Horn of Africa: Peace and Security, 04/16/02

Horn of Africa: Peace and Security, 04/16/02

Horn of Africa: Peace and Security Date distributed (ymd): 020416 Document reposted by Africa Action

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Region: East Africa Issue Areas: +security/peace+ +economy/development+


This posting contains several documents related to two peace and security issues in the Horn of Africa: (1) the just announced Boundary Commission decision on the disputed border between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and (2) U.S. policy towards Somalia, and particularly last November's decision to shut down the Somali money transfer and telecommunications company al-Barakat. Included is a link to the April 13 New York Times investigative article stating that even many American officials now acknowledge the weakness of their case linking al-Barakaat with al-Qaeda.

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"New Chapter" in Relations, UN Says

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)

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April 11, 2002

On the eve of a crucial border ruling, the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) has spoken of a "new chapter" in relations between the two countries.

Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, who is the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, told IRIN that the impending announcement on Saturday by an independent Boundary Commission was a chance for peace for both countries.

"I am an African, and these are two African countries which have shed a lot of blood in the war that ended in 2000," he said in the Eritrean capital, Asmara. "Therefore I will be the happiest man on earth if the decision is announced and we go forward to help them demarcate the border and thereafter live in peace as neighbours."

"The decision is the start of a new chapter for Ethiopia and Eritrea and to tell you the truth, in advance of the announcement of the decision, I wish them the best," he added.

In 1998, Ethiopia and Eritrea, which are among the poorest countries in the world, began a bloody two-year border war that cost thousands of lives. In December 2000, they signed the Algiers Peace Agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, both sides agreed to allow some 4,200 UN peacekeepers to patrol a 25 km-wide buffer area, known as the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ).

They also agreed to the establishment of an independent Boundary Commission in The Hague which would rule on border delimitation, to be followed by the physical demarcation. The verdict, they agreed, would be final and binding with no right of appeal.

"It is a decision that is the whole raison d'etre for the peace process," said Legwaila, who was appointed to head UNMEE in September 2000.

"The peace process is supposed to culminate in the normalisation of the boundary between Eritrea and Ethiopia and the normalisation ... is the opening of a new chapter for peaceful relations between the two countries," he said. "That's why the decision is very important."

Legwaila said the ruling was also crucial for UNMEE. "What it means for UNMEE is that the two parties have succeeded in resolving their dispute, that is if there is no problem with the decision," he stated. "It would mean that UNMEE has been able to help the two parties solve their border problem, at least so far as delimitation is concerned because the border still has to be demarcated."

He also said UNMEE would maintain a strong presence for many months to come while the physical demarcation of the border was carried out. "UNMEE's role is not drawing to an end," he told IRIN. "Our mandate only terminates with the planting of the last pillar on the border.

"Therefore we still have lots of months to be here, to continue to keep the forces of the two sides separated while the boundary is demarcated...We are not winding down simply because the decision of the Boundary Commission will be announced on Saturday."

UNMEE has been been asked by the commission to "take the lead" in removing mines so that the border can be marked. "If the decision is announced on Saturday and we are told by the president of the Boundary Commission that we should go ahead with demining for demarcation, we will do so," he added.

"As far as we are concerned we have virtually demined access roads, not for demarcation, but we have been demining access roads because we use these roads in our patrolling of the Temporary Security Zone," Legwaila said. "Therefore all we would need to do is demine the areas where the pillars are planted." He noted that if the resources were available, the demining should not take too long.

According to Legwaila, despite the fact that the ruling was just days away, there were no signs of tension along the border. "Our people in the field on both sides of the border of the Temporary Security Zone have not reported anything unusual, no unusual activity by the two sides," he said. "So everybody seems to be at peace with themselves awaiting the decision on Saturday."

He added that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan would make an announcement about the ruling on Saturday.


Border Ruling Vindicates Eritrea, Asmara Says

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks April 14, 2002

NAIROBI, 14 April (IRIN) - Eritrea has said the ruling on delimitation of its border with Ethiopia is a vindication for Asmara and a victory for both peoples.

A government statement, faxed to IRIN on Sunday, said both sides accepted that the decision would be final and binding when they signed the Algiers peace accord of December 2000. "Hence the question of acceptance of the decision is superfluous and does not require belaboured commentary and verbal acrobatics," the statement said.

An independent Boundary Commission, established under the terms of the Algiers peace agreement, issued its ruling on the border between the two countries on Saturday. The two sides fought a bitter two-year war, triggered by a border dispute in May 1998.

Ethiopia was quick to pronounce victory after the ruling, stating it had retained all the territories under its administration including the villages of Badme and Zalambessa where some of the heaviest fighting took place.

But in its statement, the Eritrean government retorted that "as to the question of in whose favour the decision went, the determination and its implications provide clear answers".

"The flowery and bombastic statements that were issued today [Saturday] cannot erase from our collective memories the statements and actions of the past four years. Nor can we forget that Badme, which was included in the map of Tigray [issued by the Ethiopian authorities in 1997], was used as a pretext for Ethiopia's declaration of war."

The statement said Eritrea had "consistently maintained that the border dispute could only be resolved by peaceful and legal means". "Today's determination by the Border Commission has reaffirmed what was clear four years ago and has vindicated Eritrea," it said.

The statement went on to say that "learned commentary" was not needed "to clarify in whose favour the decision went and the Ethiopian people are best placed to give their judgement".

"In the final analysis, the end of the war on the basis of a legal determination is a victory for both the Eritrean and Ethiopian peoples. It is a victory for the people of Ethiopia, but it is the Eritrean people who have emerged most victorious," the statement said.


Both Sides Claim Victory in Border Ruling

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks April 14, 2002

Addis Ababa - Several thousand Ethiopians on Sunday gathered in Meskel Square, the central square of the capital Addis Ababa, to celebrate a ruling on the border with Eritrea.

Both sides were claiming victory, following Saturday's announcement of the crucial ruling on border delimitation by an independent Boundary Commission in The Hague. The countries fought a bloody two-year war, triggered by a border dispute in May 1998 which claimed tens of thousands of lives. But after a peace agreement signed in December 2000 they agreed that the Boundary Commission would finally rule where the disputed 1,000 km border should lie.

The announcement on Saturday was immediately hailed a victory by Ethiopia. The Ethiopian foreign minister Seyoum Mesfin accused Eritrea of "forcing the war" on the country. "This decision has rejected any attempt by Eritrea to get reward for its aggression," he said. "This decision was fair and legal."

But Eritrea hit back accusing Ethiopia of propaganda and branding its claims of victory as a "lie". In a statement, the Eritrean government said: "It is a victory for the people of Ethiopia, but it is the Eritrean people who have emerged most victorious."

According to the Ethiopian government, territory awarded to Ethiopia includes Zalambessa, Aiga, Alitena, Yona Shihak, Kolobirda, Adi-Kutu (central), Badme, Bada and Bure. Some land west of Badme had been awarded to Eritrea as this had not been previously under Ethiopian administration, the government said.

Currently, some 4,200 United Nations peacekeepers are on high alert in the region. They are patrolling a 25 km buffer zone between both countries.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Saturday welcomed the ruling and called for its immediate implementation. Noting that the two countries had maintained a ceasefire since June 2000, he stated that "this accomplishment, which deserves to be commended, must now be built upon by working expeditiously to implement the Boundary Commission's decision".

"The peoples of Eritrea and Ethiopia who have suffered greatly deserve no less," he said.

The border now has to be physically demarcated by erecting stone pillars. But before that happens tens of thousands of mines which were laid by both forces have to be removed.


No Trading Peace for "Territorial Expansion" - Meles

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

April 16, 2002

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has said the recent ruling on the border with Eritrea will enable his country to build peace and democracy, and these would never be exchanged for "territorial expansion".

In an interview with Ethiopian television and radio on Monday, he said the decision had "unequivocally emphasised" that any border conflict should only be resolved by law. "The ruling has supported and complied with the stance that we were pursuing from the outset," he said. "In my opinion this is our major victory."

An independent Boundary Commission, based in The Hague, on Saturday handed down its verdict on where the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea should lie. The Commission was established when the two sides signed the Algiers peace accord in December 2000 after two years of bitter war over their disputed border.

"Peace, development and democracy cannot go hand in hand with territorial expansion or ruling people without their wish," Meles said. "We will not hand over our peace and democracy for the sake of [the Eritrean port of] Assab or any other issue."

Opposition parties in landlocked Ethiopia have been calling for access to the sea and say the issue of Assab should have been included in the border arbitration.

Meles also lashed out at Eritrea, accusing its leadership of "military adventurism", the pro-government Walta Information Centre reported. "It would be unrealistic to expect that the [Eritrean] regime would refrain from acts of provocation aimed at derailing the peace process," he was quoted as saying.

Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin said the Eritrean government was trying to cause "confusion" by stating it had been awarded the village of Badme. In an interview with 'Abyotawi Democracy', the newspaper of the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), he said the ruling had shown Badme "to be an integral part of Ethiopian sovereign territory".

Eritrea says that based on the border line drawn by the Boundary Commission in the western sector, "it has been confirmed that all the [disputed] areas, including Badme ...are sovereign Eritrean territory."

There is confusion over who has been awarded Badme, the area where the border dispute flared up into full-scale war in 1998. Analysts told IRIN both governments were putting forward diametrically opposed views of the ruling to convince their citizens that the sacrifices and loss of life had not been in vain.


UNDP Helps Avert Shutdown of Somali Remittance Flows

United Nations Development Programme (New York) April 11, 2002

For further information, please contact Sonya Green, UNDP Somalia (, or Omar Gharzeddine, UNDP Communications Office (

New York - UNDP Somalia has helped pave the way for Wells Fargo & Co. in the US to delay a decision to close down the accounts of Dahabshil, Somalia's largest remaining money transfer company. UNDP has developed an action plan to help such Somali companies comply with international financial rules to avoid closure, which could cause great hardship to thousands of Somalis who depend on remittances from abroad for their livelihoods.

Since 11 September, Somalia's money transfer companies have come under increasing international scrutiny, and the threat of sudden closure. The US Treasury froze the funds of the largest operator, Al Barakat, in October.

If the accounts of Dahabshil - the next largest - were closed, the combined impact on Somalia's economy could be grave, according to UNDP Somalia.

Already there has been a crisis of confidence in remittance operations, a slow-down of private sector investment and labour opportunities, reduction in construction and transport activities, and the loss of a major source of income to some poor households.

"Somalia's remittance sector is critical to the economy, but there are also legitimate international concerns about the system," said Andrea Tamagnini, UNDP Somalia Country Director. "To meet both needs, UNDP Somalia launched a project to legitimize remittance services offered by the Somali money transfer companies and eventually bring them under internationally established banking rules and regulations."

Somalia has been without any commercial banking and financial institutions since the overthrow of the Siad Barre government 11 years ago. The three major money transfer companies handle some 750,000 transfers to Somalia worth US$500 million each year, benefiting more than half the Somali population of 6.5 million. Current remittance operations are reliable, efficient and inexpensive, but fall short of acceptable international standards of organization and management. They lack consistency in compliance with host country laws, rules and regulations, and do not have pro-active plans to identify suspicious transactions and money laundering schemes.

UNDP Somalia's action plan includes consultations with remittance companies, local authorities in Somalia, and other concerned governments and parties to formulate short and long term solutions.

In the short term, UNDP Somalia will provide technical support to the remittance companies to ensure compliance with all international financial rules and regulations -- including standardized bookkeeping, auditing and reporting -- and conducting due diligence to developing risk management programmes. These efforts also include familiarizing management with the inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force to combat money-laundering, among other measures.

In the longer term, UNDP Somalia views access to international regulated banking as a critical part of reconstruction of the Somali economy and financial services to provide retail banking, corporate banking, and loans for commercial and social development. UNDP Somalia will provide technical support to Somali authorities and private entrepreneurs for private investors to establish commercial banks, develop the necessary legal framework to regulate them and enforce those rules, and train workers.


Additional links on Somalia and U.S. Policy

"5 Months After Sanctions Against Somali Company, Scant Proof of Qaeda Tie" New York Times, April 13, 2002reported by Tim Golden, Bill Berkeley and Donald G. McNeil Jr.

Selected quotes: " ... several American officials said the government has only limited evidence of a direct tie between Al Barakaat and Al Qaeda. One senior official said the information came from a single source.

Treasury officials said their most compelling intelligence centers on reports of Al Barakaat's relationship with an obscure militant Islamist group in Somalia that the United States has haracterized as a terrorist group with clear ties to Al Qaeda. But some officials said the significance of this indirect link to Mr. bin Laden may have been overstated. Until now, the only criminal prosecutions to be brought against people involved with Al Barakaat do not include charges of terrorism. Prosecutors in Boston have charged two Somali brothers with making illegal money transfers, a state misdemeanor that can be charged as a felony in federal courts. ... Earlier this month, two Barakaat associates in northern Virginia were indicted on money-laundering charges that grew out of the November raids."

"Mogadishu: Another Foreign Policy Challenge for the United States", Addis Tribune (Addis Ababa), April 12, 2002 David H. Shinn Statement at the Somali Confederation in Minnesota

David Shinn is a retired foreign service officer who served as State Department Coordinator for Somalia and as Ambassador to Ethiopia.

Selected quote: "... until intelligence indicates there is a greater threat than appears to be the case now, the U.S. should avoid significant military action in Somalia. In addition, before using military force in the region, the U.S. would be well advised to weigh the impact of its actions on regional stability and local Muslim communities. It does not need the added complications of a well-intentioned but ill-advised military intervention that leads to further conflict and confusion in the Horn of Africa."

Earlier postings in Africa Action archive:


Message-Id: <> From: "Africa Action" <> Date: Tue, 16 Apr 2002 20:08:29 -0500 Subject: Horn of Africa: Peace and Security

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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