The United States has reportedly threatened to invade Eritrea and subject it to “the same fate as Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in the wake of the September 11 attacks” for providing support to the al-Shabaab resistance movement in Somalia, which the US has since attempted to link with al-Qaeda. The Daily Telegraph quotes one source as saying “There are consequences for working with al-Shabaab when President Obama cannot afford to look weak on terrorism.”
Situated along the Red Sea, the State of Eritrea is a nation of under 5 million people with a long history of foreign occupation. Bought by an Italian shipping company in 1869, the region remained under Italian rule until 1941, when Britain took control of them. British control was formalized under UN auspices in 1947, and the United Nations ceded the region to Ethiopia.
What followed was a particularly bloodly 30-year long battle of secession between Ethiopia and an Eritrean rebel faction (the Eritrean Liberation Front), which ended in 1993 when Ethiopia finally gave in to demands for an independence referrendum, which passed with 99.79% of the votes in favor. Eritrea has remained on poor terms with Ethiopia since, fighting a border war which ended with the installation of a UN commission to establish the still tenuous border between the two.
In 2006, Ethiopia invaded Somalia with American support, vowing to crush the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) movement and prop up the self-proclaimed Transitional National Government (TNG) of Somalia, which had recently been chased from a Kenya hotel for failing to pay their bills and was attempting to assert control over the stateless region. Eritrea backed the ICU, and later the al-Shabaab movement ostensibly to repay Somali support for their own independence bid. Though the TNG remained on the verge of collapse, Ethiopia declared “mission accomplished” in December of 2008, withdrawing its troops and claiming it had foiled a “plan orchestrated by Eritrea.”
The Bush Administration attempted to have Eritrea declared a “state-sponsor of terrorism” numerous times for backing forces in opposition to the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia. Eritrea publicly denounced “foreign intervention” in Somalia and said the Ethiopian pullout had vindicated their position that military occupation would not stabilize the nation.
Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki remains defiant, saying he will continue to oppose the Western-backed TNG’s attempt to assert control over the nation. “There is no government, there is not even a naiton of Somalia existing,” the president insisted, calling for a peace conference in which all parties, including those branded by the US and Ethiopia as “extremists” would have a voice. “Peace is not guaranteed without a government agreed by all Somalis.”
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