From: Eri News (email@example.com)
Date: Wed Dec 17 2008 - 15:28:35 EST
DJIBOUTI - What if this country was not a victim of aggression, but was the aggressor in the current conflict with its former friend, Eritrea? What is the game Guelleh playing? Does he really think that he can resolve his domestic problems through border war that he would have deliberately provoked? Unlikely calculation.
Destabilisation in Progress
December 2008 Afrique Asie
By Mamo Zeleke
Five months since the beginning of the tensions between Djibouti and Eritrea, two semi-desert countries, nobody is able to explain clearly the causes of this new conflict in the region. The United Nations, while condemned Eritrea for its alleged aggression against Djibouti, yet it decided to send a mission to the Horn of Africa at the end of July 2008. The Security Council examined the report the fact-finding mission last September 17, which it criticized Eritrea for refusing to receive the UN mission, yet it reinforced Eritrea's position on at least two important issues. First, regarding the border disputes presented, the mission acknowledged the inaccuracy related to official colonial documents. Second, the mission recognized interrelation between the present tension and Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict. In its report, the mission stated, "Instabilities in the region are related to the unfinished business and unresolved Eritrea-Ethiopia dispute." The Report concluded, "the possible destabilization of Djibouti
and the militarization of the Bab el Mandab Strait do not augur well for peace in the region and the international shipping and investments. Solution must therefore be found, as a matter of utmost priority". . It is worth noting the proposed idea of building a bridge between Djibouti and Yemen and Saudi Arabia has thus far generated much controversy.
A stab in the back
Nothing, at the beginning, let predict the brutal change of attitude of Djibouti with respect to Eritrea. The two countries have maintained good relationships since June 2001, even shared a common understanding the Somali issue. Furthermore, a defense agreement was about to be signed by the two presidents -Ismail Omer Guelleh of Djibouti and Issayas Afeworki of Eritrea, when Djibouti decided to launch diplomatic and media campaign against its neighbour and, up to that point, a friend on April 16, 2008.
The date chosen by the government of Djibouti for its first attack is far from being fortuitous. This was the day the Security Council discussed the border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea, as well as reviewed the situation of United Nations peacekeeping forces stationed between the two countries. Why then the Djiboutian government made such u-turn in their policy? Neither its flip-flop behaviour, nor can its president's appetite for the hard cash explain all. In fact, Djibouti seems to follow a well-prepared plan. Relaying on American support, President Ismail Omer Guelleh moved to implement a plan worked out with the Ethiopian government of Meles Zenawi, to isolate Asmara, when he triggered a formidable diplomatic campaign, denouncing the Eritrean invasion of his territory.
International organizations, without verifying the accusations, took up the cause for this small country, "unjustly attacked" in their view by its powerful northern neighbour. However, according to various sources within Djiboutian as well as foreign sources, and contrary to all the declarations of the international authorities, it was the Djiboutian regime, which was at the origin of the clashes of June 10, 2008 at Doumeira, on the border between the two countries.
Eritrea was shocked by the attitude of Djibouti and the condemnation of all international authorities (UN, OIC, African Union, Arab League, Council of Francophone). It took its revenge on the field when it responded in disproportionate way to Djibouti's military provocation. It incapacitates 500 Djiboutian soldiers (200 killed, including one lieutenant colonel, and more than 300 wounded) and destroyed most of its armament.
The Djiboutian head of state wanted to contribute to the encirclement of Eritrea worked out by the United States and Ethiopia posed as a victim hoping to evacuate some of his domestic problems. However, the strong Eritrea's reaction exacerbates the internal challenges facing his regime, in contrary to what he hoped. The rise of the present tension, strangely indeed, coincided with the deadline committed Djibouti's authorities to increase the wages for the army following the mutiny of February 2008 in Tadjourah, which seriously shaken the country. The uneasiness within the military persists and several officers have criticized the military adventure against Eritrea. The head of the barracks in Obock, the commander Said, who has expressed reservations, was arrested and remains in detention at Gabode, accused of complicity with the enemy. Moreover, it is the young recruits (18 to 22 years), barely trained in the national service, who were sent to the front line, sustaining the greatest losses.
Moreover, the conflict known as of "frontier" has only inflamed the situation of the populations affected by two years of drought and rising food prices. According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS), a service for early alert financed by USAID (U.S. Agency), some 340000 of the 632000 accounted in the country are in danger and in urgent need of assistance. The people most affected by food insecurity are the nomads of North and South West who have lost up to 70% of their livestock. All the regions of the country face water shortages.
The president and his entourage have diverted the aid and multiple supports received by Djibouti, leaving their hunger-stricken people to whom it was addressed. As for the habitants living in areas near the Eritrean border, they are increasingly victims of the raids from the Djiboutian military who confiscate their hardly remaining and their food.
Finally, the simmering crisis between Guelleh's regime and the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD), risks of being transformed into an open and general conflict. Indeed, political and trade union repression has only consolidated this movement representing all the democratic forces in Djibouti, including the region. The increasing organizational and political strength of FRUD This l seems to worry France and the United States, both having militarily presence in Djibouti. The FRUD would likely constitute a danger to the regime if it were supported by Eritrea. The UN has also expressed concern about the possible destabilization of Djibouti, on September 17, linked to a possible resumption of conflict between the FRUD and government.
The dissolution of the Movement for Democratic Renewal (MRD), by a presidential decree on 9 July of this year, accused of supporting the Eritrean position and of maintaining relations with the FRUD, can only radicalize the moderate opposition
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