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Expert seem to think improving relation with Eritrea in alignment with United States’ strategic interest

December 13,2016

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki (L) reviews the honor guard during his welcome ceremony in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, on June 11, 2015 (AFP Photo/Ashraf Shazly)
Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki (L) reviews the honor guard during his welcome ceremony in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, on June 11, 2015 (AFP Photo/Ashraf Shazly)

For seven or so years, Eritrea was treated more like a pariah state.The UN imposed sanctions and certainly United States was a big factor for the policy outcome that severely affected Eritrea. Yet, much of the US allegations on Eritrea including support to radical Islamic groups were not significantly substantiated with evidence.

This month, Brownyn Bruton , Deputy Director of Africa Center in Atlantic Council, released research based report entitled “Eritrea: Coming In from the Cold”

In the report, Brownyn made a case for Eritrea or, to be more accurate, a case for United States’ strategic interest in the horn of Africa in general and in Eritrea in particular. Emphasized in the research,arguably, is the point that United States will not benefit from its current policy on Eritrea and paradigm shift along the lines of improving relation with Eritrea is of great importance to the United States. The paper is intended to be a blue print for the incoming Trump administration to improve relations with Eritrea.

Also the fact that the regime in Ethiopia, Brownyn rather employs the name Ethiopia -obviously erroneous if seen in light of relation between the administration and the Ethiopian people and the tyrannical nature of the Tigray People Liberation Front government , played a role in terms of misinforming the US about developments in the region is noted in the paper. She seem to think that the regime in Ethiopia,in fact,contributed to the rise of Alshabab in Somalia by falsely linking “Islamic court” with Al-Qaeda and subsequently invading Somalia in 2006. The development has even caused emergence of homegrown terrorists in the United States as there was radicalization after invasion of Somalia by regime in Ethiopia and young people moved to Somalia from the United States to join Alshabab.

From the trajectory of global politics, the writer noted that Eritrea is forming alliances with countries in the Gulf region and it is working on relations with China. In that regard, she seem to think that emerging multi-polar world order does not favor US policy as it relates to Eritrea and perhaps in the region as well.

Overall, while the paper advises Eritrea to work on human rights issues, it has done a reasonablly good job in terms of making a case for normalizing relations with Eritrea by highlighting the various concrete external and internal policy measures Eritrea took, including allowing some NGOs to return to Eritrea and improving relations with European countries, as omens of readiness to improve relation with other countries including the United States.Finally, the paper made about five recommendations both for Eritrea and the United States.

It is to be noted that former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Herman Cohen, was calling on what he called a “face-saving” solution to negotiate Ethiopia and Eritrea which apparently fell on deaf ear.Regime in Ethiopia still contemplates, it is apparent from rhetoric during the state of emergency and from the way it understood the popular uprising across the country, major war with Eritrea.

Brownyn Bruton’s paper also recounts circumstances that led to confrontation between Ethiopia and Eritrea. In that regard, she noted that Eritrean President Isayas Afeworki and the late Meles Zenawi had disagreement in 1996 over Meles Zenawi’s decision to make Ethiopia ethnic based Federal state. Nearly two decades later, early signs of problems related to ethnic federalism manifested in the recent popular uprising in Ethiopia but the regime demonstrated propensity to understand it as a manifestation of foreign interference in the affairs of Ethiopia and is mired in a widow dressing policy measures rather than addressing the fundamental issues.

On the contrary, despite different forms of challenges, as Brownyn noted, Eritreans are unified across ethnic and religious lines. Of course it could only be seen as a policy outcome.

Written by Dimetros Birku. Can be reached on twitter : @dimetros



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