The Evidence against Eritrea is incontrovertible

June 19 2009

Eritrea has been supporting the terrorist elements in Somalia in different ways. Eritrea itself has admitted that it supports these elements. Of course, Eritrea has also made it a habit to play with words to explain away its culpability. At times it claims that it is only providing shelter to the insurgency; or that it is providing them the opportunity to hold discussion. The truth of the matter is, it has always flaunted the support it has been giving to these groups out of a “moral & legal obligation” that, strangely enough, it believes it alone has towards the Somalis. But now that it is feeling the heat coming from the international community, it appears to have changed its tone. It has started to flatly deny that it provides arms to the terrorist elements in Somalia. According to its foreign ministry’s press release on 15th June, 2009, what Eritrea did with regard to Somalia was, far from supplying extremists with arms, to exercise its right to ‘dissent’ with the decisions of the international community on the future of Somalia. Despite its ‘denial’, Eritrea congratulates itself on having pursued for the last two years what it calls a ‘realistic’ position with regard to Somalia, that Abdullahi Yusuf’s government was doomed. It was indeed realistic in light of the fact that Eritrea did everything to prove itself right by giving all kinds of support to the Al Shabab. Eritrea has its own unique standard for what is legitimate and what is not. Despite its new found ‘respect’ for international law, it still finds it baffling that the TFG should still be considered ‘legitimate’, simply because it is recognised by the International community. It is as if only those who fight their way to power—as Eritrea likes to believe it did—can only be considered genuinely legitimate. Whatever the explanation, Eritrea seems to sincerely believe that it has every right to extend and withdraw legitimacy at will. And it is not ashamed of it even when it is trying hard to be more diplomatic, as their latest overtures are held out to be.

Finally Eritrea seems to have realized that it cannot continue to ignore the fact that the international community is close to abandoning its earlier policy of appeasement and is therefore trying to draw down its vitriolic propaganda against the UN and the AU. Unfortunately for Eritrea, its change of tone may have come too little too late. Africa knows better than listening to Eritrea’s deception. Indeed the whole world, even those who were generous enough to give Eritrea the benefit of the doubt, now know that the time has come for Eritrea to account for its acts of destabilization. The case for sanctions on Eritrea has long been in the making by other actors without result. The difference now is that Africa is speaking loud & clear that the regime in Asmara is a force of destabilization for the entire sub-region and has to be dealt with firmly. The evidence against Eritrea is overwhelming. All those who have keenly followed Eritrea’s activities are now convinced that Eritrea continues to supply these violent armed groups with deadly weapons. Even as it tries to hoodwink the international community into believing that it is not supplying arms to the terrorist elements, the regime in Asmara has continued calling for the destruction of the TFG in no uncertain terms. It has advocated attack against the African Union Peace Keepers-AMISOM, fully sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council. Eritrea has consistently called for further bloodshed and attacks against TFG and AMISOM itself. These indeed are grave violations of international law, making the case against Eritrea even more compelling. In all seriousness, these calls for violence can not be taken simply as expressions of ‘dissent’ with the international community regarding developments in Somalia given Eritrea’s active and irrefutably proved acts of support to the terrorists.

The UN Security Council has been steadily moving towards imposing sanctions on Eritrea as the evidence of Eritrea’s irresponsible and blatant acts only continues to intensify. The more the Council edges towards sanctions, Eritrea has become ever more noisy and offensive. Africa has become the usual target, of course. The Eritrean Ministry of Information has even dared to call the Organization for African Unity, the predecessor of the African Union, in the most demeaning terms. But then again, this appalling attack on our continental organizations coming from the Eritrean regime is not uncommon. What makes these Eritrean attacks against the African Union particularly offensive is not only the extent it has gone to totally deny the achievements of the OAU; but it has also been shamelessly calling for the demise of the AU. Eritrea’s leaders have a bizarre belief that the legitimacy of any government or organization depends on whether or not it endorses their every move.

Eritrea does not simply call the OAU and now the AU ‘incompetent and passive entity’ ‘acting as a tool for external forces, western spy networks and the agents of neo-colonialism’; but its leaders also hold that the name of the African Union has become, in their words ‘that of humiliation and embarrassment for Africans.’ Members of the African Union cannot stand idle while the Union is being shamelessly attacked and vilified by one of its members. It was only appropriate that the African Union called on the United Nations Security Council to impose sanction on Eritrea for its acts of destabilization in Somalia, following calls by IGAD. In any case, Eritrea’s despicable actions against the African Union and its representation of African history in such contemptuous manner should not deter resolute action against Eritrea by the United Nations Security Council. It would in fact show the international community the true nature of the regime in Asmara and its real intentions in destabilizing the entire region. Increasingly Eritrea is seen for what it is—a regime unable and unwilling to behave as any normal state fully respecting the norms governing relations between states. The time has now come for this intransigent regime to face the long overdue consequence of its illegal acts. The United Nations should not fail Africa at this critical stage. The people of Somalia and the entire region are expecting the regime in Eritrea to be seriously punished for all the suffering and instability it has caused. Resolute actions by the United Nations against Eritrea shall remove one more roadblock barring lasting and inclusive process for peace in Somalia. Punitive measures against Eritrea under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter are the only logical and consequential outcomes of Eritrea’s own acts and are legitimately demanded by Africa consistent with the principles of international law. Eritrea’s latest acrobatics should not be mistaken for change of ways; even when it tries hard to appear civilized—of sorts—its language betrays its arrogance. Its time for the international community to exercise its right to tell Eritrea to behave.