Dutch dump flowers as demand falls because of Coronavirus

It’s a sad sight: huge numbers of flowers being dumped in the giant flower markets of the Netherlands – the hub of Europe’s flower industry.

Now jobs in Africa’s key flower producing countries: Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa, are being lost.

Reuters reports that the coronavirus is forcing Dutch flower growers to compost millions of blooms at what should be the pre-Mothers’ Day demand peak, their industry association said, warning that many members could go bankrupt within weeks.

“The market situation is dramatic,” Steven van Schilfgaarde, director of Royal FloraHolland, said in a statement, adding that flower prices have nearly halved.

“Last Friday 20 percent of the supply had to be destroyed because there were no buyers. Forecasts for the next weeks are even worse,” he said.

This period is usually peak season for flower sales because of Mother’s Day celebrations in the United Kingdom and Ireland on March 22.

FloraHolland usually auctions 30 million plants and flowers a day, worth some 8.8 million euros ($9.8 million).

Africans pay the price

Ethiopia is now joining Kenya in losing tens of thousands of job.

On Tuesday Business Insider carried this report.

Tonnes of flower export wither away in Kenya as hundreds of workers sent home

Kenya is arguably the world’s flower garden and annually exports tonnes of freshly cut flowers to all corners of the world, more so to Europe.Kenya is arguably the world’s flower garden and annually exports tonnes of freshly cut flowers to all corners of the world, more so to Europe.
  • Kenya is arguably the world’s flower garden and annually exports tonnes of freshly cut flowers to all corners of the world, more so to Europe.
  • With the COVID-19 which has so far infected more than 182,400 people and killed over 7,100 worldwide, Kenya’s flower farms are on the receiving end.
  • Flight cancellations coupled with the collapse of the Dutch auction has left farmers with no option but to dispose of flowers worth millions of shillings and close down various departments.

The thousands of patients infected with coronavirus (COVID-19) across the globe and admitted in solitary wards in hospitals will soon have nothing to cheer them up as the world’s flower garden slowly withers away.

Kenya is arguably the world’s flower garden and annually exports tonnes of freshly cut flowers to all corners of the world, more so to Europe.

With the COVID-19, which has so far infected more than 182,400 people and killed over 7,100 worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University, rapidly spreading across the globe like wildfire, Kenya’s flower farms are now on the receiving end.

Hundreds of flower farm-workers have been sent home while thousands are staring at job losses as effects of coronavirus hit Kenya’s booming flower industry hard. Flight cancellations coupled with the collapse of the Dutch auction has left farmers with no option but to dispose of flowers worth millions of shillings and close down various departments.

“Farmers have had their orders canceled and many have opted to reduce their shipping or cancel it due to the uncertainty in the market.” said Kenya Flower Council (KFC) CEO Clement Tulezi, Standard Digital reported.

Kenya Flower Council (KFC) chief executive officer Clement TuleziKenya Flower Council (KFC) chief executive officer Clement Tulezi

More than 500,000 people in the country depend on the trade according to the Kenya Flower Council, with roughly half of the country’s 127 flower farms concentrated around Lake Naivasha, around 90 kilometres northwest of Nairobi.

In Naivasha, workers have started the painful process of dumping ready flowers meant for export as others headed home with their fate unknown.

“The exports are fluctuating from day to day but the average export is 50 percent with the Dutch auction on Tuesday operating at 35 per cent,” KFC CEO said.

Kenyan flower workers sorting and grading flowers for exportKenyan flower workers sorting and grading flowers for export

The flower industry in Kenya is a multibillion industry and last year alone raked in a total of Sh113 billion ($1.13 billion) and as of September 2018, the country had exported a total of 133 437 metric tonnes of flowers.

Nearly two-thirds of exports are destined for Holland, where they are resold to florists through auctions which present a safe avenue into the market for less seasoned growers.

Nearly two-thirds of Kenya flower exports are destined for Holland,Nearly two-thirds of Kenya flower exports are destined for Holland,

However, with Europe now becoming the epicenter of COVID-19 after reporting more cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China which has led to lock-down and flight cancellations, Kenyan flowers have been left to wither and die as farmers watch.

“This means that we are losing around Sh10m every day and we have embarked on the process of sending seasonal workers home while those on permanent employment are heading for leave,” said Tulezi.

One such sad case is Maridadi flower farm in Naivasha where over a million stems of roses, which were destined for Holland withered in their dump composite site as the heap, rose by the day.

March 29, 2020 Ethiopia, News

Source: Financial Times

‘Only a global victory can end this pandemic, not a temporary rich countries’ win


There is a major flaw in the strategy to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Advanced economies are unveiling unprecedented economic stimulus packages. African countries, by contrast, lack the wherewithal to make similarly meaningful interventions. Yet if the virus is not defeated in Africa, it will only bounce back to the rest of the world.

That is why the current strategy of uncoordinated country-specific measures, while understandable, is myopic, unsustainable and potentially counter-productive.

A virus that ignores borders cannot be tackled successfully like this. We can defeat this invisible and vicious adversary — but only with global leadership. Without that, Africa may suffer the worst, yet it will not be the last. We are all in this together, and we must work together to the end.

Fragile and vulnerable at the best of times, African economies are staring at an abyss.

Let me illustrate this with the situation in my own country.  Ethiopia has made steady progress in the provision of health services over the past two decades. But nothing has prepared us for threats posed by Covid-19.

Access to basic health services remains the exception rather than the norm. Even taking such common-sense precautions as washing hands is often an unaffordable luxury to the half of the population who lack access to clean water.

Even seemingly costless social distancing is hard to implement. Our lifestyle is deeply communal, with extended families traditionally sharing the burdens and bounties of life together, eating meals from the same plate.

Our traditional and rain-dependent agriculture is dictated by the fixed timeframes of weather cycles in which planting, weeding and harvesting must happen. The slightest disruption to that chain, even for a brief period, can spell disaster, further jeopardising already tenuous food supply and food security.

Take Ethiopian Airlines, the country’s largest company, which accounts for 3 per cent of national output and is a major source of hard currency. It will be pushed to the brink as its business is upended by the pandemic. Shortage of hard currency will then make it all but impossible to source essential medical supplies and equipment from abroad. The cost of servicing our debts is already often more than our annual health budgets. The list continues.

This grim reality is not unique to Ethiopia. It is shared by most African countries. But if they do not take appropriate measures to tackle the pandemic, no country in the world is safe.  Momentary victory by a rich country in controlling the virus at a national level, coupled with travel bans and border closures, may give a semblance of accomplishment. But we all know this is a stopgap.

Only global victory can bring this pandemic to an end. Covid-19 teaches us that we are all global citizens connected by a single virus that recognises none of our natural or man-made diversity: not the colour of our skin, nor our passports, or the gods we worship. For the virus, what matters is the fact of our common humanity.

That is why the strategy to tackle the human and economic cost of this global scourge must be global in design and application. Health is a worldwide public good. It requires global action guided by a sense of global solidarity.

But Covid-19 has also exposed our dark underbelly. The world community desperately needs global-level leadership to tackle swiftly pandemics such as this, and in a way that is institutionalised rather than ad hoc.

A good place to start is with the World Health Organization. As countries with the necessary resources focus on fighting the pandemic through their national institutions, the WHO must be empowered and resourced sufficiently to co-ordinate responses globally and directly to assist governments in developing countries.

In the meantime, the G20 must provide collective leadership for a co-ordinated global response. There is no time to waste: millions of lives are at risk.

Building on what has been announced by international financial institutions, the G20 must launch a global fund to prevent the collapse of health systems in Africa. The institutions need to establish a facility to provide budgetary support to African countries.

The issue of resolving Africa’s debt burden also needs to be put back on the table as a matter of urgency.

Finally, all of Africa’s development partners must ensure that their development aid budgets remain ring fenced and are not diverted to domestic priorities. This is where true humanity and solidarity must be demonstrated. If such aid were ever necessary in Africa, it is now more than ever before.

by Eritrea Hub

Eritrean Christian Charity Calls for Release of Prisoners of Conscience Amidst Fear of COVID19 Outbreak in the Country

(London 29-03-2020)

Dr Berhane Asmelash praying at a church in a refugee camp in Ethiopia


Eritrean human rights charity, Release Eritrea, calls on the government of Eritrea to release all prisoners of conscience including those incarcerated for their faith in various prisons throughout the country, amidst fear of COVID19 outbreak. The charity has received information regarding the harrowing condition in detention centres where hundreds of people languish after they were detained because of their religious belief.  Prisoners are held in facilities that are not fit for human beings including shipment containers and make shift camps in deserted deserts, there is no medical care or basic toilets provided, many die of treatable illnesses.

The government of Eritrea has routinely harasses, imprisoned and regularly abused thousands of Eritrean Christians from minority church groups in the country on the count of their faith since the country’s independence. The situation was institutionalised when the regime outlawed the churches and begun to arrest followers enmas in May 2002, in the years that followed thousands have faced extreme persecution and many of them left the country at every opportunity they got, becoming victims of human trafficking and precarious journeys out of the country.

Persecution is on-going and infact 2019 saw the worst records of arrests with hundreds being incarcerated in the space of the few months after Eritrea struck a peace deal with Ethiopia.

Information received by the Charity shows that, in just three months in 2019, 239 people were detained in 4 prison camps across the country.  One prison in Mai-Temenay, on the outskirts of Asmara received 127 prisoners, while in Keren there were 43 arrests in the same period. Another prison in Asmara, in an area known as Godaif had 40 prisoners and a prison in Dkemhare had 24.

Currently it is estimated that there are some 600 prisoners in various prison including the ones mentioned above as well as the following across the country Mai –sirwa prison holds the largest numbers comprising of 72 women and 85 men, followed by the prison island in Dahlak where there is a desert camp with 15 female and 27 male prisoners. Hashferay camp has 8 women and 12 men and Adi Abeyto near the Capital holds 3 women and 12 men prisoners. Keren, Ala and Medefera have a handful male prisoners (less than five each) and Metkel Abyet has 3 female prisoners.  Inside Asmara there are long term- prisoners totalling just over 20 some of them have been in prison since 2004. In addition it is estimated there are a further 200 across various military contingents.

Over the years many have died due to illnesses, malnutrition and torture; given that these people have never been charged with crime, Release Eritrea calls for their immediate and unconditional release, pertinently at this time when their living conditions and malnutrition and various untreated illnesses could put them in unimaginable danger in the event of a COVID19 outbreak in the county.

Rev. Dr Berhane Asmelash director of Release Eritrea said ‘ I have always been concerned regarding the prisoners’ health given the over crowded conditions and severe malnutrition. I have spoken to many who escaped those prisons in refugee camps in Ethiopia and the situation is unimaginably difficult, there is no medical care whatsoever, there is no way anyone would survive a viral outbreak such as COVID19 in that condition. I would like to call for release of all prisoners of conscience. I am personally shaken by the report received by Release Eritrea f on the situation of Christian prisoners; we call for their immediate and unconditional release. Their continued incarceration is illegal and unjust and in the current situation totally inhumane’

Eritrea has last week confirmed the first six cases of COVID19 patients and is currently taking steps to control the spread of the disease. Other countries including neighbouring Ethiopia have taken the unprecedented step of releasing thousands of prisoners fearing  the potential implication of COVID19 outbreak.

Release Eritrea is a UK registered human rights charity that advocates for freedom religious worship in Eritrea.

March 28, 2020 Ethiopia, News

Screenshot 2020-03-04 at 18.04.38 

By Habte Hagos

Eritrea Focus has received very worrying information that the Ethiopian Federal Government is in the process of adopting “Exclusion Criteria” for Eritreans seeking asylum in the country. Our sources have asked to remain anonymous, but we regard them as credible. The “Exclusion Criteria” are currently being applied at “collection centres” i.e. refugees comps where asylum seekers are placed for refugee status assessment.

The “Exclusion Criteria” include the following. They are not exhaustive and apparently not officially documented either, although they are being applied:

  1. Unaccompanied and separated minors;
  1. Persons within the age of conscription in Eritrea [This criterion seems to be all enveloping as almost all Eritreans from their teens are indefinitely conscripted to the National Service];
  1. Persons who access Ethiopia to seek medical care;
  1. Persons who have crossed the border on repeated occasions, regardless of whether or not they have sought asylum in Ethiopia before; and
  1. Persons wishing to reunite with family members in a third country.

These criteria are so severe that they appear to amount to the rejection of all Eritrean claims for asylum. It is far from clear what sanctions the Ethiopian government intends to apply to Eritreans who fail the five tests.

If these criteria are brought into force, they would not only violate the Ethiopian government’s legal requirements under the international conventions relating to refugees, they would be a reversal of Ethiopian policy dating back many decades. Both Eritrea and Ethiopia have a history of giving sanctuary to those who flee persecution and injustice. They would also severely disrupt family ties, trade and social relations among villages scattered all along the 1,000 kilometre long border.

As part of the “Exclusion Criteria” the number of entry points to Ethiopia for Eritrean asylum seekers has been reduced from 18 to 3. The closure of Hitsat refugee camp that is designed for 11,000 refugees, but currently hosts 18,000 Eritreans, is expected to proceed next month with the refugees moving to Mai Ayni and Adharush. These camps are already badly overcrowded , far exceed their limits and facing acute shelter shortages. If the Ethiopian security forces attempt to enforce the closure of Hitsat they could provoke stiff resistance from the camp’s inhabitants.

The most immediate concern is vulnerability of refugees to the novel coronavirus in overcrowded facilities. Furthermore, the closing of Hitsats may lead to increase in secondary migration, which will endanger the Ethiopian Government’s action to contain the spread of COVID-19.

For additional information, please refer to the attached document “Looming closure of 11.000 -person refugee camp in the Tigray region of Ethiopia amid COVID-19 threat” – below.


28 March 2020

Habte Hagos, Chair, Eritrea Focus

March 28, 2020 News

Source: What’s in Blue

On Monday (30 March), the Security Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), which expires on 31 March. Due to the impact of COVID-19, and with members unable to agree on video-conferencing modalities for voting, the Council has decided to vote through written adoption procedures. Members are currently submitting their votes to the Security Council Affairs Division. China, as Council president this month, is expected to read out the results in a videoconference session on Monday.

The overall environment for negotiations on the draft text were challenging as a result of the predominant focus on how to adapt the Council’s working methods due to the virus. As a result, the UK, as penholder, pursued a text calling for a technical rollover until 30 June. This would place the negotiations after the adoption of a reauthorisation of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) mandate, which expires on 31 May. In general, the rest of the Council understood the need for this approach, and it seems that they appreciated the short and straightforward text. There was no discussion of substance, with the understanding that this will happen in June. It seems that the permanent members were able to meet in person to discuss the text ahead of the general shutdown of UN headquarters, but elected members received the initial draft via email. Given the need to hold negotiations remotely and member states’ desire for a more substantive discussion of the mandate, a technical rollover was deemed the appropriate course of action. There appears to be no reference to the COVID-19 situation in the text.

Many Council members were hesitant to extend the mandate past the end of June because they are hoping to adjust UNSOM’s mandate in the near future to address pressing challenges. For example, some want to make sure that UNSOM is able to assist, where appropriate, with upcoming elections planned for the end of 2020 or early 2021, and do not want to delay this assistance.

In June, along with considering technical assistance with elections, Council members may look at other parts of UNSOM’s mandate, especially since the mandate will be adopted following the reauthorisation of AMISOM. When negotiating the UNSOM mandate in June, Council members may consider how well UNSOM has continued to provide strategic support and advice to the Federal Government of Somalia and AMISOM on peacebuilding and state-building in the areas of governance, security sector reform and rule of law, development of a federal system, constitutional review, and coordination of international donor support.

The security situation in Somalia remains a primary concern among Council members: on 18 March al-Shabaab militants attacked the heavily-fortified Halane compounds that host UN, EU, and AU facilities, as well as embassies of countries that include the US and UK.

In general, Council members hold similar positions on Somalia though divergences remain over the best way to encourage change and progress in Somalia. This is especially true on the pace of troop withdrawal. The three African members of the Council in 2019 supported the AU position that an AMISOM drawdown was premature and that Somalia was not ready to take on greater security responsibilities. Their position was supported by China and Russia. Meanwhile, France, the UK and the US supported reductions by the end of 2019. Resolution 2472 set out a compromise whereby it decided to reduce “uniformed AMISOM personnel by 1000 to a maximum level of 19,626, by 28 February 2020”.

There may also be further negotiations on language added last year on the adverse effects of climate change. While climate and security language has increasingly been incorporated into Council outcomes over the past two years, the role of the Council regarding this issue remains politically sensitive to some members. It is unclear in what form these references will emerge from another round of mandate negotiations. Some members were already preparing for a difficult attempt to maintain the language in face of opposition.

The Council was last briefed on Somalia on 24 February and that meeting would have provided the basis for this month’s negotiations on the current text. James Swan, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNSOM; Francisco Caetano José Madeira, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia and head of AMISOM; and Dan Smith, Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, briefed. All briefers and several Council members stressed that 2020 is a pivotal year for Somalia. They focused on the need for dialogue and constructive actions.

The Secretary-General’s 13 February report on UNSOM states that the security situation in Somalia remains fragile. The report concludes by recommending the renewal of UNSOM’s mandate for 12 months.

Saturday, 28 March 2020 20:23

Radio Dimtsi Harnnet Sweden 28.03.2020

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ርእሰ-ዓንቀጽ ሰዲህኤ

ኣብ ሓደ ዝተወሰነ መድረኽ ብሓንሳብ ተደራራቢ ብደሆታት ከጋጥም ዝነበረ እምበር ሎሚ ዝጅምር ዘሎ ኣይኮነን። ኣብ ከምዚ ኩነታት ንጉዳያት ከከም ህጹጽነቶምን ክብደቶምን ቀዳምነታት ሰሪዕካ ምሓዞም ግድነት እዩ። ኣብ ዝተወሰነ እዋን ቀንዲ ቆላሕታኻ ኣብቲ ቀዳምነት ዝሃብካዮ መደባት እኳ እንተኾነ፡ ነቶም ጽባሕ ቀዳማይ ደረጃ ዝሕዙ ሎሚ ግና ኣብ 2ይ፡ 3ይ ደረጃ ዝስርዑ ዋኒናት እውን ጠቕሊልካ ትርሰዖም ማለት ከም ዘይኮነ ካብ ተመኩሮ እንመሃሮ እዩ።

ሎሚ ንዓለምና “ኮቪድ-19 ኮሮናቫይረስ” ዝተባህለ ትንፋስ ዘይህብን ዘየናሕስን ለበዳ ኣሸቢርዋ ኣሎ። ቅድሚ ሕጂ እውን ኣንበጣ፡ ምንቅጥቃት መሬት፡ እሳተ-ጐመራን ደርቅን ካልእ ዓይነት ተላጋቢ ሕማማትን ተመሳሳሊ ጸገም ዝፈጠርሉ ተመኩሮኳ እንተነበረ፡ ናይ ኮሮናቫይረስ ጉዳይ ግና ፍሉይ ምዃኑ ኩልና ንሓልፎ ዘለና ህይወት እዩ። እዚ ዓለም ብዓለማ ኣሰንቢዱ ዘሎ ወራር ኮሮና፡ ኣይኮነንዶ ንዓና ነቶም ጽባሕ ብኹሉ መለክዒ ብቕዕትን ተወዳዳሪትን ኤርትራ ክንርኢ ጌና ንቃለስ ዘለና ሓይልታት ለውጢ፡ ነቶም ኣብ  ኩሉ ጽላታት ዕቤት ዝለዓለ ደረጃ ዝሓዙ መንግስታትን መራሕተንን እውን ኣዝዩ ብዳሂ ኮይኑ ዘሎ እዩ። ህልዊ ኩነታት፡ ቻይና፡ ኢጣልያ፡ ኣሜሪካ፡ ፈረንሳ፡ ስፐይን፡ ጀርመንን ካለኦት መሳቱአንን ከኣ ናይዚ ምስክር እዩ።

ብዘይ ወዲ ሰብ ዝሕሰብ ዕቤት ኮነ ህልውና የለን። ወዲ ሰብ የለን ማለት ኩሉ የለን ማለት እዩ። ከምዚ ስለ ዝኾነ እዩ ከኣ ነዚ ቀዛፊ ለበዳ ምዕጋት ቅድሚ ኩሉ ዝስራዕ ዓለም ለኻዊ ኣጀንዳ ኮይኑ ዘሎ። ዓለምና ከኣ ኩለንተነኣ፡ ቀልባን ዓቕማን ኣብኡ ተጸሚዳ እነሀት። እንተኾነ እዚ ኣጸጋሚ ኩነታት ሓሊፉ ናብቲ ዝጸነሓቶ ንቡር ህይወት ከም እትምለስ ትስፉው ተረድኦ ምሕዳር ከኣ ግድነት እዩ። ተስፋ እንተዘየልዩ ነዚ ቀዳማይ ደረጃ ሒዙ ዘሎ “ህይወት ካብ መቕዘፍቲ ናይ ምድሓን” ምርብራብ እውን ከተዕውት ኣይክትክእልን እያ። ነዚ በዳሂ መኸተ ምዕዋት ንውሱናት ሃብታማትን ሓያላትን ጥራይ ዝግደፍ ዘይኮነ፡ ናይ ኩልና ዓቕሚ ዝሓትት ምዃኑ ክንርዳእ ናይ ግድን እዩ። ካልእ ይትረፍ ነቲ ብክኢላታት “መዋጸኦ ክኸውን” ተባሂሉ በብግዜኡ ዝንገረና መምርሕታትን ምዕዶን ተቐቢልና ህይወትና እንተ ኣድሒንናን፡ ብዘለና ዓቕሚ እቲ ምኽርን መጠንቀቕታን ናብቲ ክበጽሖ ዝግበኦ እንተኣባጺሕናን  ኣብ ምምካት ክሮና ዝነዓቕ ኣስተዋጸኦ ኣይኮነን።

ቀዳማይ ዕማሙን ተልእኮኡን ፖለቲካዊ ጐስጓስ ኮይኑ ዝጸንሐ ናይ ሓይልታት ለውጢ ናይ መራኸቢ ሜላታት ብዘለዎ ዓቕሚ፡ ኣካል ናይቲ ነዚ ሕማም ንምምካት ዝካየድ ዘሎ ምርብራብ ኮይኑ ክስለፍ ከድልየና እዩ። ነዚ ዝምልከት ሓበሬታ ክንዝርግሕ እንከለና ከኣ ጥንቃቐ ንግበር። ህዝቢ ኣሰንቢዱ ዘርዕድን ተስፋ ዘቑርጽን ዘይኮነ፡ ጌጋ መንገዲ ከይሕዝ ዝምዕድን ትስፉው መጻኢ ዘመላኽትን ክኸውን ይግበኦ። ከም ኣብነት ናይተን ነቲ ሕማም ናይ ምቁጽጻር ኣወንታዊ ኣንፈት ዘርእያ ዘለዋ ሃገራት ክንጠቕሰሉ ይምረጽ። ኣጋጣሚ ኮይኑ በዚ ሕማምዚ ተለኺፍካ ማለት ብኡንብኡ ትመውት ማለት ከምዘይኮነ ምርድኡ እውን ጽቡቕ እዩ።

ከምቲ “ካብ እመት ስድሪ ኣላታ” ዝበሃል እዚ ሕማም ኣይኮነንዶ ኣብ ከምዚ ሕጂ ንርከበሉ ዘለና ኣሻቓሊ ደረጃ፡ ኣብ ንቡር ግዜኳ ተራ መድሃኒት ኣብ ዘይርከበለን ኣብ ከም ኤርትራ ዝኣመሰላ ሃገራት ዝያዳ ከም ዘሻቕል ፍሉጥ እዩ። ብኣንጻሩ ናይዚ ሕማምዚ ቀንዲ መከላኸሊ እቲ ህዝቢ ኣብ ዝገብሮ ጥንቃቐ ዝምርኮስ ስለ ዝኾነ፡ ህዝብና እንተደኣ ተጠንቂቑ ማዕረቲ ኣብተን ሓያላትን ዝማዕበላን ሃገራት ዘሎ ህዝቢ ክምክትን ክድሕንን ተኽእሎ ከም ዘለዎ ክንሕብሮን ከነተስፍዎን ክንበቅዕ ይግበኣና።

እዚ ከም ሰብ ንህልውናና ዘስግእ ዘሎ ሕማም፡ ነቲ ናይ ለውጢ ቃልስና ክሳብ ክንደይ ከም ዝሃስዮ ንርእዮ ዘለና እዩ። ርሑቕ ከይከድና እቲ ዓብይ ተጽቢት ተነቢርሉ ዝነበረ፡ ኣጋጣምታት፡ ኣኼባ 14 መጋቢት ኣብ ዋሽንግተን ዲሲ፡ ርክብ መራሕቲ ተቓወምቲ ፖለቲካዊ ውድባትን ሰልፍታትን ኤርትራ ለንደን 22-24 መጋቢት 2020ን ኣብ ጀርመን ኮነ ሽወደን ተመዲቡ ዝነበረ ኣኼባታት ዘይምክያዱ ርኡይ ኣበነት እዩ። እዚ ክበሃል እንከሎ ግና እዚ ሎሚ ኩሉ ቀልብናን ሃምናን ናብኡ ኣቕኒዕናሉ ዘለና ቀዛፊ ለበዳ ሓሊፉ፡ እቲ 2ይ 3ይ ደረጃ ሒዙ ዘሎ ተደራራቢ  ናይ ለውጢ ቃልሲ ዋኒንና ኣብ 1ይ ቦታኡ ከም ዝምለስ ተስፋ ከነሕድር ይግበኣና። እዚ ዘለናሉ ኩነታት ምናልባት ብስፍሓቱ፡ ቅልጣፈኡን ዘኸትሎ ዘሎ መቕዘፍትንኳ ፍሉይ ግምት ዝወሃቦ እንተኾነ፡ ከምቶም ዝሓለፉ ባህርያዊ ጸገማት ዝሓልፍ እምበር ከም ናይ መወዳእታና ህልውናና ጌርና ክንወስዶን ንኹሉ ተስፋና ካብ ኣእምሮና ሓጢጥና ከነውጸኦን ኣይግበኣና።

እዚ ዘለናሉ ኩነታት ተቐይሩ፡ ኣብቲ ስሩዕ ናይ ለውጢ ቃልስና ተመሊስና፡ ነቲ ርህራሀን ተሓታትነት ዝረሓቖ  ምምሕዳር ህግዲፍ ስዒርና፡ እታ ንብህጋ ኤርትራ ከም እነውሕስ እምነት ከነሕድር ይግበኣና። ህዝብና ኣብ ዓዲ ይሃሉ ኣብ ወጻኢ፡ ኣብቲ ዘይተርፍ ዓወቱ ክጠራጠርን ተስፋ ክቖርጽን ኣይግበኦን። ሕጂ እውን ናይ ሎሚ ቀዳምነትና ድሕነት ህዝቢ ኤርትራን ዓለምንኳ እንተኾነ፡ ከቶ ሰብ ተደራራቢ ዋኒን ምዃና ግና ንካልኢት እውን ክንዝንግዕ ኣይግበኣናን።

Court gavel
27 March 2020

The door to justice has finally opened for Eritrean refugees who say they were subjected to inhumane treatment while working at a Canadian mine in their home country.

Eritrean refugees have found rare hope in a Canadian Supreme Court ruling allowing them to continue with a lawsuit against a Canadian mining company allegedly complicit in human rights abuses and forced labour in Eritrea.

"It was hard for me to believe at first," said Abraham, 32, an Eritrean refugee who requested to use a pseudonym to protect his identity. "I felt so happy when I heard the news."

Abraham is one of numerous Eritreans who are suing Nevsun Resources Ltd, a Canadian mining company based in British Columbia. It operates the Bisha zinc-copper mine in Eritrea, located about 150km from the capital Asmara.

The plaintiffs and their team of Canadian lawyers allege that Nevsun engaged two companies that deployed forced labour to construct the mine's infrastructure and facilities. These companies, they claim, were connected to the government and military in Eritrea and workers faced inhumane and cruel conditions while working on the site.

Nevsun had attempted to convince the courts to dismiss the lawsuit, which was initially filed in 2014 by three Eritrean men who had worked at the mine. But in February 2020, Canada's Supreme Court ruled that the lawsuit against Nevsun, in which it is accused of being complicit in crimes against humanity, slavery, forced labour and torture, can go forward to trial. The plaintiffs are demanding financial compensation from the company.

Joe Fiorante, a lawyer from the Vancouver-based firm Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman (CFM), which is part of the legal team, says the court's decision is "historic" and marks the first time a Canadian court has ruled that a corporation can be taken to trial over allegations of violating customary international law.

"It's a significant precedent that opens a path to a Canadian courthouse for any victims of human rights abuses in which a Canadian mining company was complicit," he said.

"It still doesn't feel real," said Abraham, who was forced to work at the Bisha mine for four years. "I used to believe that there was no justice in this world. But, after waiting for a very long time, justice is slowly coming and I feel really, really happy."

Forced labour

Nevsun operated the Bisha mine through its Eritrean subsidiary, the Bisha Share Mining Company (BMSC), after being granted a mining permit in 2008. Sixty percent of BMSC was owned by Nevsun and the Eritrean government owned 40% through the state-owned Eritrean National Mining Corporation (Enamco).

According to a 2013 Human Rights Watch report, Nevsun used Senet, a South African construction and engineering company, as its main contractor for the Bisha mining project. It was the first modern mining project in Eritrea and continues to mine copper, gold, silver and zinc. In 2018, Nevsun sold the project to the Zijin Mining Group, a Chinese company.

Nevsun and Senet contracted the Segen Construction Company to "build roads, staff housing and other secondary infrastructure" at the site, Human Rights Watch noted. Segen is owned by the People's Front for Democracy and Justice, Eritrea's ruling and only political party.

Nevsun had stated that the Eritrean government gave it no choice in the matter and it was "required" to engage Segen. At the time, Human Rights Watch found there was evidence that Segen "regularly exploits" Eritreans forced into serving in the country's national conscription programme, which the UN has called "enslavement".

While Eritrea's compulsory national service programme legally lasts 18 months, in reality many conscripts spend most of their working lives in the service and receive little pay. Conscripts who are caught attempting to escape their service "face imprisonment, torture, and other forms of human rights abuse", Human Rights Watch has stated.

Eritrea's national service is the nucleus of the country's oppressive system of control. Independent media is banned and dissent is met with imprisonment, torture and enforced disappearances. Hundreds of Eritreans risk their lives to flee the country each month. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 15% of the population has fled over the past two decades.

Despite these wide-scale human rights abuses, several small mining firms such as Nevsun have accepted mining and exploration licenses in Eritrea. Human Rights Watch warned several years ago that owing to the fact that conscripts are forced to work for companies owned or controlled by the government or military, "foreign investors in Eritrea's burgeoning minerals sector risk complicity in the system of coercion and abuse that the national service programme has become".

Laetitia Bader, a senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, tells New Frame that her organisation's research had found "strong evidence" that a "significant portion" of the workforce at the Bisha mine were national service conscripts. According to Fiorante, Mereb Construction Company, owned by the Eritrean military, was brought into the project fold in 2009; the company also allegedly uses national conscripts on its projects.

Fiorante says since the case was filed, 50 more Eritreans have come forward and filed companion cases against Nevsun, alleging they too were forced to work at the mine as part of their national service.

'We were treated like animals'

Abraham, who worked at Bisha as a conscript from 2010 until 2014, described a nightmarish scene for New Frame. "It was a horrible life," he said. "We were always hungry and thirsty. We got very skinny. We were eating expired food and we had to drink dirty water."

Abraham says he was paid the equivalent of just $15 (about R260) a month and was forced to work long hours in temperatures that reached as high as 50℃. "We didn't get proper medicine and weren't provided protective equipment," he told New Frame. "We suffered a lot from illnesses like malaria, diarrhoea and skin and eye irritations. Our supervisors would only provide us basic pain medicine."

Conscripts claim they were forced to build the infrastructure, toilets and housing for the Canadian and South African workers at the site, whereas they were made to sleep on the ground outside, without a mattress. Abraham says armed Eritrean soldiers surrounded the mining area, ensuring that no conscript could escape.

"We were treated like animals," Abraham said. His voice paused for several moments as he repeatedly slapped his hand on his thigh, indicating his rising frustrations. "It was very difficult. There was no justice. I really don't like to remember it."

Six years later, Abraham still suffers from health complications owing to the working conditions at the mine, including issues with his eyesight from being forced to work under the sun for hours every day. He also continues to suffer from haemorrhoids due to stress and a prolonged low-fibre diet.

Included in the Human Rights Watch report are details from interviews with two former national conscripts who had worked at the mine and later fled the country. One of them had been kept in national service for 13 years. They told the rights group that those who tried to leave the mining area were "severely punished".

Abraham alleges that the Canadian and South African workers at the site, who were employed as managers, engineers and supervisors, among other positions, were aware of the use of national conscripts and took part in abuses. "They treated us very badly. They were always shouting at us and demanding that we work faster," he said.

He stopped and took a deep breath before continuing: "It was very bad. They knew we were conscripts, but they kept silent and ignored it because they were there for their business and they knew we had no way of standing up for ourselves. Those white people, they cared only about their business. They didn't care about us at all."

Nevsun released a statement following the Supreme Court ruling in which the company wrote that it "denies the allegations made by all of the plaintiffs and intends to vigorously defend itself in court".

'Always fear for your life'

Sunridge Gold, another Canadian company, operated the Asmara Mining Share Company, partnering with Enamco, the state-run company, to mine precious metals in Eritrea.

When New Frame asked the company for comment, a former employee said it had been sold to a state-owned Chinese company several years ago and dissolved itself as a corporation. "It is no longer relevant to your article and there is no one able to speak for this corporation that no longer exists," the individual said.

Australia's South Boulder Mines still operates a mine in Eritrea; in 2015 the firm changed its name to Danakali Ltd. It operates the Colluli project, which mines potash in the Danakil Depression region. Colluli is a joint venture that is 50% owned by Danakali and 50% by Enamco. New Frame also asked Danakali for comment but did not receive a response.

Thus far, Fiorante says, he has not encountered conscripts who had worked at the Sunridge or Danakali sites. "But that doesn't mean that with the attention this case is getting now that people won't come forward and find us," he said. "The challenge in this case is that in order for the victims to seek justice they would have to flee Eritrea, and only then might they be in a position to come forward with a case."

But, he added, "I think they [Sunridge and Danakali] should be concerned about this precedent."

Elizabeth Chyrum, a United Kingdom-born Eritrean activist and founder of Human Rights Concern Eritrea, which had helped refugees to connect with the Canadian lawyers, says that while the court's decision is important for all vulnerable individuals who have been abused by Canadian mining companies abroad, it has provided a rare feeling of hope for Eritreans in the diaspora.

"For people who have no legal avenues to get justice and have been denied basic human rights for their whole lives, this is a major accomplishment," she said.

Another plaintiff, who resides in Europe, was too fearful to speak to New Frame, even when assured his identity would be hidden. Eritrean activists are often targeted by the government and pro-regime supporters for their activities abroad, and some have been threatened, harassed and assaulted.

Although Abraham, who fled Eritrea in 2014 and now lives elsewhere in Africa, is clearly concerned for his personal safety, even requesting that New Frame deletes the WhatsApp chat and his number following the interview, he is pushing past his fears in hopes of obtaining justice.

"To be an Eritrean means that you always fear for your life," Abraham said. "But the truth cannot hide forever. It will eventually come out. Even if we have to wait for a long time, we hope that we will be compensated because we deserve justice, just like everyone else."


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