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Eritrea's Continued Intransigence in the Horn of Africa

By Tsehaye Debalkew, Washington D.C.
Tigrai Onlne - March 06, 2014

It is an irrefutable fact and truth that since its independence in 1991, Eritrea has gone to war with all its neighbors, with the exception of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Its belligerence and bellicose approach to foreign policy has been a source of instability and suspicion in the entire Horn of Africa region.

Eritrea's Continued Intransigence in the Horn of Africa
The international community should tighten its grip on the miniscule and recluse state of Eritrea until it clearly desists from its destabilizing missions.

Eritrea has adamantly refused to show even the scantiest inclination to interact with its neighbors on the basis of respect for international law and norms.

This persistent problem is a manifestation of the attitude of a certain clique in power in Asmara that has never grown up from being a rebel group.  It is a problem of lawlessness and reckless disregard for international norms and diplomatic overtures.

The illegal and illicit activities of the Eritrean regime and its companies in Africa, the Middle East and Europe are very well documented and exhaustively narrated in UN Monitoring Group reports since the group held the responsibility of monitoring the rogue regime's activities far and near. 

The efforts to bring the Eritrean regime to sobriety and rational behavior were undertaken by international actors including IGAD and the neighboring countries.

What is more, the African Union, the EU and the United Nations all have endeavored to convince the infantile regime of Eritrea to abandon its destructive actions and behave as a responsible member of the international community.

Unfortunately, all these efforts have fallen on deaf ears and the Eritrean regime has persisted in its jaundiced and harmful behavior by resorting to even more dangerous activities.

To add insult to injury, in 2007 Eritrea unilaterally decided to leave IGAD and in June 2008 it occupied a sizable chunk of territory of the sovereign state of Djibouti. Eritrea's stubbornness and rancor, was all the more corroborated  by its  decision, as the 2010 report of the United Nations Somalia Monitoring Team puts it, “to maintain training facilities for members of Somali armed opposition groups [mainly Al-Shabab] at times deploying trainers and/or military advisers to assist armed opposition groups inside Somalia.”

This growing dangerous trend forced the countries of the region to take an unprecedented position in July 2009 during the IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government, which was later unanimously endorsed by the AU, by calling on the UN Security Council to impose “targeted sanctions against all those, and in particular Eritrea who continue to pose obstacles to peace and stability in Somalia through the provision of assistance to the extremists including foreign forces who continue to cause mayhem in Somalia.”

So one can irrefutably ascertain that the proposal was a concerted effort by IGAD which requested the UN Security Council to impose sanctions against all those foreign actors, both within and outside the region, especially Eritrea, providing support to the armed groups engaged in destabilization activities in Somalia, attacks against the TFG, the civilian population and AMISOM, as well as against the Somali individuals and entities working towards undermining the peace and reconciliation efforts and regional stability”.

This is how the effort to impose sanctions on Eritrea began. It is not the work of some external forces, big or small, as Eritrea claims to echo now and then in its inflated motto to give itself undue and unduely importance.

The UN Security Council responded to the request of IGAD and the African Union by adopting resolution 1907 (2009), which demanded that Eritrea, cease arming, training and equipping armed groups such as Al-Shabaab, categorized as a terrorist organization by the United Nations and the African Union.

It further demanded that Eritrea ceases facilitating travel and other forms of financial support to individuals or entities designated by the UN Security Council’s Sanctions Committee.

These sanctions were imposed with the hope that it would dissuade Eritrea from supporting Al-Shabab and stop destabilizing the sub-region. It was also designed to urge the Eritrean regime to find a peaceful resolution to its border dispute with Djibouti.

However, yet again, this hope was shattered, when the Monitoring Group recently revealed that the Eritrean regime has continued its support to Al Shabab and other splinter groups.

According to the UN Monitoring Group report of 2011 "Asmara’s continued relationship with Al-Shabaab, for example, appears designed to legitimize and embolden the group rather than to curb its extremist orientation or encourage its participation in a political process.

Eritrean involvement in Somalia reflects not only a broader pattern of intelligence but also an ominous disregard to find resolution of all issues in and through a political process.  By the same vein, it is also

a symptom of the systematic subversion of the Eritrean state and its master, the dictatorial ruling party.

Eritrea’s defiance against international law and UN Security Council Resolutions continues to threaten the peace and security of the sub-region.


Funny enough Asmara has recently started to implement a two pronged approach in its foreign policy, with the aim of easing the sanction.

The first one is aimed at convincing the international community that it has changed its behavior and that it is being unfairly penalized by the UN Security Council and the major powers. The rogue regime argues that the sanctions are unfair against a very poor and small country like Eritrea.

This charm offensive is aimed at scuttling the sanctions regime without making any substantive changes with respect to addressing the concerns of the sub-region which are in the first instance the reason for the imposition of sanctions.

The Second, and the more substantive one, is Eritrea's position towards the region. Here, Asmara has made no changes. The regime has continued to destabilize countries of the region, including through financial, military, intelligence and non-military assistance.

Some phenomenal improvements that the region has recently seen, such as in Somalia, are a result of partial implementation of the sanctions regime that has relatively weakened the capacity of the Eritrean leadership to create havoc and dishevelment in the region without restraint.

It is quite vivid from the recent provocative interview of the leader of that country on the state owned Eritrean television, that the Eritrean regime has not in any way changed its policy towards the region.

According to intelligence report it has now shifted and diversified such operations to the Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda and Yemen, as well as fronting a number of business operations in these locations.

These intelligence and business networks create important support structures for Asmara to execute any policy of regional destabilization, including providing support and assistance to representatives of Al-Shabaab and other recalictrant organizations.

These Eritrean clandestine activities not only contravene the norms that govern international relations but reaffirm that Eritrea, despite the sanctions resolutions, has continued to be the primary source of instability for the countries of the region.  

So, the international community should tighten its grip on the miniscule and recluse state of Eritrea until it clearly desists from its destabilizing mission and show the world its behavior has changed indeed in deeds for good.

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