Ethiopia Accuses Eritrea of Backing al-Shabaab

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Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report says the allegation that Eritrea has funded or armed al-Shabaab is ridiculous; the Eritrean government is probably the most scrupulously secular state on the continent

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SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: This is the Glen Ford Report on The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.

Eritrea and Ethiopia, two of the world’s poorest countries, spent hundreds of millions of dollars in a war between them. They have suffered tens of thousands of casualties as a direct consequence of this war, and all over border disputes. Now Ethiopia’s calling for more sanctions against Eritrea.

Now joining me from Plainfield, New Jersey to discuss all of this is Glen Ford. Glen is a co-founder and executive editor of the Black Agenda Report.

Thank you so much for joining me, Glen.

GLEN FORD, BLACKAGENDAREPORT.COM: Thanks for the opportunity, as always.

PERIES: So Glen, this is in very close proximity, Ethiopia and Eritrea, in terms of the war going on in, that the Saudis are perpetrating on Yemen at the moment. Tell us more about the significance of this.

FORD: Well, whenever we talk about Eritrea the first thing we have to do is describe where it is and maybe spell it, because so few people seem to know that there is such a country. But it is a country of 6 million people that used to be a part of Ethiopia. It waged a war of independence to separate itself from Ethiopia, which has about almost 100 million people. Eritrea has, as I said, about 6 million. And that fighting basically came to a decisive phase in 2000. And then in 2002, an international commission established a border between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

However, Ethiopia decided that it didn’t want to recognize that border, and since, therefore since 2002, for the last 13 years, there’s been a state of near-war between those two countries. So on this April 13th, Eritreans around the world are staging protests and rallies, and they’re demanding that Ethiopia do recognize that border and give peace a chance in that part of the world.

The problem here is that Ethiopia does not have to give peace a chance with Eritrea. And it doesn’t have to do that because it is a close ally–a better word would be client state–of the United States. And client states, whether they are Saudi Arabia or Israel or Ethiopia have impunity to bully their neighbors under the protective umbrella of the United States.

And that’s especially true when it comes to Eritrea, because it’s not just a small place, it’s a rather special small place. In fact, some people call it the Cuba of Africa. It has declared itself to be a country that will develop itself. It is one of only three countries in Africa that has no relations whatsoever with AFRICOM, the U.S. military command in Africa. It is scrupulous in its avoidance of entanglements with multinational corporations. It refuses all manner of foreign aid. All, of course, based on the principle of independent development.

And for that reason, Eritrea is on Washington’s blacklist. In fact, since 2009, the United States has used its powers at the UN to impose sanctions on Eritrea. And the imposition of the sanctions are not as ridiculous as the reason that’s given for those sanctions. The U.S. claims that Eritrea is somehow aiding and abetting, arming and financing al-Shabaab. That’s the Islamic fundamentalist al-Qaeda-like outfit in Somalia.

But Eritrea has probably the most scrupulously secular government in Africa. There is no more secular government in the whole continent than in Eritrea. Half of Eritrea’s population is Christian, about half is Muslim. It would be insane, utterly insane, for a country such as that to encourage Islamic fundamentalism. But it doesn’t matter whether the charge is true or not. When you’re a superpower, you can enforce it with sanctions. And we all know that sanctions are the prelude to war. They are the last step before war.

And so here we have little Eritrea, which is not bothering anybody. Which is trying to develop its own resources through the skills and talents of its own people. Sitting there near what people like to call a choke point in the Red Sea, where much of the world’s oil passes through daily, and across from a site where the U.S. and its allies are bombing another people to hell.

With living under the threat–and I’m speaking of the Eritreans here–living under the threat of passing that, that line in the sand that the United States draws and being sucked into the vortex of the war across the Red Sea, or in the expanding war in Somalia, which it also has nothing to do with. So these are the perils of a small, independent country in Africa if it decides that it wants to develop its own nation based on its own instincts and [sights] and wisdom.

PERIES: And in terms of Eritrea’s position on all of this and the negotiations that are going on in the UN, what are they actually calling for? What do they want?

FORD: Eritrea has always called for non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations. And for good reason. It wants non-interference in its own affairs. And of course that is the only rational and sane position that any responsible nation would take regarding Yemen, or regarding Somalia, for that matter. A country that has been absolutely stripped of its sovereignty by its two neighbors, Ethiopia and Kenya. All under the auspices, and with ample funding and intelligence and diplomatic support, from the United States.

PERIES: Glen, as always, thank you so much for joining us. And particularly this history lesson today.

FORD: Thank you.

PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

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