Sunday, July 10, 2011

United Nations Likely to Tighten Sanctions on Eritrea

East Africa: UN Likely to Tighten Sanctions On Eritrea Over Support to Al Shabaab

Mugumo Munene and Peter Leftie
9 July 2011

Nairobi — Eritrea's alleged involvement with Al Shabaab will be the subject of a UN Security Council meeting on Friday at which the powerful body will determine whether to slap further sanctions on the Horn of Africa nation.

It has been a rough diplomatic fortnight for the Horn of Africa country that has been in the news for the wrong reasons: Eritrea stands accused by its neighbours of supporting and funding the ragtag Al Shabaab extremist outfit.

At the Security Council meeting in New York, it is expected that the latest report from the UN agency that monitors Eritrea and Somalia will be made public.

Last week, President Kibaki broke with his style and, on behalf of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad), fired a diplomatic salvo against Eritrea.

"The Executive Council has drawn our attention to the growing destabilisation activities in the region associated with Eritrea.

"This is a matter of serious concern and it is my hope that this summit will focus some attention on it in view of the need for collective security and sustainable peace," President Kibaki said.

True to his hopes, when the conference ended, the six-country organisation directed its diplomatic guns on Eritrea, accusing it of supplying arms to the Al Shabaab through Kismayu.

"The presidents were really concerned about the role Eritrea continues to play in aiding these violent groups.

"They were told that the Kampala bombers were trained in Eritrea, which also tried to use the OLF (Oromo Liberation Front) to bomb an AU (African Union) meeting in Addis Ababa in January," said a member of the Kenyan delegation, which accompanied President Kibaki who requested not to be named because he is not authorised to speak on behalf of the Head of State.

Eritrea has long been courting the protests over its involvement with extremist Al Shabaab fighters in war-torn Somalia.

Since 2002, the Somalia Monitoring Group has investigated the role of the Eritrean regime in destabilising Somalia.

Its reports reveal that in the May-November 2006 hiatus, the Eritrean regime used dhows and leased aircraft to transport weapons to Somalia.

Train extremist groups

This effectively subverted the efforts of the African Union and the United Nations to restore peace and stability in one of Africa's failed states.

"Driven by geo-political rivalries, religious and ideological differences, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Egypt supported Eritrea to supply arms and train extremist groups," said Mr Thomas Kimaru of the Africa Policy Institute.

In December 2009, following revelations of its activities in support of terror networks, the Security Council imposed targeted sanctions on Eritrea.

On March 10, 2010, the Security Council expanded the mandate of the Monitoring Group to cover oversight of the arms embargo on Eritrea and the designation of individuals subjected to a travel ban and asset freeze for violations.

In an interview with the Sunday Nation, Eritrea's ambassador to Kenya, Mr Beneye Russom, denied that Asmara was behind the instability in Somalia.

He also denied that Eritrea was funding Al Shabaab, which controls large parts of the war-torn country.

"Eritrea is a very poor nation. We do not have the capacity or the will to fund Al Shabaab. It is not our agenda to see Somalia disintegrate," Mr Russom said.

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