A rebel region is being starved into submission

Source: Economist

Ethiopia suffered famines in the past. Many foreigners know this; in 1985 about one-third of the world’s population watched a pop concert to raise money for starving Ethiopians. What is less well understood is that poor harvests lead to famine only when malign rulers allow it.

It was not the weather that killed perhaps 1m people in 1983-85. It was the policies of a Marxist dictator, Mengistu Haile Mariam, who forced peasants at gunpoint onto collective farms. Mengistu also tried to crush an insurgency in the northern region of Tigray by burning crops, destroying grain stores and slaughtering livestock.

When the head of his own government’s humanitarian agency begged him for cash to feed the starving, he dismissed him with a memorably callous phrase: “Don’t let these petty human problems…consume you.”

Things were supposed to be different under Abiy Ahmed, the Ethiopian prime minister who was hailed as a reformer when he took charge in 2018, and who won the Nobel peace prize the following year.

Yet once again it looks as if hunger is being used as a weapon in Africa’s second-most-populous nation. And once again the scene of the horror is Tigray. Since fighting broke out in November between federal forces and those of Tigray’s rebellious former ruling party, perhaps 2m out of 6m Tigrayans are thought to have fled their homes.

Many could now starve because the government has let so little food into the region


Source: Devex












 Pekka Haavisto, Finnish minister for foreign affairs. Photo by: European Union

The European Union is preparing to send Finnish foreign minister Pekka Haavisto to negotiate with the Ethiopian government as it pushes for unfettered access for humanitarians in the conflict-torn Tigray region.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell raised the possible visit on a Jan. 9 phone call with Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen, a spokesperson for the European External Action Service told Devex Monday, adding that the idea was “welcomed.”

The move comes after the EU announced its decision Friday to halt budget support for Ethiopia over the lack of humanitarian access in Tigray.

Haavisto is an experienced Greens politician and former development minister who has acted as a special representative and adviser in Africa for Finland, the EU, and United Nations, notably in Darfur. An EU official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Borrell accepted Haavisto’s offer to act on his behalf in talks with the Ethiopian government due to his high-level contacts and experience in the region.

“We have told the Ethiopians that we stand ready to negotiate something different, but what is now on the table is not working.”

— EU official

Haavisto’s precise mandate and mission will be finalized in the coming days, the official said, with the current plan for him to travel to Ethiopia in time to report back to a Feb. 22 meeting of EU foreign ministers. Haavisto’s office declined to comment.

Last Friday, Borrell outlined the EU’s decision to stop sending development assistance directly to the Ethiopian government, citing restricted humanitarian access amid “reports of ethnic-targeted violence, killings, massive looting, rapes, forceful returns of refugees and possible war crimes.”

“In the absence of full humanitarian access to all areas of the conflict, we have no alternative but to postpone the planned disbursement of €88 million [$106.7 million] in budget support,” Borrell wrote in a blog post.

The figure includes the suspension of three planned payments: €60 million for regional connectivity, €17.5 million for a health sector transformation plan, and €11 million for job creation.

“We were under circumstances under which by no means we could give a single euro of the EU budget to this government, because of what’s going on,” the EU official told Devex.

A spokesperson for the European Commission’s development department said Ethiopia will have to comply with the following conditions before the EU will disburse future budget support:

  • “Granting full humanitarian access for relief actors to reach people in need in all affected areas, in line with International Humanitarian Law.
  • Civilians must be able to seek refuge in neighboring countries.
  • Ethnically targeted measures and hate speech must stop.
  • Mechanisms to monitor human rights violations must be put in place to investigate allegations of breach of Human Rights.
  • Communication lines and media access to Tigray should be fully re-established.”

The move only affects budget support, which goes directly to the government. Other development modalities, such as funding channeled through NGOs, and humanitarian programs will continue. Last month, the EU increased its emergency aid to the region by €23.7 million.

The spokesperson did not respond to questions on how the suspension would affect the EU’s 2021-2027 development work in Ethiopia, which is currently being programmed.

Ethiopia is one of the top recipients of official development assistance from the EU. It was allocated €815 million for the 2014-2020 budgetary period, plus more than €400 million from the EU Trust Fund for Africa.


Antony Blinken, the nominee to be President Biden’s Secretary of State (Foreign Minister) had a nomination hearing in the US Senate on Tuesday.

He is a long-serving government official and diplomat. Blinken served as Deputy National Security Advisor from 2013 to 2015 and Deputy Secretary of State from 2015 to 2017 under President Barack Obama.

Speaking at this hearing he made his views clear on several issues, including the Horn of Africa.

Horn of Africa

The U.S. needs to be more actively involved in the horn of Africa and “not be AWOL as problems emerge” like in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, Blinken said.

We must use the diplomatic weight with the government of Ethiopia, he said.

“Eritrean refugees are on the receiving end of atrocities. We have Eritrea possibly getting there and we have other states that are now affected. The potential for this to spill over is a real concern,” Blinken told the Senators.

There needs to be greater access to the region, more accountability, a restoration of communication and humanitarian assistance, and an effort to put dialogue in place to address key issues, he said.

Otherwise, Blinken said, he worries that the violence has the potential to destabilize the region. He also said he would consider appointing a special envoy in the region.

Blinken was favourably received at the hearing. Several Senators supported him.

This was the assessment of the Washington Post.

There was every indication that Blinken would be confirmed with a strong bipartisan vote, although Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the incoming chairman, said earlier in the day that a panel vote was unlikely until at least Monday. After that, floor votes will have to vie for Senate time with President Trump’s impeachment trial.

One sign of the committee’s direction came from Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a strong Trump partisan who opposed Blinken the last time he appeared before it, for confirmation as deputy secretary of state six years ago.

“I think you’re an outstanding choice, and I intend to vote for you,” Graham said this time around.




Source: UNHCR

UNHCR finds dire need in Eritrean refugee camps cut off in Tigray conflict

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

Children are playing in a street of Adi Harush refugee camp.  © UNHCR/Chris Melzer

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, regained access to two refugee camps in Tigray and found Eritrean refugees in desperate need of supplies and services two months after conflict forced humanitarian workers to withdraw from the region.

UNHCR led the first humanitarian mission to Mai Aini and Adi Harush refugee camps since the start of the conflict in November, after being granted one-time access by the Ethiopian authorities to conduct a needs assessment.

The assessment, which concluded last week, found help is urgently needed for the tens of thousands of Eritrean refugees in northern Ethiopia. Refugees were cut off from any supplies and services for more than two months. Wells were not functional without fuel for the pumps – leaving refugees to use water from a nearby creek for washing, cooking and drinking, resulting in diarrhea like illnesses.

The only assistance refugees received since the start of the conflict was a one-time food distribution conducted by the World Food Programme (WFP) almost a month ago. Plans are underway for a second distribution.

Thankfully, teams found that in both Mai Aini and Adi Harush camps, buildings and structures remain intact, including refugee homes, schools and clinics, with little damage observed.

However, refugees told our staff that while they were not impacted directly from the fighting, they were threatened and harassed by various armed groups. The refugees told us they continue to have safety concerns, reporting that armed gangs roam the camps at night stealing and looting.

UNHCR is working with the government and partners to re-establish a regular presence at the camps and launch a response based on the information collected. We have called on the government to strengthen security in both camps.

Further north in Tigray, we have not had any access to the Shimelba and Hitsats refugee camps since November. As highlighted in the High Commissioner’s statement last week, we continue to receive a number of reports of significant damage to those camps and indications that many refugees have fled in search of safety and food. We remain deeply concerned about them.

Some 5,000 Eritrean refugees have made their way to the town of Shire and are living in dire conditions, many sleeping in an open field on the outskirts of the town, with no water and no food.

UNHCR reiterates the UN wide call for full and unimpeded access to all refugees in the Tigray region and remains committed to work with the Ethiopian government to seek solutions together. We stress again that swift action to restore safe access are needed now to save thousands of lives at risk.

Is Ethiopia coming together or falling apart?

Tuesday, 19 January 2021 14:23 Written by


Source: Ethiopia Insight

January 18, 2021

Abiy and his Amhara supporters are in the ascendancy—but Ethiopia’s future is by no means assured.

Nominally in an effort to restore law and order, the federal government led by Ethiopia’s peace prize-winning premier is engaged in a brutal conflict with the defiant erstwhile leaders of Tigray region.

Tens of thousands of refugees have fled, militias have hacked civilians to death, and an unknown number of lives have been lost.

Despite Abiy Ahmed’s quick-win claims, he has plunged the country into what is likely to be a prolonged civil war that may exacerbate others and even tear the country apart.

Late on 3 November, with the world glued to the U.S.’s electoral theatrics, Abiy said Tigray’s forces attacked the military, and he adapted the Powell Doctrine for limited war. He informed Ethiopians that he sent federal forces in with clear, limited, and achievable objectives to restore the rule of law and constitutional order.

While sudden, the outbreak of full-blown conflict did not surprise observers of Ethiopian politics.

The long-simmering tensions between the premier and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) were there for all to see. The parties had openly prepared their forces for armed confrontation.

The question is, why has Ethiopia returned to war to settle political disagreements?

Mismanaged transition

Two years ago, a popular uprising, mainly in Oromia and Amhara regions, brought the country to the brink of collapse. To avoid the Ethiopian state’s disintegration, the reform architects agreed for the transition-to-democracy to be led by the ruling party itself, with new faces taking the helm.

Hence, from the outset, it was apparent that the change would be nothing but ‘old wine in a new bottle’.

“Reform from within” was preferred to “revolution” to avoid a state collapse since TPLF controlled the national intelligence, military, and various state apparatus. Hence, if “revolution” was chosen, the architects, such as Jawar Mohammed, believed, it would have proved to be bloody, tearing apart Ethiopia.

The 2018 (s)election of Abiy as coalition leader and prime minister initially engendered hope. Impressive steps were taken to open the political space, suggesting the country was finally on the road to democracy.

However, the premier failed to reconcile and reintegrate the Tigrayan political, security, and economic elites into the ruling structure, and thus they felt disenfranchised and targeted.

Hence, the trust deficit between the federal government and Tigrayan elites complicated the fragile relationship, embroiling the country in armed conflict.

Is that all? No. Reasons abound.

The trust deficit between the federal government and TPLF boils down to two crucial factors: power and ideology.

Both Abiy and TPLF want to shape Ethiopia’s future but they have clashing visions—hence, the power struggle.

Although the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) was a coalition of four parties, the TPLF, representing under 10 percent of the Ethiopian population, had been in the driving seat since 1991. Unwilling to accept its new junior status in Ethiopian politics, the party embarked on an attempt to discredit Abiy.

According to the government, TPLF undermined Abiy’s rule, incited conflict and peddled hatred, conducted regional elections (for right or wrong), and, more importantly, showed interest in reclaiming the power they lost in the name of championing a federalism they had trampled upon.

Abiy, perhaps convinced by his mother’s prophesy, was also in pursuit of power at all costs.

Naturally, they clashed.

The following Amharic adage captures the situation:

ሊሆን የማይችል ነው ሁለት ጌታ ከቤት፤

አንዱ ተሸንፎ ካላለ አቤት አቤት!”

“No possibility, under the same roof,

 Housing dual powers, being led by masters

 Unless one defeated and a subject he becomes.”

The second contradiction stems from the type of government system. Again, there exist two irreconcilable camps.

MEGA Camp—the right wing

The right-wing group, primarily drawn from the Amhara and urban elites, wants to bring back a centralist system. They consider the current system as the mother of all political problems and the cause of its instability. Abiy, especially after losing his Oromo nationalist credentials, subscribes to this camp, and both are associated with the “Make Ethiopia Great Again” “የኢትዮጵያ ከፍታ” slogan.

MEGA is for Abiy a means to an end: his self-aggrandizement. For other elites, MEGA is a return to yester-year, to Ethiopia’s cultural and political monopolization by Amhara. Ethiopia`s continuity, unity, and stability depend on cleansing it from TPLF and its political legacies, meaning the ethno-federal system.

Make Ethiopia a Real Federal State Camp—the federalists

The federalist group, favored by nine out of the ten regional states, firmly supports the current federal arrangement that gives regional governments autonomous power.

When Amhara elites shout the MEGA slogan, federalist forces hear “Make Ethiopia Amhara Again.”

Members of this camp trace Ethiopia’s political quagmire to its imperial roots and see the constitution and federal system as right for establishing Ethiopia as a democratic state since most Ethiopians never attained full citizenry status under past systems due to formal discrimination. They see a call to past “greatness” by the right-wing camp as an invitation to renewed servitude and dispossession.

For them, Ethiopia’s stability, unity, and continuity depend on the full implementation of the constitution and the federal system.

Abiy tacks right

Abiy went through two phases since coming to power.

In the first, he was the champion of Oromo nationalism. “Oromo not only knows how to lead a nation but also how to build it. Together, we can build East Africa and the entire Africa. No force on earth can stop us (from doing this),” said Abiy, speaking to his Oromo comrades in Jimma on  18 March 2019.

Hence, Oromo elites started to think of themselves as the saviors of not only Ethiopia but also the Horn. The troubled Horn of Africa will heal by “Kushitic” panacea, the Oromo elites asserted.

But alas, their hopes were dashed quickly following the killing of the famous singer Hachalu Hundessa and Jawar Mohammed’s arrest, a heavyweight politician who challenged Abiy’s leadership of the transition.

Oromo elites are now among Abiy’s fiercest critics, costing some their lives and others their freedom.

Displaced from the Oromo camp by politicians with better nationalist credentials such as Lemma Megersa and Jawar, Abiy pitched up in the right-wing camp. He embraced the pan-Ethiopian agenda and tipped the balance of power in favor of the anti-multinational federalists, starting his second phase.

To this end, Abiy established the Prosperity Party (PP)  in 2019 by dissolving three ex-EPRDF parties and five allied parties ruling the so-called “developing” states. The death of EPRDF, established by TPLF largely to do its bidding, sealed the end of TPLF hegemony.

One might also argue that Abiy has not joined any of the camps but has his own agenda.

For instance, as the Amhara inherited the Tigrayan thesis of Ethiopianism and wrote their antithesis; similarly, the Oromos synthesize the modern-day Ethiopia of the Menelik II mold. Maybe Abiy is infusing new Oromo energy into the synthesis again, so that what Oromos lost could be reclaimed, mutating Ethiopia into a new Oromo-tinged kaleidoscope.

Why crush TPLF?

Unsatisfied with prominent Oromo politicians’ jailing, the right-wing camp eyed their most significant prize—to crush the TPLF, a force behind the federalist camp.

Three motivations stand out.

  1. Control of contested lands

The Amhara thought it was an opportune time to re-control contested areas they lost to TPLF in the last three decades: Raya and Welkait. This Amharic expression aptly describes their intent “ተከዜ አፋፍ ላይ ካልሰራኹኝ ቤቴን

እኔም አልተወለድኩ መሀን ናት እናቴ”  (Equivalent poetic translation could be as follows)

Until built by all means,

My house towering on Tekezze hills,

Higher up, till standing on its cliffs,

Consider I, never been born,

Appraise my mother arid and barren.

  1. Erasing TPLF and its legacies

The Ethiopian ethno-federal constitution is the key target of Amhara elites. For them, TPLF introduced it to undo the nation-building project of their ancestors, pit Amhara against other nationalities, and sow the seeds for the undoing of the country.

  1. Return to glory

The Amhara elites are determined to avenge the humiliation they suffered at the hands of the TPLF and its cronies for the last three decades and take their ‘rightful’ position in Ethiopia`s politics.

A replay of 1979?

Who thought Abiy would survive after imprisoning Jawar? And after taking on his biggest threat, the TPLF?

Now, it seems a rerun of 1979 with Abiy taking Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam’s role. Colonel Mengistu emerged victorious from both internal and external threats against his rule. However, the initial victory did not save Mengistu from his final defeat; and it prolonged Ethiopians’ misery.

Similarly, Abiy and Ethiopia’s future has not been sealed by the federal control of Mekelle, nor by the capture and killing of TPLF leaders. Instead, it all depends on how Abiy plays the emerging multi-dimensional chess game, taking into consideration:

  • the interests of the West that does not want a failed state in Ethiopia
  • forging an alliance with Eritrea, thus amalgamating the military and intelligence machinations of both countries
  • decimating the pro-TPLF forces, and;
  • building it on empowering the Oromo alliance under the Shewa Oromo mould. This approach will either prolong his reign or hasten his demise—with the possibility of both Ethiopia’s integration or disintegration.

Potential Scenarios 

Ethiopia’s ideal case would be to bravely look the facts and for the warring political tribes to reach a consensus before the 5 June election. That is, however, unlikely given the current context.

Instead, below are the three most likely scenarios for Ethiopia’s future under Abiy:

  1. PP and new party-state

Abiy’s government will manage internal rivalries and mitigate external pressure.

The election will take place amid high security and some turmoil, especially in Oromia, Tigray, and Southern Nations. Opposition parties will likely share around a quarter of federal seats to make the election plausible and enhance the government’s legitimacy.

However, there is also now the likely non-participation of the main Oromo opposition parties. If this happens, the legitimacy of the state suffers a big dent.

Regardless, with any kind of majority, Prosperity Party would probably attempt to negotiate a new federal arrangement not based on ethnicity so that the empire state of Ethiopia shall continue with the ‘right’ amount of change and continuity.

  1. Expansion of civil war

The second scenario would emerge alongside genuine regional state power. The shift of power from the north to south Ethiopia would contribute to the early retirement of the Abyssinian empire

Another factor pushing this scenario is the Amhara reaction to incidents. The Amhara, the self-proclaimed custodians of Ethiopia’s empire state, are nervous, for instance, about the existence of paramilitary security forces that they think empower regions to defy the central government. But if there is federal over-reach in this area, it could well cause a violent and destabilizing backlash.

More so, Amharas, unlike other major ethnic groups, live in all parts of Ethiopia. Emotions stemming from the targeting killings of Amharas in other regions, if not tamed, would re-energize other groups’ grievances, pushing the country closer to widespread civil war.  We can see this playing out in Benishangul-Gumuz already. Further instability may also be prompted by the sorry state of the Ethiopian economy, with youth unemployment rising even pre-pandemic.

  1. State of Emergency

An internal power struggle coupled with external pressures from Sudan and Egypt may develop into a wider regional war that urges the country to proclaim another national State of Emergency (SoE), leading to the incumbent’s continuation for an unspecified time.

The risk here is unbearably high. However, the war would be an excellent chance for Abiy to stay in power and crush remaining opponents

The result of this would be unpredictable but has comparable opportunities for disintegration and unity. For instance, what if the army takes control to ‘save’ the country from collapse, as happened in Egypt in 2013?


by Eritrea Hub

Source: Associated Press

Report: Images show latest 'attack' on Ethiopia refugee camp

By CARA ANNA, Associated Press Jan. 17, 2021 Updated: Jan. 17, 2021 5:20 a.m.

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — New satellite images of a refugee camp in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region show more than 400 structures have been badly damaged in what a research group believes is the latest “intentional attack” by fighters.

The report by the U.K.-based DX Open Network nonprofit, shared with The Associated Press, says “it is likely that the fire events of 16 January are yet another episode in a series of military incursions on the camp as reported by (the United Nations refugee agency).”

The Shimelba camp is one of four that hosted 96,000 refugees from nearby Eritrea when fighting erupted in early November between Ethiopian forces and those of the defiant Tigray region. The fighting has swept through the camps and two of them, including Shimelba, remain inaccessible to aid workers. Many refugees have fled.

On Thursday, U.N. refugee chief Filippo Grandi cited recent satellite imagery of fires and other destruction at the two inaccessible camps as “concrete indications of major violations of international law.”

On Sunday the U.N. refugee agency urged that it be given access to the camps.

“Until November, 8,700 refugees were registered in Shimelba. We have no information on how many refugees were still in the camp last week,” U.N. refugee agency spokesman Chris Melzer said in an email. “We still have no access to the two northern camps, Shimelba and Hitsats (25,248 refugees registered in November). We demand access since the refugees are without supplies for two and a half months now and we are extremely concerned. We also saw satellite pictures and heard frightening reports. But since we don’t have access we cannot confirm them.”

The new report says the satellite images show “smoldering ruins, blackening of structures and collapsed roofs.” The structures, it said, “match the profile of mud-brick dwellings constructed by the refugees themselves. The attackers likely split into multiple groups going door to door to set fires inside buildings," consistent with previous attacks on the Hitsats camp, which also is inaccessible.

Neither the U.N. nor DX Open Network has blamed anyone for the attacks, but the presence of troops from Eritrea, a bitter enemy of the Tigray region’s now-fugitive leaders, has caused alarm. Grandi noted “many reliable reports and firsthand accounts” of abuses including the forced return of refugees to Eritrea.

The day after Grandi’s statement, Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel tweeted that “UNHCR seems to indulge, yet again, in another bout of gratuitous & irresponsible smear campaigns against Eritrea.” He said Eritrea rejects the “forced repatriation of ‘refugees.'"

Eritrea has been described by human rights groups as one of the world's most repressive countries. Thousands of people have fled the country over the years to avoid a system of military conscription.

Fighting continues in parts of the Tigray region. Thousands of people have been killed and more than 2 million displaced.

JANUARY 17, 2021  NEWS

Source: VOA

Journalist Amanuel Asrat, seen in this 1996 graduation photo, has been detained in Eritrea since September 2001. (Photo courtesy of family)
Journalist , seen in this 1996 graduation photo, has been detained in Eritrea since September 2001. (Photo courtesy of family)

They haven’t heard from their loved ones in nearly two decades, but the families of imprisoned journalists in Eritrea still hold out hope after authorities freed several prisoners after 26 years.

One of the journalists held incommunicado for nearly 20 years is Amanuel Asrat. The editor of Zemen, a newspaper that covered the arts and literature, has been detained since September 2001, without any contact with the outside world. No charges have been made public against him or other journalists jailed at the same time.

His brother, Robel Asrat, said the family has demanded answers from Eritrean officials about Amanuel’s whereabouts but have heard nothing concrete.

“The government just wants those people to be erased from the memory of everyone just to keep silent,” Robel told VOA. “Like they never existed. We don’t have any other information about them besides the rumors. But his work and legacy live on.”

Amanuel is one of several journalists arrested in a widespread crackdown on independent media in 2001. The group were detained after publishing a letter to President Isaias Afwerki that called for government reform.

A group of Eritreans gathered at an event in Alexandria, Virginia, May 28, 2016, to share stories about the journalists and advocate for their release.
Remembering Eritrea’s Disappeared Journalists
In September 2001, Eritrean authorities launched an unprecedented crackdown on the free press. Seven of the country’s independent newspapers were shut down. At least 11 journalists were arrested in the roundup, and several more were jailed the following month. None of them have been heard from since that time, and their whereabouts are unknown to this day.

Eritrea’s Minister of Information Yemane Gebremeskel did not respond to VOA’s emails asking about Amanuel and the other jailed journalists. The Eritrean Embassy in Washington, D.C., did not respond to VOA’s call seeking information.

Prior to the crackdown, Eritrea had a relatively vibrant news scene, with seven independent newspapers. Now it ranks 178 out of 180, where 1 is the most free, on Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index.

After the arrests, independent news outlets closed and today the only media allowed are government-controlled, with the main access to media being the state-run radio stations and outlets EriTV, the Tigrigna-language Hadas Eritrea and English-language Eritrea Profile.

Writer of courage 

As well as being a journalist, Amanuel is a celebrated Eritrean poet whose poem “The Scourge of War” was translated into 15 languages.

The poem is an unflinching look at the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia that lasted from 1998 to 2000 and that, reports from the time say, left tens of thousands dead.

“The ugliness of this thing, war,/ When its spring arrives unwished-for,/ When its ravaging echoes knock at your door,/ It is then that war’s curse brews doom, But … You serve it willy-nilly,” he wrote in 1999, capturing the devastation in Tigrigna.

Amanuel last year was awarded the “Writer of Courage” by PEN International, which promotes freedom of expression and literature around the world. The award is given to writers persecuted for their beliefs.

“The situation of forced disappearance aims to silence. It aims to create silence and to create fear, not just for the individual who has disappeared, but for their families, for their entire community around them,” Daniel Gorman, director of English PEN, told VOA.

“The family of Amanuel Asrat and the family of many others who’ve been disappeared have been incredibly brave in speaking out,” Gorman said. “And I think what we need to do at PEN, as individuals and as people who care about this situation, is to try and amplify the voices as much as we can.”

Advocates who follow Eritrea have seen some glimmers of hope related to political prisoners and those imprisoned for religious reasons. In December, the country released 28 Jehovah’s Witnesses after they completed lengthy prison sentences of up to 26 years.

But there has not yet been a similar opening for imprisoned journalists. Data from the Committee to Protect Journalists show that 16 Eritrean journalists remain behind bars, one of the highest numbers on the African continent.

Although there is little reliable news about the health or whereabouts of these journalists, Robel and other family members refuse to give up hope. In 2010, a prison guard who escaped to Ethiopia said that some of the journalists died in custody, but others were still alive.

FILE - A shipping container bearing the slogan
Rights Groups Urge Release of Journalists in Eritrea, Years After Disappearances
Aaron Berhane, a former editor-in-chief and cofounder of Setit, once Eritrea’s largest independent newspaper, highlights the plight of colleagues who disappeared after being detained

Amanuel is among those believed to have been alive.

“We cannot forget him and his colleagues easily. These people are treasures, the treasures of this era and the generation,” said Robel, who studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. “He’ll be free to see how the world loves him.”


Source: Somalia Guardian

Unfortunately the post above cannot be copied. Please use the link to read in full.

These screenshots gives the story.

European Union directly accuses Eritrean troops of fighting in Tigray War


“There are regional spill-over effects of the conflict, with for instance Eritrean troops being involved in the military operations in Tigray and with Ethiopian troops being withdrawn from Somalia.” Josep Borrell, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the Commission

Source: European Union

We need humanitarian access to Tigray as urgent first step towards peace in Ethiopia

15/01/2021 – 01:02

From the blog

15/01/2021 – HR/VP Blog – For more than two months, conflict has been raging in the Tigray region in Ethiopia. The situation is desperate for the local population and the conflict is unsettling dynamics both within Ethiopia and the whole region. I have passed a clear message to the Ethiopian leadership: we are ready to help, but unless there is access for humanitarian aid operators, the EU cannot disburse the planned budget support to the Ethiopian government.

Without deliberate efforts of de-escalation, conflicts tend to worsen, as Ethiopia’s bloody conflict in the northern Tigray region is reminding us. What started two months ago as an internal matter between an autonomous region and the federal government has become a fight affecting the whole region.

“While people are in dire need of aid, access to the affected region remains extremely limited, which makes it very difficult to deliver humanitarian assistance.”

The situation on the ground goes well beyond a purely internal ‘law and order’ operation. We receive consistent reports of ethnic-targeted violence, killings, massive looting, rapes, forceful returns of refugees and possible war crimes. More than 2 million people have been internally displaced. And while people are in dire need of aid, access to the affected region remains  limited, which makes it very difficult to deliver humanitarian assistance.

Moreover, there are regional spill-over effects of the conflict, with for instance Eritrean troops being involved in the military operations in Tigray and with Ethiopian troops being withdrawn from Somalia.55.000 refugees have fled to Sudan and tensions grow dangerously at the border between Sudan and Ethiopia. By affecting or involving other countries, the conflict is also a direct threat to the stability of the whole region.

Just over a year ago, in October 2019, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It was a recognition for his firm efforts to achieve peace, in particular with neighbouring Eritrea, and for promoting peace and reconciliation in the country and in the East and Northeast African regions. Today the world needs Ethiopia’s Prime Minister and his government to live up to this prestigious recognition – by doing all it takes to end the conflict. As an immediate first step, the Ethiopian authorities must comply fully with international humanitarian law and ensure that people in need get access to life-saving aid. This applies to all states in conflict.

When I spoke to the Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen last week, I underlined that the European Union has been and will remain a reliable partner of Ethiopia. We strongly support the democratic and economic reform agenda of the authorities. Just in terms of bilateral development cooperation, we have provided € 815 million over the last 7 years (2014-2020). On top of this, Ethiopia is benefitting from € 409 million worth of projects under the EU Trust Fund for Africa, focused mainly on support to refugees and host populations.

“I stressed that in the absence of full humanitarian access to all areas of the conflict, we have no alternative but to postpone the planned disbursement of €88 million in budget support.”

To help Ethiopia face the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU mobilised € 487 million to support the government’s Health Preparedness and Response Plan. And several budget support operations were fast-tracked to enable the country to face the economic strains of the pandemic. However, I also stressed that, under the current circumstances, in particular in the absence of full humanitarian access to all areas of the conflict, we have no alternative but to postpone the planned disbursement of €88 million in budget support.

It is in the best interest of Ethiopia and the wider region to allow humanitarian access and to resume the path towards an inclusive and sustainable peace. Regional experiences are relevant here: Sudan stared into the abyss of civil war two years ago, before the parties to its political dispute stepped back and chose a peaceful transition instead. Ethiopia was the midwife to that transition, together with the African Union and the United Nations. Maybe Khartoum can now return the important effort. But this requires that there first be a de-escalation of tensions between the two countries.

I hope we will be able to work out swiftly a favourable outcome with the authorities and we are ready to meet government representatives in Addis Ababa very soon. As EU, we will continue to do our part, in cooperation with the African Union. As we often say, we support ‘African solutions to African problems’. It is urgent, now, to find these solutions.


free and unfettered humanitarian access across Tigray”

Source: Lord David Alton

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL11631):

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on 29 December (HL11518), whether they will now answer the question put, namely what steps they have taken in response to reports that Tigrayans have been removed from their jobs at the UN; and to reports that the government of Ethiopia is preventing aid reaching Ethiopians. (HL11631)

Tabled on: 30 December 2020

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

We are working closely with our partners and UN agencies to ensure that all staff can continue to work. We continue to call for unfettered humanitarian access for the UN and other humanitarian actors to Tigray and other impacted areas.

Date and time of answer: 14 Jan 2021 at 15:49.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL11630):

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on 29 December (HL11518), whether they will now answer the question put, namely what steps they have taken in response to the statement by the government of Ethiopia that (1) its military shot at a UN convoy, and (2) it wants the UN to travel in armed convoy. (HL11630)

Tabled on: 30 December 2020

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

We were concerned to learn that UN staff conducting an assessment mission to Tigray were shot at and briefly detained. Humanitarian agencies must be able to deliver aid to people affected by the fighting in Ethiopia in line with international humanitarian principles. We note that guidance on the use of armed escorts in Tigray has now been developed by the UN humanitarian country team, and we continue to press for full and unfettered humanitarian access to Tigray and other impacted areas.

Date and time of answer: 14 Jan 2021 at 15:48.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL11626):

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether humanitarian corridors are being established in Tigray as part of the UN operation in that region; whether any such corridors will conform to the principles of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs; whether such corridors will be supervised by the government of Ethiopia in a way that does not compromise the neutrality of the operation; and whether access will be allowed to all areas, including those now under Tigrayan control. (HL11626)

Tabled on: 30 December 2020

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

The UK has been at the forefront, liaising closely with the UN and partners, in calling for sustained, free and unfettered humanitarian access across Tigray, in line with the guiding principles laid down by UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The UK worked with the UN to develop these guidelines and they have been shared with the Government of Ethiopia.

The mission must be able to work without hindrance and in turn it must facilitate the timely supply of humanitarian support to those who need it including to civilians in contested areas. We continue to work with the UN to monitor access and humanitarian delivery and the extent to which the UN’s guiding principles are adhered to.

Date and time of answer: 14 Jan 2021 at 15:46.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL11627):

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the use of ‘quiet’ diplomacy to resolve the conflict in Tigray; and what plans they have to withhold aid to Ethiopia until the impact of the conflict on human rights can be assessed. (HL11627)

Tabled on: 30 December 2020

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

Her Majesty’s Government has maintained a dialogue with the Government of Ethiopia throughout the current situation in Tigray. We have made clear the expectations of the international community on the protection of civilians and the importance of independent human rights investigations, advocated for unfettered and free humanitarian access, and called for a political solution.

Withholding funding for basic services (health and the Covid-19 response, nutrition, education, food security and water) would have a significant impact on the most vulnerable. We remain committed to the development of Ethiopia and its people, but we will continue to review our support in light of changing circumstances.

Date and time of answer: 14 Jan 2021 at 15:46.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL11629):

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have made representations to the government of Ethiopia to accept the role of the African Union’s former presidents in mediating an end to the conflict in Tigray; and if so, what response they have received. (HL11629)

Tabled on: 30 December 2020

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

The UK has welcomed the offers of mediation by the African Union (AU) and President Ramaphosa and the efforts to date of the AU’s three distinguished Special Envoys. Prime Minister Abiy met with the three AU Envoys on Friday 27 November 2020 and we continue to encourage the Ethiopian Government to maintain engagement with the AU and the Special Envoys, and continue to call for a cessation of violence

Date and time of answer: 14 Jan 2021 at 15:45.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL11628):

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports from UN refugee camps in Tigray region that Eritrean refugees are being forcibly returned to Eritrea; whether they have raised concerns with the government of Eritrea about such reports; and what steps they are taking to uphold the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ mandate to protect any refugees in its care. (HL11628)

Tabled on: 30 December 2020

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

We are extremely concerned that humanitarian agencies, including the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), do not have access to refugee camps in Tigray. The UNHCR has, as a result, been unable to corroborate reports of the abduction and forced return of Eritrean refugees. The UK continues to call for sustained, free and unfettered humanitarian access across Tigray, so that the UNHCR can uphold its mandate towards refugees.

The British Ambassador in Eritrea and our international partners continue to raise these questions with the Government of Eritrea who have denied that Eritrean forces have forcibly returned Eritrean refugees to Eritrea.

Date and time of answer: 14 Jan 2021 at 15:44.