“Don’t expect a repeat of Ethiopia’s extended foray into Somalia three years ago.” The State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Birhane Gerbre Kirstos says the stay will be limited.
“So far Ethiopian forces have not entered Somalia, we were asked to help the Transitional Government of Somalia (TGS) by the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD) for a specific mission that, when completed, will lead to our exit. We do not want to stay in Somalia for long,” he said.
“AMISOM’s mission is more of a long term,” he added.
The State Minister also said the recent United Nations Security Council sanctions on Eritrea after its East African neighbours, through IGAD, accused it of continuing to provide support to Islamist militants in Somalia to destabilize the region, is justified and will not harm the people of Eritrea. The resolution requires foreign companies involved in Eritrea’s mining industry to ensure that funds from the sector are not used to destabilize the region.
Thirteen council members voted for the resolution while China and Russia, abstained. In view of Birhane the abstention of China and Russia indicates that they are supporting the decision. If they were against the resolution they could use their veto power, he said.
Birhane said that the Eritrean government is not abiding by international law.
“Still the leadership has the mentality of a rebel,” Birhane said. When officials from five East African nations addressed the council through video conference before the vote, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said, “Eritrea is a prime source of instability for the whole region. It’s a problem of attitude, of a certain clique in Asmara that has never grown up; it’s a problem of lawlessness and reckless disregard for international norms.”
The resolution was watered down but Birhane still feels it will be effective.
It broadens the scope of an asset freeze and travel ban imposed on Eritrean individuals and entities imposed in 2009 and calls on UN member states to “undertake appropriate measures to promote the exercise of vigilance” in their dealings with Eritrea’s mining industry,” he said. Eritrea’s $2.59 billion economy relies on mining and gold and has drawn investment from companies including Canada’s Nevsun Resources Ltd.
When Birhane was asked about the early drafts of the resolution that included measures like banning foreign investment in Eritrea’s mining sector and blocking a remittance tax imposed on nationals overseas, he replied, “Two percent Diaspora Tax levied on the overseas Eritrean by the Eritrean government is sanctioned. The imposition of this sanction will help reduce the capacity of the government to supply weapons in the neighbouring countries.”
“Ethiopia doesn’t have the desire to inflict harm on the people of Eritrea. The Eritrean people are not our enemy. That is why the government granted 1,000 scholarships for Eritrean refugees, in Universities, who left their country fearing possible persecution and forced military recruitment. Eritrea currently has 360 thousand soldiers. This is close to 15 percent of the population,” he remarked.
The council also imposed sanctions against Eritrea including freezing assets and travel ban on some officials. Birhane said Isayas Afworki is not included on the list. He didn’t disclose names.
The State Minister at the end warned the Eritrean government that if the leadership tries to wage war against Ethiopia for the second time, it will be the final resort. “We take action that will make Isayas out of play for the third attempt,” he concluded. Here after any attempt to wage war against Ethiopia will lead to ethiopia taking action until the leadership is ousted from power.