Eritrea protests against Kenya threats

Eritrea has protested at the threats by Kenya to review ties, intensifying the diplomatic row between the two countries ahead of a much-anticipated meeting of their foreign ministers.

A statement from the Eritrean foreign ministry dated November 5 described as "regrettable" Kenya’s implied warning that Nairobi will view the alleged arming of Al-Shabaab by Asmara in a very serious light.

Foreign minister Moses Wetangula’s warning followed last week’s reports that three planes loaded with weapons for the militia landed in Baidoa, an Al-Shabaab stronghold. Reports said the arms came from Eritrea, but Asmara vehemently denied it.

As a result, the Eritrean foreign ministry has released a statement protesting Mr Wetangula’s remarks.

“The government of Eritrea finds extremely regrettable the remarks attributable to the foreign minister of Kenya, Moses Wetangula, regarding the fabricated story of Eritrean arms shipments to Al Shabaab in Somalia,” the statement notes.

“The comments were unfortunate particularly in light of the expected visit of the Eritrean foreign minister to Kenya,” it added.

No comment

Mr Wetangula declined to comment on the statement, only stating that he was looking forward to the visit by his Eritrean counterpart Osman Saleh Mohammed.

The statement from Asmara also noted that the visit by the foreign minister would “not only clear any misunderstanding but (also) enhance the relationship between the two friendly countries.”

The itinerary of the Eritrean minister remained fuzzy on Monday with even the ambassador to Kenya Beyene Russom reporting that he had no information.

“He will definitely come but I don’t have the details of his itinerary,” said Mr Russom.

According to the envoy, the foreign minister’s travel plans have been hampered by the few flights plying the Nairobi-Asmara route.

The Eritrean national carrier Nasair flies to Nairobi on Mondays and Fridays only.

The Red Sea state has denied accusation that it is arming the Somali insurgents and reiterated the same in the latest protest letter.

“Eritrea had on Wednesday replied to the sensational and ill-motivated allegations stating categorically that they were false and baseless. Eritrea had also affirmed that it could not and would not send arms to Al-Shabaab as it firmly believes that there could be no military solution to the problem of Somalia and given Al-Shabaab’s well-known antipathy towards what it calls a ‘secular Eritrean state’,” the statement added.

The Kenya Defence Forces are currently in hot pursuit of the Somali terrorist group after a string of kidnappings of foreigners and aid workers within the Kenyan territory.

Last week, allegations that Eritrea was supplying and delivering weapons and providing general support to Al Shabaab emerged, heightening the diplomatic tensions between the two nations.