On 5 December 2011, the Security Council adopted UNSCR 2023, condemning Eritrea’s continued support to armed opposition groups, including Al-Shabaab. It further reiterated that Eritrea needed to comply fully with the arms imports embargo to Somalia imposed by UNSCR 733 (1992) and demanded that the country cease all direct and indirect efforts to destabilize other states.
UNSCR 2023 also strengthened the existing sanctions regime. It prohibited the coercive collection of Eritrean diaspora tax and decided that states shall exercise vigilance regarding business conducted in the mining sector of Eritrea to prevent such funds being used by Eritrea to violate UN Security Council resolutions, including by destabilizing the Horn of Africa region. These restrictions were adopted following warnings made by the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea about the use of the diaspora tax and proceeds from Eritrea’s emerging mining sector in its June 2011 report.
From 2012, the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea submitted two separate reports, one on Somalia and one on Eritrea, with some of its members focusing on monitoring the implementation of the sanctions on Somalia (for more information, see the Somalia sanctions regime) and others on the secondary sanctions on Eritrea.
During the duration of the episode, the Monitoring Group found no evidence of Eritrea’s support for al-Shabaab. However, Eritrea failed to comply with other aspects of UN Security Council resolutions, including ceasing its support for armed opposition groups in neighboring countries, and refused to engage with or allow visits by the Monitoring Group. Yet, its role in destabilizing the region decreased over time. The 2012 report concluded that “the relative importance of Eritrea as a source of military and financial support for armed groups appears to have declined,” but that the country remained a destabilizing force in much of the region. The report also noted increasing frictions between Eritrea and Al-Shabaab and the violations by Eritrea of the Somalia arms embargo by supporting Ethiopian armed opposition groups passing through Somalia. The 2013 report documented further efforts to undermine the Government of Somalia through support for spoilers in southern Somalia, but the 2014 report concluded that Eritrea was “a marginal actor in Somalia.” Reports of violations of the arms embargo decreased after 2014 and the Monitoring Group in 2015 reported a less coercive diaspora tax collection by Eritrea as a result of UN sanctions and increased public scrutiny over the issue, though the practice continued, including as an attempt to fund Eritrean armed forces. While Eritrea received revenue from the mining sector during the period, the Monitoring Group was unable to prove its use for funding destabilizing activities in the region.
In November 2016, the Security Council urged Eritrea to cooperate fully with the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea (UNSCR 2317), but there was no change of behavior by Eritrea towards the Group. While some members of the Security Council (including Russia and China) favored lifting UN sanctions against Eritrea, others (including the US and the UK) maintained that Eritrea’s continued support for armed groups in the region necessitated their continuation, especially in light of ongoing refusal of Eritrea to cooperate with the UN sanctions Monitoring Group. The Council also chose not to separate the Somalia and Eritrea sanctions regimes, despite the Monitoring Group’s recommendations to disassociate the two regimes in 2016 and 2017.
Regarding the Eritrea-Djibouti conflict, Qatar withdrew its peacekeeping forces from the border region in June 2017 and Djibouti subsequently accused Eritrea of occupying the disputed territory. However, the two countries resumed diplomatic relations on 6 September 2018, following a trilateral meeting with Ethiopia and the July 2018 Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship that ended the state of war between Ethiopia and Eritrea (after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed relinquished Ethiopia’s claims on the disputed areas, accepting the 2002 decision of the Boundary Commission established in December 2000 by the Algiers Agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea). The Ethiopian-Eritrean rivalry had been destabilizing the Horn of Africa region for two decades, including through proxy conflicts in neighboring countries (most prominently, Somalia). In the changed regional context, armed opposition groups acting against Ethiopia that had been receiving support from Eritrea signed peace agreements with the Ethiopian Government. Eritrea hosted and facilitated the peace negotiations in August and September 2018. Ethiopia, which at the time was a member of the UN Security Council, subsequently requested the lifting of sanctions on Eritrea.
Despite the momentous improvements in the regional relations in the second half of 2018 and the limited progress on the situation of the prisoners of war in March 2016, both the Djibouti-Eritrea border dispute and the issue of missing Djiboutian soldiers remained unresolved. While France and the US preferred to see further commitments towards resolving the border dispute, other members of the Security Council expressed their readiness to proceed with the lifting of sanctions. Djibouti signaled that it would not oppose the lifting of sanctions on Eritrea, provided that the Council continues to monitor the situation. The Security Council indicated that sanctions could be lifted if Eritrea would commit to resolving the conflict with Djibouti and receive the visit of the chair of the Somalia and Eritrea Sanctions Committee and the coordinator of the Monitoring Group (the holding of the meetings were appreciated by the Security Council Committee in October 2018 in SC/13553).
On 14 November 2018, the Security Council lifted the sanctions on Eritrea, following five consecutive years in which the Monitoring Group found no evidence of the country's support for Al-Shabaab. The Security Council had been divided on the lifting of Eritrea sanctions for several years because although there was no evidence of direct support to Al-Shabaab, Eritrea had consistently refused to cooperate with the Monitoring Group and continued to support armed groups in Djibouti and Ethiopia.
UNCR 2444 (2018), which lifted the secondary sanctions on Eritrea, terminated the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group and replaced it with a Panel of Experts on Somalia. For more information about UN sanctions on Somalia prior, during, and after the termination of UN sanctions on Eritrea, see the Somalia sanctions regime.
Coerce Eritrea to cease efforts to undermine peace and reconciliation in Somalia and destabilize neighboring states, and coerce it to resolve its territorial dispute with Djibouti.
Constrain Eritrea from providing support to armed groups (including Al-Shabaab) engaged in undermining regional stability and peace and reconciliation in Somalia.
Signal support for the Djibouti Peace Process on Somalia and disapproval of Eritrean support of Al-Shabaab and of its wider interference in the region.
Ongoing secondary sanctions on Eritrea:
Newly imposed ban on the coercive collection of diaspora tax by Eritrea.
For the related sanctions on Somalia in place during the episode, please see Somalia EP3 and Somalia EP4.
No individual targets have been specified.
UN sanctions can have some non-discriminating impact on the general population, since they include arms embargoes, diplomatic sanctions, and/or restrictions on the conduct of particular activities or the export of specific commodities.
Sanctions Committee and Monitoring Group in place. Designation criteria were specified but targets were not designated (no individual targets were specified). Enforcement authorities not specified (AMISOM for the Somalia sanctions regime).
For five of the seven years of the episode, the Monitoring Group found no evidence of Eritrea’s support to al-Shabaab, the main reason for the imposition of the secondary sanctions on Eritrea. While Eritrea had consistently refused to cooperate with the Monitoring Group and the border dispute with Djibouti remained unresolved, Eritrea’s violations of the Somalia and Eritrea arms embargoes and its support for armed groups in Djibouti and Ethiopia decreased over time.
Increasing tensions with Al-Shabaab early in the episode, the change of government in Ethiopia and subsequent diplomatic reconciliation between Eritrea and its regional rival, Ethiopia, at the end of the episode were important for the outcome. However, UN sanctions, which increased international scrutiny of Eritrea’s actions destabilizing the Horn of Africa region, also appeared important for the outcome.
Collection of the diaspora tax by Eritrea continued, but according to the 2015 Monitoring Group report, the Government of Eritrea “altered its methods of collecting the tax in the light of the adoption of resolutions 1907 (2009) and 2023 (2011) and increased public scrutiny,” becoming less confrontational and coercive. Eritrean support for armed opposition groups destabilizing the region decreased over time and, following the end of its conflict with Ethiopia, Eritrea facilitated peace negotiations between Ethiopia and several armed opposition groups that it formerly supported. The Monitoring Group could not establish the use of proceeds from the mining sector to destabilize the region during the episode and found no evidence of Eritrean support for Al-Shabaab for the last five years of the sanctions regime.
Sanctions were the primary instrument used to constrain Eritrea’s interference in the region and Eritrea repeatedly complained about their considerable economic damage to the country, requesting their lifting. The reconciliation between Ethiopia and Eritrea played an important role at the end of the episode.
Eritrea was stigmatized by the secondary sanctions, but the lack of designations and divisions within the Security Council over the necessity of secondary sanctions on Eritrea in the second half of the episode weakened the signal.
UN sanctions were the primary instrument of stigmatization of Eritrea and the reconciliation with Ethiopia at the end of the episode had a de-stigmatizing effect on Eritrea.
No unintended consequences of sanctions observed.