Sunday, August 21, 2011

Afewerki: Igad should seize the moment

Posted Saturday, August 20 2011 at 17:18

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SECURITY MATTERS of the troubled Horn of Africa dominated debate in local, regional and international media last week, and with good reason.

Reclusive Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki, the man who fought a bloody war with neighbouring Ethiopia between 1998 and 2000, and has been accused of stoking terrorism in Somalia, made an historic visit to Kampala at the invitation of President Yoweri Museveni. Make no mistake; Museveni wields substantial influence in the region. But this is not to say Afewerki should be dismissed just because his presumed Al Shabaab protégés are beaten for now, and out of Mogadishu.

There is more to Somali issues than just the temporary defeat of an Islamist faction. Here is a divided country that has had no central government for decades and is now facing a massive famine. On its own, the highly contested Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu has no control over any institution without the support of Amisom or the European Union.

It is for this reason that Afewerki is a central cog of the machinery that seeks to stabilise Somalia. He must now be reintegrated into the agenda of the Inter Governmental Authority on Development as a force that can sway Somali Islamists towards a national consensus.

As for Eritrea, Igad must negotiate a truce that will soothe the Security Council and stop the looming sanctions on Asmara, considering that it is ordinary Eritreans who will suffer the effect of these sanctions, not Afewerki.

This is the time to salvage regional pride and security, and give Somalis a chance to rebuild. Igad should seize the moment; Afewerki’s Kampala visit should be hailed as a step towards ending the Somali tragedy.

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