KAMPALA (Reuters) – Uganda has invited Eritrea’s leader, President Isaias Afewerki, accused by the West of stoking Somalia’s Islamist rebellion and destabilising the east African region, to a state visit next week, Uganda’s State House said.
Eritrea rejoined the East African bloc IGAD last month, four years after it walked out on the body in protest at arch-foe Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia to oust an Islamist administration the United States said had ties to al Qaeda.
“Eritrea is one of the strategically vital countries to the stability of the region, especially in the Horn of Africa and the wider global agenda,” State House said in a statement late on Thursday.
A U.N. Monitoring Group report on Somalia and Eritrea said in late July that Asmara was bankrolling al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants in Somalia. Al Shabaab claimed they were behind a twin suicide bomb attack on the Ugandan capital, Kampala, last year.
Horn of Africa experts say that Isaias has become increasingly diplomatically isolated. Leader of one of the world’s most secretive states, Isaias makes few state visits.
The U.N. has imposed an arms embargo on Eritrea, as well as a travel ban and an asset freeze on Eritrean political and military leaders who it says are violating an arms embargo on Somalia.
Asmara denies the charges, and accuses the United States and neighbouring Ethiopia of “irresponsible interference”.