Uganda has invited Eritrea’s leader, President Isaias Afewerki, accused by the West of stoking Somalia’s Islamist rebellion and destabilising the east African region, to a state visit next week, Uganda’s State House said.
Eritrea rejoined the East African bloc IGAD last month, four years after it walked out on the body in protest at arch-foe Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia to oust an Islamist administration the United States said had ties to al Qaeda.
“Eritrea is one of the strategically vital countries to the stability of the region, especially in the Horn of Africa and the wider global agenda,” State House said in a statement late on Thursday.
A U.N. Monitoring Group report on Somalia and Eritrea said in late July that Asmara was bankrolling al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants in Somalia. Al Shabaab claimed they were behind a twin suicide bomb attack on the Ugandan capital, Kampala, last year.
Horn of Africa experts say that Isaias has become increasingly diplomatically isolated. Leader of one of the world’s most secretive states, Isaias makes few state visits.
The U.N. has imposed an arms embargo on Eritrea, as well as a travel ban and an asset freeze on Eritrean political and military leaders who it says are violating an arms embargo on Somalia.
Asmara denies the charges, and accuses the United States and neighbouring Ethiopia of “irresponsible interference“.
Uganda Invites Eritrean Leader for State Visit
Uganda has invited the leader of the secretive state of Eritrea, Issaias Afeworki, for a three-day visit next week, terming the Horn of Africa country as key to regional stability.
However, Eritrea’s neighbours Ethiopia and Djibouti are leading East African calls for United Nations sanctions against Asmara over terror accusations.
“Eritrea is one of the strategically vital countries to the stability of the region especially in the Horn of Africa and the wider global agenda,” a statement by Uganda’s presidency said Thursday.
Issaias is expected to arrive on August 16.
Eritrea has sought to rejoin the East Africa peace bloc, Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, four years after it pulled out, but the body has noted that Asmara faced serious accusations in a UN report.
The UN Monitoring Group on Eritrea and Somalia said Asmara was behind a plan to bomb an African Union summit in January in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
UN experts have also said Eritrea was arming and supporting insurgents in Somalia, including the Shebab group linked to Al-Qaeda.
Uganda has deployed the bulk of soldiers to the African Union force in Somalia which the Shebab insurgents are battling to overthrow.