Monthly Archives: March 2015

Instability and Insecurity in the Horn of Africa: Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, the US, and UK

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) recently tweeted about “the volatile Horn of Africa.” The tweet provided a link to an interactive map presenting discussions of Regional Overview, Somalia’s Instability, Transnational Issues, and Armed Forces in the Region. Although useful, the CFR’s analysis fails to identify several of the key factors influencing instability in the Horn of Africa.

Briefly, while the CFR notes the harmful influence of Al-Shabaab, it should more clearly describe how and why Al-Shabaab arose. Doing so would reveal that, far from Somalia, Al-Shabaab’s rise, consolidation, spread, and ongoing attacks can be better attributed to failed policies originating in the US, as discussed by noted independent journalist Jeremy Scahill:

As well, Professor Vijay Prashad, a distinguished scholar, has outlined how the West’s catastrophic approach toward and meddling within the region has helped fuel the rise of Al-Shabaab:

Additionally, in its discussion of the “strife” in Somalia, the CFR should delve further and note the toxic role of Ethiopia within the situation, supported financially, militarily, diplomatically, and politically by the West (especially the US and UK). Previously, speaking in the British Parliament, MP George Galloway famously exposed the British government’s hypocrisy and complicity in grave human rights abuses occurring within Somalia, under the harsh, brutal occupation by Ethiopia (funded by the US and UK):

Last, the CFR erred in its use of phrases such as “border tensions” and “border dispute” between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Instead, the CFR should have described the situation for what it is: an illegal military occupation in direct violation of long-accepted international norms and laws. Furthermore, the reference to dispute suggests there remain disagreements about the border. Rather, the dispute was settled long ago through a “final and binding” international judicial process, and only one party (i.e. Ethiopia) fails to implement. Instead of seemingly downplaying the gravity of this particular issue, the CFR would be better in noting that an end to the occupation would go a long way to normalizing relations between Asmara and Addis Ababa and, in the process, improving  overall stability and security in the Horn of Africa.

These are just initial, brief (and humble) thoughts in response to the CFR’s tweet and analysis. The CFR does well to note the importance of the Horn of Africa to broader geo-political and regional stability and security. However, within this context, it is imperative that analyses of the situation and region consider all factors and reveal uncomfortable truths.


#IWD2015: International Women’s Day – Thoughts and Thanks, Eritrea

Around the world, International Women’s Day represents an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women while calling for greater equality. Reflecting on the women of my country, Eritrea, several words quickly come to mind. First, blessed – as in I am blessed to be able to call them sister, mother, aunt, cousin, and friend. Inspired expresses how inspirational it is to hear or learn of their bravery, courage, fortitude, and persistence in the face of daunting odds during decades of war. Humbled expresses how humbling it is to see the ongoing relentless, immense contributions and sacrifices they make to Eritrea’s developmental pursuits. Thankful and appreciative expresses how highly thankful and appreciative I am to them for providing such amazing, awe-inspiring examples to aim to follow. And fiqri or love conveys the unfaltering love they show us, our families, our communities, our villages, and our country – and we must always love them.

Last, and possibly most significant, is obligated. International Women’s Day serves as an important reminder of the current generation’s obligations to the women heroes and martyrs that sacrificed everything so that we could have a country to call our own. Not only must we proudly cherish their memory, we are obligated to strive to fulfill their dreams of a prosperous, harmonious, and equal Eritrea.

Further reading and materials:

  • Recall that for Eritrea, which had the longest African independence war of the 1900s, the long struggle was about far more than just political emancipation; rather, it sought to usher in a complete and radical transformation of society. An important part of the latter agenda – giving special attention to egalitarian, popular democratic principles – was a particular focus on women’s and gender-related issues. No longer would women be viewed narrowly as secondary, subordinate figures within society; instead, they would stand proudly as full equals to men. Embodying the notion of equality through struggle, valiant Eritrean women served honorably, fought bravely, and sacrificed greatly alongside men in the labyrinth-like trenches, on the battlefields, and across the frontlines. Ultimately, women would prove absolutely critical to the eventual achievement of independence. In a similar vein, since independence Eritrean women have been key drivers of the nation’s pursuit of broad national development and economic progress.
    See here for a brief snapshot on their role for independence and development: http://www.myth2014.com/2014/05/13/breaking-barriers-eritreas-exceptional-women/
  • Eritrean began fighting in the independence army in 1973. Soon, they totalled greater than 30% of the fighters in the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF). They fought in trenches, went on guerrilla raids, drove tanks, and fired other heavy artillery. Importantly, they also served as the vanguard in the country’s attempt to change the attitudes throughout society.                                                                                   Here’s an enlightening documentary on Eritrea’s awe-inspiring women fighters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsoanSyEmnM
  • The National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW) was established in 1979 with the support of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (NUEW). The focus of NUEW is to improve the status of Eritrean women. Over its 35-year history, NUEW has grown considerably and conducted numerous initiatives to improve and support the special role of women in society. It is wonderful to see the ongoing focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment, and it is clear that NUEW efforts have led to so many positive developments. Moving forward, we should continue to follow their lead to support women and girls in all aspects society.                                                                                                                                   For more on NUEW history, achievements, and challenges, read here for the UNDP’s recent 10-year report: https://fiqre4eri.wordpress.com/2015/02/04/undp-and-eritreas-women-nuew-highlights-and-brief-thoughts/

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