Nov 06 2015

UN report: Berhanu Nega went to Asmara via Egypt

Eritrea continued to violating the UN Security Council’s resolution by hosting Ethiopian rebel groups, Patriotic Ginbot 7 and TPDM, according to UN experts’ group.

The experts of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea also found that Eritrea has violated UNSC resolution 1907(2009) paragraph 15 (d) “by harbouring and facilitating the work of [Berhanu] Nega”.

The Monitoring Group, established to ascertain compliance with the Security Council prohibition on Asmara “from supporting armed opposition groups that aimed to destabilize the region”, has been submitting its annuals reports since 2012.

Last year, the Monitoring Group presented a detailed report that Eritrea’s diplomatic missions and military officers were actively involved in the recruitment, escorting, arming, and training Berhanu Nega’s Ginbot 7 (a.k.a Ginbot Sebat). [See UN report: Eritrea arms, trains Ginbot 7] Likewise, they provided an account of the support and armaments provided to TPDM (Tigrai People Democratic Movement, a.k.a. “Demhit”). [See UN report: Eritrea backed rebel TPDM thousands fighters]Photo - Berhanu Nega greeting his troops in Eritrea july 2015

Last January, Ginbot 7 merged with another Eritrea-based rebel group “Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF, a.k.a Arbegnoch Ginbar)” under the name “Patriotic Ginbot-7″ with Berhanu Nega and Meazaw Getu as co-chairpersons. Later in July, Berhanu Nega relocated to Eritrea to lead the armed struggle close by.

In September, “Patriotic Ginbot-7″and TPDM as well as two little known Eritrea-based rebels formed a coalition, “United Front for Salvation of Ethiopia”, with Berhanu Nega (PhD) of Patriotic Ginbot 7 as chair and Mola Asgedom of TPDM as deputy. Four days later, TPDM fighters along with Mola Asgedom fled to Ethiopia.

The Monitoring Group’s report appears uncertain or unimpressed about the mergers. The report narrated:

The Monitoring Group understands that the Government of Eritrea facilitated and supported a move to unite a disparate group of armed Ethiopian opposition groups ahead of the Ethiopian general election that was held on 24 May 2015.

The Group also received reports that a conference bringing together a number of Ethiopian opposition groups was held in western Eritrea. During the meeting, the groups, which included TPDM, the Patriotic Front, Ginbot Sebat and Arbegnoch, agreed to unify politically and militarily.

The level of success and internal cohesion of the newly formed group is unclear, although [Mola] Asdegom’s defection suggests that there are internal rifts among its top leadership.

Yet, the Monitoring Group disclosed new information about Berhanu Nega’s travel to Eritrea.

Berhanu Nega (PhD), professor at Bucknell University, secretly travelled to Eritrea without even being escorted by its affiliate media ESAT. His decision to relocate to Eritrea was reported days later, while his voice was not heard on radio for two months. He has yet to appear on Skype despite several promises to do so to his North American supporters. The matter created speculation regarding his health and freedom of movement in the media.

While his absence from ESAT and Eritrea’s television (EriTV) remains a mystery, his secret travel secretly to Eritrea was warranted by safety considerations. Berhanu’s deputy, Andargachew Tsige, ended up in Ethiopian prison when he was travelling to Asmara via Yemen.

Berhanu Nega apparently made the judicious choice of travelling through Egypt, which has been backing all sorts of Ethiopian rebels for half-a-century.

The Monitoring Group’s report disclosed that:

Berhanu Nega left the United States, where he resides, for Eritrea, where he was appointed as Chair of the newly formed unified front of armed Ethiopian opposition groups. He has stated his continuing intention to overthrow the Government of Ethiopia.

The Group received confidential information from two non-African Member States with direct knowledge of the case that, when Mr. Nega travelled to Asmara through Egypt, a senior presidential adviser, Yemane Gebreab, personally greeted him upon arrival.

As regards to flee of TPDM leader and troops from Eritrea to Ethiopia, the Monitoring Group’s report noted that:

The defection came at a late stage in the Monitoring Group’s mandate and the Group is continuing to ascertain its significance. The overall consensus at the time of writing of the present report was that it was too early to fully assess its impact, especially in terms of its effect on the TPDM military strength and political significance.

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