Issayas Afewarki – Eritrea’s Lonely Wolf

By Harakale Mohamed Hanfere
Jan. 09 2009

On Wednesday, December 23, 2009, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) slapped an arms embargo on Issayas Afewarki’s regime and imposed targeted sanctions for allegedly aiding Somali rebels and threatening neighbouring Djibouti. The 13-member body voted overwhelmingly and passed a Ugandan-drafted resolution that ban weapons sales to and from Eritrea and imposed travel restrictions on, and freeze assets of, Issayas Afewarki’s political and military leadership. Libya, the lone Arab member of the council and the current chair of the pan-continental African Union (AU) bloc, is the only country that voted against the resolution.

This powerful resolution passed by the UNSC imposing sanctions against Issayas Afewarki’s Regime in Eritrea is critically based on key justifiable measures including, but not limited to: an arms embargo; the inspection and seizure by Member States in their territory of such cargo to and from Eritrea; and, the imposition of a travel ban, and the freezing of assets of, Issayas Afewarki’s political and military leadership who is already blacklisted by the AU and UNMEE Committees other international bodies for its active participation in piracy, arms smuggling and intensification of tension along all the borders of neighbouring countries. As UNSC has strongly emphasized in the past weeks, this brazen act of Issayas Afewarki’s regime is based on pure contempt and disdain. But the Council’s findings on factual evidence and considering of provisions of international law on circumstances that instigate piracy, arms smuggling and intensification of terrorist training camps throughout Eritrea has brought to the fore the Afewarki regime’s continued travesty of justice and amplified dangers inherent in its systems. The fact of the matter is, this resolution was originally conceived by neighbouring countries facing the challenges of piracy, terror plots and destabilization of peace; and later it was executed by 13 UNSC member countries including, but not limited to the United States, Britain, and especially Uganda who sponsored the resolution for purposes of decisive and determined action packaging. Undoubtedly, the UNSC based its resolution on an earlier resolution passed by the AU that was warning Afewarki’s regime to adhere to international law and order. But Afewarki’s terrorist regime persistently continued not to give in. In defiance of all hitherto passed resolutions against it, Afewarki’s regime still refuses to adhere to international law and order. Setting aside the retarded, outdated, and misguided policies and his guerrilla “Administration”, Afewarki has loathsome personal agenda and obsession to destabilize the region through wanton and contempt.
Hence, it is timely to exert an all rounded embargo and break Afewarki’s ever standing arrogance both internally on the Eritrean populations that are divided on religious, ethnic and political grounds; and externally for pushing arms smuggling, piracy and terrorist actions. Actually, what are the accusations levelled against Eritrea? How do these accusations match with the provisions of the UN Charter? Does the embargo process pursued against Issayas Afewarki’s regime conform to the modalities and precedents of the UNSC? I hope the following 5-reasons provide sufficient answers to these quarries.

First of all, the UNSC accusations against Issayas Afewarki and his regime for involvement in Somalia have evidentially been substantiated and verified by reports submitted to UNSC by UNEMEE, AU, IGAD and Ethiopia exposing Issayas Afewarki and his regime’s destructive roles in the region. The sanction imposed on Afewarki’s regime was the result of the Eritrean government’s simultaneous destabilization missions in Somalia, Djibouti and the Ogaden region inside Ethiopia. Hence, UNSC-Member States approved this substantiated resolution precisely for this very reason. Besides, the Somalia Monitoring Group had also previously accused Afewarki’s regime on several occasions for supplying arms to those opposing the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Somalia. Likewise the Council demanded Afewarki’s regime to "cease all efforts to destabilize or overthrow, directly or indirectly" the TFG in Somalia; and further indicts Afewarki for not only providing political, financial, and logistical support to armed groups engaged in undermining peace and reconciliation in Somalia, but also advancing piracy on international water of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. Getting substantial financial backing from Libya and handful Arab countries that would like to challenge the West in clandestine, Afewarki’s regime has gained momentum for political will and source of finance for its arms distributive clouts to bankroll armed groups in Somalia, Ogaden, Djibouti and the rest of the region. As for the accusations of political support, it is an open secret that Afewarki’s regime has steadfastly refused to recognize the TFG in Somalia for its covert and unfounded reasons. In fact, these lop-sided and unbalanced positions emanate from Afewarki’s profound desire to destabilize the region’s peace by propagating further the crisis in Somalia. These political considerations aside, the fundamental legal issue at hand is whether Afewarki’s outlaw regime can come to terms of jurisdiction as crafted by the UNSC. Indeed and very truly indeed, it is within the UNSC’s mandate to punish with punitive measures against any bandit regime like that of Afewarki’s. Afewarki should not be allowed to continue acting as a springboard for piracy, arms smuggling and funnelling terrorism that cause regional destabilization; and on accounts of religious and political views it manifests against the majority of the world nations; it should be stopped from its illegal piracy propagation roles and its invasion on a defenceless country like Djibouti arbitrarily.
Secondly, the UNSC’s resolution refers to the “decision of the 13th Assembly of the AU, calling upon the UNSC to impose sanctions against Issayas Afewarki’s regime in Eritrea. It was tabled, and only opposed by Libya which has a special linkage with Afewarki and his regime for reasons explained herein above. More importantly, the UNSC’s function is to base its decisions on evidential resolutions adopted by AU and on the basis of indisputable facts focused on international law.
Thirdly, the UNSC-Resolution recommends other penal measures against Eritrea on the accounts of border disputes with Djibouti where the latter has been appealing both to the AU and to the UN for quite a number of years in the recent past. Regarding the border dispute with Djibouti, the UNSC's demand reiterates its call in Resolution 1862 adopted in January 2009 that Afewarki’s regime must pull out its forces and all their equipment from disputed territories and ensure that no military presence or activity is pursued in the area. That resolution had given Afewarki’s regime in Eritrea five weeks to pull out. It is recalled that the dispute over the Ras Doumeira promontory on the shores of the Red Sea last flared up in June 2008 after previous clashes in 1996 and 1999.

Fourthly, Afewarki and his regime forget the fact that there has never been any legally accepted border demarcation between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Nor has the border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia been given any viable solution. This has encouraged Afewarki’s regime to captivate the overwhelming Eritrean population under the guise of “national military service” with which to constantly keep them in check and at an alert position for likely war situation against Ethiopia along the long stretching and yet non-demarcated borderline.
Fifthly, according to a recent article on, most Eritrean people do support the United Nations sanctions imposed on Eritrea under the ’repressive’ Issayas Afewarki’s regime that has repeatedly been accused of destabilizing the Horn of Africa since it gained its de-facto “independence” from Ethiopia in 1993. According to ABC News Reporter Dana Hughes from Nairobi, Afewarki and his regime officials admitted on December 16, 2009 that the Eritrean soccer team as officially missing, after failing to return home from a tournament that took place in Kenya. The plane carrying the 12 players and the coach to Nairobi returned to Eritrea with only the coach.  It sounds like an intriguing mystery, but the truth is those young men, who disappeared while in Kenya are just some of the thousands of the Eritrean youths who try to defect from Afewarki’s SAWA-Military Garrison by all possible means every year. It is an open secret that Eritrea is considered as one of the most repressive regimes currently existing in the world. In fact, there is no freedom of press or religion. The regime’s tough nationalization of nearly all private enterprises has left the country in abject poverty. As it stands, it is illegal for any one Eritrean to leave Eritrea without Afewarki and his regime’s approval, which is hardly ever granted. Mandatory conscription can last indefinitely. The tyrant dictator Afewarki holding fast the driving seat, he justifies the indefinite conscription policy by maintaining his argument that his regime needs a strong and large army to counter Ethiopia, on the non-demarcated border issues that erupted in 1998 and still continue at full-swing. But according to the Human Rights Watch, this brutal policy of Afewarki, along with other repressive measures persistently taking place inside Eritrea has turned its population to live under a totalitarian military giant garrison. In fact, Human Rights Watch has documented several cases of people who tried to flee being imprisoned and tortured. Needless to say, Eritrea’s security forces reportedly have a "shoot to kill" order for any citizen caught trying to flee the border into Sudan, Ethiopia or Djibouti. The situation is so severe that the United Nations High Commission of Refugees recommends countries should not deport any Eritrean, because of the almost guaranteed mistreatment upon the refugees return. For those who do escape, their families become direct targets for revengeful attacks by Afewarki’s garrison keepers; indeed, several families reportedly have to either pay a fine of several thousand dollars or face prison sentence themselves. By 2007, when Afewarki’s regime issued a new policy that all travelling athletes must deposit about $6,000 before leaving the country, this has now become a kind of insurance policy that they would return home. But this time, the 12 young men who were sent to Kenya decided to stay away whatever the price of escape is to them or to their families. They found it worth paying and disappear once and for all than to toil under a tyrant regime engulfed in endless misery.
The UNSC-Resolution-1907(2009) is thus a timely action; critically founded on international law and irrefutable facts. Among UNSC member nations, the United States has also employed its support to the resolution on clearly justifiable sanctions against the troublesome Afewark’s regime. All alone Afewarki’s regime dreams to turn the tables and victimize innocent neighbouring nations through its wanton, disdain, piracy arms smuggling and terrorist training camps and other cynical crimes that it is responsible for in the first place. In fact, the truth is, Issayas Afewarki and his regime remain steadfastly responsible for the mayhem and suffering that is bedevilling not only Somalia, but also Djibouti, Ogaden and the Eritrean population at large. Indeed, it is an open secret and common knowledge that as intractable as the Somali crisis may be, there were real hopes of a turnaround for the better by 2006. But for reasons that defy rationale, Afewarki’s regime then acted to roll back those promising developments by instigating havoc and defying Ethiopia’s and Uganda’s involvement in peace keeping roles within Somalia. That single debacle alone aggravated the humanitarian crisis to this very day in Somalia to unprecedented levels. Therefore, what the UNSC has acted recently is purely based on rightful justice and legality. Indeed, it took action on solidly existing evidence gathered from stakeholders seeking justice. Also it seriously bode well for keeping international law, peace and order in tact. This is why we strongly feel that a bright day is on the way thanks for the UNSC-sanctions against Afewarki and his destructive and evil-filled regime.

Harakale Mohamed Hanfere - Email: