August 30, 2011

Eritrean diplomat disrupts IGAD session in Ethiopia

Filed under: Eritrea,Ethiopia — ethiopiantimes @ 8:54 am
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The deputy ambassador of the Eritrean mission caused havoc last week at a meeting of the Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) after refusing to leave the meeting although having been assured he was not welcome and asked repeatedly by hotel security staff to withdraw from the session.

Last Thursday, the six-state regional bloc, IGAD ran their fortieth, and most extraordinary meeting. Binyam Berhe, the aforementioned unwelcome Eritrean official, managed to bypass security, entering the session room at the Sheraton Addis. He proceeded to cause havoc and delayed the meeting by thirty minutes. The Reporter witnessed that the Eritrean representative rejected the request by officials to leave the room with claims that his country is “already a member of IGAD.” The IGAD secretary confirmed to the diplomat that his country was not invited to the meeting.

Ethiopian officials present at the meeting included ambassador Berhane Gebre Kiristos, the minister for foreign affairs and IGAD’s executive secretary Mahboub M. Maalim. All officials politely requested him to leave the session room explaining his country’s request of application to rejoin the bloc has not yet been decided.

The problem was eventually solved by the IGAD ministers and guests including the AUC Chair Person, Dr. Jean Ping, leaving the session for a short while. The Eritrean diplomat, was then isolated and escorted out of the room by the Sheraton Addis officials.

After the interruption, the IGAD session continued. Mahaboub M. Maalim welcomed the ministers requested pardon for the disturbance, saying “It is really embarrassing for me and for him (The Eritrean diplomat). The Eritrean officials are abusing my letter of welcoming their request to rejoin the block. In my reaction letter, I expressly explained them it is a welcome move but the decision is up to the head of states summit of IGAD.”

After discussions on issues of famine and humanitarian action in the Horn and particularly in the current political situation in Somalia, IGAD ministers urged in their communiqué, that it’s “rules and procedures be followed in the conduct of its business”, and further underscored that “The application of Eritrea for re admission to IGAD should follow appropriate procedures.”

Ambassador Berhane Gebre Kiristos, minister of foreign affairs of Ethiopia, denounced the current move by the Eritrean government, including the diplomat’s attempt to obstruct the IGAD session, saying that “the whole intent of the Eritrean government’s recent moves is not building relationship based on mutual interest […] nor it is an indication of changed behavior.” He further commented that the true intent of the minister is to “wiggle out” of sanctions made by IGAD and that the UNSC is deliberating. “They are making a frantic campaign to obstruct any and every effort towards tightening of sanctions against them.”

It is to be recalled that Eritrea has been self-suspended from IGAD last four years ago. But last month the Eritrean ministry of foreign affairs has sent letter of application for re-admission to the bloc which is yet to discussed by IGAD heads of states.

The famine and ‘vacuume’

Hailwemariam Desalegn, Deputy PM and foreign affairs minister of Ethiopia and the current chair of the IGAD council of ministers, stressed the need for “taking serious deliberations on the implication of the withdrawal of Al-Shabaab forces from Mogadishu.” Halemariam noted that there is a good opportunity for the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to capture some of the moderate clan leaders and members of Al-Shabaab. However, he warned that if TFG fails to do so, then “the indications are that the vacuum that has already been created by Al-Shabaab’s withdrawal is likely to be filled by warlords,” which, he further comments, would return Somalia to the same situation of the past.

The chairperson of the AUC, Jean Ping, on his part shared the concerns and the opportunities stated by Halemariam. The relative calm, which he believed has come to Somalia, following the withdrawal of the Al-Shabaab forces from Mogadishu, could attract more internally displaced people which present formidable challenges to the TFG and the peacekeepers.
Apart from the security situation, the IGAD Ministers also discussed how the regional bloc could respond to the recurrent drought and famine in the Horn. Mahboub M. Maalim, the IGAD’s Executive secretary, expressed the need for urgent humanitarian response to the famine affected area and call for long term and sustainable solutions. Hailemariam on his part noted, “The tragic problems we facing at the moment are a reminder for a need to go beyond emergency solutions.”

Source: ER


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