The Pillars of Eritrea’s Regional Policy (II)

Eritrea’s regional policy
Eritrea’s regional policy has been squarely and firmly rooted on promoting a conducive environment of good neighborliness and cooperation. So where are the accusations came from? 

By Eritrea Profile,

Eritrea’s regional policy is anchored on the promotion of safe neighborhood. For motives that are not difficult to figure out, Eritrea’s detractors, and particularly Ethiopia, however, continue to willfully distort this policy. Eritrea is falsely accused of, and maliciously portrayed as, a purveyor of “regional destabilization”. In the event, Eritrea Profile will publish Eritrea’s official submission that was sent to UNSC member States in October 2011 when these accusations were gullibly recycled by the Eritrea-Somalia Monitoring Group. 

Eritrea’s Response to the Specific Accusations

This section will address all the major specific accusations contained in the Monitoring Group. For purposes of simplicity, the response will follow the chronological order of the accusations in the Report.

Support to Armed Groups in Violence, Destabilization or Terrorist Acts.

On Page 69, the Monitoring Group alleges: “In the course of the current mandate, the Monitoring Group obtained firm evidence of Eritrean support for armed opposition groups throughout the region, including Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and the Sudan.” As we shall show in the following paragraphs, however, the Monitoring Group fails to produce solid evidence to support its claims. In fact, its claims are sometimes (for example, in the case of Sudan) bewildering as it itself admits that the evidence is not strong enough to substantiate the allegations it makes.

In its discussions with the Monitoring Group, Eritrea did not only provide it with relevant information but also stressed the wider political and historical context that was necessary for a proper understanding of Eritrean policy and practice.

In regard to opposition movements in Ethiopia, it is common knowledge that in the period of armed struggle, the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) had established strong ties of military and political cooperation with several Ethiopian armed opposition movements, including the EPRDF, which constitutes the current Government in Ethiopia. The political objectives and aspirations that underpinned and consolidated these ties were common ideals and aims of defeating the oppressive regimes in Addis Ababa to usher in a new chapter of regional harmony and cooperation.

The EPLF was not only pivotal in forging these broad alliances but was also catalytic in the power-sharing formulas that were agreed in Addis Ababa on 7 June 1991 during the historic conference for the establishment of the Transitional Federal Government of Ethiopia that brought together the EPRDF, the OLF, the ONLF and other groups cited in the Report.

But while the EPLF and the new Government of Eritrea ceased all these military ties with all opposition movements in Ethiopia who were inside or outside the coalition government after 1991 – even when there was a fall out between the EPRDF and the OLF in 1994 and armed clashes erupted between them the EPRDF continued to give safe haven and training to small Eritrean splinter groups during those years of robust amicable ties of friendship between the two governments and political movements. In those days, Eritrea repeatedly made clear to, and pleaded with, the authorities in Addis Ababa that it saw no useful purpose in igniting and sustaining low-intensity conflicts between the two countries.

After declaring war against Eritrea in 1998, the Ethiopian regime began to pursue this policy with redoubled vigor and by funneling greater resources. In a futile attempt to dismember Eritrea, it created the Kunama Liberation Front and the Eritrean Red Sea Afar movements.

It soon began to provide military, political, financial and diplomatic support to more than a dozen Eritrean subversive groups including the fundamentalist Jihad outfits. The litany of terrorist activities perpetrated by these groups include, among others, terrorist attacks in Barentu during the independence celebrations in 2004 that claimed the loss of 3 lives while causing heavy injuries to 50 others; and assaults on Canadian and Chinese mining companies in 2003 and 8 March 2010 respectively.

As mentioned earlier, Eritrea had offered to discuss these matters in greater depth during the January 2011 visit of the Monitoring Group. The latter declined on the grounds that this was not “within their mandate”.

This is the backdrop of the low-intensity conflicts that were principally precipitated by Ethiopia and that unfortunately permeate the relationship between both countries. These low intensity conflicts serve no useful purpose but will not likely be extinguished until and unless the larger and much graver breaches by Ethiopia of international law are redressed…

Regarding Djibouti, although the report presents two allegations of what it calls “Eritrean support of limited scale,” its sources are dubious to say the least. A “former FRUD commander”, detained by the Djibouti government, can hardly be expected to be a credible source.

Although the detainee claimed, according to the report, that Eritrea provided ‘‘food, medicines and treatment for wounded fighters,” he denied receiving any weaponry or military equipment. He said that FRUD uniforms, arms and ammunition were purchased from Yemen. This contradicts claims by Djibouti authorities that the detainee had admitted that Eritrea provided arms. In addition, this SEMG allegation relates to the period prior to December 2009, as the latest claim of any Eritrean involvement was October 2009.

There is only one other allegation in the report, which claims that in February 2011, the Djibouti military seized 50kgs explosives hidden in a cave. The SEMG said the explosives were of Soviet era manufacture, and that it “has been unable to trace their place of origin or chain of custody”. Since there was no allegation of any Eritrean involvement, why mention this under Eritrea’s alleged violations?

It is therefore clear that by the Monitoring Group’s own admission, there is no evidence of Eritrean violation of Resolution 1907 in regard to Djibouti.

Concerning Somalia, given that the allegations of Eritrea’s military support to al Shabaab has been the central concern of the Security Council and the main impetus behind the imposition of sanctions under Resolution 1907, it is remarkable that the Monitoring Group Report confirms that Eritrea is not in violation of 1907 in regards to military support to al-Shabaab or any armed group in Somalia.

The report mentions claims from unidentified sources of Eritrean arms shipments to Kismayo (in fact Ethiopia had publicly made those accusations), but states categorically that it “could not independently verify the reports.” Regarding financial support, the Monitoring Group states that it has documentary evidence of Eritrean payments to individuals linked to al-Shabaab, but admits that these relate only to 2008, a year before the cutoff date of December 2009.

It mentions “allegations” that financing continues, one source claiming to the tune of US$ 80,000 per month, but it does not present a shred of evidence.

As to Sudan, the Monitoring Group Report again acknowledges that it is not possible to conclude that Eritrea has provided direct military assistance to groups engaged in the destabilization of South Sudan in violation of 1907.

– – – – – – – – –
Click HERE to read >> Part I <<
– – – – – – – – –