Sudan closes border crossing with Ethiopia

Sunday, 25 July 2021 11:21 Written by

JULY 24, 2021  ETHIOPIANEWSTIGRAY

Source: Sudan Tribune

Ethiopian militias are taking away a Sudanese military commander, and the authorities have closed the Qalabat border crossing


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Sudanese forces redeploy near the border with Ethiopia

Gadarif, July 24, 2021 – The Sudanese authorities closed the border crossing between Sudan and Ethiopia on Saturday, following the arrest of the commander of the military flankers area by Ethiopian militias.

The “Sudan Tribune” learned from its sources in the region that the Sudanese authorities closed the border crossing in the Sudanese city of Galabat, located in the locality of Basanda, after the disappearance of Captain Bahaa El-Din Youssef, commander of the Military Gallabat region, while pursuing Ethiopian militias who, on Friday, kidnapped three Sudanese children from within the border.

The Ethiopian militias took children from the Fellata tribes, aged between 10 and 15 years, while grazing cows near the dumps adjacent to the Ethiopian caravan in the Amhara region, to an unknown destination. A ransom for their release.

The Sudanese and Ethiopian cities of Qalabat are witnessing huge military build-ups, as the authorities in the Amhara region sent on Saturday morning military reinforcements aboard large personnel carriers equipped with weapons, and shops, cafes and hotels were closed.

According to the follow-up of the “Sudan Tribune”, the Ethiopian continuation is witnessing a heavy security deployment of the Ethiopian army and police in conjunction with the arrival of a high-ranking security, military and political delegation from Shahidi Governorate to discuss the repercussions of the security situation and intervene to contain the crisis between the two countries.

On the twentieth of last June, military leaders in Sudan and Ethiopia agreed to calm the security situation on the border strip and transfer border disputes to the political leadership of the two countries, but the attacks of Ethiopian militias backed by official forces on Sudanese farmers quickly caused the collapse of this agreement.

And since last November, the Sudanese army decided to redeploy in large areas adjacent to Ethiopia, which were seized by the Ethiopians and expelled from them the Sudanese farmers. The Ethiopian militias, backed by hidden government support, established major settlements over the past 26 years.

Military officials in Sudan said earlier that the redeployment process succeeded in restoring 95% of the Sudanese lands that were in the hands of the Ethiopian militias, which Ethiopia refuses to recognize and Khartoum repeatedly demands to return to the situation it was in last November.

On the other hand, Sudan adheres to the necessity of intensifying the border markings between the two countries and placing them at the appropriate distances to clarify the path of the border line based on the 1902 international agreements, the borders in

Eritrea’s other Olympians

Friday, 23 July 2021 23:54 Written by

The Eritrean government has sent a team of its own and Eritreans will be proud to support them.

But there is another team that will feature proud Eritreans – and Sudanese. They are with the Olympic Refugee Team.

This article is from Ha’aretz

Tokyo Olympics: They Consider Themselves Israelis – but They’re Representing the Refugee Olympic Team

They saw death, torture and persecution in Eritrea and Darfur, but managed to escape and find shelter in Israel. Now they’re part of the refugee team at the Tokyo Olympics. Despite the racism they have encountered, they assert clearly: ‘I am an Israeli in every respect’

Tachlowini “Louie” Gabriyesos.

Tachlowini “Louie” Gabriyesos.

Toward the end of the interview in the Tel Aviv offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Tachlowini Gabriyesos is asked if there is anything else he would like readers to know about him. “That I’m a coffee addict,” he replies without hesitation, indicating the cup beside him that a short while before held black coffee, but in which only the “mud” – the sediment – remains. “As you can see.”

On the face of it, Gabriyesos, who goes by the nickname “Louie,” is an Israeli in every respect. He has the speech patterns, the approach, the humor, the chutzpah that’s not easily acquired if you didn’t grow up here. And he really did grow up here, to a large extent. “For the past two years I’ve been saying that I’ve been here seven years, but it seems to me I’ve been here 10 years,” he says. “I entered in 2012, when I was 13 and a half.”

Gabriyesos fled from Eritrea when he was a boy, on his own, leaving his family behind. One of the best runners in the country, he is participating in the Olympic marathon in the Tokyo Games (scheduled for August 8) – but not as part of the Israeli delegation. He’s a member of the Olympic Refugee Team, under the auspices of the International Olympic Committee. “I am going to represent them,” he says. “There are more than a million refugees in the world. I invite them to watch us – not to sleep! They are our strength. I want them to dream big and not limit themselves.”

Gabriyesos will not be the only Israel-based refugee in the IOC delegation. Jamal Abdelmaji Eisa Mohammed, an asylum seeker from Darfur, will compete in the 5,000-meter race wearing the IOC logo. “It is really very important for me,” says Mohammed, “because on the one hand I understand how hard it is to be a refugee, and on the other hand, even if you are a refugee, you want to fulfill your dreams. When I present this, my thought is that I am lending my voice – so all the other refugees will think that everything is possible: to achieve things like this, reach places like these, to realize your dreams and not give up.”

Both athletes could be Israeli heroes. They could demonstrate the tremendous power that accrues to a country that welcomes the refugees who have arrived here. But Israel does not yet recognize them as refugees deserving of asylum status, certainly not as temporary or permanent residents, still less as citizens. Instead, they will be part of something bigger: the flagship project that is the refugee delegation. The story of each of them could fill a full-length documentary film. Life didn’t give them much in the way of opportunity, yet nonetheless, they are about to star on the biggest stage of the world of sports: the Olympic Games.

Tachlowini “Louie” Gabriyesos.

In the desert with ‘John Cena’

“In the past I used to say that ‘refugee’ was a curse – I took it hard when people called me a refugee,” Gabriyesos, 23, relates. But he’s become accustomed to the idea, and is understandably proud to be representing that global community on the Olympic stage. “What’s most important for me is for [refugees] to say, ‘Wow, that’s my dream too.’ I want to be an example to them.”

A 12-year-old boy doesn’t want to leave his mother, but you’re afraid. I just went. I want to live like a human being, to get up in the morning and carry out my plans, I want to live my life.Tachlowini “Louie” Gabriyesos

His achievement is already history in itself. In March he became the first person on the Olympic Refugee Team – including the 2016 delegation to Rio de Janeiro, which was the first in history – to meet the international Olympic criteria in his sport. The other athletes (there are 29 in this year’s refugee team) were chosen without reference to the qualifying criteria, based on their results as compared to other refugees worldwide. In his qualifying race, in the Hula Marathon in northern Israel this past March 14, Gabriyesos’ time was 2:10:55 – 35 seconds faster than the criterion, even though he fell at the 30-kilometer point (a marathon is 42.19 kilometers, or 26.2 miles) – but got up and resumed running.

The Olympics were light-years away when he was growing up in an Eritrean village. His only connection to the world of athletics was a notebook whose cover had a portrait of the legendary Eritrean runner Zersenay Tadese, former world champion and world record holder in the half-marathon. “I always wanted to imitate him,” Gabriyesos says. “I didn’t know who he was, I only saw him in the picture, and I really, really admired him.”

Looking back, Gabriyesos finds it hard to believe what he endured in Eritrea. “It’s scary to think about it,” he says. “They just attack you in the street, come to you at home. You see them doing things to young boys and to girls – rape, murder.” He talks about what goes through a child’s mind in a situation like that: “If I grow up and get to the age of 15, 16, 17 – am I going to be like them, just to survive? That’s not what I want.”

Tachlowini “Louie” Gabriyesos.

Eritrea is under the thumb of a military regime that recruits boys and girls by force at the end of secondary school for army service of indefinite duration, a practice that has continued even following the end of the war with Ethiopia, in 2018. “They simply kidnap you, put you in a cage and recruit you by force – and you don’t know when you’ll be back. They’re just people with no heart. You see that a boy is being killed and the mother is screaming, lying on the floor, then you don’t know if she’s alive or not. You’re beaten like you’re an animal, you’re not worth a thing. Unfortunately, it’s still like that.”

Louie realized that he had no choice. “A 12-year-old boy doesn’t want to be away from his mother and for sure doesn’t want to leave her, but you’re afraid,” he explains. In the end he got up and left. “I just went. I want to live like a human being, to get up in the morning and carry out my plans, I want to live my life.”

The road to Israel wasn’t easy by any means. Like many refugees who fled Eritrea and reached Israel between 2009 and 2012, Gabriyesos underwent a multitude of ordeals and was a witness to the atrocities in the Sudanese desert and in the Sinai Peninsula. Local tribes exploited the refugees’ situation in order to trade them for ransom, abuse them and blackmail their families on the way to their destination, Israel. “There are so many people who died, unfortunately, and weren’t even buried,” he says.

Gabriyesos saw it for himself. He relates that he found a shady corner in the desert under a rock and tried to grab a few hours of sleep. When he woke up he realized that he had been sleeping next to a dead body. “I see a man with his mouth open, thrown there like that,” he recalls. “I look at him, and I weighed 37 kilos then, but I felt like I weighed 200 tons. I tried to move, and my body wouldn’t move. I just froze on the spot. My body shook. I felt as though I was pinned to the ground and couldn’t budge. You lose control. It’s a desert that never ends. Shout, and no one will hear you.”

The “kidnapper” who was in charge of getting the Eritrean refugees to Israel was a well-known criminal in Sinai. He called himself “John Cena,” after the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) champion. “Cena” and his people took advantage of his young age, Gabriyesos says. Even though he was the second of the 63 refugees in the group who paid them to take him to Israel, they tried to leave him behind. “I absolutely screamed,” he says. “There is a guy in Israel who makes fun of me because I cried so much.” At one stage, after a group of 30 refugees, with him among them, found themselves escaping from the kidnappers, and they were rescued by a Christian who hid them in a house behind a church – it was actually “Cena” who then arranged for their safe passage to Israel.

Tachlowini “Louie” Gabriyesos.

By a tortuous route, after being passed between a number of kidnappers and thinking many times that he was about to lose his life, Gabriyeso survived the journey. He still carries the psychic burden. “At first it was frightening to see those things,” he acknowledges. “But when you go on and you see a desert that never ends, and people [the kidnappers] who have no human feelings… then you’re already used to it.” He shares the frame of mind he developed in the desert: “Ah, sababa” – terrific – “he’s dead? I will be, too, in another day or two.”

In Israel he was sent to the Saharonim detention facility in the Negev desert for a few months, and from there to the Mishmoret incarceration site for juveniles. The state’s policy was not to leave minors who arrived as refugees without adult supervision – and there were hundreds of minors from African countries. Accordingly, Gabriyesos underwent a lengthy process involving medical care and integration in the Hadassah Neurim Youth Village, on the seacoast north of Netanya. An interview with the principal of the boarding school set him on the path that led to Tokyo 2021.

“They asked what I like to do: Computers? Soccer? Running? Art? I said running – that was a world that intrigued me very much.” The principal asked why running, and Gabriyesos told him about his admiration for Tadese, the legendary athlete he had never seen in person. “So he said to me: ‘Fine, here’s your coach.’”

Both athletes could be Israeli heroes. They could demonstrate the tremendous power that accrues to a country that welcomes refugees. But Israel has yet to grant them asylum.

From that time, Gabriyesos and the coach, Almayo Paloro, have never been separated. Not when he took his first steps as an athlete and not when he reached the 5,000-meter event in the world championships, representing the refugee team of the International Association of Athletics Federations (now called World Athletics). Today, too, though by now a senior athlete, Gabriyesos continues to live in the youth village, with his adoptive family, the Filosof family, whose residence has become home for him. The relationships are such that he feels at liberty to call his adoptive mother, Ayelet, and also Sharon Harel from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Agency, who gives him close support, at any time, day or night. His closest friends are the children he grew up with in the youth village, full-fledged Israelis.

“I gathered a lot of confidence and lots of friends. People love me and actually want to be around me, and I want to be around them – true friends.”

Nothing was self-evident for someone who escaped from the horrors in his homeland, certainly not prowess in athletics. “I always dream, and in the dreams I don’t limit myself. I dream of an Olympic medal, too. I have two hands and two feet, like everyone, and it’s possible,” he says. Meeting his idol, Tadese – at a training camp in Ethiopia – only served to give him more of a push toward the dream. “Someone told me once that there will always be obstacles, that ‘injuries and sports are a family,’” Gabriyesos notes. “That means not to break despite what happens to you.”

Jamal “Jimmy” Mohammed.

Zigzagging to stay alive

Jamal Abdelmaji Eisa Mohammed, aka Jimmy, also arrived in Israel alone, when he was 16. Whereas Gabriyesos’ integration was organized by the state, Mohammed tried to fend for himself in Tel Aviv. He too achieved that goal through running, thanks to the Alley Runners project in south Tel Aviv, which works with runners from relatively weak population groups, many of them refugees.

Until 2003, Jamal Mohammed lived a comparatively tranquil life in a small village in Sudan’s Darfur region. He had no idea what the Olympics was or even what athletics meant. “I didn’t know I was going to run,” he says in near-fluent Hebrew. “When I told my mother that I was chosen to run in the Olympics, she asked, ‘What’s that?’ She didn’t know the first thing about it. As a boy in Darfur, other than soccer we didn’t know any sports. We played soccer with socks, by stuffing a few socks into each other. We broke legs, there were all sorts of horrors. Believe me, that’s the most fun there is in places like Africa, in villages, with all the chaos.”

Then his world fell apart. The Janjaweed, a group of Arab militias, joined the Sudanese army in order to quell a revolt of native tribes in the Darfur region, and they started to massacre Black African tribespeople. Mohammed’s father was killed in the conflict, and he remained with his mother and three siblings in an intolerable situation. “On the day my father was killed, they killed 97 people in the village,” he says. “And they kept on coming back and threatening us. They tried to kill as many men as possible and they raped women.”

He was left with almost nothing in Sudan. “I lost all my friends in that war – 75 percent of them died, they were killed,” he continues. “When the Janjaweed came in the night, [they] closed off the village from all sides, so there was no way out, and at 5 A.M. they lit a fire and started to shoot people. They burned the village from all sides. People die there easily. Whoever managed to escape, escaped; those who didn’t – that was that.”

Jamal “Jimmy” Mohammed.

Mohammed was only 8 when the situation deteriorated, but had no choice other than to adjust. “When you’re young, you don’t understand anything… and then suddenly something like that happens to you and you have to run and hide all day. If you’re a boy, even if they catch you they don’t just shoot you, they kill you slowly – cut you with a knife or beat you.”

One hand I understand how hard it is to be a refugee, and on the other hand, even if you are a refugee, you want to fulfill your dreams.Jamal “Jimmy” Mohammed.

Clearly he finds it difficult to tell his story. “It’s hard to explain what happened. I explain things very lightly, I don’t go [deep],” he says. “Sometimes it makes me cry, so I don’t want to go into it.”

The events led Mohammed, who effectively became the head of the household after his father’s death, to take the family to Khartoum, Sudan’s capital. But that too didn’t work out. He and his siblings were victims of harassment; his mother decided to return to her native village.

Mohammed now decided that escape was his only recourse. Unable to board a flight unaccompanied, as he wasn’t yet 18, he paid smugglers to change his year of birth on his passport, from 1996 to 1993. He flew to Egypt and then crossed Sinai to Israel. After being incarcerated for a month at Saharonim, he was released and given a daily travel pass. He took a bus to Be’er Sheva, and without understanding where he was going, without speaking Hebrew or English and with his Arabic incomprehensible to Palestinian Arabs – he simply followed people who had been on the bus with him and went on to Tel Aviv.

Another Darfur refugee directed him to Levinsky Park, near the Central Bus Station in south Tel Aviv, where refugees hang out. But it started to rain and everyone left. “I was there alone, with nothing on me, and then a Sudanese man, really nice, showed up and took me to his house. He had a one-room place and there were seven of us.” For four months, Mohammed slept – head to feet to head – in the room with six more people who shared one double mattress and another smaller one. Somehow, he managed. In short order he found a job in construction under an Arabic-speaking Israeli. The wage was very low wage, but it was enough to scrape by on.

Jamal “Jimmy” Mohammed.

Another new chapter in his life began when he discovered running, almost by chance. “I played soccer in the neighborhood with friends, and a good buddy of mine, Abdul, saw that I was good at running. He told me, ‘Forget soccer, forget everything, just run. You’ll be good at it.’ At first I didn’t listen to him, but he started to drive me crazy.”

Finally Mohammed took his friend’s advice and joined the Alley Runners’ club. “I trained with them for a month, and then there was a competition. I finished fifth. Abdul said, ‘I told you that you have what it takes, so keep at it.’ Since then I’ve flowed with it.”

That flow carried him to places he never thought he would see – including the World Athletics Championships in Doha in 2019, in which he was a member of the refugee team – but also to true integration in Israel. “I learned a huge amount of things through running,” he relates. “I learned Hebrew from friends there, from the training, from laughs with the group.” He met his “second family,” Hili Avinoam and Asaf Roz, through the Alley Runners. And also Joey Low, a Jewish-American tech entrepreneur and philanthropist who has been assisting refugees in Israel for years, and has done a lot for Mohammed personally.

Jamal Mohammed’s professional breakthrough coincided with fears about his personal future. There have been various political initiatives to deport the asylum seekers, most significantly in 2018, and for a period they were being incarcerated in the Holot facility in the remote Negev. Mohammed was afraid that he would end up there, too. “It was really hard, also with the training,” he recalls. “You think that in another minute you’ll be told, ‘Yallah, you’re being sent back.’ And when you come for training you say, ‘What will happen in a little while, after the training? What’s going to happen to me? What’s going to happen tomorrow?’ You’re uptight, you don’t sleep properly. I didn’t think I was special. I never thought I’d be told, ‘You won’t be sent back.’ No.”

But thanks to some good people, he arranged a relatively comfortable life for himself, in which he can also devote himself to running. He lives in a residential unit on Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Street, in a seafront building, where he also cleans the stairwell once a week. In addition to a scholarship from the IOC and the support of the Alley Runners, he helps make ends meet by working as a beach cleaner in nearby Herzliya. “I didn’t give up, but in the end it was also people who help you here and there. That’s really huge. Huge.”

Rose Lokonyen Nathike carries the flag of Refugee Olympic Team during the opening ceremony for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Hoisting the flag

What Gabriyesos and Mohammed are doing is no less huge. The IOC takes every opportunity to play up the Olympic Refugee Team, so it was scheduled to march in in second place, after Greece, which traditionally leads the procession of the teams at the opening ceremony of the Olympiad, slated to take place Friday. For both young men, it’s especially important to be part of the event. “There are so many talented people in the world whose talents are not being put to use,” says Gabriyesos. “When I saw the delegation in 2016, I said, ‘They are refugees, too – Sudanese, Ethiopians, Syrians. So why not me?’ They were my inspiration.”

If I didn’t have running, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have got anywhere. No one would know me, no one would know my story. Running took me far.Jamal “Jimmy” Mohammed

It’s thus important for him to work in refugee aid after he retires as an active athlete. “Everyone thinks I’ll be a coach,” he says, “but I want to study and be part of the supporters of the refugees. That’s important for me. I want to show the world the truth. Helping people will also make me happy. I want to work in the UN. Helping people is really great. And also to be an inspiration to others – I am today a full-fledged Israeli, and I was a refugee. I received so much from people, and I want to give to others, too.”

Sports not only helped these men to integrate, it is now also enabling them to raise awareness worldwide, to hoist the IOC flag in the name of all those who have no place. “With the running, it was like going from zero to a hundred,” says Mohammed. “If I didn’t have running, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have got anywhere. No one would know me, no one would know my story. Running took me far.”

They both feel connected to Israel. “I grew up as an Israeli, I have an Israeli adoptive family, I celebrate the holidays – Sukkot, Hanukkah – Purim is my favorite holiday,” Gabriyesos says. Still, neither he nor Mohammed have escaped the barbs of racism. “But it’s an okay racism, it’s logical,” he says forgivingly. “You can complain about everything, but there’s racism everywhere. Look at the bright side: When there’s a little racism in a country, there’s action, things aren’t boring all the time.”

Mohammed takes things less lightly. “In Israel,” he says, “people who are against [Blacks] – are against Sudanese. Every Black person who passes, they don’t know whether it’s an Eritrean or whatever – they just say ‘Sudanese.’” Still, based on what he’s seen and heard, the situation in Israel isn’t worse than in other places. “There are enough racists everywhere. Even in African countries where whites live, you have racism – like in South Africa. There are bad people, but there are good people, too.”

Possibly that’s why the two athletes both feel that the refugee team is the best place for them. “If I had the opportunity to represent Israel I wouldn’t say no, but in the meantime I’m pleased with what there is,” Mohammed says. “For that reason, I say to every refugee: I know that our life is hard, but you mustn’t give up, they you to hold onto your dreams. Even if they you only one meal a day, you mustn’t give up.”

Gabriyesos, too, doesn’t know the meaning of giving up. “When you’re a citizen you have a great many rights. As a refugee you’re limited, but you’re a lot stronger than everyone else,” he says. “I didn’t grow up with candies in my hand or food on the table. Refugees have strength of their own. Yes, yes, it’s important for me to have people say, ‘Louie is a refugee, I am a refugee, I can get there, too.’ That’s really important for me – you have no idea how much.”

Source=Eritrea’s other Olympians – Martin Plaut

JULY 22, 2021  ETHIOPIANEWSTIGRAY

Source: Ethiopia Insight

Abiy’s Prosperity yields few dividends for Ethiopia’s Afar

Superficial political changes have so far made little headway in addressing Afar region’s very real problems.

Ahmed Seid was born and raised in Arado ke Lahiguh, a small village in Aysaita district in Afar region. He spent his childhood on the ancestral clan-owned lands where his father and grandfather reared livestock and farmed. They provided: “Food on the table and a roof on top of their house. The land, along the Awash River, was green and fertile with abundant pasture. Happy people leading a happy life.”

It all came to an abrupt end when the government decided to build the Tendaho Sugar Factory in 2006, requisitioning more than 40,000 hectares of land for cane plantations.

Ahmed and others resisted, refusing to move until clan elders conspired with the government to bring objections to an end. In return, clan elders were given custody of compensation money allegedly misused for personal use.

But, the compensation was meager; once shared out it came to no more than 300 birr a person. Dry desert land, kilometers away from the clan’s ancestral land along the Awash River, was all that was offered as an alternative.

Thirty-five-year-old Ahmed, a father of three, now lives in Aysaita town. He had a job at the sugar factory, but that did not last long. Five years ago, Tendaho was a lively and busy place, crowded with employees and clients, an oasis in the middle of a desert, a green landscape with well-protected trees. Two years ago, the government abruptly closed it down.

Now, the giant machinery, imported from abroad at great expense, is covered with spider webs and rust. The compound is deserted, a city of ghosts.

This is a story shared by many Afar agro-pastoralists, forced off their ancestral lands, victims of state-sponsored land-grabbing in the near three decades of Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) control. Of the land Tendaho originally took, much of it was never used.

Many in Afar hoped the closure of the factory and the creation of the Prosperity Party to replace the EPRDF in late 2019 would mean restoration of former ownership and fairer land administration. But, they have been disappointed. Most of the plantation land has been taken by wealthy Afar businessmen for growing crops including wheat, while the rest is covered by Prosopis, an invasive tree.

Disappointment has not been confined to land use. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s reform agenda allowed exiled political parties to return, raising the possibility of regional political change, but the question remains: Has anything significant changed positively in Afar politics and for the Afar people since the Prosperity Party appeared?

Inequitable development

Located in the north of the Rift Valley, the majority of Afar comprises lowland areas, with extremely hot temperatures throughout the year and limited rainfall. Consequently, the Awash River constitutes a vital source of water for the region. While the Afars have been resistant to external intrusion, Afar territory has long been peripheral to Ethiopian economic and political power. The core problem for Afar and its people is continued marginalization and poverty.

The Ethiopian state’s attempts to promote economic ‘modernization’ through agricultural development in the Imperial era, the Derg period, and under the EPRDF have been an almost unmitigated disaster for Afar pastoralism as a result of the loss of grazing land and access to the river.

Intertwined processes of state-building and development over the past 70 years have resulted in the loss of land and water resources for local populations, significantly contributing to food insecurity.

The federal government’s “Accelerated and Equitable Development for the Emerging Regions,” a strategy document that gave birth to schemes similar to the now-defunct Tendaho, has had a devastating impact on the livelihood of so many pastoralists. There have been few comparable successes.

Losses of livestock due to drought, compounded by the deteriorating terms of livestock trade, have worsened food insecurity for pastoralists. The region has become steadily more dependent on food aid since 1984, with nearly a third of the Afar people reliant on overseas assistance. Moreover, pastoralists have also been badly affected by the Prosopis Juliflora, a thorny, dominant, and thirsty invasive tree that has been spreading across Afar grazing areas, taking over a third of the southern part of the region.

Thus, Afar is still one of the poorest and most marginalized areas in Ethiopia. Decades of suffering at the hands of successive central governments that sidelined it from the country’s major political and developmental benefits has left it in its current diminished state.

This is the daunting morass of entrenched challenges that faced regional elites in the era of Abiy—and, so far, little of substance has been revealed to lie under their new shiny political cloak.

Tendaho Sugar Factory in Aysaita; Dawud Mohammed; 28 March 2021.

Politics and leadership

One of Abiy’s major reforms was to replace the 27-year-old EPRDF coalition with a single national party, the Prosperity Party (PP). In December 2019, the members of eight regional governing parties and their leaders joined the party, only one, the Tigray People’s Liberation  Front (TPLF), did not.

One of those which abandoned the previous regional political structure was the Afar National Democratic Party (ANDP), which had been in power in Afar from the early 1990s.

At the time, ANDP politicians welcomed the change, describing the creation of the PP as a hard-earned victory elevating the Afar people to the national level, granting them equal status with fellow Ethiopians. In conversations with Ethiopia Insight, these same Afar-PP leaders emphasize that the change has given them the ability to speak and express political opinions freely.

As a senior government official underlined in an interview: “During the EPRDF era, we merely followed the direction given to us from the top and amplified the views and opinions of powerful regional leaders. We never dared to utter a word of our own opinion. Now, we are free to say whatever we want to without having to face ramifications of the big men who control regional politics.” (However, regardless of the claimed liberation, and their positive stance towards PP, the interviewee requested anonymity.)

The PP has also been able to open up a very limited new window of opportunity for young professionals and the educated elite to join the regional administration. But many believe officials are still hand-picked on the basis of clan affiliation. More qualified technocrats often remain left out of the selection process. In the name of advancing the national reform agenda at the regional level, there has been an increase in hiring and firing in Afar since the early days of PP—but much of it remains linked to clanship.

In advancing reforms regionally, clan membership serves as a tool to gain acceptance by clan leaders, although the weakest and most obedient ones are brought to leadership posts as clan representatives.  The brightest minds and highly educated members of a clan are the least favored by the administration for they are believed to be a threat to dominant elites of the region.

Perhaps the most important political change has been the PP government’s commitment to allow previously exiled political parties to operate freely in the region. This has been welcomed, and the Afar Peoples Party (APP), the Afar Liberation Front (ALF), and Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity (ARDUF) are three of a strong line-up of regional political parties who ran for office last month—though none managed to gain any seats, either at the federal or regional level.

In Afar, election day went smoothly and there was no reported significant security issue, but the leading opponent, the Afar People’s Party, rejected the result, claiming the poll was rigged by the authorities and the ruling party. On its official Facebook page, APP informed its supporters that the election didn’t happen in a “just manner” and myriad of problems whose details the party promised to communicate to its supporters in the near future were observed in several polling stations.

The party promised to file a legal suit against the regime to seek justice. Similarly, on 29 June, a Council of Afar Opposition Political Parties issued a joint statement through which they declared the election ‘illegal and undemocratic’ and demanded re-election.

At any rate, Afar-PP secured a rather familiar landslide victory.

In addition to the EPRDF-style outcome, the advent of a national ruling party also provides further grounds for criticism. For Kontie Moussa, Chairman of Afar People’s Party, it means Afars have lost the privilege of an independent regional political entity and, accordingly, decision-making autonomy at the regional level. He is clear that regardless of its weaknesses, the former EPRDF-affiliate, the ANDP, represented Afar interests.

“Despite an undeniable, if often indirect, intervention of invisible hands from the center, at least Afars had their own regional political entity that allowed them to take control of regional affairs,” he told Ethiopia Insight. “Today, after joining the PP, the region has lost its privileges and decision-making autonomy because everything is decided at the center.”

This is emphasized by the fact that under the PP, representation in the national executive and central committees is based on population. According to Kontie, the current PP approach can be defined by the Amharic proverb “Endayamah traw, endaybela gifaw” literally translated as “invite him to the food lest he complains, but push him away lest he eats”.

In this case, to stop Afars complaining of being only an ‘affiliate party’ as they were under the EPRDF, it brought them closer to the center, but to prevent them from having any decisive role in national affairs, they were pushed back by being given only six percent representation.

As ‘Yassin’, a prominent youth activist and keen political observer, points out to Ethiopia Insight, today, Afar-PP representatives cannot block harmful policies or laws that go against the interest of the region. In practical terms, Afars remain ‘affiliates’ and this will be the case until the PP grants an equal number of representation from all regions to its decision-making committee. He believes it would be better for each region to have equal representation at the national table irrespective of population size, as under the EPRDF for its four-member parties—although that was a major point of tension between the TPLF and its sister parties who represented more populous regions.

Overall, for opposition parties, despite the structural change allowing participation, the system still operates in pretty much the same way as it did during the EPRDF era.

After 1991, with some decentralization of administration to local levels, power in Afar was taken over by a handful of political figures who claimed to be freedom fighters and founding fathers.

Today, these leaders have moved from leading the ANDP into leading the Afar-PP. So, regional power has remained in the hands of small groups who installed a culture of rotating their control of one regional bureau after another. It underlines the need for the educated youth of the region to be given a chance to breathe some fresh air into leadership and policymaking.

Afar ruling elites joined PP because they had no other viable alternative; all former members of the regional administration were directly admitted to the PP, so there was no change in the leadership. Clan-based bias and tribalism have continued to flourish. The ANDP dissolved itself and its members joined the PP without any discussion over how to govern national or regional affairs.

Under the former system, Afars had a limited or minimal role at the federal level but some control over regional affairs. Now, the opposition argues, they have joined the PP without any assurance the system will not go against the interests of the Afar people. PP officials firmly denied this to Ethiopia Insight, insisting: “we have veto power” to stop unpleasant policies and programs that go against the interests of the Afar people. However, the stated ‘’veto power’’ privilege can be found neither in the constitution nor the PP manifesto.

After Abiy took power, many in Afar were optimistic, but in recent months, they have been losing hope in the supposedly reformist government. People who once rallied tirelessly in support of the premier are now depressed by the failures to meet expectations. Prosperity being a party that has forgiveness, peace, and brotherhood as its core values, Afars expected the end of the Afar-Issa conflict and the arrival of peace to their land, only to know their demand was too ambitious of a hope to be met.

Even after its election victory, given the loss of faith in the Prosperity Party, the party needs to make real efforts to show its ability to meet the urgent demands of the people and so enable it to establish a strong foundation in the region.

The regional political failures of recent years have produced a significant loss of trust in political leaders. Popular perception towards the regional administration has always been largely negative. In the past, analysts of the region suggested that “Regional leaders are seen by many, particularly in urban areas, as subservient to the [EPRDF], acquiescing to federal directions and pursuing self-enrichment, all to the detriment of the Afar people”.

Officials are still being seen as corrupt and self-centered, paying little or no regard to public interests.

The emergence of new youth-led social movements such as Dukko Hina (an Afar term that means ‘defiant to subjugation’), which successfully challenged the authorities and regional status-quo by organizing a massive youth assembly in Ab’ala town on 21 September 2019, is one of the indications of continuing public outrage. Dukko Hina’s main political agenda was the quest for an answer to two demands of true reform: utilization of Afar resources by Afars and unity among the Afar people.

Reducing corruption is also a critical and necessary precondition to allow any genuine reform agenda to take root.

Afar has been a region where corrupt officials could become affluent businesspeople in the blink of an eye. Selective awarding of construction and large procurement bids to family members and friends through bid rigging is a common trend that government officials frequently manipulate.

Corruption in Afar is also partly instigated by officials from the center who usually make a deal to release a big chunk of money to regional bureau heads provided that they get a cut. Upon receiving the funds, regional bureau heads settle the expenses with false documents and share the money with their partners in crime in Addis Abeba.

It’s also been one of the regions where government offices go poorly audited year-in, year-out, and where the previous EPRDF regime successfully discouraged citizens from intervening in national affairs by pumping money to corrupt regional officials who got away with their crimes.

The current drivers of Ethiopia’s reform agenda seem to have chosen to follow the same strategy, ignoring the damage from corruption to social service delivery. Promising change while ignoring corruption has led to doubts about the sincerity of the new government’s commitment to genuine change.

Afar-Issa war

Another area of concern is security. Afars and Somalis are two brotherly communities that share a common religion, livelihood, traditions, and, to an extent, culture. They have far more in common than differences. Despite this, they have engaged in armed confrontation for more than half a century. Successive Ethiopian governments have tried to resolve the antagonism, none have succeeded in bringing about any lasting solution.

Recent fighting is even raising questions over wider regional peace and security.

The historical antagonism between Afar and Somali-Issa clan and border dispute have been among the reasons for continual clashes between the two communities. In 2014, the two regional presidents agreed to grant a special kebele status to the three disputed kebeles, Gadamaytu, Undafo’o, and Adaytu, under the administration of Afar.

Federal troops helped remove the Somali regional president in August 2018, and a few months later, in May 2019, the Somali regional administration unilaterally withdrew from the “agreement” which had granted residents of the three towns a special kebele status within Afar administration.

Since then, there has been a sharp rise in the intensity and frequency of the Afar-Issa conflict, to the point where a dispute that once had the character of a feud is now best described as war—especially in the contested territories.

For the last two years, solutions have been primarily the responsibility of the PP, which controls both regional administrations, but many in Afar believe the ruling party has emboldened the Somali leadership (partly through high-profile federal appointments) and Issa fighters.

The federal government, media and political entities, and, most recently, PP leaders, seem to have underestimated the problem. Meanwhile, another aspect that worries Afars is the suspected involvement of foreign actors, particularly the government of Djibouti, which many believe has an interest in a war between the two communities.

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Adaytu kebele burning down following Afar-Somali conflict; taken from social media.

Back in October 2019, after at least 17 people were killed and 34 injured at Obno district in Afar, the head of the Afar Region Peace and Security Bureau, Ahmed Sultan, claimed on national television: “We are fighting external invading forces who crossed into Ethiopian border through Djibouti and killed unarmed civilians, mainly women and children.” Djibouti is home to both Afars and Somalis.

The fact that the perpetrators of the massacre covered their faces is seen by some as indicating external involvement as Afars and Issas have never concealed their identity in previous fightings. More recently, in April this year, President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti tweeted that using the Awash River is the next strategic direction of the Djibouti Government. There have also been allegations this year that Djibouti has been arming Somali militias against Afar forces.

An old dream of realizing ‘Greater Somalia’ is also mentioned by regional opposition political parties such as Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front (ARDUF) as the leading cause for the involvement of foreign forces in the conflict and escalation of the antagonism.

Even when the federal government has taken some action, it has only been at the last minute after the damage has been done, and the painful consequences of successive wars have continued to send shock waves through Afar society.

In 2019 and 2020, Afars and Somalis were engaged for almost a year in fighting. The federal government took almost a year to summon the two regional presidents to Addis Abeba and tell them to sign a peace deal. And then it had no real effect. As of April this year, the two sides were again engaged in fierce battles around the contested kebeles.

Renowned Afar community leaders who participated in several previous national-level bilateral peace deal negotiations believe the inaction and lack of federal government commitment to ending the war is contributing to the problem.

Wild west

Until recently, the Afar region’s relationship with its westerly neighbors, Oromos and Amharas, was considered relatively peaceful. The rare occurrences of communal skirmishes with Amharas and Oromos were mainly over pasture and water, lasting no more than a day or two, and quickly disappearing.

However, since the coming of the PP to power, new battlegrounds have emerged, and the impact of new conflicts could have some far-reaching consequences.

Habilalo was a small village with an estimated 50 to 60 households on the border between Afar and Bati town, which lies in a special Oromo zone in Amhara region. Last December, week-long fighting between Oromos and Afars destroyed the village, leaving a scene of devastation. When Ethiopia Insight visited months later in April, there were still dozens of burnt-out houses, reduced to ashes, no people, no animals, not even birds to be seen.

Habilalo was in Afar but has had a growing number of Oromo-speakers move there in recent years. The conflict started after two Afars, a man and a woman, were shot dead, apparently by unknown people from Habilalo. The confrontation escalated and only ended after six days and nights of intense fighting with an estimated 74 dead, 56 Bati Oromos and 18 Afars.

The war-torn and deserted village of Habilalo; Dawud Mohammed; 16 April 2021.

Eyewitness accounts made it clear that this was the sort of meaningless conflict that could have been suppressed had security forces from the two regions intervened quickly before disagreement escalated into armed confrontation. PP officials in Afar defended the failure to control the increasing regional peace and security problems, stressing “the ongoing instability in Afar region is the cost of transition from the dictatorship under EPRDF to the democracy of PP”.

They added: “The security apparatus of Ethiopia is currently overstretched. Anti-peace elements who realized this are leveraging the gap. However, it will not be long before peace prevails in Afar and Ethiopia at large.” Opposition party leaders are not so sure. One senior official, a renowned political figure from Afar People’s Party, thought “this all shows how loose and ill-managed PP’s security system is.”

Now with new problems emerging and old disputes intensifying, as well as the danger of insurgent groups infiltrating the region and committing atrocities, restoring peace and order has become a major issue. It has left Afars with considerable concerns over security.

It all adds up to a number of very real issues in Afar that are far deeper than the cosmetic political changes.

What is needed now is for all regional elites to work together to restore the trust of the long-suffering Afar population in politicians and their policies.

A far-sighted solution

Successful solutions to the Afar-Somali conflict will require determination and strong political will by the federal government to look into the root causes of the security problem and deal fairly and justly with the conflicting factions. The federal government will need to maintain a neutral position and enforce the implementation of the peace deals signed in the past by the leaders of both regions.

Parties need to keep within their respective regional borders and reconcile their differences in a peaceful manner by investigating the relevant historical facts and evidence. Any territorial claim must be addressed legally at the federal level or through political give and take.  The alternative is continued armed confrontation to the detriment of everyone.

More generally, for far too long, the federal government has pursued development plans in Afar that negatively impacted the livelihood of local communities. The government continues to propagate the myth of targeting ‘unutilized’  lands in the Afar region to promote development endeavors, which in reality is used as an excuse to capture some of the most fertile lands in the region on which pastoralists relied to feed their animals during dry seasons. Hence, this false narrative of ‘developing the region through large-scale development interventions’, which then leads to state-led land grabbing by outsiders, needs to stop.

Tendaho Sugar Factory is a living testimony to learn how devastating the effects of such state-led large-scale development projects have been.

Recently, the federal government inaugurated a similar large-scale investment—an industrial park—in the regional capital. Its sustainability is very much in doubt, because of practical issues like sustainable provision of water and electricity for the park. Considering the fact that industrial parks in highland Ethiopia where water is abundantly available are struggling, it is easy to imagine how the parks in the Afar desert will flounder.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed inaugurating Semera Industrial Park; Ethiopian Embassy in Washington D.C.; 16 May 2021.

Development plans of genuine concern should be made in consultation with regional stakeholders, particularly with regional elites who know the local context better than policymakers and development experts in Addis and even further afield. It is also high time that the regional administration develops a comprehensive development plan to help foster social reform and chart out a rosy future for the region.

People’s lack of trust in current leaders underlines the difficulties of achieving economic progress in the region. Having won the election, the Prosperity Party will need to empower additional regional elites and open the doors of opportunity for those who have a genuine interest in serving the public.

Bridging the gap between the regional administration and regional elites, including accomplished academics, would be another important move to help mend relationships between the public and the administration. Organizing regular forums where the authorities and scholars can deliberate and debate on policy matters will help narrow the gap, as well as help uproot tribalism and clan divisions.

Meanwhile, it should be noted that the reform process accelerated by Abiy and his team is unlikely to succeed in Afar as long as the public harbors negative attitudes towards the government. This mistrust of state institutions by Afar society is a historical product, based on longstanding disappointments and negative experiences with government interventions.

So this is something that needs to be addressed first if the reform program is to take root. Since reform is a team effort that demands the cooperation of government and citizens, the public should have faith in its leadership before extending its hands to advance the reform program.

Finally, at the regional level, the ruling elite is discredited. The same faces, the same people as in the EPRDF era, are still running the region. Trying to govern the region with the existing leadership is like serving ‘a new wine in an old bottle’. There is, therefore, an urgent need for a new regional elite that can break with entrenched habits.

On the political front, regardless of the complaints, after this disappointing outcome for the opposition, the returned politicians should consider merging their fragmented parties into one strong institution, which could benefit from pooling human and material resources.

With the return of the previously exiled parties, the election, for the first time, offered some real choices. But the parties were not able to capitalize on the popular concerns over the failures of the previous ruling Afar National Democratic Party and the Prosperity Party, leaving the region in political limbo.

After all, the opposition faces a lot of problems because Afar-PP is now part of a national party. This creates a power imbalance at the regional level as PP has access to much larger financial and material resources. It was easier for the opposition to compete against a regional party, which was hardly better resourced or more competitive in terms of policy formation and development planning. While all the opposition parties struggled to raise funds for the election campaign, PP candidates had no problems.

If the opposition merged, it could then potentially compete with Afar-PP to create a genuine competition of ideas about the best way forward for Afar to finally shed its historical baggage of underdevelopment.

JULY 21, 2021 ERITREA HUB ETHIOPIA, NEWS, TIGRAY

This information is contained in a series of important replies to question tabled in the House of Commons by Andrew Mitchell, MP.

Andrew Mitchell is not just a Conservative member of parliament, he was previously Minister in the Development Ministry, and his views and concerns are therefore taken seriously.

James Duddridge, the British government’s Africa Minister, gave the following information.

The British government has:

decided not to ask the Eritrean government to allow its ports to be used for aid deliveries, prefering to put pressure on Asmara to pull its troops out of Tigray,

confirms it is considering an air-bridge (along with the EU), but at this point assess that airdrops would not be a viable response to the current situation,

can estimate how many are close to starvation, but has no figure for how many have already died.

The questions and answers are reproduced below in full.

Tigray: Humanitarian Aid

Source: Hansard

Mr Andrew Mitchell

Conservative

Sutton Coldfield

 Commons

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what discussions his Department has had with the Eritrean Government on using their ports for humanitarian supplies to be transported to Tigray in Ethiopia.

Answer

James Duddridge

Conservative

Rochford and Southend East

 Commons

Answered on

20 July 2021

The UK Government is deeply concerned about the grave humanitarian situation in Ethiopia and shares the concerns outlined in the report on 24 June by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Ensuring assistance gets to those who need it most remains our priority in Tigray. We continue to explore all options with partners to expand humanitarian access by both air and land. We have not discussed access for humanitarian supplies with the Government of Eritrea given the destabilising role their forces continue to play in the conflict . We are focussed on securing the complete, immediate and verifiable withdrawal of all Eritrean troops from Tigray in order to help humanitarian relief efforts.

On 14 June I [Minister Duddridge] announced that the UK will allocate a further £16.7 million to the crisis in Tigray. This will support civil-military coordination to help aid get to those in need and address famine risk through the provision of healthcare, sanitation, and nutritional support. This allocation is on top of the existing £27 million in 2020-21 already directed to the response, and an additional £4 million allocated to support nutrition and vaccinations in Tigray. This brings UK total funding to support response to the crisis to £47.7 million. We continue to urge all parties to the conflict to protect civilians and respect international humanitarian law.

Question

Mr Andrew Mitchell

Conservative

Sutton Coldfield

 Commons

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what discussions he has had with his Sudanese counterpart on the viability of transporting aid through Sudan to the Tigray region of Ethiopia.

Answer

James Duddridge

Conservative

Rochford and Southend East

 Commons

Answered on

20 July 2021

The UK Government is deeply concerned about the grave humanitarian situation in Ethiopia and shares the concerns outlined in the report on 24 June by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Ensuring assistance gets to those who need it most remains our priority in Tigray. We continue to explore all options with partners to expand humanitarian access by both air and land. During his visit to Sudan the Foreign Secretary commended Sudan’s leaders for their efforts to press for a peaceful resolution to the situation in Tigray and for their support for refugees entering Sudan from Ethiopia. There is currently no viable land route from Sudan into Tigray due to ongoing fighting in Western Tigray although we continue to monitor the logistical and political viability of this route and are engaging the Government of Sudan to support any route that becomes available.

On 14 June I [Minister Duddridge] announced that the UK will allocate a further £16.7 million to the crisis in Tigray. This will support civil-military coordination to help aid get to those in need and address famine risk through the provision of healthcare, sanitation, and nutritional support. This allocation is on top of the existing £27 million in 2020-21 already directed to the response, and an additional £4 million allocated to support nutrition and vaccinations in Tigray. This brings UK total funding to support response to the crisis to £47.7 million. We continue to urge all parties to the conflict to protect civilians and respect international humanitarian law.

Question

Mr Andrew Mitchell

Conservative

Sutton Coldfield

 Commons

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Defence on the potential merits of deploying RAF coordinated airdrops of food and other essentials into the Tigray Region in Ethiopia.

Answer

James Duddridge

Conservative

Rochford and Southend East

 Commons

Answered on

20 July 2021

The UK Government is deeply concerned about the grave humanitarian situation in Ethiopia and shares the concerns outlined in the report on 24 June by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Ensuring assistance gets to those who need it most remains our priority in Tigray. We continue to explore all options with partners to expand humanitarian access by both air and land including the possibility of air bridges into Tigray. At this point the FCDO assess that airdrops would not be a viable response to the current situation.

On 14 June I [Minister Duddridge] announced that the UK will allocate a further £16.7 million to the crisis in Tigray. This will support civil-military coordination to help aid get to those in need and address famine risk through the provision of healthcare, sanitation, and nutritional support. This allocation is on top of the existing £27 million in 2020-21 already directed to the response, and an additional £4 million allocated to support nutrition and vaccinations in Tigray. This brings UK total funding to support response to the crisis to £47.7 million. We continue to urge all parties to the conflict to protect civilians and respect international humanitarian law.

Question

Mr Andrew Mitchell

Conservative

Sutton Coldfield

 Commons

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what recent estimate his Department has made of the number of Tigrayans who (a) are classified as facing a famine and (b) have already died as a result of famine conditions.

Answer

James Duddridge

Conservative

Rochford and Southend East

 Commons

Answered on

20 July 2021

The UK Government is deeply concerned about the grave humanitarian situation in Ethiopia and shares the concerns outlined in the report on 24 June by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification report in June reported high levels of food insecurity in Tigray. It concluded more than 3 million people are in ‘crisis’, nearly 2.1 million in ’emergency’ and 353,000 in ‘catastrophe’ states, per the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) levels.

On 14 June, I [Minister Duddridge] announced that the UK will reallocate a further £16.7 million to the crisis in Tigray. This will support civil-military coordination to help aid get to those in need and address famine risk through the provision of healthcare, sanitation, and nutritional support. This allocation is on top of the existing £27 million in 2020-21 already directed to the response, and an additional £4 million allocated to support nutrition and vaccinations in Tigray. This brings UK total funding to support response to the crisis to £47.7 million. We continue to urge all parties to the conflict to protect civilians and respect international humanitarian law.

JULY 20, 2021  ETHIOPIANEWSTIGRAY

Prime Minister of Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia – Statement

Source: PM Abiy Tweet

The enemy we have faced is one which is a cancer for Ethiopia. The Junta is perhaps the only group in history which has used the political power it has obtained to destroy its own country. Just like the saying ‘the demon that has lived with you [for a long time] won’t be exorcised easily’, it will inevitably fight [frantically] to the left and to the right.

But surely the Junta will be uprooted in a manner that ensures it won’t grow up again.

This can only happen if we rally together to uproot the ‘Inboch’. [weeds]  In the process [of the struggle] individuals may make mistakes here and there. Information which may cause distractions may be heard [may leak]. Though we may be one in our goal, debates over strategies may occur.

However, this will not prevent us from achieving our goal. The children of Ethiopia have risen up from the four corners to reverse the plan of the Junta. This in itself is victory. The children of Ethiopia have identified who their enemy is. They also know what they would have to do to him [the enemy]. And they will do it.

The forces which are scared of this unity of ours will do everything that they think will cause division [among us].  They will conspire to make us shift our eye of might from them to our very own brethren. We will never do that.

The unity we have created now is one which has destroyed the ancient conspiracy of the Junta and which, up next, will destroy the owner of the conspiracy, and finally will rejuvenate the country which is conspired upon.

Our [national] defense forces and regional forces are taking the appropriate positions. There may be provocations to disturb that. For that [provocation], befitting response will be given while [at the same time] respecting the ceasefire which we have promised to ourselves.

We have a secure plan regarding what, why, how, where and when we are to do it. Friends and foes shall see its outcome very soon. When it becomes necessary, our army is prepared for a hands-on-mouth [awe provoking] mission.

We will work in a manner that ensures that the weed is uprooted. But when uprooting the weed, we will take all the precautions possible not to damage the wheat.

In our country, weeds are uprooted as a team. Ethiopia and her children are doing [just] that too.

May Ethiopia live forever honored and respected by the labors of her children!

May the Creator bless Ethiopia and her peoples!

18/07/21

A critical moment in the Tigray war

Tuesday, 20 July 2021 18:54 Written by

JULY 20, 2021  ETHIOPIANEWSTIGRAY

It appears that the war that began on 4 November 2020 has reached a turning point.
The Tigrayans have launched an offensive eastwards to cut the road from Addis to the sea at Djibouti.
This is confirmed by Kjetil Tronvol and Rashid Abdi.
It is a high-risk strategy, since Abiy Ahmed is throwing everything he has at the war, with militia from Sidamo, Amhara, Oromo and Somali regions being sent to the fronts.
But these ethnic militia are not disciplined, trained troops and there are some reports that they are defecting almost as soon as they reach the battlefield in Tigray.
On the offensive
 
Instead of going on the defensive since re-capturing Mekelle on 28 June, the Tigrayans have been on the offensive. Their first thrust was southwards, towards Amhara territory. Now they are pushing eastwards, towards Djibouti.
A defensive strategy would have meant accepting that the Tigrayan people would remain reliant on the meagre supplies allowed in by the government in Addis – far too little to stave off a famine.

As the United Nations pointed out on Monday,

“Inside Tigray, access is currently possible to areas that were previously hard to reach, with an estimated 75 per cent of people who need assistance (4 million out of 5.2 million people in need) now in zones where humanitarian operations can take place, compared with 30 per cent in May.

Humanitarian stocks, however, are rapidly depleting inside Tigray, with road access only possible through Afar Region with heavy control by regional and federal authorities.”

A gamble

The TDF’s strategy will stretch their supply lines and push them into unfamiliar territory.
However, if successful it will not only mean that the Tigray Defence Forces will have captured territory, they will also have taken supplies they badly need as they advance.
If it works then the Tigrayans will probably be in a position to dictate terms since:
1. They will have inflicted major defeats on the Eritrean and Ethiopian military
2. They will have cut Ethiopia’s main link to the outside world
3. They will have defeated the ethnic militia that Addis is now throwing at them.
Will this happen? The Ethiopians still control the skies and have an air-force that could try to cut Tigrayans lines.
We should know in the next few weeks which way this war is going.
Martin

News and Press Release Source

 Posted15 Jul 2021 Originally published15 Jul 2021 OriginView original

This news comment is attributable to Ann Encontre, UNHCR Representative in Ethiopia

The situation in the Mai Aini and Adi Harush Eritrean refugee camps in Ethiopia’s Tigray region has further and rapidly deteriorated with the escalation of fighting in the area over the last two days

At least one Eritrean refugee death has been confirmed, with credible reports of arrests, detentions, beatings, looting, and sporadic gunfire. Tens of thousands of refugees, fearful for their lives, are currently trapped and unable to move due to the insecurity and ongoing movement of troops in the area. UNHCR staff on the ground, as well as other humanitarian partners, are now unable to reach the camps to assist refugees.

We urgently call on both the Federal Government of Ethiopia and the Tigray Regional Government to uphold their obligations under international law including respecting the civilian character of refugee camps, and the rights of refugees and all civilians to be protected from hostilities.

Source=News comment: UNHCR latest update on deteriorating situation of Eritrean refugees in Tigray - Ethiopia | ReliefWeb

By Andrew Harding
BBC News, Hamdayet, Sudan

Silhouettes of refugees

Almost every night, a handful of young men slip across the well-guarded border, swimming across a fast-flowing brown river and trudging into Sudan to escape what they say is a sudden upsurge in ethnic violence in the far western corner of Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

This fertile area, still held by soldiers and militias loyal to Ethiopia’s federal government, is now seen as a likely next target for Tigray’s rebel fighters, as they seek to strengthen their control over the region and secure a potentially crucial supply route into neighbouring Sudan.

The conflict in Tigray is now showing dangerous signs of transforming into a more widespread ethnic conflict that could suck in other parts of Ethiopia.

“They gave us two days to leave, or we would be killed,” said one 18-year-old Tigrayan, who’d just crossed the river with three school friends and asked for his identity to be hidden to protect relatives still living inside Ethiopia.

He accused soldiers from the nearby region of Amhara – who currently control the key border town of Humera – of targeting Tigrayan men of fighting age.

River Sittet, which marks the border between Ethiopia and Sudanimage captionThe River Sittet marks the border between Ethiopia and Sudan

There are many reports that Amhara conscripts and volunteers are now being rushed to reinforce the area, along with other militia forces from different parts of the country including Oromia and Sidama.

“The Amhara militia are going door to door. If they know you are a Tigrayan they kill or arrest you. We feel bad because it is our country. Anyone who can escape is fleeing,” said another teenager, speaking early one morning, in the isolated Sudanese border town of Hamdayet, just across the border from Humera.

The BBC spoke to eight people who’d left Humera in recent days and told similar stories of ethnic cleansing. But with phone lines inside Tigray cut, it has been difficult to seek independent confirmation.

The Ethiopian government has meanwhile indicated that it may end its unilateral ceasefire in Tigray, blaming “provocations” by the rebel forces, and appears to be mobilising more troops from different regions.

Warnings of imminent battle

Surrounded by muddy fields and now buffeted nightly by spectacular summer storms, Hamdayet has become a transit point for thousands of Tigrayan refugees – and almost certainly for rebel fighters too – who cross in and out of the town, sometimes slipping through nearby Eritrea.

The flow of refugees has slowed in recent months. It began last November, when the conflict in Tigray first erupted between forces loyal to the regional government and Ethiopia’s federal state.BBCWar is inevitab

BBCWar is inevitable – it is ethnic cleansing”Tewodros Tefera

Doctor

Some 50,000 refugees are currently sheltering in Sudanese camps close to the border, often in grim conditions as the rainy season sets in and their makeshift tents are repeatedly broken by fierce winds. The UN refugee agency has faced growing criticism about the humanitarian situation in the camps.

Multiple security and intelligence sources in the region told the BBC that the upsurge of ethnic violence inside Tigray – particularly in and around Humera – was a sign that a major battle could be imminent. After its spectacular recent successes further south and east, the rebel Tigray Defence Forces are widely expected to try to seize all of western Tigray before the rains cut off much access.

But the town lies in disputed territory, long-claimed by ethnic Amharas, who took control of the area soon after the Tigray conflict began. The concern is that an escalating conflict here will further enflame ethnic tensions in Ethiopia, and could also fuel instability in Sudan and Eritrea.

“It’s going to go on – the war – for sure. The Amhara and the Tigrayan people used to be as brother and sister. But we are not giving up our land so the blood[shed] is going to continue,” said a bank worker and mother of two, who recently arrived in Hamdayet and asked for her name to be withheld.

“War is inevitable. There is a new surge of mass arrests [by Amhara militia]. It is ethnic cleansing. The forceful eviction of Tigrayans from western Tigray is getting intense right now,” said Tewodros Tefera, a surgeon who fled across the border into Sudan late last year, and now runs a tiny clinic serving thousands of refugees and locals in Hamdayet.

Like many Tigrayan refugees, Dr Tewodros now appears committed to the idea of a complete break from Ethiopia – full independence for Tigray.

“Thinking of being an Ethiopian now is gone. I don’t want to be in the same category with these people that have raped my sisters, that have killed by my brothers and sisters. So, the idea of [holding] the same passport is gone,” he said.

JULY 16, 2021  ETHIOPIANEWSTIGRAY

16 July 2021, 02:00 UTC

Source: Amnesty International

Police in Addis Ababa have arbitrarily arrested and detained dozens of Tigrayans without due process, following the recapture of the Tigray region’s capital, Mekelle, by forces from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) that also calls itself Tigray Defence Forces (TDF) on 28 June, Amnesty International said today. The arrests appear to be ethnically motivated, with former detainees, witnesses and lawyers describing how police checked identity documents before arresting people and taking them to detention centres.

“Former detainees told us that police stations are filled with people speaking Tigrinya, and that authorities had conducted sweeping mass arrests of Tigrayans”
Deprose Muchena, Director for East and Southern Africa

“Following the withdrawal of the Ethiopian National Defense Force from parts of Tigray and the announcement of a unilateral ceasefire by the Federal government on 28 June, for the last two weeks Tigrayans in Addis Ababa have been arbitrarily arrested and detained. Former detainees told us that police stations are filled with people speaking Tigrinya, and that authorities had conducted sweeping mass arrests of Tigrayans,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa.

“Amnesty International urges the Ethiopian government to end this wave of arbitrary arrests, and to ensure that all detainees are either promptly charged with internationally recognized crimes and given fair trials, or immediately and unconditionally released. The government must also inform families of the whereabouts of those detained and ensure that they have access to lawyers and their relatives.”

While some people have been released on bail, approximately hundreds of others remain in detention, and their whereabouts unknown. Amnesty International is not aware of any internationally recognizable criminal charges against those still in detention who were arrested in these cases documented by the organization.

Ethiopian law requires police to present detainees in court within 48 hours of arrest to review the grounds for arrest. Promptly bringing detainees before a judicial authority is an important safeguard against torture, ill-treatment and enforced disappearance.

Beaten, harassed, arrested

Amnesty International remotely interviewed 14 people in Addis Ababa, including former detainees, eyewitnesses to arrests, and relatives and lawyers of those still in detention.

One man, who was arrested in the Merkato area on Friday 2 July, told the organization that police raided his snooker game business at around 7pm. They began to harass and beat customers and employees and demanded to see their identity documents, before taking five people, all ethnic Tigrayans, to the nearby Woreda 6 police station. Identification cards in Ethiopia identify the ethnicity of the holder. The shopkeeper, who was among those arrested, said:

“They kept us on the open air and it was raining the whole night. We also stayed there the next day on Saturday. More people of Tigrayan origin joined us during the daytime on Saturday. We were 26 Tigrayans arrested in the station that day.”

The Ethiopian government to end this wave of arbitrary arrests, and to ensure that all detainees are either promptly charged with internationally recognized crimes and given fair trials, or immediately and unconditionally released
Deprose Muchena

Nineteen people were released the next day – some after presenting a bond – but the rest were taken to Awash Arba area in Afar Region, 240 kilometers east of Addis Ababa, according to the people Amnesty International has interviewed. The shopkeeper was released on Saturday evening, only to learn that his brother was among those being held at Awash Sebat. He said:

“The next day I was told my brother is also arrested. He called us from Awash Sebat using a phone line of another person. He told us he is taken there by the police with many people. I know some of the people arrested with him.”

Tsehaye Gebre Hiwot, who works at a tyre maintenance shop near Gotera, was arrested by police together with a relative, Haile Girmay, on 3 July. A family member told Amnesty International that she had visited Tsehaye Gebre Hiwot in the nearby police station.

She said: “When I visited him, I saw many other Tigrayan broomsticks and mopper vendors [a business traditionally associated with people of Tigrayan origin] arrested there. They were all speaking in Tigrinya. I don’t know if they are released or taken with him.”

A further nine witnesses told Amnesty International that they had seen dozens of Tigrayans detained in Tekle Haimanot – 5th Police Station, Gerji, Federal Police Remand Centre, and Merkato police stations when visiting detained friends and relatives. One man, who said five of his friends had been arrested in a raid on a dormitory hall on 2 July in Tekle Haimanot, said he saw about 50 Tigrayans in the 5th police station when he visited on 3 July.

Amnesty International also heard of similar pattern of arbitrary arrests targeting Tigrayan residents in Awash Sebat, a town in Afar Region 200 kilometres to the east of Addis Ababa. One witness told Amnesty International that five Tigrayan business owners in the town, including her husband, were arrested on 3 July. She said:

“He and many other Tigrayans in the town were arrested that day. They stayed in the police station of the Federal Police until 7 July before they were transferred to Awash Arba Prison at a place called Berta. They were taken to a court in Awash Arba on 7 July and the court remanded them until 19 July. Then the police took them to the prison. The prison is around 35 kilometers away from Awash Sebat. We visit and deliver them food and clothes in the prison.”

Activists and journalists targeted

Tsegaze’ab Kidanu is an Tigrayan living in Addis Ababa, who has been coordinating humanitarian assistance for people affected by the conflict in Tigray. He is also a volunteer managing media relations for an association called Mahbere Kidus Yared Zeorthodox Tewahido Tigray. On 1 July, a day before his association released a statement on the human rights situation in Tigray, he was arrested at his home.

Tsegaze’ab’s family and lawyer visited him at the Federal Police Remand Centre on 2 and 3 July, but when they returned on 4 July he was not there. According to Tsegaze’ab’s lawyer, they later heard from another detainee that he had been taken to Awash Arba. His lawyer was also never informed of charges brought against Tsegaze’ab.

The lawyer also shared with Amnesty International the names of 24 Tigrayans who were arrested from various neighbourhoods of Addis Ababa, including 22 Mazoria and Tekle Haimanot, between 30 June and 8 July. The lawyer told Amnesty International that one detainee, released on bail on 5 July, was charged of having ‘links with TPLF (the Tigray People’s Liberation Front)’ which is designated as a terrorist group by the Ethiopian government.

Authorities must also ensure that all detainees are protected against torture and other ill-treatment
Deprose Muchena

Journalists and media workers who have been reporting on the situation in Tigray have also been detained without due process.  On 30 June, police arrested 11 journalists and media workers for Awlo Media and Ethio Forum, You Tube based media who have been covering the conflict and the human rights situation in Tigray, along with their lawyer. A lawyer and family members interviewed by Amnesty International said that they were able to visit the detainees on 1 July, but since 2 July their whereabouts are unknown and they also have no information whether the detainees have been charged with any crime or not. A relative of one detainee said:

“On Friday [2 July], the police told us that they released them early in the morning around 6 pm. But none of them came to their house or called us. When we asked them repeatedly, the police said, we[police] don’t know where they are, don’t ever come again’. We have been looking for them since then.”

“Ethiopian authorities must reveal the whereabouts of detainees to their families and lawyers. Not disclosing the fate or whereabouts of detainees is committing the crime of enforced disappearance. Authorities must also ensure that all detainees are protected against torture and other ill-treatment.” said Deprose Muchena.

JULY 15, 2021  ETHIOPIANEWSTIGRAY

Source: Reuters

Tigrayan militia took about 19 refugees from Adi Harush on Wednesday to an unknown location and one refugee – a Muslim man – was killed after they told him to carry some weapons and he refused, another refugee told Reuters.

Ethiopia conflict heats up as Amhara region vows to attack Tigray forces

Members of Amhara Special Forces stand guard along a street in Humera town, Ethiopia July 1, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer

ADDIS ABABA, July 14 (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s war in the northern region of Tigray looked set to intensify on Wednesday as the prime minister signalled the end of a government ceasefire and the neighbouring Amhara region said it would go on the offensive against Tigrayan forces.

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which has recaptured most of its home region in the past three weeks after an abrupt reversal in an eight-month war, has vowed to retake western Tigray, an expanse of fertile territory controlled by Amhara forces who seized it during the conflict.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed abruptly pulled central government troops out of most of Tigray last month, citing a unilateral ceasefire that the TPLF mocked as “a joke” designed to justify his forces’ retreat. Wednesday’s statement marked a shift in rhetoric, as Abiy said the ceasefire had failed to deliver.

A spokesman for the Amhara regional government also said the authorities there were rallying their own forces for a counter-attack against Tigrayan forces.

“The regional government has now transitioned from defensive to offensive,” Amhara spokesperson Gizachew Muluneh was quoted as saying by the region’s state-run Amhara Media Corporation. “Amhara militia and special forces have been systematically trying to defend but now our patience has run out and as of today we have opened an offensive attack.”

He did not respond to requests for further comment. On Tuesday the National Movement of Amhara, a major regional political party, called on irregular volunteer militia – known as Fano – to mobilise.

Western Tigray has long been home to large populations of both Tigrayans and Amhara, and renewed fighting between two of Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic groups over the territory could drive another wave of refugees from a conflict that has already forced 2 million from their homes.

When Abiy sent troops to fight the TPLF last year, Amhara militia fought on the central government’s side, using the opportunity to take control of a swathe of territory administered by Tigrayans for decades.

Since Abiy’s abrupt withdrawal on June 28, the TPLF has pushed steadily outwards, recapturing most of Tigray. Its forces retook Alamata, the main town in the south, on Monday and pushed across the deep ravine of the Tekeze River to take Mai Tsebri from Amhara control on Tuesday. read more

But a tougher fight could loom for western Tigray, which the Amhara consider a reclaimed part of their own historic homeland and have vowed to keep under their control.

ABIY STEPS BACK FROM CEASEFIRE

Abiy’s more forceful remarks in a statement on Wednesday suggested his government was abandoning its three-week-old emphasis on its ceasefire declaration, proclaimed as government troops abandoned regional capital Mekelle to the advancing TPLF.

“The ceasefire could not bear the desired fruits,” he said. “The TPLF…poses a great danger to the sovereignty of the country. The federal government, through mobilising the people of Ethiopia, is determined to curb this threat.”

He blamed the TPLF for choosing to fight rather than allow in aid or observe the ceasefire, and accused them of recruiting, drugging and deploying child soldiers.

TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda dismissed the claim.

“We don’t have child soldiers because mature soldiers are never in short supply,” he told Reuters via satellite phone.

Getachew also repeated that the TPLF welcomes aid, and would not observe a ceasefire while parts of Tigray remained under control of the central government or its allies.

REFUGEES STUCK IN THE MIDDLE

Caught in the middle of the fighting are 23,000 Eritrean refugees sheltering in two camps near the town of Mai Tsebri. Many have already fled the Tigrayan war once when two other refugee camps were destroyed, and told Reuters they had seen refugees kidnapped and killed during previous fighting.

One refugee from Adi Harush camp told Reuters Tigrayan militia were searching refugees’ homes and confiscating cell phones.

“There is still shooting all around the camp,” he said.

Tigrayan militia took about 19 refugees from Adi Harush on Wednesday to an unknown location and one refugee – a Muslim man – was killed after they told him to carry some weapons and he refused, another refugee told Reuters.

“Our forces are not after Eritrean refugees. We will make sure refugees are protected and we are more than ready to investigate any claims,” TPLF’s Getachew said, adding refugees would be permitted to leave the area if they wished.

Tesfahun Gobezay, head of Ethiopia’s refugee agency, said they wanted to relocate the refugees away from fighting as fast as possible.

“We will bring refugees into the high schools as we try to build shelters,” he said.