The President of the Republic of Korea visits Ethiopia
Today, the President of the Republic of Korea, President Lee Myung-Bak, arrived in Addis Ababa for a three day visit. He was met at Bole International airport by Ato Hailemariam Desalegn, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs. During his visit he will be holding discussions with Prime Minister Meles, and participating in a Korean-Ethiopia Development Experience Sharing meeting where President Lee and his delegation will be exchanging experiences with Ethiopian officials on development and green growth as well as agricultural, economic and trade co-operation. On Saturday, President Lee will be speaking to an invited audience at the Addis Ababa University’s Faculty of Business and Economics and will be awarded an honorary doctorate by the University. President Lee will also visit the Ethiopia Korea War Veterans Memorial Park.
During President Lee’s visit, the Government will be providing details of the new Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) to members of the delegation, and explaining Ethiopia’s strategy for sustaining rapid and broad-based growth, as well as detailing the areas in which major bottlenecks remain. The Government hopes that the Republic of Korea will be prepared to help in some of the major projects, in power generation, or transport. Ethiopia is very aware that there is a lot it can gain from the development experience of Korea, in terms of capacity building, human resource development, agricultural and rural development, technology and industrialization.
The government also hopes that this visit will lead to enhanced cooperation between the business communities of the two countries. It wants to encourage the exchange of trade missions, business forums, the sharing of commercial information, and cooperation between relevant institutions. It would like to see increased duty-free and quota-free access for Ethiopian exports to South Korea, and joint trade promotions to help increase trade. It would also like to see more Korean private companies taking advantage of the investment opportunities available and the excellent investment climate. Ethiopia believes that Korean companies could benefit particularly in such areas as heavy machinery assembly, automotive production, mineral exploration, agro-processing, textile and garment manufacturing as well as leather and leather products. The support of the Korean government in encouraging private sector investment is important.
Ethiopia has been designated as a priority country in Korea’s Overseas Development Assistance, and Korea has assisted in a number of projects in education, health and agricultural development. A Memorandum of Understanding on Economic Cooperation Framework, covering a number of different agreements, has been signed by the respective Ministers of Finance and Economic Development. The Korean International Cooperation Agency office in Ethiopia has provided assistance for capacity building in various areas, focusing on social and economic programs.
Ethiopia hopes that this visit will be the start of an institutional framework for regular consultations between senior officials as well as the establishment of a Joint Ministerial Committee, and regular Heads of Government meetings. Ethiopia now plans to upgrade its relationship with the Government of South Korea. Ethiopia and Korea have always had friendly and cordial relations since diplomatic relations were opened in 1963. These have been encouraged by a number of high level visits over the years. They have included the visit to Ethiopia of the President of the Korean International Cooperation Agency (Cheong Joo-nyun), in January 1996 and of his successor, Kim Suk-hyun, in December 2003. In April this year, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea paid an official visit. Ethiopian visits to Korea have included Ato Seyoum Mesfin, Minister of Foreign Affairs, in 1992 and 2009; and Prime Minister Meles in 1998 and again in December last year for the G20 Summit.
Ethiopia regards the activities of the Korea-Africa Cooperation Forum as an important platform for advancing the relationship between Korea and Africa. The last Forum meeting identified commitments for enlarged cooperation in various strategic areas in particular in infrastructure, communication systems and natural resources. The Forum is an excellent example of the importance that Korea attaches to its relations with Africa as a whole. Ethiopia believes Africa can continue to benefit largely from sharing Korea’s development experience. It will do everything possible to contribute to making this process a strong foundation for an effective partnership between Africa and the Republic of Korea.
Prime Minister Meles told South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency earlier this week that the visit was important not only for Ethiopia but for Africa as a whole. It was, he said, an historic visit and of huge significance to Ethiopia and to Africa. The Prime Minister has hailed President Lee for his role in formulating the Seoul Development Consensus, announced at the end of the G20 Summit in South Korea last November. Ethiopia was one of five special guests at the summit. The Consensus is a set of principles and guidelines to help the G20 economies work collaboratively with developing nations, and the Prime Minister has described the Consensus as giving Africa a new opportunity for development.
The Prime Minister said Ethiopia had tried to learn from the experience of South Korea which had been poorer in the 1960s than many African countries but had transformed itself into one of the world’s most dynamic economies. South Korea, said the Prime Minister, was an example for Ethiopia and for Africa of how to fight poverty and develop in a successful fashion.
The IGAD Summit congratulates Sudanese leaders and condemns Eritrea
On Monday, IGAD held its 18th Extraordinary Summit in Addis Ababa. The tight schedule at the AU Summit in Malabo meant that the meeting to consider the report of IGAD’s Executive Council of Ministers on Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea had had to be postponed, and moved to Addis Ababa. Chaired by Prime Minister Meles, the meeting was attended by President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir of Sudan, and First Vice-President Salva Kiir, the President of the autonomous region of South Sudan, which becomes independent tomorrow, the Presidents of Kenya, Uganda and Somalia, and the Foreign Minister of Djibouti. Other parties who are engaged in issues of the IGAD region also attended including former President Thabo Mbeki, the chair of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) on Sudan, Mr. Erastus Mwencha, Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission, and Sir Derek Plumbly, Chairperson of the Assessment and Evaluations Commission (AEC). The Special Representatives of the UN Secretary General for Somalia and the Sudan also attended the meeting.
Prime Minister Meles noted that the Summit needed to address the political developments discussed by the Executive Council which had welcomed some positive developments in Sudan and Somalia and strongly condemned Eritrea’s destabilizing activities. The Summit agenda covered these areas with in-depth discussions on progress made in implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement; updates on developments in Somalia; and a report of the activities of Eritrea in the Horn of Africa. It was also given a report on the 39th Executive Council extraordinary session, and discussed and confirmed the resolution adopted by the Executive Council.
The meeting was extensively briefed by both the signatories to the CPA, President Al-Bashir and General Salva Kiir. They both committed themselves to peace, and to continue their dialogue on all outstanding issues after South Sudan’s independence, as well as make every effort to maintain progress in implementing the CPA in the Sudan. President Mbeki also briefed the meeting on the way forward for further implementation of the CPA. The Summit welcomed the consistent commitment the two sides have shown in realizing the CPA and in accepting the demonstration of popular will for South Sudan’s statehood. It stressed the need to continue this and for the Parties to maintain their courage, wisdom and commitment to address the remaining challenges amicably and seriously. The Summit welcomed and endorsed the agreement to demilitarize Abyei and the subsequent UN Resolution to deploy an Ethiopian peacekeeping force expeditiously to oversee this demilitarization and the possible creation of a buffer zone along the common border. The Parties were encouraged to sign a framework agreement to minimize the number of loose ends that need to be sorted out after Saturday. The Summit agreed that IGAD’s delegation to the independence celebration in Juba should be led by President Al-Bashir.
On Somalia, the Summit accepted that peace in Somalia was still more of a dream than a reality but noted that the recent Kampala Accord indicated that there was still a window of opportunity for the country and for the prospect of broader collaboration with the international community. It welcomed the Kampala Accord and called on all those concerned to redouble their efforts to implement it fully. It also expressed concern that the financial assistance pledged to Somalia by international partners and agencies was not being channeled properly or dispersed adequately to the TFG. The Summit noted that effective measures must be taken by Somalia’s partners if the TFG is to meet all of its obligations efficiently.
The Summit reviewed the destructive activities of the Asmara regime in detail. Ethiopia briefed the Summit on Eritrea’s recent attempt to disrupt the AU Summit in January and its plans “to turn Addis Ababa into Baghdad”. Similarly, Uganda detailed the information acquired on the planning of the terrorist bombings in Kampala last year; this had taken place in Asmara under the code name of ‘the Asmara Retreat’. Djibouti spelt out the status of the Eritrea-Djibouti peace process and its own frustrations on the lack of progress. It also provided further information on Eritrea’s continuous attempts at destabilization in Djibouti and of the terrorist groups with explosives and other equipment that had been sent into Djibouti from Eritrea.
The Summit recalled that Eritrea had already been sanctioned by the UN Security Council for its destabilization activities in the Horn of Africa, and the compelling evidence of Eritrea’s non–compliance with international law and diplomatic norms. It noted that the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia-Eritrea Sanctions is about to produce a new report for the Security Council. This will provide detailed proof of Eritrea’s connections with terrorist networks and of the way Eritrea has carried out its efforts to destabilize other countries in the region. This, in effect, meant that Eritrea posed a direct threat to the peace and security of the countries of the Horn of Africa.
Eritrea gets resources from remittances from the Diaspora and from the income that is beginning to be generated by mining activities. These resources are not used for development purposes but have been devoted to funding terrorist activities. The Monitoring Group report makes clear Eritrea’s commitment to aiding and abetting international terrorists. It demonstrates that Eritrea is one of the main providers of training for terrorists as well as shipping arms to terrorists on a regular basis. It even allows the facilities of Eritrean embassies to be used for this purpose.
The evidence for these accusations is conclusive, and the Summit agreed that there is a need for appropriate measures to be taken by the UN for the sake of international peace and security. The current, largely ineffectual, sanctions must be extended and additional smart sanctions be added. These should include measures to prevent any continuation of the extortion practiced by the Eritrean government on the Eritrean Diaspora. They should also focus specifically on the economic and mining sectors as these will have the most impact in encouraging changes in government policy. The Summit agreed that the scale and gravity of the threat that Eritrea now posed to the region required IGAD member states to make collective and concerted diplomatic efforts, including a demarche to all UN Security Council members, in support of immediate action. It also called on the UN Security Council to fully support AMISOM and enforce “a blockade of Kismayo, Brava, Merca and El Maan [ports] and impose an air exclusion zone on Balidogle, N.50 and Cisaley to cut the supply lines to the extremist groups.”
At the end of its session the Summit issued a communiqué. This welcomed the recent signing of the agreement on political and security principles that would pave the way for a final settlement in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States, and congratulated both parties for signing the agreement on the General framework on June 28th. It also congratulated President Omar Hassan Al Bashir and First Vice President Salva Kiir Mayardit for their exemplary leadership, courage and commitment to peace. It called on the AU High Level Implementation Panel to continue its engagement with both parties in order to resolve all these issues; and mandated the chairperson of IGAD to support continued negotiations and any implementation mechanisms arising from agreements. It also called on the international community to keep its commitment to support the people of the Sudan by granting debt relief, removing Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, lifting sanctions and deferring the ICC indictment in accordance with article 16 of the Rome Statute.
The communiqué welcomed the signing of the Kampala Accord and the nomination and confirmation by Parliament of a new Prime Minister for the TFG. It expressed gratitude to the troop contributing countries to AMISOM for their sacrifices, and reiterated IGAD’s call for the UN Security Council to provide support to AMISOM. It called for a UN SC resolution to enforce a blockade of several ports and an air exclusion zone to cut supply lines to extremist groups. The communiqué calls on the AU, UN and members of the international community to relocate to Mogadishu, upscale their visibility and support the TFIs concretely. It reaffirms that the Somali process must be anchored in IGAD, and calls upon all international partners to provide the necessary human and financial support. It directs IGAD Chiefs of Defense Staff to urgently convene a meeting to review the progress and consolidate gains achieved, to avoid any setback in sustaining peace, and directs the formation of an IGAD ministerial task force to come up with measures to improve vigilance over the movements of any extremist elements, individuals and resources as well as those who aid the work of terrorists within and across the region. The communiqué also notes with grave concern the problems of the severe drought and famine in Somalia, and calls on all international organizations to urgently provide humanitarian assistance. It also undertakes to set up a framework for former heads of state to support the Somalia peace and national reconciliation process.
The communiqué strongly condemns the activities of Eritrea which “has taken an active part in destabilizing the region by supporting extremist and other subversive elements”. It calls on the UN Security Council to take all appropriate measures to stop this activity, to fully implement existing sanctions and to impose additional sanctions selectively but especially on those economic and mining sectors that the regime draws on including the Eritrean Diaspora. It also asks the Security Council to extend the mandate of the UN monitoring group on Eritrea and Somalia.
Al-Shabaab’s new strategy isn’t wooing clan elders
Al-Shabaab’s top commanders have been working hard recently to try and persuade local elders in Lower Shebelle, Bay and Bakool and Middle Juba regions to regain support. In the last week, Al-Shabaab’s spokesperson, Sheikh Ali Dheere, together with Sheikh Mukhtar Robow ‘Abu Mansoor’ and Abu-Mansoor Al-Ameriki met with elders of the Digil and Mirifle (Rahenweyne) clans and of Hawiye sub-clans to try and rebuild relations in areas most seriously affected by the drought. “We have to take arms and not regret it if anyone dies in Jihad” Abu Mansoor told residents of Daynuunay in one meeting. “You have to forget the past mistakes of Al-Shabaab; they are your children; we ask you to give us the blood of your children so as to defeat the enemy of Allah in our homeland”. Elders who have witnessed the forcible recruitment efforts of Al-Shabaab in the past, and its use of cloak and dagger activities, have openly said they are no longer receptive to these calls. They know that Al-Shabaab’s current flexibility is only exceeded by its duplicity. Some told Mukhtar Robow that they were no longer interested in Al-Shabaab.
This open lack of confidence in Al-Shabaab, increasing difficulties in getting people to sign up voluntarily, a growing lack of funds and increasing infighting among the leadership, together with the effects of forced recruitment, have forced Al-Shabaab to cede territory and to try to appear more conciliatory. As part of their new strategy, Al-Shabaab announced on Tuesday that both local and international aid agencies will now be allowed to assist the drought-affected people in the areas under their control, because of the severity of the drought. Aid groups were banned from all Al-Shabaab areas last year. Sheikh Ali Dheere issued a press statement in north Mogadishu saying Al-Shabaab had “agreed to allow charity organizations access to the territories they control, whether they are Christian or Muslim”. The move, widely seen as an indication of desperation by Al-Shabaab and an effort to use the drought to try to regain lost popularity and the trust of the community, has been welcomed by the UN. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Mark Bowden, who noted that millions of Somalis, particularly in the south, faced acute levels of hunger, said the UN was ready to scale up assistance in southern Somalia but it needed “guarantees that humanitarian workers can operate safely in the area and will not be targeted or agencies taxed”.
Meanwhile, on Monday evening, two boats laden with arms and ammunition from Yemen docked at Brava port, midway between Mogadishu and Kismayo. Brava remains firmly in Al-Shabaab hands and the arms will presumably be used by the Al-Shabaab fighters under training there. At the beginning of this week, as part of ongoing air strikes against senior Al-Shabaab and Al Qaeda operatives in South Somalia, there was an attack on an Al-Shabaab unit in an area close to Afmadow town, ninety kilometers south-west of Kismayo. A senior Al-Shabaab figure, Bilal Al-Barwani, a close associate of the late Fazul Abdullah and previously head of Al Qaeda in Nairobi was injured. Bilal is a British national of Lebanese origin. A number of top Al-Shabaab operatives were also reported killed or wounded as well as number of fighters who had been acting as guards for Bilal. This is the fourth such attack this year. An Al-Shabaab commander and over 30 fighters were reportedly killed at Dhobley on April 6th. On June 23rd a missile strike, apparently from a US drone, hit a convoy at an Al-Shabaab military camp at Qandal near Kismayo. Reports claim 39 died including some foreign fighters. On June 28th three helicopters were reported to have hit an Al-Shabaab training camp in the Afmadow district. There are expectations that these attacks will further inhibit Al-Shabaab military activities around Dhobley, and allow the government forces and its allies to expand their operations towards Kismayo.
Meanwhile, on the political front, new TFG Prime Minister, Dr. Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, has been involved in consultations with MPs. On Sunday he met with the Hawiye MPs and followed this on Monday with MPs from the Dir clans, on Tuesday with those from the Digil and Mirifle (Rahenweyne) clans and with MPs from the minor clans, and finally on Wednesday with Darod sub-clan MPs. Dr. Abdiweli is fully aware that at the end of the day it is the MPs who will approve the new Council of Ministers he is expected to announce shortly, possibly even by this weekend. Dr. Abdiweli has made it clear he intends to have a small Council of Ministers and may keep several of the previous office holders. He has firmly told MPs that he is different from previous Prime Ministers and intends to mend the relationship between his office and Parliament, and will involve MPs in various aspects of government ranging from the choice of the Council of Ministers to the establishment of regional administrations within a collective and collaborative framework. He has made it clear that their approval of ministers has nothing to do with the Kampala Accord which is a matter for President Sheikh Sharif and Speaker Sharif Hassan alone. Dr. Abdiweli’s consultations with MPs have, however, not met with the approval of Sheikh Mohamed Heefow, the executive Chairman of Ahlu Sunna wal-Jama’a in Central Somalia. Sheikh Mohamed complained in a press statement that he and his Ahlu Sunna council had not been included in the ongoing consultation process, and he warned the TFG leadership to avoid any fresh political bickering with Ahlu Sunna.
On Sunday, the Prime Minister visited several of the “hotspots” in Mogadishu. Accompanied by the acting Minister of Defence, Abdihakim Mohamud Fiqi and other officials, the Prime Minister visited mosques in Howlwadaag and Hodan districts and several strategic road junctions. He also visited Gashaandhigga, the former Al-Shabaab headquarters, taken over in February by AMISOM. Also in attendance were a number of AMISOM commanders. AMISOM forces received a considerable boost on Friday last week when 3,000 more Ugandan troops arrived in Mogadishu, though 700 others will shortly be returning to Uganda.
A major issue for the government now is the humanitarian situation with Somalia facing its worst drought in 36 years. Much of the nation hasn’t seen rain since November last year, and over 50,000 people have already been forced to leave their homes, literally searching for greener pastures. The drought has dried up pasture and crop land alike, affecting at least a third of the nation’s population, about 2.4 million people. Inevitably the price of food has soared, with some cereal prices up by over 130%, according to local NGOs. In good times, the country’s informal agrarian economy, run largely by semi-nomadic herdsmen, accounts for about 40% of the national GDP and half of the nation’s exports. Now that activity has dried up, and according to aid organizations, one in four children are malnourished. Due to budget cuts, the World Food Program (WFP) estimates it only has about 30% of the food rations necessary to make up for the poor food supply. The U.S. has donated an emergency $14.5 million to WFP, but with this summer’s harvest expected to be seriously low after the prolonged drought, this injection of cash will only make a small difference. There are concerns that the seriousness of the humanitarian crisis will affect the progress being achieved in the security and political aspects in Somalia.
Tomorrow South Sudan becomes the World’s newest state
A Week in the Horn would like to offer its congratulations and best wishes to South Sudan which tomorrow, July 9th, becomes the World’s newest independent state. A host of foreign dignitaries are converging on Juba, the capital of the Republic of South Sudan as the new state wishes to be known. President Omar Hassan Al Bashir of the Sudan and other assembled leaders, including Prime Minister Meles and thirty regional and African presidents and heads of government, will watch the new nation’s flag raised and the inauguration of its first President, General Salva Kiir.
It will be a momentous day, following the overwhelming vote for independence in January in the referendum held in line with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the 2005 agreement that ended the decades long conflict between north and south.
The new government will face difficult challenges. It has yet to finalize all the post-independence arrangements with the North. Details of the border, of the future of South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions, and of Abyei, of oil, debts and other issues remain to be finalized, and it will be imperative for both Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan to continue to work towards a peaceful settlement of all the areas that still need to be discussed in their continuing cluster negotiations.
As UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon said before leaving to attend the inauguration of the new state, South Sudan cannot meet these challenges nor realize its potential alone. It will need full (and ongoing) engagement with the international community and, most especially, with South Sudan’s neighbours, and above all with the Government of Sudan. Strong, peaceful relations with the North are essential, said the UN Secretary-General. This was the time for both the North and the South to think of the long-term benefits of working together, not to consider “short-term political gains at the other’s expense”. He added: “the path of prosperity and stability lies in peace and partnership – cemented at the negotiating table and supported by the entire international community.” Everyone must agree.
Parliament endorses a record federal budget
On Tuesday, the budget for 2011/2012 was presented to Parliament. Amounting to a record 117.8 billion birr, it is 39% greater than last year and over 70% is allocated to areas given priority under the five year Growth and Transformation Plan, including roads, education, food security, health, capacity building and rural electrification programs. The Federal Government has allocated a 15 billion birr budgetary support to help the regions achieve the Millennium Development Goals. This is in addition to the normal subsidies for the regional states that will amount to 31.4 billion birr, or 27% of the total budget. Recurrent expenditure will be 23.3 billion birr (20%) and capital expenditure will be 48 billion birr, or 40% of the whole.
The government intends to cover over three-quarters of the amount from local sources and the balance from foreign sources. It is planning to find alternative solutions to cover the budget deficit rather than take loans from the National Bank as it has done this current fiscal year. One option will be the sale of bonds; another will be increased revenue from taxation. The government expects to raise more than 70 billion birr from tax revenues. This, the Prime Minister said, “is well within our means, and not excessive considering the proposals we are implementing.” It would not, he reassured MPs, pressure the private sector. The government collects only 11% from tax-payers which is far less than in many other African countries. The government is forecasting growth of 11.4% this year, despite the surge in inflation over the last few months. The Prime Minister, in answer to a question, said this had been largely the result of international price rises particularly in consumer goods including food and fuel, and it had been exacerbated by the extra circulation of reserve money in the economy and the monopolistic nature of the market. The government now plans to limit the federal reserve money supply in the economy and implement systematic approaches to stabilize the market over the coming year to help control inflation.
In his presentation, the Prime Minister said that to use the budget effectively the government was paying particular attention to build up executive capacity through education and training. Federal government offices would take over tasks in some regional states to coordinate and implement projects on the states’ behalf. He emphasized the need to strengthen monitoring mechanisms to ensure money is spent in accordance with the law and according to regulations, and if it is used to achieve the required goals. “We will exert maximum efforts to minimize any risks which jeopardize development”, he added. The Prime Minister noted that the government had introduced trade regulations intended to create a conducive environment for transparency to benefit both merchants and consumers. It would, he added, allow the government to control illegal market activities.
The budget allotted to defence has risen to 6.5 billion birr from 4.4 billion birr, but the Prime Minister noted it was still only 1.2% of GPD which, he pointed out, was low by any standards. He justified the purchase of 200 tanks because of the need to replace ageing vehicles which could only be driven a short distance. They were in many cases fifty or sixty years old, older than many of the MPs, the Prime Minister noted. He said the new acquisitions would be second-hand but upgraded to meet the expectations of the military.
The Prime Minister said the government was working particularly hard to utilize the public mobilization and support to realize the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project. This also provided an opportunity to develop a savings culture which would help to contribute to sustainable economic growth. One effect already apparent was that students were showing more interest in studying science subjects. Similarly, in rural areas, more effort was going into the prevention of soil erosion and forest rehabilitation.
Parliament passed the federal budget for 2011/2012 (Ethiopian fiscal year 2004) unanimously, with one abstention. It will take effect as of today, July 8th 2011.
Only realistic economic sanctions can make a difference in Eritrea
Eritrea’s leaders have stepped up their usual tirades against anyone brave enough to criticize the country’s unruly behavior. The world, they say, is out to get them. With IGAD leaders recently calling on the tightening of sanctions against the Eritrean regime, the mood in Asmara has clearly been one of demonizing the leaders of IGAD as ‘Ethiopia’s stooges”, or as they prefer to put it, ‘America’s instruments’. The obsession with grandeur is such that Eritrea’s leaders cannot settle for an enemy less than the sole superpower itself. No one in the region, or indeed beyond it, is strong or good enough to be Eritrea’s enemy, although the number of their enemies is now so large that there appears to be no one they call friend. Indeed, Eritrea continues to blame the world for its own errant behavior when in fact the easiest thing to do was show a modicum of progress towards normalcy.
The most worrying thing for Eritrea’s leaders in the recent IGAD decision is not the fact that the countries of the Horn are taking a strong stance against their fellow African country. Almost the entire world has been making more or less similar remarks about the behavior of Eritrea’s leaders for some time. What has particularly worried the regime in Asmara is the fact that for the first time publicly these countries are calling for the tightening of the sanctions already imposed on Eritrea. More specifically, the call is for the international community to impose economic sanctions including Eritrea’s mining sector. This is what has irked Eritrea more than anything. It knows full well that the kind of arms embargo that the UN Security Council has imposed on Eritrea in the past will never have much effect in reining in Eritrea’s leaders. It is no secret that President Isaias has boasted in public on several occasions that his country has enough weapons to arm ten countries let alone the extremists that his government continues to train and equip on a daily basis. The regime will only feel the pinch if sanctions diminish its capacity to fund terrorism. With most of Eritrea’s sponsorship for its campaigns of destabilization recently disappearing or going on the run, President Isaias is currently pinning his hope on the prospect of a mining boom, not to help extricate his people out of poverty but as the means to continue to wreak havoc on the peoples of the Horn.
In pursuit of his aim of destabilization, his regime has never wavered, nor been deterred by anything whatsoever. In his recent interview with Al Ahram, President Isaias was asked what would be the effect of the UN sanctions on Eritrea. In his trade-mark style, he first tried to blame the sanctions on “some powers [taking] illegal, prejudicial, ineffective and unwarranted actions.” There is nothing new in this accusation; it’s his usual refrain. What was revealing, however, was his insistence that he wasn‘t worried because “the sanctions are military, not economic.” In effect, he was telling the world that he had amassed sufficient military capacity to arm a dozen or more groups and had no worries even if the whole world was out to enforce sanctions. What would matter to him and his activities would be economic sanctions because these could limit his capacity to arm more terrorist groups and cause more problems.
In fact, by calling on the world to tighten sanctions and in particular include the mining sector in Eritrea within a sanctions’ regime, IGAD members were sending a very clear message: the sanctions so far imposed were simply not strong enough to deter Eritrean leaders from their campaign of terror. This view from the neighbors of Eritrea is hardly surprising. They are the ones who have been feeling the brunt of Eritrea’s oversized ambitions and reckless adventure even long before the imposition of the sanctions. Eritrea has openly threatened any country in the region with unspecified punishments for cooperation with the US and its ally Ethiopia. In parrot-style, Eritrea’s leaders always make it a point to hurl any accusation against them back to the sender. IGAD countries are now being accused by Eritrea of trying to destabilize Eritrea when in fact their only aim has been repeated efforts to bring Eritrea back into the fold of IGAD despite the numerous attacks launched against them at Eritrea’s behest.
IGAD leaders are now finally saying enough is enough. They now understand that a simple arms embargo will never deter Eritrea from its reckless adventures. This is something they had to learn the hard way, with IGAD member states being attacked several times even after the sanctions regime had been imposed by the Security Council. Now more is needed. Economic sanctions must be tried. The international community, knowing now what it does about Eritrea, should listen to IGAD’s call. Eritrea needs a realistic and strong push towards reason. Without it, no progress can be made, and there will be no changes in Eritrean policy.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs