Hargeisa, 19 May 2009 – Some people try to dismiss the accusations of the IGAD, AU, UN, USA, and other organizations or countries against Eritrea’ s distractive role in Somalia, for supplying armaments, training, and other support to Al-Shebab and Tahir Aweys group to dismantle the internationally recognized TFG and AMISOM.
The main argument of these individuals is that Eritrea’s economy is going down the drain, where let alone to finance such forces in Somalia, it cannot even feed its oversized army of perpetual National Service recruits. Eritrea’s currency (the Nakfa) is valued at 40 to $1 and there is hardly anything to export from Eritrea because the government has gone to the extent of confiscating cereals from its peasant population to ration it to its civil servants and the security operatives. These people can be called as naïve or the simpletons who only read what is given to them by some quarters.
To really understand how the Eritrean government operates to get money, one needs to look into its systems that Shaebia has followed and perfected since its inception in 1977. The first principle it follows is to work as a commission agent to earn an income, with no qualms to any principles. This system can be demonstrated by stating only one example which the Eritrean government openly used on DR Congo’s government during the late President Kabila’s time. Eritrea had appointed Ambassador Andebirhan to both Brussels and Kinshasa then for good reason.
Here, one may think there is no logic to such an appointment because Brussels and Kinshasa are worlds apart to be covered by a single ambassador. But, the logic of the Eritrean government at the time was that its army and other cadres, which were in DRC in the name of assisting the Kinshasa government, were assigned to collect diamonds and other precious metals from the black market agents as much as it can and send it direct to Ambassador Andebirhan via diplomatic valise to Brussels to be sold in the Antwerp and Amsterdam markets. This scheme earned the Eritrean government a hefty income which enabled the government finances its invasion of Ethiopia and the Ambassador to pay in cash for the embassy premises in Brussels.
This kind of scheme can only be conceived by the Eritrean government which has no scruples about diplomatic ethic ate. Similarly, as the IGAD Communiqué of 20 May 2009 indicated, the Eritrean government is working as a commission agent for Al-Sheba, Hizbu-al Islam, etc. to provide the necessary training, armaments of all types and their transportation to various airfields in Somalia, fast boats to the pirates, etc.
In addition to this, countries like Qatar, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Egypt (each for a different reason), and other movements like Hezbollah transfer their financial and armament support under the cover of Eritrea. The history of the Eritrean government to engage in such dealings can be traced to its relationship with the Darfur and Beja rebels of the Sudan, the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka, and other opposition groups in the region which is well documented within the UN reports and specific country/government documents. Last year, the Sri Lankan government was forced to appeal to the UN Security Council to stop Eritrea’s meddling in its internal affairs.
In conclusion, there is nothing that the Eritrean government will not do to earn foreign currency, especially these days. Some of its investments mainly in the Middle East, though not in the name of the State of Eritrea, have been greatly affected by the current financial crisis. Similarly, the 2% forced tax collected from its diasporas as a requirement to visit or even to support their families in Eritrea is drying up due to the strengthening movement and communication by the opposition. Another ill advised source of support is of course the recent financial aid from the European Commission, more than 120 million Euros with no conditionality of the Cotonou Agreement, three times the per capita allocation to Ethiopia (population 80 million) from the same source.
The irony of the EU assistance to Eritrea, in the name of engagement to use Commissioner Luis Michel?s terms, is that it has also pledged to give 60 million Euros to the TFG of Somalia which is being required to secure the whole country first before it is able to access the funds. It looks like the EU is determined to finance both warring sides in Somalia despite its public pronouncements to support the internationally recognized TFG.
By F. Tesfu