Ethiopian Government on Eritrea and Somalia current events.

Halkaan ka akhri

Somalia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdullahi Omar arrived in Addis Ababa on Thursday for talks with the Chairperson of the African Union, and with Ethiopian Government officials on bilateral issues. Three days earlier the Minister of National Security, Colonel Omar Hashi Aden, the Federal Police Commissioner, General Abdi Hassan Awale, and the advisor to the President of Somalia, General Mohamed Sheik, also arrived for bilateral talks in Addis Ababa related to capacity building, security and issues of common concern. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Shermarke held his second Cabinet meeting in Mogadishu this week following the cabinet’s relocation from Djibouti. The agenda covered possible improvements to the security situation and how to harness the country’s meager resources to security and institutional needs. While Al-Shabaab took over the town of El-Berde, the last stronghold of the TFG in Bakool region, close to the border with Ethiopia, elsewhere the situation has been calm in much of Central and South Somalia.

While these are positive developments in the country together with the calm situation prevailing in Mogadishu, there are concerns over recent developments on the political track. President Sharif has called on Islamic clerics from outside to help mediate with elements which still oppose the government. A six man delegation headed by Abdurrahman Noemi is in Mogadishu to meet Al-Shabaab, Hisbul Islam and any other group. The chairman of the Union of the World Islamic clerics, Sheik Yusuf Al -Qardawi meanwhile has called for the Qatar government to help mediate between Somali people. The international delegation of Islamic clerics headed by Abdurrahman Noemi meet with President Sharif in Villa Somalia on 25th February, raising a number of issues including possible enforcement of Shari’a law and calling on AMISOM forces to leave Somalia under a fixed timetable. The President replied that Somalis are all Muslims and that the Transitional Charter is already based on Shari’a law. Regarding AMISOM, he said it was not his government that had brought AMISOM to Somalia. It was up to the Somali community to decide on their future.

The Eritrean regime, in a press release issued on 23 February, publicly declared that it will continue to support those who are bent on undermining the new government and attempting to destabilize Somalia. An Eritrean Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ statement called the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, established at the conclusion of the Djibouti process, illegitimate. It described it as a balloon created to serve foreign interests. In effect, Eritrea was giving itself all the right to continue to support extremist groups to kill innocent Somalis, and continue its destabilizing role.

In fact, the Eritrean regime has chosen to continue with its role as a spoiler in the region in general and Somalia in particular, while the international community closed its eyes to Eritrea’s activities. The recent International Contact Group (ICG) meeting held in Brussels on 26 and 27 February was the first international gathering to look into ways and means of supporting the government of President Sheikh Sharif. Even though the meeting was fully aware of the Eritrean regime’s clear intention to try to dismantle the new government as soon as possible, it failed to take any meaningful action over Eritrea. The Eritrean statement declaring the demise of the new Somali government through the use of force was read in part to the ICG meeting, but the ICG refused to enter into any detailed discussion as to what the implications of Eritrea’s actions might be for Somalia or for the region at large. It is really difficult to explain why the ICG has allowed Eritrea to get away with a public declaration of this kind with no attempt to condemn it. This is particularly surprising when Eritrea is calling on all concerned to work for the collapse of the new Somali Government which the ICG at its Brussels meeting has been calling on all its members to support.

The two days of ICG discussions welcomed the recent progress in Somalia, including the election of President Sheikh Sharif, the appointment of a Prime Minister and a cabinet, the enlargement of the parliament and the relocation of the government to Mogadishu. The ICG made clear its support for the new government and its willingness to work with it. It also emphasized the need to consolidate and support it in terms of security. It had much to say about the need to strengthen AMISOM, condemning attacks on AMISOM forces. ICG members also agreed to respond to the priorities outlined in six-monthly updates from the chairman, Mr. Ould-Abdallah, in co-ordination with the transitional government. This will be the hardest element. The ICG has never been short of vocal commitments, but it has always been less enthusiastic to put its money where its mouth is.

Indeed, although the ICG meeting lasted two days, discussing just how to assist the new government in terms of security, recovery and humanitarian affairs, the commitment to support the new government did not come out particularly clearly. Some of those present were concentrating on the idea of reconciliation, that is reconciliation between the recently constituted government and those who are bent on destabilizing Somalia and serving the interests of Eritrea. These forces were previously using the excuse of Ethiopia’s presence in Somalia to justify the killings of innocent civilians. Now these same forces are using the presence of AMISOM to justify similar actions of destabilization. Indeed, some of those present in Brussels were calling on the government of Sheikh Sharif to distance itself from AMISOM.

No one in the gathering of the ICG in Brussels was brave enough to say why AMISOM was present, indeed necessary in Mogadishu and that it was there to maintain the major economic installations such as Mogadishu seaport and the airport, as well as the institutions of governance for the new government and provide security protection to the new leadership. AMISOM will play a significant role in restructuring and institutionalizing the security sector for the new Government.

The ICG in particular, rather than taking Eritrea’s public declarations seriously, seems to look at Eritrea as no more than an irritant. This view provides Eritrea with a carte blanche to continue with its destabilization of the region. If the International Community and the ICG want to be taken seriously regarding their role on Somalia, they should be prepared to clearly spell out the realities in Somalia and their readiness to support President Sharif’s government in a concrete and tangible way. How can a support to the TFG be fruitful if some are actively working for the demise of the same institution that the ICG claim to be assisting?

This should certainly involve condemnation of Eritrean activity, and not just in Somalia. The United Nations Security Council has still failed to react to Eritrea’s failure to respond to the Security Council demands over Djibouti. The Council gave Eritrea an ultimatum to withdraw from Djiboutian territory within six weeks. This ultimatum fell in two weeks ago. Eritrea has totally ignored it. The Secretary-General was supposed to produce a report on possible action for Security Council consideration. He has yet to do so. There are reports that efforts are being made to mediate the dispute, though it is far from clear why this should prevent Security Council action. At present it appears Eritrea and Djibouti are not on the Security Council’s agenda. It is hardly surprising that the Government of Djibouti is less than happy with the present situation.


%d bloggers like this: