Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki has pledged to support efforts aimed at stabilizing the East African region that has faced decades of war, a State House statement issued here said on Wednesday.
Afwerki, whose three-day state visit to Uganda entered day two, on Wednesday thanked his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni for his efforts to search for peace and development in the region.
“When we meet, we talk inspiring issues and I really feel at home. I also appreciate the contributions of President Museveni and I urge him to continue. I will support him in all his endeavors,” Afwerki said at a state banquet held late on Tuesday.
Museveni described Afwerki as a freedom fighter who left his degree course to fight for the freedom of his country at a tender age.
Museveni also described Eritrea’s ruling party as a serious political organization just like Uganda’s ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM).
“When President Afwerki comes here, we hold long talks because the party he leads [PFDJ] is a very serious organization like the NRM; and we hold serious talks not just diplomacy or champagne,” he said.
Afwerki’s visit to Uganda is seen as crucial to the peace and stability of the Eastern African region that has been plagued by war especially Somalia.
Eritrea is under UN sanctions for bankrolling a Somali militant group Al Shabaab which is seen as a regional security threat. Eritrea denies the charges.
Intergovernmental Authority on Development member countries have called for the tightening of the sanctions to compel Eritrea stop the alleged funding of the outfit that has started carrying out foreign attacks.
The group claimed responsibility of the July 2010 Kampala bombings that left about 80 people dead [ including 8 Eritreans] and scores of others injured.
It said the attack was in revenge of Uganda’s deployment of peacekeeping troops in the Somali capital Mogadishu.
During Afwerki’s visit the two leaders are expected to discuss the Somalia crisis extensively.
Presidents Isaias and Museveni hold Discussion on Enhancing Bilateral Relations and Regional Issues
In a meeting they conducted in Kampala yesterday, Presidents Isaias Afwerki and Yoweri Museveni held extensive discussion on enhancing bilateral relations, especially strengthening trade and investment. As regards regional issues, the two leaders conducted in-depth discussions on promoting peace and stability in Africa in general and the Horn region in particular. They also agreed to work together regarding African issues.
Speaking at a dinner reception he hosted in honor of President Isaias, the Ugandan leader said that the visit of President Isaias is a great honor to Uganda and its people. He further expressed admiration to the development achievements Eritrea has scored under President Isaias’ leadership. Moreover, President Museveni commended Eritrea’s role in promoting peace and security in the region.
The Ugandan leader expressed conviction that the two sides would work together in strengthening the existing relations and cooperation between the two sisterly states of Eritrea and Uganda in the political, diplomatic, trade and investment domains, among others.
Meanwhile, President Isaias conducted discussions with investors, in addition to visiting a number of Ugandan commercial institutions, during which he received briefings. The visit included a major medicine producing plant, as well as a milk processing factory.
After briefing the investors on the prevailing opportunities in Eritrea regarding the sector, the President pointed out that investors are welcome to engage in such activities.
In another report, the joint Eritrean- Ugandan ministerial committee held a meeting, during which they signed a document on working together in the domains of regional peace and security, international affairs, trade, investment, education, health, civil aviation and communications. A joint ministerial committee has also been formed to follow up the implementation of the accord. In line with the accord concluded, the first meeting of the joint ministerial committee is scheduled to take place in Asmara on the first week of October 2011.
The document was signed by Mr. Osman Saleh, Foreign Minister, on the Eritrean side and Mr. Sam Kutesa, Ugandan Foreign Minister, on behalf of his country.
Ugandan Firms Seek Trade Ties with Eritrea
Local drug manufacturer Quality Chemicals and Sameer milk processing firm, have asked the Eritrean President to initiate trade relations between the two countries. The move if realised will allow for the exportation of the firm’s products to the Horn of Africa country.
President Isaias Afwerki who arrived in the country on Tuesday was yesterday touring the two industries as part of his three-day state visit activities.
Quality Chemicals Managing Director Emmanuel Katongole said a partnership would liberate the countries from dependence on donor aid.
The facility is dedicated to manufacturing HIV/Aids and malaria drugs to mitigate the effects of the two biggest killer diseases in Sub-Saharan Africa. The plant produces two million tablets in a single shift and about 600 million tablets everyday.
Mr Afwerki, whose country has 1 per cent HIV/Aids prevalence, said that Eritrea would import as many tablets as it needs. Eritrea manufactures its own antimalarial drugs and antibiotics to facilitate its free healthcare service provision programme.
“Human capital is our biggest endowment and we ensure that we offer free treatment,” he said. Mr A. Gagar, managing director, Sameer Kenya operations said that Eritrea is one of the target markets for the firm to export its products as it explores new opportunities on the continent.
The country exports to the EAC countries, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Dubai. The plant has capacity to process 500,000 litres of milk daily but is currently processing 145, 000 litres due to supply inefficiencies.
President Afwerki said he would consider extending an invitation to the firm to compete with local dairy processors.
Private Sector Foundation Executive Director Gideon Badagawa told Daily Monitor that Uganda’s increased trade relations with other countries would result into increased exports to foreign exchange to ease the current pressure on the local currency.
“The shilling is too weak because we export less and import more. Increasing exports will save our currency,” Mr Badagawa said in a telephone conversation.