BY THE INDIAN OCEAN NEWSLETTER
Ever since Qatar announced on June 14 it was withdrawing the observation force it deployed in 2010 between Eritrea and Djibouti, the inhabitants of Djibouti and Ethiopia fear Asmara has war-like intentions.
Right time for wrong movers
The Indian Ocean Newsletter understand that Ethiopia, in its capacity as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, has pushed for rising tension between Djibouti and Eritrea to be placed on the agenda of a Council meeting on June 18.
Addis Ababa is indeed appealing for an observation mission to be formed in partnership with the African Union to replace the departing Qatari force. But Ethiopia is both judge and jury in the conflict. Since June 14, Djibouti has been claiming that the Eritrean army has moved into a buffer zone held up to now by the Qataris.
Our sources say troops from the Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF) have taken up position on the Eritrean and Djiboutian borders under a security accord between Ethiopia and Djibouti.
Addis wins from union and disunity
Isaias Afwerki’s government,
often portrayed as North Korea of Africa, is every body’s common enemy and its existence helps to sow nationalist sentiments in Ethiopia, a country torn by internal conflict.
Behind that superficial unity, however, there’s disagreement in Ethiopia’s governing circles and military leadership on how to respond to Asmara.
The ENDF chief-of-staff, Gen. Mohamed Nur Yunus, a.k.a Samora – backed by the conservative Mekelle based wing of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) headed by Abay Woldu, continues to push Prime Minister Hailemariam Desaleg to take military action.
People in Samora’s circle are reporting acts of violence by Eritrean soldiers in nearby areas. But the military’s view is opposed by the inner circle of Telecommunication minister Derbretsion Gebremichael, which won’t countenance warfare against Asmara and is counting on the former head of the Northern Defence Command, Gen. Seare Mekonen, and Getachew Assefa chief of the National Intelligence and Security Servicres (NISS) to back that position.
Djibouti’s propaganda, to what end?
Djibouti Ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations, Mohamed-Siad Doualeh Warsaw, transmitted a letter on June 15 to security Council president Sacha Lirenti from Djibouti’s foreign minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf. It accuses Eritrea of violating the demilitarized zone on the border with Djibouti.
The Franco – Djibouti defence accord penned in 1977 called for French forces to act in the case of an attack against Djibouti.
Accordingly, General Zakaria Cheikh Ibrahim, chief of staff of Forces Armees Djiboutiennes (FAD), called on the Forces Francaises Stationees a Djibouti to conduct flight over the buffer zone with Eritrea.
Sources with knowledge of the matter say French Mirage fighter aircraft flew over the zone but detected no troop movements.
Even so Djibouti’s defence minister, Ali Hassan Bahdon, stated publicly that from a position on Mount Gabia, he had noted an incursion by Eritrea’s military and their regimental flag.
On June 18, Ethiopia’s foreign minister, Workneh Gebeyehu, issued an appeal for calm. Two days previously, several media outlets announced that, earlier in the month, Eritrea’s president had sent a letter to members of the UN Security Council urging them to lift an arms embargo that was slapped on the country in 2009.