East Africa: Abiy Helps Somaliland Put More Facts On the Ground

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed welcomed at Sochi International Airport as he arrives to take part in the 2019 Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi, Russia, October 22, 2019.
5 June 2020


On 1 June, Somaliland's President Muse Bihi Abdi officially inaugurated the first 12 km of Berbera Corridor, a trade and transport route that connects landlocked Ethiopia to Somaliland's Port of Berbera on the Gulf of Aden.

The Addis Ababa-Berbera highway is being funded by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development. Together with the US$442 billion expansion of the Port of Berbera by another Emirati company, Dubai's DP World, the highway will turn Berbera into a major regional trading hub.

On one level, Somaliland is merely investing in what is likely to be a lucrative commercial venture, attracting more exports and imports from its much bigger and richer neighbour. But the Berbera highway clearly also has a more strategic purpose - to put an important political fact on the ground.

That is, to make Berbera an integral part of Ethiopia's economic network - and therefore also Somaliland. To the degree that Berbera becomes indispensable for Ethiopia, to that degree is Somaliland recognised - though only implicitly of course - as an independent state.

The Berbera project is important to Ethiopia's strategic imperative of access to the sea

Achieving such recognition has been Somaliland's eternal quest - so far with no apparent success. Neither Ethiopia nor any other country explicitly recognises it as a sovereign nation. All officially still consider it to be a wayward province of Somalia. And there are no signs on the immediate horizon that any country is about to take the plunge and be the first to recognise the independent state of Somaliland.

Yet because of its implicit recognition of Somaliland, the Berbera Port-highway project has annoyed Somalia. Two years ago when Somaliland and DP World ceded 19% of the Berbera Port project to Ethiopia, Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo, without mentioning names, warned foreign countries and companies not to 'cross the line and put to question the sovereignty of Somalia.'

Ethiopian President Abiy Ahmed Ali's government duly pledged respect for Somalia's sovereignty a few months later. Yet Abiy, who ascended to Ethiopia's prime ministership in April 2018, has shown no signs of abandoning the Berbera project. The corridor is important to Ethiopia's strategic imperative of access to the sea. This is especially because cooling relations with Djibouti since Abiy's rapprochement with Eritrea have placed something of a question mark over Ethiopia's main maritime outlet through that country.

However Abiy, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner, is also exercising diplomatic skill. In February this year he hosted a meeting between Farmaajo and Bihi in Addis Ababa to try to help them patch up their quarrel.

The Berbera highway also has a strategic purpose - to put an important political fact on the ground

The encounter seems to have borne some fruit as the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Representative for Somalia, James Swan, told the Security Council earlier this month that 'in regard to Somalia-"Somaliland" relations, we are encouraged that dialogue is ongoing at senior levels and that both sides have indicated a willingness to maintain communication and pursue further discussions.'

Abiy's intervention as mediator is intriguing. One might think it would be Somalia that would consider Ethiopia a biased referee since Addis Ababa has a material interest in the offending Berbera project. Also Ethiopia is one of only three countries - along with Djibouti and Turkey - to have opened consulates in Hargeisa, Somaliland's main city.

Conversely, though, Abiy would probably not want to see a peaceful Somaliland weakened by Mogadishu. Ethiopia shares a border with Somaliland that is almost as long as that with Somalia, and a strong Somaliland provides a buffer for Ethiopia against al-Shabaab. So Abiy is walking a delicate tightrope on this issue, it seems.

There is also a wider dimension to the Somali-Somaliland standoff. Middle East powers are pursuing proxy rivalries in the Horn, with the UAE backing Somaliland in part to counter Turkey and Qatar's courtship of Somalia.

Somaliland will likely have to settle for de facto, not de jure, independence for a long while

What the secretive Somali-Somaliland negotiations to which Swan referred might produce is hard to envision. With Somaliland demanding complete independence and Somalia demanding complete unification, the theoretical compromise would be incorporation with a high degree of autonomy within what is already a federal Somali state. But it's difficult to see Somaliland agreeing to that, and certainly not while Somalia remains locked in its bloody, existential struggle with al-Shabaab and protracted conflicts with federal states.

Ironically in his report, Swan urged that the commitment to dialogue and cooperation exhibited by Somalia and Somaliland should be extended to relations between the Somali federal government in Mogadishu and the federal member states. That was a reminder that some of these states are just about as 'independent' in practice as Somaliland. Swan noted with regret that 'it has been more than a year since the President and all Federal Member State leaders have met.'

So one might think Farmaajo would want to get his own house in order before considering adding another fractious member to the family. On the other hand, despite putting more solid facts on the ground, Somaliland looks as though it will have to settle for de facto, not de jure, independence - at least for a long while.

Peter Fabricius, ISS Consultant

 Read the original article on ISS.


by Martin Plaut


The present report is submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 41/1, in which the Council extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea for one year and requested the mandate holder to present a report on the implementation of the mandate to the Council at its forty-fourth session. As in previous years, the Special Rapporteur was not granted access to Eritrea to conduct in-country visits.

The Government of Eritrea remains opposed to engaging in cooperation under the mandate. The Special Rapporteur has continued to monitor the human rights situation in the country by conducting field missions to third countries and by engaging with a broad range of stakeholders.

During the period under review, the Special Rapporteur has found no evidence of a substantial improvement in the situation of human rights in the country. While Eritrea has increased its engagement with regional and international actors throughout the reporting period, this engagement has not yet translated into tangible reforms in human rights. A telling sign is that Eritreans continue to flee the country in large numbers. In the present report, the Special Rapporteur provides an update on the situation of human rights in the country, highlights specific areas of concern and sets out recommendations for the Government of Eritrea for achieving sustainable progress in human rights.

Full report can be found here or below. Followed by some extracts.

UN Special Rapporteur's Report 2020


  • · 24. The Special Rapporteur remains concerned about the use of the practices of indefinite and arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance to suppress dissent, punish perceived opponents and restrict civil liberties. These practices significantly undermine progress in the rule of law. Scores of individuals continue to disappear in the Eritrean prison system. Basic due process rights are not guaranteed for all persons in custody, as many are not allowed access to legal counsel, judicial review, family visits or medical attention. As described in the present report, during the reporting period, the Special Rapporteur received numerous reports of arbitrary arrests that targeted, among others, practitioners of various religious congregations, persons suspected of opposing the Government, and members of marginalized ethnic communities. In one incident in late November, security forces reportedly arrested at least 20 Muslim men in Mendefera and in neighbouring localities. Those arrested included local businessmen, religious teachers and community leaders. Many of these men remain unaccounted for, and the reasons for the arrests are not known.
  • · 26. The Special Rapporteur deplores the indefinite detention of Ciham Ali Abdu, a national of both Eritrea and the United States and the daughter of a former information minister, who has been held incommunicado since the age of 15. She was arrested in December 2012 as she tried to cross into the Sudan, shortly after her father requested asylum in a third country, and has not been heard from since.
  • · 32. The open-ended national/military service remains in place in Eritrea. Last year, in the context of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Sawa military camp, the Eritrean authorities referred to upcoming reforms in the duration of the national/military service. The Eritrean authorities also announced a new remuneration scheme and an increase in the salaries of the civil service and of new conscripts. The Special Rapporteur has, however, found no indication of an improvement in conditions compared to previous years (A/HRC/41/53, paras. 28–29). She has also found no indication of a reduction in the duration of the national/military service for those who have already served more than 18 months, or any changes regarding exemptions from conscription.
  • · 32. The open-ended national/military service remains in place in Eritrea. Last year, in the context of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Sawa military camp, the Eritrean authorities referred to upcoming reforms in the duration of the national/military service. The Eritrean authorities also announced a new remuneration scheme and an increase in the salaries of the civil service and of new conscripts. The Special Rapporteur has, however, found no indication of an improvement in conditions compared to previous years (A/HRC/41/53, paras. 28–29). She has also found no indication of a reduction in the duration of the national/military service for those who have already served more than 18 months, or any changes regarding exemptions from conscription.
  • · 33. In April 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, various international appeals were made to the Eritrean authorities to release students at the Sawa military camp and allow them to return home to avoid the spread of the disease. However, the authorities did not heed the appeals.
  • · 43. Since May 2019, the Eritrean authorities have carried out a crackdown on nonrecognized Christian congregations. The arrests of members of various congregations have disproportionally affected women and children.15 For example, in May, approximately 140 Christians were reportedly arrested during a private prayer gathering in Asmara, including some 100 women and 30 children. While some of those arrested have since been released, many remain in prison.16 On 23 June 2019, security forces reportedly arrested about 70 members of the Faith Mission Church of Christ in Keren, including some 35 women and 10 children. Also in June, more than 30 Pentecostal Christians were reportedly arrested during prayer gatherings in various locations in Asmara. On 18 August 2019, security officials reportedly arrested some 80 Christians at a prayer gathering on the outskirts of Asmara, and a further 6 Christians from Keren were reportedly arrested earlier that month. According to various sources, at least 200 members of Christian congregations remain in detention at different prisons and police stations around the country, and some are held at military facilities. Some 40 Christians, including 15 women, are reportedly held at the Dahlak Kebir island prison. The Special Rapporteur has received reports that the conditions of detention are unsanitary and cramped, and that some prisoners are subjected to mistreatment and forced labour. In the first half of 2019, one Christian man died at the Mai Serwa prison and one Christian man died at Dahlak Kebir prison, leaving behind young families.
  • · 47. The authorities have imposed restrictions on the activities of the Catholic Church, negatively affecting the rights to health and education of the population. In June 2019, the Eritrean authorities seized 21 health facilities belonging to the Catholic Church. 20 The authorities defended this measure indicating that they were enforcing a 1995 regulation21 that banned religious institutions from carrying out development activities. However, the authorities decided to enforce the regulation weeks after the Catholic bishops in Eritrea issued a pastoral letter calling on the authorities to adopt a comprehensive truth and reconciliation plan, promote dialogue and implement reforms to prevent further mass departures from the country. Most health facilities were located inside religious houses, and in some instances, security forces removed church staff by force and ordered patients to vacate the facilities. Many facilities provided services to remote, rural communities, including essential services aimed at reducing mother and infant malnutrition and mortality rates. In September 2019, the authorities seized three secondary schools run by the Catholic Church.22 Some of the Catholic health facilities and schools have since reopened under government control and are being run at a more limited capacity with less trained, national service personnel.
  • · 48. On 22 February 2020, Catholic Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew, of Ethiopia, and his delegation were prevented from attending the jubilee of the Cathedral of Mary Kidane Mehret in Asmara. The delegation was held overnight at the Asmara airport, despite having appropriate entry visas, and was forced to return to Ethiopia the next day.
  • · 54. The subsistence and livelihood of Afar communities remain under threat in the Dankalia region. The Special Rapporteur has received reports of harassment, arbitrary arrest and disappearance of members of Afar communities. In one incident in November 2019, a naval commander from Marsa Fatuma reportedly instructed the Afar elders of the island communities of Baka, Hawakil, Aluli and their environs, south of Massawa, to gather their belongings and vacate the area because the navy needed to conduct training exercises there. After the elders refused to comply, the naval commander’s men reportedly destroyed several fishing boats and arrested five local Afar fishermen, who have since been missing. Around mid-March 2020, naval troops reportedly arrested at least five Afar fishermen who were selling their fish in the port of Massawa, seizing three of their boats. These men are missing. Additionally, over 20 Afar fishermen who went missing in separate incidents in February 2018 and February 2019 remain unaccounted for (A/HRC/41/53, para. 51). These reiterated acts of harassment have instilled fear in coastal Afar communities, prompting many to flee.
  • · 64. The Special Rapporteur remains concerned by the high number of Eritrean women and girls who are exposed to trafficking in persons and sexual exploitation, in particular by Eritrean-led networks operating in the country and abroad. While the Government has strengthened its efforts to combat human trafficking through police training and regional cooperation, such efforts have yet to translate into an increase in domestic prosecutions. The Special Rapporteur encourages the Government to enact adequate legislation and a comprehensive policy to curb trafficking in persons, in particular of women and girls, promote domestic accountability and protect the rights of victims.
  • · 72. In March 2020, the Ethiopian authorities announced the closure of the Hitsats refugee camp in the Tigray region. The camp hosts over 26,000 Eritrean refugees, including approximately 1,600 children. At the time of writing, the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs has put on hold the announced closure of the Hitsats camp due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the timeline for the closure is unclear. The Special Rapporteur is concerned that those currently settled at Hitsats may be unable to relocate to other camps due to the lack of infrastructure and services. In her letter of 29 April 2020, the Special Rapporteur urged the Ethiopian authorities to involve the refugee communities in the decision-making, to only relocate refugees on a voluntary basis and to not relocate any refugees from any camp until the COVID-19 crisis was resolved.
  • · 73. In April 2020, following the decision to temporarily close all land borders to curb the spread of COVID-19, the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs suspended the registration and border screening of asylum seekers. By early April, over 400 Eritrean new arrivals were under a 14-day quarantine at the Endabaguna reception centre.

Martin Plaut | June 8, 2020 at 1:25 pm | Tags: Daniela Kravetz, UN, United Nations Human Rights Commission | Categories: News, Uncategorized, United Nations Human Rights Commission | URL: https://wp.me/p9mKWT-15N

June 7, 2020 Ethiopia, News

Refugee committees in both camps had already disagreed with the relocation as there is not enough land available to build new shelters there. This was later confirmed by staff members of another organisation whose mandate includes construction of shelters. Refugees do not know the reason behind the decision to close the camp and were only told that this is due to “‘budget constraint”, although refugees told me UNHCR communicated to them verbally (and not in writing) that their budget for 2020 was secure.

Source: Ethiopia Insight

June 7, 2020

A week after the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom in June 2016, I was aboard a plane to Addis Ababa with a sense of bitterness towards the country in which I had been living in as a European citizen for 13 years, and with excitement and anticipation of moving to Ethiopia for work for an international NGO.

My fascination with Ethiopia long before visiting dated to my teenage immersion in reggae culture, and later flourished thanks to my friendships with Ethiopians in diaspora. More importantly, I was on my way to an Eritrean refugee camp in northern Ethiopia, in the Tigray region, located only some 100-kilometres away from the Eritrean capital, Asmara. My decision to pack up and go was a result of my exposure to the tragic stories of Eritrean exiles in Europe; I wanted to understand this more by tracing it back to the very beginnings of the treacherous journeys taken by Eritrean migrants: the Ethiopian-Eritrean borderlands.

The one-hour drive from Shire, the nearest town where all international NGOs are stationed, to Hitsats refugee camp cuts through harsh and yet stunning highland scenery. The zigzag road requires a skilful and an alert driver, able to quickly react to livestock who seem to reign; the road is covered in animal carcasses, usually dogs as their deaths do not lead to compensation claims. After some 45 minutes, the tarmac road turns into a dusty but wide path, leading to a camp for Eritrean refugees—Hitsats. Cows, sheep, and goats lazily wander around, sometimes mischievous enough to enter the shelters to grab a bite of injera or pee in a laundry bucket. An old, blind, and terribly skinny camel used to storm into the camp to munch on the leaves of scarce moringa trees. Refugees chased the camel away: after all, this was a very hard life for everyone.

The first two people I was introduced to when I jumped out of our 4×4 vehicle were young musicians from a band called Selam, which means peace in both Tigrinya and Amharic; they later became good friends, even though I did not know Tigrinya, and they did not speak much English. The strong artistic identity of the camp made it easier for me to befriend people regardless of the language barrier between us. Loud music with a distinctive, repetitive heartbeat was everywhere, and young refugees would kill time playing kirar, a type of lyra, in the shade of communal buildings constructed by various humanitarian organisations working in the camp. A shoulder-to-shoulder greeting was a form of non-verbal communication that helped me to overcome the linguistic divisions: I was overdoing it to the point of getting bruises, which caused lots of giggles among the young men, who were all significantly smaller than me.

It may seem somewhat bizarre to say it about a refugee camp, but I had a great time there. When my contract finished, I promised everyone, on the verge of tears, that I would return to Hitsats. They did not really expect that I would keep my word, and I did not really know myself how I would actually be back given complex bureaucracy of Ethiopian work visas and camp permits. But I did come back, twice, in 2018 and 2019. These were two nearly month-long fieldwork trips as part of my postdoctoral research on improving shelters in refugee camps.

Since I left Ethiopia in 2017 and returned to the UK, I have been receiving Facebook friend requests from people in Hitsats almost every day. Those Eritreans who did not speak English would still send me short messages, some men forwarding me their probably carefully chosen cutest selfies hoping that I would marry them and bring them to Europe. The sister of the musician that I met on my first day in Hitsats called me after the whole family was resettled in the U.S. just to say hello and to make chicken sounds, as this was our memory from the camp (some cheeky chickens nearly jumped on our laps when we were having coffee). I was eager to stay in touch with the refugees also because I knew that many of them were planning to reach Europe, and I was always worried that one of my friends might die on the way.

Tragically, I learnt last August that a young man I met in the camp died in a detention centre in Libya. His last words on Facebook Messenger were, “I hope one day I will see you. At any time write to me Natalia sis. Bless you and pray for me every day”. For some reason, I could not bring myself to unfriend him on Facebook; somehow, it would feel like a betrayal. So, I am still a Facebook friend of a dead man. I know I’m not the only one: most, if not all young Eritreans have lost a friend who didn’t make it to Europe; and most, if not all, have their Facebook walls full of dead friends’ photos with photoshopped ‘RIP’ lines surrounded by images of burning candles. I hate to see them pop out regularly on my timeline, this social media epitaph for a lost Eritrean generation, and a cruel reminder of many human tragedies behind seemingly dry and detached European asylum policies that conveniently speak of some abstract refugee numbers, not actual people.

My most recent visit to Hitsats, a year ago, felt a bit different. Most of my closest friends had left the camp, some to study in Tigray, others to continue their musical careers in Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. A few people have been resettled in the U.S., and several have made it to Europe, including the U.K. where we had an emotional reunion. On the other hand, there were new refugees arriving every day at Hitsats following the peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia in July 2018 and subsequent brief opening of borders between the two countries. Before the peace deal, the camp housed a steady number of around 10,000 residents (steady because, with an approximate number of 1,000 newcomers every month, there was an equal number of refugees leaving the camp and embarking on dangerous journeys towards Europe), but was now at nearly triple that figure.

After the exodus following open borders, there were simply no shelters left to accommodate the newly arrived refugees. Every day there was a group of roughly 100 newcomers waiting outside office of the Ethiopian government agency in charge of refugees, the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), to receive their shelter allocation. Those who had some money were heading to Shire and other towns. They all seemed relaxed, most of them chatting with friends and relatives who were already living in the camp. Everyone just seemed to be happy to have left Eritrea, attesting to the fact that there was no improvement inside the country following the peace deal between the Eritrean dictator Isaias Afeworki and the new Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed.

On the minibus from Hitsats back to Shire, I used to have many heated political debates with Tigrayans who worked in the aid sector. Most were very hostile towards Abiy Ahmed, seeing him as a CIA agent. Growing up in Poland under communism, I was actually well accustomed to such conspiracy theories. Sometimes I would just nod and roll my eyes; I knew my colleagues’ political views. When one day on my laptop I played an album by Korchach, an Eritrean singer now living in exile, a brother of our bus driver pointed out, ‘Oh, you have Tigrinya music, good!’. I completely snapped and replied angrily, ‘This is Eritrean music!’. That was the moment when I realised that I have somehow become an Eritrean nationalist; all my Eritrean friends found this story extremely amusing, my own baptism into the Eritrean national project. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the passion of those late afternoon political discussions on the bus; one hour was also just the right timing for us all to end them amicably upon our return to Shire.

My most recent visit to Ethiopia was last December, but as I could not enter the camp on a tourist visa, I only stayed in Addis Ababa, where I met some of my friends who had left Hitsats. I first heard the rumours of Hitsats camp closure this January, but I disregarded them knowing how quickly refugees’ fears, which, unsurprisingly, always haunt them, are turned into facts. Moreover, last September, I received a message from a senior ARRA employee asking for some support with regards to construction of new transitional shelters, as the flow of refugees kept continuing and the agency was overburdened. This clearly implied an expansion of the camp, I thought, rather than its closure. Sadly, this time I was wrong: there was indeed a plan to close Hitsats and to relocate refugees to two older and already overcrowded camps, namely Adi Harush and Mai Ayni.

Three months ago, I got a WhatsApp call from an Eritrean friend based in Addis Ababa who told me that his underage sister living in Hitsats was very worried about the camp’s future. Another ARRA member of staff whom I befriended when working in the camp avoided answering my questions about closure, swiftly changing the topic every time I tried to discuss it in our online communications. I was not particularly surprised knowing how politically sensitive the issue of Eritrean refugees is in Ethiopia, but I just felt frustrated that I could not be there on the ground, and that COVID-19 meant that it would be unlikely to be there anytime soon.  Most probably, I thought, I would get all the answers over the traditional three cups of freshly brewed coffee, sitting on a plastic chair next to an always wobbly table in one of the many charming little cafes in Shire. But I would not get any information from government workers on the phone, and certainly not in writing.

I went through the list of my Facebook contacts, and it seemed that everyone who was fluent in English had already left Hitsats. However, some people used to try their luck in Addis, and if they could not find a job there, they would return to the camp. I messaged one friend and asked if he was still in the Ethiopian capital; he replied that he was back in Hitsats. He had a deep sense of responsibility towards the community and he was happy to update me regularly on the developments, following refugees’ objection to the planned camp closure.

Since the last week of March, he has been calling me on WhatsApp almost every day, depending on the strength of the signal. Due to its remote location in the rural part of Tigray, the network coverage is extremely poor in Hitsats and requires climbing surrounding hills to be able to even make a local phone call, let alone use Internet. We often joke about donkeys interfering with the network, moving them out of the way, or jumping on their back waving a handset when calls keep dropping; patience is certainly one of the virtues a refugee must acquire, simply in order not to go crazy. We also coined our own spiteful advertising slogan for Ethio Telecom, the only telecommunications provider in Ethiopia: ‘Ethio Telecom: Always Here to Surprise You.”

Due to problems with internet in the camp, I received copies of the correspondence that refugee committee had with aid agencies with a delay. As of today, it was only the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that on 30 March replied to a letter sent by refugees on the 10 of March. The organisation wrote that they had not received official written notification about the planned camp closure, and were not, and I quote, ‘in principle against the closure, if it means that the refugees will have access to alternative and sustainable means of protection and livelihoods’.

UNHCR stressed that the refugees in Hitsats, Adi Harush, and Mai Ayni should be consulted, enough time should be given for the proposed relocation, and this should not be done during the COVID-19 emergency. But refugee committees in both camps had already disagreed with the relocation as there is not enough land available to build new shelters there. This was later confirmed by staff members of another organisation whose mandate includes construction of shelters. Refugees do not know the reason behind the decision to close the camp and were only told that this is due to “‘budget constraint”, although refugees told me UNHCR communicated to them verbally (and not in writing) that their budget for 2020 was secure. Any assets and livestock owned by refugees are required to remain in Hitsats after refugees’ relocation, which only increased Eritreans’ suspicion with regards to financial benefit that the process could bring to their hosts.

Hitsats is not fenced and merges into an Ethiopian town of the same name. It is in general poorly monitored and regulated, unless visitors are foreigners whose camp entry permits are tightly controlled (accessing the camp is equally difficult for Eritreans from the diaspora trying to help their compatriots). Due to the age restriction on the military service conscription in Eritrea, officially from the age of 18 to 40 with an extension to the age of 50 (as reserve army), older people tend to stay in Eritrea, as they no longer need to serve. As a result, Eritrean refugee populations lack the presence of elders, which is often seen as a reason behind the unruly behaviour of the troubled youth and a general sense of social anomie.

It is unclear on what scale violent crime actually occurs in the camp as there were conflicting accounts coming from refugees last year, but, overall, the majority of residents did experience breaking into their shelter in the night and having their property stolen on multiple occasions. These were usually smart phones and cash needed to facilitate the irregular crossing into Europe. Refugees suspect that some agencies may wish to incite violence in the camp in order to have a pretext to close it down.

Overall, there is much confusion, resulting in a growing sense of fatigue and anxiety among refugees. Refugees keep telling me that they want to be resettled to a third country, now even more than ever. Pictures of Eritreans who lost their lives trying to reach the shores of fortress Europe still flood my Facebook timeline, and declarations of love from desperate young men stuck in a country where they can’t envisage their future keep appearing on my Messenger.

Anti-Racism Protests Held Across the World

Sunday, 07 June 2020 22:50 Written by
Protesters kneel as they gather in front of the US embassy during the Black Lives Matter protest rally in London, Sunday, June…
Protesters kneel as they gather in front of the U.S. Embassy during the Black Lives Matter protest rally in London, June 7, 2020,

Anti-racism protests were held across the world Sunday, with tens of thousands of demonstrators in Rome, Berlin, London, and Paris taking to the streets. 

While some protests were sparked by the killing of George Floyd, an African American man in Minneapolis who was pronounced dead after a police officer kneeled on his neck, European countries are also citing their own instances of racist violence. 

People gather calling for justice for George Floyd, who died May 25 after being restrained by police in Minneapolis, USA, in…
People gather calling for justice for George Floyd, in Rome's Piazza del Popolo square, June 7, 2020.

Donning masks, thousands of people went to Rome’s People’s Square Sunday in the city’s first major demonstration against racism. 

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in London as well — some outside the U.S. Embassy, though organizers noted that they wanted to address racism in Britain. 

Chants included “The U.K. is not innocent.” Protesters in Bristol toppled and pushed into the harbor a statue of Edward Colston — a 17th century politician who oversaw some of the West African slave trade. 

K-pop band BTS’ label said Sunday that the group had donated one million dollars to the Black Lives Matter campaign. The announcement follows a tweet from the group last week in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

BTS fans have used the hashtag #MatchAMillion, vowing to match the donation. 

A man raises his fist as people gather in Berlin, Germany, Saturday, June 6, 2020, to protest against the recent killing of…
A man raises his fist as people gather in Berlin, Germany, June 6, 2020, to protest the recent killing of George Floyd.

German officials announced Sunday that nearly 100 people were arrested following anti-racist demonstrations over the weekend which were attended by roughly 15,000 people, according to the Associated Press. 

Protesters in Paris have drawn a comparison between George Floyd and Adama Traoré — a young black man who died in police custody north of Paris four years ago. Traoré’s family has repeatedly claimed that officers tackled him and he died of suffocation. 

In Australia, protesters have taken to the streets to highlight indigenous Australians who have died in police custody. According to the Associated Press, indigenous Australians make up just 2% of the country’s population, but 27% of the prison population. 


June 2, 2020 Ethiopia, News

This decision comes as there are unconfirmed reports of military movements along the Ethiopia/Eritrea border. The TPLF leadership appears to be heading for a clash with the government in Addis Ababa just as tension with Asmara is increasing.


Tigrai Online May 30, 2020

TPLF calls upon all Ethiopians and international institutions
TPLF’s statment calls upon all Ethiopians and international institutions, especially IGAD, African Union, United Nations to stop the breakdown of the constitutional order in Ethiopia.

During its meeting of May 23 to 30, 2020, the Central Committee of the TPLF discussed the rapidly changing conditions around the world, including in our sub-region and country, which are issues of peace and security of our regional state [Tigiray], the risks of the coronavirus pandemic and its prevention, the process of building a democratic order, the achievements of the government and the party, as well as ongoing changes in administrative areas.

WHEREAS, the new global reality that is unfolding following the coronavirus pandemic or Covid-19 is a testament to the necessity of the democratic developmental state;

WHEREAS, by monopolize state power during the transition to satisfy its narrow self-interest without due consideration to the interest of the people, the puppet clique of Prosperity [Party] has, from the beginning, continued the path of destruction instead of preparing itself due to the new global realities and threats and capitalizing and continuing on the incredible democratic and developmental successes of 20 Ginibot, which was achieved through popular struggle and self-sacrifices;

WHEREAS, by positioning in the front lines those who are inspired by hate or have sold their dignity and professional accountability for temporary handouts in order to be accepted as tools of the regime, and by openly defying the Constitution and declaring its intention to stay in power [past its constitutional mandate], the ‘Prosperity’ clique could not even wait and pretend to hear from the rubber-stamp institutions who were expected to decide [in its own favour];

WHEREAS, it is easy for everyone to imagine how difficult it is for us to achieve the goals of sustainable growth and fight against the threat of the coronavirus pandemic in a country with a government led by such a clique rushing to destruction;

WHEREAS, by being ready to sell the sovereignty and fundamental interests of the country, and by defying the Constitutional order as well as all kinds of pre-existing laws and conventionally accepted governing practices, and in addition to deciding to remain in power [beyond its constitutional mandate], it has progressed to declaring war on those that are following the Constitutional order;

WHEREAS, it is obvious that the threats and conspiracies of this regime will impact neither our path nor our popular struggle, but only increase our determination and will-power; it has become clear to all that ‘Prosperity’ is ready to disregard the interests of the country and all its peoples in favour of its narrow self-interest;

WHEREAS, we have confirmed that our people have stepped up their staying power and struggle against the continued attacks of the regime as they have always known that their existence and interests solely depend on their strength and the righteousness of their cause as evidenced in their history and the Struggle;

WHEREAS, expressing its highest esteem and admiration of the determined and continued struggle of our people, TPLF [is confident that our people], as was true in our history yesterday and today, will follow up on and implement the resolutions that we will continue to pass based on our in-depth analysis of situations;

WHEREAS, because of the dynamic struggle that we are conducting in the areas of peace, development and democracy, we are registering results that have become beacons of hope and that will lay the ground work for the next achievements,.. we know very well that there are still many areas that [the needs of] our people have not been satisfied;

WHEREAS, everyone, especially our people, are aware that the regime and its followers, who have found out that a head-on collision with our people and their ruling party is like a head-on collision with iron, have turned to a coordinated campaign mainly by spreading false information through the media and by dispatching mercenaries in order to destroy our internal peace and stop our developmental efforts thereby throwing us to extreme darkness;

WHEREAS, being in a challenging situation like this and affirming the need, on the one hand, to step up our all-encompassing resistance and, on the other hand, to realize quick development and good governance, and calling for the urgent actions of our people, our entire structure, as well as every force that is friendly to peace and development; and

WHEREAS, the Central Committee of the TPLF adopts the resolutions of the Executive Committee of the TPLF from its meeting of May 1 to 3, 2020;

  1. Decides that the fight against the coronavirus shall continue as has been done until now based on strict analysis of new developments, specific conditions of our regional state and scientific information to save the lives of our people and to reduce the impact on our people’s livelihood;
  2. Calls upon the ‘Prosperity’ clique not only to stop the use of funds snatched from the livelihood of the poor and development projects for the purpose of rocking the country from one corner to the other, using documentary films as its tool for calling for genocide, the violation of rights, acting against public interest, and using money to amass power; but also to abandon the path of destruction and to inter into reasonable dialogue with and ensuring the participation of all stakeholders based on the provisions of the Constitution and, before it is too late, stop the breakdown of the Constitutional order;
  3. Calls, again, with full preparation and public health safeguarding measures, the conducting of the national election run by a neutral body based on the provisions of the Constitution;
  4. Emphasizes that voting whether nationally or regionally is a Constitutionally-guaranteed right secured by the high price of the lives of thousands but it is not charitable goods left to the whims of a parvenu dictator with unchecked lust for power; the people of Tigiray have already secured their right for self-determination by their sacrifice and under no circumstances will they tolerate subjugation whether committed on them or upon other peoples; at no time or under no circumstances will the people of Tigiray negotiate the rights that they have secured through their sacrifices nor will there be any political force that will roll back the implementations of these rights;
    Decides that, since, in furtherance to its usual practice, the dictatorial clique that is in charge of the federal government has amplified its continued trampling of the rights of peoples, in order to implement the right of self-determination that our people secured through their sacrifice without asking anyone’s permission, as recognized in our Constitution and in international laws, the preparation for the election in the regional state shall continue unabated as provided by law; 
     that the decision to hold elections in Tigiray is being made at a time when the process of the dissolution of the Constitutional order and the disintegration of the country is approaching its final chapter due to the nature of the ‘Prosperity’ clique; even now it is incumbent upon all nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia to escalate their struggle in order not to lose the Constitutionally-guaranteed rights of self-determination and self-administration;

    Calls upon the world community to understand [the situation] and play a positive role.
  5. Emphasizes that, as if the ‘Prosperity’ clique’s illegal measures and conspiracies in order not to hold elections and to extend its grip on power were not enough, the leader of the ‘Prosperity’ clique has, in his utter disregard for basic rights and peoples’ right for self-determination, publicly declared war following our party’s Executive [Committee]’s decision to uphold the rule of law and the continuation of order by holding elections at the level of [the Regional State of] Tigiray because ‘Prosperity’ was working on canceling the election; it is a known fact that the people of Tigiray neither bow to the threat of war and war drums nor do they give up their rights; 
    the peoples of Ethiopia and the world community that it is the ‘Prosperity’ clique and its leader that will take the sole responsibility for any catastrophe resulting from their irresponsible adventures and declaration of war.
  6. Decides that the leadership in all levels shall work with a great sense of responsibility and urgency to expedite developmental projects and the development of democratic culture and changes in [public] administration; with all our people and all structures of the government and the party, step up the struggle to resist the extremely malicious aims of the forces of ‘Prosperity’, its enablers and mercenaries who are intent on dragging us into lawlessness and destruction.
  7. Decides to expeditiously step up to a higher level the relationship with national or regional political forces that are willing to work together to achieve meaningful change on the right of self-determination and self-administration, the security of our people, the realization of peace, and the development of a democratic culture; and Believes that understanding the necessity of the continuation of a Constitutional order and government, you will continue on and step up your peaceful and legal movement in order to play your part in ensuring it.


Dear people of Tigiray: We call upon the people of Tigiray, especially the youth, to ensure your readiness for struggle and to organize to peacefully and legally resist the illegal ‘Prosperity’ clique’s path of expediency and warmongering intended to dismantle our people’s rights of self-determination and self-administration,

We call upon our people with the highest priority to fight the coronavirus pandemic by understanding the impact it can have on our existence and the struggle and by following the advice of experts and instructions from the government,

In order to ensure our existence, peace and development, we again call upon our people to increase your productivity by shouldering the challenges you are facing.

Dear members of our party TPLF and its leadership at all levels:

We call upon you to play your leading role and to continue to lead by example even more in the comprehensive struggle to save our people by clearly understanding the resolve and sacrifice that the scenario we are in demands of you.

Dear members of civic societies and institutions:

We call upon you to continue with the utmost urgency in the resistance activities, in general, and in achieving a successful election, in particular, understanding that today, as was yesterday, there is no force more concerned about your peace, development and democracy than yourselves.

Dear nations, nationalities and peoples of our country:

We call upon you to continue on and step up the struggle against persecution, the violation of human rights, oppression, tyranny and all-encompassing economic pressure; TPLF affirms its solidarity with you today, as yesterday, in your struggle for basic rights, justice and equality.

Dear members of the House of Federation of our country:

We call upon you to assume your historic responsibility to stop the already started action of tearing the Constitution by clearly understanding the risk for the breakup of the country and extermination.

Constitutionally established institutions and regions of our country:

We call upon you to follow a path that gives priority to the people and respects the Constitution, and to refrain from participating in the breakdown of the Constitutional order.

Respected political entities, especially legal parties and stakeholders active in Tigiray:

We call upon you to save yourselves from being judged guilty by law and by history by judiciously and insightfully studying the evident conditions and by assuming your responsibility to stop the destructive path taken by the ‘Prosperity’ clique.

Dear supporters of our struggle and peoples of neighbouring countries, especially people of Eritrea:

We call upon you to continue on and step up our struggle and cooperation today, as was yesterday, to solve our common problems.

Respected international institutions, especially IGAD, African Union, United Nations, and other concerned entities:

We call upon you to play a positive role with the highest sense of responsibility and with the best of information and evidence to [stop] the disturbing human rights violations and the breakdown of the constitutional order and the country.

Eternal Honour and Glory to Our Martyrs!

Happy Celebration of 20 Ginibot!

We Shall Defend Ourselves Grounded on Principle!

May 2020, Meqhele

Translated from Tigirinya by Liul Kahhisay

June 2, 2020 News

In a debate on 14 May the European Parliament adopted the following resolution on the EU’s aid programme in Eritrea, as part of the debate on the EU Budget.

Calls on the Commission to include clear and transparent human rights clauses in the contribution agreements it concludes with implementing partners (UN agencies, Member State development agencies) in order to avoid situations whereby the Union could indirectly finance projects that violate human rights; points in that regard to the ‘Reconnecting Eritrea and Ethiopia through rehabilitation of the main arterial roads in Eritrea’ project, funded by the EUTF and managed by the United Nations Office for Project Services, which finances Eritrean national construction companies using forced labour via national service;

May 29, 2020 Eritrea Hub Ethiopia, News

Clash in disputed border area leaves 2 dead and 9 wounded, as Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt continue to disagree over Ethiopia’s Nile dam

At least two people killed and nine wounded

Mohammed Amin   |29.05.2020
Clashes between Sudan’s military and Ethiopian militias have taken place near the border with Ethiopia over the past three days, a spokesman for the Sudanese army said late Thursday.

Brigadier General Amer Mohamed Al Hassan said in a televised statement that Ethiopian militias backed by the Ethiopian army have attacked territories in Gadaref state in eastern Sudan since May 26.

“Backed by the Ethiopian army, the militias have attacked many areas along the border between Ethiopia and Sudan and have confiscated Sudanese resources,” he said.
He noted that at least two people have died and nine have been wounded in the clashes, including soldiers and civilians.

“Between May 26 and May 28, Ethiopian militias backed by the army have attacked the area of Al Birka in Sudan, but the Sudanese army has repulsed them. But the clashes have continued and that has led to the wounding of three civilians and killing of one child. Also, one army officer has been killed and six other soldiers have been wounded.”

Sudan and Ethiopia have engaged in continuous talks over the demarcation of the borders between the two countries.


Eritrean political forces warmly congratulate the Eritrean people on the anniversary of the 29th year of independence as they continue to dialogue and work cooperatively to advance the common national interest.

This year’s Independence Day is occurring at a time when over 5 million people are globally affected by the coronavirus, so far claiming well over 300,000 lives, and more are continuing to die from it. When the whole world is at a critical junction due to this health crisis, we are deeply concerned for the livelihood of our people, and convey our good wishes for the safety of the Eritrean people, and the entire mankind.

There is no doubt that Independence Day is a day of pride and adulation for Eritrea, because it was truly a historic day in which our people achieved a great victory over the injustice and persecution under the hateful colonial occupation, which caused our people pain, tragedies and mass exodus. May 24, 1991 was an important milestone in the march of our people and their sovereign country to enter a new and promising era. Today, looking back to what happened to us in the past 29 years, we can only remember and honor our martyrs, and extend our salutations and appreciation to the wounded of the liberation war and to all the veterans who had a great role in achieving victory and freedom for our people, and we renew our covenant to them that we will follow their path with unrelenting determination.

Our Struggling People,

Despite the victory and the liberation of the national territory that has been achieved, and the world’s recognition of the national sovereignty of our country, the Eritrean people have not been freed from oppression and tyranny, and their tears and sorrows have not ceased. Our people had hoped to annually commemorate this day in a country in which peace, security, and freedom prevailed. Our people aspired to have a country without political prisoners and refugees. Unfortunately, our 29th anniversary  falls at a worse period for Eritrea, in which its citizens live in dire conditions where there is a complete collapse of the economy, lack of basic services, disturbance in social relations, and continuing cases of violations of human rights in the absence of the rule of law, as well as the emergence of threats to national sovereignty and continued exodus of its people.

Needless to say, this anniversary calls for further intensification of the national struggle and the mobilization of the masses in order to achieve freedom, justice and lasting peace. The intolerable conditions in which our people live must be a call for all of us to rise for the occasion. This year shall be a strong impetus for cooperation and synergy among all forces of change in order to overthrow the dictatorial regime and put an end to the suffering of our people. With this vision, we in the Eritrean political forces continue serious dialogues to reach advanced common platform in order to save the country and achieve victory over the dictatorship.

On this great occasion, we appeal to the members of the Eritrean security forces, which, like everybody else, are victims of the dictatorial regime, to contribute with all other pro-change forces in the ongoing national struggle to save the Eritrean people and maintain national sovereignty.

This year’s Independence Day is also celebrated at a time when relentless attempts are being made by regional and international powers to interfere in the affairs of our country. Their declared and undeclared agreements with the dictatorial regime are for sure threatening Eritrea’s national sovereignty.  This was apparent from those with expansionist aspirations claiming the “right” to have access to the Red Sea and attempting to achieve these old and renewed dreams at the cost of our people’s inalienable right. Opposing these dangerous indentations were also good people calling for the creation of good-neighborly relations based on mutual interests. In this context, as we celebrate the glorious Independence Day anniversary, we would like to reassure the entire world that the liberation of Eritrea that has been achieved through tireless struggles and unparalleled sacrifices cannot in any way be sidestepped and challenged. There is no need to emphasize our people’s readiness to make all the sacrifices for preserving the national sovereignty of our great land. At the same time, rooted in respect for our national sovereignty, we will continue to strive to create cooperative relations with all countries and achieve common interests of our peoples.

Long live free and independent Eritrea!

Glory and eternity to our martyrs!

Eritrean political forces:

  • Eritrean National Council for Democratic Change (ENCDC)
  • Eritrean National Front (ENF)
  • Eritrean People's Democratic Party (EPDP)
  • Organization Unity for Democratic Change (UDC)
  • Unity of Eritreans for Justice (UEJ)

May 27, 2020 Ethiopia, News

Ethiopia Insight

May 26, 2020

As all options are unconstitutional, an inclusive transitional administration is the best way through the crisis to elections

Election postponement in Ethiopia due to COVID-19 has raised critical constitutional questions as polls will not be held before the government’s term expires on 5 October.Ethiopia faces two unpalatable scenarios: a state with no government, or unconstitutional government.

In the absence of constitutional remedy, political dialogue remains the only peaceful avenue for resolution. Given internal polarizations and external challenges, a short period of transitional government is therefore the least bad option.

However, on 29 April, the incumbent proposed four options—none of which were a transitional government.

This parliament was elected in May 2015 and its term of office ends on 5 October. Except stating there will be elections every five years, the constitution does not explicitly provide for postponement. The constitution does however prohibit assuming state power in any manner other than elections. Thus, the incumbent staying in office after its term ends will not be constitutional.

If there is a force majeure that prevents election, the way forward should be decided by an independent organ with the consent and participation of competing parties. The government, when it comes to elections, is an actor, and so should not be the sole decision-maker.

This crisis also comes at a precarious time for the transition with the incumbent already struggling to meet the expectations of the population. More and more questions will arise as to the legitimacy of office holders if they unconstitutionally extends their own terms, even with a state of emergency in place.

Four options

None of the government’s four options swerve deep potholes:

Dissolution of Parliament

An Article 60 dissolution of the parliament cannot be justified to extend term limits beyond the constitutional period. The crisis confronting us is not how to form a coalition government; it is finding legal options to legitimize election postponement in the absence of constitutional provisions.

Even if a new government was established, it would be a caretaker that does nothing beyond conducting the day-to-day affairs of state including organizing new elections. Establishing a caretaker is not only unconstitutional but also practically not the right decision while the country faces stark internal and external challenges.

State of Emergency

The pandemic justifies the State of Emergency in place until the end of August. But the emergency should not be extended if the pandemic does not justify. In this case, a State of Emergency (SOE) is anticipated by the government to provide legal backing to the election postponement. But delaying polls is not one of the constitutional grounds to declare an emergency; and unlike some states (e.g. India, Estonia, Cameroon), the Ethiopian constitution does not have any provisions to justify postponement in the event of an SOE.

This constitutional lacuna cannot be mitigated by an emergency. After all, it is impossible to hold a satisfactory election while the rights to movement and assembly, among others, are limited during an SOE. A prolonged emergency also has  consequences in terms of constricting fundamental human rights and freedoms.


The incumbent’s decision to seek constitutional interpretation raises questions about the neutrality of the interpreter and the specific provisions to be considered.

Holistic understanding of the constitution and interpretation by a legitimate body could assist constitutionalism. However, the ruling Prosperity Party listed only three articles— the election of MPs, their terms, and SOE—to be interpreted by the House of Federation. But, as the meaning of a particular word or phrase may be found in other words and phrases in the same provision, or in other provisions of a constitution, interpretation requires provisions to be construed as a whole.

Parliament’s identification of only three provisions to be interpreted raises concerns about the process. For example, Article 45, which requires the establishment of only a “parliamentarian” form of government, should be considered, as it is relevant to the call for a transitional government. It was also a unilateral decision by parliament to seek interpretation without sufficiently consulting competing political parties, who are primary actors in the election.

The neutrality of the interpreter has been contentious since the promulgation of the constitution in 1995, as there is no independent adjudication. The constitution rather empowers the House of Federation, a political organ controlled by a single party, to interpret. But interpreting the constitution to decide on the fate of parliament’s means the upper house is judge of its own fate. This erodes the process’s credibility.


Although constitutional amendment is considered by legal experts as an indisputable remedy, there are unanswered questions regarding its feasibility during an SOE and the current political situation. Given Ethiopia is under a State of Emergency to contain the spread of COVID-19, the constitution requirement for public discussion of amendment is tricky.

Additionally, though only six out of nine regional state councils’ approval is needed, some like Tigray will outright reject amending the constitution. Even some MPs, from Tigray and elsewhere, rejected amendment.

To protect the spirit of the constitution from short-sighted or partisan amendments, the federal government should refrain from amendment during an emergency when public engagement is limited. It would also be illegitimate if the government decides to amend the constitution as all parliaments other than Tigray’s are monopolized by a single party whose members were elected undemocratically (moreover, the same can be said about Tigray’s representatives).

Amending the constitution would therefore be a move to extend the term limit of a single illegitimate party. That is only likely to lead to more problems.

Transition for a transition

It should be noted that not all political crises can be remedied via constitutional solutions; whereas all constitutional crises can be managed by political compromise. The pandemic-induced election scenario is beyond what the law anticipated. The remedy should first focus on the health crisis, and then inclusive politics must address the consequent constitutional dilemma.

All of the incumbent’s four proposals to overcome the constitutional lacuna are constitutionally or politically defective, or both.

Most opposition parties are demanding extra-constitutional initiatives such as dialogue to establish a transitional government, or interim government. But constitutional provisions state that unless elections are held, any proposal by the incumbent or opposition to establish such kind of structures is unconstitutional, too.

While the constitutional quandary is central, it is the government’s reticence to concede its political and legal limitations, and failure to negotiate with opposition parties on election deferment, that has led to an intractable problem. The destabilizing effect of a failure to tackle the current crisis will only contribute to further deterioration of an already unstable transition in Ethiopia.

Although it’s far from perfect—and still unconstitutional—a broad-based transitional government to lead the country through the pandemic and to elections is the best of a bunch of bad options.

The key challenge of such an arrangement would be the lack of trust between opposition parties and an inability to balance their ideological polarisation on the legitimacy of the constitution and ethnic federalism. For example, while the Oromo opposition and Tigray People’s Liberation Front are among those committed to the current federal arrangement, the National Movement for Amhara and Ezema cast the system as discriminatory and divisive and want the founding document revised.

Because of the democratic imperative, and due to these opposition fragilities and limitations, the transitional government must be limited. It should last only between the end of this parliament’s term, 5 October, and the next election; and that election would be held immediately after the pandemic has sufficiently subsided, with a shorter period of preparation than recently proposed by the electoral board.

There would be a mechanism for the opposition to have a consultative role for their views on key national issues to be considered, but the overall arrangement would still see the incumbent running the most important state institutions in order to ensure government continuity.


Date: 23/05/2020


Source: Bloomberg


23 May 2020


Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum in 2019.
Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum in 2019.


Photographer: Ashraf Shazly/AFP via Getty Images

Sudan has confiscated assets valued at $4 billion from former President Omar al-Bashir, his family members and associates, the country’s anti-corruption body said.

“Our initial estimates of the value of the assets, shares in different companies and buildings we have confiscated is $3.5 billion to $4 billion,” Salah Manaa, a spokesperson for the Anti-Corruption and Regime Dismantling Committee, said in response to questions. The body was set up late last year.


Bashir, who was overthrown by the army a year ago amid mass protests against his three-decade rule, was jailed in December after being found guilty of illicitly possessing millions of dollars in foreign currencies. He has also been indicted by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity committed in the western region of Darfur.