Bruton: Ambassador Yamamoto’s Visit to Eritrea ‘Encouraging’


The first visit for "over a decade" by an American Deputy Secretary of State Donald Yamamoto in Eritrea
“President Isaias and his advisors will not swivel back towards Washington unless they have good reason to do so. But my own dialogue with Asmara over the [years] leads me to believe that President Isaias would very much like to put his relations with Washington on a more constructive footing. Given the high stakes in the Horn of Africa and very low level of effort that would be required to set the stage for a much better relationship in the future, it is surely in Washington’s interest to try.” – Bronwyn Bruton

The first visit for “over a decade” by an American Deputy Secretary of State in Eritrea is “an encouraging sign that the US government intends to do its part to normalize relations” after years of isolation policy towards Asmara.

A normalization of bilateral relations that could favour a “resolution to the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia”, whose border is still militarized 18 years after the end of the 1998-2000 war, as well as an “improvement of the situation of Human rights in Eritrea”, denounced several times by the UN and humanitarian organisations as a triggering factor for the flow of Eritrean migrants who arrived in Europe.

So Bronwyn Bruton, Deputy Director of the African Center of the American think tank Atlantic Council and expert on the Horn of Africa, commented Donald Yamamoto’s visit to Asmara, from where he will then continue to Djibouti, before concluding the regional tour April 26th in Addis Ababa.

“It’s the first time in over a decade that an American deputy secretary of state visits Eritrea,” remarked Bruton, responding by email to a request for Askanews’s comment. For Bruton, who has visited Eritrea several times, meeting with President Isaias Afwerki, government officials, diplomats and UN personnel, this visit is “an encouraging signal that the US government intends to do its part to try to normalize the relationships, a long-awaited effort. “

For the American analyst, in fact, precisely the tense relations between Washington and Asmara “have prevented a solution to the border conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia and have offered space to the Gulf nations to increase their military presence in the Horn of Africa.”

The ongoing war in Yemen that started in 2015 and the crisis between the Gulf countries have indeed had repercussions in the African region, leading the United Arab Emirates, already militarily present in Somalia, to position itself in the Eritrean port of Assab, on the Red Sea, following the commitment made by Asmara alongside the international coalition led by Saudi Arabia in Yemen. On the one hand, Riyadh started building its own military base in Djibouti.

“Better relations with Eritrea will also allow the United States to have more influence in the Horn of Africa at a time when instability, especially in Ethiopia and Somalia, is taking on crisis proportions,” Bruton said in clear reference to the anti-government protests underway since the end of 2015 in Ethiopia, where the state of emergency still exists despite the openings demonstrated by the new premier Abiy Ahmed, settled only at the beginning of the month, but above all the fragility of Somalia, already torn since 30 years of civil war and today, in fact, the scene of the clash between Qatar and Turkey on one side, the Emirates and Saudi Arabia on the other, for having decided to maintain a neutral position in the dispute broke out last June between the countries of Gulf.

“A constructive engagement” with Asmara by Washington compared to “the punitive policy” adopted by the former administration of Barack Obama, could also “bring improvements to the human rights situation in Eritrea”, Bruton concluded.

The Obama administration has in fact supported in 2009 the adoption of UN sanctions against Asmara for alleged support for the Somali jihadists group Al-Shabaab.

That accusation not proven till recent years by United Nations experts in charge of the investigations. Asmara has always branded the sanctions as “unjust and illegal”.

>> ALSO READ : No Eritrea Support to Al-Shabaab: UN Monitoring Group

* Software translation from Italian