Friday, September 12, 2008

Strong criticism of Eritrea from a UN Fact-Finding Mission

A Week in the Horn
12 September 2008
Addis Ababa

The Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Djibouti-Eritrea Crisis has now been presented to the United Nations Security Council. The Mission visited the region from 28 July to 6 August. Eritrea refused admission to the mission. According to the Eritrea Permanent Representative to the UN, Eritrea refused to co-operate because in June the UN Security Council had urged both sides, particularly Eritrea, to show maximum restraint and pull back their troops. This, according to the Ambassador, clearly demonstrated the UN had already condemned Eritrea. The President of the Security Council, Ambassador Michael Kafando of Burkina Faso, regretted the mission had been unable to visit Eritrea and expressed appreciation of Djibouti’s co-operation. He also noted that UN Security Council had expressed its concern over the tension and militarization on the border. The Mission identified the situation as a threat to Djibouti’s stability and said if not resolved it could have a major effect on the entire region and more widely. Solutions must be found as a matter of utmost priority. The report, which provides significant detail of Eritrea’s invasion of Djibouti territory and the events that followed, places the onus on Eritrea to co-operate with the UN, suggesting that if Eritrea continues to be obdurate the issue should be referred to the Security Council for further action. This refusal to cooperate, of course, has become something of the norm for Eritrea. It has consistently rejected any diplomatic efforts to resolve its dispute with Ethiopia and any mechanism intended to assist in the peaceful resolution of conflict. It is, as usual, being intransigent, towards Djibouti and to the international community, just as it has been in its constant refusal to hold a dialogue with Ethiopia.

Rather more surprisingly, the report on Djibouti and Eritrea also attempts to link the Eritrean invasion of Djibouti to the Eritrea-Ethiopia dispute, suggesting that progress in resolving the latter would help solve the former. It produced no evidence for this assertion, though it noted that much of the instability in the region arose from Eritrean efforts to counter Ethiopian interests in Djibouti and Somalia. The report in fact fails to appreciate the fundamental strategic position of Eritrea, that it does not subscribe in any way to the idea of co-existence with the Government of Ethiopia. Indeed, Eritrea has made it clear that its own strategic objectives in the region include the removal of the Government of Ethiopia. It has devoted almost all its efforts to the destabilisation of Ethiopia and has recently added the dimension of extra anti-Ethiopian media broadcasts in several local languages. Far from wanting any resolution, Eritrea’s strategy calls for continued widening of division between the two countries and the nullification of any or all efforts to try to build up mutual confidence or progress towards any settlement of differences. The contrast with Ethiopia’s strategic objectives could hardly be more marked. Ethiopia does not reject co-existence with the regime in Asmara; it is committed to resolving the dispute as quickly as possible.

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