19 May 2010
Security Council
SC/9930

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6316th Meeting (AM)


Persistent Ills in Horn of Africa — Food Insecurity, Somalia Conflict, Eritrea’s


Destabilizing Acts — Could Be Prelude to Wider Crises, Security Council Told


Djibouti’s President Says Eritrea Has Not Complied with Council Demands;

Urges Members to Grasp Wider Implications of Eritrea’s Intransigence, Violence


The President of Djibouti, appearing before the Security Council this morning, warned that persistent ills in the Horn of Africa, including food insecurity, conflict in Somalia and destabilizing actions by Eritrea, opened the prospects to wider crises there, and must be dealt with firmly.


“The escalating tensions and conflicts, the breakdown of law and order so widespread in the Horn of Africa, could be but a prelude to a much worse situation, unless its many causes are sufficiently and seriously addressed,” Ismail Omar Guelleh said.


He said that not only had Eritrea not complied with the Council’s demands that it withdraw its troops from the position they had occupied since their June 2008 military action against Djibouti’s Ras Doumeira region, the neighbour had embarked on a systematic destabilization of Djibouti through the training of infiltrators that carried out sabotage attacks against infrastructure, assemblies and urban areas.


In its most recent demand that Eritrea withdraw its forces from their advanced positions, the Council, in resolution 1907 of December 2009, imposed an arms embargo on the country, imposing targeted sanctions (travel ban and assets freeze) on individuals or entities that violate the ban or support armed groups seeking to destabilize the region, including Somalia.  Eritrea’s President, in a letter to the Council, called for a repeal of the resolution and denied allegations against his country, saying they were false accusations peddled by the United States to advance ulterior objectives.


Mr. Guellah said that Eritrea remained unswayed by any Council action, but his country had genuinely hoped that its neighbour would begin reaching out towards a more positive manner of settling outstanding issues when it had accepted the visit of the Security Council Sanctions Committee.  However, the paper submitted to the Chairperson of that Committee, he stressed, contained “the usual litany of bizarre and unsubstantiated charges, false claims and denials”.  He urged the members of the Security Council to “grasp the wider implications of Eritrea’s intransigence and increasing violence”.


He said it also remained imperative to deal with what he called the chaotic and ever-deteriorating situation in Somalia, stressing the need to focus on the capital, where the violence had begun.  “Let us decide, in the absence of other options, to clear Mogadishu and its surroundings of extremist militias in order to secure the capital, restore law and order, restore services while United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations begin establishing a presence in the capital”, he said.  He allowed that reconciliation should always be pursued, but he stressed that in Somalia the Al-Qaida-linked groups had as their sole purpose the toppling of the internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government.


Among other problems besetting the Horn of Africa, Mr. Guelleh said, were chronic drought and high food and fuel prices, and the worsening of those problems due to climate change, stagnant development assistance and declining foreign direct investment in non-fuel-related sectors in Africa.  All those areas required immediate and sustained action by the international community.


Following President Guelleh’s presentation, Council members commended Djibouti for its contributions to peace and anti-piracy efforts in Somalia, while reiterating the positions on Somalia and on piracy that they had expressed in last week’s meeting on Somalia (see Press Release SC/9927).  Many also commended Djibouti for abiding by the Security Council resolutions relating to the border conflict with Eritrea, and called on Eritrea to also follow through on its obligations.


Some speakers emphasized the importance of dialogue over pressure in resolving the conflict between Eritrea and Djibouti, however.  The Russian Federation’s representative stressed that the imposition of targeted sanctions must be done on a reliable evidentiary basis of the involvement of specific individual in unlawful acts.


Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Uganda, France, United Kingdom, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, United States, Austria, Brazil, Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, Gabon and Lebanon.


The meeting began at 10:12 a.m. and ended at 11:40 a.m.


Background


The Security Council met today to hear President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti on Horn of Africa issues, including Djibouti’s border dispute with Eritrea, under its agenda item “peace and security in Africa”.


The border dispute broke out on 10 June 2008 with Eritrea’s military action in the Djibouti Ras Doumeira region.  In resolution 1862 (2008), the Council demanded that Eritrea withdraw its forces within five weeks to the positions before fighting broke out.


In resolution 1907 of 23 December 2009 (see Press Release SC/9833), the Council reiterated its demand that Eritrea withdraw its forces and imposed an arms embargo on the country, as well as targeted sanctions (travel ban and assets freeze) on individuals or entities that violate the arms embargo and support armed groups seeking to destabilize the region, including Somalia.  Those targeted sanctions have yet to be implemented by the Sanctions Committee established by the resolution.


In a letter to the Council (document S/2010/59), Eritrea’s President, Isaias Afwerki, called for a “reversal and repeal” of lopsided resolution 1907 (2009), denying there was a border dispute with Djibouti and denying allegations that it supported militants in Somalia, claiming they were false accusations peddled by the United States to advance ulterior purposes and its own interests in the Horn, as well as to punish Eritrea simply because it had not accepted those biased policies.


In June, the Council is expecting a report from the Secretary-General on Eritrea’s compliance with the provisions of resolution 1907 (2009).


Briefing


ISMAIL OMAR GUELLEH, President of Djibouti, said that the Horn of Africa retained more than its share of misfortune, tragedy, dislocation and destruction, all of which were no longer humanly or politically sustainable.  The region was bracing for the outcome of the Sudanese referendum, as prospects for the whole Horn rested a great deal on a result that had the support of all parties and the whole country.  “I whish to emphasise that everyone, not only those of us in the Horn of Africa, but the whole international community, has a job to do,” he said.


In the Horn, he continued, it remained imperative to deal with what he called the chaotic and ever-deteriorating situation in Somalia, stressing that, given the harsh tactics adopted by extremists there, the Transitional Federal Government remained under unsustainable pressure in its quest to administer the country.  For that reason, he said, a number of Governments, including his own, had trained and equipped troops with the aim of gradually retaking the capital, Mogadishu, but their number had fallen short of what was needed.


The only way to bring about a “semblance of peace” in Somalia, he stressed, was to focus on the capital, where the violence had begun.  “Let us decide, in the absence of other options, to clear Mogadishu and its surroundings of extremist militias in order to secure the capital, to restore law and order, restore services while United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations begin establishing a presence in the capital,” he said.  “Sceptical?  No doubt.”  But without capturing Mogadishu “I cannot see how we can avert the possibility of Somalia’s plunge into an avoidable disintegration.”  It would be the first block, but the most important, in a series of building blocks to enable the Government to expand its reach across the country.  Reconciliation should be pursued, but the Al-Qaida-linked groups had as their purpose the toppling of the internationally recognized the Transitional Federal Government.


It was now about two years since Eritrea had decided it was time to plunge Djibouti into the conflict mess in the Horn of Africa, he said.  Since then, not only had Eritrea not complied with the Council’s demands that it withdraw its troops from the position they had occupied since their June 2008 military action against Djibouti’s Ras Doumeira region, the neighbour had embarked on a systematic destabilization of Djibouti through the training of infiltrators that carried out sabotage attacks against infrastructure, assemblies and urban areas.


Mr. Guellah said that Eritrea remained unswayed by Council action on the conflict, but his country had genuinely hoped that its neighbour would begin reaching out in a more positive manner of settling outstanding issues when it had accepted the visit of the Security Council Sanctions Committee.  However, the paper submitted to the Chairman of that Committee, he stressed, contained “the usual litany of bizarre and unsubstantiated charges, false claims and denials”.  He urged the members of the Security Council to “grasp the wider implications of Eritrea’s intransigence and increasing violence”.


He said that, in addition to conflict, the Horn of Africa was beset by chronic drought and high food and fuel prices, as well as worsening of those problems due to climate change, stagnant development assistance and declining foreign direct investment in non-fuel-related sectors in Africa.  All those problems required immediate and sustained action by the international community.


“The escalating tensions and conflicts, the breakdown of law and order so widespread in the Horn of Africa, could be but a prelude to a much worse situation unless its many causes are sufficiently and seriously addressed,” he concluded.


Statements


RUHAKANA RUGUNDA (Uganda) underscored the need for peaceful resolution of conflicts in the Horn of Africa, and commended President Guelleh for the positive role Djibouti was playing in the region, particularly as host for the Djibouti peace process and in supporting the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia.  He also commended Djibouti for its compliance with resolutions regarding the conflict with Eritrea, and called on Eritrea to comply with its obligations as well.


GÉRARD ARAUD (France) recalled the Council’s demands and noted that Eritrea had still refused to fulfil its obligations, as well as any international mission in the area.  He also noted that the Secretary-General was appointing a group of experts on the sanctions, stressing that it was urgent that the situation on the ground be settled in a peaceful way.  The Eritrean authorities had recently sent some positive signals, but it was essential that they went from words to deeds.  He pledged France’s help to help mediate.  On Somalia, he thanked President Guelleh for Djibouti’s assistance on the situation, including its contributions to training soldiers with the European Union.


KONSTANTIN DOLGOV (Russian Federation) also regretted Eritrea’s lack of compliance with Council demands.  He looked for full implementation by all parties.  He said that the imposition of targeted sanctions, however, must be done on a reliable evidentiary basis of the involvement of specific individual in unlawful acts.  He expressed appreciation for Djibouti’s mediation role in Somalia.


PHILIP JOHN PARHAM (United Kingdom) welcomed the active role of Djibouti in the training of Somali forces and its activities in support of the fight against piracy in the Gulf of Aden.  He reiterated his country’s continued commitment to supporting the Somali Transitional Federal Government and called on Eritrea to comply with all relevant resolutions of the Council to put an end to the border conflict between that country and Djibouti.


NORIHIRO OKUDA (Japan) expressed appreciation for Djibouti’s efforts in trying to stabilize the highly volatile situation in Somalia and for its anti-piracy efforts.  Turning to the border dispute between Eritrea and Djibouti, he said it was regrettable that implementation of resolution 1862 (2008) had not progressed.  He urged Eritrea to cooperate through dialogue with the United Nations, Djibouti and regional organizations.


CLAUDE HELLER (Mexico) said the only viable option to resolve the different crises was through dialogue and cooperation between the countries of the region and respect for Council decisions.  He supported efforts in favour of a constructive dialogue and the work of the good offices of the Secretary-General in the border dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea.  He urged Eritrea not only to comply with Council resolutions, but also to send clear signals of their willingness to cooperate on the matter, and noted as positive Eritrea’s willingness to begin more constructive communication during his visit as Head of the Somalia-Eritrea Sanctions Committee.  He urged a consistent and comprehensive approach to the situation in the Horn of Africa in which the different variables of the crises would be given equal attention by the Council and the international community.


U. JOY OGWU (Nigeria) expressed her concern at the political strife and inter-State conflicts that had marred the Horn of Africa for too long.  The border dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea had had far-reaching implications for peace and security, she said, and the crises in the region were exacerbated by such cross-cutting challenges as religious extremism and proliferation of small arms.  As there would be no peace in the Horn of Africa without peace in Somalia, she said the way forward was for the international community to tackle the root causes of the conflict with firm commitment and fully support the Transitional Federal Government to confront the security challenges in the country.  The crises in the region had cross-cutting regional dimensions and a regional approach would be critical.  She commended the African Union and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in reinforcing the search for peace in the region, which would also have an impact on peace in Central Africa.  The constructive participation of Eritrea was required, and Eritrea should support the peace process in Somalia and comply with resolution 1907 (2009).


BROOKE D. ANDERSON (United States) said the Horn of Africa faced many challenges, from counter-terrorism to humanitarian issues.  She thanked Djibouti for its contributions to efforts aimed at stabilizing the region, including in Somalia.  Eritrea had failed to comply with Council resolutions, had not withdrawn its troops or engaged in dialogue with Djibouti.  It had, moreover, provided funding, weapons and training to armed groups in Somalia.  Resolution 1907 (2009) had created a robust sanctions regime, including an arms embargo and targeted sanctions.  Regional spoilers of the sanctions should be held accountable.  Eritrea should withdraw its troops, engage with Djibouti and stop supporting armed groups in Somalia.


THOMAS MAYR-HARTING (Austria) thanked Djibouti for its cooperation with peace and anti-piracy efforts in Somalia, and called for all in Somalia to join with the peace process.  He called on the Eritrean Government to urgently address the concerns of the Security Council by abiding by its resolutions, and hoped that all the countries of the Horn of Africa would work together in bringing about stability.  It was vital to search for a resolution of all underlying problems through dialogue.


MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil) said that President Guelleh’s remarks on Somalia and the problems of the Horn of Africa deserved serious attention.  She called on Eritrea to engage with Djibouti on resolving the conflict and grant access to Djibouti citizens being held.  Throughout the Horn, the Council must take an even-handed approach and must address equally the dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia, which had been stagnating for a long time.


ERTUĞRUL APAKAN (Turkey) commended Djibouti for its contributions to peace in Somalia and the fight against piracy.  He welcomed Djibouti’s attendance at the Istanbul conference next week for that reason.  He also encouraged the parties in the border dispute between Eritrea to abide by all their obligations under Security Council resolutions and international law.


IVAN BARBALIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina) said border disputes must be resolved by peaceful means, under the principles of the United Nations Charter.  For that reason, he expressed hope that mediation efforts in the Horn would bear fruit.  He called on all parties in the region and in the international community to work for peace in Somalia as well.


LI BAODONG (China) expressed appreciation for Djibouti’s diplomatic efforts in maintaining peace and stability in Somalia and for its support for international cooperation against piracy.  The persistent turbulence in the region had crippled peace and development, with the question of Somalia posing a serious threat to peace and security in the Horn.  Concerned at the dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea, he hoped that both countries could act in the interest of the region and applauded Djibouti’s efforts to seek a negotiated solution.  Experience from elsewhere in Africa had shown successes through regional cooperation in addressing disputes and easing tensions.  In the Horn of Africa, there was space for such regional cooperation, he said.


ALFRED ALEXIS MOUNGARA MOUSSOTSI (Gabon) said the situation between Djibouti and Eritrea had started in June 2008; another conflict to distract Africa from to addressing other challenges, including economic development.  He called on Eritrea to cooperate with the United Nations and comply with relevant Council resolutions to end the situation in a peaceful manner.  He welcomed Djibouti’s efforts in looking for a solution that would allow Somalia to recover peace and take its place in the family of nations.  The United Nations must assume more responsibility for Somalia, among other things through greater support for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).


Council President NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon), speaking in his national capacity, regretted the outbreak of the dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea and hoped that the conflict would end as soon as possible.  He confirmed the importance of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Djibouti and condemned any aggression against that country.  Urging respect for resolution 1907 (2009), which was a natural consequence of Eritrea’s refusal to comply with resolution 1862 (2008), he called on Eritrea to allow access to Djibouti prisoners and withdraw its troops.  Turning to Somalia, he said the Djibouti peace process should be supported.


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For information media • not an official record