AFRICAERITREAETHIOPIAHORN OF AFRICA

The Security Council will convene for a private meeting on the situation in Ethiopia under the “Peace and Security in Africa” agenda item. The meeting was requested by the A3 members of the Council (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya)…The AU Peace and Security Council is expected to convene tomorrow for a briefing ahead of the Security Council’s meeting to discuss the AU-led peace process for Ethiopia. Obasanjo is expected to brief.

Source: What’s in the Blue

Ethiopia: Private Meeting

Tomorrow morning (21 October), the Security Council will convene for a private meeting on the situation in Ethiopia under the “Peace and Security in Africa” agenda item. The meeting was requested by the A3 members of the Council (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya) on 17 October. The anticipated briefers are OCHA Director of Operations and Advocacy Ghada Eltahir Mudawi and AU High Representative for the Horn of Africa Olusegun Obasanjo. Ethiopia has been invited to participate in the meeting. The request by the A3 followed a 15 October statement by AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat expressing concern at the increased fighting in Tigray and calling for an immediate, unconditional ceasefire.

Hostilities in northern Ethiopia resumed on 24 August, bringing an end to a lull of roughly nine months in the fighting. The renewed fighting has contraposed Tigrayan regional forces against varying combinations of Ethiopian federal forces, Amhara regional forces, Amhara militias and Eritrean forces. After the resumption of hostilities, multiple frontlines rapidly opened in several areas near Tigray’s southern border, western Tigray, and in the north of Tigray. More recently, fighting has intensified in areas close to the Eritrean border in the north of Tigray and in areas in southern Tigray.

In a major development, amid a joint Ethiopian and Eritrean offensive in the north, the Ethiopian forces captured the strategic city of Shire on 17 October. On the same day, the federal government announced its objective to take control of “all airports, other federal facilities, and installations” in Tigray. In an 18 October statement, it claimed that, in addition to capturing Shire, it had taken control of the towns of Alamata and Korem in Tigray’s south.

Tomorrow’s meeting will be the second time Council members discuss the situation in Ethiopia since the resumption of hostilities on 24 August. The previous meeting took place on 28 September in an Informal Interactive Dialogue (IID) format. At that meeting, members were briefed by UN Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Hanna Serwaa Tetteh. Although Obasanjo was also invited to brief, he did not attend the meeting. The Council last discussed the situation in Ethiopia in an open meeting on 8 November 2021. While some members would welcome another open meeting, the A3 have resisted any such request in the recent past. (For background, see our 28 September What’s in Blue story).

The AU Peace and Security Council is expected to convene tomorrow for a briefing ahead of the Security Council’s meeting to discuss the AU-led peace process for Ethiopia. Obasanjo is expected to brief.

Several key international interlocutors—including the UN, the AU, the EU and the US—have expressed concern at the recent escalation of violence and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities. Many of these statements also called on the Eritrean forces to withdraw from Ethiopia. Tomorrow, participants may echo these calls. For instance, in a 17 October press stakeout, Secretary-General António Guterres said that the situation was “spiralling out of control”, with indiscriminate attacks, including in residential areas, killing innocent people every day. He called for the protection of civilians, including humanitarian workers, for an immediate end to hostilities and the immediate withdrawal and disengagement of the Eritrean forces. The Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to the UN, Taye Atske-Selassie, reacted to the Secretary-General’s statement by saying that it was “unwarranted”, reflected “overly exaggerated assertions” and undermined the AU-led peace efforts—a position Ethiopia may reiterate tomorrow.

The protection of civilians is an expected key focus of tomorrow’s meeting. Airstrikes targeting Mekelle and other sites in Tigray have been reported since hostilities resumed, often resulting in the death and injury of civilians. Sources cited by Reuters have reported that more than 50 people were killed in a 4 October airstrike that hit a school, which was sheltering internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the northern Tigray town of Adi Daero. The news agency reported that the school was on a list of sites housing IDPs that the Office of the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Ethiopia sent to Ethiopia’s foreign ministry in January.

On 14 October, airstrikes targeting the town of Shire led to the death of an International Rescue Committee (IRC) member of staff and the injury of another IRC staff member. Two other civilians were reportedly killed and three were injured in the same incident. In an 18 October statement, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said that the recent airstrikes in Tigray “risk seriously exacerbating the already devastating impact of hostilities on civilians”. He expressed concern at the “significant risk of escalation in light of continued mass mobilisation of soldiers and fighters by various parties to the conflict”, adding that “indiscriminate attacks or attacks deliberately targeting civilians or civilian objects amount to war crimes”. In this regard, Human Rights Watch recently urged the Security Council, as well as the EU and the US, to “use the appropriate tools, including targeted sanctions and an arms embargo, to protect civilians at risk”. At tomorrow’s meeting, several members may share their views regarding the role that the Security Council should play in future in the context of the conflict and its resolution. Some members may argue for a strengthened role for the Council.

Tomorrow, members may condemn these incidents, underscore that international humanitarian law prohibits indiscriminate attacks, and emphasise the importance of protecting civilians—including humanitarian workers—and civilian infrastructures during armed conflict.

Mudawi is likely to provide an update on the humanitarian situation and describe the status of aid delivery to the northern Ethiopian regions of Tigray, Amhara and Afar. The Secretary-General noted in his 17 October stakeout that aid deliveries to Tigray have been suspended for more than seven weeks, adding that assistance to Amhara and Afar “has also been disrupted”. On 18 October, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric also expressed concern about reports “of possible mass movements of people due to the fighting” in Shire.

In an 18 October statement, the Ethiopian government said that it was “carrying out the necessary preparations” to deliver humanitarian aid through the areas that have come under the Ethiopian forces’ control. The following day, Atske-Selassie said that aid convoys were “making their way to Tigray”. At the time of writing, these reports have yet to be confirmed. Tomorrow, Council members are expected to underscore the urgency of granting unimpeded humanitarian access to all people in need and may seek further information regarding the announcements on aid delivery by the Ethiopian authorities.

Members are likely to seek an update from the Obasanjo on efforts by the AU, the UN and other key international interlocutors to bring the federal and regional authorities to the negotiating table. AU-brokered peace talks were supposed to take place on 8 October in South Africa and were to be facilitated by an expanded team of mediators led by Obasanjo, supported by former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and former South African Deputy President and former Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. However, the talks were postponed. While a formal announcement regarding a new date for the talks has apparently not been made, according to a 20 October tweet by National Security Adviser to the Ethiopian Prime Minister Redwan Hussein, the peace talks are now scheduled to be held in South Africa on 24 October.

On 7 October, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) extended the mandate of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) for one year. Among the Security Council members who are also members of the HRC, China, Gabon, India, and the United Arab Emirates voted against extending the ICHREE’s mandate, while Brazil, France, Mexico, the UK, and the US voted in favour. (The ICHREE was established by the HRC in December 2021, with a mandate to investigate violations and abuses of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law committed by all conflict parties in Ethiopia since 3 November 2020.) Ethiopia has opposed the ICHREE since its creation.

In September, an ICHREE report said that war crimes, including rape and sexual violence, have been committed by Ethiopian, Eritrean and Tigrayan forces. During the Security Council’s annual open debate on Women, Peace and Security today (20 October), several Council members referred to conflict-related sexual violence in northern Ethiopia, with the US citing the ICHREE’s findings. The ICHREE also found evidence of the Ethiopian forces “intentionally using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare”, among other violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, and it has recommended that the Security Council place the situation in Ethiopia on its agenda. Tomorrow, members may reiterate concerns about such violations being committed in the context of the conflict and call for accountability.

AFRICAERITREAETHIOPIAHORN OF AFRICA

Source: Reuters

Woman walks past the rubble of a building damaged by fighting in the town of Shire, Tigray regionA woman walks past the rubble of a building damaged by fighting in the town of Shire, Tigray region, Ethiopia, March 17, 2021. Picture taken March 17, 2021. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

NAIROBI, Oct 17 (Reuters) – Ethiopian government forces and their allies on Monday captured Shire, one of the biggest cities in the northern region of Tigray, from regional forces, two diplomatic and humanitarian sources said.

The federal government and allied forces, which include neighbouring Eritrea’s military, have been fighting Tigray forces on and off since late 2020.

The conflict has killed thousands of civilians, uprooted millions and left hundreds of thousands now facing possible famine.

Villa Melotti in Massawa was a magnificent home owned by Italian citizens. The villa was unique in every detail of its architecture.

The Melotti family had made their money from producing beer. The famous Melotti beer is still brewed and enjoyed in Eritrea, but now under the “Asmara beer” label, while using the Melotti logo and caps.

The Melotti villa sheltered many Eritrean fighters during the battle of Massawa in 1991.

The villa was damaged by the air raids and the family wanted to restore it. But they could not obtain the necessary permits to do the work after independence arrived.

Unable to restore the villa the Melotti family agreed to sell it to the Eritrean government.

The government never paid the agreed sum and after years demolished the villa, rendering the area a vacant lot that was automatically owned by the government, in accordance with the 1994 Land Proclamation.

And so its ruins remain – a sad testament to the vandalism by Eritrea’s current rulers.


In 2006 another whim of the dictator who commands Eritrea with an iron fist. Another slap in the face of Italy. The bulldozers of the army razed one of the most beautiful residences in Africa to the ground, Villa Melotti, also known as the Cyprea, built by the architect Luigi Vietti in the 1960s. A splendid example of Mediterranean architecture nestled on the Red Sea coast, in front of one of the most evocative views of the black continent, in Massawa, the Eritrean port city declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. In its place, tourist villas will be built and an Italian operator, Renato Cialona, ​​has already visited the promontory, now an orphan of its most beautiful jewel.

Villa Melotti was wanted by Mrs. Emma, ​​a charming and energetic woman who arrived in Eritrea in 1940 to marry her boyfriend, Luigi Melotti, founder of the Melotti Brewery. In 1946 Melotti died and shortly afterwards his brother was also killed in an ambush by the shifta, armed gangs paid by the British to hit the Italians. The Melotti family, like the others from our country, was committed to defending the positions of those who wanted an independent Eritrea, perhaps after a few years of Italian protectorate. London and Washington, on the other hand, were pushing for an organic connection with Ethiopia, despite knowing that the enormous differences between the two countries – the first the most industrialized in all of Africa (after South Africa),

MASSAUA 20When her husband dies, Mrs. Emma does not yield to the advice of those who invite her to leave and abandon everything.

She remained in Eritrea and took over the family business, the liquor factory, the glass factory and the brewery that made her famous throughout East Africa. Melotti Beer is sold not only in Eritrea, but also in the nearby British colonies. The lady accumulates a great fortune but she has a dream: to leave to the country of her adoption (Eritrea which she feels is her new homeland) something important that can somehow enrich it and can be preserved over time. In short, a monumental work. And so he calls on the shores of the Red Sea the most famous and appreciated architect of the moment, the one who “invented” the Costa Smeralda, with the fairytale villa of Agà Khan, which embellished Cortina d’Ampezzo, building the houses of holiday of the Barilla, the Borletti, the Tronchetti Provera, the Marzotto families.

The Italian upper class in the 1960s passed entirely through Vietti’s studio. Mrs. Emma convinces the architect to come to Massawa and he falls in love with the place. He draws one of his splendid constructions of him: the Cyprea. The works began in 1964 and lasted almost two years. The materials are all brought from Italy. The tiles for the floors and bathrooms from Sardinia, the windows and furniture, designed by the same architect, from Brianza. To embrace the view of the sea Vietti creates three immense windows, 15 meters, inserted in round arches. Specialized workers also come from Italy to assemble the crystals. The swimming pool enters the huge hall, as if it were an extension of the sea. From the garden of the villa you can dive directly into the crystalline and coral water of the Red Sea, inhabited by colorful tropical fish.MASSAUA 21

In those years illustrious guests pass by: Giulio Andreotti, Giancarlo Pajetta and Oriana Fallaci, who then, on other political shores, had criticized in an article the splendor and luxury of that residence (fantasizing, among other things, that the guests did the swimming in the pool filled with champagne). Then comes the civil war and in 1990 Massawa is conquered by the independence guerrillas. Mrs. Emma opens the doors of her Cyprea to refugees fleeing the bombing. A thousand people camp out in the garden and the cellars become formidable shelters where women, children and wounded militiamen find welcome. The hall becomes the guerrilla headquarters. It is the rebels who bring the lady to safety in Sudan, with a daring journey on the back of a camel.

Text taken from an article by Massimo A. Alberizzi (Corriere della Sera)

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“We also condemn the escalating involvement of Eritrean military forces in northern Ethiopia.  We call on Eritrean forces to cease their military operations and withdraw from northern Ethiopia.  All foreign actors should cease actions that fuel this conflict.”

We, Australia, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States, are profoundly concerned by the escalation of the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in northern Ethiopia.  We call on the Government of Ethiopia and the Tigray regional authorities to immediately halt their military offensives, agree to a cessation of hostilities, allow for unhindered and sustained humanitarian access, and pursue a negotiated settlement through peace talks under an African Union-led process.  We also condemn the escalating involvement of Eritrean military forces in northern Ethiopia.  We call on Eritrean forces to cease their military operations and withdraw from northern Ethiopia.  All foreign actors should cease actions that fuel this conflict.

Multiple reports, including the joint investigation report of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission/Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the recent report of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE), have documented human rights abuses committed by Ethiopian and Eritrean government forces, Tigrayan forces, and other armed actors, such as Fano militia, since the start of the conflict in November 2020.  Human rights abuses documented in these reports include unlawful killings, physical abuse, and gender-based violence.  We are deeply concerned by the ICHREE’s finding that there are reasonable grounds to believe that starvation of a civilian population has been used as a method of warfare.  The resumption of fighting in northern Ethiopia raises a high risk of further human rights violations and abuses.

We denounce any and all violence against civilians.  We call on the parties to recognize there is no military solution to the conflict, and we call on the Government of Ethiopia and the Tigray regional authorities to participate in African Union-led talks aimed at helping Ethiopia achieve a lasting peace.  Any durable solution must include accountability for human rights abuses and violations.  We also call on all parties to allow unhindered humanitarian access, ensure the safety and security of humanitarian workers, and cooperate with, and facilitate access for, international human rights monitors.

Germany‘s Federal Administrative Court rules that refugees from Eritrea must obtain a travel document from German authorities. This ruling is by Germany’s supreme administrative court. As a result the refugees must no longer be forced to first obtain papers from the Eritrean embassy beforehand, which require them submitting a “declaration of repentance.” The court ruled that no one should be forced to declare a “crime” to get a passport.

Source: Legal Tribune Online

Eritrean “declarations of remorse” for crimes are unreasonable

10/11/2022

A person holds a passport of EritreaAn Eritrean passport – in order to obtain one, those who have left the country illegally must submit a declaration that they have committed a crime and pay “diaspora tax”. Photo: AS Photo Project/stock.adobe.com

Vulnerable people from Eritrea must admit a criminal offense in writing in order to obtain an Eritrean passport. According to the Germany’s Federal Administrative Court (BVerwG), the country’s supreme administrative court, can be forced to do this, so the German authorities must now step in and issue a passport.

Persons entitled to subsidiary protection may not be refused a travel document for foreigners because they can obtain a passport from their country of origin if they submit a “declaration of remorse” with a self-accusation of a criminal offence. The submission of such a declaration is unreasonable, the Federal Administrative Court (BVerwG) ruled in a judgment on Tuesday (ruling of October 11, 2022, Az. BVerwG 1 C 9.21).

An Eritrean national fled to Germany, where he was granted subsidiary protection. Because those who have left Eritrea illegally are threatened with imprisonment, combined with torture or inhuman and degrading treatment. The refugee later applied to the immigration authorities in Germany for a travel document for foreigners, but the application was rejected. It is reasonable for him to apply for a passport at the Eritrean embassy.

A lower court had ruled that getting a passport application in the Eritrean embassy “reasonable”

On the other hand, the man from Eritrea complained and was successful in the first instance, but the Lower Saxony Higher Administrative Court in Lüneburg agreed with the immigration authorities and did not consider the requirements for issuing a passport to be met. Because according to § 5 paragraph 1 of the Residence Ordinance it is not unreasonable to apply for a passport at the Eritrean embassy if “the person concerned is at risk of serious harm from state authorities”.

In addition, other circumstances such as the endangerment of relatives living in the country of origin would have to be added. Paying a “development or diaspora tax” of two percent of his income and submitting a “declaration of remorse” regretting that he had not complied with his “national duty” and accepting any penalties that may have been imposed is not enough .

The higher Federal Court now ruled against this, and obliged the immigration authorities to issue the man with a passport. Because it cannot be expected of the person in need of subsidiary protection to submit a declaration of this content against his expressly stated will. The court weighed his basic rights against the interests of the state, which would have to take into account the sovereignty of the country of origin, and ruled in favor of the plaintiff. Because no one should be forced to declare a crime, even if the punishment is not increased and the sentence is perhaps even reduced.

ast/LTO editorial team

AFRICAERITREAETHIOPIAHORN OF AFRICA

Source: New York Times

Satellite images taken last month showing heavy weaponry and military forces on the move in Serha and Sheraro in the Tigray region of Ethiopia.Satellite images taken last month showing heavy weaponry and military forces on the move in Serha and Sheraro in the Tigray region of Ethiopia.Credit…Maxar TechnologiesDeclan Walsh

By Declan Walsh

Oct. 8, 2022, 8:44 a.m. ET

NAIROBI, Kenya — As fighting flared in northern Ethiopia last month, shattering a five-month truce and reigniting a destructive civil war, a small United States military aircraft carrying senior American diplomats crossed the front line on a secret mission to halt the bloodshed.

Flying low and taking measures to avoid detection, the jet traveled to Tigray, the besieged northern region that has been at war with the Ethiopian government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, before continuing to Djibouti for a round of tense peace talks, according to people familiar with the negotiations. In a measure of the distrust between the two sides, Mike Hammer, the American envoy to the region, flew aboard the U.S. Air Force plane as an assurance that it would not be shot down.

Tigray is the world’s unseen war, a sprawling conflict hidden behind a punishing government siege that has severed communications in the region, locked out reporters and left 5.2 million people in urgent need of food aid. United Nations investigators have called it a war crime.

But in recent weeks the fighting has surged to its most intense level yet — and the secret efforts at peace have given way to raging combat that many fear could quickly spiral across the Horn of Africa, destabilizing the region.

While the world’s gaze is largely fixed on the war in Ukraine, the conflict in Tigray is also huge, with three major armed forces, including two of Africa’s largest armies, those of Ethiopia and of Eritrea, battling on multiple fronts across a rugged region twice the size of Switzerland.

Medhin Gereziher, age 1, receiving treatment for malnutrition at a hospital in Tigray on Tuesday. More than five million people in the region are in urgent need of food aid.Medhin Gereziher, age 1, receiving treatment for malnutrition at a hospital in Tigray on Tuesday. More than five million people in the region are in urgent need of food aid.Credit…Associated Press

The latest fighting, featuring pitched battles, drone strikes and artillery barrages, has pulled in neighboring countries and involves hundreds of thousands of combatants, by most estimates. At least a hundred civilians have died and as many as 500,000 have fled their homes in recent weeks, a senior United Nations official said.

A diplomatic drive to end the war has also been hidden. An official peace process led by the African Union has been hobbled by disputes over mediators and money for most of the past year, officials say, prompting Western officials to try to carry the ball. Since March, the United States has held three secret meetings outside Ethiopia — in Djibouti and in the Seychelles — bringing together warring leaders for the first time since the war erupted in November 2020.

Details of the latest meeting on Sept. 9, which was attended by Mr. Abiy’s national security adviser, Redwan Hussien, and his justice minister, Gedion Timothewos, were provided by Western and Tigrayan officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss events that the Americans insisted should remain confidential.

A United States official confirmed that a U.S. Air Force Beechcraft aircraft had operated the flight across Tigray on behalf of the State Department.

Now hopes for peace lie with a surprise announcement this week by the African Union, inviting both sides to talks in South Africa.

But the prospects for that initiative are uncertain. Tigrayan leaders have accused the mediator, the former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, of siding with Mr. Abiy. After initially scheduling talks for this weekend, the African Union said on Thursday only that they would take place “soon.”

A World Food Program truck carrying grain to Tigray burning 50 miles from Semera, a town in northern Ethiopia, in June.A World Food Program truck carrying grain to Tigray burning 50 miles from Semera, a town in northern Ethiopia, in June.Credit…Eduardo Soteras/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Events on the battlefield could move faster than that.

Reliable information about the last six weeks of fighting is hard to obtain. But interviews with Western and Tigrayan officials — as well as video footage, satellite images and witness accounts gathered over the region’s few working phone lines — offered a keyhole view of a metastasizing conflict that is exacting a high cost on civilians.

Ethiopian drone strikes hit a kindergarten in August, killing several children, and a U.N. food truck in late September. An airstrike on Tuesday in Adi Da’ero, near the border with Eritrea, hit a center for refugees, killing at least 50 people, said two humanitarian officials in the area who spoke on the condition of anonymity for their safety.

After an earlier strike on the same town, video footage showed the lifeless body of a woman being pulled from smoking rubble.

“The fighting is intense, and the casualties are immense,” Gen. Tsadkan Gebretensae, a former chief of the Ethiopian military, now a strategist for the Tigrayans, said in a phone interview.

A victim of an airstrike being cared for in an ambulance in Mekele, the capital of the Tigray region, last month.A victim of an airstrike being cared for in an ambulance in Mekele, the capital of the Tigray region, last month.Credit…Associated Press

A spokeswoman for Mr. Abiy and spokesmen for the Ethiopian government and military did not respond to requests for comment. The government has denied it strikes civilian targets.

The most striking change in recent weeks is the return to the war of Isaias Afwerki, the dictatorial leader of the nation to the north, Eritrea, and his army, one of the largest in Africa, which was accused of many atrocities in earlier fighting.

Eritrean troops have pounded Tigray with artillery barrages from across the border and captured the Tigrayan town of Shiraro, where recent satellite images showed hundreds of marching soldiers and lines of artillery field guns. In an unusual move, several thousand Ethiopian soldiers have been flown into Eritrea to help with the assault, officials said.

Inside Eritrea, the country has “fully mobilized its armed forces,” calling all men below the age of 55 to military service, Annette Weber, the European Union envoy to the Horn of Africa, wrote to E.U. member states last month in a confidential briefing obtained by The New York Times.

“The war rages on with high military buildup on all sides, increased intensity and Eritrean participation,” Ms. Weber wrote in the leaked briefing, which first appeared on the website of the World Peace Foundation, a program at Tufts University.

“Tens of thousands are injured or killed on the various battlefronts, many with the belief that surrender is no option,” the briefing continued. “Much is at stake.”

President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea, right, and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia, second right, in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, in 2018.President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea, right, and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia, second right, in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, in 2018.Credit…Mulugeta Ayene/Associated Press

The stakes for civilians in northern Ethiopia were outlined in a Sept. 22 report by U.N. investigators that accused both sides of war crimes, including massacres and sexual assaults. But it singled out Mr. Abiy’s forces for “using starvation as a method of warfare” and for “sexual slavery” of Tigrayan women held in military camps.

At Tigray’s largest hospital, doctors say that patients are dying from cancer, kidney disease and other treatable conditions for want of medicines. A recent study found that newborn babies in Tigray are dying at four times the prewar rate.

“One day we will be free of the fear of being bombed from the air,” Dr. Fasika Amdeslaise, a surgeon in Tigray with rare internet access, wrote on Twitter. “One day we will be able to treat our patients.”

The fighting is the latest twist of a war in which the fortunes of both sides have oscillated wildly.

Just a year ago, Tigrayan fighters were marching on the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, after driving government forces from Tigray. But in November they were forced to retreat after Mr. Abiy obtained armed drones from Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and China.

The United States changed tack in January when President Biden made his first phone call to Mr. Abiy, easing the Ethiopian leader’s fears that the United States intended to try to oust him, and setting the stage for secret talks, two American officials said.

Two months later, on March 10, a U.S. Army Beechcraft airplane carried the Tigrayan General Tsadkan to the Seychelles, where he met in a hotel with Field Marshal Birhanu Jula, the head of the Ethiopian military.

Tigrayan residents in Addis Ababa rallied at the headquarters of the African Union on Tuesday. The African Union’s efforts to broker peace have been hobbled by disputes over mediators and money.Tigrayan residents in Addis Ababa rallied at the headquarters of the African Union on Tuesday. The African Union’s efforts to broker peace have been hobbled by disputes over mediators and money.Credit…Amanuel Sileshi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The two men hammered out a humanitarian truce that, weeks later, allowed aid convoys to roll back into Tigray. A second American-brokered meeting took place in Djibouti in June.

But the truce was also an opportunity for both sides to rearm, and as the summer wore on Mr. Abiy appeared to drag his feet, officials said. His delegates at talks lacked the authority to make decisions, and he appeared reluctant to restore essential services like electricity and banking to Tigray.

The slide back to war on Aug. 24 prompted criticism from experts who say the Biden administration failed to apply enough pressure to force the warring groups to substantive peace talks.

“The diplomacy is clearly not working,” said Cameron Hudson, a former State Department official at the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center. “There’s a lot of effort but they are not achieving anything. So we have to question if we’re using the right tools.”

The re-emergence of Mr. Isaias, the Eritrean leader, adds a volatile new element to the conflict. On Sept. 20 Mr. Hammer, the American envoy, called for Eritreans to return home from the fighting in Tigray.

Other countries in the region are also getting sucked in — as well as a contingent of United Nations peacekeepers.

Ethiopian peacekeepers deployed to the Abyei region arriving in Kassala, Sudan, in May, after seeking asylum.Ethiopian peacekeepers deployed to the Abyei region arriving in Kassala, Sudan, in May, after seeking asylum.Credit…Hussein Ery/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Sudan has been a “conduit” for flights carrying arms to Tigray, Ms. Weber said in her confidential briefing. In May, about 650 ethnic Tigrayans, on U.N. peacekeeping duty in Sudan, deserted the Ethiopian Army and sought asylum, said two U.N. officials in Sudan who spoke anonymously because of the sensitivity of the situation. By August, about 400 of those peacekeepers had vanished, the officials said, mostly into Tigray to fight alongside refugees who had been recruited from camps along the border.

Mr. Hudson, the analyst, said it seemed that Washington was hesitating to take harder action, for instance deploying sanctions that Mr. Biden authorized in November, in the hope that Ethiopia might once again become a strong American partner in the region.

But with Ethiopia straining to the breaking point from the war in Tigray, as well as violent strife in other regions like Oromia, such a notion is “delusional,” Mr. Hudson said.

“We’re not going back to those old days, and certainly not under Abiy,” he said.

A destroyed tank near the village of Erebti, Ethiopia, in June.A destroyed tank near the village of Erebti, Ethiopia, in June.Credit…Eduardo Soteras/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

AFRICAERITREAETHIOPIAHORN OF AFRICA

Uhuru to skip Ethiopia-Tigray peace talks, says rules of engagement not clear

Source: Standard Kenya

By Patrick Vidija and Mwangi Maina | 10m ago

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta when he arrived in Tanzania for the EAC Heads of State summit.[PSCU, Standard]

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta will not be attending the Ethiopia-Tigray peace talks set to take place in South Africa starting Sunday.

Although inner sources say the former head of state was caught unaware by the invite, in his letter to AU Chairperson Mousa Faki he said he would miss the talks to due conflicts in his schedule.

“I wish to convey my warmest regards to you and the African Union (AU) team that is working hard to organize the AU-Convened Peace Talks on Ethiopia. It is my hope that both the Ethiopian Government and the Tigrayan Regional Leadership will take part in this Pan-African effort to end the conflict in their country,” read part of the letter.

It further read, “My attention has been drawn to a communique Ref: CCP/Y695.10.22 dated October 1, 2022 regarding the Ethiopian Peace Process scheduled for October 8, 2022 in South Africa. Regrettably, I wish to notify your good office that I will not be able to attend the AU-Convened Peace Talks scheduled for October 8, 2022 in South Africa owing to conflicts in my schedule.”

Uhuru said in the interim, the AU should clearly communicate on the structure and modalities of the talks, including but not limited to the rules of engagement for all the interlocutors invited.

This clarification, Uhuru said would greatly help in preparations for his engagement and participation.

Earlier in the week, Faki had invited for the peace talks that he said are in line with building on continuous consultations with the two sides that have been at war.

“Within the context of the ongoing African Union-led peace process for Ethiopia, I have the honour to invite you to the Peace Talks, scheduled to take place in South Africa Sunday, October 9, 2022,” read part of the letter.

Faki said the talks between the two parties, is expected to deliberate on the guiding principles, agenda issues, modalities, format and timelines for the negotiated settlement aimed at laying the foundation for a structured and sustained mediation between the Federal Government of Ethiopia and the TPLF, towards durable resolution of the conflict.

The Peace talks will be facilitated and led by former Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo with the support of a panel of distinguished and eminent Africans.

He said Uhuru and former UN Women Executive Director Dr Phumzile Mambo-Ngcuka will serve as panelists for the peace talks process.

But Uhuru said as they discuss the agenda for the talks, it is his hope that among the most urgent issues high on that agenda will be the immediate and unconditional cessation of hostilities.

“This silencing of the guns is particularly important in order to avail the right conditions for the consultations and negotiations while alleviating human suffering and allowing for continued access to humanitarian assistance,” he said.

AU’s mediation credibility on the Ethiopia crisis has been taking a beating over the continental body’s decision to organise peace talks in South Africa without consulting all parties.

Tigray, though had agreed to participate raised concerns on logistics and security for their team.

European Parliament resolution on Tigray

Sunday, 09 October 2022 23:17 Written by

AFRICAERITREAETHIOPIAEUROPEAN UNIONHORN OF AFRICA

The Resolution accuses the UN Security Council of failing to “address the situation in Ethiopia and the region in an effective manner,” backs the work of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia and calls on the calls on the European Commission to evaluate and utilise the conclusions and recommendations of the Report of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia.

Source: European Parliament

JOINT MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on the recent humanitarian and human rights situation in Tigray, Ethiopia, notably that of children

5.10.2022 – (2022/2858(RSP))pursuant to Rules 144(5) and 132(4) of the Rules of Procedure
replacing the following motions:
B9‑0429/2022 (Verts/ALE)
B9‑0437/2022 (S&D)
B9‑0441/2022 (Renew)
B9‑0444/2022 (PPE)

Željana Zovko, Sara Skyttedal, Isabel Wiseler‑Lima, Peter Pollák, Janina Ochojska, Stanislav Polčák, Elżbieta Katarzyna Łukacijewska, Miriam Lexmann, Tomáš Zdechovský, Inese Vaidere, Michaela Šojdrová, Seán Kelly, Andrey Kovatchev, David Lega, Vangelis Meimarakis, Antonio López‑Istúriz White, Paulo Rangel, José Manuel Fernandes, Tom Vandenkendelaere, Christian Sagartz, Ivan Štefanec, Magdalena Adamowicz, Luděk Niedermayer, Stelios Kympouropoulos, Krzysztof Hetman, Michael Gahler, Vladimír Bilčík, Loránt Vincze, Traian Băsescu, Loucas Fourlas
on behalf of the PPE Group
Pedro Marques, Andrea Cozzolino, Maria Arena
on behalf of the S&D Group
Jan‑Christoph Oetjen, Nicola Beer, Izaskun Bilbao Barandica, Dita Charanzová, Olivier Chastel, Klemen Grošelj, Bernard Guetta, Svenja Hahn, Moritz Körner, Ilhan Kyuchyuk, Nathalie Loiseau, Karen Melchior, Dragoş Pîslaru, Frédérique Ries, María Soraya Rodríguez Ramos, Michal Šimečka, Nicolae Ştefănuță, Ramona Strugariu, Dragoş Tudorache, Hilde Vautmans
on behalf of the Renew Group
Katrin Langensiepen, Malte Gallée
on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group
Fabio Massimo Castaldo, Assita Kanko

AmendmentsSelect001-002003-003004-005Select

European Parliament resolution on the recent humanitarian and human rights situation in Tigray, Ethiopia, notably that of children

(2022/2858(RSP))

The European Parliament,

– having regard to its previous resolutions on Tigray and Ethiopia, and in particular those of 26 November 2020[1] and 7 October 2021[2],

– having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

– having regard to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights,

– having regard to the fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 1949 and its additional protocols of 1977 and 2005,

– having regard to the UN Refugee Convention of 1951 and to its 1967 Protocol,

– having regard to the report of 3 November 2021 by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission/Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Joint Investigation into Alleged Violations of International Human Rights, Humanitarian and Refugee Law Committed by all Parties to the Conflict in the Tigray Region of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission report of 11 March 2022 on violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the Afar and Amhara regions of Ethiopia conducted between September and December 2021,

– having regard to the UN Human Rights Council resolution of 17 December 2021 establishing an international commission of human rights experts to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the allegations of violations and abuses committed since 3 November 2020 by all parties to the conflict in Ethiopia,

– having regard to the report of 19 September 2022 by the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia,

– having regard to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC),

– having regard to the Cotonou Agreement,

– having regard to Rules 144(5) and 132(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas this 23-month conflict has triggered a human-made crisis and widespread and entirely preventable human suffering; whereas the humanitarian situation throughout Ethiopia remains dramatic due to the conflict, drought and large-scale internal displacements; whereas on 24 August 2022, Ethiopian federal war planes bombed a kindergarten in Mekelle, Tigray, resulting in child casualties;

B. whereas having declared a humanitarian truce in March 2022, the Ethiopian federal government partially lifted the humanitarian siege of Tigray but shortages of essential supplies, including food, medicine and fuel, persist;

C. whereas vulnerable groups, in particular women and children, are suffering the most from the ongoing conflict in Tigray and are in urgent need of protection; whereas the children of Tigray have seriously suffered the effects of famine, violence, lack of medical aid and education, family dislocation, forced transfers and constant trauma;

D. whereas women and children are continually the targets of intended and unintended bombings, shootings, killings and other acts of violence in the war and ethnic violence being perpetrated by all sides of the conflict;

E. whereas rape and other sexual violence against women and girls continue to be widely used by all the belligerents, in addition to death threats, the use of ethnic slurs and captivity for sexual slavery; whereas internally displaced refugee women and children are at a heightened risk of abduction and trafficking for sexual exploitation;

F. whereas throughout the evolution of this conflict, the sole constant has been the many alleged gross violations of human rights, humanitarian law and refugee law perpetrated by all parties to the conflict; whereas nearly half a million Ethiopians have died as a result of violence and famine, and more than 1.6 million people have been displaced by this conflict; whereas since the beginning of the war, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been forcibly displaced, unlawfully killed or experienced sexual and gender-based violence, mass arbitrary detention, pillage, abduction and the denial of humanitarian assistance and basic services, looting of aid and the diversion of aid to soldiers;

G. whereas one out of three Tigrayan children under the age of five and half of all pregnant and breastfeeding women are malnourished; whereas some 20 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia, nearly three quarters of them women and children; whereas Ethiopia is experiencing the worst drought on record since 1981, leaving an estimated 7.4 million people facing grave food insecurity;

H. whereas, the percentage of children in Tigray receiving routine vaccines has plummeted due to supply shortages caused by the blockade imposed by Ethiopian forces; whereas deadly diseases such as measles, tetanus and whooping cough are on the rise;

I. whereas a total of 1.39 million children in Tigray are missing out on education because of Ethiopia’s civil war; whereas Tigray’s education sector has been permanently damaged by the number of deaths and the level of destruction within the school system; whereas 346 men and 1 798 women, totalling 2 164 persons, in the education sector have been killed, including students;

J. whereas since the start of the conflict, humanitarian organisations’ access to conflict zones has systematically been hindered, in spite of the repeated calls by the international community and humanitarian organisations to ensure unimpeded, sustained and secure access for relevant stakeholders; whereas humanitarian workers are the targets of violence by all parties to the conflict; whereas at least 23 humanitarian workers have been killed since the conflict started;

K. whereas access to real-time information has been severely hindered by government-imposed restrictions, including cutting off communications and preventing reporting on events in Tigray, as well as in the Afar and Amhara regions, where the conflict has spread; whereas these communications blackouts and restrictions on physical access for independent observers to areas affected by the conflict have severely inhibited the documenting of human rights abuses;

L. whereas the UN International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia published a report on 19 September concluding that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the parties to the conflict have committed war crimes and violations and abuses of human rights;

M. whereas Eritrea has played a very destructive role in this conflict and has contributed to escalating it by entering the conflict in Tigray; whereas media reports about a renewed incursion into northern Tigray have been circulating since late September;

N. whereas, in September, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and the Ethiopian Government indicated their commitment to an African Union-led peace process;

1. Reiterates its urgent call for an immediate cessation of hostilities and ceasefire in Tigray and the neighbouring regions without preconditions;

2. Calls for immediate, full, safe and sustained humanitarian access to all those affected by the conflict in the region;

3. Calls for an immediate return to constitutional order and for the establishment of a ceasefire monitoring mechanism; expresses its support for all diplomatic efforts to end the ongoing conflict within Ethiopia, in particular, through African Union (AU) mediation;

4. Strongly condemns the deliberate targeting of civilians by all the warring parties and the reported recruitment of children by certain warring parties; recalls that deliberate attacks on civilians, the targeting of children and the recruitment and use of child soldiers constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity;

5. Condemns the Eritrean forces’ invasion of Tigray; condemns the war crimes and human rights violations by Eritrean forces during the war in Ethiopia; urges the Eritrean government to withdraw its forces from Ethiopia with immediate and permanent effect and to ensure accountability for its war crimes;

6. Calls on all authorities in Ethiopia, in particular the federal government and the regional governments in Tigray, Amhara and Afar, to adhere to the highest human rights standards, to address as a priority the egregious war crimes committed against the most vulnerable, in particular children and women, and to protect its youth in line with the UNCRC;

7. Is dismayed by the reports of rape and crimes of sexual violence against children, women and men which have been perpetrated on a staggering scale by all the belligerents; is deeply concerned by and calls for immediate attention to reports of the killing and maiming of Tigrayan, Amhara and Afarian children on ethnic grounds, which constitute war crimes and ethnic cleansing;

8. Reiterates its call on forces on all sides to respect international human rights, international humanitarian and refugee law; calls on the Ethiopian federal government and Tigrayan regional government to ensure accountability for perpetrators of war crimes committed during the ongoing conflict; insists on the need for cooperation between local and international actors, in particular the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), in ensuring redress for survivors and victims of all forms of war crimes and crimes against humanity;

9. Calls for all girls and women in Ethiopia to have access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR); urges the EU and the Member States to increase support for SRHR services and specifically contraception and access to safe abortion, with special attention on ensuring access in regions in Ethiopia affected by war and humanitarian disaster; calls on the Ethiopian government to fulfil its commitment to investigate the many serious cases of gender-based violence in the conflict committed by all warring parties;

10. Is concerned by the reports of an increase in child marriages and child labour, human trafficking and transactional sex as desperate means to survive in regions of Ethiopia affected by war and humanitarian disaster;

11. Calls for action against the abduction, trafficking and sexual exploitation of refugees and internally displaced persons in Tigray, Amhara, Afar and Eritrea, and for the provision of assistance and protection is provided to all victims, without discrimination on grounds of race or ethnicity, nationality, disability, age, gender or sexual orientation;

12. Urges the EU and its Member States to increase support for emergency rehabilitation centres for women and children, including children born of rape, which protect and rehabilitate survivors of gender-based violence, human trafficking and sexual exploitation; emphasises the importance of providing shelter, psychosocial services, and vocational training for survivors and calls for additional support for existing shelters;

13. Recalls that extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, acts of torture and ill-treatment, forced displacement, sexual and gender-based violence, rape and gang-rape, attacks on aid workers, attacks on civilian infrastructure, such as schools and hospitals, and destruction and looting of public and private property constitute war crimes under international law;

14. Calls on the Commission and Member States to support domestic accountability initiatives based only on clear, transparent, effective, and measurable benchmarks that ensure independent and impartial justice and accountability for victims and survivors;

15. Strongly condemns the use of starvation as a method of warfare; recalls that obstruction of the delivery of food and healthcare and denial of these services amount to crimes against humanity; recalls that humanitarian aid and assistance is based on the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence;

16. Reiterates its call to fully re-establish basic public services such as electricity infrastructure, banking services, schools and hospitals as well as to immediately lift restrictions on telecommunications in Tigray;

17. Calls on national and regional authorities to ensure that internally displaced persons and refugees have the right to safely return to their homes or places of residence on a voluntary basis and to set up a fair, accessible and independent mechanism to provide compensation for losses or damage to housing, property and land; urges the EU and its Member States to assist and support the organisation and monitoring of returns;

18. Strongly condemns the fact that the state of emergency has led to ethnically motivated arrests, harassment, beatings and the targeting of journalists; calls for the immediate release of all journalists who remain in arbitrary detention and for freedom of expression and speech to be ensured; calls on the warring parties to ensure free access to the press and to allow journalists to carry out their work safely;

19. Expresses concern for the safety and well-being of independent humanitarian workers in the region; strongly condemns all attacks on humanitarian aid workers and critical infrastructure and the continuous seizures of UN humanitarian supplies;

20. Reiterates its call on the Ethiopian government to sign and ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court; stresses the need for an independent and impartial mechanism to address ongoing violations and accountability;

21. Calls on all the belligerent parties to immediately end hostilities and to reach a formal ceasefire agreement without preconditions; reiterates its call for a national dialogue that must be as inclusive, broad and transparent as possible, including representatives from civil society and opposition parties, in order to fulfil the goal of being a true catalyst for reconciliation; urges the EU and its Member States to fully engage with the peace process in order to ensure its credible progress;

22. Takes note of some positive developments in the country, such as the humanitarian truce of 24 March 2022 and the release of some political prisoners, increased humanitarian access during the truce, as well as, in particular, public declarations by the Ethiopian government and Tigrayan leadership committing to AU-led peace talks;

23. Welcomes the renewal of the mandate of Olusegun Obasanjo as the AU High Representative for the Horn of Africa; expects further action following statements about the anticipated appointment of a trio of high-level AU mediators in order to prioritise an agreement on a permanent ceasefire, unhindered humanitarian access to all areas and the immediate withdrawal of Eritrean forces, and to facilitate accountability and internal reconciliation; calls for these mediators to be appointed without delay;

24. Reiterates its call for the EU and its Member States to adopt measures to protect human rights and to adopt sanctions against perpetrators of human rights violations through the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime;

25. Supports the Commission’s postponement of budget support disbursements to the Ethiopian government since December 2020; calls on the Commission to continue its life-saving support for the region aimed at civil society and independent humanitarian organisations, and to step up its efforts to ensure the safety of children; calls on the Commission to reconsider its limitation of budget support to implementing measures in order to allow the continued implementation of development projects outside the conflict zone;

26. Deeply regrets the fact that the UN Security Council (UNSC) has failed to address the situation in Ethiopia and the region in an effective manner; urges the EU and its Member States to call on the UNSC to hold regular public meetings on Ethiopia and the region and to take meaningful and decisive action to ensure unhindered humanitarian access, allow the protection of civilians, end and condemn grave violations of international law and ensure accountability for atrocities;

27. Recalls that in its resolution S-33/1 on the situation of human rights in Ethiopia, adopted on 17 December 2021, the UNHRC decided to establish an International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE); urges the EU and its Member States to support the allocation of adequate funding by the UN to the ICHREE and calls on the Ethiopian federal government to facilitate unfettered access for the ICHREE; calls on the UNHRC to renew the ICHREE’s mandate and to provide it with sufficient time, as well as the technical assistance and budgetary resources required, to carry out its mandate without limiting its temporal or geographic scope;

28. Recognises the findings of the UNHRC’s Report of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (A/HRC/51/46) of 19 September 2022, which documents incidents of war crimes; calls on the Commission to evaluate and utilise the conclusions and recommendations and on the Ethiopian authorities to recognise these results in an effort to restore human rights protection and work towards redress for victims of war crimes; calls further on all parties to the conflict to endorse the recommendations by the joint investigation by the UN Human Rights Officer and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission;

29. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Federal Government and House of Federation of Ethiopia, the Tigrayan authorities, the Government of the State of Eritrea, the governments of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the African Union and its Member States, the Pan-African Parliament and the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly.

Source: NU

Ethiopia has extradited a 38-year-old Eritrean to the Netherlands who allegedly smuggled Eritreans from Africa to the Netherlands on a large scale between 2014 and 2020. According to the Public Prosecution Service, the suspect played a leading role in an international people smuggling organization.

According to a reliable source, he is Tewelde Goitom, who arrived at Schiphol on Wednesday morning. He will be arraigned on Thursday before the examining magistrate.

On the way, migrants in Libya were mistreated, tortured and raped, the Public Prosecution Service reports. This happened while the migrants were locked up in camps by the hundreds.

According to the Public Prosecution, several migrants died during the trip to Europe. Family members in the Netherlands would also have been extorted. They had to pay large sums of money to allow an imprisoned relative to continue their journey.

The smugglers then let the migrants cross the Mediterranean to Europe on “crowded and barely seaworthy boats”. Countless people did not survive the sea voyage, according to the Public Prosecution Service.

The Eritrean was arrested in Ethiopia in 2020 and sentenced to 18 years in prison. Because the man partly worked in the Netherlands, the Public Prosecution Service wants to bring him to court here. The Public Prosecution Service also wants to do the same with another human smuggler who was sentenced to life in Ethiopia.


Background – From the Guardian

‘Cruel’ trafficker accused of torturing refugees found guilty in Ethiopia

This article is more than 1 year old

Tewelde Goitom reportedly ran a brutal and lucrative trade extorting migrants desperate to reach Europe from Libya

Witnesses 1
 
Witnesses gather following a hearing in the smuggling trials in Addis Ababa’s federal court in October. Photograph: Sally Hayden
Supported by
guardian.org

About this content

By Kaleab Girma and  in Ethiopia
Fri 30 Apr 2021 06.00 BST
One of north Africa’s most notorious human traffickers, accused of extorting and torturing thousands of refugees and migrants in Libya, has been found guilty on five counts of smuggling and trafficking in Ethiopia.

Tewelde Goitom, known as “Welid”, operated in Libya between roughly 2014 and 2018 and is thought to have been at the heart of a highly lucrative and brutal trade trafficking desperate migrants trying to reach Europe.

Tewelde Goitom
 
 Tewelde Goitom, known as ‘Welid’, is thought to have been at the heart of a highly lucrative trade in people trafficking. Photograph: Handout

Goitom was arrested in Ethiopia in March 2020, one month after one of his co-conspirators, another well-known trafficker, Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam, was also arrested. They are both originally from Eritrea.

The two men shared a compound in Bani Walid, a Libyan town nicknamed the “ghost city” by migrants, because of its lawlessness and the large number of people who disappeared there.

According to dozens of victims, the two traffickers held thousands of migrants captive for ransom.

Habtemariam was detained after an Ethiopian victim, who had returned to Addis Ababa from Libya through a UN repatriation programme, recognised him on the street in early 2020. He was put on trial, but escaped detention in mid-February 2021 before a verdict had been passed. The police officer who was guarding him has been arrested, and Ethiopia’s attorney general’s office said an investigation is ongoing. Habtemariam was later found guilty on eight charges in absentia.

Meron Estefanos, an Eritrean journalist and activist, said the verdict against Goitom should have attracted more attention. “Welid is one of the cruellest human traffickers [and] committed unimaginable crimes against Eritrean refugees. This verdict is significant in sending an unequivocal message to other traffickers that they can’t hide from being apprehended.”

Kidane
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam escaped detention in mid-February. Photograph: Handout

Despite this, she said she has no confidence in the Ethiopian justice system. “I fear that Welid will be able to bribe [them] and run away from prison, like Kidane.”

“It is better if the court transferred him to Europe,” said an Eritrean victim, who said he was held captive by Goitom for six months and forced to pay $3,600 (£2,600) in ransoms. “Since he owns [a] huge amount of money it is simple [for him] to pay [his way out]. That’s why most of us are afraid. He can flee from Ethiopia.”

The witnesses who did testify were all Ethiopian. Some said they were scared for their lives, but desperately wanted justice to be done. Many said they had travelled to Libya because they were promised that they would reach Europe quickly for an agreed fee. Once they got to the north African country, the prices were increased and they realised there was no guarantee they would even be put in a boat to try to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

SOS Méditerranée rescuers
A mayday call, a dash across the Mediterranean … and 130 souls lost at sea
Read more

Instead, they were held in warehouses for as long as 18 months. Each day, they were forced to call their families, who transferred thousands of pounds to Goitom or Habtemariam in order to save their lives. The longer it took to pay, the more they were abused and beaten. Some said their friends were killed or died from medical neglect.

“I was close to losing my sanity,” said one man who testified in court. “My friend attempted to hang himself. We were hopeless and surrounded by concrete and snipers.”

In court, victims said the two traffickers forced captives to play football matches against each other and shot at players who missed goals.

5760
 
 
 
 
 A victim shows a scar from his time with smugglers in Libya. Photograph: Sally Hayden

Witnesses in both trials said they were offered bribes not to testify. A musician and alleged associate of Habtemariam’s, Ethiopian singer-songwriter Tarekegn Mulu, has since been arrested and accused of attempting to pressure witnesses.

The Guardian requested an interview with Goitom but the request was declined.

Goitom was convicted under the name Amanuel Yirga Damte, which victims say is a false identity. He will be sentenced on 21 May.

 

 

Martin Plaut

Oct 5

Talks mediated by Olusegun Obasanjo, Uhuru Kenyatta and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka are scheduled for the 8th of October. Only the Ethiopians and Tigrayans invited - not Eritrea. [See below with letter]

The background

Remember that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde agreed to appoint three African Union mediators to end the war when it erupted in November 2020 - nearly two years ago. They appointed former President of Mozambique Joaquim Chissano, former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, and former President of South Africa Kgalema Motlanthe as special envoys of the AU entrusted to facilitate negotiations between parties to end the conflict in Ethiopia.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed immediately rejected the agreement. The result? Two years of war in which over 250,000 have died.

Source: Reuters

African Union invites Ethiopia's warring parties to peace talks -letter

By Giulia Paravicini

A satellite image shows the mobilization of military forces in the town of Shiraro, Tigray region, Ethiopia, September 26, 2022. Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS.

NAIROBI, Oct 5 (Reuters) - The African Union has invited Ethiopia's government and rival Tigray forces to peace talks in South Africa this weekend aimed at ending a two-year conflict, in a letter seen by Reuters.

Three diplomatic sources, speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed the authenticity of the Oct. 1 letter, written by AU Commission Chair Moussa Faki to Debretsion Gebremichael, who leads Tigray's ruling political party.

One of the sources said neither side had yet confirmed its participation.

Contacted by Reuters, Getachew Reda, a spokesman for Debretsion Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) said he was not aware of imminent talks.

There were no immediate responses to requests for comment from Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu, the prime minister's national security adviser, Redwan Hussein, and the prime minister's spokesperson, Billene Seyoum.