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Horn of Africa leaders back Eritrea, ask UN to lift sanctions

Sunday October 7, 2018


The Horn of Africa was in focus at the recently-concluded United Nations General Assembly in New York, where leaders tried to showcase how their countries are contributing to peace efforts in the region.

Leaders from Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan addressed themselves to the issue of security and economic recovery at both the Security Council and the General Assembly.

Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh — who represented President Isaias Afeworki — pushed for the lifting of sanctions that were imposed on Asmara in 2009 and 2011, for allegedly supporting the Somali militant group Al Shabaab. Citing recent peace agreements with Ethiopia, Mr Saleh said it was time the UN Security Council considered lifting the sanctions.

“The sanctions have caused considerable economic damage to the country and unnecessary hardships for its people. But Eritrea working with its partners, has dismantled terrorist networks and hideouts,” said Mr Saleh.

The Ethiopia and Somali Foreign Ministers also lobbied for the lifting of sanctions in light of the rapprochement in the region.

“To achieve our common goal of economic progress and prosperity for the Horn of Africa, I humbly call on the UN to lift all economic sanctions on our neighbour, Eritrea.

This would ease the flow of imports and exports, movement of people and businesses, and fulfil our vision for the successful economic integration of the region,” said Somalia Foreign Minister, Ahmed Awad Isse.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres noted that the rapprochement between Eritrea, Ethiopia and Djibouti will restore peace and stability in the region and that the global body is ready to support countries in the Horn of Africa in consolidating the recent gains.

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The conflicts in Somalia and South Sudan was highlighted by almost the entire East African region with representatives including Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Amisom drawdown

Ugandan Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, opposed arbitrary reduction of African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) troops, adding that any further reduction must be matched by the strengthening of the Somali National Army.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta in a private meeting with Mr Guterres and in his address to the General Assembly said that the Security Council and other stakeholders must come up with a predictable mechanism for funding Amisom. He also called for the revision of Amisom’s mandate, saying it is too restrictive in the face of complex threats.

"Peacekeepers today face a myriad challenges that undermine their ability to deliver on their mandate. This calls for a decisive intervention to make peacekeeping responsive and fit for purpose," said President Kenyatta.

Mr Isse appealed to the Security Council to lift the arms embargo on his country as this would help boost the national army’s capacity to dismantle terrorist groups faster.

“Al Shabaab or Al Qaeda are no longer appealing, and no longer attract new recruits. Leaders and members are surrendering their weapons,” he said.

On Sudan, UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina J Mohammed and African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Chergui, convened a high-level meeting on the transition from peacekeeping to peace-building and development projects in Darfur.

The meeting noted that the security situation in Darfur has improved since the height of the conflict in 2003 with a dramatic reduction in inter-communal violence, but called for efforts to address the root causes of the conflict such as land and natural resources.

They created a Group of Friends of the Transition in Darfur that will work with the UN Country Team while preparing for the exit of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur.

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