Hope for Somalia? Europe fails to act – Uganda wants Eritrea for mediation

No new impulse for peace from Niebel

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) is disappointed by the outcome of a visit to East Africa from Germany's Minister of Development, Dirk Niebel. "Germany is prepared to send more money for the starving people of Somalia – but Niebel did not announce any new initiatives for peace. This is just not enough to ensure that the tens of thousands of people who became victims of the civil war and the drought will survive," the STP's expert on questions regarding Africa, Ulrich Delius, criticized on Tuesday. Europe fails to act – but new hope for the needy in Somalia could arise from a peace initiative in Uganda. The neighboring country is trying to get Eritrea to mediate in the matter of the Somali civil war. Uganda declares Eritrea to be a "key to stability in the region" and therefore welcomes President Issias Afewerki for a three-day state visit.

"Uganda's proposal could bring a new momentum to the civil war in Somalia, because no foreign government has more influence on Al-Shabaab than Eritrea," said Delius. While the Security Council is always trying to impose new sanctions against Eritrea to marginalize the country, Uganda is trying to break up Eritrea's isolation. "It is a courageous and difficult step forward – but one of only a few opportunities left to prevent the death of tens of thousands of people in Somalia."

For years, Eritrea is fighting a proxy war in Somalia against the hostile neighbor Ethiopia. "The war will become worse if Eritrea is diplomatically isolated even more," warned Delius. Uganda has promised to send 5.200 soldiers as a part of the AMISOM African Union peacekeeping mission and another 2.000 army personnel to Somalia.

The tremendous suffering in Somalia forces a rethink – even if the Government of Eritrea massively violates human rights in the own country. Afewerki's authoritarian regime can be seen as the worlds greatest enemy of press freedom: It takes the last of 178 places in the press freedom rank set up by the organization "Reporters Without Borders". At least 16 Eritrean journalists are being kept in solitary confinement. Also, the situation of Christians is catastrophic: to be associated with a church that is not state-approved can entail years in prison. Around 1.500 Christians are currently imprisoned. At least five Christians died of torture and the inhumane prison conditions since October 2010.