When will Eritrea behave in accordance with UN resolutions?

Articles and Analysis

When will Eritrea behave in accordance with UN resolutions?

Dec 17 2010

(MoFA, Dec 17, 2010)-President Isaias Afeworki of Eritrea held one of his rare cabinet meetings this week, discussing a range of issues with a rather reduced number of officials. It’s now become clear that these meetings - few and far between as they are - are one of the few signs to indicate the existence of any semblance of civil government in Asmara. Usually the meetings provide no more than another opportunity for President Isaias to give one of his ‘extensive briefings’, as the Eritrea media describe his marathon lectures to his ministers. As usual, many topics were covered and numerous self-congratulatory remarks made about “the significant progress” achieved in various sectors, social, economic and political. As President Isaias tells it, Eritrea is the personification of success par excellence. If there are any negative developments in Eritrea, as many insist is the case, none are ever mentioned in cabinet meetings which are characterized by Eritrean officials taking turns to praise their leader to the skies for his extraordinary successes. There is never any indication of the suffering that has become the hallmark of the people of Eritrea.

This week, however, there was another, more surprising omission from the meeting. Very unusually, there was apparently no mention of Eritrea’s foreign relations. Or at least, the media report made no mention of it. There was apparently none of President Isaias’s trademark outbursts of invective against “his enemies”. This is indeed surprising and unusual. Unusual because Eritrea’s leaders very seldom miss an opportunity to launch a rant against their enemies, local or external, to blame them for anything that might have gone wrong in Eritrea. Surprising, because this is the time of the year when Eritrea’s leaders normally take turns to boast about their numerous diplomatic “successes”.

In fact, it appears all the diplomatic guns have suddenly fallen silent on the Eritrean front. Alternatively, if the chronic optimists who never tire of giving the Eritrean leadership the benefit of the doubt are right, this may indicate newly discovered maturity in the leadership and a determination to focus on internal problems. In fact, for all the speculation, it is actually quite clear nothing has changed in the regime’s behavior to offer any warrant for any surprises or possibilities of hope. The apparent lack of enthusiasm for international issues may well be a deceptive façade to conceal the mundane realities of Eritrea’s domestic decay and its continued campaigns at destabilizing the region through all kinds of subversive activity.

Eritrea still continues to meddle in Somalia, extending its support to extremists. Its media reviles the TFG, day in and day out, blaming it for any problem under the sun. Its campaign against Ethiopia has, if anything, become even more vitriolic after a brief hiatus. Now the various ‘movements’ and ‘fronts’ Eritrea has concocted to attack Ethiopia have recently been recycled for yet another round, for a “final push to finish off the Ethiopian regime”. Successive defeats notwithstanding, the leaders of Eritrea seem determined to continue to churn out anti-Ethiopian elements. There is even reason to believe that President Isaias is now trying to offer his anti-Ethiopian services to entities farther away from the region. He appears determined to stop at nothing, short of open invasion of course, to see Ethiopia dismembered or at the very least its progress retarded.

More interestingly, on the international level, the much-hyped peace agreement that Eritrea was supposed to have signed earlier this year with Djibouti through the mediation of the Emir of Qatar does not appear to have lasted very long thanks to the Eritrean regime’s recalcitrant behavior. President Isaias’ repeated spurning of the whole process reached new levels with his recent denial of any agreement to withdraw his forces from Djibouti. This openly contradicted the very mediator he simultaneously and affectionately referred to as “a brother.” If his repeated shuttling to Doha is any indication, his friends have perhaps not taken this volte-face very well. In addition, Djibouti has also broken its silence regarding the deal brokered by the Emir of Qatar, calling in question the latter’s claim that the dispute has been amicably resolved. In a recent statement, Djibouti noted that “the task of resolving the border dispute between the two countries is still under the auspices and the mediation of the Emir of Qatar”. It expressed “hope that the conflict would be resolved peacefully and in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions.”

It all rather suggests that the so-called peace agreement is less than definitive. Indeed, it remains to be seen if a leader who is still denying the existence of the dispute will ever be able to bring himself to honor an agreement about which he is so openly dismissive. It would be naïve to expect the Eritrean leader to suddenly change his ways and become a partner for peace. For any serious minded people interested in changing or influencing the behavior of the regime in Asmara the last part of the Djibouti statement is the critical point: the only way to achieve this is to force the regime to behave “in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions.” Nothing less is required from the UN and from the international community.

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