The Eritrean-Ethiopian War YEMEN MUST STAY OUT! [Archives:1999/11/Viewpoint]

March 15 1999

The on-going war between neighboring Eritrea and Ethiopia is a sad development. Neither society can afford it. But then again, history is full of sad events.
More ominously for Yemen, there are mounting reports that Yemen is somehow implicated through arms-trafficking and gun smuggling across the Red Sea to Eritrea. This is contrary to international law as there is a UN Security Council embargo on arms shipments to the warring factions. Such an action is also contrary to Yemen’s interests.
So far, no evidence has been presented to prove this allegation. But my stomach keeps churning as I worry about the possibility of some proof popping up somewhere.
The international media have reported stories about gun-runners between Yemen and Eritrea. The most damaging one was by Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, a London-based Saudi newspaper, which was banned from circulation in Yemen. Reputable news agencies like Agence France Presse and Reuters carried the story. Many newspapers within the region, such as the Addis Tribune in Ethiopia, and Qaran and Xogogal in Somalia also published articles to the same effect based on different sources. The London-based electronic daily news mail put out by Eric Watkins also ran the story. In his March 9th edition, Eric writes: “We stand by the story and we will be pleased to send it again to readers on request.”The Ethiopian ambassador in Yemen, Dr. Teketel Forssido, disclosed to the Yemen Times his irritation with this development. “I cannot offer you any proof, but let me tell you of the dismay in Addis Ababa if such a thing is going on in Yemen,” he said.
Let me outline my reading on this matter, and then state my thoughts on it.
1. I believe it is impossible for the Yemeni government to be officially linked to this gun-trafficking. It is neither likely nor feasible.
But gun-trafficking is an old business within Yemen. Therefore, it is possible that some of the war-lords – we call them sheikhs and some people who wear military uniforms – could be involved. For money, some of these men would do almost anything. The possibility of moving from the local market to the regional one exists.
Our problems are complicated by the fact that, although these individuals could ostensibly be acting in their private capacity, they are also part of the top management of the nation. They run the country. So, whatever they do in their private capacity spills over into officialdom.
2. My thoughts are that this is a bad war. First, it does not serve the interests of the peoples of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Second, Yemen should not take sides and must remain neutral. Third, and most important of all; Eritrea, which started this problem, seems to be losing the war. Thus, Yemen’s assistance in arming it would only prolong the war, and the misery.
Therefore, in summation, Yemen must stay out of this ugly war.