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Eritrea joins the Axis of Evil

During the last months Eritrea has been more frequently mentioned as a supporter of terrorism and a country that does not abide international law or human rights. Through these accusations and Eritrea’s inability to deny them the country has been marginalized and has been pushed into a group of rogue states that we know as the Axis of Evil. The most important fact that put Eritrea in this place is its support for Somali insurgent groups and its close relations with Iran, an already established member of the Axis of Evil.

Summary

Eritrea can be seen as part of the Axis of Evil since its condemnation by the United Nations during late 2009 resulting in the placement of sanctions under the form of an arms embargo, freezing of assets and placement of travel bans. Eritrea’s continued violent history and the disrespect towards UNMEE have forced it into a marginalized position. The current dictatorial regime also refuses to guarantee any form of human security and is suspected of imprisoning anyone who opposed the regime. Eritrea also has strong ties with known rogue states Iran, North Korea and Libya. The recent condemnation of Eritrea is largely due to its role in the Somali conflict, where it is accused of arming and financing rebels fighting the government.

The term Axis of Evil was coined in 2002 by the Bush administration. Originally it included Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Later it was made to include Cuba, Libya and Syria. These countries were targeted because they were supporting terrorism or in the process of obtaining Weapons of Mass Destruction. The truth about the plans and activities of these countries, however, matters nothing to the effects and results of their categorization. By being labeled part of the Axis of Evil they become subject to isolation and marginalization from the international society. The most extreme of these states live under constant threats with sanctions and of military action. Often they are also non-democratic countries of which the dictators are uninterested in the human security of their subjects.

The point at which we can define Eritrea to have become part of the Axis of Evil is in fact a couple months back when the United Nations Security Council approved the installment of sanctions on Eritrea. The main reasons for these sanctions were the continued support of Eritrea to Somali rebels and its refusal to withdraw from a border conflict with Djibouti. The sanctions include a weapons embargo on the country, as well as the freezing of assets belonging to political and military leaders. Certain political and military leaders have also received travel bans. Even though Eritrea refuses all the accusations and claims it has very friendly relations with all of its neighbors, these neighbors themselves in fact requested the UNSC sanctions through the African Union as well as Igad, a regional organization that was extremely worried about Eritrea’s part in the Somali conflict.

The country of Eritrea is not that well known in the world, it is in fact a fairly new country that only gained international recognition in 1993. The country did exist before that, in colonial times, but after decolonization it became part of Ethiopia until a long war of independence and a referendum organized by the UN allowed the Eritrean people to achieve their independence. The country has always been extremely militarized because of the continuous stress of war with its neighbor Ethiopia. In 2000 a UN peacekeeping force was deployed along the Ethiopian-Eritrean border after an escalation of the continuing border dispute. This mission was called UNMEE. The attitude of Eritrea toward UNMEE may have helped to force Eritrea in the corner of rogue states. Eventually UNMEE was forced to withdraw in 2008 when Eritrea imposed crippling restrictions that made it impossible for UNMEE to fulfill its task.

The current leader of the country, President Isaias Afewerki, took control of the country as leader of a transitional legislation. The constitution that was approved was never put in action pending elections, even though it was eventually ratified in 1997. The promised elections that were to be held in 2001 were postponed indefinitely. This leaves President Isaias Afewerki in full control of the country, especially since he is also the leader of the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, the only legally allowed political party of Eritrea. President Afewerki is known to live a good life, frequenting night clubs while he allows two thirds of his population to starve. Recently Afewerki has withdrawn himself to life in his coastal villa in Massawa, reportedly in fear of attacks against his life, instead of the capital Asmara.

While Eritrea has been accused of influencing several conflicts and supporting terrorism, it also holds a very poor record in the field of human security. A famine is raging through the country while the regime will not allow UN aid agencies to distribute food aid to those starving. There has also been a long history of imprisonments of political critics of Afewerki as well as journalists and other dissidents. According to recent claims by the United States State Department the regimes overseas unlawful killings by its security forces too.

One of the main reasons Eritrea is easily stamped as a rogue state and member of the Axis of Evil is the relationship it has with several of the countries that are already on the list. During the last few years Eritrea has started diplomatic relations with Iran and has cooperated with Iran on a diplomatic as well as an economical level. Reports even claim that Eritrea is a distributor of Iranian weapons and support to several armed groups in Africa and the Middle East. Eritrea has also had very close relations with North Korea, which has been known to sell military equipment to the African country. When the sanctions were voted upon in the United Nations Security Council Eritrea also received the backing of Libya, the only country to vote against the sanctions. By surrounding itself with these allies the country has practically isolated itself from the international society and it was just a matter of time before this would be repeated in the actions of the great powers and result in their actual Isolation. A report due to be handed in to the United Nations Security Council will also further implicate Eritrea as a supporter of terrorism and Somali rebels. According to the report Eritrea has been handing out cash donations to several Somali rebel groups, among which the Al Shabaab through Mukhtar Robow Mansur, the very same Somali rebel leader that called for the Al Shabaab to send fighters to Yemen. Both Yemen and Somalia are conflicts reportedly fed by Iranian weapons smuggling through Eritrea, this report further implies Eritrea as the key enabler for smuggling and support between these conflicts. The report does claim that by late 2009 the direct military support by Eritrea had either diminished or become less visible, but the country continues its diplomatic and financial support. If Eritrea continues on this course it is likely to meet an increasing amount of resistance, especially from the United States which supports the opposite side in about every single conflict Eritrea has a link with. If not, Eritrea will end up as an isolated ally in the group of Iran and North Korea, struggling for survival of the regime at the cost of its own population

 
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