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Eritrea Denies It Supports Militants, Demands Independent Inquiry

  • Peter Clottey

Eritrea President Isaias Afewerki (r) being Interviewed by VOA`s Peter Clottey (r) in New York.

Eritrea President Isaias Afewerki (r) being Interviewed by VOA`s Peter Clottey (r) in New York.

Eritrea’s permanent representative to the United Nations has petitioned the U.N. Security Council to expedite an independent investigation into Kenyan allegations that Asmara is supporting the Somali militant group al-Shabab.

Ambassador Araya Desta sharply denies the latest accusations, saying, “Eritrea has never supported al-Shabab or any other group in Somalia.”

Asmara also asked the U.N. to reprimand Nairobi over the allegations.

He said Eritrea welcomes an independent inquiry into Kenya’s latest accusation.

“Definitely that is what we have requested the Security Council [to do]. We want them to send an independent body to verify and investigate these allegations and come up with the result. So that the truth will come out because Eritrea has not participated in anything like that,” said Desta. “We don’t have planes to go to Baidoa and there is no reason why we should send arms to al-Shabab.”

Earlier this year, the UN Monitoring Group for Somalia and Eritrea said Asmara was financing the Somali rebels.

Desta says the Eritrean government is seeking peace and stability in the region.

“Eritrea wants Somalia to be peaceful, stable, and we want to see a government in Somalia,” said Desta. "The only possible way to see this is that the military [intervention] should stop because, militarily, there would not be any solution."

Desta’s comments came after Kenya formally asked the Security Council to investigate Eritrea, after accusing Asmara of supporting the Somali militant group. Kenya alleges that Eritrea recently supplied planeloads of arms to al Shabab militants inside Somalia. But Ambassador Desta sharply rejects the allegation as an insult to the intelligence of the international community.

“This is totally a fabricated lie. There is no evidence at all for things like that and there is no reason why Eritrea should send arms to al-Shabab,” said Desta.

“We have drones in Ethiopia flying daily in Somalia," he added, explaining that several radar systems monitor each flight in the region, which would make it impossible for Eritrea to fly undetected to Baidoa.

Desta called for an enabling environment, which he said would encourage discussions among Somalis to come up with solutions to resolve their challenges.

“This is what Eritrea believes and has been fighting for.”

Analysts say the accusations and counter accusations between the countries could complicate or thaw diplomatic relations between the two East African nations.

Asked why Eritrea is often accused of financially and logistically supporting the Somali militants, Ambassador Desta said a border dispute with neighboring Ethiopia as the reason behind the negative campaign against his country.

“Because of this, Ethiopia is fabricating lies to accuse Eritrea, to defame Eritrea and these are the issues which have been coming to the Security Council, as well as other parties,” said Desta. “So the solution has to be finalized in order to get peace in the whole region of Horn of Africa.”

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