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President Museveni's volt-face

By Berhane Kahsay
August 23 2011

Tigrai Online - Isaias Afwerki with Uoweri Museveni

The President of Eritrea, Esayas Afwerki, is at it again. In his recent visit to Uganda, he denied supporting the terrorist outfit Al-Shebab that is linked to Al-Qaida. On the 29th of July, the UN Security Council heard 470 pages report compiled by the UN Monitoring Group, detailing how Eritrea has been engaged in training, arming and financing the Al-Shebab. The report further stated, beyond reasonable doubt, Eritrea’s involvement in the destabilization of Ethiopia, Sudan and Djibouti. Active Eritrea intelligence officers are freely operating in Uganda, Kenya, Sudan and Djibouti according to the UN Monitoring Group. The pariah leader of Eritrea had also a grand project that took two years to conceive, devise and prepare action plan. The project was to turn Addis Ababa into Baghdad and to assassinate African heads of state during their recent meetings in Addis Ababa. UN Monitoring Group confirmed this and Australia also managed to get hold of the detailed plan through its networks.

The UN Security Council is expected to impose hefty sanctions on Eritrea soon. The Council voted 15-0 to extend the UN Monitoring Group’s mandate by a further 12 months. Fearing crippling sanctions, the Eritrean leader is making futile efforts, at the 11th hour, to avoid the inevitable. Out of sheer desperation, he visited Uganda this week to plead with President Museveni. What we heard during the joint press conference given in Kampala was very shocking indeed. Esayas denied helping Al-Shebab and his host believed him. President Museveni said ‘’ Eritrea is not supporting Al-Shebab--- I accept it because he (Esayas) told me. He is an honorable comrade and not someone who has just walked out of the slum.’’ This is very naïve indeed, and if President Museveni cares to look, there are plenty incrementing evidences in the form of audios, videos, Eritrean press releases and the many interviews the Eritrean leader gave to various TV stations.

The African Union, IGAD which Uganda is a member and the UN Monitoring Group have publically stated that Eritrea is aiding and abetting the terrorist Al-Shebab that is affiliated to Al-Qaida. They have also been stating quite categorically Eritrea’s involvement in the destabilisaion of the entire Horn region. Eritrea is indirectly responsible for the murder of 75 innocent civilians in Kampala last year by Al-Shebab that is openly armed, trained and financed by the President of Eritrea. According to Wiki leaks, in 2008, President Museveni told Ms Jendai Frazer, the ex- US Assist Secretary State for Africa, that Eritrea was supplying arms to Al-Shebab. What is Mr Museveni’s game? Is the Ugandan leader telling us that the UN Monitoring Group, IGAD and the African Union are not telling the truth? Any plausible reasons why he is disregarding the mounting evidence against Eritrea? Why is he’ believing’ what Esayas is saying but not the respectable institutions? Why is Mr Museveni trying to save Esayas’s bacon? Why is Mr Museveni trying to befriend the Eritrean leader who does not recognize the transitional government of Somali that is protected by Ugandan soldiers?

The Ugandan President is desperate to succeed in his fight against the Al-Shebab in Mogadishu and its surroundings. He wants to be recognized as the strong man and savior of Somalia in the international community and in his own country. Mr Museveni would then use this new found status to stifle his political opponents at home without fearing for an adverse reaction from his own people and the world. With Al-Shebab in the picture, it may not be that easy. This is where Esayas steps in. If the Eritrean President was to cease arming Al-Shebab, Mr Museveni’s wishes could come true. In other words, the Ugandan President has accepted (as before) the undeniable fact that Eritrea is supporting the terrorist organization that is killing Ugandan and Burundian soldiers in Mogadishu and its environs. Mr Museveni is adopting a new strategy; taking what Esayas is uttering in public at face value. But behind closed doors, secure a deal with him to stop arming the Al-Shebab in exchange for Uganda’s support to defer the UN sanctions on Eritrea that are being considered by the Security Council at the present time. Say something in public but do the complete opposite behind drawn shutters.

Could Mr Museveni have other ulterior motives for appeasing the arch enemy of Ethiopia? Is Uganda envious of Ethiopia’s standing in Africa and the world, and, wants to check-mate her tremendous achievements in the fields of politics and economy through Eritrea? Ethiopia has been Uganda’s fierce business competitor in South Sudan for some time now. Does Museveni want to destabilize Ethiopia, not directly, in order to divert her attention from her legitimate business activities in South Sudan, leaving Uganda with a free hand to be the dominant player? How would Mr Museveni feel about the Eritrean operatives in South Sudan that are plundering the wealth of the new African nation? With the way things are going, the Ugandan leader would be glad to turn a blind eye as long as Esayas does not’ invade his patch.’ The UN Monitoring Group report did mention Eritrea’s involvement in contraband, money laundering as well as human and arms trafficking. There are unconfirmed reports that Eritrea may be involved in assisting the pirates engaged in robbing ships off the coast of Somalia and far afield. To team up with a dishonorable man who locked up his closest comrades in containers and threw the keys away, will culminate in tears. If in any doubt, Uganda should consult Djibouti, the Sudan and Yemen who suffer at the hands of the Eritrean leader. Eritrea has become a country where its entire citizens want to abandon their home land and live as refugees elsewhere.

Ethiopia has the utmost respect for its neighbours; this includes Eritrea that has been giving Ethiopia untold grieves for many years. Ethiopia is genuinely endeavoring to bring peace to Somalia and has made immense sacrifices. Ethiopian peace keeping forces are in Abeyi at present, and were in Burundi and Liberia before. Her desire is for peace to reign in the trouble spots of Africa, and not to make quick bucks out of their misfortunes. President of Eritrean has repeatedly claimed that Uganda is in Somalia to make money and not to free the Somali people from Al-Shebab. The Ugandan leader must know that Ethiopia is stable, and, militarily and economically strong. The country is endowed with competent and capable leaders who would not hesitate to take necessary the measures to defend its interests. Leaving Uganda’s gymnastics aside, political and economic sanctions against Eritrea are inevitable and the sooner Mr Museveni returns to the fold the better. The President of Uganda is better of standing close to PM Meles who regularly attends Group 7 meetings representing Africa, instead of a pariah leader whose days can be counted on one hand, and is routinely ostracised by the entire world.