Source: Reuters

U.N. Security Council, for first time, declares concern about Ethiopia’s Tigray

ReutersMichelle Nichols

Ethiopians, who fled the ongoing fighting in Tigray region, carry their belongings after crossing the Setit River on the Sudan-Ethiopia border, in the eastern Kassala state, Sudan December 16, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo

The U.N. Security Council expressed concern on Thursday about the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, particularly abuse of women and girls, a week after the U.N. aid chief said sexual violence was being used as a weapon of war.

It was the first public statement by the 15-member council, which has been briefed five times privately on the conflict, since fighting between Ethiopia’s federal government troops and Tigray’s former ruling party began in November.

“The members of the Security Council expressed their deep concern about allegations of human rights violations and abuses, including reports of sexual violence against women and girls in the Tigray region, and called for investigations to find those responsible and bring them to justice,” it said in the statement, drafted by Ireland and agreed by consensus.

The council was unable to agree language last month with Western countries pitted against Russia and China, whose diplomats questioned whether the body – charged with maintaining international peace and security – should be involved.

U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock last week told the council the humanitarian crisis in Tigray had deteriorated with challenges to aid access, people dying of hunger and many reports of “gang rape, with multiple men assaulting the victim; in some cases, women have been repeatedly raped over a period of days.” He said girls as young as eight had also been targeted.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, then challenged the body’s silence, according to diplomats familiar with her remarks during the closed briefing, asking: “Do African lives not matter as much as those experiencing conflict in other countries?” read more

Ethiopia’s mission to the United Nations in New York said in a statement on Thursday that the “law enforcement operation in Ethiopia is an internal affair regulated by the laws of the country, including human rights laws.”

It said that Ethiopia had committed to investigate and ensure accountability for violations of human rights, including sexual violence, and that Ethiopia was providing humanitarian aid in Tigray.

The conflict has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands more from their homes in the region of about 5 million. Eritrean troops – accused of massacres and killings in Tigray – have been helping Ethiopian troops.

Lowcock said the world body had not seen any proof that soldiers from neighboring Eritrea have withdrawn, despite demands from U.N. officials and the United States. The Security Council statement made no mention of Eritrean troops.

Eritrea told the Security Council on Friday that it has agreed to start withdrawing its troops from Tigray, acknowledging publicly for the first time its involvement in the conflict.

Source: ABC

UN Security Council: ‘Deep concern’ about Ethiopia’s Tigray

The U.N. Security Council is expressing concern about humanitarian conditions and human rights in Ethiopia’s wartorn Tigray region

The statement made no mention of Eritrean soldiers in Tigray, though U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock and Amnesty International said last week that the troops remain weeks after Ethiopia said they would leave. U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Wednesday that “we haven’t seen any evidence that Eritrean troops are withdrawing from Tigray.”

In November, political tensions between Ethiopian President Abiy Ahmed’s government and Tigray leaders exploded into war. Eritrea teamed up with neighboring Ethiopia in the conflict. Thousands of people have been killed.

The United States has alleged ethnic cleansing in the western part of Tigray, a claim that Ethiopian authorities dismiss as unfounded. The term refers to forcing a population from a region through expulsions and other violence, often including killings and rapes.

Ethiopia has said that life in Tigray is returning to normal.

Lowcock, meanwhile, told the council last week that some 4.5 million of Tigray’s 6 million need humanitarian aid and that “there is no doubt that sexual violence is being used in this conflict as a weapon of war.” He cited alarmingly numerous reports of rape and other sexual attacks, mainly by men wearing the uniforms of various forces.

In Thursday’s statement, the council conveyed “deep concern about allegations of human rights violations and abuses, including reports of sexual violence.” It welcomed an agreement by the U.N. and an Ethiopian rights agency to conduct a joint investigation into reported abuses.

The council also acknowledged Ethiopia’s humanitarian efforts but called for a bigger response, unfettered humanitarian access to everyone in need and “a restoration of normalcy.”

Tigray is edging closer to famine

Saturday, 24 April 2021 11:44 Written by


Source: Economist

Evidence is growing that starvation is being used as a weapon of war in Ethiopia

Apr 22nd 2021
PEOPLE FLEEING war are often driven by a fear of bullets and shells. But in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, where fighting broke out in November between government forces and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a former ruling party that reverted to being a guerrilla movement, guns are not the only weapons of war. The United Nations has received reports of rape by soldiers. Millions face the threat of starvation, owing in part to the actions of the Ethiopian government’s forces and its allies.
The suffering is widespread. Central and eastern Tigray, as well as parts of the north-west, are facing “crisis”or “emergency” hunger levels, according to the UN’s Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), meaning that households are suffering from acute malnutrition (see map). The next and final phase on the IPC scale is “famine” marked by an extreme lack of food, resulting in starvation or death.
Before the conflict broke out, Tigray was largely free from hunger; now the UN estimates that 4.5m need food aid.
Such food shortages are not simply a case of collateral damage. Ethiopian and Eritrean forces have been looting shops and farms, burning food that they cannot take with them. Water tanks and reservoirs have also been targeted.
In April the World Peace Foundation (WPF), a research organisation based at Tufts University in Massachusetts, published a report alleging systematic “starvation crimes” perpetrated by belligerents. Ethiopia’s government has also been accused of blocking food deliveries to civilians. Between 700,000 and 2.2m people are estimated to be displaced within Tigray, separated from their homes and livelihoods. More than 60,000 have fled into neighbouring Sudan.
Meanwhile, the death toll from the conflict continues to climb. A paper published last month by researchers at Ghent University in Belgium identified 1,942 people killed in the fighting, though the true number may be much higher. Nearly a third of the victims documented by the researchers were killed in point-blank murders or civilian massacres. In most cases, the perpetrators were believed to be Ethiopian or Eritrean soldiers, although in 16% of the deaths identified by the researchers, the killers’ affiliation was unclear. Inadequate health care and food shortages could cause the number of casualties to soar even higher.
The WPF reckons that in central and eastern Tigray alone, between 50 and 100 people are dying every day from causes directly related to hunger. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has promised to investigate allegations of human-rights abuses in Tigray “as soon as possible”. For the families of the many who have already died, that is already too late.


Robert Mardini, director-general of the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross, said: “I haven’t heard such terrible accounts for more than two decades in the humanitarian sector.” Mardini, among other things, closely followed the civil wars in Syria and Yemen when he headed ICRC’s Near and Middle East division from 2012 to 2018. “Many of my humanitarian colleagues are testifying the same,” he said.

Source: AFP

In writing about Eritrea – indeed, in writing about the Horn of Africa as a whole – every author and journalist has to be on their guard against the disinformation spread by the Eritrean regime.

This systematic propaganda system is known by the term that was coined during Eritrea’s thirty year fight for independence (1961 – 1991). This is “Zero Three.”

When Isaias wanted to remove his enemies inside the Eritrean liberation movement he sometimes had them executed.

It would then be suggested that they had “committed suicide.”

One of EPLF’s liquidation tactics was “suicide,” which were never announced officially—but passed through “Bado Seleste” (Zero Three), the radio frequency for the party’s rumour mill.

As the BBC’s correspondent in Asmara, Alex Last wrote during the tragic border war with Ethiopia in 2000, Zero Three was spreading misinformation in an attempt to bolster Eritrean morale as its troops were in full retreat.

The news of the fall of Barentu has had a devastating effect on the mood in the Eritrean capital, Asmara.

It was announced on Eritrean TV late on Wednesday evening,

“I don’t think anyone slept last night” said one Eritrean businesswoman. The city remains calm, but people are very depressed.

For many Eritreans, the news had came as a shock. The local rumour mill, known as “Bado Seleste” meaning “03” – a reference to the unofficial news during the war of liberation – had been full of stories of counter-attacks and the recapture of villages right up until Wednesday night.

As with most countries which are facing an overwhelming invader, the rumours tend to be what people want to hear, not necessarily the truth.

When President Isaias faced real dissent after his disastrous handling of the border war and was challenged by some of his closest allies – the ‘G15’ – he reacted by locking them up.

The president also closed all independent media and arrested journalists.

Ever since there has been no free media inside Eritrea – none whatsoever.

Propaganda across the world

The Eritrean diaspora is under constant surveillance by the regime.

Sometimes this is done through the structures of the only legal party – the PFDJ.

Sometimes it is done through the Eritrean embassy.

Sometimes it is done by thugs who use brute force.

Every Eritrean living abroad knows that he or she are being monitored from Asmara. It hampers their lives, limits their ability to use democratic structures to resist the regime.

This article highlights some of these measures.

Dissent is managed partly by force, and partly by a rumour mill, known as Bado Seleste — Zero Three — a reference to a wartime propaganda service. The government has let it be known that there is an informant in every house, and that every phone is tapped.

Zero Three extends into the diaspora. Refugees refuse to speak on the record or be photographed for fear of reprisals against them or their families. Those that do put their heads above the parapet are targeted. Activists in London report being followed, having their tyres slashed and receiving late night phone calls.

Every independent journalist needs to be aware of this network of misinformation and repression.

It needs to be constantly guarded against, while ignoring the social media attacks by these state agents, and establishing reliable sources of information.


United States Mission to the United Nations
Office of Press and Public Diplomacy
For Immediate Release

April 15, 2021

Statement by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield on the Situation in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region

Today the United States raised again in the Security Council its grave concern regarding the deteriorating humanitarian and human rights situation in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and credible reports that Eritrean forces are re-uniforming as Ethiopian military in order to remain in Tigray indefinitely. The Eritrean government must withdraw its forces from Ethiopia immediately.

We are horrified by the reports of rape and other unspeakably cruel sexual violence that continue to surface. The degradation and trauma associated with these attacks will have long-term effects on the affected communities. We condemn all sexual violence and demand perpetrators be brought to justice.

We acknowledge Prime Minister Abiy’s commitment to hold accountable all those responsible for human rights violations and abuses, and atrocities. The Eritrean government must make a similar commitment. We welcome the joint investigation by the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission in Tigray and urge them to complete this investigation as thoroughly and swiftly as possible.

An estimated 5.2 million people in Tigray are food insecure and require assistance and are at risk of famine. There remain challenges accessing populations in need, and some of these restrictions have been imposed by Eritrean forces. We continue to call for unhindered humanitarian access in Tigray. The United States has committed an additional $152 million to help address humanitarian needs in Tigray. We call on other international donors to increase assistance to meet the growing needs.

We call again for an end to hostilities and for the Ethiopian government to deliver upon a political settlement of the crisis; permit unhindered humanitarian access; allow for independent, international investigations into human rights abuses and violations; protect civilians; enact the immediate withdrawal of Eritrean and Amhara regional forces from Tigray; and hold those responsible for human rights violations accountable.

This crisis demands our attention and our action. It’s time for the Security Council to speak with one voice.


By Martin Plaut

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, determined to use every available force in an attempt to crush the Tigrayan resistance, has reportedly turned to former Tigrayan fighters who were trained and armed by the Eritrean government.

These fighters belonged to the Tigray People's Democratic Movement [TPDM] - known as Demhit in Tigrigna.

Former members of the TPDM have been instructed to assemble in Mekele. Transport has reportedly been sent to collect them from as far as Humera on the Sudanese border.

They are apparently being promised cash and positions in the Prime Minister's party - the Prosperity Party.

When the Tigray war broke out in November 2020 many members of the Tigray opposition, including former TPDM members, joined the Tigray Defence Force to resist the attack on their homeland.

Those members of the TPDM who did not join the resistance are now being recruited by the government, but some have spoken out, saying they don't believe this is a genuine offer from the prime minister.

Members of TPDM returned to Tigray after Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018 and a the peace deal between Eritrea and Ethiopia was signed.

While in Eritrea the TPDM were reportedly used by President Isaias to provide security in and around Asmara.

In September 2015 the Sudan Tribune reported that General Mola Asgedom, who led TPDM, had crossed into the Sudan, arriving in the border town of Hamdait.

It was reported that Asgedom escaped to Sudan after armed clashes broke out with the Eritrean army on the outskirts of the Eritrean city of Omhajer. Asgedom and 683 of his supporters crossed into Sudan and handed over their weapons to the Sudanese authorities.

The clashes apparently arose after the arrival of other Ethiopia rebels – Gimbot 7 of Berhanu Nega – who were allegedly being given preferential treatment by the Eritrean government.

General Mola Asgedom subsequently crossed into Ethiopia and was interviewed about his experiences in Eritrea on Ethiopian television.

Below is a background article on the TPDM by Global Security.

Tigray People’s Democratic Movement

The Tigray People’s Democratic Movement [TPDM] remained the most significant Ethiopian opposition group being trained, financed and hosted inside Eritrea as of 2015. The UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea. reported extensively on the continued support by Eritrea for TPDM in violation of paragraph 15 (b) of resolution 1907 (2009) (see S/2014/727 and S/2012/545).

TPDM, also known by its Tigrinya acronym “Demhit”, is an armed Ethiopian opposition group founded in 2001 by dissidents from the Ethiopian ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. TPDM says on its website that its aim is “to establish a popular democratic government of Ethiopia where the rights of nation and nationality are respected”. In 2014, the UN Monitoring Group found that TPDM was being trained on Harena, an island in the Red Sea off the eastern coast of Eritrea, as well as in smaller military training outposts close to the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Moreover, in 2014, the Group reported that TPDM had become the most important Ethiopian opposition group inside Eritrea, with a dual function as an Ethiopian armed opposition group and a protector of the current regime. Its fighters, who hail from the same ethnic group as the President, are seen to be personally loyal to him. The support of Eritrea for TPDM appears to be more sustained and organized than its support for other Ethiopian armed groups (see S/2014/727).

In its report of June 2015, the commission of inquiry on human rights in Eritrea noted the presence of TPDM in Eritrea and reported its role in round -ups against Eritrean citizens who had failed to report to their national military (A/HRC/29/CRP.1, para. 1213). The findings were echoed by Europe-based activists in contact with Eritreans inside Eritrea who told the UN Monitoring Group that TPDM foreign fighters were involved in sweeps to round up people for conscription as recently as February 2015.

The Government of Eritrea facilitated and supported a move to unite a disparate group of armed Ethiopian opposition groups ahead of the Ethiopian general election that was held on 24 May 2015. The Group also received reports that a conference bringing together a number of Ethiopian opposition groups was held in western Eritrea. During the meeting, the groups, which included TPDM, the Patriotic Front, Ginbot Sebat and Arbegnoch, agreed to unify politically and militarily. The level of success and internal cohesion of the newly formed group is unclear.

By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK, April 16 (Reuters) - Eritrea told the United Nations Security Council on Friday that it has agreed to start withdrawing its troops from Ethiopia's Tigray region, acknowledging publicly for the first time the country's involvement in the conflict.

The admission in a letter to the 15-member council - and posted online by Eritrea's Ministry of Information - comes a day after U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock said the world body had not seen any proof that Eritrean soldiers have withdrawn.

"As the looming grave threat has been largely thwarted, Eritrea and Ethiopia have agreed - at the highest levels - to embark on the withdrawal of Eritrean forces and the simultaneous redeployment of Ethiopian contingents along the international boundary," Eritrea's U.N. Ambassador Sophia Tesfamariam wrote.

Eritrean forces have been helping Ethiopian federal government troops fight Tigray's former ruling party in a conflict that began in November. However, until now Eritrea has repeatedly denied its forces are in the mountainous region.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed last month acknowledged the Eritrean presence and the United Nations and the United States have demanded that Eritrean troops withdraw from Tigray.

"Neither the U.N. nor any of the humanitarian agencies we work with have seen proof of Eritrean withdrawal," Lowcock told the Security Council on Thursday. "We have, however, heard some reports of Eritrean soldiers now wearing Ethiopian Defense Force uniforms."

The conflict has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands more from their homes in the region of 5 million.

Lowcock said there were "widespread and corroborated reports of Eritrean culpability in massacres and killings." Eritrean soldiers opened fire in an Ethiopian town on Monday, killing at least nine civilians and wounding more than a dozen others, a local government official told Reuters.

The Security Council has been briefed privately five times since the conflict began. According to Lowcock's briefing notes on Thursday, he told the body that sexual violence is being used as a weapon of war, the humanitarian crisis has deteriorated in the past month and people are now dying of hunger in Tigray.

"We heard false allegations of the 'the use of sexual violence and hunger as a weapon'," Tesfamariam wrote on Friday. "The allegations of rape and other crimes lodged against Eritrean soldiers is not just outrageous, but also a vicious attack on the culture and history of our people."

She said the priority should be the delivery of aid to civilians in Tigray. (Additional reporting by the Nairobi newsroom; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

APRIL 17, 2021  NEWS

Somalia Women
 Women take part in a demonstration against the Somali President Mohamed Abdulahi Farmajo in Mogadishu on December 15, 2020 accused of interferences in the electoral process. STRINGER / AFP

u-fs50@l u-lh1 u-wbbw ]" dir="ltr" lang="en" style="box-sizing: inherit; margin-bottom: 1.5em;">Tensions are running high following the Somali parliament’s decision to extend the incumbent president’s mandate by two years. External partners should urgently convene – and mediate – talks among the country’s bitterly divided elites, to prevent its worst political crisis in years from escalating.

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Somalia’s long-running political crisis has entered a new, dangerous phase. In a hastily convened session on 12 April, members of parliament overwhelmingly endorsed a bill that would delay elections by two years, in effect extending the term in office of President Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmajo”. The move is an alarming escalation of a dispute that could well spiral into widespread violence unless Somalia’s political elites return to the negotiating table. The opposition is said to be considering forming a parallel government; cracks have deepened in a security apparatus long divided along clan lines; and the president’s opponents have vowed to resist extension of his rule. But even though the hour is late, it is not too late for the parties to reverse course. Somalia’s external partners, led by the African Union (AU) and backed by the U.S., the UN Security Council and the European Union, should step in to organise – and lead – fresh talks among all stakeholders to craft a roadmap to timely elections. All external actors should unambiguously signal readiness to impose sanctions on parties who obstruct a new initiative to find a consensual path forward.

The distrust that has prevented Somalia’s politicians from preparing elections has been on full display over the last few months. President Farmajo and leaders of Somalia’s subnational units, known as federal member states, agreed on a framework for indirect elections on 17 September 2020. But despite several rounds of subsequent talks, they have repeatedly failed to work out the voting system. Following the expiry of Farmajo’s four-year term on 8 February, the opposition demanded that he hand power to an interim government headed by the prime minister. An attempt by Farmajo’s rivals to hold demonstrations to press home this point was met with lethal force, with clashes between police and demonstrators leaving at least eight people dead. Somalia’s external partners then urged talks to resolve the deadlock. But the parties argued bitterly over the venue, the agenda and the security arrangements. When they finally convened on 3 April at Mogadishu’s international airport, which is guarded by AU troops, negotiations collapsed after four days.

In response, Farmajo and his supporters decided to raise the stakes by summoning parliament to initiate the term extension his opponents had consistently accused him of planning. During a special session convened by lower house Speaker Mohamed Abdirahman Mursal, MPs argued that the failure to reach a compromise made the 17 September agreement impossible to fulfil. They subsequently mandated the National Independent Electoral Commission to hold elections by universal suffrage in two years. The president signed the bill into law two days later.

The parliamentary decision has sent political tensions soaring to levels not seen in Somalia for years – and which could snowball into violence due to two key factors. First, the de facto term extension has shattered already low levels of trust among Somalia’s rival political actors. Farmajo’s opponents have rallied under the banner of the Council of Presidential Candidates, an alliance that includes two former presidents and a former prime minister. They represent important clan constituencies, including in Mogadishu, and have vehemently denounced the extension of Farmajo’s mandate, pledging unspecified action. These opposition candidates are allied with the presidents of the Puntland and Jubaland federal member states. Farmajo, for his part, enjoys the support of leaders from the federal regions of Galmudug, Hirshabelle and South West. With lines of communication cut between duelling parties and with the opposition said to be considering formation of a parallel government, the risk is high that parties will use force to secure political concessions.

 The crisis has sorely tested the cohesion of Somalia’s fragile army and police. Secondly, the crisis has sorely tested the cohesion of Somalia’s fragile army and police. Hours before parliament convened to vote on the term extension, Mogadishu police chief Sadiq “John” Omar condemned what he described as a power grab and ordered his men to block the entrance to the building, arguing that parliament’s term had expired. Police Commissioner General Hassan Hijar Abdi immediately dismissed Omar and sent forces to secure the venue. Well-placed security sources told Crisis Group that a number of soldiers from Somalia’s elite Turkish-trained Gorgor army units have since abandoned base and retreated to their clan strongholds. Elders from these clans also told Crisis Group that any attempt by authorities to disarm their troops will trigger full-scale fighting. The longer the crisis lasts, the greater the danger that these rifts will grow, raising the spectre of a return to civil war.

Resolving the crisis will not be easy. Farmajo has dug in, warning outside actors to stay out of Somalia’s internal affairs. The timing of the parliamentary decision – two days before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began – was likely designed to limit the opposition’s capacity to hold demonstrations at a time when most Somalis are observing the fast. Publicly, the opposition has reacted with restraint. Privately, however, it is working to ensure that Farmajo does not get his way. If opposition politicians go ahead to form a parallel government, they will add fuel to the fire and send tensions soaring higher.

As Crisis Group has consistently advocated, there is no alternative to concerted third-party mediation to break the electoral impasse, given the distrust among Somalia’s actors. In the past, the reluctance of external partners to engage directly was understandable, not least due to Mogadishu’s insistence that it could broker a compromise through Somali-led talks. That claim no longer holds. Instead, the spiralling crisis threatens to undo all the progress made in establishing a degree of political stability in Somalia over the last two decades. Moreover, the political stalemate and the wrangling among security forces have offered an opening to Al-Shabaab militants. Emboldened by the partial withdrawals of Ethiopian and U.S. troops at the end of 2020, militants have already stepped up attacks and resumed the large-scale assaults on Somali and foreign military targets that outside forces had prevented them from staging for several years. The crisis has also offered a propaganda coup for the militants, who have boasted that it vindicates their depiction of elites as power-obsessed incompetents.

Somalia’s key external partners need to do more. They have shown admirable unity in rejecting the term extension, with the U.S., UN, AU, EU, UK and regional bloc IGAD all issuing strong statements to express opposition. Now they should urge all Somali actors to resume talks. Ideally the AU, through the office of Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security Bankole Adeoye, who has already shown interest in resolving the standoff, would mobilise external partners to step up their diplomacy. First, the AU, with the backing of key external partners, should appoint an envoy who, working in concert with the UN envoy, should meet the main parties separately and urge a return to talks. In particular, these emissaries should emphasise to Farmajo that he will need to accept external mediation, given that the opposition will not agree to talks under his supervision. To improve the chances of Farmajo shifting his position, the U.S. could engage directly with his key backers in Qatar and Turkey and urge them to prevail on the president to show greater flexibility, given the risk the crisis poses to Somalia’s stability.

 External actors should make clear that they are prepared to impose targeted sanctions. Next, external actors will need to coordinate with Somalia’s political elite in calling for an inclusive summit to discuss a pathway to elections. Convened by the AU, with the U.S., EU and UN acting as guarantors, such a meeting should focus on delivering a timeframe for elections within weeks, rather than months. Talks could build on the 17 September agreement, but would not necessarily be bound by it, as only a narrow section of the political elite – Farmajo and the presidents of federal member states – crafted the document. Realistically, however, any election would need to broadly follow the contours of the 17 September agreement, given that an indirect election is the only feasible way to hold a vote in today’s security environment, in which Al-Shabaab controls swathes of territory in the south-central Somali countryside. Ideally, new talks would involve more participants, particularly representatives of the Council of Presidential Candidates and civil society.

To ensure that parties stick to their commitments, external actors should make clear that they are prepared to impose targeted sanctions. The U.S. has signalled a willingness to take action and urged key actors to change course in response to the latest developments. The EU has also promised to take “concrete measures” if authorities do not reverse the term extension. These are positive early steps. Somalia’s elites crave the legitimacy that comes with international recognition. Many use foreign passports to travel, hold assets outside Somalia, and keep their families in the U.S. or EU countries. Credible threats to impose visa bans and asset freezes might well concentrate minds.

Despite its many domestic challenges, Somalia has managed to establish a degree of political stability in the past decade and a half. Most strikingly, political elites have fashioned consensus on election management in past electoral cycles and found a way to both hold regular votes and oversee peaceful transitions of power. The current impasse – which could easily tip into major violence – threatens to unravel those gains. Somalia’s elites must return to dialogue.


Source: Al Jazeera

UN’s top humanitarian official warns conflict ‘is not over’ and says ‘vast majority’ of northern Ethiopian region ‘is completely or partially inaccessible’ for aid agencies.

15 Apr 2021

The United Nations and its aid partners have seen no proof of a declared withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Ethiopia’s Tigray region, according to the world body’s top humanitarian official, who also warned the situation in the embattled region has deteriorated.

The comments by Mark Lowcock during a closed-door UN Security Council meeting on Thursday came more than two weeks after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Eritrea had agreed to withdraw the allied forces it had sent into the northern Ethiopian region during the conflict that broke out there in November 2020.

“Unfortunately, I must say that neither the UN nor any of the humanitarian agencies we work with have seen proof of Eritrean withdrawal,” the under-secretary general of humanitarian affairs told the council, according to a text of his speech seen by Al Jazeera.

After months of tension, Abiy sent government forces into Tigray on November 4 to detain and disarm leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the then-regional ruling party that for decades dominated Ethiopia’s politics.

The winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize said the move came in response to TPLF-orchestrated attacks on federal army camps. The TPLF said Abiy’s government and its longtime foe Eritrea launched a “coordinated attack” against it.

Abiy declared victory after federal forces entered the regional capital, Mekelle, on November 28 but fighting has continued and analysts warn of a prolonged deadlock in a conflict that is believed to have killed thousands of people and left more than five million people in need of aid.

“The humanitarian situation in Tigray has deteriorated,” said Lowcock, adding that the “vast majority” of the region of some six million people “is completely or partially inaccessible” for humanitarian agencies.

“The conflict is not over and things are not improving,” he continued, calling the “reports of systematic rape, gang rape and sexual violence … especially disturbing and alarmingly widespread”.

Civilians have been experiencing “targeted violence, mass killings and executions, and systematic sexual violence as a weapon of war”.

Thursday’s closed-door meeting was the latest in a number of similar sessions since the start of the conflict more than five months ago, but the Security Council has yet to release a statement.

“The Security Council has listened to these reports, it had closed-door meetings but it has been absolutely silent,” said Al Jazeera’s diplomatic editor James Bays, reporting from the UN headquarters in New York. “Security Council members have not managed to agree to a single statement on the situation.”

Asked by Al Jazeera what should be done to improve the situation in Tigray, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric called for an increase in humanitarian access as well as “real movement” on human rights investigations into the “horrific reports” of atrocities and a “real reconciliation within the different groups in Tigray”.

After months of denials, Abiy last month admitted publicly that Eritrean troops had entered Tigray. UN chief Antonio Guterres once said the prime minister had “guaranteed” Eritrean forces were not there.

This week, Amnesty International said Eritrean troops on Monday had opened fire on civilians in Tigray’s Adwa town, in an “unprovoked” attack that killed at least three people and wounded 19 others.

The rights group’s regional director, Sarah Jackson, described the shooting as “yet another unlawful attack by Eritrean troops on civilians in Tigray”.

Forced Migration Unit, School of Law, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK
Laws 202110(2), 28; https://doi.org/10.3390/laws10020028
Received: 8 February 2021 / Revised: 28 March 2021 / Accepted: 29 March 2021 / Published: 13 April 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Refugees and International Law: The Challenge of Protection)
Despite the overwhelming evidence of human rights violations within the Eritrean Military/National Service Programme (“MNSP”), adjudication of asylum applications made by Eritreans remains a challenge. Narrow interpretations of “slavery” have created obstacles for protection under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (“1951 Refugee Convention”).
This article discusses MST and Others, the latest Country Guidance case on Eritrea issued by the UK Upper Tribunal Immigration and Asylum Chamber (“UTIAC”), and also the lead case E-5022/2017 of the Swiss Federal Administrative Court (“FAC”), which to a large extent replicated the UTIAC’s approach. The article focuses on how “slavery,” “servitude” and “forced labour” under article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”) have been interpreted in the British and Swiss case-law. While both, the British and the Swiss Courts, had recourse to the European Court of Human Rights’ (“ECtHR”) interpretation of article 4(1) ECHR (the right not to be subjected to slavery or servitude), they refused the applicability of international criminal law notions to this provision, and thus to the concept of “persecution” in article 1A(2) of the 1951 Refugee Convention.
In doing so, the UTIAC and the FAC set unreasonable requirements to satisfy article 4(1) ECHR. Due to the very limited case-law pertaining to slavery by the ECtHR, the ECHR does not offer an appropriate framework for examining asylum applications of victims of slavery. It is therefore suggested that slavery cases are considered against a wider legal framework, which involves the examination of concepts developed by international criminal law (“ICL”). ICL has indeed developed a significant body of jurisprudence on the interpretation of the international law concept of “slavery” and its application to contemporary situations.
The article contrasts the British and Swiss Courts’ position to develop an interpretative approach that connects different areas of international law, including not only international refugee law and international human rights law (“IHRL”), but also ICL. If applied in line with the principle of systemic integration and according to the overall purposes of the 1951 Refugee Convention, this approach would yield consistent results. Ultimately, this article seeks to assist asylum decision-makers and practitioners in the interpretation and application of the refugee definition to asylum applications of persons from Eritrea. View Full-Text