employ for subversive activities,” it said. Last year, Eritrea banned USAid from operating in the country and imposed curbs on US diplomats in the country. In response, Washington closed Eritrea’s consulate in Oakland, California. — Sapa-AFP —————– ————-

Eritrea: Africa’s version of North Korea?

November 10, 2009

In this lonely corner of the world, the first sign of distress is the luggage. When one of the few international flights that are still operating here touched down one recent afternoon, the returning passengers emerged from baggage claim as if from a big shopping trip. Old metal trolleys squealed under the weight of mundane items: tires, a laptop computer, tubs of detergent and duffel bags crammed so tightly with food that tincans bulged through the fabric. The needs are acute in Eritrea, a narrow shard of sand and rock along the Red Sea that’s presided over by one of Africa‘s most secretive regimes. As its quixotic experiment in economic self-reliance falters, the Ohio-sized country of 5 million has slipped into its deepest political isolation in its 16 years of independence. The United States and others accuse President Isaias Afwerki of funneling arms and money to Islamist insurgents in Somalia and have threatened to slap him with sanctions. Analysts say Isaias is bent on wresting influence from Ethiopia – Eritrea’s large southern neighbor and adversary in a 30-year liberation struggle – and is backing several rebel groups across the chaotic Horn of Africa. Who needs allies? In a rare interview, Isaias dismissed the allegations as “fabrications” by Western interests – including his favorite bogeyman, the CIA – that traditionally have sided with Ethiopia. The pariah label has reinforced his belligerent attitude toward a world that long ignored Eritrea’s cries for independence, and one in which he now seems to have just one remaining friend, the wealthy Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar. “Why would you want to have allies?” the 63-year-old president told McClatchy. “It’s a sign of weakness.” A gruff, imposingly tall former guerrilla with a college professor’s wardrobe and a Ron Burgundy moustache, Isaias helped lead the liberation war and has never let go of power. A decade after a devastating border flare-up with Ethiopia that remains unresolved, he’s never held elections, banned opposition groups and independent media, and reportedly banished thousands of people to remote desert prisons where they languish without trial in “harsh and life-threatening conditions,” according to a State Department human rights report last year. In recent years, Isaias has seized U.N. World Food Program stockpiles and expelled or blocked most international relief organizations, claiming that his arid nation could produce enough food to feed all its people. Yet after consecutive poor harvests, and amid one of the worst hunger crises in East Africa in decades, the U.N. Food andAgriculture Organization warned last month that as many as two-thirds of Eritreans may be malnourished. Isaias rejected the report – “We have no shortage,” he said – but humanitarian groups say the government blocks them from accessing the areas that are thought to be the most affected. In the capital, Asmara, more and more children in frayed clothes and splotchy skin are begging on the streets, hinting at desperation in the countryside. “A year or two ago, you never saw that,” a diplomat said. “It means the safety net is failing.” Indefinite military service Perched atop a 7,600-foot plateau, sun-bathed Asmara is one of the continent’s safest and most alluring capitals, with wide, palm-fringed streets and splashes of colorful modernist architecture left over from Italian colonial rule. Below the surface, however, beats constant fear. No Eritreans would be quoted by name criticizing the president. The government, which some have likened to an African North Korea, controls people’s lives through a program of forced national service that requires all citizens to undergo military training and then assigns them indefinitely to army posts or civilian jobs, paying token wages. Men and women younger than 50 rarely get permission to leave the country, effectively meaning that the entire able-bodied population is on reserve duty. People who resist the service routinely are imprisoned and tortured, as documented in a 96-page report this year by Human Rights Watch, which found that Eritrean authorities had issued shoot-to-kill orders for anyone caught trying to jump the border without permission. “It’s for generations that we’re trying to build a nation and build an economy, and that requires sacrifice,” Isaias said. “National service may not be liked by everybody, even by the government, but it’s a necessity.” Surviving on remittances Yet even with these draconian measures, the country remains far from self-reliant. One-third of the economy, according to some estimates, consists of money sent home by Eritreans living overseas. The prodigious shopping on display at the airport – all carried by elderly travelers, the only ones eligible for exit visas – also suggests that Isaias’ gambit is failing. “People are losing patience everyday ”

Eritrea president says no hunger in 2010

13 Nov 2009 08:36:00 GMT
Source: Reuters
* All trade and investment permits reviewed next year * Aid agencies dispute President’s no hunger claim By Jeremy Clarke ASMARA, Nov 13 (Reuters) – President Isaias Afwerki said Eritrea would not suffer from hunger and food shortages in 2010, a government website reported. Hunger levels in Eritrea are ranked among the worst in the world by humanitarian organisations, with the agriculture-based economy affected by irregular rainfall. But the president said Asmara would meet the demands of those regions hardest hit. “The Government has drawn up plans towards ensuring no-hunger situation nationwide,” the state website Shabait.com reported the president as saying. “(The president) said that a time when the greater portion of the Horn of Africa is expected to face acute food shortage, there would exist no hunger in Eritrea in 2010,” it said. But the president, who was speaking in the coastal town Massawa, warned living standards in Eritrea could still fall due to illegal trade, black market currency exchange, and a lack of regular payment of taxes and customs duties. Isaias said all trade and investment permits currently in place would be reviewed in 2010. Projections made by various experts and humanitarian organisations are at odds with the claim that the Red Sea state will be free from hunger next year. Last month, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation estimated as many as two in every three Eritreans were malnourished, the second highest percentage in the world after the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo. Analysts fear any widespread acute hunger in the country would be difficult to arrest because of the travel restrictions Asmara places on humanitarian organisations. East Africa is facing a devastating drought. Aid agencies estimate 23 million are in danger, with 13.7 million in neighbouring Ethiopia at risk of severe hunger. (Editing by Giles Elgood)

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-Eritrea denies aiding Somalia’s Islamist rebels

01 Dec 2009 18:24:49 GMT
Source: Reuters

* Eritrean envoy says no justification for UN sanctions * Envoy urges UN council to take up its Ethiopia dispute By Louis Charbonneau UNITED NATIONS, Dec 1 (Reuters) – Eritrea’s U.N. envoy denied that his country has been supporting Islamist rebels intent on toppling neighboring Somalia’s fragile government and said there was no reason to sanction Asmara. Ambassador Araya Desta was reacting to a Ugandan-drafted resolution circulated to members of the U.N. Security Council that would impose sanctions against the Red Sea state, including an arms embargo, travel bans and asset freezes for members of Eritrea’s government and military. [ID:nN19531413] The United States and other council members accuse Eritrea of supplying al Shabaab rebels with money and weapons as they fight to topple the U.N.-backed transitional government of Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, the official leader of the virtually lawless Horn of Africa nation. “The draft resolution is based on unfounded accusations against Eritrea on the issue of Somalia,” Desta said in a letter to the Security Council made public on Tuesday. “Eritrea does not favor or support a military solution, as it is convinced that there can be no military settlement in Somalia,” he said. “Nor does Eritrea favor one party as opposed to another. It does not work with one against others.” Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki said last week that the international community would regret any moves to impose sanctions on the country. In his letter, Desta hinted that Eritrea believes al Shabaab should be part of any future political solution for its neighbor in the Horn of Africa. “Eritrea firmly holds that a durable and sustainable solution requires the participation of all key Somali actors in an inclusive political process,” he said. It is unclear when the council will vote on the resolution, if at all. Diplomats say changes will be needed to avoid a veto from China and Russia, which dislike sanctions in general. Fighting in Somalia has killed nearly 19,000 civilians since the start of 2007 and made 1.5 million homeless. A U.N. arms monitoring body, set up to record violations of a 1992 arms embargo on Somalia, has said Asmara is sending plane- and boatloads of munitions to Somali rebels, as well as providing them with logistical support. Somalia has been mired in chaos for nearly two decades and there is little sign the latest attempt to establish a central government is proving any more successful than the 14 previous efforts since a dictator was ousted in 1991. Desta also urged the Security Council “not to ignore the real issue behind many conflicts in our region” — namely its long-running border dispute with Ethiopia, with which it fought a 1998-2000 border war that killed 70,000 people. The envoy said council members must act against breaches of international law by Ethiopia and take steps “to ensure that Ethiopia … withdraws its troops from sovereign Eritrean territories that it is illegally occupying.” (Editing by Vicki Allen) ((louis.charbonneau@thomsonreuters.com; +1 212 355 6053; Reuters Messaging: louis.charbonneau.reuters.com@reuters.net))

US Threatens to Invade Eritrea

“President Obama Cannot Afford to Look Weak on Terrorism” by Jason Ditz, April 17, 2009 The United States has reportedly threatened to invade Eritrea and subject it to “the same fate as Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in the wake of the September 11 attacks” for providing support to the al-Shabaab resistance movement in Somalia, which the US has since attempted to link with al-Qaeda. The Daily Telegraph quotes one source as saying “There are consequences for working with al-Shabaab when President Obama cannot afford to look weak on terrorism.” Situated along the Red Sea, the State of Eritrea is a nation of under 5 million people with a long history of foreign occupation. Bought by an Italian shipping company in 1869, the region remained under Italian rule until 1941, when Britain took control of them. British control was formalized under UN auspices in 1947, and the United Nations ceded the region to Ethiopia. What followed was a particularly bloodly 30-year long battle of secession between Ethiopia and an Eritrean rebel faction (the Eritrean Liberation Front), which ended in 1993 when Ethiopia finally gave in to demands for an independence referrendum, which passed with 99.79% of the votes in favor. Eritrea has remained on poor terms with Ethiopia since, fighting a border war which ended with the installation of a UN commission to establish the still tenuous border between the two. In 2006, Ethiopia invaded Somalia with American support, vowing to crush the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) movement and prop up the self-proclaimed Transitional National Government (TNG) of Somalia, which had recently been chased from a Kenya hotel for failing to pay their bills and was attempting to assert control over the stateless region. Eritrea backed the ICU, and later the al-Shabaab movement ostensibly to repay Somali support for their own independence bid. Though the TNG remained on the verge of collapse, Ethiopia declared “mission accomplished” in December of 2008, withdrawing its troops and claiming it had foiled a “plan orchestrated by Eritrea.” The Bush Administration attempted to have Eritrea declared a “state-sponsor of terrorism” numerous times for backing forces in opposition to the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia. Eritrea publicly denounced “foreign intervention” in Somalia and said the Ethiopian pullout had vindicated their position that military occupation would not stabilize the nation. Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki remains defiant, saying he will continue to oppose the Western-backed TNG’s attempt to assert control over the nation. “There is no government, there is not even a naiton of Somalia existing,” the president insisted, calling for a peace conference in which all parties, including those branded by the US and Ethiopia as “extremists” would have a voice. “Peace is not guaranteed without a government agreed by all Somalis.”

© 2009 – 2013, Prof. Muse Tegegne. All rights reserved.

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