April 1, 2020 Ethiopia, News

Source: SIPRI

By Jason Mosley

Note: this is a short extract from his much longer analysis: Ethiopia’s Transition: Implications for the Horn of Africa and Red Sea Region

Eritrean–Ethiopian rapprochement

By far the most significant shift in regional relations under Abiy has been the rapprochement with Eritrea.

Abiy’s inaugural speech in April 2018 signalled his intention to repair relations with Eritrea, although these were received with some scepticism, given similar sentiments were expressed by Hailemariam when he took office as premier in 2012, with little effect.

However, the shift within the EPRDF to marginalize the TPLF, combined with Abiy’s tendency to govern from the prime minister’s office, meant that he was in a position to make some significant departures from previous policy.

Indeed, his rapprochement with the administration in Eritrea was also a signal to the TPLF and the senior figures in the security sector (historically aligned with the TPLF, if formally apolitical) that their concerns were being sidelined. This put political pressure on the TPLF, whose Tigray region borders Eritrea, that dovetailed with the Abiy administration’s prosecutions of leaders (often associated with the TPLF) of state-owned or party-affiliated enterprises.

The Saudis and the Emiratis were both keen to support the rapprochement process. Relations between Eritrea and both countries have deepened somewhat since 2015. Eritrea made Assab port available to the Emirati military for operations related to the war in Yemen. Eritrea has also participated in the establishment of a new regional body—the Council of Arab and African Coastal States of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden (or Red Sea Council, see below)—launched by the Saudi Government, adapting a platform that Egypt had been advocating for some time.

The Saudis and the Emiratis have also been keen to improve relations with Ethiopia, and Abiy’s rise gave them an opportunity to engage. While Eritrea and Ethiopia’s initiative to repair relations was overwhelmingly driven by domestic political considerations, the support of Saudi Arabia and the UAE provided a useful additional benefit to both governments. For Ethiopia, the embrace of Saudi Arabia and the UAE produced some quick financial support to (temporarily) alleviate foreign exchange pressure amid economic disruption and tepid export performance.

For Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s embrace (as well as Ethiopia’s new stance) provided an avenue to the elimination in 2018 of the UN Security Council’s sanctions regime, first initiated in 2009.

However, after an initial flurry of goodwill meetings—including awards ceremonies for both leaders in Saudi Arabia and the UAE and the reopening of border crossings for the first time since 1998—by early 2019 momentum had begun to drain out of the process.

By April 2019 all the border crossings had been closed on the Eritrean side. The Ethiopian Airlines flights between Addis Ababa and Asmara that were quickly restored after the initial agreement still connect the two countries; however, questions have been raised about the viability of these flights and the prospect of reducing their frequency has been floated.

President Isaias did not attend a ceremony to mark the inauguration of Ethiopia’s Unity Park in October 2019 (which included heads of state from all other IGAD members), and Eritrea has not resumed its participation in IGAD, despite Ethiopia finally relinquishing the rotating chair to Sudan in November 2019.

In some sense the loss of momentum was inevitable: neither the initial Asmara declaration in June 2018 nor the subsequent Jeddah declaration signed by Abiy and Isaias in September provided clarity on the path forward, beyond agreement by the two countries to cooperate. Many economic factors have still not been worked out since before the war, not least a new bilateral trade framework after the introduction of the Eritrean currency in 1997.

An initial wave of trade and movement of people from in 2018 allowed for some pent-up economic pressures to be eased in Eritrea. However, this was not sustainable for the Eritrean Government, whose tight control over the formal economy was challenged by the influx of goods from Ethiopia. Indications are that Eritrea has shut the crossings while a trade arrangement is being negotiated.

This would be consistent with Eritrea’s history since independence. The limited access order of Eritrea’s political economy has been a stumbling block for external engagement, undercutting the assumption (by donors or other bilateral actors, including from the Gulf) that the government is seeking significant inflows of aid or other payments.

For example, while Somalia and Sudan have received aid for their cooperation with the Saudi–Emirati alliance, Eritrea does not appear to have done so, and even takes payment for the use of Assab port in kind rather than in rents. Moving beyond this order will be a difficult transition for the current government, which does not appear ready to liberalize or exit power. As such, progress towards full normalization of relations with Ethiopia will be slow.

March 31, 2020 Ethiopia, News

“Many Ethiopian think that Egypt, using the U.S. and the World Bank, wanted to impose unjust colonial treaties on Ethiopia.”

Source: Ethiopia Insight

March 30, 2020

The Blue Nile hydropower dam has been constructed in accordance with international legal principles and Ethiopia has the right to make it operational.

In an apparent fit of pique at Ethiopia’s refusal to sign on to its terms, on 28 February the U.S. Treasury Department warned Ethiopia not to start filling and testing the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam without an agreement with Sudan and Egypt

In addition to expressing concerns about dam safety, it said:  “Consistent with the principles set out in the DOP, and in particular the principles of not causing significant harm to downstream countries, final testing and filling should not take place without an agreement.”

But does international law, including the 2015 Declaration of Principles (DoP), require an agreement for filling dams like the GERD? It does not seem so.


Considering the first filling and testing of the GERD as parts of the construction, Ethiopia has said that it will start filling the dam with or without an agreement. Egypt rejects this, stating that “Ethiopia violates the article No. 5 of …[DoP], which stipulates that all three countries shall reach an agreement on the rules of filling and operating the dam before starting the process of filling the reservoir with water.”

This is a stretch and contravenes the DoP, which does not say that the parties “shall reach on an agreement before” Ethiopia starts filling the dam. Instead, it states that “The three countries, in the spirit of cooperation, will utilize the final outcomes of the joint studies…to agree on guidelines and rules on the first filling of GERD which shall cover all different scenarios, in parallel with the construction of GERD.”

One may dispute Ethiopia’s position and argue that first filling and testing is not part of the construction as striking a deal on the first filling is impossible after filling has begun. But, even assuming for the sake of argument that is valid, Ethiopia can still legally fill the dam without an agreement.

The DoP states only that the three countries will use studies to agree on the first filling and annual operation of the dam. That is why they have been negotiating since 2015. But what if they fail to agree on the studies?  The DoP is silent and did not address this scenario. In other words, nothing in the DoP prohibits Ethiopia from filling and testing the GERD, even if the DoP commitment was to agree on “first filling.”

After the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ) landmark decision on the lotus case in 1927, it has been a longstanding principle of international law that “that which is not prohibited is allowed.”

Indeed, as advocated by proponents of natural law theory, this presumption is reputable if a given action or inaction, regardless of its source (state consent or other norms), is prohibited by international law. As demonstrated below, there is no international law prohibiting Ethiopia from filling the GERD without an agreement.


True, under international law, states are required to take all appropriate measures to prevent and mitigate significant transboundary harm to other states. But the nature of the obligation is due diligence which requires states to take only reasonable actions. Due diligence means there is an obligation of conduct, rather than an obligation to take action that guarantees non-harm will result, for instance, by signing a preliminary agreement. This is shown by legal precedents.

In the Lake Lanoux arbitration case between France and Spain, in ruling against Spain’s claim that “the exclusion of the French project required the preliminary agreement of the two Governments and that in the absence of such agreement [France] could not have freedom of action to undertake the works,” the tribunal concluded: “The rule that states may use the hydraulic power of international waterways only if a preliminary agreement between states concerned has been concluded cannot be established as a customary rule or, still less, as a general principle of law.”

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) also confirmed the tribunal’s decision in its 2010 judgment in the Pulp Mills Case between Uruguay and Argentina. In deciding whether Uruguay was entitled to proceed with the construction and commencement of the manufacturing operations on the River Uruguay after having failed to reach an agreement with Argentina, “the court concluded that there was nothing that prevents Uruguay from doing so.” The court explained that there was nothing that alters the rights and obligations of Uruguay, including the right to implement the project as its sole responsibility, since the period for negotiation has expired.

In both cases, the justification behind ruling against the need for preliminary agreement is that a ruling otherwise would hinder the state’s “right to act alone as a consequence of unconditional and discretionary opposition of another state. This is to admit a right of consent or a veto right, which at the discretion of state paralyzes another state’s exercise of territorial competence.”

Therefore, under international law, including the DoP, an agreement is not a precondition and Ethiopia can start filling and testing the GERD as planned without a deal.


But unilateralism does not mean acting irresponsible, let alone illegally. Since the beginning of the GERD project in 2010, Ethiopia has taken various measures to prevent significant harm to the downstream countries, thus meeting its international obligations and showing concern for its neighbors.

Ethiopia conducted transboundary impact studies; initiated a tripartite committee consisting of experts from the three countries, and established an International Panel of Experts (IPoE) comprising ten members, six from the three countries (two from each) and four international experts. Ethiopia also submitted all 153 design and study documents of the GERD to the IPoE.

In June 2013, after a rigorous review of the documents and several site visits, the IPoE release its final report. The report, reaffirming the benefits of the GERD to the three countries, confirmed and “appreciated” that the design and construction process of the dam is in line with “a number of international standards, Codes and Guidelines…” The IPoE also recommended the three countries conduct two studies: one on hydrological modeling and the other on the impact of GERD on Sudan and Egypt.

While international law allows Ethiopia to conduct transboundary impact studies by itself and report the finding to Sudan and Egypt, Ethiopia agreed to joint studies and established a Tripartite National Committee (TNC) as a mechanism to conduct the two studies.

Later, the TNC decided international consultants would carry out the studies, and hired two French firms, BRLi Group and Artelia to carry out the studies. However, when the studies started, Egypt apparently insisted that the baseline data to determine the impact should be its current uses of the Nile waters and even reportedly suggested the exclusion of Sudan from the GERD negotiations.


After the TNC process ran aground, Ethiopia agreed to establish a new National Independent Scientific Research Group (NISRG) to develop scenarios on the filling and annual operation of GERD. However, instead of refining and agreeing on the work of NISRG, Egypt submitted unacceptable proposals in August 2019 and later internationalized the GERD issue, with the U.S. and World Bank involved in the negotiation as observers.

Many Ethiopian think that Egypt, using the U.S. and the World Bank, wanted to impose unjust colonial treaties on Ethiopia. No doubt that coming to the U.S. was historic wrong on Ethiopia’s part, but the fact that it agreed to the process shows the extent to which Addis Ababa is going to perform its due diligence obligation of preventing significant harm on Egypt and Sudan.

Although a way forward is absent thus far because of Egypt’s insistence to maintain its claimed “historical rights”, Ethiopia is likely to continue to undertake all necessary measures in good faith to prevent significant harm on Egypt and Sudan.

The concern about dam safety can also be addressed under the due diligence obligation detailed above. As noted, under international law, Ethiopia is required to undertake a transboundary impact study and notify the outcome to Sudan and Egypt. But Ethiopia went beyond this and established the IPoE, NTC, and NISRG. The three countries have already recognized and appreciated these measures in the DoP. Since ensuring dam safety is a continuous process, Ethiopia should in good faith continue to take all related measures throughout the lifespan of the GERD.

ኣባላት ሰልፊ ዲሞክራሲ ህዝቢ ኤርትራ ጨንፈር ደቡብ ንኡስ ዞባ ጀርመን ኣብ ዞባ ኤውሮጳ ብ27 ሚያዝያ 2020  ብመራኸቢ ብዙሃን ስሩዕ ኣኼበኦም ኣካይዶም። ኣባላት ጨንፈር ብቕዳምነት ብዛዕባቲ  ኣብ ዓለምና ብሐፈሽኡ፡ ኣጋጢሙ ዘሎ ብኮሮና ዝፍለጥ ሓደገኛ ተላጋቢ ሕማም ብፍላይ ድማ፡ ኣብ ሃገርና  ኤርትራ ነቲ ኩሉ ሸነኻዊ ኩነታት ህዝብና ድሕሪ ምምዛን፡ እቲ ዘይ ሓላፍነታዊ ኣታሓሕዛ ናይቲ ስርዓት ተሓዊስዎ ክሳብ ክንደይ ሓደገኛ ከምዝኾነ ንምምዛኑ ዘጸግም ከምዘይኮነ ርእዩ።  ምእንቲ ዚ ነቲ ኣብ ቤተክርስትያናትን መሳጊድን ጾሎት ክገብር ዝእከብ ህዝቢ ጥንቃቐ ክገብር ምዝኽኻርን ምምዓድን ኣገዳሲ እኳ እንተኾነ፡ ንህዝብና ካብ ማንም ግዜ ንላዕሊብዛዕባ እቶም ብዘይ ፍርዲ ኣብ ዝተፈላለየ ቤት ማእሰርቲ ዝሳቕዩ ዝለዉን፣ ብስም ሃገራዊ ኣግልግሎት ኣብ ሳዋ ተጨሪሖም ዘለዉ መንእሰያትን ክሓተሎምን ጸቕጢ ክገብርን ዝግበኦ  ከምዝኮነ ነተሓሳስብን  ነዘኻክርን።

ቀጺሉ ኣባላት ኣብ ርክቦም፣ ኩነታት ጨንፈሮም ኣብምግምጋም ፖለቲካዊ ይኹን ቁጠባዊ ኣብርክተኦም ኣብ ሰልፊ ብኣውንታ ድሕሪ ምምዛን፡ ኣብቲ ኣንጻር ኢሳያስን ዲክታቶራዊ ስርዓቱን ብሰፊሑ ዝካየድ ዘሎ ቃልሲ ንዲሞክራስያዊ ለውጢ እውን፣ ንነዊሕ ዓመታት ምምካቶም ጥራሕ ዘይኮነ ኣብዚ እዋንዚ ሱታፌ ሰፊሕ ሓፋሽ ህዝብና ይብርኽ ምህላዉ ይርእዩ ብምህላዎም ሓበን ከምዝስምዖም ገሊጾም።

ስዒቡ፡ ነቲ ኣብ ጀርመን ይኹን ኣብ ካልእ ሃገራት ዝካየድ ዘሎ ናይ ተቓወምቲ ወድባትን ሰልፍታትን  ዘተታት’ውን እንተኾነ  ኣባላት ጨንፈር ብተገዳስነት ተመልኪተሞ። ብፍላይ ድማ ነቲ ኣብ ጀርመን ብኩሎም ኣባላት ተቓወምቲ ውድባትን ሰልፍታትን ዝተኻየደ ሰሚናር ወርሒ ለካቲት 22. 2020 ብኣካል ስለ ዝተሳተፍዎ፡ ንዝነበረ ጽቡቕ ድሌት ናይ ተጋባእቲ ብደስታ ድሕሪ ምግምጋም ብኡ ኣቢልና ድማ ነታ ኣብዚ ንምብጻሕ ከይተሓለለት ኣብ ስራሕ  ተጽሚዳ ዝጽንሐት ገና ውን ኣብ ስራሕ ዘላ ሽማግለ ድሕሪ ምሙጋስኖም፡ እቲ ርኽክባት ንኽቕጽልን ጻዕርታታ ክተሐይልን በዚ ኣራጣሚ ለበዋ ዝየቕርቡ። ከምኡ መራሒቲ ኩለን ተቓውምቲ ውድባትን ሰልፍታትን ነቲ ጀሚረሞ ዘለዉ ዘተታት ሓላፍነቶም ኣበሪኾም ንድሕነት ህዝቦምን ሃገሮምን ሓላፍነቶም ክዋጽኡ ነዛኻኽር ክብሉ ኣኼባ ደምዲሞም።

ንቅዋማዊ ምሕደራን ዲሞክራስን ምዕባለን ንቃለስ!

Dutch dump flowers as demand falls because of Coronavirus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Africans pay the price

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

On Tuesday Business Insider carried this report.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 29, 2020 Ethiopia, News

Source: Financial Times

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Eritrea Hub

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

(London 29-03-2020)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 28, 2020 Ethiopia, News

Screenshot 2020-03-04 at 18.04.38 

By Habte Hagos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


28 March 2020

Habte Hagos, Chair, Eritrea Focus

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