Source: The Economist

Its prickly, isolated dictator has long been hostile to the West

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 02: People clap as the results of a General Assembly vote on a resolution is shown on a screen during a special session of the General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters on March 02, 2022 in New York City. The U.N. General Assembly continued its 11th Emergency Special Session where a vote was held on a draft resolution to condemn Russia over the invasion of Ukraine. Since the start of the war seven days ago, there have been over 600,000 people who have been displaced in Ukraine according to the U.N. refugee agency. Ukraine’s State Emergency Service have said that more than 2,000 civilians have been killed. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Mar 8th 2022
When russia invaded Ukraine most of the world reacted with horror: on March 2nd an overwhelming majority of countries supported a UN resolution condemning Russian aggression. But among the usual suspects who voted against it (Belarus, Syria, North Korea, Russia itself) one stood out. Eritrea, which was also the only country other than Russia to vote against a UN human-rights investigation in Ukraine, is a small and impoverished country with little to gain from resisting the tide of international opinion so flagrantly. So why is it backing Russia?
Eritrea’s solidarity with an imperialist, revanchist Russia is at first glance surprising. As a young country long threatened by a bigger neighbour, it appears more like Ukraine. Eritrea won independence from Ethiopia, a much more powerful country to its south, in 1993—just a couple of years after Ukraine broke away from Russia. As in Ukraine, nationhood in Eritrea is seen as something fragile which cannot be taken for granted. It took decades of armed struggle against successive regimes in Ethiopia—first the imperial government of Emperor Haile Selassie, then a Soviet-backed Marxist junta known as the Derg—before a referendum on secession was approved. Five years later the two countries fought a bloody border war which cost perhaps 70,000 lives. Even today there are some in Ethiopia who question whether Eritrea is really a separate country at all.
Part of the reason for Eritrea’s unlikely support for Russia lies in its leadership’s background in the liberation struggle. Unlike many African liberation movements in the 20th century, such as the African National Congress which fought apartheid in South Africa, the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) was not supported by the Soviet Union. In fact the Soviets armed the Derg and even sent military advisers to assist in the fight against it. But Gaim Kibreab, the author of a recent book on Soviet-Eritrean relations, argues that despite this “the EPLF always considered the Soviet Union as a strategic ally against imperialism, and saw America as its number one enemy.” Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Issaias Afewerki, the EPLF’s former leader and Eritrea’s dictator since independence, has continued to see himself as part of an axis of anti-Western powers led by Russia.
More recent history helps to explain the intensity of Issaias’s hostility to the West. When war broke out between Eritrea and Ethiopia in 1998, the Eritrean president felt America and its allies had sided with Ethiopia. After a humiliating defeat Issais retreated into embittered isolation. He put Eritrea on a permanent war footing, bloating its huge army with lifetime conscripts. Hundreds of thousands of Eritreans fled the country. In 2009 the UN, nudged by America and its ally, the Ethiopian government, imposed an arms embargo (in part for Eritrea’s alleged support for jihadists in Somalia). Ironically, Eritrea had briefly courted America in the early 2000s and even publicly backed its invasion of Iraq. Feeling stung, Issais’s regime gradually drifted into being the most anti-Western in Africa.
Eritrea’s controversial involvement in Ethiopia’s current civil war has set it on an even more confrontational path with the West. Eritrean troops are accused of slaughtering civilians, gang-raping women and blocking food from reaching the hungry. Tentative progress towards rehabilitating Issais’s regime, which culminated in the lifting of the arms embargo in late 2018, has screeched into reverse. In November last year America slapped sanctions on the Eritrean armed forces, the ruling party and connected entities. It has repeatedly called for Eritrean forces to withdraw from Ethiopia.
By contrast, the threat of a Russian veto has consistently stymied action against Eritrea or Ethiopia at the UN Security Council. Ethiopia, which also has Mr Putin to thank for this, is now trying to mend bridges with the West in order to rebuild its war-battered economy. But Issais has no interest in foreign aid, seeing it as a Trojan horse for Western interference in his country’s affairs. Nor does he care much for promoting the private sector. More important from his perspective are arms and large, strategic investments which bring lucrative rents. Russia has promised to sell Eritrea weapons and to build a logistics base for its own navy on the Eritrean coast. And in Mr Putin Eritrea’s president has a fellow autocrat who prizes bashing the West, and meddling with his neighbours, above the well-being of his citizens. Viewed this way, the two leaders seem like comrades-in-arms.

Mar 7, 2022

By Lord David Alton

International Women’s Day Commemorated in Parliament With An Event Focusing On The Use of Extreme Sexual Violence Against the Women of Tigray. “Beyond Surviving”. Call to reform the UN Security Council veto To Stop It Being Used In Cases of Atrocity Crimes Being Referred To The International Criminal Court.

Helen Hayes MP

International Women’s Day Commemorated in Parliament With an event hosted by Helen Hayes MP.

It was organised By Sally Keeble and focused on the use of extreme sexual violence against the Women of  Tigray.

Filsan Abdullahi Ahmed and Sally Keeble

It included speeches from Lucy Kassa, a brave Ethiopian journalist, Filsan Abdullahi, former Ethiopian Women’s Minister, lawyer Ewelina Ochab and Labour Spokesman Lord (Ray) Collins.

Journalist Lucy Kassa explains what she has witnessed

During “Beyond Surviving” – an event held at Westminster – Members of the Commons and the Lords heard disturbing accounts of the horrific use of extreme sexual violence against women and girls in Tigray by Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers. Shocking and disturbing accounts were shared of gang rape by groups of soldiers; of rapes of girls as young as eight years of age; the mutilation of women’s genitals – in order to prevent them from ever giving birth to Tigrayan children.

Lord David Alton

Lord Alton of Liverpool (David Alton), speaking as co-chair of the All Parry Parliamentary Group on Eritrea, said that the UK Government needed to do much more to ensure that those responsible for these appalling crimes are brought to justice. He said that the UN Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council had often failed miserably to uphold the Convention on the Crime of Genocide.

The UN Security Council been thwarted from referring perpetrators to the International Criminal Court because of the use of veto by permanent members with links to the regimes responsible. He said that France and the UK needed to act in concert in pressing for the removal of the veto in cases of atrocity crimes, including the use of rape as weapon of war against women and girls. He said that under the darkness of the terrible events unfolding in Ukraine the world must not be allowed to forget the continued suffering of Tigray.

Lord Alton.


There have been distressing examples of Africans – many of them students – being refused entry to trains as they tried to escape the war in Ukraine. Others have been attacked when they reach Poland and “safety”.

Such racism is disgusting and has been rightly criticised.

But there have also been examples of African states siding with the Russian aggression.

Eritrea was the only African state to vote against a UN General Assembly resolution criticising Putin’s invasion. But others – like Uganda – have come out in support of Russia. So too have the South Africans, who were among 24 African countries that declined to join the vote denouncing Russian aggression.


Source: New York Times

Shunned by Others, Russia Finds Friends in Africa

  • Declan Walsh and John Eligon

Fri, March 4, 2022, 1:11 PM·6 min read

The Russian flag is carried in a crowd in the national plaza in Ouagadougou, the capitol of Burkina Faso, the day after a military coup, Jan. 25, 2022. (Malin Fezehai/The New York Times)The Russian flag is carried in a crowd in the national plaza in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, the day after a military coup, Jan. 25, 2022. (Malin Fezehai/The New York Times)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Since the days of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s leaders have rejected American criticism of their friendships with autocrats such as Fidel Castro of Cuba and Moammar Gadhafi of Libya, whose countries backed them during the most desperate moments of the anti-apartheid struggle.

Now South Africans are defending their loyalty to another autocrat — Russian President Vladimir Putin — and sitting out the global outcry over his invasion of Ukraine.

At the United Nations on Wednesday, South Africa was among 24 African countries that declined to join the resounding vote denouncing Russian aggression: 16 African countries abstained, seven didn’t vote at all and one — Eritrea — voted against it, keeping company only with Russia, Belarus, Syria and North Korea.

The striking tally reflected the ambiguous attitude across much of the continent where, with a handful of exceptions, the Ukraine war has been greeted with conspicuous silence — a sharp contrast with Western countries that are expanding sanctions, seizing oligarchs’ yachts, pressing for war crimes investigations, and even openly threatening to collapse the Russian economy.

“Russia is our friend through and through,” Lindiwe Zulu, South Africa’s minister of social development, who studied in Moscow during the apartheid years, said in an interview. “We are not about to denounce that relationship that we have always had.”

Many African countries have a long-standing affinity with Russia stretching back to the Cold War: Some political and military leaders studied there, and trade links have grown. And in recent years, a growing number of countries have contracted with Russian mercenaries and bought ever-greater quantities of Russian weapons.

A few African countries have condemned Russian aggression as an attack on the international order, notably Kenya and Ghana. About 25 African nations voted for the U.N. resolution that denounced Putin’s actions on Wednesday. But deep divisions in the continent’s response were apparent from the start.

The deputy leader of Sudan flew into Moscow on the first day of the conflict, exchanging warm handshakes with Russia’s foreign minister as warplanes bombed Ukrainian cities. Morocco, a longtime American ally, offered a watery statement, annoying American officials who nonetheless kept quiet.

In Ethiopia, Russian flags flew at a ceremony Wednesday to commemorate a famous 19th century battle against Italian invaders, recalling the involvement of Russian volunteers who sided with Ethiopian fighters.

African sympathies for Ukraine were also diluted by reports of Ukrainian border guards forcing African students to the back of lines as they attempted to leave the country, raising a furor over racism and discrimination. President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, which has 4,000 students in Ukraine, decried the reports.

Putin has partly sidestepped opprobrium in Africa by calling in chits that date back to the Cold War, when Moscow backed African liberation movements and presented itself as a bulwark against Western neocolonialism. On Sunday, Russia’s foreign ministry paused its focus on Ukraine to remind South Africa, in a tweet, of its support for the fight against apartheid.

But Putin has also divided African opinion thanks to his own efforts to expand Russian influence across the continent through an unusual combination of diplomacy, guns and mercenaries.

In an effort to regain some of the influence that Moscow lost in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Putin hosted a glitzy summit in the southern Russian city of Sochi in 2019 that was attended by 43 African heads of state. A second Russia-Africa summit is scheduled for this fall.

But as Russia’s economy strained under Western sanctions imposed after the annexation of the Crimea in 2014, it could not afford the expensive enticements offered by other powers in Africa, such as China’s cheap loans or Western development aid.

So it has offered no-questions weapons sales and the services of Russian mercenaries, many employed by the Wagner Group, a company linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Putin’s who is known as “Putin’s cook.”

In recent years, Wagner mercenaries have fought in civil wars in Libya and Mozambique and are currently guarding the president of the Central African Republic, where they helped repel a rebel assault on the capital last year.

In January, Wagner fighters appeared in Mali, as part of a deal to combat Islamist insurgents that infuriated France, the former colonial power, which last month declared it was pulling its own soldiers out of Mali.

The military junta ruling Mali denies inviting Wagner into the country, but U.S. military officials say as many as 1,000 Russian mercenaries are already operating there.

Russia’s influence also stems from weapons sales. Russia accounts for nearly half of all arms imports into Africa, according to Russia’s arms export agency and organizations that monitor weapons transfers.

One of Putin’s staunchest defenders in the past week was a powerful figure in Uganda, a major customer for Russian weapons. Lt. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, son of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, said in a tweet: “The majority of mankind (that are nonwhite) support Russia’s stand in Ukraine.”

He added, “When the USSR parked nuclear armed missiles in Cuba in 1962, the West was ready to blow up the world over it. Now when NATO does the same, they expect Russia to do differently.”

That reference highlighted a jarring contradiction in Putin’s new embrace of Africa, said Maxim Matusevich, a history professor at Seton Hall University, in New Jersey, who studies Russia’s relationships in Africa.

“During the Cold War, the Soviets were trying to sell socialism to African nations while criticizing Western colonialism and imperialism,” he said. Now, Russia is engaged in a fresh bid for influence in Africa but driven by right-wing nationalism.

A similar divide has emerged in Asia, where nations with authoritarian leaders or weak ties to the West have embraced Putin’s war or avoided criticism of Russian military aggression.

For Africans, the war could hit hard in the pocket. Last week, the Automobile Association of South Africa predicted that rising fuel prices would reach a record high in the coming weeks. Food, too, is getting more expensive — Russia and Ukraine are major sources of wheat and fertilizer in Africa — at a time when many African countries are still reeling from the pandemic.

But the war could also have an economic upside for Africa, albeit one that could take years to be felt. As Europe pivots away from Russian gas imports, it could turn to African countries looking to exploit recently discovered energy reserves.

President Samia Suluhu Hassan of Tanzania, which is seeking a $30 billion investment to tap a huge gas discovery in the Indian Ocean, said the invasion of Ukraine could provide an opportunity.

“Whether Africa or Europe or America, we are looking for markets,” she told The Africa Report, an online news outlet.

Elsewhere, though, Putin is still benefiting from his image as a thorn in the West’s side. Many South Africans remember that the United States supported the apartheid regime until the 1980s. South Africans also took a sour view of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Sithembile Mbete, a senior lecturer in political science and international relations at the University of Pretoria.

However, aside from the historical ties with Russia, South Africa is motivated to call for diplomacy rather than fighting because that approach aligns with the country’s stance on international conflicts for the past 30 years, she said.

“That is the lesson they took from South Africa’s own struggle — that actually apartheid ended when the two sides sat down at the table,” Mbete said. “When it came down to it, the conflict only ended through negotiation and through compromise.”

© 2022 The New York Times Company



Source: New Statesman

Putin through the looking-glass

The Russian president has created a phantom enemy in “fascist” Ukraine and bet everything on defeating it. How does this end?

By Gabriel Gatehouse

Every year, just before Christmas, a bunch of BBC journalists get together in a studio in New Broadcasting House for what is known as the Annual Correspondents’ Look Ahead. As the title suggests, the idea is to try to predict the big events that will define the year ahead. This past December the presenter Lyse Doucet asked me: “Will Russia invade Ukraine.”

It was a reasonable question. Russia had, at that point, positioned around 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders. But I told Lyse I didn’t think it was going to happen. For the next two months I maintained that Vladimir Putin would not mount a full-scale invasion. I may even have promised to eat my rabbit-fur ushanka hat if he did. (Thankfully there is no record of this on air.)

My reasoning was solid: it made no strategic sense. Moscow has been stoking conflict in Ukraine for eight years. In that time the Russian president’s tactic has been to keep the threat of escalation alive while avoiding all-out war. That way he keeps Ukraine out of Nato and gets himself a seat at the negotiating table with the Americans. I’ve been following Russia for the past quarter of a century. I thought I knew what I was talking about.

I seems I didn’t. As I write these words, Lyse Doucet is in a bomb shelter in Kyiv as an armoured Russian column 40 miles long inches its way towards the city and I am getting messages of shock and horror from friends in Kyiv and Moscow alike.

Over the past ten earth-shattering days, in between trying to figure out what is going on, whether my friends are safe and doom-scrolling on Twitter wondering if we’re barrelling towards global nuclear conflict, it has slowly dawned on me where I (and, to be fair, most analysts who know Russia reasonably well) went wrong.

When a popular revolution overthrew Ukraine’s Russian-backed president in 2014, Moscow called it a fascist coup. It is true that there were some neo-Nazis on Maidan, Kyiv’s central square, in 2014 — I reported on that at the time. But they were not the driving force behind the revolt. There are still neo-Nazis in Ukraine, including among its fighting forces, notably a group known as the Azov Battalion, which uses a Nazi symbol as its emblem. But they are a fringe. Indeed, the electoral influence of the far right in Ukraine has been steadily dwindling since the pro-Russian government was ousted: in parliamentary elections in 2014, the nationalist Svoboda Party got only 4.71 per cent; by 2019 their support had shrunk to 2.15 per cent.

I keep an eye on Russian state-controlled TV. Over the past eight years I’ve watched the Kremlin propaganda machine spewing out increasingly deranged fantasies about how Ukraine’s pro-Western government is in fact a regime led by fascists and neo-Nazis bent on the genocide of the Russian speaking people. You don’t have to know the intricacies of Ukraine’s parliamentary electoral maths to know that this is nonsense. It’s probably sufficient to note that Ukraine’s current president is Jewish, and was voted in by an electorate including millions of Russian speakers. That, and the fact that there has been no genocide.   

I always assumed this whole narrative about Nazis was just a cover for Putin’s less emotive but more realistic aims in Ukraine: keeping himself in power and his neighbour in Moscow’s orbit. So those were the issues I focused on: the tangible, the geopolitical. In the early hours of 24 February the Russian president went on TV to announce the start of the invasion. He was sending in the troops, he said, to “de-Nazify” Ukraine.

Again, I dismissed that as just propaganda, wracking my brain instead to try to figure out the real reason. What could he possibly hope to achieve, other than international isolation and, eventually, defeat? But like a mantra in the mouths of members of a deranged cult, “de-Nazification” is being repeated with increasing frequency and conviction by members of Russia’s ruling elite, some of them people I am convinced know that what they’re saying is total nonsense. Nato barely gets a mention.

It is beginning to dawn on me that Vladimir Putin has gone through the looking-glass, and is dragging the saner members of his entourage with him. He has ordered an invasion but forbidden anyone to call it that. He has identified an enemy that doesn’t exist and bet everything on defeating it. He has come to believe his own propaganda. A man I once thought to be a clear-eyed tactician, a realist who would employ whatever means necessary — however brutal — to achieve his aims, turns out to be, what? A madman? No, maybe not that, but someone who lives in an alternate universe, where black is white, war is peace, ignorance is strength… you get the picture.

Over the past few years we’ve seen parallel realities take hold in different contexts: Covid doesn’t exist; a cabal of Satanic paedophiles is running the world; the 2020 US presidential election was stolen. People who inhabit the “reality-based world” have ignored these fantasies or underplayed their significance, often until it was too late. In America the Republican Party is now in the grip of a lie that threatens to break its democracy. And in Europe the leader of a nuclear-armed state is pursuing not a tangible security gain but the destruction of a phantom.

Where does that end? At what point might Putin think he’s won? The answer is, he won’t, because he’s fighting something that isn’t real. He will continue until he’s stopped. At least that’s the way it looks to me right now. That’s what I’ll say at the next Correspondents’ Look Ahead. If they’ll have me. And if we’re all still here.


The US Treasury has named and imposed sanctions on what it says are “four ISIS and ISIS-Mozambique (ISIS-M) financial facilitators in South Africa.” 

Farhad Hoomer, Siraaj Miller, Abdella Hussein Abadigga, and Peter Charles Mbaga are being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224, as amended, which targets terrorist groups and their supporters, among others.

ISIS members and associates in South Africa are playing a role in facilitating the transfer of funds from the top of the ISIS hierarchy to branches across Africa.  Those designated today have provided financial support or served as leaders of ISIS cells in South Africa.  ISIS and ISIS-M are distinct and separately-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTOs) under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) pursuant to E.O. 13224, as amended.

ISIS has attempted to expand its influence in Africa through large-scale operations particularly in areas where government control is limited.  ISIS branches in Africa rely on local fundraising schemes such as theft, extortion of local populations, and kidnapping for ransom as well as financial support from the ISIS hierarchy.

We are taking today’s action to further disrupt and expose key ISIS and ISIS-M supporters who raise revenue for ISIS and exploit South Africa’s financial system to facilitate funding for ISIS branches and networks across Africa.


This is from a blog by Frontier Post

F.P. Report

WASHINGTON: The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated four Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and ISIS-Mozambique (ISIS-M) financial facilitators based in South Africa.

ISIS members and associates in South Africa are playing an increasingly central role in facilitating the transfer of funds from the top of the ISIS hierarchy to branches across Africa. The South Africa-based ISIS members designated today pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, as amended, have provided support for the aforementioned transfers or served as leaders of ISIS cells in South Africa.

“Treasury is taking this action to disrupt and expose key ISIS supporters who exploit South Africa’s financial system to facilitate funding for ISIS branches and networks across Africa,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury Brian E. Nelson. “The United States is working with our African partners, including South Africa, to dismantle ISIS financial support networks on the continent.”

ISIS has recently attempted to expand its influence in Africa through large-scale operations in areas where government control is limited. ISIS branches in Africa rely on local fundraising schemes such as theft, extortion of local populations, and kidnapping for ransom, as well as financial support from the ISIS hierarchy.

Illicit activities in South Africa, The democratic Republic of the Congo, and Mozambique

Between 2017 and 2018, Farhad Hoomer helped organize and begin the operations of a Durban, South Africa-based ISIS cell. Hoomer, who is the leader of the Durban-based ISIS cell, has provided some of his known residential properties and vehicles registered in his name to sponsor the cell’s meetings and operational activities. In his role, Hoomer claimed to have recruited and trained cell members and was in contact with members of ISIS-Democratic Republic of the Congo (ISIS-DRC) and ISIS supporters throughout South Africa. Hoomer raised funds through kidnap-for-ransom operations and extortion of major businesses, which provided more than one million South African rand in revenue for his cell. In 2018, South African authorities arrested Hoomer along with his associates for their involvement in a plan to deploy improvised incendiary devices near a mosque and commercial and retail buildings.

Siraaj Miller, who leads a Cape Town-based group of ISIS supporters, has provided financial assistance to ISIS by training members to conduct robberies to raise funds for ISIS. In 2018, Miller also aided in acquiring temporary safe houses for ISIS.

Abdella Hussein Abadigga has recruited young men in South Africa and sent them to a weapons training camp. Abadigga, who controlled two mosques in South Africa, used his position to extort money from members of the mosques. Abadigga sent these funds via a hawala to ISIS supporters elsewhere in Africa. Bilal al-Sudani, a U.S.-designated ISIS leader in Somalia, considered Abadigga a trusted supporter who could help the ISIS supporters in South Africa become better organized and recruit new members.

Peter Charles Mbaga facilitated funds transfers from South Africa. Mbaga sought to provide support to ISIS-M by helping the group procure equipment from South Africa. Mbaga also sought to procure weapons from Mozambique.

Farhad Hoomer, Siraaj Miller, and Abdella Hussein Abadigga are being designated pursuant to Executive E.O. 13224, as amended, for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, ISIS.

Peter Charles Mbaga is being designated pursuant to Executive E.O. 13224, as amended, for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, ISIS-M.


As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of the individuals named above, and of any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by them, individually, or with other blocked persons, that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons, must be blocked and reported to OFAC. Unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC or otherwise exempt, OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all transactions by U.S. persons or within the United States (including transactions transiting the United States) that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons. The prohibitions include the making or receiving of any contribution of funds, goods, or services to or for the benefit of those persons

Furthermore, engaging in certain transactions with the individuals designated today entails risk of secondary sanctions pursuant to E.O. 13224, as amended. Pursuant to this authority, OFAC can prohibit or impose strict conditions on the opening or maintaining in the United States of a correspondent account or a payable-through account of a foreign financial institution that has knowingly conducted or facilitated any significant transaction on behalf of a SDGT.

The power and integrity of OFAC sanctions derive not only from its ability to designate and add persons to the List of Specially Designated Nationals or Blocked Persons (“SDN List”), but also from its willingness to remove persons from the SDN List consistent with the law. The ultimate goal of sanctions is not to punish, but to bring about a positive change in behavior. For information concerning the process for seeking removal from an OFAC list, including the SDN List, please refer to OFAC’s Frequently Asked Question 897.

Alleged terrorist Farhad Hoomer kicked out of Islamic conference

Source: IOL

By Charlene Somduth Time of article published Nov 1, 2019

Farhad Hoomer in Court

Durban – Farhad Hoomer claims he is being treated like an outcast by sections of the Muslim community. This after he was kicked out of an Islamic conference and allegedly labelled a “terrorist” by the organisers.

Hoomer, 42, a businessman from Overport, Durban, is facing a charge of terrorism in the Verulam Magistrate’s Court. He is also accused of having links to the militant group Islamic State.

The father of eight said he was shocked and hurt when he was prevented from attending the Southern African Ulama Forum Conference hosted by the Darul Ihsan Humanitarian Centre at the Crescent Hall in Parlock.

The conference was set down for two days – October 19 and 20 – and, according to Hoomer, the public was invited to attend via radio.

He attended the conference on Saturday and was welcomed by other guests. However, when an official noticed his presence, Hoomer claimed he was asked to leave.

He said he left the conference to attend prayer at a nearby mosque. After the prayer he noticed an official taking pictures of him with a cellphone, but he didn’t do anything about it. He returned the next morning but was stopped at the entrance of the parking lot.

“The official told me I was not allowed in the area. When I questioned him, he said I was a terrorist and I was affiliated to Isis. The official added that those in charge of the conference did not want to allow me in.”

Hoomer refused to leave the venue and asked to see the officials in charge.

He said five officials subsequently met him, together with members of the police and a private security company.

“They again asked me to leave. I told them I wanted clarity on why I was not allowed to attend the conference. They promised to arrange a meeting for us to discuss the matter.”

Hoomer said he left the conference but felt like an outcast.

“I was hurt and what shocked me the most was that this was an Islamic event. Before my arrest, I was welcomed by this organisation. We have prayed shoulder to shoulder together. Now, all of a sudden, I am an outcast. The court is yet to determine if I am innocent or guilty but the organisers have already found me guilty.”

Hoomer said he was confident he would be found not guilty.

“I was arrested just over a year ago and none of the maulanas or Islamic scholars have spoken to me or called me about the allegations against me. How do they now find me guilty without even speaking to me? How can they label me as a terrorist? They have already prosecuted, put me on trial and sentenced me.”

Hoomer has written to the centre seeking an apology but is yet to receive a reply.

“They never set up a meeting to clarify why I was not allowed into the conference.

“They need to apologise for the injustice they have caused and the fact that they have impaired me in front of people that morning.”

Hoomer was arrested in October last year in Reservoir Hills along with 17 other men. He has been accused of being the mastermind behind the attack on the Imam Hussain Mosque in Verulam in May last year.

The attack claimed the life of Abbas Essop.

The group is also accused of planting incendiary devices around Durban.

“The allegations levelled against me has put a strain on me and my family. I ran a property business and a diamond and gold business. I have lost R15million in revenue since I was arrested.”

Hoomer said he had only recently been granted permission to travel aboard for business.

“I am trying to get my businesses back on track. The majority of my suppliers and business affiliates have pulled out of business with me because I am now labelled as a terrorist.

“I was kept in custody for 53 days and this was emotionally traumatic for my eight children, four of whom are in school as well as my wives.”

Hoomer said he knows nothing about Isis or terrorism.

“These things are happening in Syria and Iraq. I cannot comment on them. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. Just look at the life of Nelson Mandela.”

The Darul Ihsan Humanitarian Centre said the Southern African Ulama Forum Conference was only for Islamic scholars.

Muhammad Ameer, the centre’s secretary, said the conference was part of a professional development programme.

“Being a conference of Islamic scholars, participation is strictly by invitation only and confined to individuals belonging to the fraternity. Delegates were required to register electronically. Only registered persons were allowed entry into the conference.”

However, certain individuals, added Ameer, served as volunteers and support personnel.

“Mr Hoomer arrived at the conference venue in Parlock on Sunday morning and insisted on being allowed to attend. He was intercepted by security at the entrance, denied entry and (was) requested to leave.”

Ameer said Hoomer was told about the attendance protocol and requirements and he left the venue.

An IPRA Report

By Awet T. Weldemichael, Yibeyin Hagos Yohannes and Meron Estefanos

Full Report:



EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ............................................................. ix

RECOMMENDATIONS .............................................................. xiii

INTRODUCTION ........................................................................... 1


AFTER ............................................................................................ 7

WHEN THE REFUGE IS NO LONGER SAFE ........................... 13

Unaccompanied and Separated Children ................ 37

Looting and Destruction ................................................ 40

Sexual Violence ................................................................ 43

FLIGHT NARRATIVES ............................................................... 47

Persecution, Detention, and Abduction of Eritrean

Refugees .............................................................................. 53

Traumatic Experiences .................................................. 55

CURRENT NEEDS OF THE REFUGEES ................................... 57


CONCLUSION ............................................................................. 65



➢ Overshadowed by the atrocities of the dreadful civil war in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region, Eritrean refugees there have endured – and continue to endure – grave human rights violations in the hands of the various warring sides.

➢ Before the outbreak of the conflict, Tigray region was home to more than 90,000 Eritrean convention refugees sheltered in four UNHCR camps.

➢ Following the start of fighting, safety, security and sustenance imperatives compelled many of these refugees to flee the camps.

➢ Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF) soldiers forced others out of two camps, looted UNHCR facilities, and destroyed existing physical infrastructure.

➢ Whereas Eritrean soldiers targeted some refugees for kidnap and involuntary return to Eritrea, they variously lured others to repatriate, including by promising them blanket amnesty.

➢ Soldiers of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) and Amhara forces abused fleeing Eritrean refugees at various check points, demanded bribes and stole/confiscated their valuables.

➢ Tigrayan forces, militia and armed civilians from around the camps also launched organized or kneejerk reprisal attacks against the refugees and ransacked the camps of their remaining supplies of basic necessities.

➢ Many refugee women and girls were sexually assaulted while others were forced to endure “survival sex” because of the precarious situation in which they found themselves and their loved ones.

➢ Many refugees on the move lost – or do not know the whereabouts of – loved ones and friends.

➢ In their desperate quest for safe ground and onward migration out of Ethiopia, some refugees have fallen victim to human traffickers, who have started to badger the refugees’ loved ones for ransom.

➢ Previously separated and unaccompanied minors faced a higher risk of separation from their caregivers, and of being smuggled and trafficked.

➢ Refugees fled the camps with little to none of their belongings. Those who gathered what little belongings they could lost them to various forces manning the many security checkpoints along the way.

➢ Refugees who managed to escape the war zone and managed to reach Addis Ababa at great physical and emotional risk to themselves and heavy financial burden to their loved ones were forcibly returned to the very camps that they escaped, government claims of their protection and transfer to the newly instituted refugee camp in Gondar notwithstanding.

➢ More than a year after the outbreak of the war and dramatic shifts in the balance of power on the ground, the plight of Eritrean refugees persists.

Analysts on the Tigray War – Rashid Abdi 300w, 1024w,

“There is a clear link between the missing Somali youths, the secret training camps and the Ethiopia-Eritrea-Somalia cooperation,” said renowned analyst Rashid Abdi. Three Horn experts in Africa agree that long before the war in Ethiopia, a military alliance existed between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and that Somalia eventually joined.

Rashid Abdi is the Horn of Africa analyst and security policy expert, now associated with the Sahan Group think tank in Nairobi. He was previously a key analyst in the International Crisis Group.

The secret training of Somali youths in Eritrean training camps, which Bistandsaktuelt mentioned this week, [See below] has shed new light on what analysts believe was a military alliance between the three countries. They also agree that Eritrean dictator Isaias – who was known to hate the TPLF leadership in Tigray – played a key role behind the scenes many months before the war in northern Ethiopia began.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared war on November 4, 2020. It came hours after Tigray forces carried out a pre-emptive strike and took control of several bases inside Tigray belonging to the government army. Several soldiers were killed.

“TPLF started the war”

“TPLF started the war”, has since become Ethiopia’s official explanation. Others have believed that the war started after a long escalation and increased tension between the parties.

The war cooperation between Ethiopia and Eritrea was revealed early on by international media. Despite this, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abyi Ahmed denied for several months that Eritrea was participating in the war. It was not until March 23, 2021, that the Peace Prize winner made a half-hearted admission of the relationship. By then, the media and human rights organizations had long ago linked the Eritreans to some of the most brutal abuses during the war, including the giant massacre in the holy city of Axum.

Already two years earlier, in March 2019, the first contingent of Somali young boys was sent from the airport in Mogadishu to Eritrea, under extreme secrecy.

Soldiers from the Ethiopian Amhara region were also welcomed by Eritrean dictator Isaias Afwerki. They received military training in Eritrean camps several months before the war broke out, while military transport planes were sent from Ethiopia to Eritrea in the dead of night, the New York Times has determined.

A clear link

Rashid Abdi, who has a background from the International Crisis Group and is an expert on security policy, was not even surprised by the news of the secret training of several thousand Somalis in Eritrea, he says.

– Even though the military part of this cooperation is kept secret, more than enough information has emerged – from various sources – to be able to establish that there is a defense pact. It is also, of course, impossible to carry out such a complicated and extensive operation as sending several thousand Somalis to Eritrea without an agreement in advance, he says by phone from Nairobi.

The analyst believes that Somalia’s connection to the military alliance between Ethiopia and Eritrea was clarified in the first quarter of 2019. – Tigray and the joint fight against TPLF had long been a central theme in the planning, he says and points out that there were a number of meetings between the three heads of state since the middle of the year in 2018.

According to Rashid Abdi, who is from Somalia himself, the case of the Eritrean military camps and the many rumors and news reports about participation in the Tigray war have led to strong reactions among many Somalis, both at the grassroots and in political circles.

Unusual and unconstitutional

– This is a very unusual operation. Sending Somalis for military training abroad basically requires the approval of parliament. It is a requirement of Somalia’s constitution. When it has not happened, it is also by definition illegal, says Rashid Abdi.

The former African Horn analyst for the International Crisis Group was among those who publicly warned that the Tigray War came several days before it broke out in November 2020. Today, Rashid Abdi is chief analyst for the Sahan Group and affiliated with the East African Rift Valley Institute in Nairobi. .

– I’m not smarter than others or a prophet, but I was positioned so that I regularly received credible information about troop movements. Ethiopian troops in Ogaden were suddenly reallocated, there was artillery fire from the Eritrean side as an incipient provocation against Tigray, along Tigray’s borders in the north, west and south there was a clear military escalation. Even diplomats in Nairobi saw the war coming, says Rashid Abdi.

However, the warnings from the ICG and others about an impending war were not taken seriously by the international community.

Two possible interpretations

– There are two possible interpretations of the Somalia recruits’ contribution to the Tigray war, says Africa’s Horn expert and professor Kjetil Tronvoll at Oslo New University College.

One is that the recruits were trained with a view to another purpose, but that they were then reallocated when the war suddenly broke out. In that case, it is natural to think that this was a decision in which Eritrean dictator Isaias Afwerki was very central. He is known as a very skilled and influential power player in the Horn of Africa, who would like to be the emperor of the Horn of Africa, and who will help create chaos in Ethiopia. The second interpretation is that this had already been agreed at a much earlier stage between the three heads of state, that it was a three-country alliance against Tigray and that this was Farmaajo’s contribution within the mutual military pact between the countries. For the Somali president, this was a way to show loyalty to Ethiopia. Mogadishu is in practice subordinate to Addis Ababa both in terms of security and finances. In the Somali debate, it is a common interpretation, says Tronvoll.

Not on the radar

– When did the regional leadership of Tigray – the TPLF leaders – know that there were three countries involved in military cooperation, as you have perceived it?

– The TPLF leadership always knew that Eritrea had an agreement with Ethiopia on military cooperation. They became aware of this already during the peace process between the two countries in 2018, where they themselves were excluded from influence. They initially viewed the reopening of the border between Tigray and Eritrea positively, but when Isaiah closed the border again on 31 December 2018, it became clear to them that the dictator of Eritrea had completely different motives than peace.

– Did they also know about Somalia’s military contribution?

– The Somalia force was never mentioned to me in conversations I had with TPLF spokesmen during this period. It was obviously not on the radar at the time.

Depending on Ethiopia

The Norwegian Somalia expert, professor at NMBU Stig Jarle Hansen, is also sure that a military alliance between the three countries exists and has existed. He considers Eritrea and Ethiopia to be the two strongest partners in the alliance, while Somalia is far weaker.

– Security cooperation between Somalia and Ethiopia has existed for a long time, both before and during Abiy’s reign in Ethiopia. This has benefited Farmajo during his presidency. He is dependent on Abiy Ahmed in Ethiopia to secure his grip on power, Hansen says.

The professor, who has been researching Somalia for a number of years, says that Ethiopian forces have on several occasions assisted the Somali central government. The purpose has been to exert pressure on Farmajo’s political opponents and to influence electoral processes, including in southwestern Somalia.

He considers it natural that co-operation between the three countries has also included security and mutual military contributions.

Everyone is against strong regions

– The three heads of state have something in common – all are strongly against federalism and want a strong central power at the expense of the regions. It is regional forces that are challenging their power. For Abiy Ahmed and Isaias Afwerki, the TPLF in Tigray is the biggest threat in the fight to stay in power, Hansen says.

He is well aware of the rumors and media coverage of Somali soldiers in the Tigray War. The United States and the UN Special Rapporteur on Somalia and Eritrea have also reported on this.

– This has been well covered in Somali media, and there have been some hateful feelings against it. Many Somalis have a difficult relationship with Ethiopia, due to various forms of Ethiopian interference in Somali internal relations. It has to do both with events in recent years and in historical circumstances. When young Somalis have to sacrifice their lives in a war, used as useful tools for the Ethiopian central power, it is considered treason, Hansen says.

It was an arms race

Kjetil Tronvoll, who also predicted the outbreak of war long before it happened, points out that the military alliance building, in the wake of the peace agreement between Abiy and Afwerki, was just one of several signs of an impending war in Ethiopia. Both parties – both the TPLF and the government – felt insecure about the other party, feared a war and started an rearmament to secure their own borders and their own power and influence.

Already in 2015-2016, there were signs that the old governing coalition, based on a long-standing fragile balance of power between different regions, was disintegrating. It became clearer and clearer that this could explode in a war. Various regions – Amhara, Oromia and Tigray – began to prepare. It was an arms race, where everyone was insecure, says Tronvoll.

The tripartite agreement

(fact box)

* The tripartite agreement between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia is a cooperation agreement signed on 5 September 2018. The agreement was officially about peace, trade, culture and social and economic development. The agreement was signed in the Ethiopian Amhara region. This happened in the wake of a change of power in Ethiopia and a subsequent peace agreement between the two former enemies Eritrea and Ethiopia.

* A new tripartite meeting was held in Ethiopia’s Amhara region in November 2018.

* On 27 January 2020, another three-party meeting was held in the Eritrean capital Asmara. According to the Ethiopian broadcaster Fana, the meeting adopted an action plan focusing on “peace, stability, security and economic and social development” and a “security” component with the aim of combating and neutralizing (…) terrorism, arms and human trafficking and drug trafficking.

* Prior to and between the meetings, there had been a number of bilateral meetings. Among other things, Abiy visited an Eritrean military base in July 2020. Farmajo visited Asmara on October 4, 2020, while Isaias visited the Ethiopian air base in Bishoftu on 14-15. October 2020.

* Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared war on the Tigray region on November 4, 2020. It came hours after Tigray forces first launched an attack on several federal military bases inside the Tigray region. In the months before, there had been a growing tension between the parties. Eritrean soldiers participated in the Ethiopian government forces and have been accused of aggravated assault on civilians. Various sources in Ethiopia and Somalia claim that forcibly recruited Somali soldiers wearing Eritrean uniforms were also involved in the Tigray offensive during the first phase of the war.

Source: Wikipedia / Ethiopia Insight / Eritrea Hub / Fana / Amnesty International

“Omar” was promised a golden job in Qatar, ended up as a soldier in Eritrea

“Omar” (26) was one of many Somali young boys who were promised well-paid jobs as guards ahead of the World Cup in Qatar. That was a lie. The boys were instead abducted to Eritrea and forced into military training. Many ended their lives in the Tigray War, a former intelligence chief believes.

By Gunnar Zachrisen

– In a few days I will leave, he said optimistically. That was the last I heard from him. It has now been almost three years.

It is the cousin of “Omar”, one of several thousand missing young boys, who tells this. The cousin is the only one who dares to stand up when a Somali freelance reporter makes contact, on behalf of Bistandsaktuelt. Eight other parents, among them people who have previously appeared in the media, have said “no”, referring to “fear” and “threats”.

“Omar” is one of many young Somali men who were promised a lucrative job abroad, but ended up in one of several military training camps in Eritrea. And has been kept there for several years. A spokesman for the Somali authorities has admitted that there was talk of training 5,000 recruits, a former intelligence chief believes the missing young boys are at least twice as many.

– It’s desperate. I fear that many will be detained or killed because they are living testimony to what they have seen during the Tigray war, he says to Bistandsaktuelt.

The former deputy head of the Somali intelligence service, Abdisalam Guled, has himself spoken to about 500 families who have lost contact with their sons. The conversations have taken place directly or through Whatsapp groups where the families have shared their stories.

– I was the very first to talk about this publicly in Somalia. As a result, a number of parents made contact. Today I consider myself a whistleblower, and try as best I can to find out what has happened. I try to be the relatives’ spokesperson, says the former intelligence chief to Bistandsaktuelt.

16-year-olds forcibly recruited

Abdisalam Guled says that most young people left their families between March 2019 and June 2020. Many came from universities or graduated from high school.

The youngest were around 16 years old. He estimates that more than 10,000 have been tricked into leaving – with the hope of a profitable job.

It was the Somali intelligence service that was responsible for the recruitment and the false promises. The young people were taken to the airport, but instead of being flown to Qatar, they ended up as forcibly recruited soldiers in training camps inside the dictatorship of Eritrea. There they were refused contact with their families.The Eritrean military was in charge of the training.- Before they left, most were told that they would get well-paid jobs by performing guard duty for a private company in Qatar, ahead of the World Cup in football. Others were told that they would get a job in Turkey. They were sent by plane from Mogadishu and had no idea until they landed in Eritrea. There, they were dressed in Eritrean uniforms and sent on to training camps, says the man who was intelligence deputy in Somalia in the years 2013-2017.Today, he is an independent security policy analyst.

Denied contact with the family

In Somalia, only a few parents have heard from their sons after coming to the Eritrean training camps. The few young boys who have managed to make contact, tell of extremely harsh conditions in the camps – with forced labor, little food, lack of health care and harassment and violence committed by Eritrean soldiers. Some of the Eritrean instructors are themselves prisoners from Eritrean prisons, claim Somali recruits who have managed to return to their home country.A family received a phone call from a son who said that several hundred recruits had been sent to Tigray, and that less than half returned alive. That was the last they heard from their son, says Abdisalam Guled.Another family tells a local online newspaper that the son was approached on a football field and lured with job offers as a guard in Qatar. He had left without saying anything, but called the family from the capital Mogadishu to say goodbye. The hope was to make money that could fund the studies. Then it went on for seven months without them hearing anything, until they suddenly got a call from their son who was in a hospital bed in Eritrea and had borrowed a phone from a doctor. He had been injured during training in the military camp, he said.

Said he was going to Qatar

Abdul, with whom Bistandsaktuelt spoke a few days ago, tells of his cousin “Omar”, a father of two from a town north of Mogadishu, who was recruited by the Somali military and promised a job in Qatar. The phone call took place in March 2019.- When he called me he was still in a camp in Mogadishu, but he refused to say which one. Then he was going on to Qatar for special training a few days later. Somali authorities would arrange everything for him, including a good monthly salary, he said. 

According to Abdul, the cousin has not made a sound since – except about a year ago, when he called his wife.- Then he was in a camp in Eritrea, but gave no further details about the situation. Since then we have not heard anything, and his wife, father and the rest of the family are in despair. They have two small children and are in a difficult financial situation now, he says.Abdul says that they – via local media – have appealed to the authorities to get information about what happened to the cousin, but that they have never received an answer.

Bistandsaktuelt knows their full names, but has chosen to anonymise – for the sake of both the interviewee, the missing cousin and his family. The freelance reporter also wants anonymity – for his own safety.)

Desperate parents demanded answers

The experiences and losses of life, either in acts of war or in the military camps, are only part of the tragedy for the Somali youth. In January this year, the Somali Guardian newspaper published an interview in which an escaped Somali recruit claims that more than 400 Somali recruits have been killed. He tells of clashes between Somalis and Eritreans in which dozens of unarmed recruits have been killed.The fugitive Abdulkadir Abshir, who was trained for six months in early 2020, also claims that thousands of Somali recruits were sent to take part in the Tigray War, under Eritrean command. However, the Somali authorities continue to reject the allegations of war involvement, as they have done since the allegations first surfaced.Hundreds of desperate parents began holding a series of demonstrations in the center of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu last year – demanding to know the truth about the sons they had not heard from. The demonstrations lasted for several months.A series of videos shared on social media and in Somali media show crying mothers and fathers appealing to the authorities to find out where their sons are. 

… then the answer is a bullet

Hussein Warsame told Reuters that his son, 21-year-old Saddam, had been promised a guard job in Qatar in October 2019. Then they heard nothing more from him, until he called from Eritrea a little over a year later.- We were all shocked when we landed in Eritrea. We thought we would be flown to Qatar, he quoted from the conversation with his son.His son Saddam also complained about the conditions in the camps.- Father, there is no life here, I have not seen food except a shell or slice of bread since I left Somalia in 2019, and when recruits protest or refuse to follow orders, the answer is a bullet, the son had told him.- Both my sons were recruited and have disappeared, says another desperate man in an online video clip.- We appealed and appealed to the authorities – to the police, to the military, to the intelligence service, to the government – but everyone has denied that they knew anything about the boys’ fate, says Abdisalam Guled.Still today – over two years after the first youths were sent to Eritrea – many parents are waiting for answers about what happened to them. Guled estimates that there are several thousand parents.

A secret war pact?

The story of the forcibly recruited young boys and the desperate cries of the families to find out the truth also sheds new light on aspects of the prelude to the bloody war in northern Ethiopia – and a secret military alliance between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia.Several Central African horn analysts have suggested that a military pact between the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea existed long before the outbreak of the Tigray War, and at one point Somalia was involved.The New York Times reported on December 15 last year that Ethiopian and Eritrean leaders Abiy Ahmed and Isaias Afwerki had already been planning the war in Tigray for months – long before the war actually broke out. Among other things, military transport planes had traveled between Addis Ababa and Asmara, while Eritrea played an important role in training soldiers from the Ethiopian region of Amhara – to fight against Tigray forces. Eritrea, a tough dictatorship with minimal opportunities for critical scrutiny, probably had a similar role in training Somali youths to become combat-ready soldiers, according to the former intelligence chief.

Was contacted by Ethiopian officer

Ex-intelligence deputy Abdisalam Guled first became aware of the missing young boys in January last year, when he was contacted by a former acquaintance of the Ethiopian military leadership. The officer himself had been at the front in Tigray and seen the Somali youths, in Eritrean uniforms.Abdisalam Guled has since spoken to several Somali youths who have managed to escape from the camps in Eritrea. In total, he believes there are more than 35 who have escaped – from camps along the Eritrean coast towards the Red Sea.On the other hand, no one has so far managed to escape from camps around the town of Badme on the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia. This is where the task force for the Tigray war has been located, he claims.The recruits who have managed to escape have mainly fled on foot, from the coastal training camps in Eritrea via the regions of Afar and Somali in Ethiopia – before returning to Somalia. The stories they have told him and local journalists are reminiscent of what the fugitive Abdulkadir has told the public. Violence, harassment, communication bans, lousy food, illness and lack of medicine are some key words, according to the ex-intelligence officer.Many parents who have not heard anything from their sons are asking for an answer.- This is so sad. I would have liked to have helped them more than I have managed, says Guled.

Probably 10,000 recruits

The allegations about Somali recruits in Eritrean camps were denied and denied and denied by official sources in Somalia.It was only after the parents’ repeated, lengthy demonstrations and coverage in a number of local media, that the country’s former national security adviser (current foreign minister) Abdi Saed finally admitted that there were Somali soldiers in Eritrea. It happened opposite a local television station. “How many,” the TV journalist asks. “5000”, the security adviser answers. The many allegations that soldiers have been sent into Tigray, however, are still denied from official sources, where it is claimed, among other things, that the allegations are abused by the political opposition.The former deputy head of the Somali intelligence service NISA believes that there are even more Somali recruits in Eritrea, probably over 10,000 – and that many have been killed. He bases this on both information from the Ethiopian side, stories from escaped soldiers and conversations with parents.Somali MPs, who have demanded answers on the matter from the authorities, have also given similar estimates.Guled believes that the training of Somali recruits is part of an element in a tripartite agreement between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia, where each country should contribute thousands of soldiers each. The existence of such a co-operation agreement, established in 2018, has been confirmed by the countries, but not that it also includes co-operation in the military field. There is only secrecy.

The intelligence service recruited

On the Somali side, it was Abdisalam Guled’s old employer, the intelligence service, who was responsible for the recruitment, not the Ministry of Defense. They were the ones who collected the recruits, kept them in a closed area and sent them on from the airport in Mogadishu.The secrecy was extensive. The flight from Addis to the Eritrean capital took place without travel documents and passenger lists.”On the day the young people left, even airport employees were prevented from stamping them in or checking their luggage, in stark contrast to the aviation safety rules,” the Somali online newspaper Garowe Online wrote in a revealing article in June last year.- It is striking and strange. No government agency in Somalia states that they have the names of the young men who were recruited and traveled, says Abdisalam Guled.So secret was the program that not even the then Prime Minister, the Norwegian Somali Hassan Ali Khaire, knew about it. President Mohamed Farmaajo and a couple of other advisers and key officials in the intelligence service were the brains behind the secret operation, the Somali online newspaper claims.

Why are they being held back in Eritrea?

The original plan was not to prepare the soldiers for an impending war in Ethiopia, but to deploy them to defeat the opposition in Somalia and secure the president’s power, Garowe Online writes, citing leaked documents and two internal sources.Abdisalam Guled believes the plans were changed along the way as the Eritrean dictator took control of both training and deployment of troops. A number of observers have pointed out that the leaders of the Tigray region and the party leadership of the TPLF have for years been considered the main threat to the dictator’s grip on power – which he has maintained since 1991.There were also Tigray forces that made up a large part of the Ethiopian forces that fought against Eritrea in the years 1998 to 2000.- This is not something I can prove, but centrally located Ethiopian sources have told me that there were over 10,000 from the Somali side in the Tigray war, in Eritrean uniforms and under Eritrean command. I fear that many were killed, says Guled.He also fears that many of the survivors will be detained in Eritrea – precisely so that the truth about what they were involved in in the Tigray war will not be revealed.

Eyewitnesses told of Somali soldiers

Until January 20 this year, no media had interviewed eyewitnesses about Somali soldiers’ participation in the war in Tigray, a region where Ethiopia denies journalists entry.However, the investigative journalist Lucy Kassa, who also regularly reports for Bistandsaktuelt, managed to get in touch with people in six villages in northwestern Tigray, who among other things tell in detail about Somali soldiers’ participation in extensive abuses against civilians in the early stages of the war.The issue of Somalia’s possible participation in the war in northern Ethiopia is extremely controversial in the Somali public. This is partly due to the fact that the training of soldiers in Eritrea and the alleged participation in the war in Tigray were not discussed with the country’s parliament, as required by law.In retrospect, the Somali president’s office has demanded that the Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail, which published Kassa’s article, deny the information. If not, Somalia will sue, according to a letter from the president’s communications chief.A former official in Ethiopia with a background in Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s Prosperity Party confirms to Bistandsaktuelt that thousands of Somali soldiers participated in the Tigray war in the first months of the war.(Bistandsaktuelt has asked the authorities in Eritrea, Somalia and Ethiopia for a comment on allegations in this article, but so far without the inquiries being answered.)

UN reports

The UN has previously reported on Somali participation in the Ethiopian war, including during the massacres in the holy city of Axum. The UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea first referred to such information in June last year – referring to talks with parents, diplomats and civil society organizations.In October last year, a UN panel in Somalia issued a new report on various political issues in the region and where, among other things, the training of Somali recruits is a topic. In connection with the report, the UN body was denied access to Eritrea to investigate the matter further, and failed to substantiate the allegations about the soldiers’ participation in the Tigray war.The report states, however, that some of the Somali recruits are likely to have played “an opaque role” in the conduct of elections in Somalia in April 2021, a reference to the fact that soldiers are said to have contributed to political pressure. About 450 recruits are said to have returned to Somalia after training in Eritrea, according to information from the authorities.


March 27, 2018: Former intelligence officer, soldier and Oromo politician Abiy Ahmed is elected chairman of the governing coalition EPRDF. The following week, parliament approves Abyi Ahmed as the new prime minister. The change of power marks a break with the TPLF’s long-standing influential role in the country’s politics.

June 21, 2018: Eritrean head of state and dictator Isaias Afwerki accepts Ethiopia’s proposal for peace talks, leading to an agreement.

September 5, 2018: Tripartite meeting between Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia in Asmara ends with a joint closing statement. In the months before, there have been a number of meetings between Abiy and Isaiah Afwerki, including visits to air bases.

March 2019: The first contingent of Somali young boys is dispatched from the airport in Mogadishu. While still believing that they are going to Qatar to work as guards in a private security company, they land in Eritrea’s capital. From there, they are sent to various Eritrean training camps.

October 2019: The Norwegian Nobel Committee announces that this year’s Nobel Peace Prize will go to Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

January 27, 2020: A new three-party meeting is held where “safety components” related to the collaboration will be agreed. The goal is, according to the state Ethiopian media company Fana, to “fight and neutralize (…) terrorism, arms and human and drug smuggling”. The agreements on security cooperation are not public.

June 2020: The last contingent of Somali young boys is sent from Mogadishu to Asmara in Eritrea.

November 4, 2020: The war in Tigray breaks out after a long period of tension between the parties.

January – July 2021: Parents hold protests in Mogadishu demanding to know what has happened to their sons.

June 2021: A report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Somalia and Eritrea believes that there is reason to believe that Somali recruits trained in Eritrea were used in the Tigray War.

June 12, 2021: Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble appoints a committee to investigate families’ complaints and allegations that their sons have received military training in Eritrea.

June 26, 2021: The 25-year-old female intelligence agent Ikran Tahlil Farah – with a background as a human rights lawyer – is abducted from her home. The newspaper Garowe Online believes that surveillance photos show that she is included in a Toyota belonging to the intelligence service NISA. The latter later sends out a press release in which they claim that there is reason to believe that it is al-Shabaab who is behind it.

September 2021: In violation of the Constitution, President Farmajo deprives Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble of his executive powers. The decision is made in the wake of a dispute over Roble’s firing of former intelligence chief Fahad Yasin in connection with an investigation into the murder of the female intelligence agent Ikran Tahlil Farah.December 26, 2021: The President and Prime Minister agree on December 26 to bury the hatchet and prepare for presidential elections. The magazine Africa Confidential writes in retrospect that the country was on the brink of civil war.

January 2022: An article in the Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail reports on abuses committed by Somali soldiers in Tigray in the first months of 2021.

February 2022: The committee that was to investigate the case with the Somali recruits has still not submitted its report, and on February 25 there are presidential elections in Somalia. The election campaign is characterized by violence and harsh outcomes between different politicians. Several of the opposition’s presidential candidates are exposed to shelling and other types of attacks by the military.

February 22, 2022

Mere weeks after the January 05, 2022, engagement that took place with Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who commiserated with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki about international sanction against his government, on February 07, 2022, Isais has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Special Presidential Envoy for the Middle East and African countries, Mikhail Bogdanov, who is also Deputy Foreign Minister. There were few details concerning the substance of this Eritrea-Russia meeting, but it was reported that the parties decried “external interferences and illicit sanctions,”. The Eritrean Research Institute for Policy and Strategy (ERIPS) believes these alliances with China and now Russia will not benefit the Eritrean people, countries in the region or American interests.

In an executive order issued in September 2021, President Biden warned of sanctions against parties involved in the fighting in Ethiopia and the Treasury Department has levied sanctions against the Eritrean Defense Forces and the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) stating “Eritrea’s destabilizing presence in Ethiopia is prolonging the conflict, posing a significant obstacle to a cessation of hostilities, and threatening the integrity of the Ethiopian state,”. The Eritrean regime’s attempt to evade the sanctions seems to be taking a sharp turn for the worse.

It is well known that the regime of Isaias Afwerki has consistently sought the friendship and support of authoritarian regimes, such as the Middle Eastern countries to hold onto power and to extend his influence with military adventures in neighboring countries. President Afwerki has now signed a new strategic but uneven relationship with the People’s Republic of China, and is working on one with Russia as well, undoubtedly as leverage to evade the sanctions and to take advantage of the rapidly deteriorating situation in the region where the Eritrean people’s, regional and American national interests are at stake.

With the potential of establishing political and military relationship with Russia, it appears that the Eritrean government is intent on expanding its military adventurism in Tigray and elsewhere in East Africa. This regime is known for instigating conflicts with neighboring countries (Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Yemen) since the early 1990s. The Isaias regime has regularly supported armed opposition groups against governments with disputes, including the militant Islamist al-Shabaab in Somalia, and these wars have led to the unnecessary loss of lives and instability of the region. The addition of heavy Russian weaponry will only exacerbate an already tense relationship between Eritrea and its neighbors. Absent an arms embargo on Eritrea and Ethiopia, the situation will only worsen, incurring an even greater humanitarian crisis and political instability in the region.

As part of Russia’s grand strategy of establishing political, economic, and military relationships with many African nations, Moscow has increased its activities in the African arms market. “Arms sales are a central element of Russia’s foreign policy and are closely controlled by the government to advance economic and strategic objectives. Russian arms sales provide an important source of hard currency, promote Russia’s defense and political relations with other countries, and support important domestic industries,” stated a 2021 report by the Congressional Research Service. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), as of 2020, Russia accounts for 49% of arms imports to Africa. The National Interest magazine also reported that Russia has sold arms to at least twenty-one African states, including such weapons as T-90SA main battle tanks (MBT’s), modernized BMPT-72 Terminator 2 infantry fighting vehicles, Su-34 strike fighters and Su-35 air superiority jets. As of July 2021, Rosoboronexport, the Russian state-tun arms exporting company, had signed over a dozen deals worth billions of dollars for the supply of Russian military products.

According to Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland, through Russian support of Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar with snipers, Mig-29 and Su-24 fighter jets, SA-22 surface-to-air missile, anti-aircraft systems, hundreds of flights delivering military logistics since 2019 and an estimated 1,200 Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group, Russia is managing to carve out a region bordering NATO’s southern flank. This could well be a preview of what is in store for the Greater Horn of Africa through the Eritrea-Russia alliance.

“Libya provides a vignette of how Russia pursues its strategic goals in Africa: expanding geopolitical influence through low-cost ventures that hold economic windfalls for Moscow and President Vladimir Putin’s close associates. In this way, Russia’s strategy in Africa is both opportunistic and calculating. It is opportunistic in that it is willing to take risks and quickly deploy mercenary forces to crisis contexts when the opening presents itself, similar to what Moscow did in Syria. It is calculating in that it aims to expand Russia’s power projection including over strategic chokeholds in the eastern Mediterranean and Suez Canal that could affect NATO force deployments in times of crisis,” stated an article by the George C. Marshall Center.

As ERIPS has stated earlier, it is critical for the U.S. administration and policymakers across the political spectrum to give particular attention to China’s economic, political, and military influence in Africa and particularly to the strategic nations in the Red Sea trade route. Eritrea has two ports: Massawa and Assab. China has a strategy seeking control of ports around the world, and these Red Sea ports are especially critical for the world economy. However, Russian interest in Africa also includes expanding geopolitical influences, weakening global democracies, holding strategic maritime chokeholds, and meeting its dire need for hard currency.

Despite claims to uphold and respect democracy, freedom, justice, and fairness, countries such as China, Russia and Eritrea are among world’s worst human rights violators. Having China and now Russia as strategic partners enables the Afwerki regime to access not only Russia’s voluminous supplies of military hardware and equipment, but also Chinese IT for intelligence and security, military technology, and weaponry. Thus, in ERIPS’ view, these alliances are solely aimed to strengthen the regime’s grip onto power and continue to cause pain and suffering on the Eritrean people. Moreover, these agreements are designed to allow the Eritrean regime to withstand sanctions and carry on with impunity its belligerence in the ongoing Ethiopian civil war that is destabilizing the Horn of Africa.

Eritrean Research Institute for Policy and Strategy

Harnnet Media - ሓርነት ሚድያ

EPDP Magazines