Clottey Interview With AU'S Special Envoy to Somalia Ambassador Nichola Bwakira  - Download (MP3) Download
Clottey Interview With AU'S Special Envoy to Somalia Ambassador Nichola Bwakira  - Listen (MP3) audio clip

The Africa Union (AU) says it stands by its recommendation to the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on Eritrea despite Asamara's sharp denial.

The AU said public pronouncement by Sheik Dahir Aweys, a Somali opposition leader that his insurgent group receives help from Eritrea supports its suspicion of Asamara.

Somalia has often accused neighboring Eritrea of supporting hard line insurgent groups including al-Shabab who aim to overthrow the new Somali administration. But Asamara denies the charges describing the Africa Unions recommendation as irresponsible and illegal.

Ambassador Nichola Bwakira is AU's special envoy to Somalia. He told VOA that the continental body is right to recommend sanctions to be imposed on Eritrea.

"Article 23 of the AU charter foresees and stipulates that AU can impose sanctions on a member state on specific issues. And in this case the AU Peace And Security decided to request sanctions against Eritrea because of the role it is playing in the conflict presently in Mogadishu," Bwakira said.

He said the Africa Union was aware of Eritrea's role in supporting Somali Islamic insurgents who have been waging war against the new administration.

"To substantiate all these, I will like to mention that Sheikh Aweys has publicly stated that he is receiving assistance from the state of Eritrea. So, the position of the AU is based on those facts," he said.

Bwakira said there was no need to present empirical proof to challenge Asamara's denial of involvement in supporting Somali insurgents.

"There is no need to ascertain the fact of the matter because the beneficiary of the assistance has said it publicly…do you need more proof than that? Public admission," Bwakira said.

He said there confirmed reports of Asamara's support to the insurgents.

"We had information about training and funding that it had never been stated by the beneficiary before. But now it has been publicly stated by Sheikh Aweys," he said.

Last week, the Africa Union recommended to the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on Eritrea after accusing Asamara of supporting hard line Somali insurgents who are fighting the government.

This prompted Asmara to recall its ambassador to the AU's headquarters in Addis Ababa a move which is could turn acidic the diplomatic relations between Eritrea and the continental body.

Bwakira said the continental body will keep its doors open despite Asamara's recall of its ambassador to the Africa Union.

"I think the Africa Union remains open to hold discussions. If Eritrea wants to contest that by all means they would be able to take all the steps to deny and prove its innocence," Bwakira said.

He said would prefer to repose confidence in Asamara not having a hand in the Somali ongoing violent clashes, but the evidence could not be avoided.

"We would be happy if Eritrea was not supporting the insurgency in Somalia," he said.

Bwakira gave high marks for Somalia's new administration who he said has surmounted difficult challenges posed by opposition forces.

"I think the government has been performing very well under difficult circumstances," Bwakira said.    

Mogadishu accuses neighboring Eritrea of supporting Islamist militants with planeloads of AK-47 assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons to fuel fighting there.

But Eritrea's President Isaias Afewerki has sharply denied the allegation, saying United States agents were spreading lies to tarnish the reputation of his government.

Hard line Somali Islamic Insurgents including al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam are fighting President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's government with the aim of taking over the country.

Al-Shabab has described the new Somali administration as a creation of the west to control the natural resources of the country.

Described by Washington as a terrorist organization with strong ties to Al Qaeda, al-Shabab has refused to recognize the new Somali administration vowing to violently take over the country and impose the strict form the of Sharia law.

Somalia has been without an effective government since 1991 after former President Mohammed Siad Barre was overthrown in a coup d'état which led to a deterioration of security in the capital, Mogadishu and the entire country.