By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK, April 16 (Reuters) - Eritrea told the United Nations Security Council on Friday that it has agreed to start withdrawing its troops from Ethiopia's Tigray region, acknowledging publicly for the first time the country's involvement in the conflict.

The admission in a letter to the 15-member council - and posted online by Eritrea's Ministry of Information - comes a day after U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock said the world body had not seen any proof that Eritrean soldiers have withdrawn.

"As the looming grave threat has been largely thwarted, Eritrea and Ethiopia have agreed - at the highest levels - to embark on the withdrawal of Eritrean forces and the simultaneous redeployment of Ethiopian contingents along the international boundary," Eritrea's U.N. Ambassador Sophia Tesfamariam wrote.

Eritrean forces have been helping Ethiopian federal government troops fight Tigray's former ruling party in a conflict that began in November. However, until now Eritrea has repeatedly denied its forces are in the mountainous region.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed last month acknowledged the Eritrean presence and the United Nations and the United States have demanded that Eritrean troops withdraw from Tigray.

"Neither the U.N. nor any of the humanitarian agencies we work with have seen proof of Eritrean withdrawal," Lowcock told the Security Council on Thursday. "We have, however, heard some reports of Eritrean soldiers now wearing Ethiopian Defense Force uniforms."

The conflict has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands more from their homes in the region of 5 million.

Lowcock said there were "widespread and corroborated reports of Eritrean culpability in massacres and killings." Eritrean soldiers opened fire in an Ethiopian town on Monday, killing at least nine civilians and wounding more than a dozen others, a local government official told Reuters.

The Security Council has been briefed privately five times since the conflict began. According to Lowcock's briefing notes on Thursday, he told the body that sexual violence is being used as a weapon of war, the humanitarian crisis has deteriorated in the past month and people are now dying of hunger in Tigray.

"We heard false allegations of the 'the use of sexual violence and hunger as a weapon'," Tesfamariam wrote on Friday. "The allegations of rape and other crimes lodged against Eritrean soldiers is not just outrageous, but also a vicious attack on the culture and history of our people."

She said the priority should be the delivery of aid to civilians in Tigray. (Additional reporting by the Nairobi newsroom; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

APRIL 17, 2021  NEWS

Somalia Women
 Women take part in a demonstration against the Somali President Mohamed Abdulahi Farmajo in Mogadishu on December 15, 2020 accused of interferences in the electoral process. STRINGER / AFP

u-fs50@l u-lh1 u-wbbw ]" dir="ltr" lang="en" style="box-sizing: inherit; margin-bottom: 1.5em;">Tensions are running high following the Somali parliament’s decision to extend the incumbent president’s mandate by two years. External partners should urgently convene – and mediate – talks among the country’s bitterly divided elites, to prevent its worst political crisis in years from escalating.

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Somalia’s long-running political crisis has entered a new, dangerous phase. In a hastily convened session on 12 April, members of parliament overwhelmingly endorsed a bill that would delay elections by two years, in effect extending the term in office of President Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmajo”. The move is an alarming escalation of a dispute that could well spiral into widespread violence unless Somalia’s political elites return to the negotiating table. The opposition is said to be considering forming a parallel government; cracks have deepened in a security apparatus long divided along clan lines; and the president’s opponents have vowed to resist extension of his rule. But even though the hour is late, it is not too late for the parties to reverse course. Somalia’s external partners, led by the African Union (AU) and backed by the U.S., the UN Security Council and the European Union, should step in to organise – and lead – fresh talks among all stakeholders to craft a roadmap to timely elections. All external actors should unambiguously signal readiness to impose sanctions on parties who obstruct a new initiative to find a consensual path forward.

The distrust that has prevented Somalia’s politicians from preparing elections has been on full display over the last few months. President Farmajo and leaders of Somalia’s subnational units, known as federal member states, agreed on a framework for indirect elections on 17 September 2020. But despite several rounds of subsequent talks, they have repeatedly failed to work out the voting system. Following the expiry of Farmajo’s four-year term on 8 February, the opposition demanded that he hand power to an interim government headed by the prime minister. An attempt by Farmajo’s rivals to hold demonstrations to press home this point was met with lethal force, with clashes between police and demonstrators leaving at least eight people dead. Somalia’s external partners then urged talks to resolve the deadlock. But the parties argued bitterly over the venue, the agenda and the security arrangements. When they finally convened on 3 April at Mogadishu’s international airport, which is guarded by AU troops, negotiations collapsed after four days.

In response, Farmajo and his supporters decided to raise the stakes by summoning parliament to initiate the term extension his opponents had consistently accused him of planning. During a special session convened by lower house Speaker Mohamed Abdirahman Mursal, MPs argued that the failure to reach a compromise made the 17 September agreement impossible to fulfil. They subsequently mandated the National Independent Electoral Commission to hold elections by universal suffrage in two years. The president signed the bill into law two days later.

The parliamentary decision has sent political tensions soaring to levels not seen in Somalia for years – and which could snowball into violence due to two key factors. First, the de facto term extension has shattered already low levels of trust among Somalia’s rival political actors. Farmajo’s opponents have rallied under the banner of the Council of Presidential Candidates, an alliance that includes two former presidents and a former prime minister. They represent important clan constituencies, including in Mogadishu, and have vehemently denounced the extension of Farmajo’s mandate, pledging unspecified action. These opposition candidates are allied with the presidents of the Puntland and Jubaland federal member states. Farmajo, for his part, enjoys the support of leaders from the federal regions of Galmudug, Hirshabelle and South West. With lines of communication cut between duelling parties and with the opposition said to be considering formation of a parallel government, the risk is high that parties will use force to secure political concessions.

 The crisis has sorely tested the cohesion of Somalia’s fragile army and police. Secondly, the crisis has sorely tested the cohesion of Somalia’s fragile army and police. Hours before parliament convened to vote on the term extension, Mogadishu police chief Sadiq “John” Omar condemned what he described as a power grab and ordered his men to block the entrance to the building, arguing that parliament’s term had expired. Police Commissioner General Hassan Hijar Abdi immediately dismissed Omar and sent forces to secure the venue. Well-placed security sources told Crisis Group that a number of soldiers from Somalia’s elite Turkish-trained Gorgor army units have since abandoned base and retreated to their clan strongholds. Elders from these clans also told Crisis Group that any attempt by authorities to disarm their troops will trigger full-scale fighting. The longer the crisis lasts, the greater the danger that these rifts will grow, raising the spectre of a return to civil war.

Resolving the crisis will not be easy. Farmajo has dug in, warning outside actors to stay out of Somalia’s internal affairs. The timing of the parliamentary decision – two days before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began – was likely designed to limit the opposition’s capacity to hold demonstrations at a time when most Somalis are observing the fast. Publicly, the opposition has reacted with restraint. Privately, however, it is working to ensure that Farmajo does not get his way. If opposition politicians go ahead to form a parallel government, they will add fuel to the fire and send tensions soaring higher.

As Crisis Group has consistently advocated, there is no alternative to concerted third-party mediation to break the electoral impasse, given the distrust among Somalia’s actors. In the past, the reluctance of external partners to engage directly was understandable, not least due to Mogadishu’s insistence that it could broker a compromise through Somali-led talks. That claim no longer holds. Instead, the spiralling crisis threatens to undo all the progress made in establishing a degree of political stability in Somalia over the last two decades. Moreover, the political stalemate and the wrangling among security forces have offered an opening to Al-Shabaab militants. Emboldened by the partial withdrawals of Ethiopian and U.S. troops at the end of 2020, militants have already stepped up attacks and resumed the large-scale assaults on Somali and foreign military targets that outside forces had prevented them from staging for several years. The crisis has also offered a propaganda coup for the militants, who have boasted that it vindicates their depiction of elites as power-obsessed incompetents.

Somalia’s key external partners need to do more. They have shown admirable unity in rejecting the term extension, with the U.S., UN, AU, EU, UK and regional bloc IGAD all issuing strong statements to express opposition. Now they should urge all Somali actors to resume talks. Ideally the AU, through the office of Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security Bankole Adeoye, who has already shown interest in resolving the standoff, would mobilise external partners to step up their diplomacy. First, the AU, with the backing of key external partners, should appoint an envoy who, working in concert with the UN envoy, should meet the main parties separately and urge a return to talks. In particular, these emissaries should emphasise to Farmajo that he will need to accept external mediation, given that the opposition will not agree to talks under his supervision. To improve the chances of Farmajo shifting his position, the U.S. could engage directly with his key backers in Qatar and Turkey and urge them to prevail on the president to show greater flexibility, given the risk the crisis poses to Somalia’s stability.

 External actors should make clear that they are prepared to impose targeted sanctions. Next, external actors will need to coordinate with Somalia’s political elite in calling for an inclusive summit to discuss a pathway to elections. Convened by the AU, with the U.S., EU and UN acting as guarantors, such a meeting should focus on delivering a timeframe for elections within weeks, rather than months. Talks could build on the 17 September agreement, but would not necessarily be bound by it, as only a narrow section of the political elite – Farmajo and the presidents of federal member states – crafted the document. Realistically, however, any election would need to broadly follow the contours of the 17 September agreement, given that an indirect election is the only feasible way to hold a vote in today’s security environment, in which Al-Shabaab controls swathes of territory in the south-central Somali countryside. Ideally, new talks would involve more participants, particularly representatives of the Council of Presidential Candidates and civil society.

To ensure that parties stick to their commitments, external actors should make clear that they are prepared to impose targeted sanctions. The U.S. has signalled a willingness to take action and urged key actors to change course in response to the latest developments. The EU has also promised to take “concrete measures” if authorities do not reverse the term extension. These are positive early steps. Somalia’s elites crave the legitimacy that comes with international recognition. Many use foreign passports to travel, hold assets outside Somalia, and keep their families in the U.S. or EU countries. Credible threats to impose visa bans and asset freezes might well concentrate minds.

Despite its many domestic challenges, Somalia has managed to establish a degree of political stability in the past decade and a half. Most strikingly, political elites have fashioned consensus on election management in past electoral cycles and found a way to both hold regular votes and oversee peaceful transitions of power. The current impasse – which could easily tip into major violence – threatens to unravel those gains. Somalia’s elites must return to dialogue.


Source: Al Jazeera

UN’s top humanitarian official warns conflict ‘is not over’ and says ‘vast majority’ of northern Ethiopian region ‘is completely or partially inaccessible’ for aid agencies.

15 Apr 2021

The United Nations and its aid partners have seen no proof of a declared withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Ethiopia’s Tigray region, according to the world body’s top humanitarian official, who also warned the situation in the embattled region has deteriorated.

The comments by Mark Lowcock during a closed-door UN Security Council meeting on Thursday came more than two weeks after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Eritrea had agreed to withdraw the allied forces it had sent into the northern Ethiopian region during the conflict that broke out there in November 2020.

“Unfortunately, I must say that neither the UN nor any of the humanitarian agencies we work with have seen proof of Eritrean withdrawal,” the under-secretary general of humanitarian affairs told the council, according to a text of his speech seen by Al Jazeera.

After months of tension, Abiy sent government forces into Tigray on November 4 to detain and disarm leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the then-regional ruling party that for decades dominated Ethiopia’s politics.

The winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize said the move came in response to TPLF-orchestrated attacks on federal army camps. The TPLF said Abiy’s government and its longtime foe Eritrea launched a “coordinated attack” against it.

Abiy declared victory after federal forces entered the regional capital, Mekelle, on November 28 but fighting has continued and analysts warn of a prolonged deadlock in a conflict that is believed to have killed thousands of people and left more than five million people in need of aid.

“The humanitarian situation in Tigray has deteriorated,” said Lowcock, adding that the “vast majority” of the region of some six million people “is completely or partially inaccessible” for humanitarian agencies.

“The conflict is not over and things are not improving,” he continued, calling the “reports of systematic rape, gang rape and sexual violence … especially disturbing and alarmingly widespread”.

Civilians have been experiencing “targeted violence, mass killings and executions, and systematic sexual violence as a weapon of war”.

Thursday’s closed-door meeting was the latest in a number of similar sessions since the start of the conflict more than five months ago, but the Security Council has yet to release a statement.

“The Security Council has listened to these reports, it had closed-door meetings but it has been absolutely silent,” said Al Jazeera’s diplomatic editor James Bays, reporting from the UN headquarters in New York. “Security Council members have not managed to agree to a single statement on the situation.”

Asked by Al Jazeera what should be done to improve the situation in Tigray, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric called for an increase in humanitarian access as well as “real movement” on human rights investigations into the “horrific reports” of atrocities and a “real reconciliation within the different groups in Tigray”.

After months of denials, Abiy last month admitted publicly that Eritrean troops had entered Tigray. UN chief Antonio Guterres once said the prime minister had “guaranteed” Eritrean forces were not there.

This week, Amnesty International said Eritrean troops on Monday had opened fire on civilians in Tigray’s Adwa town, in an “unprovoked” attack that killed at least three people and wounded 19 others.

The rights group’s regional director, Sarah Jackson, described the shooting as “yet another unlawful attack by Eritrean troops on civilians in Tigray”.

Forced Migration Unit, School of Law, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK
Laws 202110(2), 28;
Received: 8 February 2021 / Revised: 28 March 2021 / Accepted: 29 March 2021 / Published: 13 April 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Refugees and International Law: The Challenge of Protection)
Despite the overwhelming evidence of human rights violations within the Eritrean Military/National Service Programme (“MNSP”), adjudication of asylum applications made by Eritreans remains a challenge. Narrow interpretations of “slavery” have created obstacles for protection under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (“1951 Refugee Convention”).
This article discusses MST and Others, the latest Country Guidance case on Eritrea issued by the UK Upper Tribunal Immigration and Asylum Chamber (“UTIAC”), and also the lead case E-5022/2017 of the Swiss Federal Administrative Court (“FAC”), which to a large extent replicated the UTIAC’s approach. The article focuses on how “slavery,” “servitude” and “forced labour” under article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”) have been interpreted in the British and Swiss case-law. While both, the British and the Swiss Courts, had recourse to the European Court of Human Rights’ (“ECtHR”) interpretation of article 4(1) ECHR (the right not to be subjected to slavery or servitude), they refused the applicability of international criminal law notions to this provision, and thus to the concept of “persecution” in article 1A(2) of the 1951 Refugee Convention.
In doing so, the UTIAC and the FAC set unreasonable requirements to satisfy article 4(1) ECHR. Due to the very limited case-law pertaining to slavery by the ECtHR, the ECHR does not offer an appropriate framework for examining asylum applications of victims of slavery. It is therefore suggested that slavery cases are considered against a wider legal framework, which involves the examination of concepts developed by international criminal law (“ICL”). ICL has indeed developed a significant body of jurisprudence on the interpretation of the international law concept of “slavery” and its application to contemporary situations.
The article contrasts the British and Swiss Courts’ position to develop an interpretative approach that connects different areas of international law, including not only international refugee law and international human rights law (“IHRL”), but also ICL. If applied in line with the principle of systemic integration and according to the overall purposes of the 1951 Refugee Convention, this approach would yield consistent results. Ultimately, this article seeks to assist asylum decision-makers and practitioners in the interpretation and application of the refugee definition to asylum applications of persons from Eritrea. View Full-Text


Source: African Arguments

The Tale of Eritrean Withdrawal from Tigray: But Where is the Border?

Debating Ideas is a new section that aims to reflect the values and editorial ethos of the African Arguments book series, publishing engaged, often radical, scholarship, original and activist writing from within the African continent and beyond. It will offer debates and engagements, contexts and controversies, and reviews and responses flowing from the African Arguments books.

Issaias and Abiy














 Credit: All Africa

During a session in parliament on March 23, 2021 Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia publicly acknowledged Eritrean involvement in his country’s ongoing civil war in Tigray but indicated that it would take some time for Eritrea’s forces to withdraw. Three days later, the Prime Minister issued a statement announcing that the government of Eritrea had “agreed to withdraw its forces out of the Ethiopian border” and that the Ethiopian army “will take over guarding the border area effective immediately”. This begrudging admission – after four months of unconvincing denial – that Eritrea was in fact waging war inside Ethiopia was, in large measure, a result of sustained pressure from the European Union and the Biden Administration in the United States. However, the announcement raises several important questions, one of which has been at the heart of the Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict all along and could determine its conclusion or continuation.

Selling reorganizing and rotating units as withdrawal

In responding to questions from members of the Ethiopian House of Representatives, Abiy Ahmed explained away Eritrea’s crossing of the border into Ethiopia as a response to TPLF provocations and because the suddenly weakened Ethiopian military could not give security guarantees to Eritrea. He assured the parliamentarians that once Ethiopia rebuilds its pre-war military capacity to guard its own borders, the issue of Eritrean troop presence in Tigray would cease to exist. One is then compelled to ask how it is that in three days Ethiopia regained its pre-war military strength to guard its borders, give Eritrea the needed security guarantees, and execute Eritrean military withdrawal. Ethiopia is in no position to demand withdrawal of Eritrean military; without whose support it could not contain – much less defeat – the TPLF. Nor would President Isaias give in to such demands as he seeks total demise of the TPLF.

The Prime Minister’s announcement of Eritrean withdrawal from Tigray is nothing more than public relations theatrics. Troop movements on the ground show that Isaias’ regime, with the connivance of the Ethiopian government, is merely reorganizing and reinforcing its units and repositioning them for plausible deniability while it continues with its scorched earth campaign against the TPLF/TDF, and indeed the people of Tigray. Before the Prime Minister’s announcement, six brigades had returned from Tigray to Eritrea. These brigades belonged to three infantry divisions that carried out the bulk of fighting and bore the brunt of casualties. Their return to Eritrea had more to do with their need to recuperate and replenish their personnel than an intent to withdraw from Ethiopia.

Since Prime Minister Abiy’s announcement, confidential sources on and near the ground report that there has indeed been large-scale movement of Eritrean troops within Tigray and between Eritrea and Tigray. Accordingly, as of late March 2021, an entire division composed of popular militia has returned to central Eritrea. A unit of the 23rd Division has also reported back and has been sighted in western Eritrea. The fast-changing developments make it hard to conclusively establish final position or deployment destination. But while a few units have returned to Eritrea and a few others have been rotated to the border area, credible reports from the ground indicate that the Eritrean government has in fact reinforced its forces in Tigray rather than drawn them down. On balance, confidential sources from the area are reporting that Isaias Afwerki has as of late March/early April committed some 40 percent of Eritrean military personnel in a last-ditch effort to finish off what remains of the TPLF.

Partially because of that troop build-up, fighting has intensified across many parts of Tigray. The other reason for the intensification of fighting is because Tigrayan forces are ambushing Eritrean government forces on the move and attacking their rear as they are rotated to new positions. Two such rotated brigades of the 16th Division, for example, travelled in a large convoy from areas of active fighting in Tigray’s lowlands and arrived in Biyara and Badme at the end of March 2021. These two villages were once contested between the two countries and Ethiopia held them until the outbreak of the current war because the TPLF refused to relinquish them to Eritrea. Even if one were to assume the remaining Eritrean troops were to be similarly rotated to the border between the two countries, the exact location and legality of that border remains unresolved.

The unresolved border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia

Following the 1998–2000 border war between Eritrea and Ethiopia, an international arbitral court ruled on the delineation of the border between the two countries. The TPLF-led government in Ethiopia first rejected the ruling and later demanded to negotiate its implementation, i.e. physical demarcation of the border. President Isaias Afwerki rejected all attempts at negotiations and insisted, instead, that the border ruling is first upheld to the letter and the border demarcated. Eritrea bore hefty consequences of the ensuing sixteen years of no-war no-peace.

The rise of Abiy Ahmed to power in 2018, and his offer of peace with Eritrea that included full acceptance of the International Court of Arbitration’s ruling on the border, presented an opportunity to settle the issue for good. Instead of demanding the demarcation of the border as he had done during the TPLF era, President Isaias dropped his steadfastly held position and altogether bypassed the neighboring Tigray region to make common cause with the young, inexperienced but hugely ambitious new Prime Minister in Addis Ababa. The two leaders travelled regularly to each other’s capitals, scheming the eradication of their common enemy, the TPLF, which took precedence over the permanent settlement of the border issue. The Eritrean leader especially betrayed his country’s best interests in pursuit of vengeance against his enemies now confined in the Tigray region of Ethiopia.

One wonders about the usefulness of the conflict even if it is aimed at the existential necessity of eliminating the TPLF. Are we better off today, even if we assume for a moment that the TPLF is gone, which has not yet happened? How much more useful would it have been to find some form of a compromise, some give-and-take, an accommodation with a little loss of face and pride in the interest of avoiding war, than the disaster and generational calamity we find ourselves in today? The tenor of these questions also applies to the TPLF, which is an equal party to the ongoing war.


The border issue between the two countries remains unresolved, and an interstate or irredentist confrontation could keep flaring up unless the boundary is demarcated on the ground and the issue is settled once and for all. It would, therefore, be critically important for the United States, the European Union, the African Union and the United Nations to bring the border issue back to the table and help resolve it permanently. Resolving the contention between the current or future governments and other actors in the two countries is paramount as such a resolution would deny President Isaias (or future leaders in either country) any pretext to cross a mutually accepted and clearly defined international border. In the context of the current conflict, without a mutually agreed upon clear delineation and demarcation of the border, the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s declaration rings hollow. So do the grand ideas about cooperation between the two countries on a wish-list of mutually beneficial initiatives.


First, the current conflict in Tigray must end immediately. Not only is it an unwinnable war but also the issues that led to it can only be resolved through political means. Therefore, the following four things need to happen expeditiously:

  1. The immediate, complete, unconditional and internationally verified withdrawal of Eritrean forces from Tigray and any other parts of Ethiopia.
  2. An internationally monitored ceasefire in Tigray, unfettered humanitarian access and protection of civilians and refugees.
  3. The urgent demarcation of the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia.
  4. A political dialogue on all aspects of the conflict, including matters related to the Tigray’s relations with Eritrea.
  5. An independent investigation of all the alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Tigray.

I have no illusions about the difficult work this will involve. The nature of the conflict, the current alignment of interests, the level of political and military investments by all (including the scale and size of their deployments), and above all, the obdurate nature of President Isaias, offer little hope, if any, of an Eritrean withdrawal anytime soon. But the alternative is the continuation of this horrendous war with even ghastlier consequences for civilians and for regional stability. The regional impact of the Tigray war is already being felt, and far greater risks loom on the horizon. The international community simply cannot allow this conflict to continue. As an immediate measure, it must put concerted, constant pressure on both Addis Ababa and Asmara to effect an Eritrean withdrawal that is subject to independent verification through the United Nations or another multilateral mechanism. This is positive pressure for peace, not interference. And we know that the two governments are not impervious to such pressure when the message is firm and unambiguous.

United Nations, United States, April 15 – The United Nations Security Council is set to meet Thursday to discuss the crisis in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region following a US request, diplomatic sources said Wednesday.

The 15 Security Council members will hear from UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock, who will talk about the continued difficulties in getting aid to refugees, according to the UN.

In early March Lowcock called for Eritrea to withdraw its troops from Tigray, in the first recognition by a UN official of Eritrea’s involvement in the fighting there.

UN officials in Geneva have accused the Eritrean army of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Tigray. Asmara rejects the accusations.

Thursday’s meeting will be a closed-door session similar to the March 4 meeting on Tigray.

At that time China and Russia opposed adopting a unanimous statement calling for an end to violence in the region as both countries consider the matter an internal Ethiopian affair.

Ethiopia is a longstanding US ally, but Washington has been increasingly alarmed since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a military offensive in Tigray in November.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has spoken of “ethnic cleansing” in Tigray, where Eritrean troops also intervened to fight the local ruling party.

Source=UN Security Council to meet on Tigray crisis » Capital News (

APRIL 15, 2021  NEWS

Here is the article in the latest edition of the Mail & Guardian – click link below

Eritrea Free Dawit Mail & Guardian

APRIL 14, 2021  NEWS

Expert Opinion on the Possibilities of Obtaining Documents for Eritrean Refugees in the Context of Family Reunification

For German klick here

Since the beginning of 2020, we have also been supporting family reunification from third countries outside the EU as part of a new project. We have focused on supporting families whose relatives are in East Africa or the Middle East. The project is carried out in close cooperation with our partner International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). Cases are mainly, but not exclusively, referred to us through the UNHCR Central Mediterranean Family Reunification Project. Within the framework of this project, we provide legal assistance, in particular to children and young people at risk who are in third countries outside the EU and wish to be reunited with their family members who have received international protection in Germany.

In the context of our work, the lack of official documents has quickly emerged as the central problem in family reunification procedures, especially in the East African region. Most of the families do not have the documents that are generally required in family reunification procedures in the European Union. Although other member states are more flexible regarding the submission of alternative proof, the lack of documents often leads to the rejection of family reunification applications, especially in cases concerning Germany. Families from Eritrea and Somalia are particularly affected by this. While it is generally accepted that Somalia does not have a functioning document system and therefore official documents cannot be presented, German authorities believe that Eritrea has a well-functioning document system and that it is therefore possible and reasonable for Eritrean refugees to present Eritrean documents. However, this differs fundamentally from the experiences of Eritrean families, according to which the subsequent procurement of official documents is often not possible and/or tied to unreasonable conditions.

It is therefore necessary to clarify which official documents can be obtained subsequently from Eritrean authorities and which conditions must be met in order to do so. Equal Rights, in cooperation with the international organization International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), has therefore commissioned an expert opinion to clarify these questions in more detail.

The report concludes that Eritrea does not have the well-functioning document system that is attributed to it. Rather, many life events (such as births or marriages) remain officially undocumented. The subsequent procurement of documents is tied to the payment of the so-called diaspora tax and the signing of a so-called declaration of repentance. Although this is already known, the report reveals that the collection of the diaspora tax is arbitrary and thus abusive. For example, contrary to Eritrean law, social welfare recipients are also required to pay the tax.

Another key finding of the report concerns the reports of Eritrean refugees from third countries in East Africa, such as Sudan or Kenya. According to these reports, Eritrean missions abroad in these states generally deny Eritrean refugees consular services if they cannot prove that they fled Eritrea before the peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia in June 2018. Thus, it is simply impossible for these individuals to obtain documents.

In addition, the report sheds light on the special constellation of unaccompanied minors residing in third countries to pursue their family reunification procedures. German authorities assume that unaccompanied minor refugees can easily obtain official documents from Eritrean diplomatic missions abroad. However, the report shows that this is already not provided for in Eritrean law and, according to reports from Eritrean refugees, it is proving to be practically impossible as well.

These findings require urgent consideration in Eritrean family reunification procedures, both by the embassies of the EU member states responsible for these procedures and by the national courts.

The full report can be found here.

A publication of the report in German is already planned.

Understanding the Sudan-Ethiopia confrontation

Wednesday, 14 April 2021 22:21 Written by


There is a complex reality behind the clashes between Ethiopia and Sudan over two key issues: the Nile and the al-Fashaga triangle.

These issues have been bubbling away for years, but they appear to be coming to a head.

Ethiopia now accuses Sudan of acting as a safe haven for the Tigrayan authorities against whom they are fighting a war. [See below] But this might only be a trigger for a wider conflict.

Ethiopia fears that the Tigrayans will manage to link up with Sudan to create a corridor along which essential supplies can pass – as they did during the last long war that Tigray fought from 1975 – 1991. Hence the first, and most ferocious, attacks of the Tigray war were on Humera: the tripoint between Ethiopia-Eritrea-Sudan.

Ethiopia and Eritrea (together with Amhara militia and special forces) were determined to take the western region of Tigray, which they have largely succeeded in doing.

But this does not explain the underlying problems.

The Nile

The Grand Renaissance Dam, that Ethiopia is close to completion on the Blue Nile, is the product of an American survey in the 1950’s and ’60’s. It was begun in 2011 and is a hydroelectric dam, which only uses the water to produce electricity.

Despite this Egypt has objected to it from the start. Cairo is fearful that the quantity of water it receives from the Nile – on which it depends for over 90% of all its water – will decline.

Sudan also objects, fearing that its farmers will lose the rich silt on which they depend and that if the water in the dam is released in an uncontrolled manner, it will wash away their farms.

Egypt and Sudan argue – correctly – that under colonial treaties they are guaranteed exclusive rights to all of the Nile’s waters.

Ethiopia argues – correctly – that the water falls as rain on its mountains, and it is its sovereign right to decide how to use the Blue Nile, as it flows through its territory.

The three countries have engaged in years of negotiations in an attempt to find a middle way between these positions.

Egypt and Sudan call for international mediation to produce a binding agreement. Ethiopia argues that it will rely on the African Union to find a solution. The parties back these positions because they will believe theywill produce the result they want.

The situation is now coming to a head. In July Ethiopia plans the second filling of the dam. Egypt’s President al-Sisi warns he will act if a drop of Nile water is lost to Egypt. “If it happens, there will be inconceivable instability in the region that no one could imagine,” the president said.

To back his words, Egypt and Sudan have engaged in joint military exercises. Commando and air forces from Egypt and Sudan concluded a five-day military exercise at Merowe air base in northern Sudan on April 5.

The warning is clear: don’t fill the Grand Renaissance Dam, or face the consequences.

The al-Fashaga triangle

Few outside of the region had heard of this border area before the current crisis. But the demarcation of the land between Ethiopia and Sudan goes back to treaties dating from 1900.

In a nutshell, the well watered, fertile area has been controlled and farmed by Ethiopian farmers for many years, even though the Sudanese maintained it is theirs.

When the war in Tigray broke out, Ethiopia was short of soldiers and withdrew the troops guarding the farms to fight in Tigray. This left the farmer, who were from the Amhara ethnic group, exposed. Sudan seized their chance and pushed in its own troops. The Amhara farmers fled to Ethiopia and the Sudanese swore never to give up the land.

But the Amhara are key allies of Prime Minister Abiy – both politically and militarily. With the Prime Minister facing elections in June, he cannot ignore their views.

Eritrean troops have also been seen entering the disputed territory, in support of the Ethiopians.


These forces are pushing Sudan and Ethiopia towards confrontation.

  1. Ethiopian fears that Sudan will serve as a secure rear base to re-supply the Tigrayan forces against which Addis Ababa is fighting.
  2. Ethiopia is worried that al-Fashaga will remain in Sudanese hands, alienating the Amhara.
  3. Sudan and Egypt are furious that Ethiopia refuses to reach a binding treaty over the Grand Renaissance Dam.

Will the recent armed clashes turn into a full-scale war between Ethiopia and Eritrea (on the one side) and Sudan and Egypt (on the other)? Not if the international community can help it. The African Union, Europeans and the USA are all working with the Saudis and the UAE to try to prevent this.

But wars come about when underlying tensions are misjudged and an unexpected event sparks a conflict which none of the parties can away from. We are close to that point.

Source: Borkena

TPLF remnant forces operating as guerrilla routed, claims Ethiopian Army Officer

Guerrilla Ethiopian Army – Remnants of TPLF leaders with some guerrilla forces attempting to escape to Sudan but will be impossible says a senior army officer 

Guerrilla Ethiopian Army – Borkena

Let. General Bacha Debelle, coordinator of army mobilization within the Ethiopian Defense Force, on Tuesday, said that remnant of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces.

They were obstructing logistic supply to the Ethiopian Defense Force and for humanitarian aid along the Mekelle road, he added.

A social media update from the Defense Force quoted Let. General Bacha Debelle was saying that the TPLF Guerrilla Forces was routed.

He added that the TPLF force is in great desperation as few TPLF leaders now not in a position to wage war as it has lost a significant portion of its guerrilla force.

Furthermore, it was said that some members of the TPLF leadership have been attempting to escape to Sudan – something that General Bacha sees as impossible.

Guerrilla Ethiopian Army TPLF leaders with guerrilla attempting

It is, however, indicated that TPLF was able to open military training facilities in different parts of the region and provide three days of military training, although General claimed that the facilities are now destroyed.

TPLF propaganda wing which is located in Diaspora has not yet remarked about the latest situation.

It is to be recalled that Defense Chief of Staff, General Berhanu Jula, said that the TPLF structure was completely destroyed following the two weeks war in early November. He even claimed that there is no chance for it to wage a guerrilla war.

News of TPLF regrouping and guerrilla war came after Ethiopia opened up the conflict region for “humanitarian accesses” following mounting pressure from the international community.

It is not verified from other sources if TPLF guerrilla forces met with a crushing defeat as claimed by the Ethiopian Defense Force.



Situation ReportLast updated: 13 Apr 2021

Source: UN OCHA


  • The access situation in Tigray is fluid and constantly changing. Despite recent improvements in access, active conflict in various areas this week restricted humanitarian response.
  • In addition to insecurity, humanitarian partners continue to flag challenges with capacity and resources to be able to scale up to the level needed to respond across Tigray.
  • Security permitting, humanitarian partners with the capacity and resources to expand into rural areas are looking at how to reach areas where no assistance has yet been provided.
  • The Government of Ethiopia is working to reach six Woredas that have not received any food assistance, targeting approximately 300,000 people.
  • Women and girls caught in the conflict continue to fall victims of sexual violence and abuse.

Situation Overview

The access situation in Tigray is highly fluid and constantly changing. While there had been improvement in access over the past weeks, this week witnessed widespread insecurity constraining humanitarian partners’ ability to move. Active hostilities have been reported in North-Western, Central, Eastern, South-Eastern and Southern Zones. The Alamata-Mekelle-Adigrat-Shire remains partially accessible. There have been sporadic incidents that have impacted this road in recent weeks, but for only short periods of time. Heavy fighting seems to have largely subsided in areas bordering Eritrea in Eastern and the northern Woredas of North-Western and Central Zones.  In Central Zone, fighting has been moving southwards, which has allowed some partners to move into areas that were previously inaccessible such as Abi Adi and scale up operations. There is however limited business activity and tensions remain high.  There has also been an improvement in access to Hagere Selam and surrounding areas. One partner was able to reach Kola Temben and Keyhe Tekli, while other areas in Central Zone remain inaccessible. Zana, which was partially accessible, is no longer accessible due to high levels of insecurity.

The active conflict, including attacks by unidentified armed groups on clearly marked aid agency vehicles pose a significant security challenge to the ongoing humanitarian operations. The Humanitarian INGOs forum (HINGOs) has, in a statement on 1 April, called on all parties to the conflict to ensure protection of all humanitarian aid workers and civilians to enable assistance to reach all people in need. The UN’s safety and security wing, OCHA and the Logistics Cluster in Mekelle are drafting an Operational Plan. The plan’s overall objective is to mitigate the impact of future disruptions on life-saving humanitarian operations through the provision of consolidated information to inform the best decision making. The plan will highlight key hotspots, the presence of partners (including national NGOs) in Tigray, with recommendations on how to sustain operations during the current crises.

In addition to insecurity, humanitarian partners continue to flag challenges with capacity and resources to be able to scale up to the level needed to respond across Tigray. Many areas across Tigray have only received food assistance, and this assistance has not reached the entire population (assistance figures are reportedly around 50-60 per cent of the total population, and assistance has generally been delivered once, or in some cases twice, during a period of four months. There is a need to ensure monitoring mechanism are instituted and efficiently enable inclusive access based on needs. During a joint mission to Tigray (22 to 26 March), OCHA and ECHO met with humanitarian partners in Mekelle and Shire and with the Shire Zonal Administrator. The team also visited four IDP sites in Mekelle, Axum and Shire. The mission noted that the overall IDP response in terms of food, shelter, protection and WASH remains largely inadequate.

In Western Tigray, tens of thousands of people continue to flee to the rest of the region, crossing the Tekeze River and arriving in Sheraro, Shire, Adwa, Axum, and possibly other locations. People have been found hiding in the bush, waiting to cross, but unable to move further. There are reports of many abandoned villages in Western Tigray. For the population remaining in the West, almost no services are available. There is a large IDP population that have arrived in Sheraro from Western Tigray, with the majority lacking resources to continue the journey to Shire by bus. There are only a few humanitarian actors operating in Sheraro and there is reportedly an urgent need to scale up WASH, health, NFI and food response. The Reporter newspaper, citing the NRC Secretary General, Jan Egeland, informed that the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) warned that emaciated children and pregnant women are among the at least 37,000 IDPs arriving into Sheraro.

Given the highly fluid displacement situation and access constraints, the overall number of people uprooted by the conflict in Tigray is not conclusively known yet, but according to the Regional Bureau of Labor and Social Affairs (BOLSA), there are an estimated 1.7 million displaced people across the region (as of 27 March).

Gross violations and abuses against civilians, including sexual violence, continue to be reported. The level of violence and the age of many victims calls for a robust mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) response, in addition to immediate access to medical services.

Security permitting, humanitarian partners that have the capacity and the resources to expand into more rural areas are looking into ways to expand, especially in areas where no assistance has yet been provided. Meanwhile, the Government of Ethiopia is working to reach six Woredas (Chila, Rama, Ahsea, Egela, Adet and Hahayle) that have not received any food assistance (approximately 300,000 people) since the beginning of the conflict, in Central Zone. Most of the health facilities in these Woredas have been looted and/or destroyed. They lack access to medical professionals, medical supplies and to medicines. The communities in these Woredas also need of WASH, NFIs, food and nutrition assistance.

To further increase humanitarian capacity to respond, the Government must bolster security to protect public structures and increase the confidence of public servants to return to work (including but not limited to salary payments), as well as administration capacity, particularly at the Zone, Woreda and Kebele levels. Deployment of trained and neutral police forces to protect essential services in crucial.  The restoration of the banking, electricity, basic communications and water services will alleviate suffering of displaced people and of vulnerable groups including women, children, people with disabilities and older people, and enable the scale up of response operations.

Humanitarian Preparedness and Response

Humanitarian presence is gradually increasing with improved access procedures in the Tigray Region. There are currently [as of 6 April 2021] 186 UN staff supporting the humanitarian response in the region (33 international and 116 national staff in Mekelle and 3 international and 34 national staff in Shire), and over 1,500 more aid workers with international and national NGOs. Humanitarian organizations continue to deploy additional staff to support the scale up of operations and ensure protection-by-presence amid reports of ongoing violence against civilians. There are 51 partners (Government, UN, NGO) operating across the region.

Food insecurity has worsened in the region, especially since the conflict erupted during the harvest season. Further deterioration is expected should the conflict continue and disrupt the next planting season. Limited food assistance, poor beneficiary targeting and lack of/restricted access to banking services are contributing to the food insecurity.

In a press statement, WFP informed it has begun providing emergency food assistance to vulnerable people in Tigray and has appealed for US$170 million to meet critical food and nutrition needs over the next six months. Partners have however raised concern about the adequacy of assistance as many areas across Tigray have only received food assistance, and this assistance has not reached the entire population (assistance figures are reportedly 50-60 per cent of the total population), and assistance has generally been delivered once, or in some cases twice, during a period of four months.

Shelter Cluster partners have reported logistical and supply capacity constraints, with an estimated response gap of about 64 per cent. While the Shire water supply system has been repaired, the current WASH response relies on water trucking and the water quality water is reportedly not safe. The INGO MSF and partners have expressed concerns the risk of disease outbreaks, in view of the upcoming rainy season. Furthermore, current vaccine distributions cannot accommodate the high number of new arrivals in Shire hence the need to urgently scale up health activities.

Nutrition Cluster partners are yet to launch mass-scale screening activities, while protection partners are advocating for increased budgets and resources to expand their capacity from the nine currently covered sites to all IDP sites.

In Western Zone, one round of food was distributed by the Amhara Regional Government. However, the distribution was reported by the local and zonal officials and beneficiaries to be inadequate, inconsistent and the food basket incomplete. Many people reportedly did not receive food. Since October 2020, water supply systems are not functioning due to power outage and unavailability of fuel. Residents and IDPs use water from unprotected sources for drinking and other purposes. So far, there is no WASH response in the visited areas, the only response mentioned was a one-time supply of 32,000 liters of fuel by CARE Ethiopia to Maykadra and limited WASH NFI supply with support from the Regional Water Bureau and UNICEF. Girls and women walk for nearly 3 hours round trip in search of water amidst security and potential GBV risks.