NAIROBI, Kenya Jan 16 – Eritrea has been cleared of allegations that it was arming Al Shabaab militants in Somalia late last year.
A preliminary report by the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) concludes that the allegations were untrue.
“The SEMG’s preliminary assessment is that these reports were incorrect and that the alleged deliveries to Baidoa probably did not take place,” part of the report states adding that “The monitoring group also pursued its investigation into alleged arms deliveries by air to the Al Shabaab controlled airfields in southern Somalia in late October and early November 2011.”
Kenya had accused Eritrea of delivering arms to the Al Qaeda-linked Islamists and reported the matter to the Security Council through the regional Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
The SEMG report was compiled last month.
On Monday, Eritrean Ambassador to Kenya Beyene Russom said his country “has requested a full, fair and independent investigation to be conducted by the UNSC, to the allegation and all other unfounded related accusations.”
The embassy in Nairobi has previously denied accusations that Asmara was involved in activities that can destabilise the region, and cannot therefore arm Al Shabaab in any way.
Russom said his government supports peace in the region and “cannot undermine any efforts aimed at destabilising it.”
“All this is propaganda fabricated by Ethiopia. It is a continuation of a series of previous lies about our government,” Russom told Capital News in an interview.
Citing reports that his government had delivered planeloads of arms to Al Shabaab fighters in Baidoa, the ambassador said he failed to understand how planes could have landed in Southern Somalia with arms yet the region was under strict surveillance since Kenya sent its troops there.
“When I heard about these allegations, I did not sleep, it worried me so much. I have held meetings and I have spoken to various government officials in Kenya both formally and informally to explain this and even a delegation from my country is planning to come. It is a matter of schedule,” he said.
Asmara plans to send a delegation to Nairobi led by Foreign Minister Osman Saleh to discuss the matter which the Eritrean envoy said dents his country’s image.
“These are wild accusations. They could have brought the plane down if indeed it was seen delivering arms in Baidoa. It is not possible that Eritrea can fly arms to Somalia. Not at all,” he said, fighting off the allegations he blames Ethiopia of fabricating.
Other than his country, the ambassador has personally has been accused of sending money to Al Shabaab.
“Again these are the lies they [Ethiopia] has been propagating. When I came here [in Nairobi] I found many allegations about me, and I even went and met the President (Kibaki)and I explained to him that I was willing to be investigated,” he said.
“I am here to represent my government not to support criminal groups like Al Shabaab,” he said adding that “since I came to Nairobi, I have never met a single Somali group or individual, I am very careful.”
He said his country has never participated in any cross-border attacks.