Why apparently blame Tigray for the failings integral to the politics of Eritrea and Ethiopia? This is a strangely mistaken approach. The bottom line is that Eritrea’s President Isaias loathes the TPLF and is determined to destroy the party, which he believes has designs on Eritrean land.

But the division is far deeper. Ideology, traditional animosity and the terrible decision by Eritrea to close off access aid to Tigray from Sudan during the 1984-85 famine run deep. Finally: it was Eritrea that sponsored, trained and directed Ethiopian rebels that attacked Ethiopia when Tigrayans ran Ethiopia under Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

It’s a complex history – not easily summarised. But I do support the conclusion: “The priority is to de-escalate tensions between the Federal Government of Ethiopia and the Tigray region. Consultation and confidence building is equally important between Eritrea and Tigray’s leadership and people. Only then will the new peace deal stand a chance of bringing much-needed stability to the people of both countries and the region.”


Source: ISSafrica

The Eritrea-Ethiopia peace deal is yet to show dividends

Tensions in both countries relating to Ethiopia’s Tigray regional state are hampering progress.

It’s been over two years since the much-heralded rapprochement between Eritrea and Ethiopia culminated in a peace and friendship agreement in July 2018. The deal, brewed personally by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali and President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea, symbolised an end to the 20 years of no war, no peace situation and the start of cordial relations between the two countries.

The settlement was internationally praised for its potential to stabilise the region beyond improving the two countries’ affairs. Abiy even received the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to build bridges with Eritrea.

Two years later, positive steps have been taken in some areas, but not in others due to tensions between Ethiopia’s federal government and Tigray regional state, and unresolved animosity between Tigray and Eritrean leaders.

The dispute over the small border town of Badme, which both Eritrea and Ethiopia claimed as their own, is often cited as the reason for the outbreak of the 1998-2000 border conflict. However the root causes go deeper.

They include historical rivalry, political and economic differences and hegemonic competition between the ruling elites of both countries. These were the Eritrean leadership, and the ruling party in Ethiopia’s Tigray State – the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – Ethiopia’s dominant political party until Abiy came to power.

The Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC), established to resolve the border issue, decided in 2002 that Badme should belong to Eritrea. A failure to implement the EEBC’s decision led to the stand-off between the two countries.

In the 2018 peace deal, the leaders agreed to begin political, economic, social, cultural and security cooperation. They decided to resume diplomatic, transport, trade and communication ties that had been frozen for two decades. The leaders resolved to implement the EEBC decision and jointly ensure regional peace, development and cooperation.Twenty years after the border war, and despite the peace deal, the main protagonists are still fightinghttps://issafrica.org/iss-today/the-eritrea-ethiopia-peace-deal-is-yet-to-show-dividends" style="box-sizing: border-box; -webkit-font-smoothing: antialiased; outline: none; color: rgb(0, 147, 194); text-decoration: none; transition: all 0.1s ease-in-out 0s; border-bottom: 1px solid rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.2);">https://issafrica.org/iss-today/the-eritrea-ethiopia-peace-deal-is-yet-to-show-dividends&via=ISSAfrica" rel="noreferrer noopener" style="box-sizing: border-box; -webkit-font-smoothing: antialiased; outline: none; color: rgb(0, 147, 194); text-decoration: none; transition: all 0.1s ease-in-out 0s; border-bottom: 1px solid rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.2);">https://issafrica.org/iss-today/the-eritrea-ethiopia-peace-deal-is-yet-to-show-dividends" rel="noreferrer noopener" style="box-sizing: border-box; -webkit-font-smoothing: antialiased; outline: none; color: rgb(0, 147, 194); text-decoration: none; transition: all 0.1s ease-in-out 0s; border-bottom: 1px solid rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.2);">

Since then, progress in reconnecting the two countries has been made in key areas. Numerous high-level leadership visits took place, diplomatic relations were normalised and embassies reopened. Daily flights between Addis Ababa and Asmara were established and phone connections resumed. Four border posts were opened, although they were closed after a short period.

Talks about infrastructure and transport linkages, such as Ethiopia’s use of Eritrean ports (including a feasibility study for a railway between Massawa and Addis Ababa) and rebuilding of roads, dominated discussions. Other symbolic soft power and people-to-people interactions took place. United Nations sanctions on Eritrea were lifted.

The high-profile start of the rapprochement raised expectations, both at home and internationally, that 20 years of tension and mistrust could be eroded. Two years later, this potential has waned, paralysing anticipated socio-economic gains for people in both countries. And the cause is mostly tensions between Ethiopia’s federal and Tigray officials, and ongoing conflict between the TPLF and Eritrean leadership – just like old times.

Ethiopia’s Tigray regional state and Eritrea share the border that was contested. Badme is also under Tigray administration, and so the region’s TPLF leaders share responsibility for implementing the EEBC’s decision. But the peace process was initiated from Addis Ababa, and there wasn’t adequate consultation and consensus building among stakeholders like the TPLF. The peace process failed to adequately consult some stakeholders like the TPLFhttps://issafrica.org/iss-today/the-eritrea-ethiopia-peace-deal-is-yet-to-show-dividends" style="box-sizing: border-box; -webkit-font-smoothing: antialiased; outline: none; color: rgb(0, 147, 194); text-decoration: none; transition: all 0.1s ease-in-out 0s; border-bottom: 1px solid rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.2);">

This exclusion – together with other political differences relating to ideology, foreign policy, governance and elections – have worsened the division between Abiy’s government and the TPLF’s rule in Tigray. One point of contention involves how to engage with Eritrea.

Abiy, in his April 2018 inaugural speech, announced his administration’s unconditional acceptance of the stalled Algiers agreement signed in 2000 and aimed at ending the border war. In February 2020, Debretsion Gebremichael – the TPLF’s highest official – said a structured peace process was needed that included all relevant sides, not just the two national leaders.

Implementation of the 2018 deal cannot occur without buy-in from all relevant government actors in Tigray. Consensus is also needed within the respective agencies of both Ethiopia and Eritrea and all other relevant stakeholders.

The four border posts that were opened and quickly closed symbolise the lack of consensus among federal and state agencies on both sides around regulating movement and trade across national boundaries. Proper consultations would have allowed time to develop harmonised positions and enact new regulations.Implementation of the 2018 deal requires buy-in from all the relevant government actors in Tigrayhttps://issafrica.org/iss-today/the-eritrea-ethiopia-peace-deal-is-yet-to-show-dividends" style="box-sizing: border-box; -webkit-font-smoothing: antialiased; outline: none; color: rgb(0, 147, 194); text-decoration: none; transition: all 0.1s ease-in-out 0s; border-bottom: 1px solid rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.2);">

Unresolved hostility between Eritrea’s and the Tigray region’s ruling elites also hampers progress. Isaias accused the TPLF of complicating implementation of the EEBC’s decision, which the TPLF denied. Isaias also claims the TPLF created division among Eritreans, organising ethnic-based opposition and spreading misinformation to spoil relations between Eritreans and Ethiopians. The TPLF in turn accuses Eritrea of interfering in Ethiopia’s internal affairs and threatening regional security.

Twenty years after the bloody border war, and despite the new peace deal, the conflict’s main protagonists – the TPLF and the Eritrean leadership – are still fighting.

Given the increasingly serious confrontation between Mekele and Addis Ababa and the unresolved animosity between Mekele and Asmara, the TPLF feels unfairly targeted from both sides. Without political will and confidence building between the TPLF, Abiy and Isaias, the peace deal may not bear fruit.

Resolution of the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea is imperative for advancing economic and development prospects in the Horn. Sustainable peace and the benefits that it will bring can only be achieved if the 2018 agreement is implemented.

The priority is to de-escalate tensions between the Federal Government of Ethiopia and the Tigray region. Consultation and confidence building is equally important between Eritrea and Tigray’s leadership and people. Only then will the new peace deal stand a chance of bringing much-needed stability to the people of both countries and the region.

Selam Tadesse Demissie, Research Officer, Horn of Africa Security Analysis, ISS Addis Ababa

Urgent support needed as flooding in Sudan intensifies

Thursday, 10 September 2020 22:05 Written by


News and Press Release Source 

 Posted 10 Sep 2020 Originally published 9 Sep 2020 Origin View original

Islamic Relief is launching an urgent humanitarian response as devastating flooding intensifies in Sudan, plunging hundreds of thousands of people into dire need. Nearly 100 people are reported to have lost their lives so far, and this number is expected to rise.

The flooding, which began in July, is a result of extremely heavy rainfall, causing the River Nile to rise to its highest level in 100 years.

The situation has significantly worsened in recent days and the country has declared a state of national emergency.

More than 110,000 people have been affected by the flooding in the first week of September alone, according to the Government’s Humanitarian Aid Commission.

The states of Khartoum, Blue Nile, River Nile, Gezira, West Kordofan and South Darfur are amongst the worst hit.

The country was already struggling to cope amid the Covid-19 pandemic, as over 13, 000 people have now tested positive for the virus. Sudan is also experiencing a severe food crisis in which 9.6 million people do not know where their next meal is coming from.

Suffering is now expected to increase further, with Islamic Relief estimating that this latest disaster has now left up to 500,000 people in need of urgent humanitarian aid.

We urgently need your support

Islamic Relief are on the ground and working in coordination with other humanitarian actors to provide essential support to affected families.

Our current priorities are providing food, temporary shelter and household water treatment to families affected by the flooding in West Kordofan, which has been very badly hit.

Every year heavy rains trigger devastating flooding in Sudan, a country on the frontline of the climate emergency as natural disasters become increasingly frequent and intense.

More rainfall is expected in the coming days and weeks and we are in urgent need of your help to increase our support in Sudan as the situation worsens: donate to our Global Emergencies Fund now.



Prosecutors appeal acquittal of men who lynched migrant mistaken for terrorist

Supreme Court to discuss case of IDF soldier and Prisons Service officer filmed beating Eritrean man Haftom Zarhum in aftermath of 2015 terror attack in Beersheba

Security camera footage showing an Eritrean man being shot in the Beersheba central bus station on October 18, 2015, after he was thought to be a terrorist. (screen capture: Channel 2)

Security camera footage showing an Eritrean man being shot in the Beersheba central bus station on October 18, 2015, after he was thought to be a terrorist. (screen capture: Channel 2)

State prosecutors on Sunday appealed a July court decision that acquitted two men, Israel Defense Forces soldier Yaakov Shimba and Israel Prisons Service officer Ronen Cohen, over their roles in the 2015 lynching of an Eritrean migrant who was mistaken for a Palestinian terrorist.

In the minutes after a terror attack at the Beersheba bus station on October 18, 2015, Haftom Zarhum, 29, an innocent bystander, was shot by two soldiers and a security guard who thought he was the perpetrator. As he lay bleeding on the ground, a crowd of angry passersby — believing him to be the terrorist — beat him, some of them delivering powerful blows to his head and pummeling him with a metal bench. He died hours later in a hospital, and an autopsy ruled that the primary cause of death was the gunshot wounds.

The attack was carried out by Muhanad Alukabi, 21, from an unrecognized Bedouin village in the Negev. He first opened fire with a pistol, killing IDF soldier Omri Levi, then took Levi’s service rifle and used it to wound 11 others. He was killed in a shootout with police after holing up in a bathroom.

Citing reasonable doubt, the Beersheba District Court in July accepted the argument presented by Shimba and Cohen that they had genuinely thought Zarhum was the terrorist.

On Sunday, the prosecution appealed the district court’s decision, taking the matter to the Supreme Court.

The reasoning for the appeal must be submitted to the country’s top court within 15 days.

Shimba, Cohen and two other men, who were caught on security cameras beating Zarhum, had been accused of “causing injury with grave intent,” an offense potentially carrying a punishment of up to 20 years in jail. Unlike the two other defendants, they did not agree to a plea deal that would downgrade the charge and offer a relatively lenient punishment.

The indictment said that in the aftermath of the attack, Shimba kicked Zarhum in the head and upper body with force. It said Cohen threw a bench onto him, and after another man removed the bench he took it and again dropped it on the prone man.

Cohen also shoved a civilian who asked him to stop his attack, according to the charges.

Haftom Zarhum, 29, died of his wounds on October 19, 2015, a few hours after he was shot and beaten by a mob that mistook him for an assailant in the terror attack in Beersheba on October 18, 2015. (Courtesy)

Despite the fact that Zarhum was already critically injured, Justice Aharon Mishnayot ruled that the pair’s argument — that they beat him because they genuinely thought he was the terrorist — was enough to merit an acquittal.

Cohen’s attorney, Zion Amir, called him a “hero.”

Commenting on the ruling, Amir said: “There is no doubt that this is a big day for an officer who acted heroically during the incident, and instead of an award got an indictment. I am glad that the court acquitted him after an almost five-year legal battle.”

The two other defendants in the lynching, Evyatar Dimri and David Muial, were convicted in 2018 in plea bargains that downgraded their charges to “abusing the helpless,” a lesser crime carrying a maximum prison sentence of seven years.

Dimri was sentenced to four months in prison and Muial got 100 days of community service and eight months of probation and was ordered to pay NIS 2,000 (approximately $550) compensation to Zarhum’s family.

Zarhum’s family has sued the state for damages, claiming negligence and failure to follow proper procedure caused his death.

The lawsuit, filed in 2017 at the Beersheba District Court, demanded NIS 3 million ($780,000) in compensation and that the National Insurance Agency recognize Zarhum as a victim of terror, entitling his family to additional state benefits.

The National Insurance Agency rejected recognizing Zarhum as a terror victim because the Eritrean had entered the country illegally.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

It is two years since the Joint Declaration of Friendship and Peace was signed in Asmara, Eritrea on July 9, 2018, and the Peace, Friendship and Comprehensive Cooperation agreement, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on September 16, 2018. However, instead of withdrawing troops, exchanging trade, and allowing free movement of their citizens, Eritrea and Ethiopia are now in a very complicated relationship that may lead to armed conflict. The government of the Tigray region of Ethiopia, which rejected the agreement, has now decided to hold the  regional  election in Sep 09 in defiance of the of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia to postpone elections (the NEBE’s decision has been approved by the  parliament ). Ethiopia’s House of Federation on press statement issued on 05/09 considered Tigray regional election unconstitutional. In additional to internal differences with it, Tigray region is accusing the federal government of Ethiopia of preparing to attack it in cooperation with Eritrea.

How has what the world considers a peace agreement caused tensions that may lead to a new war in the two countries’ territories?


War erupted between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 1998 over a border issue and lasted for two years. It caused the loss of about 100,000 lives, and after mediation by the then Organisation for African Unity (OAU) and other international organisations and states, the two countries made peace in 2000. The border issue was referred to the International Boundary Commission, which awarded most of the disputed territory to Eritrea. However, Ethiopia rejected the arbitration decision, and for nearly 18 years the two countries continued to fight each other through proxies.   

Change from inside Ethiopia

In March 2018, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) lost its hold on power when Abiy Ahmed was elected to succeed Haile Mariam Desalegn as chairman of the ruling party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

Abiy Ahmed, who served as an intelligence officer in the Eritrean-Ethiopian war, has a deep knowledge of the conflict between his country and Eritrea, which had its roots in the conflict between the TPLF and Eritrea’s ruling party, the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF). Despite huge internal problems, Ahmed made reconciliation with Eritrea his priority. Days before he became prime minister, he tweeted that he wanted to build ‘bridges of love’ with Eritrea and confirmed it in his inaugural speech to the parliament on April 2. On June 5, the EPRDF executive committee announced its readiness to implement the Boundary Commission decision.

Isaias Afwerki, president of Eritrea, who had previously refused to negotiate with Ethiopia until it withdrew its troops from the disputed territory, responded quickly to Ahmed’s initiative.  He announced in a Martyrs' Day speech on June 20 that he would send a delegation to Ethiopia to assess developments and set a plan for future action. Ahmed made his historic visit to Asmara on July 8.

Quick process on a big decision

Events moved quickly: just a month after the EPRDF’s announcement of its acceptance of the of the Boundary Commission’s decision, Afwerki and Ahmed signed the Joint Declaration of Friendship and Peace in Asmara on July 9. Later, the role of outsiders emerged when Saudi Arabia hosted the signing ceremony of the Friendship and Comprehensive Cooperation agreement in Jeddah on September 16 and pledged with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to pay Ethiopia $3 billion. They may also have pledged an amount to Eritrea, but that remains a secret.

A common enemy

Ahmed’s accession to the Ethiopian premiership came after wide-spread demonstrations against government policies and corruption, for which the people held the TPLF responsible. Ahmed, who comes from the Oromo, the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, moved quickly to establish his authority and implement the protesters' demands. He released political prisoners, allowed a free press, reconciled with opposition groups in exile and allowed them to return home. However, the fact that he did not seek the approval of the TPLF, suggested that the reconciliation with Eritrea might have been designed to weaken the TPLF.

Tigray leaders accused Ahmed of preparing war against their region in cooperation with Eritrea. In a TV interview with Ahmed on 27 July in Tigrinya, he denied it saying, ‘The Eritrean government at present is a force for peace, and this is not only known by Ethiopia, but also by the whole world’. However, describing the Eritrean government as a ‘force for peace’ may have been counter-productive, as the Eritrean government is widely thought to have been a cause of wars with almost all its neighbours. When the TPLF and the EPLF were allies in the 1970s and the 1980s, they fought with the Ethiopian government. Now old friends have become enemies, and old enemies have become friends. And if a new war erupted, the EPLF would likely fight alongside the Ethiopian government against its previous ally.   

Potential causes of war

There are several scenarios in which war could occur between them. For example, if after its regional election, the Tigray government takes more provocative steps, the federal government could decide to impose its authority on the region by force. In this case, Eritrea could intervene to assist the federal government under the pretext of regaining the disputed territory.

In a second scenario, war could occur if the Tigray government, driven to protect its backyard under growing pressure from the federal government and Eritrea, decided to attack Eritrea, perhaps using Eritrean opposition troops. In this event, the federal government would come to the aid of its Eritrean ally to prevent Tigray from establishing a sympathetic regime in Eritrea.

In the third scenario, the least likely, Eritrea could feel threatened by Tigrayan activities and attack Tigray to draw the federal government of Ethiopia into the conflict.

Tigray is betting on the weakness of Eritrea after hundreds of thousands of civilians and soldiers have fled the country in the past 20 years, and opposition to the regime’s policies is growing.  Eritrea sees its alliance with Ethiopia as a guarantee of victory. It may also consider the geopolitical situation of Tigray region as a weakness: Afwerki’s recent efforts to mediate between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt in the dispute over the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam (EGRD), could have been aimed at preventing the Tigray region from accessing aid from Sudan and Egypt. And Ahmed could justify war against the Tigray government as a mission to guarantee national unity.

The international community has been preoccupied in the last few months with the dispute between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, and has made determined efforts to prevent it from turning into armed conflict. However, I believe that the conflicts between the Ethiopian federal government and the Tigray regional government, and between Eritrea and the Tigray have even greater potential for leading to war and require urgent attention from the international community.

Yaseen Mohmad Abdalla

Israel and the US seek African allies

Tuesday, 01 September 2020 18:28 Written by



Snubbed by Sudan, Pompeo and Netanyahu scour Africa in search of support ahead of US election.

Despite months of lobbying, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has failed to convince the president of Sudan’s Sovereign Council to recognise Israel or support the Middle East peace plan concocted by Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. This has US and Israeli diplomats busy scrambling for support from other African countries.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, 24 August 2020.US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, 24 August 2020. ©Reuters Marketplace – Latin America News Agency Pictures

It is the diplomatic trick that has eclipsed the opening of embassies in Taiwan by nations looking to reap financial and diplomatic benefits. In an effort to garner as much support as possible for their Middle East peace plan, US President Donald Trump, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are searching for countries willing to recognise Israel and its new capital, Jerusalem. And time is running out: the US presidential election is three months away and if, as the polls suggest, the Democratic candidate Joe Biden wins, the Kushner initiative will be quickly forgotten and back to square one.

After securing the United Arab Emirates’ recognition of Israel on 13 August, the US and Israeli diplomats sought the same from Sudan. The transitional government in Khartoum relies heavily on Emirati support and has been lobbied by Israeli envoys since its arrival in power. Alas, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo‘s visit to Khartoum on 25 August was a letdown. Pompeo failed to win round Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who called on the transitional nature of his administration to explain his refusal to take sides in a diplomatic matter of this magnitude.

This resistance from Hamdok and the main figures in the coalition of parties he leads caught Washington and Tel Aviv off guard. The two countries bet everything on the military component of Sudan’s Sovereign Council to get on board, wagering this would be enough to rally the rest. In February, Netanyahu met with General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the president of the Sudan Sovereign Council, in Uganda to lay the groundwork for the country’s recognition of Israel. And less than a fortnight before the Hamdok-Pompeo meeting, General Mohamed Hamdan Dalgo, aka Hemeti, the vice-chair of the transitional government, had met with Israeli emissaries in London.

DRC takes care of diplomatic and financial worries in one fell swoop

To date, the only African leader who has taken the plunge is Congolese president Felix Tshisekedi, who, three months after Kushner presented his peace plan, announced the DRC would be opening an embassy in Tel Aviv and a liaison office in Jerusalem (Africa Intelligence18/03/20). This in effect put an end to the diplomatic and financial problems that the DRC had accrued with the Trump administration under President Joseph Kabila. And the move has left Tshisekedi unscathed on the domestic front: in a predominantly Christian country such as the DRC, the general public is relatively indifferent to Israeli-Palestinian relations. This is also the case for Togo and Cameroon, Israel’s two main allies in Africa.

For his part, Idriss Deby got on board too early in the day to reap the full benefits of opening an embassy in Tel Aviv. The Chadian head of state renewed ties with Israel in January 2019, a year before Kushner’s peace plan was presented. He has now found himself under renewed pressure to announce his support for the initiative and make its most controversial component, namely the appointment of Jerusalem as the capital of the Hebrew state, more pliable. He has yet to make any commitment. Deby’s spymaster General Ahmed Kogri, the head of the national security agency, the ANS, likes to present himself when talking to overseas diplomats as the United States and Israel’s best friend, as detailed by our sister publication Intelligence Online on 22/07/20. This diplomatic posturing is intended to make up for his relative isolation from Chad’s internal affairs, which are overseen by the deputy head of the ANS.

Mauritania refuses to budge

Further to the west, Washington and Israel are still hoping for a turnaround from Mauritania, which had an embassy in Tel Aviv for many years before severing all relations in 2009. Just as the UAE has been able to pressure Sudan, Saudi Arabia, which has shown support for the Kushner peace plan but refuses to recognise Israel, strongly urged President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani to reopen Mauritania’s representation in the Hebrew state (Africa Intelligence13/05/20). However, these efforts were in vain. As an Islamic state, Mauritania feels it has too much reputation to lose and not enough to gain if it were to follow Saudi Arabia’s lead. Its relations with Washington remain strong: in February the country hosted the annual US military exercise Flintlock (Africa Intelligence18/12/19).

The Trump administration’s latest target has been Morocco. Rabat has been historically well disposed towards the Hebrew state but does not have an embassy there. Moroccan-born Israelis are one of the main groups in the country and the kingdom is home to the largest Jewish community of the Maghreb region. King Mohammed VI, like his father Hassan II before him, chairs the Al-Quds Committee of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, which ensures the preservation of Jerusalem’s Arab-Muslim identity: getting him to change track would be a decisive victory for Israel. To tip Rabat in his favour, Kushner was willing to throw in the recognition of Western Sahara as Moroccan territory. Yet Rabat sees Kushner’s offer, which he has repeated several times in recent months, as mere smoke and mirrors. The Western Sahara issue is being overseen by the United Nations and while the US does have a say in the matter it cannot resolve the conflict on its own. Not being able to call all the shots has not stopped a good number of self-appointed “shadow” diplomats from putting forward proposals, some more fanciful or self-serving than others. The latest of these was presented by the French-Moroccan businessman Yariv Elbaz, who has a very small and distant connection to Kushner: Trump’s son-in-law lives in a house in Washington D.C. that was previously occupied by a close friend of Elbaz, the Beninese national Maixent Accrombessi (Africa Intelligence29/06/20).

OVER SAUDI ARABIA (Reuters) - High above a vast expanse of desert the Israeli pilot’s voice broke through the passengers’ chatter on Monday to announce that the plane had just crossed into Saudi airspace.

Senior U.S. Presidential Adviser Jared Kushner and U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien pose with members of the Israeli-American delegation in front of the El Al's flight LY971, which will carry the delegation from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi at Ben Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv, Israel August 31, 2020. Menahem Kahana/Pool via REUTERS

Members of the Israeli and U.S. delegations paused for a light ripple of applause, as food carts moved through the aisle with barely enough room to squeeze past the throng of White House aides, officials and journalists.

El Al flight LY971, the first Israeli direct flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi, had just made aviation history by flying over Saudi territory en route to U.S.-brokered normalisation talks between Israel and the Emirates.

Security had been tight in advance - the route had been kept under wraps by officials for as long as possible, even though the schedule of the flight all but confirmed that it would pass over Saudi territory — an alternative route would have doubled the flying time.

And even before take-off, when traveling reporters arrived for COVID-19 testing they were given a code-phrase — “I’m here for the ‘experiment’” — to be fast-tracked through by the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Wishing us all salaam, peace and shalom, have a safe flight,” Captain Tal Becker told the passengers in Arabic, English and Hebrew - matching the words painted above the cockpit window - as they boarded at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport in the morning.

The delegates included President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. U.S. national security adviser Robert O’Brien and his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben-Shabbat. All sat cheek by jowl with agents from the U.S. Secret Service and Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security agency. Netanyahu himself delivered a mid-flight message to mark the occasion.

A spokesman for El Al said the plane was equipped with a C-Music anti-missile system on its rear carriage — standard for the 737s in the carrier’s fleet.

As the aircraft passed over Oman and approached the UAE - an unusually indirect route, perhaps to keep away from Iran on the other side of the Gulf - passengers took photographs and video of the coastline beneath them.

Then after three hours and 20 minutes, the Boeing 737 touched down in Abu Dhabi and came to a halt, ready for the red carpet reception by Emirates officials. Protocol over, the politics could begin.


AUGUST 31, 2020  NEWS

Belessa, just outside Asmara, was one of the first mission stations in the highland run by the Swedish Evangelical Mission.
Belessa is a small hill close to the mainroad to Keren. It consisted of a school, with boarding facilities  and a church.
Nowadays the school is run by the government, but there is still a church in Belessa as well as a small congregation.
Belessa also has a small study centre for training in theology, something which is a great challenge for the Evangelical lutheran church to keep running, since so many students are away on military service.
The Swedish church cooperates with independent churches, Christian councils and other partners in EthiopiaIndiaMalawi, the Sudan and Tanzania as well as Eritrea.

Liberty Magazine Issue #64

Monday, 31 August 2020 19:40 Written by

Bi-monthly English Organ of the Eritrean People's Democratic Party

“To [the Saudis] or even to Abiy, it’s like we’re ants. When we die, it’s as if an ant died, no one cares or pays attention,” the man added, referring to Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Source: Daily Telegraph

‘The guards just throw the bodies out back as if it was trash,’ said one

African migrants held in detention centres in Saudi Arabiahttps://i2.wp.com/eritreahub.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Africans-Saudi-1.jpeg?resize=300%2C188&ssl=1 300w, https://i2.wp.com/eritreahub.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Africans-Saudi-1.jpeg?resize=768%2C481&ssl=1 768w, https://i2.wp.com/eritreahub.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Africans-Saudi-1.jpeg?w=1280&ssl=1 1280w" sizes="(max-width: 840px) 100vw, 840px" data-recalc-dims="1" style="box-sizing: inherit; border: 0px; max-width: 100%; height: auto; clear: both; display: block; margin-right: auto; margin-left: auto; margin-bottom: 1em; text-align: center;">
“Plenty of inmates are suicidal or suffering from mental illnesses as a result of living this for five months,” said one prisoner 
“Plenty of inmates are suicidal or suffering from mental illnesses as a result of living this for five months,” said one prisoner  CREDIT: Telegraph exclusive

Saudi Arabia, one of the wealthiest countries on earth, is keeping hundreds if not thousands of African migrants locked in heinous conditions reminiscent of Libya’s slave camps as part of a drive to stop the spread of Covid-19, an investigation by The Sunday Telegraph has found.

Graphic mobile phone images sent to the newspaper by migrants held inside the detention centres show dozens of emaciated men crippled by the Arabian heat lying shirtless in tightly packed rows in small rooms with barred windows.

One photo shows what appears to be a corpse swathed in a purple and white blanket in their midst. They say it is the body of a migrant who had died of heatstroke and that others are barely getting enough food and water to survive.

Another image, too graphic to publish, shows a young African man hanged from a window grate in an internal tiled wall. The adolescent killed himself after losing hope, say his friends, many of whom have been held in detention since April.

The migrants, several displaying scars on their backs, claim they are beaten by guards who hurl racial abuse at them. “It’s hell in here. We are treated like animals and beaten every day,” said Abebe, an Ethiopian who has been held at one of the centres for more than four months.

“If I see that there is no escape, I will take my own life. Others have already,” he added via an intermediary who was able to communicate on a smuggled phone.“My only crime is leaving my country in search of a better life. But they beat us with whips and electric cords as if we were murderers.”

The images and testimony have sparked outrage among human rights activists, and have particular resonance in light of the global Black Lives Matter protests.

“Photos emerging from detention centres in southern Saudi Arabia show that authorities there are subjecting Horn of Africa migrants to squalid, crowded, and dehumanising conditions with no regard for their safety or dignity,” said Adam Coogle, deputy director of Human Rights Watch in the Middle East, after being shown the images by The Sunday Telegraph.

“The squalid detention centres in southern Saudi Arabia fall well short of international standards. For a wealthy country like Saudi Arabia, there’s no excuse for holding migrants in such deplorable conditions,” Mr Coogle added.

Oil-rich Saudi Arabia has long exploited migrant labour from Africa and Asia. In June 2019, an estimated 6.6m foreign workers made up about 20 per cent of the Gulf nation’s population, most occupying low paid and often physically arduous jobs.

The migrants work mainly in construction and manual domestic roles that Saudi nationals prefer not to do themselves. Many are from South Asia, but a large contingent come from the Horn of Africa, which lies across the Red Sea.

The detention centres identified by The Sunday Telegraph house mainly Ethiopian men and there are said to be others packed with women.

Over the last decade, tens of thousands of young Ethiopians have made their way to the Gulf state, often aided by Saudi recruitment agents and people traffickers, in a bid to escape poverty back home.

They have been trapped partly as a result of the pandemic but also by the ‘Saudization’ of the kingdom’s workforce, a policy introduced by Muhamad Bin Salman, the Crown Prince who took power three years ago.

Dozens of emaciated men crippled by the Arabian heat inside one of Saudi Arabia's detention centres
Dozens of emaciated men crippled by the Arabian heat inside one of Saudi Arabia’s detention centres CREDIT: Telegraph exclusive

The testimonies gathered by The Sunday Telegraph directly from migrants on encrypted channels about the conditions they now find themselves in are harrowing.

“Plenty of inmates are suicidal or suffering from mental illnesses as a result of living this for five months,” said one. “The guards mock us, they say ‘your government doesn’t care, what are we supposed to do with you?”

“A young boy, about sixteen, managed to hang himself last month. The guards just throw the bodies out back as if it was trash,” said another.

When the pandemic struck in March, the Saudi government in the capital Riyadh feared the migrants, who are often housed in overcrowded conditions, would act as vectors for the virus.

Almost 3,000 Ethiopians were deported by the Saudi security services back to Ethiopia in the first ten days of April and a leaked UN memo said a further 200,000 were to follow.  A moratorium was then placed on the deportations after international pressure was brought to bear on Riyadh.

The Sunday Telegraph has found many of the migrants who were slated for deportation five months ago have been left to rot in disease-ridden detention centres.  “We have been left to die here,” said one, who said he has been locked in a room the size of a school classroom and not been outside since March.

“Covid19? Who knows?, he added, “There are a lot of diseases here. Everyone is sick here; everyone has something.”

The images smuggled out show many of those held are plagued by disfiguring skin infections. They claim they have received no medical treatment.

“We eat a tiny piece of bread in the day and rice in the evening. There’s almost no water, and the toilets are overflowing. It spills over to where we eat. The smell, we grow accustomed to. But there’s over a hundred of us in a room, and the heat is killing us,” said another young Ethiopian man.

A short video clip smuggled out shows several rooms covered with filth from an overflowing squat toilet. One Ethiopian man can be heard shouting out: “The toilets are clogged. We tried unblocking them, but we’re unable to. So we live in this filth, we sleep in it too.”

“To [the Saudis] or even to Abiy, it’s like we’re ants. When we die, it’s as if an ant died, no one cares or pays attention,” the man added, referring to Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Saudi Arabia is deeply stratified by race and cast. African migrants enjoy few legal rights and many complain of exploitation, sexual and racial abuse from employers.

New laws further limiting the rights and employment prospects of foreign labourers were introduced in 2013 and crackdowns have continued under the rule of the young Crown Prince Muhamad Bin Salman, who took power in 2017.

The Sunday Telegraph was able to geolocate two of the centres. One is in Al Shumaisi, near the holy city of Mecca and one is in Jazan, a port town near Yemen. There are believed to be others housing thousands of Ethiopians.

Migrants in each of the centres said there were hundreds of them in each room. Satellite imagery shows there are several buildings at both centres, meaning there may be far more migrants in each centre who are uncontactable.

Several of the migrants said they had been rounded up from their homes in various Saudi Arabian cities before being placed in the camps. Others are African refugees from war-torn Yemen.

Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch reported that Houthi forces used Covid-19 as a pretext to expel thousands of Ethiopian migrants into neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

Testimonies gathered by the NGO say that the Houthis killed dozens of Ethiopians and forced others at gunpoint over the Saudi border. Saudi border guards then fired on the fleeing migrants, killing dozens more.

“Saudi Arabia, a wealthy country, has long held undocumented migrants including many from the Horn of Africa in conditions that are so crowded, unsanitary, and appalling that migrants often emerge traumatised or sick,” said Mr Coogle.

“It’s fair to question whether Saudi authorities are purposefully allowing these detention conditions to exist in order to punish migrants,” he added.

The Sunday Telegraph approached the Saudi Arabian embassy in London for comment but had not received any at the time of going to press.

A representative of the Ethiopian government in the Middle East was also unsuccessfully approached for comment.

*Migrants’ names have been changed to protect their identity 


Abiy Ahmed came to power promising radical reform, but 180 people have died amid ethnic unrest in Oromia state

Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, centre, arrives at an African Union summit in Addis Ababa in July.

Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, centre, arrives at an African Union summit in Addis Ababa in July. Photograph: AP

Ethiopia faces a dangerous cycle of intensifying internal political dissent, ethnic unrest and security crackdowns, observers have warned, after a series of protests in recent weeks highlighted growing discontent with the government of Abiy Ahmed, a Nobel peace prize winner.

Many western powers welcomed the new approach of Abiy, who took power in 2018 and promised a programme of radical reform after decades of repressive one-party rule, hoping for swift changes in an emerging economic power that plays a key strategic role in a region increasingly contested by Middle Eastern powers and China. He won the peace prize in 2019 for ending a conflict with neighbouring Eritrea.

The most vocal unrest was in the state of Oromia, where there have been waves of protests since the killing last month of a popular Oromo artist and activist, Haacaaluu Hundeessaa, in Addis Ababa, the capital. An estimated 180 people have died in the violence, some murdered by mobs, others shot by security forces. Houses, factories, businesses, hotels, cars and government offices were set alight or damaged and several thousand people, including opposition leaders, were arrested.


Further protests last week prompted a new wave of repression and left at least 11 dead. “Oromia is still reeling from the grim weight of tragic killings this year. These grave patterns of abuse should never be allowed to continue,” said Aaron Maasho, a spokesperson for the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission.

The Oromo community have long felt excluded from power and the benefits of Ethiopia’s booming economy. The Oromo protest movement gained momentum from 2015 and contributed to the appointment of Abiy, an Oromo from the ruling party, who promised democracy and prosperity for all.

“We are seeing a continuation of that movement, and also signs that the government’s response will be equally forceful. Once people are shot and arrested then that becomes a rallying cry,” said William Davison, an analyst based in Addis Ababa for the International Crisis Group.

The decision to indefinitely delay elections due later this year because of coronavirus – which has caused 600 deaths in the country of 100 million so far – has also worried diplomats and other international observers.

The protests in Oromia last week began amid claims that Jawar Mohammed, an Oromo opposition politician and one of Abiy’s most outspoken critics, was being denied medical attention in prison.

Young protesters described being “hunted down, shot in the streets” in the Oromia town of Aweday.

“Soldiers shot at us so I ran as fast as I could. I witnessed people getting shot in the back as they fled,” said Kedir, who took part in a demonstration on Tuesday.

Haacaaluu Hundeessaa performing in Addis Ababa in July 2018.
Haacaaluu Hundeessaa performing in Addis Ababa in July 2018. He was known for his activism and political lyrics. Photograph: EPA

Aliyyi Mohammed, a 22-year-old from Hirna, was taken to hospital after being shot in the thigh on Monday. Relatives said he had been “nowhere near” the protests when injured and now feared for his safety. “There are police waiting outside the hospital … We have heard that they want to arrest him as soon as he’s recovered. We can only pray they leave him alone,” said a member of the family who requested anonymity.

Officials have denied such claims. “There has been violence, but we are yet to confirm reports of any killings by state forces,” said Getachew Balcha of the Oromia region’s communication affairs office.

But claims of mistreatment by security forces are fuelling the cycle of unrest in Oromia. Graphic images of 21-year-old Durassa Lolo were widely shared on social media after relatives claimed he had been tortured in the town of Asasa by soldiers who had asked him for his name.

“My brother did nothing wrong. When they heard an Oromo-sounding name, his fate was sealed. They took him to a military camp and inflicted on him unbelievable savagery. [He] is fighting for his life in hospital. This is why there are protests. The government sees us as expendable,” Durassa’s brother, Abdisa Lolo, said.

The government says Haacaaluu was murdered by Oromo nationalist militants as part of a wider plot to derail its reform agenda. The ruling party has also suggested that its rival in the northern region of Tigray, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), masterminded the conspiracy. The TPLF dominated the ruling coalition until Abiy took office. It has since joined the opposition, accusing the prime minister of planning to replace the ethnic-based federal system with a more centralised state.

The aftermath of angry protests in Shashamene after Haacaaluu Hundeessaa was assassinated.
After Haacaaluu Hundeessaa was assassinated in July, there were angry protests in towns such as Shashamene. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Government policy has also led to fallouts within the ruling party. The defence minister, Lemma Megersa, an ally turned critic of Abiy, was last week fired and placed under house arrest. State media reported Lemma’s dismissal from the ruling party being due to his “violating party discipline”.

Analysts say it was important to recognise that recent unrest has been limited to Oromia and that there was credible evidence suggesting violence over the previous months had not simply been inflicted on protesters by the security forces but also had occurred between ethnic communities.

The office of Ethiopia’s attorney general last week defended the government’s response to the unrest, saying in a statement that investigations would reflect a “commitment to human rights”.

Abel Abate Demissie, an Addis Ababa-based analyst with London’s Chatham House, said Ethiopia’s political polarisation has deep roots, with structural problems that have been insufficiently addressed under Abiy: conflicting narratives about Ethiopia’s history, an unfinished federal project and tensions over the division of power between the centre and the regions.

“Two years down the line [after his appointment], and you find every major political group is disappointed with Abiy,” he said.