April 4, 2020 News

Source: VOA

ADDIS ABABA – Much publicized COVID-19 supplies donated by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma and his Alibaba Group never made it to Eritrea, despite Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s saying the supplies had been delivered to the entire continent.

The reasons why the goods did not reach Eritrea are unclear, but rights activists accuse the government of ignoring the needs of its people.

Two officials at the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which helped organize delivery of the coronavirus masks and test kits to various African countries, confirmed to VOA that no supplies reached Eritrea.

A senior Africa CDC official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter, said the plane carrying the supplies was supposed to fly from Sudan’s capital to Asmara on March 23, but Eritrean officials never authorized the plane to land.

Forced to bypass Eritrea, the pilots instead flew to Djibouti and Kenya before returning to their starting point, Addis Ababa, he said.

James Ayodele, a spokesperson for the Africa CDC, said “the issue is still being discussed at a diplomatic level.”

Threat to health

Whatever the reason for Eritrea’s failure to accept the medical supplies, Meron Estefanos, executive director of the Eritrean Initiative on Refugee Rights, said the government is severely jeopardizing the health of its own citizens.

“I don’t believe that it was incompetence. I believe it’s just that they don’t care. If it was just because of bureaucracy, they would have just fixed the airline and they would have had it the next day. This is a country that can do lots of things. Importing something from Ethiopia to Asmara is a one-hour flight. They could even allow them to land right now, you get the point, just for medical purposes,” Meron said.

Health experts and human rights activists are gravely concerned that Eritrea is severely under-equipped in the event of a severe coronavirus outbreak. The government has confirmed 18 COVID-19 cases to date.

Meron said that rather than accepting goods from abroad, the government is asking its diaspora across the globe to give money to the government.

”Eritrea is not ready for anything. First of all, just eight months ago they shut down 29 Catholic clinics. These were the best clinics in the country, giving free service to the public. But because of the Catholics’ call for peace [and the] release of political prisoners, they shut down the clinics. But who is getting hurt?  It’s the people,” Meron said.

Talks continuing

Asked to comment on the matter, Billene Seyoum, a spokesperson for Ahmed, said only that talks were ongoing to resolve the issue. The Alibaba Foundation declined to comment.

Daniela Kravetz, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Eritrea, said she did not want to specifically address the matter of Jack Ma’s supplies as she did not have firsthand information.

She did underline the dire need for medical supplies in Eritrea and the need to open the door to humanitarian aid.

“I am concerned about the fact that, if this continues to escalate, the reality is that many Eritreans will not be able to seek or obtain medical help. There is a lack of functioning intensive care units with adequate ventilators, shortage of water, shortage of medical staff, shortage of labs to carry out tests. I don’t really think the country has the medical capacity to deal with a pandemic like this one,” Kravets said.

She also called on Eritrea to release political prisoners and low-risk offenders because of the risk of COVID-19 spreading inside the country’s overcrowded prison system.

To: H.E. Mr. Filippo Grandi

High Commissioner, UNHCR, Geneva,

To: H.E. Dr. Tedros Adhanom,

Director General, WHO Geneva


Other Concerned UN Bodies,

Host Countries of Eritrean Refugees

March 31, 2020


An Appeal for Protection of Eritreans at Home

and abroad from the Scourges of Corona virus

Dear UNHCR Commissioner, Mr. Filippo Grandi,

Dear WHO DG, Dr. Tedros Adhanom,

We, the undersigned entities representing the ensemble of Eritrean political organizations in exile, felt the obligation of sending this earnest appeal to Your Excellencies at UNHCR and WHO, with copies to concerned UN organs and countries hosting Eritrean refugees, on top of them Sudan, Ethiopia, Yemen, Israel and Libya, in order to draw the attention of the international humanitarian community to the plight of Eritreans in many countries of the world.

We are deeply concerned, Sirs, that the pandemic caused by COVID-19 has now reached our ill prepared country and the countries in the region that provide shelter to most of the Eritrean refugees in one of world’s most conflict ridden and sensitive regions. We are worried that, given the situation where many of our people lack access to hand washing facilities and detergents - the most effective preventive treatment, the pandemic would leave an even bigger number of people killed and cause more societal disruption than in any other country in the world. For that we need the timely and immediate attention and support of the international community led by appropriate initiatives from your esteemed organizations, the UNHCR and WHO.

We believe you are well aware of the problems in Eritrea where young people flee the country in thousands leaving the old and vulnerable at home. Local community structures, charities and long-established religious support institutions and other societal safety networks have been systematically demolished and exist no more. Most of the UN humanitarian organizations and INGOs have not been active in Eritrea for decades.


The general public in today’s Eritrea is left pauperized and helpless. The reported over 300 dungeons in the country where thousands of pollical prisoners languish under inhuman conditions are congested and poorly equipped to handle the current pandemic. Divisions of the Eritrea’s huge army of conscripts and “national service” forced-labor workers living in spartan and overcrowded camps will be an easy prey to the pandemic.

On the other hand, Eritrean refugees in camps and urban concentrations in Sudan, Ethiopia, Yemen and Israel are likely to be ravaged by this pandemic without an effective intervention of international humanitarian actors. Eritrean refugees in reception camps and temporary shelters in many countries, including in many European countries, shall be exposed to danger unless the host countries are advised and supported by concerned bodies, especially the UNHCR and WHO.

We, therefore, strongly appeal for your most urgent measures that could prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Eritrea, and in particular in the refugee camps and urban concentration of Eritreans in several countries, especially in Africa. Needless to say, the topmost priorities of action will include:

  • Making sure that health clinics in those areas have access to adequate supply of water, detergents, disinfection liquids, gloves, masks and napkins;
  • Looking to it that local health centers and agencies have check-up facilities for timely identification of persons infected with the vicious corona virus;
  • The international humanitarian community to do what it takes to help people inside Eritrea from the scourges of this pandemic.

Dear Sirs,

We very much feel that you understand the essence of this modest call to you to seriously look at the precarious situation of the estimated four million Eritreans at home and about two million Eritreans in the diaspora who are exposed to the looming danger facing our world today.

Sincerely yours,

(Signatories) Chairpersons of

  1. Eritrean National Council for Democratic Change (ENCDC)
  2. Eritrean National Front (ENF)
  3. Eritrean People’s Democratic Party (EPDP)
  4. Organization Unity for Democratic Change (UDC)
  5. United Eritreans for Justice (UEJ)
  6. Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization (RSADO)

European Court

The ruling underscores Europe’s bitter divisions over migration, though the three ex-communist nations face no immediate penalty as the relocation of tens of thousands of people agreed by the EU was only envisaged until 2017.

“By refusing to comply with the temporary mechanism for the relocation of applicants for international protection, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have failed to fulfil their obligations under European Union law,” the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union said in its ruling.

The eurosceptic, nationalist governments on the EU’s eastern flank had cited national security reasons in refusing to take in any of the mostly Muslim refugees and migrants who had fled wars and poverty in the Middle East, North Africa and beyond.


Wealthy northern European states such as Germany also criticised the ex-communist east for refusing to help while continuing to benefit from generous EU financial aid.

More than a million people reached Europe’s shores from across the Mediterranean in 2015, catching the EU unprepared as they trekked across the continent and triggering a new wave of support in some quarters for far-right, anti-immigrant parties.

The EU has since cracked down on immigration, fortifying its external borders and offering money and aid to countries such as Turkey to help prevent migrants from heading to Europe.

But the internal EU divisions on migration are far from healed. The 2015 mass influx of migrants at least partly contributed to Britain’s 2016 decision to leave the EU, in the worst setback for European integration since World War Two.

The EU now faces a fresh test of its unity from the coronavirus pandemic, with member states mostly pursuing their own strategies to counter the spread of the disease and the worst affected nations - Italy and Spain - again complaining of a lack of European solidarity and aid.

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Gareth Jones


Former Somali PM Dies of Coronavirus in London

Thursday, 02 April 2020 21:02 Written by
Somalia's former prime minister Nur Hussein Hassan speaks during the opening ceremony of peace talks between Somalia's opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) and the government in Djibouti, Jan. 25, 2009.
Somalia's former Prime Minister Nur Hussein Hassan speaks during the opening ceremony of peace talks between Somalia's opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) and the government in Djibouti, Jan. 25, 2009.


Former Somali Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein has died of coronavirus at a London hospital, the family told VOA’s Somali service.

Relatives of the former prime minister, popularly known as Nur Adde, confirmed his passing. A family member said Nur Adde died at around 5:00 a.m. Wednesday. He was 82.

Nur Adde was prime minister between November 2007 and February 2009. During his term, he was credited with leading peace talks between the Ethiopia-backed government and Eritrea-based rebels. The talks, held in Djibouti, led to the formation of a unity government in which the leader of the rebels, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, was elected as Somalia’s president on January 30, 2009.

Nur Adde competed against Ahmed in the election but lost. 

Prior to entering politics, he served as secretary general of the Somali Red Crescent for 17 years. 

Nur Adde also served in the Somali police department, where he rose to the rank of colonel during the government of Mohamed Siyad Barre.

In a statement, the family said Nur Adde will be buried in London.

In Mogadishu, Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo announced three days of national mourning, during which flags will be flown at half-staff.

Members of the Somali communities in Britain and in Sweden have been severely affected by the coronavirus. Community leaders have blamed lack of awareness, crowded housing and a close-knit community for spreading the ailment. Fourteen Somalis in Britain and six in Sweden have died of the infection. They include a 13-year-old boy in Britain.


April 2, 2020 News

Eritrea must free political prisoners and low-risk offenders to reduce COVID-19 threat in crowded jails, says UN expert

Screenshot 2020-04-02 at 11.19.37

GENEVA (2 April 2020) – A UN rights expert has urged Eritrea to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading in its overcrowded jails by immediately releasing all political prisoners, low-risk offenders and others such as the sick and elderly who are particularly vulnerable to illness or death.

Daniela Kravetz, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, highlighted the case of an American-Eritrean dual national and daughter of a former information minister being held for more than seven years since she was a teenager.

“This Friday, Ciham Ali Abdu is celebrating her 23rd birthday in an Eritrean prison. Ciham has been in incommunicado detention, without charge, since the age of 15. She was arrested in December 2012 as she tried to flee the country into Sudan, shortly after her father requested asylum in a third country. Since her arrest, her family has received no information about her whereabouts,” Kravetz said.

She said that repeated appeals for Ciham’s release had been ignored by the Eritrean authorities.

“I call on the Eritrean authorities to immediately and unconditionally release those detained without legal basis, including all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and to adopt urgent measures to reduce the number of people in detention to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” the Special Rapporteur said.

“Eritrea has recently confirmed 18 cases of COVID-19 and has put in place measures to control the spread of the disease, including a 21-day lockdown, describing the situation as very grave. The pandemic could have devastating consequences for the prison population in Eritrea due to the fragile healthcare services, unhygienic conditions, and overcrowding,” Kravetz said.

“Over the years, many have died in Eritrean prisons due to malnutrition, lack of basic healthcare and ill-treatment. Essential medical care services are often unavailable for detainees.”

She said that some of the many political prisoners and prisoners of conscience being held in Eritrea had been behind bars for decades because of their political views or their faith. In 2019 alone, more than 200 individuals were imprisoned because of their faith.

“I also call upon the Eritrean authorities to respect the rule of law and protect human rights in the implementation of their measures to respond to the outbreak of COVID-19,” the UN Special Rapporteur said


Ms. Daniela Kravetz (Chile) was appointed as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea by the Human Rights Council in October 2018. She is an attorney with extensive experience in human rights, accountability, gender-based violence and access to justice in conflict and post-conflict settings. Her experience covers countries in Latin America, Africa, and the former Yugoslavia.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests, please contact Dieudonne Munyinga at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts, please contact Xabier Celaya at:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter: @UN_SPExperts.

April 1, 2020 Ethiopia, News

Source: SIPRI

By Jason Mosley

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

Eritrean–Ethiopian rapprochement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 31, 2020 Ethiopia, News

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

Source: Ethiopia Insight

March 30, 2020

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Dutch dump flowers as demand falls because of Coronavirus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Africans pay the price

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

On Tuesday Business Insider carried this report.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 29, 2020 Ethiopia, News

Source: Financial Times

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Eritrea Hub

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

(London 29-03-2020)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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