East Africa: Banging war drums in the Horn


Posted on June 21, 2011 14:47

Jerry John Rawlings, former president of Ghana and the African Union’s special envoy to Somalia, argued in May that the revolutions in North Africa offer a chance to undermine Somalia’s Islamist insurgents, Al-Shabaab.

Speaking at the African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa at an elders’ meeting on peace and security, Rawlings said that the number of arms exported to Somalia from “parts of North Africa” is diminishing, but produced no figures to back his assertion.

On 11 May, the UN Security Council expressed concerns over the volatile state of Somalia’s security. This comes after the transitional parliament voted in February to lengthen its mandate to a further three years after the scheduled end of the transitional period on 20 August. The move was not supported by the Transitional Federal Government, which in turn suggested extending its own term for one year.

The Security Council expressed disappointment in the plea for extensions and reiterated that the moves cannot be made without new elections. The government has scheduled a meeting in June to discuss the matter.

Elsewhere in the region, little progress is being made in resolving a slew of border disputes. In February, Djiboutian defence minister Ougoureh Kifleh Ahmed claimed that explosive-carrying militants sent to the country by Eritrea were intercepted near the Eritrean border.

Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi also sided against Eritrea by stating that Ethiopia would ­determinedly support opposition groups in the country. He claimed that Eritrea was a regional security risk and cited Eritrea’s breaking of the arms embargo on Somalia imposed by the UN Security Council in December 2009. In March, Meles claimed that despite the sanctions, Eritrea was continuing to back Al-Shabaab.

In late April, Eritrea’s ambassador to the African Union, Girma Asmerom, dismissed the claim, saying that Meles was trying to distract the international community from the fact that Ethiopia is still occupying Eritrean land.

Eritrea came under growing pressure after a UN Monitoring Group Report revealed that a military cargo ship loaded with arms from North Korea, bound for Eritrea, was seized by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation on 4 May. The ship was said to have been loaded with 15 tons of heavy weapons including rockets, missiles and explosives worth $15m.

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