Sunday, September 09, 2007

Millennial Challenges: Taming the terrorist or taking action- The Asmara Fiasco!

Global Strategic Enterprises, Inc for Peace and Prosperity-

Eritrea needs to stop alleged support of terrorists, says U.S. official

The Associated Press
Sunday, September 9, 2007

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia: The U.S. could halt plans to declare Eritrea a "state sponsor of terrorism" if it stops its support of "terrorists" in Somalia, the top U.S. African affairs diplomat said.

"There's always a chance for Eritrea to stop what it's doing," Jendayi Frazer, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, told journalists late Saturday.

It was the second time that Frazer had publicly spoken of the evidence her country is compiling of alleged Eritrean support of al-Qaida-linked Islamist militants in Somalia.

The Ethiopian Ministry of Information called for "appropriate measures," to be taken against Eritrea, its archrival, for "openly pursuing its strategy of destabilizing Somalia and the region."

Eritrea has described allegations that is sponsoring terrorism and destabilizing the Horn of Africa region as "preposterous."

Frazer said that evidence of Eritrean support for extremists includes a conference of Somali dissidents Eritrea is currently hosting that includes individuals who have been linked to al-Qaida.

"We are continuing to gather information and evidence, and I think that we need to do a very thorough job there. But clearly the fact that Eritrea is providing sanctuary for terrorists is best illustrated by the report that Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys was in Asmara yesterday (Friday)," Frazer said.

Aweys has been singled out in a U.S. executive order and a U.N. Security Council resolution for his association with al-Qaida, Frazer said. "So he's a designated terrorist attending a conference in Asmara that's supported by the (Eritrean) government."

Aweys has denied he is a terrorist or has any links with al-Qaida.

U.S. policy toward Eritrea "has nothing to do with principles of international law or with values of justice, democracy and human rights," the Eritrean Ministry of Information said in a Wednesday statement. "The United States has all along believed that its perceived strategies in the region can be better served by Ethiopia."

U.N. experts have found Eritrea to be the primary source of weapons and cash for Islamic insurgents in Somalia, something Eritrea has denied.

On Aug. 17, Frazer said U.S. government agencies will evaluate any evidence gathered and then a decision will be made whether to declare Eritrea a state sponsor of terrorism, a rare move that would impose severe sanctions on the impoverished nation and put it in the same pariah category as Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.

No timeline has been given for when the U.S. may make such a designation.

Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 following a 30-year guerrilla war, but the border between the countries was never officially demarcated. Another war broke out from 1998-2000, killing tens of thousands, and now, some fear they are waging a proxy war in Somalia, where Ethiopian troops have remained since December.

Aweys's movement, known as the Council of Islamic Courts, ruled Somalia's capital and much of southern Somalia for six months last year, until Ethiopian forces, backing Somali troops, drove it out in December. Remnants of the group have launched an insurgency, vowing to realize their dream of ruling Somalia according to the Quran.

Violence in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, this year has seen thousands of civilians killed and tens of thousands fleeing to live in squalid camps.

Somalia has been ravaged by violence and anarchy since warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, then turned on each other. Its current government was formed in 2004, but has struggled to assert any real control.

Eritrea - Don't Cry for Me Asmara, just sing Other People’s Freedom

By Mulugeta Alemu

9 September 2007

Africa’s hidden modernist and beautiful city of Asmara is hosting a congregation of spoilers and jihadists. As I coin down some of my reflections on what is going on in this beautiful and small city of Asmara for the last several years,

I reckoned the darker side of its old buildings. They now host the largest assembly of suicide bombers, terrorists, and militant jihadists. In a way what the Eritrean rogue regime tout as Somali Congress for Liberation and Reconstitution, is just one among a series of flawed, strategically naive policy of a desperate government which has let down the freedom for which it has so courageously fought for several decades.

It is so ironic that a city, which smells the scent of old men and women abandoned by their sons and daughters, does nothing but talk of other peoples’ freedom. Asmara talks of other people’s freedom when its youth is in non-ending military camps. Its citizens are daily fleeing their country at what ever cost.

The country neither has a parliament nor political parties. Eritrea never held an election. There is no single free press and the Government continues to arrest, harass and kill journalist who even worked for the state media.

There is no freedom of religion and many have been thrown to jail and military camps just because they tried to exercise their right to worship. Even the arch bishop of the dominant Orthodox Church has been incarcerated. The country does not have functioning universities. Eritrean youth attend school in military camps.

The City of Rebels

The only thing the Government seemed to master is a continuous and non-ending hospitality to rebel groups, jihadists and insurgents. Eritrean government is involved in countless problem spots across Africa in places such as Darfur, Somalia, Chad. CAR and Congo.

To the surprise of many, the US Congress Foreign Relations Committee recently named Eritrea as supporting the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. Some analysts listed around 13 armed groups the Eritrean government is currently financing, arming and harboring only against Ethiopia.

Reports from the UN abound regarding the massive military support Eritrea has been providing to Islamists in Mogadishu. The UN Group of Expert monitoring Security Council’s embargo on the movement of arms to Somalia reported in mid-July that Eritrea has been providing massive small and heavy armaments to the extremists in Somalia. These weapons are used for attacking the African Union forces and innocent civilians.

The Economist (2 August 2007) reported that the Council’s permanent members are increasingly disturbed by the destabilising role of Eritrea in the sub-region. The Chicago Tribune (1 August 2007) projected a grim picture of facts on the ground in Eritrea that the government is using its external meddling to ignore.

Asmara naively defiant

Should any Ethiopian official be ballistic about Somalia’s Islamist militant conference in Asmara? Hardly. The conference has shown to the world the true intent and plan of the regime in Eritrea. Look who has reemerged from what appeared from what seemed like an eternal hiding, Hassan Dahir Aweys.

The disgruntled and discredited jihadists are meeting in Asmara to deliberate upon what they consider to be an effective military resistance to the TFG and Ethiopian forces in Somalia.

This proves what the Ethiopian government and others were trying to tell the international communityEritrea’s Government is actively and militarily supporting the Islamists and the criminal insurgency in Somalia. Though Asmara’s overt support and armament supplies to the Somali jihadists and spoilers is a non-brainier, it is perhaps good that the Eritrean government is shedding its masks.

New Faces of Militantism

The organisers of the Asmara conference are keen on creating the impression that the meeting participants are not just jihadists but also members of the Diaspora communities and civic society. But it is a very difficult theme to sell given the fact that what the conference managed to come up with is again only the old military and jihadist threats against the TFG and Ethiopia.

Asmara threatening the US
In his several speeches, interviews and laughably silly anti-American editorials by his Ministry of Information, President Issayas has made his anger over the US very clear. His anti-American sentiments reminds many of those long speeches used to be made by Communist Rogues of the Banana Republics of the Americas and the Caribbean Peninsula. Rainer Chr.

Henning calls Eritrea’s approach “loony policies” where the Government continues to write Soviet-Style protest communiques each time some one criticizes it. I have made several observation earlier that the thinking behind such public antagonism of the US and its policy in the Horn of Africa is to shore up local and Middle Eastern Support for Eritrea.

Partly, an unbelievable dose of naiveté on the part of Eritrea explains the increasingly deteriorating relationship between the Red Sea state and the US. The Eritrean government thinks that the US can even be forced to revise the fundamentals of its foreign policy in order to appease Eritrea.

Eritrean president noted on August 24, 2007 that “If the situation has to really change for the better, then the Americans must change their ways of thinking. They should stop making all manner of threats against us. They have to stop all activities aimed at harming our national interests. Regional peace is being threatened through their interference.”.

Some are dangerously trying to sale this to the the American Foreign Policy establishment. In a recent policy discussion organised by the Center for International and Strategic Studies on 5 September 2007, Ken Menkhaus, Professor of Political Science from Davidson College, North Carolina argued that the US should factor in Eritrean legitimate grievances and role in Somalia. Of course we have heard this several times before.

It has been suggested that America’s support for Ethiopia’s stance on the Ethio-Eritrea border problem is fueling a crisis in Somalia. The problem with this analysis is two fold. To the chagrin of Ethiopians, the US has publicly criticized Ethiopia over the border. Secondly, it attempts to absolve Eritrea from any responsibility from its illegal interventions in Somalia.

Can Eritrea afford what it continues to do?

Absolutely not. The security, political and financial cost of Eritrea’s adventure is prohibitively high. But it is likely that the renegade Eritrean leader will continue in his rouge policy. There are evidences in Sudan, Chad, CAR, Sri Lanka and even Congo that the regime has developed an intricate underground networks of interest where it continues to gain economic benefits. Moreover, there are forces from Middle East and the diaspora communities which continue to fill the Government’s coffers.

But for the old city of Asmara, the future is bleak and darker. As the lines from Don’t Cry for me Argentina lyrics go,

So I chose freedom
Running around, trying everything new
But nothing impressed me at all
I never expected it to

But Eritrea and its people deserve the dividend of freedom - peace.

Copyright © 2007 The International Herald Tribune |

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