On 3 August 2018, the EPDP Commission for Party Renewal held a membership meeting on the renewal process while delegations of EPDP branches in Europe held their 4th Congress at the Eritrea Festival venue in Frankfurt Germany.

EPDP Renewal and Europe Zone Conventions 2018 1

Opened by welcoming remarks of Mr. Tesfamariam Kibreab, chairman of the preparatory committee of Eritrea Festival 2018, the meeting was conducted by Convention chairman, Mr. Fissehaye Hagos from California, USA, and Convention member, Dr. Habtemichael Teklebrhan from Sweden.

They briefed the meeting on the aims and achievements of the renewal process underway and what is expected from every party member at least from now till the next party congress in a year's time. Meeting participants expressed satisfaction with what has been so far done in reviewing both the shortcomings and strengths of the EPDP and made a number of recommendations for future action.

  4th Europe-Zone Congress

EPDP Renewal and Europe Zone Conventions 2018 2

Earlier on the same day, delegates of EPDP branches from several European countries held their 4th zonal congress moderated by the 4th Congress preparatory committee chairman, Mr. Zehaie Keleta and his team.

EPDP Renewal and Europe Zone Conventions 2018 3

Mr. Isaac Woldemariam, the Europe-Zone leadership chairman, presented a general two-year report on past achievements and shortcomings and expressed satisfaction with the active participation of EPDP branches in Europe in joint activities conducted with sister organizations and movements in the continent.

Mr. Tesfai Woldemichael (Degiga), head of the EPDP organizational office, also addressed congress stressing the committed work being done by EPDP Europe by resolutely facing all internal and external challenges. The congress, which was attended also by EPDP chairman and some EC members, with concluded after electing a seven-member leadership and two reserve members.

Contrary to Israeli Claims, Switzerland Says It Doesn’t Forcibly Return Asylum Seekers to Eritrea

Source: Haaretz

Israelis supporting deportations have held on to a recent Swiss ruling permitting the return of Eritreans in some cases, but the Swiss Embassy in Israel says forced expulsion is ‘not permitted and not reasonable’

Protest against the deportation of asylum seekers, April 2018.Protest against the deportation of asylum seekers, April 2018.Moti Milrod

Switzerland has clarified that it does not expel Eritrean asylum seekers from its territory, refuting Israel’s claim that it was halting the granting of refugee status to Eritreans and would deport thousands of them.

A letter sent by the Swiss Embassy in Israel to the Knesset, obtained by Haaretz, says that every asylum request by an Eritrean national is examined individually, and that forced expulsion is “not possible,” even if there is a legal option to return some of them to their native land.

According to Bern’s official figures, 75.2 percent of Eritrean asylum seekers have obtained some form of legal status in Switzerland, which protects them against deportation and offers them social benefits and the right to work legally. Some 58.3 percent of asylum seekers have been fully recognized as refugees. The figure in Israel is 0.1 percent; there are some 26,000 Eritrean asylum seekers in Israel, and only 10 have been recognized as refugees.

In Switzerland, Eritreans whose request for asylum is denied may still live in Switzerland without being arrested or deported, with basic welfare and health benefit. The Swiss document emphasized that “Switzerland does not return Eritrean nationals by force.”


Following the denial of the 21-year-old’s request earlier this month, the media in Israel and pro-deportation activists claimed that it was a dramatic precedent, showing that there was no legal impediment to sending Eritreans back to their country. Following the rejection of the 29-year-old’s request last year, former Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar wrote on settler website Arutz Sheva that “The Israeli political echelon should use these precedents and force our legal system out of its comfort zone.”

Asylum seekers leaving Saharonim holding facility, April 2018. Asylum seekers leaving Saharonim holding facility, April 2018. Eliyahu Hershkowitz

The chairman of the Knesset Interior Committee, Yoav Kish (Likud), said it was possible to conclude from the Swiss policy that there is no impediment to returning the Eritreans to their country.

In addition, it was reported in Israel that Switzerland was going to deport 3,200 asylum seekers to Eritrea. Their status is indeed being examined, but even if it is determined that they are not in danger if they return to their country they will not be forcibly deported.

The embassy staffers wrote that there are two distinct types of temporary status in Switzerland: one for refugees with retroactive grounds for asylum – personal risk created through or after their flight – and the other for people not recognized as refugees but whose deportation is considered “not permitted, not reasonable or not possible.” A general, global policy cannot impact individuals without an individual review, the Swiss said.


According to the letter, the latest rulings do not affect the ability of Eritrean citizens to live in Switzerland, and will not lead to their deportation, and certainly do not affect anyone already recognized as a refugee.

Still, the letter stated that the deportation of people whose asylum requests were denied is permissible and reasonable, even if they are conscripted into the military upon their return. While “conditions of life in the national service are painful… there are reports of ill-treatments and sexual abuses during the national service” and “Eritrean national service can be qualified as forced labor” it might not be ” not to the point that they would render an expulsion illegal” for a person denied refugee status. However, the person cannot be returned by force.

As for the 29-year-old who was refused, she had already finished her military service. According to the document, “the return of Eritrean nationals cannot be generally considered as unreasonable. Illegal exit is not a sufficient ground for asylum on its own, in the absence of an additional risk factor. Persons who have already accomplished their national service and ‘diaspora members; who settled their situation with the Eritrean government are not necessarily at risk of being convicted, recruited for national service or persecuted.” Nevertheless, the woman was neither arrested nor deported.


Sigal Rozen, of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrant Workers, said: “Switzerland’s asylum policy has indeed become very strict, but the only country that expels Eritreans is Sudan, whose leader is wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide. No democratic country forcibly deports Eritrean nationals. The Justice and Foreign Ministries have made it clear that the deportation is not even on the agenda currently, and it seems that the very discussion of it in the Knesset was meant only to create headlines that might frighten a few more asylum seekers.”

Update: Djibouti’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mahmoud Ali Youssouf has denied the report below.

Djibouti tweet

Source: Hiiraan Online
Tuesday July 31, 2018
Djibouti (HOL) – The Djibouti President, Ismail Omar Guelleh is expected to visit the Eritrean capital Asmara later this week to engage in direct bilateral talks with his Eritrean counterpart President Isaias Afwerki, Hiiraan Online has learned.

Relations between Eritrea and Djibouti have been in tatters since the latter’s decision to support Ethiopia during the Eritrean-Ethiopian War of 1998–2000. Djibouti did not participate directly in the fighting but provided intelligence and logistical support to Ethiopia. As a result of the 1998 border war, Ethiopia – a landlocked country – lost access to the Eritrean port of Massawa and began to form an economic and political partnership with Djibouti that was born of out mutual necessity. Djiboutian ports delivered up to 95% of Ethiopian imports and in return import fresh water and electricity from Ethiopia

Tensions between Eritrea and Djibouti reached a crescendo in June 2008 when armed clashes broke out between the two neighbours after Djibouti accused Asmara of moving troops across the disputed Ras Doumeira area.

A fragile Qatari-brokered peace deal was reached in 2010 that was responsible for monitoring the disputed area and working towards fostering a lasting peace between the two sides. The presence of the nearly 500-strong troops created a seven-year no-peace-no-war stalemate that was threatned last June when Qatar abruptly pulled out of the border region in protest of both countries’ decision to support the Saudi Arabia led coalition in their blockade on Qatar.

Djibouti said that Eritrean troops began moving into the disputed areas of Doumeira Mountain and Doumeira island immediately after the Qatari peacekeepers completed their unannounced withdrawal.

According to sources privy to the development, Guelleh is expected to travel to Asmara this week. If the reports are accurate, it would renew optimism for a breakthrough in one of Africa’s most complicated border disputes and may possibly lead to the removal of U.N. sanctions on Eritrea.

The news comes on the heels of an unexpected state visit to Asmara by Somalia’s President, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo and follows the extraordinary diplomatic thawing of relations in recent weeks between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

Eritrea, which has been described as Africa’s most isolated dictatorship, cut off ties with Ethiopia in 1998 after a brutal border over the town of Badme. Somalia has not had diplomatic relations with Eritrea for over 15 years.

During his meeting, President Farmajo joined Ethiopia in asking the U.N. to remove the sanctions placed on Eritrea.

“We urge all economic sanctions and embargo imposed on the people of Eritrea must be lifted so that the economic integration of the Horn of Africa region can be realized,” Farmajo told a banquet hosted by Eritrea’s president Sunday night.

One of the main justifications for the sanctions on Eritrea has been its alleged support for the Somalia-based militant insurgency group Al-Shabaab. Eritrea has vehemently denied the charges and has accused the U.N. of being manipulated by Eritrea’s political adversaries in the region.

However, Djibouti has gone on the record to say that the sanctions should remain in place until the contentious border dispute between the two countries is amicably resolved.

Last month, the Djiboutian Ambassador to the UN, Siad Doualeh, wrote an open letter to the UN Security Council calling on the world body to mediate in their border dispute with Eritrea. In the letter, Doualeh asked for the U.N. to bring the two sides together “with the aim of facilitating an agreement between them upon a mutually acceptable means of peaceful dispute settlement,” emphasizing that they wanted a “judicial settlement or arbitration” that would be legally binding.

Doualeh reminded the Security Council that one of the reasons sanctions were placed on Eritrea in 2009 was “because of its aggression against Djibouti and its refusal to withdraw its troops from the disputed area, and its rejection of all efforts aimed at mediating between the two parties.”

“Eritrean forces continue to occupy Djiboutian territory, prisoners of war remain unaccounted for, threats of force continue to emanate from the Eritrean side and the risk of violent confrontation is once again high,” Doualeh said.

On Monday, Doualeh made a statement before the Security Council where he doubled down on Djibouti’s position. He accused Eritrea of continuing to recruit, train and equip Djibouti rebels – including children – at the Anda’ali training camp in the Southern Red Sea region of Eritrea who attacks Djibouti villages and security forces. Doualeh says that Eritrea’s actions “defiantly ignore Security Council resolutions”.

He urged the Council to keep sanction on Eritrea intact so as long as they refuse to comply with the resolutions.

“If Council’s resolutions are to be regarded as more than empty and meaningless gestures, the sanctions for non-compliance must remain in place as long as Eritrea refuses to comply with them.

He added that “at the same time, Djibouti would support action by the Council to facilitate Eritrea’s compliance by laying out a clear path and a reasonable timetable towards this end.”

The Ambassador also included three recommendations to the Security Council.

  1. In respect of ending Eritrea’s support for armed groups, the Council should resolve to send a Monitoring Mission to Eritrea within one month, with the condition that Eritrea commit to full cooperation with the mission, including full access to all information and records the mission deems necessary to review and all personnel it finds necessary to interview. The Mission would then report to the council within 30 days of its return from Eritrea.
  2. In regard to prisoners of war, the Council could require that Eritrea account for them to the same Monitoring Mission and permit access to the Mission as well the ICRC.
  3. Finally, in respect of the good offices of the Secretary-General in close collaboration with the Security Council, the Secretary-General could convene an urgent meeting of the Principal Parties to facilitate an agreement between them upon a mutually acceptable means of peaceful dispute settlement from among those identified in Article 33 of the Charter.

Doualeh called on the Secretary-General to issue the U.N.’s solution within 120 days and require that Djibouti and Eritrea accept the solution. If either country refuses to accept the recommended solution laid out by the U.N., then the case should be referred to the International Court of Justice for a binding resolution.

Sweden’s U.N. ambassador, Olof Skoog, the current council president, said the future of sanctions is being discussed by council members.

“There is a promising diplomatic initiative” involving Eritrea and Djibouti, he said, adding that “there is a willingness to support the region in these efforts.”

“The Swedish point of view is that we need to be cautious not to set targets and benchmarks that hinder the current positive momentum, and instead really ensure that we allow Eritrea now to partake in the international arena and let peoples in the region enjoy the peace dividends. We believe that the council should seize this moment to firmly recognize peace and normalize the relations between the international community and Eritrea by deciding to review the sanctions regime as soon as possible.”

The UK’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Karen Pierce, who will become President of the Security Council on Wednesday said “It’s something the Council needs to discuss. I think the developments are very positive. They’re very welcome, and at some point, that will need to be reflected in the coming months on sanctions. But the Council hasn’t had a full discussion of that yet, so it’s something we need to talk about.”

That sentiment was not shared by all members on the council.

Dutch deputy permanent representative to the United Nations Lise Gregoire-van Haaren said Monday that “all the criteria” should be examined when the international community conducts a review the sanctions against Eritrea.

“We have to look very closely at all the criteria in place for the sanctions regime on the basis of which we can decide whether to change them or not.”

Coincidentally, Ethiopia announced to the U.N. Security Council on Monday that to would work towards normalizing relations between Djibouti and Eritrea, both of which share a border with Ethiopia.

Takeda Alemu, Ethiopia’s envoy to the United Nations told the Security Council on Monday that his country would like to bring the leaders of two countries to the negotiating table.

“The Djibouti Foreign Minister was in Addis Ababa last week to deliver the message of President Guelleh to my Prime Minister and he was able to conduct very productive and useful discussions, both with our Prime Minister and his counterpart, our Foreign Minister,” Alemu said.

He added that “Ethiopia has expressed its readiness to do whatever is necessary to contribute to the normalization of relations between Eritrea and Djibouti and it is our firm commitment this is critical for peace and security in our region”.

Alemu credited Eritrea and Ethiopia’s dramatic rapprochement in recent weeks as the catalyst for the change in political dynamics in the region.

“It is downright impossible to deny that the politics of the Horn of Africa is in the process rapid change and with salutary implications. All this is the result of the rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea which would have been thought to be inconceivable only a few months ago.”

In addition to President Ismail Omar Guelleh, there are reports that Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta is also planning travel to Asmara as IGAD members seek to normalize relations with Africa’s hermit kingdom. Eritrea walked out of the eight-country trade bloc in 2007 in protest of Ethiopia’s invasion into Somalia to fight Al-Shabaab and an IGAD report accusing Eritrea of supporting the militant extremists.

The tiny nation of Djibouti has emerged as the de-facto winner in the two-decade-long standoff between Ethiopia and Ethiopia, benefitting economically and through forming strategic security partnerships. However, as the winds of change blow in the Horn of Africa, many will be watching closely to see if this political tectonic shift will resolve the decades-long conflict between these East African neighbours.


By Fisseha Tekle

30 July 2018, 15:05 UTC

The recent peace agreement with Ethiopia presents the Eritrean authorities with the opportunity to end the indefinite national service, a widely-criticised practice that has robbed the country’s youth of their dreams creating a generation of Eritrean refugees.

The Eritrean government introduced compulsory national service in 1995. By law, every high school finalist undertakes 18 months of national service, which include six months of military training. When relations deteriorated with neighbouring Ethiopia following the bitter 1998-2000 border war, the national service was extended indefinitely.

The indefinite national service has torn apart many families and ripped apart the fabric of society. Many children are growing up without both parents and girls are married off early to avoid conscription.
Fisseha Tekle, Amnesty International's Researcher for Ethiopia and Eritrea

The indefinite national service has torn apart many families and ripped apart the fabric of society. It is common for several members of the same family to be conscripted at the same time and posted to different parts of the country. Many children are growing up without both parents and girls are married off early to avoid conscription.

Binyam, 18, told Amnesty International that his father was conscripted before he was even born. The family are lucky to see him once every six months. Some conscripts go years without seeing their families because they are not granted annual leave.

I don’t want to have children who see me once every six months; I want to see my children every day.
Binyam, Eritrean youth

“I don’t want to have children who see me once every six months; I want to see my children every day,” Binyam told us in a previous report published in 2015. Nothing has since changed in Eritrea’s indefinite national service.

Mariam, another 18-year-old, told us about the heavy toll national service had taken on her family. Both her father and her eldest brother had been conscripted, and when it was her turn, she fled because she couldn’t tolerate the idea.

In their final year of high school, students attend the infamous Sawa Military Camp, where food and water are abysmal, and temperatures are extreme. Harsh punishment is meted out for minor infractions.

Students have come to view the education system as a trap that delivers them right into the jaws of national service. Some drop out of school to escape conscription.

Students have come to view the education system as a trap that delivers them right into the jaws of national service. Some drop out of school to escape conscription, but this is a dead-end choice because without a clearance certificate from national service, they cannot access food rations, or register a business, acquire a mobile phone line, a driving license, or open a bank account. Furthermore, the military conducts impromptu house to house searches to round up anyone suspected of trying to evade national service.

Not only is national service never-ending, it pays a pittance – certainly not enough for people to live with dignity and enjoy their rights to food, shelter and healthcare.

Filmon, 29, fled Eritrea a month after deserting military service. He had done seven years before deserting in September 2017. Like many Eritrean youth we interviewed, Filmon lamented the lack of freedom and absence of bankable prospects in his country.

“My salary was a mere 1,500 Nafka (US$100), which was higher than that of people assigned to the military service, because I held a civilian job. I lived with my mother who had no income. It was impossible to support her and live on my income,” he said.

Eritrean youth have only two life options: undertake the compulsory, indefinite national service in conditions that amount to forced labour, or flee the country, risking their lives in search of a better life overseas.

As such, Eritrean youth have only two life options: undertake the compulsory, indefinite national service in conditions that amount to forced labour, or flee the country, risking their lives in search of a better life overseas.

Former conscripts compared national service to modern day slavery, saying they suffered torture and other ill-treatment, arbitrary arrest, and lacked basic sanitation and hygiene.

A UN Commission of Inquiry concluded in June 2016, that "crimes against humanity have been committed in a widespread and systematic manner in Eritrean military training camps and other locations".

In addition to military service, the recruits also worked in farms, mines or construction sites for less than US$60 a month. This system of indefinite, involuntary conscription amounts to forced labour, and is a human rights violation under international law.

It is therefore not surprising that thousands of Eritreans flee the country every year taking treacherous journeys to Europe at the risk of being kidnapped by human traffickers, imprisoned by hostile governments, or drowning in the Mediterranean Sea.

It is therefore not surprising that thousands of Eritreans flee the country every year taking treacherous journeys to Europe at the risk of being kidnapped by human traffickers, imprisoned by hostile governments, or drowning in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Ethiopia-Eritrea border conflict has been a convenient excuse for compulsory conscription and wide- ranging human rights violations in Eritrea. With the stalemate now resolved, the government of Eritrea must end compulsory and indefinite national service and allow the people to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, movement and fair trial.

The authorities must now urgently come up with a clear, time-bound plan to demobilize those trapped in endless national service, while ensuring new conscripts are not forced into national service. The government must also make provision for conscientious objection to military service.

The time to end compulsory conscription is now.

Fisseha Tekle is the Amnesty International Researcher for Ethiopia and Eritrea.

This article was first published in the EastAfrican on 28 July 2018.


Since this was written I have learnt that talks to end the conflict had been under way for more than a year.

Originally published July 10, 2018 in The Conversation.


This week Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed visited neighbouring Eritrea, to be greeted by President Isaias Afwerki. The vast crowds that thronged the normally quiet streets of Eritrea’s capital, Asmara, were simply overjoyed. They sang and they danced as Abiy’s car drove past. Few believed they would ever see such an extraordinarily rapid end to two decades of vituperation and hostility between their countries.

After talks the president and prime minister signed a declaration, ending 20 years of hostility and restoring diplomatic relations and normal ties between the countries.

The first indication that these historic events might be possible came on June 4. Abiy declared that he would accept the outcome of an international commission’s finding over a disputed border between the two countries. It was the border conflict of 1998-2000, and Ethiopia’s refusal to accept the commission’s ruling, that was behind two decades of armed confrontation. With this out of the way, everything began to fall into place.

The two countries are now formally at peace. Airlines will connect their capitals once more, Ethiopia will use Eritrea’s ports again – its natural outlet to the sea – and diplomatic relations will be resumed.

Perhaps most important of all, the border will be demarcated. This won’t be an easy task. Populations who thought themselves citizens of one country could find themselves in another. This could provoke strong reactions, unless both sides show flexibility and compassion.

For Eritrea there are real benefits – not only the revenues from Ethiopian trade through its ports, but also the potential of very substantial potash developmentson the Ethiopia-Eritrea border that could be very lucrative.

For Ethiopia, there would be the end to Eritrean subversion, with rebel movements deprived of a rear base from which to attack the government in Addis Ababa. In return, there is every chance that Ethiopia will now push for an end to the UN arms embargoagainst the Eritrean government.

This breakthrough didn’t just happen. It has been months in the making.

The deal

Some of the first moves came quietly from religious groups. In September last year the World Council of Churches sent a team to see what common ground there was on both sides. Donald Yamamoto, Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, and one of America’s most experienced Africa hands, played a major role.

Diplomatic sources suggest he held talks in Washington at which both sides were represented. The Eritrean minister of foreign affairs, Osman Saleh, is said to have been present, accompanied by Yemane Gebreab, President Isaias’s long-standing adviser. They are said to have met the former Ethiopian prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, laying the groundwork for the deal. Yamamoto visited both Eritrea and Ethiopiain April.

Although next to nothing was announced following the visits, they are said to have been important in firming up the dialogue.

But achieving reconciliation after so many years took more than American diplomatic muscle.

Eritrea’s Arab allies also played a key role. Shortly after the Yamamoto visit, President Isaias paid a visit to Saudi Arabia. Ethiopia – aware of the trip – encouraged the Saudi crown prince to get the Eritrean president to pick up the phone and talk to him. President Isaias declined, but – as Abiy Ahmed later explained – he was “hopeful with Saudi and US help the issue will be resolved soon.”

So it was, but one other actor played a part: the UAE. Earlier this month President Isaias visited the Emirates. There are suggestions that large sums of money were offered to help Eritrea develop its economy and infrastructure.

Finally, behind the scenes, the UN and the African Union have been encouraging both sides to resolve their differences. This culminated in the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, flying to Addis Ababa for a meeting on Monday– just hours after the joint declaration. Guterres told reporters that in his view the sanctions against Eritrea could soon be lifted since they would soon likely become “obsolete.”

It has been an impressive combined effort by the international community, who have for once acted in unison to try to resolve a regional issue that has festered for years.

Risks and dividends

For Isaias these developments also bring some element of risk. Peace would mean no longer having the excuse of a national security threat to postpone the implementation of basic freedoms. If the tens of thousands of conscripts, trapped in indefinite national service are allowed to go home, what jobs await them? When will the country have a working constitution, free elections, an independent media and judiciary? Many political prisoners have been jailed for years without trail. Will they now be released?

For Ethiopia, the dividends of peace would be a relaxation of tension along its northern border and an alternative route to the sea. Families on both sides of the border would be reunited and social life and religious ceremonies, many of which go back for centuries, could resume.

But the Tigrayan movement – the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – that was dominant force in Ethiopian politics until the election of Prime Minister Aiby in February, has been side-lined. It was their quarrel with the Eritrean government that led to the 1998–2000 border war.

The Eritrean authorities have rejoiced in their demise. “From this day forward, TPLF as a political entity is dead,” declared a semi-official website, describing the movement as a ‘zombie’ whose “soul has been bound in hell”. Such crowing is hardly appropriate if differences are to be resolved. The front is still a significant force in Ethiopia and could attempt to frustrate the peace deal.

These are just some of the problems that lie ahead. There is no guarantee that the whole edifice won’t collapse, as the complex details of the relationship are worked out. There are many issues that have to be resolved before relations between the two countries can be returned to normal. But with goodwill these can be overcome, ushering in a new era of peace and prosperity from which the entire region would benefit.


UAE and Saudi Arabia’s mediation to bury decades-long enmity of the Horn of Africa nations a strong step towards sustainable peace

By Salem Al Ketbi, Special to Gulf News


Ethiopia and Eritrea have forged peace after a stalemate in their relations. Since 2000, the Horn of Africa nations have been in a state of “No war, no peace”, a situation that crippled their economies and divided families. So the warming of relations is indeed a welcome development.

Published: 16:35 July 27, 2018

The UAE, along with Saudi Arabia, played a crucial role in the detente. Abu Dhabi played host to leaders from the countries, facilitating talks that paved the way for the peace accord. His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, held a discussions with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmad and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki that helped iron out their differences.


Ethiopian Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu said the rapprochement was a result of the efforts made by Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the reconciliation was “illustrative of a new wind of hope blowing across Africa”.

“The march towards peace might have been a long time coming, but we have faith in the love and solidarity of our people,” Ahmad said. “We can now imagine a future where we see no national boundaries or high walls dividing us. The people of our region are joined in common purpose.”

Two weeks after the two nations signed a peace deal on July 9, their leaders made another trip to Abu Dhabi, this time as friends. Shaikh Mohammad appreciated their efforts to normalise relations and bestowed on them the Order of Zayed.

Such efforts are vital to achieving comprehensible and sustainable development for all the people globally, Shaikh Mohammad said. “This would help establish security and stability and bring in development to this important region,” he added.

Solving the conflict in a short time was unthinkable. The two countries had fought a bloody two-year war (1998-2000), that killed more than 80,000 people besides displacing at least 350,000. A Cold War-like atmosphere prevailed for nearly two decades after a border commission set up under the peace agreement ruled that the flashpoint town of Badme was part of Eritrea. Ethiopia refused to accept this and relations remained frozen.

The two leaders have now pledged to implement the commission’s decision as part of the peace agreement. Ethiopia asked the United States to lift sanctions on Eritrea and the positive step set in motion a series of confidence-building measures. The two nations will reopen embassies and the border between them. Direct telecommunication services have been restored and commercial flights began operations last week. Plans are now afoot to resume diplomatic, trade and transport links.

So the spinoff from peace is an economic revival in both the countries. Ethiopia’s Ahmad has already lifted a state of emergency, freed political prisoners and unveiled economic reforms.

The deal was important for the stability and security of the region. Extremist elements and terrorists had taken advantage of the enmity to spread their agenda and ideas besides carrying out criminal activities. The absence of political will made their task easier. The successful mediation, therefore, is a powerful blow to all those players who used the conflict to serve their selfish interests. Arab states and the countries in the region suffered the most. Now they can breathe easy.

Dr Salem Al Ketbi is an Emirati political analyst, researcher and opinion writer.


Adi Harush refugee camp EthiopiaSource: Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat (RMMS) summary for May 2018

There are approximately 169,252 Eritrean refugees living in Ethiopia who make up 18.4% of the total refugee population in Ethiopia. The number of Eritrean refugees who have arrived in Ethiopia in 2018 stood at 4,055 at May 31st.

In the same period, Kenya was host to 1,439 Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers while Somalia was hosting 90 persons. Egypt hosted 13,748 Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers as at 30thApril 2018.

Note: this does not include Eritrean refugees in Sudan. RMMS reported that  Sudan hosted 101,751 Eritreans in May 2016.

Deaths at sea

Between January and 15thMay 2018, 1,810 Eritreans migrants had arrived in Italy by sea. The Missing Migrant Project had recorded 62 deaths of migrants from the Horn of Africa in the same period.


probe into UNHCR fraud

%AM, %27 %405 %2018 %10:%Jul Written by
Source: IRIN
23 July 2018
Sally Hayden

Refugees have told IRIN that since the investigations began, they’ve been intimidated and harassed by some Sudanese staff at the UNHCR office in Khartoum, as well as by state security agents and officials of the Sudanese government’s Commission of Refugees. Refugees say they have been called on the phone or asked to meet with these officials and then been pressured not to testify on pain of having their cases for resettlement closed or losing access to other assistance. The Sudanese Commissioner of Refugees did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

On 15 May, IRIN published a reportbased on interviews with more than a dozen refugees and a former UNHCR staff member. They alleged that decisions on which refugees would be permanently resettled to a third country were often made on the basis of bribes rather than standard eligibility criteria. Two days later, UNHCRsuspended resettlementfrom Sudan and confirmed that in February and March it had launched investigations into alleged corruption, and would soon deploy an anti-fraud team.

In a statement announcing the suspension, UNHCR encouraged anyone with information to contact its Inspector General’s Office(IGO), an oversight body that investigates complaints of misconduct, “without delay”.

Over the past 10 weeks, an IGO investigator has contacted refugees and asked them to do phone or Skype interviews. In an email seen by IRIN, “potential witnesses” were told their interviews could be recorded and details could be disclosed on a “need to know” basis with both the subject of the investigation and those involved in taking disciplinary action. The email also stated that they would be asked to swear an oath to tell the truth and shouldn’t discuss the investigation with anyone without prior IGO approval.

But refugees told IRIN they didn’t believe the investigation process offered sufficient confidentiality, and expressed concern that the UN’s refugee agency could provide little help if they were retaliated against. They said they didn’t believe they could come forward safely because of ties between some UNHCR staff and the Sudanese state, and feared reprisals from corrupt Sudanese and UN officials who may be exposed by the investigation.

“Refugees are afraid to speak because those at UNHCR have connections with the [Sudanese] security and can do whatever,” one refugee said.

In an emailed response, UNHCR said it is concerned by refugees’ allegations to IRIN of harassment by local UNHCR Khartoum staff and Sudanese officials. “We take these allegations very seriously,” the email stated. UNHCR encouraged refugees and others to report such behaviour to the IGO.

The IGOreceives hundredsof complaints around misconduct every year, including allegations of fraud in the resettlement and refugee status determination processes. When the IGO launches an investigation, they interview witnesses, the people accused of wrongdoing, and may gather documentary and other forms of evidence, according to investigation guidelines published in 2012.

Protection and privacy

Resettlement is a complicated process taking anywhere from several days (in emergency cases) to several years.

“Refugees are afraid to speak because those at UNHCR have connections with the [Sudanese] security and can do whatever.”

As IRIN reported in May, refugees in Khartoum allege that middlemen and local UNHCR staff with close ties to the refugee community have been requesting bribes to speed up and corrupt the registration and resettlement process. The going rate to do that for unregistered asylum seekers in Khartoum was about $15,000, refugees said. Resettling a whole family boosted the price to $35,000-$40,000 – money usually raised by relatives abroad. Around 1.2 million refugees are now in Sudan, and more than 2,000 people were resettled from there in the year ending September 2017, according to UNHCR.

In Khartoum, many refugees and migrants live in a constant state of concern over security and safety, analysts and researchers report. “In Sudan, migrants are vulnerable to a litany of abuses,” Human Rights Watch Sudan researcher Jehanne Henry, now the associate director of the Africa division, wrote last year. “Many live in legal limbo; can be rounded up and arrested at any time and summarily tried for immigration violations; and can be jailed, fined, and deported without due process or transparency.”

They face endemic abuse and harassmentfrom the Sudanese police, who regularly arrest them to solicit bribes and are accused of physical violence and sexual assault. Just last week, a video emerged online allegedly showing an undercover police officer raping a refugee woman in a Khartoum street, provoking debate around the sexual abuse of refugees by police officers.

Amid this atmosphere, refugees are anxious and constantly worried about their own safety. This is compounded by their confusion over who is actually carrying out the UNHCR investigations. Several told IRIN that UNHCR officials in Sudan not affiliated with the IGO, as well as some international UNHCR staff, had asked them to visit the Khartoum office to be interviewed. This scenario worried the refugees, who said they would be at risk because the very people they are making allegations against would see them. They were also concerned that translators might feed details of their testimony to the accused personnel.

“I thought it was going to be confidential,” said one refugee, after taking part in an interview in the UNHCR compound in Khartoum. “I don’t like the idea of going to that office,” the refugee said, adding that those accused were not good people and had a “network of people in key areas”.

“There are many refugees who [have] witnessed the corruption but are afraid to [say] it,” the refugee said. “The consequences [of coming forward] will be life-threatening.”

Another refugee recounted an incident in the reception of the UNHCR office in May in which Sudanese staff involved in the resettlement process warned refugees not to share any information about their cases with a visiting international team who were asking about the corruption allegations. “The local staff spoke to the refugees in Arabic, saying ‘don’t tell them’,” the refugee explained, adding that the international staff who were present did not understand Arabic.

UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch said last month that protection is provided for witnesses in certain cases. “Witness protection is a top priority, and where serious safety concerns arise UNHCR has mechanisms in place to respond,’’ he said. “However, as you will understand, for obvious reasons, we won’t be able to discuss details publicly.”

UNHCR did relocateseveral witnesses during a similar investigation surrounding Kenya’s Kakuma camp in 2001. And IRIN was told by a UNHCR official who is not based in Khartoum, and who requested anonymity, that some refugees whose testimony was deemed sensitive have been moved elsewhere for their safety during other investigations, including another one in Kakuma in 2016-2017.

Yet two refugees in Khartoum who are potential witnesses to the Khartoum investigations told IRIN their direct pleas to the IGO and UNHCR for protection, including to be moved to a safe place, had been declined or ignored. Both told IRIN they fear for their lives.

“What they should be doing is resettling them,” a current UNHCR resettlement officer, who has witnessed IGO investigations elsewhere in East Africa and requested anonymity, said. “It’s a perfect resettlement case.” Without emergency resettlement or the option of witnesses entering a safe house, the officer said: “No one talks. No one will tell them what’s happening. So it just keeps happening.”

Fear of the Sudanese state

UNHCR has previously highlighted the concerns it faces around protection during investigations. A March 2018 overview of the IGO’s workstated that “lessons learned from key investigations” included that “the support that UNHCR can provide to witnesses who face security risks when they are involved in investigations is limited” and “the primary responsibility for witness protection lies with the host State.”

“No one talks. No one will tell them what’s happening. So it just keeps happening.”

Several refugees who said they were afraid to take part in the Khartoum investigation said they knew they couldn’t turn to Sudanese officials if testifying led to problems. They referred to an incident in April 2017 when dozens of refugees protested at the UNHCR Khartoum compound to draw attention to their allegations of corruption in the resettlement process. Six refugees who were present told IRIN that UNHCR staff had called the police, who set upon the protesters, leaving one woman with a broken leg.

When asked about the incident, UNHCR Sudan spokesman Steven O’Brien initially denied the police were called. Later, when provided with a video that appeared to show police inside the UNHCR compound on the day of the protest, UNHCR spokesman Baloch clarified that police officers had been present but said there was “no evidence of force being used”.

It is unclear how many people have voluntarily come forward to participate in the Khartoum probe, and UNHCR does not comment on current investigations. However, some refugees told IRIN they have long been too afraid to report exploitation and would not participate if asked, particularly out of fear of losing the protections and services associated with refugee status.

“We have never dared to complain because the UNHCR refugee card is the only thing that protects us from Sudanese officials,” one Eritrean woman said. Several refugees told IRIN they feared reprisals could take the form of their files with UNHCR or the Sudanese Commission on Refugees being closed or “lost”, which would mean losing their right to legal protection and the services that go along with it.

The 2017 human rights reportfrom the US State Department notes that refugees and asylum seekers in Sudan are “vulnerable to arbitrary arrest and harassment” in urban areas for incorrect or missing identity cards and authorisation documents.

“We fear retribution and jail, because if we’re removed from the protection of the UNHCR, we have no protection from the Sudanese government,” the Eritrean refugee explained. “So, I would love to file a complaint but fear the consequences of doing so. I feel like nobody at the UNHCR really cares about what we go through.”

A process on hold

As the investigation continues, the impact of the suspended programme is unclear, beyond the fact that hundreds of resettlements have been delayed for at least several months. Around 170 refugees were resettled from Sudan each month in the year ending September 2017, according to UNHCR.

Speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic, several former UN staff in Khartoum and elsewhere said they were worried that the suspended programme might put refugees waiting for resettlement at risk.

“So, I would love to file a complaint but fear the consequences of doing so. I feel like nobody at the UNHCR really cares about what we go through.”

“Sometimes these investigations take months and months and months to get to the bottom [of],” the former Sudan head of another UN agency told IRIN. “If people in urgent need of resettlement are sitting around for months, [UNHCR is] certainly not supporting their protection.”

Since mid-May, as the investigation has gone on, refugees and former UNHCR staff in Sudan interviewed over the past two months by IRIN have gone from being hopeful about the prospect of change to worrying that the situation may get worse.

“Maybe, once the media is gone, they will keep doing it,” a former UNHCR Sudan staff member said, referring to the alleged corrupt practices. “The situation is complicated in Sudan.”


Hey, all you Abyssinians out there.  While you are wasting time squabbling with each other and not talking to each other, the governments of the Arabian Peninsula are eating your lunch.

Have you noticed that warships from the United Arab Emirates are operating out of the port of Asab 24/7?  Their interest is in Yemen, not in Eritrea or Ethiopia.  There are reports that Saudi Arabia has taken a 50-year lease on Asab.  If that is true, the next step will be Sharia Law in the Horn of Africa big time.

I think it is time for Abyssinians to take back control of the west bank of the Red Sea before it is too late. 

One way to accomplish this is for Eritrea and Ethiopia to finally end the war of 1998-2000 and normalize relations. It can be done as a win-win.

Eritrea and Ethiopia should send delegations to a neutral venue, like Geneva.   With the two delegations present, the following agreements will be signed:

  • Badme will be returned to Eritrean control pursuant to the Algerian arbitration agreement.
  • Immediately after the symbolic return of Badme to Eritrean control in a brief ceremony in the morning, that afternoon, the two delegations will negotiate the following agreements:
  • Each government will guarantee that its territory will not be allowed to be used by elements hostile to the other government as a base for destabilization of the other government.
  • Pre-war economic relations will be restored to the status quo ante, including a dedicated duty-free Ethiopian section of Asab Port under a 50-year lease at an indexed rental.
  • The IMF will be requested to establish a currency exchange daily settlement regime between the Birrh and the Nakfa. 
  • There will be free movement of persons between the two countries, including the right to work and establish businesses.
  • There will be embassies established in both countries with an exchange of ambassadors.
  • The border will be totally demilitarized. 
  • Merchandise produced in each country will not be subject to trade duties in the movement between the two countries. The two countries will have a common external tariff.
  • Establishment of security control and the exploitation of resources in the Red Sea will be joint.

Upon the signature of a final normalization agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia, the following will take place:

  • The United Nations Security Council will lift sanctions against Eritrea.
  • Eritrea and Ethiopia will jointly negotiate Red Sea security agreements with Arab countries bordering on the water way.
  • Eritrea and Ethiopia will jointly guarantee the security and neutrality of the State of Djibouti. 
  • Eritrea and Ethiopia will agree to exchange intelligence about terrorist activity in the Horn of Africa.

The foregoing is a list of ideas that are out on the table. It is imperative that Ethiopia and Eritrea begin to normalize. Otherwise, the countries east of the Red Sea will make major inroads west of the Red Sea to the detriment of both countries as well as to American interests.



An abandoned tank by the roadside in Eritrea. Shutterstock

July 19, 2018 2.39pm SAST

The end of hostilities between Ethiopia and Eritrea has been met with relief in the region as well as globally. But what does it mean for Eritrea, which has been dubbed the North Korea of Africa. The Conversation Africa’s Julius Maina spoke to Martin Plaut about the implications for the small and reclusive state.

How did Eritrea earn its reputation as a reclusive state?

Isaias Afwerki, the Eritrean president, has operated on the presumption that no-one would come to Eritrea’s aid after it launched its armed struggle for independence from Ethiopia in 1961. It was never entirely true, but they certainly didn’t have the support of any major power.

When Eritrea gained its independence in 1993 he saw no reason to alter his view. As a result, major international aid agencies were made unwelcome. Even the United Nations has found it difficult to work in the country.

After 2001, when the president cracked down on all opposition – including from within his own party – all major news organisations, including the BBC, Reuters and AFP – were banned from having offices in the country. International journalists have only been allowed to visit sporadically. This has left Eritrea under-reported.

Isaias is moody and reclusive by nature. Since the regime is a dictatorship which has never allowed elections of any kind, the country reflects the politics of its leader.

The country has been named as a sponsor of regional terrorism. To what extent is this still the case?

Following Eritrea’s bitter border war with Ethiopia between 1998 and 2000, the government in Asmara became a sponsor of the Somali Islamist group, Al-Shabaab, and a number of Ethiopian rebel groups . It did so to undermine the Ethiopian government, which was fighting a war in Somalia against the Islamists. Eritrea’s support for Ethiopian rebel groups had a similar aim in mind.

These activities – as well as a border clash with Djibouti – led to the UN Security Council imposing an arms embargo against Eritrea in 2009. The embargo didn’t include economic sanctions.

UN appointed experts monitored the arms and logistical support Eritrea provided to Al-Shabaab in great detail. In recent years they’ve reported back that they have no evidence of current Eritrean backing for Al-Shabaab.

In the last few weeks the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has said he thinks the sanctions regime will become obsolete, since Eritrea and Ethiopia have resolved their differences.

How will recent events affect politics and commerce in the Horn?

The prospects for the Horn could be transformed if the Ethiopia-Eritrea rapprochement holds and their border dispute is truly resolved.

The closure of their mutual frontier for the past two decades has had a terrible effect on people all along the 1,000 km long border. Family ties and trade patterns were severely disrupted.

The people of the two countries have never been at loggerheads: there is little real animosity between them. The divisions have been between the ruling parties of both countries.

With these apparently resolved, life in the Horn can resume as normal. The Eritrean ports of Massawa and Assab will hum with life once more, as Ethiopian trade flows through them. And the potash deposits on their border can be developed. Since Ethiopia is currently Africa’s fastest growing economy this could ease bottlenecks such as international investment in Eritrea which will no longer be viewed as a war-risk. And instead of competing to fund and support rebel movements in each other’s countries, Ethiopia and Eritrea can combine to tackle the real enemy: poverty.

What will the impact be on Eritrean society?

This is the most difficult question and predictions are fraught with difficulty. Having been such a closed dictatorship it is impossible to say with any certainty how the country will be transformed.

On the one hand, Isaias could allow democracy to emerge, since he no longer has a foreign enemy on his doorstep. The constitution, which was ratified by the National Assembly, could be implemented. Free and fair elections could be held and a multi-party system allowed to emerge. The president might even decide to retire now that peace has been achieved – he is 72 years old.

This is all possible. But it’s not very likely. The president is extremely cautious and believes he is indispensable to the country: without him it will lose its way. He is more likely to move only gradually towards allowing limited freedoms. This could include ending indefinite conscription, since the rationale for this has ended. Such an approach would be consistent with his past behaviour. But it might result in growing frustration from citizens who have accepted economic hardship and a lack of democracy during a time of war, but might do so no longer. What forces this might unleash and how the citizens will react, only time will tell.

How do these developments affect Eritrea’s refugee outflow?

The end of hostilities should mean that Eritrea’s indefinite National Service is ended. National Service (or conscription) is required of all citizens between 18 and 40 years old. In theory this lasts for no longer than 18 months. Yet many Eritreans have served for 20 years and more. Pay is minimal and conditions harsh: for women there is the threat of rape or sexual abuse. This has been – by a long shot – the main driver of the refugee exodus that has seen up to 5,000 people leaving the country every month.

Freed from conscription, some servicemen and women will return to their farms or seek employment in towns. One possible consequence is that unemployment could become serious, unless inward investment takes up the slack.

If the border with Ethiopia is opened up again thousands of people in refugee camps in Ethiopia might return home. The refugee outflow might even be reversed. This is an optimistic prognosis. More likely, refugees who have risked everything to reach safety will remain in the camps until the outcome of the dramatic changes can be assessed and the transformation is made permanent.

Eritrea’s refugee outflow will only end when both prosperity and freedom become established facts. Until then it is likely that some will continue to seek a better life abroad, even if in smaller numbers.