Djibouti, an increasingly strategic nation in the Horn of Africa, has condemned last week’s call by Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed for the lifting of U.N. sanctions against Eritrea.
During his three-day visit to Eritrea’s capital last week, the Somali president urged an end to the economic sanctions and arms embargo that the U.N. Security Council imposed on Eritrea in 2009 for its alleged support of Islamist militant forces in Somalia.
Mohamed said lifting the sanctions would promote the “economic integration of the Horn of Africa region.”
Mohamed’s statement angered Djibouti, which says Eritrea is occupying the disputed Doumeira islands and is holding more than 10 Djiboutian prisoners.
In an interview with VOA’s Somali service, Djibouti’s ambassador to Somalia, Aden Hassan Aden, described the Somali president’s statement as “deeply shocking.”
“As a sovereign state, there is no doubt that Somalia has the right to establish diplomatic relations with the countries in the region. However, it is unacceptable to see our brotherly Somalia supporting Eritrea, which is occupying part of our territory and still denying having Djiboutian prisoners,” Aden said.
Djibouti hosts military bases for five countries: the United States, France, China, Japan and Italy.
The tiny nation is also one of five African countries with troops in AMISOM, the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia. The mission has protected Somali governments from attempted takeovers by Islamist militant forces for more than a decade.
“Our boys in uniform who sacrifice their blood and life for peace in Somalia, whose brothers are held prisoners in Asmara, would not be happy to hear such a miscalculated statement from a Somali president,” Aden said.
As part of a flurry of reforms and peacemaking efforts, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed visited Eritrea last month to end a 20-year state of war between the countries.
Last week, Somalia’s president became the second head of state in the region to visit Eritrea.
Aden, the Djiboutian ambassador, said his country welcomed the diplomatic movements and talks in the Horn of Africa. But he emphasized that Djibouti’s conflict with Eritrea was unresolved.
“Our president has no plans to visit Asmara unless Eritrea releases the Djiboutians it detains and withdraws from the territory it occupied,” Aden said.