After years of inquiry, the U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea has found no conclusive evidence of Eritrean support for al-Shabab militants in Somalia, an allegation that led to sanctions in 2009. In its latest report, the group identified violations of those sanctions and recommended that the Security Council form a new entity focused only on Eritrea to continue investigating the country’s actions.
In 2009, the U.N. imposed an arms embargo and targeted sanctions on Eritrea, including an asset freeze and travel restrictions on the country’s leaders, but individuals have not been named, and high-ranking Eritrean officials continue to move freely.
Allegations that Eritrea had destabilized Somalia by supporting al-Shabab and other armed groups and concerns that it had not withdrawn troops following a border conflict with Djibouti in 2008 prompted the sanctions. In response to the penalties, Djibouti’s representative, Roble Olhaye, said he welcomed justice for “unprovoked, naked and blatant aggression against my country by Eritrea almost two years ago.” Somalia’s representative, Elmi Ahmed Duale, blamed Eritrea for deepening his country’s protracted conflict.
Destabilization, limited transparency
Despite a lack of evidence of Eritrea’s involvement in Somalia, the monitoring group did find evidence of continued activity on Eritrea’s side of its border with Djibouti. It also determined that Eritrea has continued to support armed groups in the region, including the Patriotic Ginbot Sebat and the Tigray People’s Democratic Movement in Ethiopia, along with groups in Djibouti. The monitoring group did not characterize these groups as “critical threats” to Eritrea’s neighbors, but it did raise concerns that Eritrea’s actions destabilize the region. It also determined that the expansion of a military base operated by the United Arab Emirates near the port of Assab and related transfers of military materiel and assistance violate the arms embargo.
The monitoring group also said that it has been repeatedly denied entry to Eritrea, preventing a full investigation of alleged violations. A lack of transparency around financial transactions, particularly within Eritrea’s mining sector, has hampered the group’s work, according to its latest report.
The monitoring group recommended that the Security Council “disassociate” the sanction regimes for Eritrea and Somalia. This means an independent sanctions committee and monitoring group would need to be formed to focus on Eritrea. Similar recommendations were made last year, but the Security Council did not act on them.