Afwerki, who was accompanied by his Foreign Minister Osman Saleh and the head of Eritrea’s political affairs office, Yemane Ghebreab, described his latest visit to Uganda as a historical opportunity to exchange views on various timely issues with his counterpart.
He was received at State House in Entebbe by Museveni before inspecting a guard of honor mounted by officers and men of the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) and received a 21 gun salute.
Uganda described Eritrea as one of the strategically vital countries to the stability of the region especially in the Horn of Africa and the wider global agenda.
After today’s meeting, as part of his three days state visit to Uganda, Afwerki called for a more regular mechanism that allows for more communication exchanges among leaders in the region as part of strengthening strong bilateral ties and establishing areas of realistic coordination.
“This engagement will be more frequent when we see the outcome of our delegations memorandums,” he said.
He also adds, “It is an opportunity to come back home again, it is a good feeling. We have only dealt with a few issues and I hope we shall have time to exhaust all the issues. I have learnt a lot from President Museveni and I will listen to him and come to understand of regional issues.”
President Musevini has said today’s discussions was mainly focused on “strategic and political issues” in the region and on bilateral agreements. He also adds on, “apart from the political and security issues, there are other issues of cooperation in the region, including in trade, exchange in education, regional flights.”
President Isaias also said, “We have held a good discussion which we have not finished. We shall have more time for more conclusions. We discussed strategic and political issues in the region and our ministers are developing various bilateral agreements. Apart from the political and security issues, there are other issues of cooperation in the region including in trade, exchange in education, regional flights etc…”
The two presidents held a bilateral meeting shortly after holding a closed door meeting.
A top Ugandan foreign ministry official said Kampala was keen to hear Eritrea’s response to accusations of supporting Somalia’s Shebab fighters.
“There are serious allegations that Eritrea is supporting Al-Shebab in destabilising the Horn of Africa region, and so we will be hoping to hear responses to those issues,” James Mugume, the foreign ministry permanent secretary has said.
Mugume, however, hailed Issaias’ visit as an important step by the small Red Sea state to rejoin the six-member regional body. “We will be looking at issues on how Eritrea wants to avoid the comprehensive sanctions,” Mugume adds.
President Afwerki will later today be hosted to a state banquet at State House in Entebbe. During his visit, he will tour the Quality Chemicals Industry in Luzira and the Diary Corporation factory in Bugolobi before meeting with the Eritrean Community resident in Uganda.
Earlier this month Eritrea applied to rejoin the regional bloc, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
It pulled out of Igad in 2007 after the body – made up of Kenya, Uganda, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia – supported Ethiopia’s military intervention to back the weak government in Somalia.
Eritrea analyst Michael Wrong told the BBC that Mr Afewerki’s trip was the latest sign that he wanted to end Eritrea’s isolation.
“Eritreans pride themselves on their independence from the world, but I think there is a realisation this has reached dangerous levels. They are now regarded as a pariah state,” Ms Wrong told the BBC’s Network Africa program.
“I suspect this is Eritrea reaching out to neighbours to say: ‘We don’t want to be completely on our own.”
It was recalled that the last time this two presidents met was in Eritrea’s port city of Massawa three years ago.