JANUARY 26, 2022  NEWS

Human Rights Concern-Eritrea wishes to Remind the World of the Continued Detention of Patriarch Abune Antonios, Head of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, since January 2006

26 January 2022

Since January 2006 Patriarch Antonios has endured in the Eritrean capital, Asmara. He continues to be held under duress, with state agents ensuring that he cannot leave the premises. There has never been an opportunity for him to question and challenge this illegal detention in a court of law. He is detained arbitrarily and without charge or trial, solely at the whim of the Eritrean President and ruling clique in government.  He is being held virtually incommunicado, and is deprived of all contact with clergy and friends.

His imprisonment since January 2006 makes him one of the longest serving prisoners of conscience in Eritrea. His courage in resisting calls by the regime to submit his church to total governmental control caused him to suffer prolonged persecution and enforced silencing within his own country.  His detention is neither recognised nor accepted by the legitimate church representatives and members, despite many government attempts to replace him with a more compliant priest.

The patriarch’s detention violates at least six fundamental principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, found in Articles 3(liberty of person), 8 (effective remedy), 9 (no arbitrary arrest or detention), 11 (presumed innocent until proven guilty),13 (freedom of movement), 18 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion), all of which have been denied him.

It is vital that the nature of his imprisonment is recognised by the international community for what it is – arbitrary detention. And it is important to note that this form of detention is similar to that used by the apartheid regime in South Africa, which instituted “Banning” Orders. Victims of these arbitrary legal measures could not leave their houses or meet with more than one person, or communicate with the outside world. At this stage in the history of Eritrea, it may be appropriate to note the similarities in the treatment of persons disapproved of by the regime: the same human rights abuses continue to this day as occurred in under apartheid—widespread use of torture, disappearances, unexplained deaths in detention, arbitrary illegal arrests and secret detention, and systematic police brutality unchecked by the law. The world must wake up to the fact that human rights abuses as severe and longstanding as under Apartheid are occurring in East Africa to this day.

Human Rights Concern-Eritrea (HRCE) appeals to the international community to stand up for this innocent and righteous religious leader on the 16th anniversary of his detention.

HRCE also calls upon all member states of the United Nations to put pressure on the government of Eritrea to release the 92-year-old Patriarch, who has been unjustly kept in isolation, away from the people and church he loves dearly.

Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

+44 7958 005 637

www.hrc-eritrea.org

JANUARY 22, 2022  NEWS

Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) has investigated the asylum cases of 150 Eritreans who have fled to Norway, sought protection and been granted residence in the country. In 13 cases, the residence permit has been revoked. Four will be deported. Others can stay.

Original Article: Asyljuks avslørt

Note: Google Translated

ERITREA TOP: At an event in Oslo in August 2019 for Eritreans, Yemane Gebreab appeared. The man in the blue suit is the closest political adviser to Eritrea’s dictatorial president, Isaiah Afewerki. Many Eritreans in Norway have fled his brutal regime. (Private)

By Bjørgulv K. Bjåen, journalist21 / 01/2022 18:03

Since the autumn of 2019, the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) has investigated the asylum cases of 150 Eritreans who have fled to Norway, sought protection and been granted residence in the country.

As of today, 13 residence permits have been withdrawn.

The order for investigation came as an instruction from the Ministry of Justice (JD) and the then Minister of Justice Jøran Kallmyr (Frp).

The background was news headlines on NRK. They told about an event in Oslo in August 2019 “where Norwegian-Eritreans celebrated the national service in Eritrea together with a high-ranking person from the Eritrean government apparatus, and where Eritrean refugees may have been present”, writes JD.

Many of the Eritreans who have been granted residence in Norway have fled the national service.

Has received tips about cheating

The UDI selected 100 random cases and 50 cases where they had received tips or put on information that there was incorrect information when applying for asylum, says Christine Roca, unit leader control at the UDI.

After the first round, the UDI sat down with 60 cases. 90 were put away. Decisions have now been made in 24 cases:

  • 13 refugees have their residence permit revoked, either permanently or temporarily.
  • 11 cases have been dropped, the UDI did not find sufficient samples on incorrect asylum grounds – or no samples.

36 cases are currently under investigation, by the UDI and the police.

Participation in Eritrean party

When the UDI considers revoking residence permits, it does so mainly on three grounds: Giving incorrect information in the case, giving incorrect information about identity or violating the terms of the permit.

In the instruction, the Ministry of Justice emphasizes that when refugees participate in events in support of the same authorities that one fears persecution from, it may «indicate that a residence permit and asylum status in Norway should be revoked.

– In none of the cases where we have made a decision on revocation, participation in the event in August 2019 has been used alone. But in some decisions, participation has been considered, says Roca.

Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) has investigated the asylum cases of 150 Eritreans who have fled to Norway, sought protection and been granted residence in the country.

The consequences of the 13 decisions are very different. Even though the UDI has uncovered cheating – incorrect information has been revealed, or important information was withheld – nine will not be deported from Norway, as is usual.

They have received new intermediaries, residence permits.

– Eight of the nine have been protected. In addition, one has been given a stay on the basis of strong human care, says unit leader Roca in the UDI.

She explains the outcome:

– A common assessment in recall cases is that the person should be deported and returned to their home country, and if it were not for the fact that the 13 are from Eritrea, they would in principle have been met with these sanctions.

– In these cases, returning to the home country will mean a great danger of persecution. Therefore, they have received a new, interim residence permit.

Four are leaving Norway

Christine Roca admits that the reaction to the cheating that has been uncovered may be perceived as inferior, but points out that the legislation states that persons should not be returned if they risk inhuman treatment when returning to their home country.

The last four who have received revocation decisions face two different reactions:

– Two are sent to EU countries where they have legal residence. Two will be returned to Eritrea when their age indicates that they will not be called up for community service, Roca said.

Bondevik was paid for praising posts about Kazakhstan

Have complained about the decision

Anyone who receives a decision in the UDI can appeal the decision and in the next round have the appeal assessed by the Immigration Appeals Board (UNE) if the UDI does not review the decision.

Ten out of 13 decisions have been appealed. Three of those who lost their residence permit, but received a new one, have accepted the UDI’s decision.

The consequence of being able to revoke the residence permit, but still get a new one, is the zeroing of lit housing in Norway. Thus, it takes longer before one can apply for a permanent residence permit and, in the next round, citizenship.

AFRICAERITREAETHIOPIAHORN OF AFRICA

David Satterfield

It is far too early to be sure, but there are some signs that diplomacy could be making some progress in ending the Tigray war.

This statement from the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres is worth reading with care.

The United Nations secretary-general said Wednesday he was delighted to hear “there is now a demonstrable effort to make peace” in Ethiopia after more than 14 months of war, but he gave no details.

Antonio Guterres’ statement came after a call with African Union envoy Olusegun Obasanjo following the envoy’s latest visit to Addis Ababa and the capital of Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region.

Guterres said Obasanjo “expressed optimism that there is now a real opportunity for political and diplomatic resolution of the conflict.” His statement did not describe efforts by Ethiopia’s government and the rival Tigray forces.

Obasanjo’s spokesman, the spokeswoman for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Tigray forces spokesman didn’t immediately respond to questions.

A new U.S. envoy for the Horn of Africa, Ambassador David Satterfield, is set to meet with Ethiopian officials on Thursday.

David Satterfield and Assistant Secretary of State Molly Phee are at the end of a trip that took them to Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

Little has been released about their negotiations, but it could be that they have asked the Saudis to use their good offices with Eritrea and Ethiopia to try to end the war in Tigray.

Let us not forget that the Eritrea-Ethiopia peace deal was signed in Saudi Arabia in 2018.

 

At the same time there are indications that point in the opposite direction.

There are reports of yet more drone attacks on the Tigrayan capital, Mekelle and unconfirmed reports of fighting in western Tigray.

Plus belligerent remarks by the Ethiopian military:

“Finishing chapter one literally means there is chapter two. But Mekelle…Tigray is the territory of Ethiopia. No one will stop us; we will enter, we will destroy the enemy. There is nothing controversial about it,” Gen. Abebaw Tadesse, Deputy Army Chief of Staff.

HTTPS://TWITTER.COM/ADDISSTANDARD/STATUS/1484155111492440066?S=20

Will it be more war, or a chance for peace? It’s too early to know, but the waiting may soon be over.

JANUARY 20, 2022  ETHIOPIANEWSTIGRAY

“Eritrea has lost tens of thousands of its citizens in Tigray not to realise a discernible national objective but to avenge some perceived wrong that Isaias suffered at the hands of Tigrayans and validate his delusions of grandeur as a regional heavyweight.”

Source: Africa Report

Ethiopia: To achieve peace, take Eritrea out of the game

By Debretsion Gebremichael

Posted on Thursday, 20 January 2022 14:09

Abiy Ahmed tours Sawa 19 July 2020

Since its independence three decades ago, Eritrea has been involved in international conflicts, ranging from minor border skirmishes with its neighbors, such as Sudan, Djibouti and Yemen, to a full-fledged conventional war with Ethiopia. Its notoriety as a regional troublemaker had resulted in the imposition of crushing sanctions lasting several years.

While the Eritrean dictator, with an assist from Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia, had sought to rehabilitate Eritrea’s image as a rogue state, Eritrea’s direct involvement in the war on Tigray since November 2020 and the massive human rights violations its forces committed and continue to commit have reaffirmed this well-deserved image.

Eritrea has lost tens of thousands of its citizens in Tigray not to realise a discernible national objective but to avenge some perceived wrong that Isaias suffered at the hands of Tigrayans and validate his delusions of grandeur as a regional heavyweight.

As international human rights advocates and various institutions have amply documented, the Eritrean military has committed some of the most horrific violations of the laws of armed conflict, such as the brutalisation of civilians, the deliberate destruction of civilian installations, the plundering of private and public wealth, and the use of sexual violence as a tool of war.Eritrea’s brutal military campaign in Tigray has received the blessing of the Abiy regime and that of the expansionist Amhara elites.

Despite deep, historical animus towards the Amhara, the Eritrean dictator has struck up a tactical alliance with the expansionist Amhara elites, a marriage of convenience facilitated by a convergence of interests. Isaias sees Tigray as standing in the way of his dream to run wild in Ethiopia in particular and the wider region in general; similarly, Amhara expansionist elites see Tigray as impeding the restoration of a bygone era when unitarism reigned supreme.

In Western Tigray, this rogue state’s military muscle underwrites the annexation of a constitutionally established Tigrayan territory. Eritrea also illegally occupies parts of North-Western and Eastern Tigray.

Isaias’s alliance with Abiy and the expansionist Amhara elites has two purposes. First, by lending military support to the anti-Tigray coalition within Ethiopia, Isaias seeks to marginalise and ultimately eliminate TPLF and, by extension, Tigray as a potent force in Ethiopian politics.

Isaias has been harbouring revenge fantasies against Tigray for leading the military campaign that ended his dream of becoming the dominant political and military power on the Horn of Africa and beyond.

Specifically, Isaias had been nursing grudges against Tigrayan military and security elites, which he considers to be responsible for his embarrassing defeat on the battlefield and crushing his dream of becoming a regional kingmaker. Second, he would realise his vision of destroying the multinational federal dispensation that the people of Tigray played a major role in midwifing as well as preserving it over the past 3 decades.

All in all, Isaias saw the formation of an alliance with anti-TPLF forces as critical to removing one major stumbling block to his dream of transforming Eritrea into a regional “powerhouse” and breaking up Ethiopia into a number of mutually antagonistic units.

There is a stark irony in the alliance between the expansionist Amhara elites and the Eritrean dictator. On the one hand, Amhara elites rage against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) for presumably blessing Eritrea’s independence. On the other hand, the same rapacious elites have entered into a Faustian bargain with the Eritrean dictator to eliminate a “problematic” domestic rival.

The expansionist Amhara elites have sought to degrade and ultimately destroy Ethiopia’s multinational federalism, vociferously arguing in favour of, and working towards, a unitary system. By contrast, Tigrayans are adamantly opposed to this unitarist vision. A system designed to govern a diverse polity such as ours is bound to have shortcomings.

Ethiopia’s current federal system is no exception. But discarding a fundamentally sound political framework that, nevertheless, needs some tweaking in favour of a unitary system that disregards Ethiopia’s objective conditions is not a solution conducive to long-term peace and stability. The return of a unitary system, by reversing hard-won autonomy and self-administration and self-determination rights, would intensify centrifugal challenges to the central state, in the process unleashing a paroxysm of violence on every corner of the country.

As for Abiy, his alliance with Eritrea has had less to do with “ending” the Ethio-Eritrea war and ensuring regional stability than eliminating a nettlesome domestic rival. The convergence of Abiy’s interest in maligning, scapegoating and neutralising the TPLF and Isaias’s desire to see the TPLF removed from Ethiopia’s political scene led to a marriage of convenience between the authoritarian duo. This marriage of convenience was consummated in a formal agreement to “end” the border conflict between the two countries

Rather than seeing through this transparent subterfuge, the international community awarded Abiy the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, which he interpreted as legitimising the broad contours of his domestic and foreign policy agenda. Having received the legitimacy of international acclaim for his apparent reform agenda, Abiy Ahmed took a series of actions that ultimately developed into one giant calamity that is the genocidal war on Tigray.

The international community, perpetually in search of the next generation of prophetic leaders in Africa, ignored clear warning signs and conferred an undeserved honour on a man whose armed forces would commit some of the most heinous violations of human rights in Tigray and who invited a foreign adversary to participate in an orgy of violence against Ethiopian citizens.

With battlefield losses piling up, and his regime teetering on the brink of collapse, Abiy Ahmed took a different but tired rhetoric for a test drive. According to this narrative, the war pitted a cabal of “neocolonial” forces against Ethiopians, who had fought against colonial encroachments and won a resounding victory at Adwa.

However, Abiy never invokes Pan-Africanism as a substantive principle that has the potential to enhance solidarity among African nations and revolutionise an indigenous conflict prevention and resolution mechanism but as a buzzword designed to shield himself from critical scrutiny of his horrific record on Tigray. In fact, Abiy conflates being asked not starve and bomb his citizens into submission with assaults on “Pan-Africanism.”

Despite the Abiy regime’s shameless framing of the war in terms of a Western neocolonial project, and presenting itself as valiantly resisting this neocolonial encroachment, the fact is that only the Abiy regime has actively solicited and received the support of non-African countries to wage a genocidal war on his own people. Designed to frame the conflict as the West versus Africa, and, through such framing, enlist the support of African countries, the disingenuous propaganda does not pass muster except with those that have already made significant investments in this genocidal campaign.

In light of Eritrea’s deep involvement in the genocidal war on Tigray and the counterproductive alliance it has formed with the expansionist Amhara elites, any possibility of ending the war through a negotiated settlement goes directly through Asmara. This is so not in the sense of Isaias having a peacemaking bone in its authoritarian constitution, but because he has a tremendous capacity to play the role of a spoiler—an actor that sees peace emerging from negotiations as a threat to its power, interests, and worldview, and uses violence or the threat of it to frustrate attempts to achieve peace.

Abiy enunciates lofty ideals that, if sincerely committed to, could help us end the current conflict through dialogue. But he may find it difficult to wean himself off the fateful alliance with the expansionist Amhara elites and that of the Eritrean dictator. As long as he remains hostage to these forces, he will have little room to manoeuvre and exercise a degree of policy autonomy required to take a bold step towards peace. Accordingly, breaking up this unholy alliance is necessary, if not sufficient, to give peace a chance.

The use or threat of sanctions against Abiy and his regime can still have an impact on bringing him to the negotiating table. But absent robust measures that significantly affect the Eritrean dictator’s cost-benefit calculus, the quest for peace will prove elusive. As an experienced leader of a rogue state, the Eritrean dictator has practically authored a manual for how to navigate a treacherous international diplomatic terrain.

Only sufficiently robust actions that create disincentives for the Isaias regime against continual involvement in the Ethiopian conflict have a reasonable chance of helping bring about a peaceful resolution of the current conflict.

JANUARY 20, 2022  ETHIOPIANEWSTIGRAY

The Globe and Mail has obtained eyewitness accounts of massacres by Somali troops embedded with Eritrean forces in Tigray in the early months of the war. The new evidence raises disturbing questions about a covert military alliance between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia that has inflicted death and destruction on the rebellious Tigray region in northern Ethiopia.

Gebretsadik, a 52-year-old farmer from the village of Zebangedena in northwestern Tigray, said the dusty roads of his village were strewn with the bodies of decapitated clergymen in December, 2020, a few weeks after the beginning of the war.
Some of the priests and monks were people he recognized. Somali soldiers, working alongside Eritrean forces who had captured the village, had targeted churches and killed the clergymen, he said.
“They slaughtered them like chickens,” he told The Globe.

Source: Globe and Mail

LUCY KASSA
SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL
Villagers return from a market to Yechila town in south central Tigray walking past scores of burned vehicles, in Tigray, Ethiopia, July 10, 2021.GIULIA PARAVICINI/REUTERS
New revelations about atrocities by Somali soldiers in Ethiopia’s Tigray war are casting a spotlight on an emerging military alliance that has reshaped the Horn of Africa, weakening Western influence in a strategically important region.
The Globe and Mail has obtained eyewitness accounts of massacres by Somali troops embedded with Eritrean forces in Tigray in the early months of the war. The new evidence raises disturbing questions about a covert military alliance between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia that has inflicted death and destruction on the rebellious Tigray region in northern Ethiopia.
Officially, the three governments have denied any alliance, and Somalia has denied that its troops were deployed in Tigray. But The Globe’s investigation has provided, for the first time, extensive details of civilian killings committed by Somali soldiers allied with Eritrean forces in the region.
Gebretsadik, a 52-year-old farmer from the village of Zebangedena in northwestern Tigray, said the dusty roads of his village were strewn with the bodies of decapitated clergymen in December, 2020, a few weeks after the beginning of the war.
Some of the priests and monks were people he recognized. Somali soldiers, working alongside Eritrean forces who had captured the village, had targeted churches and killed the clergymen, he said.
“They slaughtered them like chickens,” he told The Globe.
The Somali and Eritrean troops stayed in the village until late February, according to Gebretsadik, who often fled to the bushes and mountains around the village to escape attacks during that time.
The Globe talked to dozens of survivors who had witnessed atrocities in six Tigrayan villages where Somali troops had been stationed between early December, 2020 and late February, 2021. The Globe is not publishing their full names or their current locations because their lives could be in danger.
The survivors said the Somali troops were wearing Eritrean military uniforms, but they were clearly identifiable as Somali because of their language and their physical appearance. Unlike the Eritreans, they could not speak any Tigrinya, the language spoken in Tigray and much of Eritrea. The witnesses said they also heard the Eritrean troops referring to them as Somalis.
Last year, United Nations and U.S. officials said they had received information that Somali troops were present in Tigray, but few details were known. Somali parents held several protests in Mogadishu and other places in Somalia last year, complaining that their sons had been ordered to fight in Tigray after being originally sent to Eritrea for military training. Hundreds of Somali soldiers were reportedly killed in the fighting.
Up to 10,000 Somali troops were deployed in Tigray, according to current and former Ethiopian officials who spoke to The Globe. The Globe is not identifying the individuals because they face the threat of reprisals for their comments.
Until now, few details were known about the activities of the Somalis in Tigray. But the survivors told The Globe that the Somali troops had massacred hundreds of civilians in villages controlled by the Eritrean military, often beheading them. No Ethiopian troops were present in the villages, they said.
“They showed no mercy,” said Berket, a 32-year-old farmer in the Tigrayan village of Mai Harmaz. “The Eritreans interrogate you before they kill you. But the Somali troops were full of contempt for that.”
One of his neighbours, a 76-year-old priest, was among those killed by the Somali troops, he said.
Kibrom, a 37-year-old man who fled the village of Hamlo in January, said the beheadings by Somali troops became an “everyday reality” in his village.
“The churches were inhabited by the troops,” he said. “They burned the holy books and sacred objects. Churches became the most unsafe places. Villagers stopped going to churches because the Somali troops would kill anyone they found in churches.”
According to former Ethiopian officials, most of the Somali troops crossed the border from Eritrea into western Tigray in the early weeks of the war. They said the Somali troops, under the command of the Eritrean army, had already been stationed in trenches near the border before the war began.
“They undoubtedly have participated in the war,” said Gebremeskel Kassa, who was chief of staff in the interim administration in Tigray that the Ethiopian government appointed after seizing control of the region in the early months of the war. He later fled abroad, fearing for his safety when Ethiopian officials criticized him for Tigrayan military gains in the region.
Mr. Gebremeskel said he knew about the Somali deployment from his travels in Tigray and his private meetings with top Ethiopian officials and military generals.
“All of us who were top officials had knowledge of that,” he told The Globe. “The Somali troops took training in the Eritrean camp of Sawa as a result of a military deal between the three governments before the war started.”
When the deployment became politically controversial in Somalia, especially after the protests by the parents and questions by parliamentarians, the Somali soldiers were sent back to Eritrea, he said. They completed their withdrawal by March, the officials said.
The unofficial military alliance among Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia, which is believed to date back to secret agreements after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in Ethiopia in 2018, is a further blow to the declining influence of Western governments in the Horn of Africa.
Eritrea had already been long isolated on the international stage, but Ethiopia and Somalia had close relations with the United States and other Western governments in the past. Ethiopia’s relations with the West have deteriorated since the Tigray war began, largely as a result of Western pressure to halt the war.
Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, the authoritarian ruler of his country for nearly three decades, is a key player in the three-country alliance. “He sees this as an opportunity to reshape the whole of the Horn of Africa in his direction,” said Martin Plaut, a British-based Eritrea expert and commentator.
“Getting these Somali troops involved was just the first instalment of this much longer, much more important relationship that he was trying to build in which he would be the king, with allies both in Somalia and Ethiopia,” Mr. Plaut told The Globe.
“He has pursued his ambition of destroying the Tigrayans since the 1970s. To achieve his ends, he would like to establish a transnational relationship in the Horn that allows the individual states to exist, but to support each other, while crushing local movements.”
With a report by Geoffrey York in Johannesburg

JANUARY 21, 2022  ETHIOPIANEWSTIGRAY

After three weeks with no access due to the security situation, UNHCR staff managed to reach Mai Aini and Adi Harush refugee camps in the Tigray region of Ethiopia earlier this week for the first time since the recent air strikes in and near the camps. Our team found refugees scared and struggling to get enough to eat, lacking medicine and with little or no access to clean water.

Refugees told UNHCR of increasing preventable deaths – more than 20 over the last six weeks – linked to the overall decline in conditions, and in particular the lack of medicine and health services. The clinics in the camps have been essentially closed since early January when they finally completely ran out of medicine.

Source: UNHCR

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Boris Cheshirkov  to whom quoted text may be attributed  at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Ethiopia. Eritrean refugees trapped by the Tigray conflict

Eritrean refugees at two camps in Mai Aini and Adi Harush face life-threatening shortages of food, clean water, and medicine.   © UNHCR/Olga Sarrado Mur

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is deeply alarmed at the deteriorating conditions faced by Eritrean refugees in the camps in Tigray.

After three weeks with no access due to the security situation, UNHCR staff managed to reach Mai Aini and Adi Harush refugee camps in the Tigray region of Ethiopia earlier this week for the first time since the recent air strikes in and near the camps. Our team found refugees scared and struggling to get enough to eat, lacking medicine and with little or no access to clean water.

Refugees told UNHCR of increasing preventable deaths – more than 20 over the last six weeks – linked to the overall decline in conditions, and in particular the lack of medicine and health services. The clinics in the camps have been essentially closed since early January when they finally completely ran out of medicine.

The lack of fuel means that clean water can neither be pumped nor trucked to the camps, with refugees resorting to collecting water from streams that are rapidly drying up, leading to a severe risk of water-borne diseases.

Despite concerted efforts, the complete inability to move supplies into the region means that extreme hunger is an increasing concern. With food running out in the camp and no additional stocks available for distribution, refugees told us they had resorted to selling their clothes and few belongings to try to get food.

Basic services for Eritrean refugees in the two camps have been severely compromised for many months due to the security situation. The desperate situation in these camps is a stark example of the impact of the lack of access and supplies affecting millions of displaced persons and other civilians throughout the region.

UNHCR has been calling on all parties for a ceasefire and guarantee of safe passage that would allow us to voluntarily relocate the more than 25,000 refugees remaining in the camps to a new site provided by the government of Ethiopia in Dabat in the neighbouring Amhara region, without much progress. If food, medicine, fuel and other supplies cannot be immediately brought in, and if we continue to be unable to relocate refugees out of harm’s way to where we can provide them with life-saving assistance, more refugees will die.

We echo the UN-wide call for all parties in Ethiopia to protect civilians and to respect and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all persons, including refugees.

Refugees must not be held hostage to this conflict.

Would Facebook make this public if they had not decided to proceed with a human rights review? Unlikely

Source: Reuters

Facebook owner to 'assess feasibility' of human rights review on Ethiopia practices

By Elizabeth Culliford

(Reuters) - Facebook owner Meta Platforms said on Thursday it would “assess the feasibility” of commissioning an independent human rights assessment into its work in Ethiopia, after its oversight board recommended a review of how Facebook and Instagram have been used to spread content that heightens the risk of violence there.

The board, set up by the company to address criticism over its handling of problematic material, makes binding decisions on a small number of challenging content moderation cases and provides non-binding policy recommendations.

Meta has been under scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators over user safety and its handling of abuses on its platforms across the world, particularly after whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked internal documents that showed the company’s struggles in policing content in countries where such speech was most likely to cause harm, including Ethiopia.

Thousands have died and millions have been displaced during a year-long conflict between the Ethiopian government and rebellious forces from the northern Tigray region.

The social media giant said it has “invested significant resources in Ethiopia to identify and remove potentially harmful content,” as part of its response to the board’s December recommendations on a case involving content posted in the country.

The oversight board last month upheld Meta’s original decision to remove a post alleging the involvement of ethnic Tigrayan civilians in atrocities in Ethiopia’s Amhara region. As Meta had restored the post after the user’s appeal to the board, the company had to again remove the content.

On Thursday, Meta said while it had taken the post down, it disagreed with the board’s reasoning that it should have been removed because it was an “unverified rumor” that significantly increased the risk of imminent violence. It said this would impose “a journalistic publishing standard on people.”

An oversight board spokesman said in a statement: “Meta’s existing policies prohibit rumors that contribute to imminent violence that cannot be debunked in a meaningful timeframe, and the Board made recommendations to ensure these policies are effectively applied in conflict situations.”

“Rumors alleging an ethnic group is complicit in atrocities, as found in this case, have the potential to lead to grave harm to people,” they said.

The board had recommended that Meta commission a human rights due diligence assessment, to be completed in six months, which should include a review of Meta’s language capabilities in Ethiopia and a review of measures taken prevent the misuse of its services in the country.

However, the company said not all elements of this recommendation “may be feasible in terms of timing, data science or approach.” It said it would continue its existing human rights due diligence and should have an update on whether it could act on the board’s recommendation within the next few months.

Reuters’ previous reporting on Myanmar and other countries has investigated how Facebook struggled to monitor content across the world in different languages. In 2018, U.N. human rights investigators said the use of Facebook had played a key role in spreading hate speech that fueled violence in Myanmar.

Meta, which has said that it was too slow to prevent misinformation and hate in Myanmar, has said that the company now has native speakers worldwide reviewing content in more than 70 languages which work to stop abuse on its platforms in places where there is a heightened risk of conflict and violence.

The board also recommended that Meta rewrite its value statement on safety to reflect that online speech can pose a risk to the physical security of persons and their right to life. The company said it would make changes to this value, in a partial implementation of the recommendation.

h

“Diplomats with knowledge of Abiy’s campaign and dispatches from aid agencies attribute much of the successes to its aerial assaults, utilizing drones and other equipment that they said had been bought from the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.”

Source: Bloomberg

By Simon Marks +FollowJanuary 4, 2022, 8:48 AM UTC

  •  Aerial assault death toll was compiled by aid agencies
  •  Thousands of people have died in 14 months of civil war
People injured in an airstrike in Togoga receive medical treatment at a hospital in Mekele, Ethiopia, on June 24, 2021.  People injured in an airstrike in Togoga receive medical treatment at a hospital in Mekele, Ethiopia, on June 24, 2021.   Photographer: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

At least 143 people have been killed and 213 wounded in air strikes in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region since October last year, according to aid agencies.

Civil war has been raging in Ethiopia for the past 14 months, pitting Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s federal forces against dissident troops loyal to the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front. The conflict has swung in Abiy’s favor over recent weeks, with the Tigrayans retreating to within their home province from the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions. 

The government has attributed its advances to a land-based offensive, which saw Abiy join the Ethiopian National Defence Forces on the front lines. But diplomats with knowledge of Abiy’s campaign and dispatches from aid agencies attribute much of the successes to its aerial assaults, utilizing drones and other equipment that they said had been bought from the United Arab Emirates and Turkey. They asked not to be identified because they feared government retribution or being expelled from Ethiopia.

Abiy visited Turkey in August last year, where he met President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and signed off on a military and financial cooperation accord, the Ethiopian government announced at the time. The UAE and Turkish embassies in Ethiopia didn’t respond to emails sent on Monday seeking comment.

The humanitarian aid agencies have recorded 40 aerial strikes since Oct. 18 last year. One barrage carried out on the northern town of Alamata of Dec. 16 claimed 38 lives, while 86 people sustained injuries, the dispatches show. Another on an area east of Mekelle, the Tigrayan regional capital, on Dec. 20 caused 24 fatalities, while eight people were hurt, they said. Bloomberg was unable to independently verify the information or ascertain how many of those who died were civilians.

Jeffrey Feltman, the U.S. special envoy to the Horn of Africa, referenced reports about the use of armed drone use in Ethiopia and the attendant risk that civilians could be harmed during recent visits to the UAE and Turkey. The U.S. had made it clear to all external parties engaged in the conflict that they needed to press for negotiations and end the war, he said. 

Billene Seyoum, Abiy’s spokesperson for Abiy, and Selamawit Kassa, state minister of communications in Ethiopia, didn’t respond to questions about the use of drones in Tigray. Billene told reporters last month that territorial gains by Ethiopian forces were made “in very heavy battles” that cleared the TPLF from several towns. 

Last month, Tigrayan leader Debretsion Gebremichael ordered a strategic retreat by his troops and urged the United Nations Security Council to oversee an end to the civil war, which has claimed thousands of lives and left millions in need of aid. He also urged the United Nations to implement a no-fly zone for hostile aircraft over Tigray as well as an arms embargo on Ethiopia and its ally Eritrea.

AFRICAETHIOPIAHORN OF AFRICA

ht

“This spectrum of drone capability is like an air force on the cheap for the Ethiopian government forces. They acquired these drones, initially from Iran, then the Chinese ones from the Emiratis and finally the TB2 from Turkey, which allowed them to spot rebel ground troops and carry out precision strikes.“

Source: The Times

Rebels in Tigray say the use of drones against convoys has made progress impossibleRebels in Tigray say the use of drones against convoys has made progress impossibleREUTERS

Ethiopia’s civil war has become a testing ground for military drones that has made its people “guinea pigs”, rebel leaders have claimed.Multiple purchases of armed surveillance drones at a fraction of the cost of fighter jets and bombers have provided Ethiopia’s leader, Abiy Ahmed, with a war-winning weapon that has forced the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) into retreat.

The rebels in the northern Tigray region of Ethiopia have been fighting government forces since Abiy launched a military campaign in Tigray in November 2020.The conflict has been marked by reports of atrocities, including civilian massacres and mass rapes, by both sides. The United Nations has expressed concern over reports of large-scale displacement from western Tigray. Just 12 per cent of the food and other aid needed in the region has been delivered because of violence and blocked routes, the United Nations reported this week, with women, children and elderly most in need.

Abiy was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2019 but his tendency to use words such as “cancer”, “disease” and “weeds” to describe the once-dominant TPLF has cast doubt on his appetite to use the rebels’ withdrawal as an opportunity to strike a peace deal.Initially the rebels made such progress that they were within striking distance of Debra Birhan, 75 miles from the capital Addis Ababa. The government was facing a violent overthrow.

The TPLF claimed it “never had ambitions to regime-change or take over Addis”. The drone strikes on its convoys and supply lines made further progress impossible.

Getachew Reda, TPLF spokesman, denounced the countries selling their “deadly toys being operated from elsewhere in the world”.“

Our land has become a testing ground for different weapons technologies and our people are the guinea pigs,” he said.“

We have no idea what is being used against us, there are reports of different kinds of injuries and the eyes of the world are not on what is being done and what experiments are being carried out.”

The dramatic change in fortune for the TPLF and the role that armed drones have played highlights how the concept of warfare has been transformed in recent years. With drones and foreign expertise to operate them, the Ethiopian government has been able to gain aerial superiority over rebel forces that have neither the weapons to fight back nor any form of air defence to protect themselves.

Success for the government in Addis Ababa will be studied closely by other small nations needing to arm against internal or external adversaries. It will also boost the export of armed drones by countries that have developed their own technology such as Turkey, Iran and the United Arab Emirates.“

It’s no longer just the big powers such as the US, China, Russia, UK and France producing armed drones,” said Paul Scharre, a former senior Pentagon official who helped develop US policy on drones and is author of the award-winning Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War.“

Turkey and Iran are selling significant numbers abroad and for countries that can’t afford fighter aircraft — this is a game-changer. It means these countries can have air power at a much lower cost. The drones also perform surveillance missions, thus changing the whole tactical landscape.

Abiy Ahmed’s inflammatory language about the rebels has cast doubt on whether he wants a peace deal

Abiy Ahmed’s inflammatory language about the rebels has cast doubt on whether he wants a peace dealGETTY IMAGES“

Clearly they are not as advanced as F-35 stealth fighters but these countries [such as Ethiopia] don’t need F-35s or F-16s because armed drones provide them with the level of air power that suits their requirements.“

Drones also provide other advantages over the traditional fighter aircraft. They have longer endurance and can provide vital surveillance of the battlefield, allowing for precision strikes.”

Drones had a significant impact on changing the battle landscape in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020 when Azerbaijan, supported by Turkish-supplied drones, won a 44-day war against Armenia for control of the disputed enclave. Turkish drone airpower also saved Tripoli in the war in Libya between the government of national accord (GNA) and the forces of retired Major-General Khalifa Haftar.

In Ethiopia, the Addis Ababa government began purchasing armed drones about a year ago. Turkey, with its Bayrakter TB2, and Iran, selling its Mohajer-6, were willing suppliers. The United Arab Emirates provided China’s Wing Loong-2 drone.

Each Bayrakter drone costs around $5 million and can carry four small laser-guided missiles. The Chinese drone is about $2 million and is armed with eight weapons, while the Mohajer-6, at an estimated $2 million, is fitted with two missiles.

By comparison, each US Reaper drone costs about $32 million, F-35s are $78 million each and the older variant of the F-16 is about $30 million.

Ninety per cent of armed drone transfers come from China. But with the US reluctant to sell its Reaper and other drones abroad, even to allies, countries such as Turkey and Iran have moved in to snatch some of the export potential from the Chinese.

Stacie Pettyjohn, director of the defence programme at the Washington-based Centre for a New American Security, said: “This spectrum of drone capability is like an air force on the cheap for the Ethiopian government forces. They acquired these drones, initially from Iran, then the Chinese ones from the Emiratis and finally the TB2 from Turkey, which allowed them to spot rebel ground troops and carry out precision strikes.“

The TB2 can stick around for about 24 hours, so they could find rebel forces who had no way of defending themselves.”The Tigrayans, she added, were trying to acquire an effective counter to the drones. “But air defence systems are more sophisticated and expensive.”

Meanwhile, the Abiy government is seeking to pass a supplementary budget of $2.5 billion to help rebuild areas destroyed in the civil war. It is unclear whether any of it will be used to buy more drones.The use of armed drones is no longer a choice solely for nation states. Modified commercial drones fitted with makeshift explosive devices in the hands of terrorists and jihadist insurgents is already a reality (Michael Evans writes).

Four years ago Isis revealed in a propaganda video that it had developed its own bomb-carrying quadcopter drones. The off-the-shelf drones not only proved effective weapon systems in Iraq and elsewhere but also demonstrated the heightened publicity value of such attacks from the air.Drone strikes create a greater sense of vulnerability than even a fighter bomber flying overhead and generate more media attention.

The innovative methods used by Isis will have encouraged other non-state actors engaged in conflicts around the world to devise their own drones.

However, more alarming is the possibility that terrorist organisations might be able to get their hands on bigger and better drones now that the export market has expanded so rapidly.China has shown no hesitation in offering its drones to overseas customers. Its CH-4 drone which looks like the US Reaper although is not as technologically advanced, has been sold to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

More than 100 countries now have armed or surveillance drones. The potential for such systems to end up in the wrong hands must be high

Harnnet Media - ሓርነት ሚድያ

EPDP Magazines