It is a great coincidence to celebrate in one day both Eritrea’s Independence Day and Eid al-Fitr of 2020. Therefore, every one of us is sharing with other compatriots the best wishes on these two great days, which are, unfortunately, celebrated under abnormal situations. This year, the usual happiness and togetherness of  Eid  Day is adversely affected by the unusual Covid-19. On the other hand, the low mood Eritreans are again celebrating their 29th Independence Day this year is not because of the coronavirus. In fact, it is over a quarter of a century since the vast majority of the Eritrean people started celebrating this great day with mixed feeling: on the one hand, very happy because 24 May 1991 was an important step in their costly struggle for peace and democracy; and on the other hand, very sad because the years that followed that great day have not proven to be great.

By the way, I am afraid those to whom the message would be educative may not read any line further in this piece for they unfortunately do not care to know what others knew, thought and wrote about Isaias Afeworki  20, 30, 40 etc years ago. This writer is one of those who knew some aspects of the in-born intolerance, intransigence, never-ending grudge and hatefulness in Isaias Afeworki.

Twenty-one years ago this week in 1999, I happened to be a subscriber to an online/email discussion group called Dehai. It was heavily dominated by PFDJ supporters although it, ironically, allowed subscription to some critics of the regime like Saleh Gadi and me.  A few days before the 8th anniversary of Eritrean Independence, one of the Dehai discussants (I believe it was Dr Tesfa Mehari of UK) asked what the Eritrean people expected to hear from their president on that occasion. No doubt I was of the conviction that the man was as hard-headed as ever before, but as part of my input to the discussion – call it a realist sarcasm - I posted in the Dehai group on 23 May 1999 an article entitled: “A Draft 8th Anniversary Speech” for the Eritrean President.” The draft speech “hoped” Isaias will  confess his past mistakes and beg the people’s forgiveness.

Today (23 May 2020), I don’t have the drive to write or lament about the chain of tragic occurrences that continued to affect our ‘independent’ state ever since May 1999. But allow me to again say Eid Mubarak and Happy Independence Day while inviting interested readers (especially the young generation) to go over this 21-year old draft speech reprinted below as a piece in our sad recent history. Good reading or re-reading – and I tell you it is a must read “draft speech”!

***

A 1999 Draft Speech for Isaias on 8th

Anniversary of Eritrean Independence 

My Beloved Compatriots!!

Allow me to extend to everyone of you my sincere congratulations and greetings at this august occasion marking the 8th  anniversary of our independence - that brilliant feat of valour, which took us 50 long years of political and armed struggle, and in the realization of which all of us, in one  way or another, contributed immensely.

You know me as someone who usually speaks out his heart, sometimes to your detriment. You used to accept all what I said, and I thank you for that trust and loyalty. Well, that is what you thought of my straight-forwardness and me. But to be frank with you, I have my other side, a weaker side. I have not been admitting or telling you the serious mistakes I committed, and I thank you for not raising them by yourselves. Today, you will hear from me not the success stories, which are there speaking for themselves, but the shortcomings, the mistakes. But please do not equate mistakes to crimes.

You may already have come across some people who started associating me -of course wrongly - with Iraq's Saddam Hussein and the super ethnicist Serb dictator, Slobodan Milosevic. I don't want history to have me queued with those evil men. I must, with your help, start making corrections, now deemed to be absolutely necessary. Therefore, it is the down-to-earth frank part of me addressing you today. I will be brief and concentrate on the most important mistakes I committed, and made my government commit, in the past few years.

You all know that the most important national issue is that of unity of our people and I will focus on it; I admit it was a mistake on my part to have relegated it for so long. As you may recall, I have been telling you that there was no other nation as solidly unified as ours. Frankly speaking, that was not true. After half a century of war and suffering, you deserved peace with erstwhile enemies, all neighbours and harmony amongst yourselves. I promise to deliver both in the future. My address will, thus, concentrate on our national unity and good neighbourliness.

NATIONAL RECONCILIATION

After years of sweat and blood, your common struggle cleared all hurdles on the way to the desired goal. It was eight  years to the day today that Eritrean liberation fighters once again reached the immediate approaches to Asmara - proudly with guns on shoulder, and no one to challenge their brave march forward.

I confess that my first mistake of the past eight years was committed that day - Day One of Your National Independence. I know you do not expect me to say it, but I will say it for our common good and common future. Only the brave can say this, you know, and I have never been a coward.

On that day [of May 19991], my dear compatriots, I should not have entered Asmara alone.  I now realize that I should have stopped in the outskirts of liberated Asmara and call on all forces other than those in my ranks by addressing them in these words:

 «Here we are old comrades, finally a Free Nation! I will not enter Asmara leaving you behind. We had different ways. You did your part, I did mine. Let us not now talk as to who did better and when. It is for historians to allocate credit for roles our people played under their different organizations in the past. It is now a new era for our country and people and we are destined, rather condemned, to build it together with all the difficulties that we may encounter. Come all for a National Reconciliation Conference in the outskirts of your capital. By the way, I am inviting to this Conference even Abdalla Idris, who reportedly received support from our enemy, the Dergue, not very long ago. I know he made a mistake. But, so did I - one in 1970 inside Asmara at the Kagnew Base, and again in 1980, when I solicited the support of the Woyanes to help me liquidate an Eritrean front. So, let bye-gone be bye-gone. I will be magnanimous. We will start anew. »

I tell you that with such an invitation [in 1991], I could have brought all those weakened factions under a national fold, without any challenge to my authority. This may be true also for a long time to come and that is why I find it practicale to accommodate all others.

In the past, failure to reconcile with our compatriots/fellow strugglers caused us unnecessary problems. I do candidly admit today that the so-called “extremists” organized in the form of “jihad” were created because of an apparently exclusivist policy, which I now see was wrong.

I know I did not do my utmost to create conducive atmosphere in order to encourage the return of tens of thousands of Eritreans in the Diaspora. It was untenable political calculations and avoidable administrative red tape that inhibited the return of many of our people, some of them with lots of money by our standards. A friend was reminding me the other day that [ten] years ago I mentioned to you in a speech the figure of USD 2 billion to have been the estimated amount required for the rehabilitation of the country. The same friend also confided to me that Eritrea could have benefited from the inflow of well over USD 1 billion of investment capital from its own nationals abroad had my government succeeded to encourage its own people to come back and rebuild their future without constraints. This was true, my countrymen and women, because at least 100,000 of those Eritreans abroad coming in with an average of USD 10-15,000 each, could have easily brought in well over USD 1 billion in the initial period.  This amount could have worked wonders in this country. But, unfortunately, many of our compatriots had to remain where they were or go to Ethiopia; and we all know what has happened in Ethiopia to our people and their hard-won wealth during 1998-99.

Of course I regret for being partly a cause for the displacement of [70,000] or more Eritreans from Ethiopia. That was not all, though. The failure to assist the return of well over 500,000 long-time refugees from the Sudan was not the mistake of the UNHCH, the former UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs or of the international NGOs. Those international bodies were, we must admit, willing to help. They even came up with a repatriation plan costing some USD 263 million intended to be collected from voluntary donors. It was a mistake on my part to insist that the UN agencies/donors give us the money to do the job by ourselves or they go home. Those agencies went home, but our refugees stayed outside home. I am sorry for that. Our refugees deserved sympathy and assistance to return home.

It is an open secret that my government and I wrongly decided, from the start, to exclude other Eritreans outside our immediate circle from having any say in state affairs. This included not only opposition fronts but also individuals of independent stand. I decided on the issue of national flag, and also issued a decree defining who is Eritrean and who is not. On that basis, those who wanted to vote for the referendum carrying their own organizational identities were refused a say. I now appreciate their position and would no more dare call their stand an act of national betrayal. Believe me it was not. I misled you. In effect, what they were asking was participation in political decision making. Allowing them just that could have proven a good start in our long journey for democratic exercise in New Eritrea. Among other regrets I have is my decision to dismiss the participation of other political organizations and viewpoints in drafting of the constitution. I now see, and I beg you to concur, that our document has many flaws - including on the issue of official languages, for instance. I insisted on the fake equality of nine languages for official use. We will have to reconsider that too, in the near future.

You may remember that at one point during the past [ten] years, I stressed that those «Eritreans » who went to school in the Arab world have no place in the new Eritrea whose laws we determine, and that they better start looking for new homes where they will be able to use the language of their education and choice. It was a mistake; I should not have said it, at least not so bluntly. Such things take time to straighten out.

Before the start of Year 2000, Eritrea must put on the image that it deserves. We will not limit ourselves to revising laws; we will start implementing them correctly. This country will not again have political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. I will let in even the Jehovah's witnesses to come back home and live in peace alongside everybody. You will be reading and writing anything of your liking. I am changing our ways. The great organization that played historic role in the final stages of the liberation of this country is not to be blamed for all what I erred in recent years. The organization was tolerating my excesses in good faith. Immediately after this ceremony, I will submit my apologies and self-criticism to that great organization and its devoted members whose name I blemished recklessly since independence.

It is an occasion to renew our pride in the gallantry of the Eritrean Defense Forces, pride which is shared, I should not lie to you, by all Eritreans of all political colours. Let me also reassure everyone in this country that, in the future, we will not mobilize our youth for irrational wars.

My Countrymen and Women,

Allow me to take this opportune moment to table another important self-criticism regarding the unfortunate proclamation on the question of land. Many of you could have been affected by it. I will not dwell on details of the subject except mentioning the grave negative effect this decision had on large segments of our people, especially those in the former « demeniale » or colonial era state lands in the eastern and western lowland stretches of our country. By failing to make careful decision in consultation and the participation of everybody, we uprooted thousands of herdsmen and semi-peasants by expropriating their grazing lands. The law did not consider any state compensation for such action.

The beneficiaries of the expropriated lands were many among our close supporters and people with big money. We all know that what the herdsmen and semi-peasants had in their possession was mainly their land and the ever-diminishing number of livestock. Now they do not own land because they do not have the means to develop it; many of those whose land has been taken by the state still live in the squalor-ridden refugee camps across Eritrea's borders.

And bear with me to add the following example in order to underline the importance I personally attach to this subject: I do clearly remember what had happened in 1967 at the village of Sember in the Gash area. Fifty armed peasant settlers from other parts of the country were given land by the Ethiopian authorities who were interested in « pacifying » the region by killing or evicting its inhabitants and resettling others in their place. Those 50 innocent but armed peasants were killed, probably by angry young orphans from Sember, wearing fighters' uniforms. Anyway, at that time I was able to exploit that incident to create a unified political organization that I thought was needed. But similar killing incidents today by people evicted by our laws in the same Gash-Barka region will not serve any good purpose. After all, delivering social justice was one of our commitments. It is therefore high time that we straighten this anomaly before someone comes up to equate this situation to that of re-settlers in Palestinian farmlands. I already read somewhere this situation being described as remotely similar to the hated Ethiopian "nefTegna" type of settlements in the 19th century. That is why I request your support in rewriting our laws regarding ownership of land in New Eritrea. I will raise other burning issues in my forthcoming 20 June speech.

GOOD NEIGHBOURLINESS

Let me swear today by the Almighty God, for the first time, that I will never again commit mistakes that can turn our beloved Eritrea to a rogue state. You all know what I mean.

I cannot explain to you why, as of Day One of our Independence, I decided to brand all the Arabs not only as enemies but also as useless [beings] with whom little serious business could be done. Israel came first, although its right place should have been last in the list of our good friends and neighbours. I am sorry for that miscalculation. I have been correcting it fast.

I also realize now that there was no major reason to sever our economic, political and social relations with the Sudan, which in many ways was the strategic depth of our struggle and source of livelihood for many of our displaced people. It was only a crazy regime in Iran, which handed over a legally established embassy of a sovereign state to a liberation organization. I have done a similar mistake, but I will not repeat such unnecessary act in the future.

My language against others, including the United Nations, the Arab League, and the OAU has not been helpful, and I have taken a note on that.

Today, I will not talk about the martyrs at Hannish and the substantial amount of money spent for that small adventure. I will talk about it on 20 June. Also on the latter date, I will inform you all what you deserve to know about that irrational war with our southern neighbour, Ethiopia. I was aware of the fact that using force to reclaim a disputed territory –in our case mainly Badme - constitutes a serious mistake in international dealings. I have now decided to listen to your wishes, which you did not utter forcefully, as well as the demands of the international community and resort to peaceful means to regain our land, which has been left to Ethiopian occupation since 1981. I can no more deny the fact that I am partly the cause for the avoidable death and disability of many of your sons and daughters. Do not consider it a crime; I swear I will not repeat such a grave mistake.

I will continue to lead you to a brighter future. Just forget all shortcomings of the past. Keep supporting me, and especially those of you in the Diaspora.

Awet nhzbi Eritra !!

President Isaias Afworki

24 May, 1999

A Draft Speech for Isaias Afeworki 1999 2

May 22, 2020 News

Press Release

22 May 2020

Screenshot 2020-05-13 at 16.15.38

We note with concern the announcement that Danakali – an Australian based mining house, listed on the London Stock Exchange – is proceeding with its investments in Eritrea.[1]

In a statement the company said it was “in the final stages of completing the second phase of development of its world-class Colluli potash project in Eritrea, Africa.”

Danakali’s announcement makes no mention of the fact that its investment will strengthen one of Africa’s most repressive governments. Eritreans experience a complete absence of human rights, with no elections, no constitution, no freedom of expression or assembly and a President who has never been endorsed by an electorate.

Worse still, Danakali’s investment is a joint venture with the government, via the Eritrean National Mining Corporation. Dividends and other payments will strengthen this most repressive of regimes.  All employment is controlled by the state, with young men and women trapped in a system of indefinite military conscription that is termed ‘national service.’ Pay is minimal and women are frequently sexually abused. The United Nations has described this as a form of slave labour.  The abuses are so severe that they amount to what the UN said were ‘crimes against humanity.’[2]

Danakali quotes – approvingly – from another UN report which claims that the Colluli mining project will be a ‘game changer’ for the country. The company fails to say that the very report that they quote from also calls for Danakali to “By 2020, develop and operationalize a global strategy for youth employment and implement the Global Jobs Pact of the International Labour Organization.”[3]

The ILO Global Jobs Pact requires: “vigilance to achieve the elimination and prevention of an increase in forms of forced labour” and “respect for freedom of association, the right to organize and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.”

Forced labour is endemic in Eritrea and enforced by the government. The freedoms of association, the right to organised and bargain freely are banned. The company appears to pay lip service to the codes of the United Nations, but little more.

We call on Danakali to re-consider its operations in Eritrea, until democracy allows its people to truly benefit from its investments.

[1] https://www.mining.com/danakali-closer-to-getting-eritrea-potash-project-off-the-ground/

[2] https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?NewsID=20047&LangID=E

[3] https://www.danakali.com.au/images/stories/UNDP-Report-on-Colluli.pdf

May 21, 2020 Eritrea Focus, News

Screenshot 2020-05-13 at 16.15.38
20 May 2020

Eritrea Focus’s Response to Fetsum Abraham’s article “The renaissance of Eritrean Intellectualism in relation to Eritrea Focus”

On 17 May 2020, Fetsum posted an article on Assenna website with the above title which can be found by clicking here: https://assenna.com/fetsum-the-renaissance-of-eritrean-intellectualism-in-relation-to-eritrea-focus/
Fetsum’s article and carried by Assenna is very constructive and much appreciated. And it raises a number of important issues.

Clearly, a united response to the dictatorship in Asmara is long overdue. Planning for the day after is of the utmost importance if we are to build the new Eritrea which we all long for, that is at peace with itself and its neighbours. Eritrea Focus, bringing together as it does human rights groups and activists (Eritrean and non-Eritrean) is doing what it can to help in this process. To this end, we commissioned papers at the end of our April 2019 conference from scholars on a range of issues that can assist in this endeavour. They are designed to allow a smooth transition from dictatorship to the rule of law, so that the Eritrean people can at long last enjoy the fruits won for us by our martyrs.

It is not going to be easy achieving these objectives and an independent and democratic government of Eritrea will face enormous challenges.

Colonisation, our own internal civil war and the intolerable repression of our own government since 1991, has had a terrible impact on Eritrean society. Our people paid a huge price during years of conflict; bravely fighting for our independence and then in the brutal border war with Ethiopia. On top of this there has been the exodus of hundreds of thousands, fleeing the atrocious human rights that prevail in our country. Every Eritrean knows this; fewer have acknowledged the physical and psychological toll it has taken on us all. At the same time, Eritrea is situated in an unstable, sometimes hostile and unforgiving region. Asserting our nation’s interests has never been easy.

Papers dealing with these issues will be put before a conference from 29 June to 3 July this year. The conference will, unfortunately, have to be a virtual meeting, given the prevalence of Covid-19. It will also be narrowly based: an attempt to get these issues debated by small groups to try to thrash out the problems. Once the papers have been finalised, they will be made public and can be openly debated. We plan to hold a third conference at which they will be formally presented to a wider audience, hopefully in late 2020.

This represents the intellectual effort that Eritrea Focus is concentrating on. In addition, we are working with politicians in Britain and further afield to try to maintain the pressure for reform and democracy in our country. We have initiated a case against the UK Government for funding aid through the European Union that uses National Service conscripts in a form of slave labour. To highlight the issues of forced labour and human rights abuses we work with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Eritrea, for which we provide Secretariat support. We also work closely with a number of NGOs in Europe and North America to challenge forced labour in the extractive sector and in collaboration with them, produced the first report of its kind in 2018.  We have kept up contacts with the Tigrayan authorities to try to reduce the pressure on Eritrean refugees in northern Ethiopia. Other initiatives are under way, with our international allies.

It is – however – beyond the scope of Eritrea Focus’s remit to initiate an alternative Eritrean government. In saying this we are not suggesting that an alternative administration should not be established to step in once the current dictatorship falls. Quite the opposite. We are happy to encourage and assist such developments. But Eritrea Focus is an organisation that includes non-Eritrean supporters. The future government of Eritrea is something that only Eritreans can decide upon. Members of Eritrea Focus are welcome to participate in this important work as individuals, but as an organisation we must necessarily stand aside.

We trust that Eritreans, and supporters of Eritrean freedom, will appreciate and accept our position.

To:   Honorable Delegations of 47 Member States,

 UN Human Rights Council,

44th Session, Palais des Nations, Geneva

 To: H.E. Ms. Michele Bachelet,

 Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

Palais Wilson, Geneva

 Subject: Extending the Mandate of the Special HR Rapporteur for Eritrea

 15 May, 2020

 Honorable UN HR Council Delegates at 44th Session,

Your Excellency High Commissioner Bachelet,

We, the undersigned Eritrean political opposition organizations in forced exile, are pleased to jointly address this memorandum on behalf of our people with the earnest aim of drawing your kind attention for appropriate action to the endless and never changing political and human rights situation in Eritrea, which is a member-state of this respected Council.

At the outset, we must acknowledge that we are grateful to this Council, whose sincere concern with the human rights situation in Eritrea, was manifested by its October 2012 action to appoint the first UN Human Rights Rapporteur for Eritrea and ever since  extended that mandate annually in order to keep the human rights abuser state  “under close scrutiny.” That was a solemn pledge made by this Council to Eritrean victims of human rights abuses.

It is true that the Eritrean authorities ignored implementing all recommendations of this august body and for the last eight years refused entry visa to this Council’s Human Rights Rapporteur for Eritrea. Yet, the Council’s aim of trying to keep the Eritrean government “under close scrutiny” was being continually achieved through the oral updates and annual reports of the mandated UN Special Envoys – Ms Sheila Keetharuth for the first six years and Ms Daniel Kravetz for the last two years.

Excellencies,

Eritrea remains a place of endless suffering to its people and a heartbreaking story to human rights activists and organizations familiar with the unparalleled human rights abuses in that country.

The extremely worrisome political, social, economic and human rights situation in Eritrea did not change from what it was last year, the year before and at least two decades before that. How come then that some of the 47 member states of the UN Human Rights Council are reportedly wavering on whether the mandate of the UN Human Rights Rapporteur for Eritrea should be extended or not?

We, the entire ensemble of Eritrean political opposition organizations in exile, therefore appeal to all Council delegates to this 44th Session to do the right thing - extend the mandate of Ms Daniela Kravetz for another term as a minimum sympathy and moral support to a six-million nation in a very dire human rights situation.  

Honorable HR Council Delegates,

Dear HR High Commissioner Bachelet,

We know that you are very well aware of the Eritrean situation. But, just as a reminder, allow us to repeat that, for the last 29 years, Eritrea remains to be an internationally recognized member-state of the UN and this Council:

  • Without a national constitution; without the rule of law;
  • Without state institutions and functioning branches of government;
  • Without national elections for over quarter of a century;
  • Without freedom of the press, assembly, worship and movement;
  • Without the right of visitation to its prisoners (not even by the ICRC);
  • Without the right of a day at court for prisoners;
  • As you know, the list is endless…

Your Excellencies also know that the fate the thousands of Eritrean prisoners is nothing but “detention until death,” as Ms Sheila Keetharuth told this Council a few years; that the open-ended enslavement of people under misnomer “national service” is still intact, and that about a third of the Eritrean population has been condemned to flee the country and live under the indignity of being refugees. 

To conclude, we the exiled Eritrean political organizations, appeal to you to kindly extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Eritrea, and also think of doing a little bit more to help change the sad situation in Eritrea.

Sincerely yours,

Chairpersons of

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

May 17, 2020 News

Interesting that it is the far-right, neo-fascist Alternative for Germany (AFD) that thinks it would be a great idea to increase cooperation with Eritrea.

Democratic parties are far more questioning.


Source: das parlament

Johanna Metz

No chance for cooperation with Eritrea

Eritrea is one of the poorest countries in the world. About every second of the approximately 3.5 million inhabitants lives below the poverty line. Only mining and the export of copper and zinc are profitable there, with the exception of China, foreign investors are avoiding the country. The reason is Isayas Afewerki’s regime. 

Since Eritrea’s independence from Ethiopia in 1993, the president has abolished parliament, other parties, the free media, the rule of law and non-governmental organizations. There have been no elections for a long time. Countless detainees are held in prisons, and Eritreans in exile report on the disappeared, torture, child labor and other serious violations of human rights. Conditions caused 41,530 people to flee in 2018 alone.

The difficult situation is unlikely to change much in the future. Because, despite the “great development potential”, the Federal Government foreseeably sees no chance for bilateral development cooperation with the state. “The leadership rejects any cooperation,” said Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Norbert Barthle (CSU), last week in the development committee. It shows no interest in improving trade relations, although Eritrea is even entitled to duty-free and quota-free access to the European market. A dialogue on human rights in the country is also not desired. “Unlike in Ethiopia, progress has stopped in Eritrea,” concluded Barthle.

AfD application rejected 

The AfD group still urges the federal government to continue to approach the country. The problems are known, said a parliamentary group representative in the committee, but investment and potential should still be promoted. The AfD is convinced that with an economic upturn, politics will also change. But the other groups did not share this view. They refused an application (19/15071 ) of the AfD with the title “Starting and organizing economic cooperation with Eritrea”.

A member of the Union faction declared that the Eritrean government was not willing to change. In addition, human rights aspects should in no way be excluded from development cooperation.

The FDP also insisted on value-based DC, President Afewerki must be accused of violating human rights. The FDP, left-wing parliamentary group and the Greens also expressed the supposition that the AfD’s aim is less for the welfare of the people in Eritrea than for the country’s profitable mining sector and the opportunity to create new sales markets for German companies.

The SPD said that no one could be forced to help. All attempts by the federal government to build bilateral relations have been unsuccessful or openly rejected. A representative of the Greens accused Afewerki of blocking any international cooperation to prevent the serious human rights violations from being exposed in the past three decades.

Source=https://eritreahub.org/germany-debates-co-operation-with-eritrea-progress-has-halted

May 16, 2020 News, UN

Source: Bloomberg

U.A.E. Ran Covert Arms Flights to Aid Libya’s Haftar, UN Finds

May 15, 2020, 2:36 PM EDT
  • UN experts probing flights for embargo breach, diplomats say
  • Libya war has drawn in rival foreign powers, arms, hired guns
Members of the self-styled Libyan National Army, loyal to the country's east strongman Khalifa Haftar, open fire during clashes with militants in Benghazi's central Akhribish district on Nov. 9, 2017.
Members of the self-styled Libyan National Army, loyal to the country’s east strongman Khalifa Haftar, open fire during clashes with militants in Benghazi’s central Akhribish district on Nov. 9, 2017.

Photographer: Abdullah Doma/AFP via Getty Images

The United Arab Emirates has been involved in operating a covert air-bridge to supply weapons to Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar in contravention of a United Nations arms embargo on the North African country, according to a confidential UN report.

At least 37 flights in early January are being investigated by the UN panel of experts responsible for monitoring sanctions on Libya, according to two diplomats briefed on the report that was presented to the Security Council this month. Excerpts of the report were also shared with Bloomberg. The flights were operated by a complex network of companies registered in the U.A.E., Kazakhstan, and the British Virgin Islands to disguise the delivery of military equipment, the diplomats said.

The panel found an increase in secret flights from the U.A.E. and its airbase in Eritrea to airfields under the control of Haftar, who is fighting to defeat the internationally-recognized government based in Tripoli, the report said. Some of those flights, which transfer high volumes of weapons, were operated by two Kazakhstan operators, according to the diplomats.

Screenshot 2020-05-16 at 21.27.45

U.A.E. Ambassador to the United Nations Lana Nusseibeh said that while she hasn’t seen the report, the allegations outlined are “false” and the government denies “them in their entirety.”

Libya Arms Embargo Has Become a ‘Joke,’ Top UN Official Says (1)

“We regret such allegations are made against a State and then leaked to the press without first verifying their veracity with the State concerned,” Nusseibeh said in emailed comments. The U.A.E. will continue to cooperate with the UN panel, she said.

The Security Council is not obligated to take any action based on the experts report but members can refer it to their home countries for investigation. There was no immediate comment from Haftar’s spokesman.

What’s Behind Nine Years of Turmoil in Libya: QuickTake

Sitting atop Africa’s largest oil reserves, Libya has been all but ungovernable since a NATO-backed rebellion led to the 2011 killing of Moammar Qaddafi, who had ruled the country for more than 40 years. In recent years, a UN-backed government based in Tripoli has been battling for control of the divided country with Haftar’s forces, which launched a campaign to take the capital a year ago.

The war has quickly descended into a proxy conflict that has drawn in regional and global powers and become a magnet for hired guns, raising concerns in Europe about the spread of militants and migrants across the Mediterranean. Egypt and the U.A.E. have backed Haftar, who is also supported by Russian mercenaries, while Turkey has begun sending troops and supplies to the Tripoli government as the conflict escalates.

Western Mercenaries Went to Libya to Help Moscow’s Man, UN Finds The U.A.E. said it was “deeply concerned” about Turkish involvement in Libya. Turkey and Russia have both recruited and deployed Syrian mercenaries to fight on opposite sides in Libya, joining a crowded field of private soldiers in an increasingly complex conflict. The UN has repeatedly raised concerns that the arms embargo is being flouted by various camps, hampering efforts to bring an end to the war.

— With assistance by Naubet Bisenov

May 14, 2020 News

LONDON/ADDIS ABABA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Eritrean activists sued the European Union (EU) on Wednesday and asked it to halt 80 million euros in aid to the east African nation, saying the money funded a scheme built on forced labour.

The Netherlands-based foundation Human Rights for Eritreans (FHRE) filed a lawsuit to the Amsterdam district court, accusing the EU of financing a major road renovation project that relies on forced labour and of failing to carry out due diligence.

Some of the labourers belong to Eritrea’s national service, condemned as forced labour and slavery by the United Nations and European Parliament, according to lawyers backing the lawsuit.

The Netherlands is host to a large number of Eritrean migrants and pays toward the project as a member of the EU.

The European Commission – the EU’s executive arm – said in response that it reserved the right to establish its legal and factual arguments before the Amsterdam court, in accordance with applicable law.

A spokeswoman said it was guided by EU principles such as democracy and the rule of law, as well as international law.

Eritrea’s information minister, Yemane Ghebremeskel, questioned the credibility of the FHRE and said the lawsuit was typical of its “demonisation campaigns”.

“The accusations emanate from a very small but vocal group, mostly foreigners who have an agenda of ‘regime change’ against Eritrea,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by email.

Eritrea signed a peace deal with Ethiopia in 2018, raising expectations that a long-standing system of universal conscription would be scaled back. Yet Human Rights Watch last year said no changes had been made to a “system of repression”.

UNLAWFUL

The Dutch law firm backing the lawsuit – Kennedy Van der Laan (KVDL) – said it was seeking court rulings that the roads project was unlawful and that the EU should cease support.

“The EU has normalized and given an acceptable face to a practice which has been universally condemned by the international community and is a clear violation of the most fundamental human rights norms,” the firm said in a statement.

Emiel Jurjens, an attorney at KVDL, said the FHRE raised the issue in April 2019 with the EU, which rejected its criticism before announcing further funding for the project in December.

He said the European Parliament was set to vote on Thursday on a motion to freeze EU development spending to Eritrea.

The 80 million euros ($87 million) fund a project to reconnect Ethiopia and Eritrea following the peace deal and was dispersed in two tranches last year from the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa.

Yet despite acknowledging the labour would be performed by members of Eritrea’s national service, the EU refuses to do due diligence, has no oversight of the project, and relies on information provided by the government, according to KVDL.

Rights groups and Western governments have said the system of conscription amounts to indefinite military service that forces thousands of Eritreans to flee the country each year.

Many head for Europe, which hopes that by funding work at home it can curb the flow of African migrants to its shores.

Source=https://eritreahub.org/eritrean-activists-sue-eu-for-funding-roads-built-with-forced-labour

May 11, 2020 Ethiopia, News

Source: Ethiopia Insight

May 11, 2020

After unilaterally deciding that Prosperity Party will govern until elections, the type of ruling system the Nobel laureate yearns for becomes clearer and clearer

History may show that last week was a decisive moment in the post-EPRDF era. Albeit a clear sign that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is heading in the wrong direction.

On 27 April, Prosperity Party’s Central Committee chose constitutional interpretation among the now famous four options to overcome the constitutional crisis: dissolving parliament; declaring a state of emergency; constitutional amendment; and constitutional interpretation. In advance, the government tasked a team of “highly reputable legal experts” to conduct an in-depth analysis. This was disclosed by the Prime Minister only ten days later in his 7 May address. The legal team’s composition is not public.

As if the four options were still on the table, Abiy then “consulted” opposition leaders about them on 29 and 30 April. He told his social media followers the meeting was “fruitful”, but on the occasion he also attacked the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

To the first, as one its former militant wing is engaged in an armed struggle in Wellega, he said: “You cannot stand on the peaceful and legal struggle and armed activity”. For the second: “practice democracy on your turf. You cannot repress in Tigray and demand a free and open forum in the Federal government”.  Furthermore, he condemned those political forces allegedly working with enemies of Ethiopia. He called them “banda”, the label for Ethiopians who collaborated with Italian invaders after 1935.

On 3 May, Jawar Mohammed, now a senior Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) figure, wrote: “the decision on the date of the national elections and the type of provisional administration we will have in the interim period between September and election time should only be made after proper dialogue and agreement with all political parties and concerned stakeholders including civil society organizations”.

A day later, federalist opposition parties, including OLF and OFC, said they were “seeking a legitimate political consensus on how to manage the constitutional crisis the country is facing”, through “the deliberation and negotiation (of the registered parties) facilitated by entities who do not have direct involvement in electoral affairs and do not have a vested interest in the outcome…The final agreement reached by the parties should be binding.”

Officials and constitutional specialists have been offering their views on how to overcome the crisis. Even when supporting the interpretation option, some, like Solomon Dersso, who sits on the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, have articulated proposals on how to make the process more inclusive for political forces and civil society representatives.

The TPLF now positions itself as the champion of the constitution, even though constitutionally protected civil rights were frequently violated during its period of pre-eminence. It announced it wants to hold regional elections in Tigray independently from the rest of the country, which is legally debatable. Electoral board chair Birtukan Mideksa, a former opposition leader, despite having no mandate to speak on this issue, stated this was “unconstitutional”. The TPLF seems increasingly set on confronting Abiy, but its rigidity and refusal to make a sincere assessment of its controversial rule maintains its isolation from ethno-nationalist forces who would be its natural allies.

On 4 May the House of Peoples’ Representatives, the lower legislative house, announced it would hold a special session the following day. On 5 May, it voted in a similar hurry—the debate lasted less than two hours—to endorse interpretation.

The next day, Alemu Sime, Political and Civic Affairs Head of Prosperity Party, stated that regarding the interpretation option “any other alternatives being informally raised by some citizens is unconstitutional and unacceptable”. Thus, all dissenting voices, including even those who backed interpretation but suggested making it more inclusive, were rejected. Abiy confirmed this position in his 7 May address.

The primary conclusion to draw from this sequence of events is that it would have been hard for the incumbent to express a more reckless disregard for dissenting voices, regardless of how constructive they are, from opposition or civil society, and thus to have done more to derail the “democratic transition”.

True, the opposition is presently toothless. It cannot use its favourite tools, demonstrations, road blocks, etc, because it would then—justifiably—be accused of undermining the struggle against the pandemic. The whole political scene is frozen—except in the palace. The pandemic gives Abiy a strong ally: time. But he has further jeopardized a peaceful future by dismissing these actors. They may well have a strong motivation to return to the streets again when the health situation normalizes.

Tactically, Abiy could have tried, or at least looked as if he was trying, to find a compromise with the Oromo opposition so as to further isolate TPLF. But he apparently feels strong enough to rule without the support of any strong opposition constituency and also against the democratic push from civil society.

Abiy’s camp has used a legal means—one could say legalistic—to try and sidestep a problem that is essentially political and thus could only be sustainably solved through a political process. Despite the prime minister’s claims, Prosperity Party controls all the involved institutions, including the House of Federation, the upper dispute-resolving chamber of parliament, and the autonomy of the Council of Constitutional Inquiry is questionable. Therefore, even if nobody knows for certain the outcome of the interpretation process, it is highly improbable that it will throw up a nasty surprise for Prosperity Party and its leader.

But before the interpretation has been concluded, despite declaring that the body in charge of it, the Council of Constitutional Inquiry, a kind of advisory version of a constitutional court, “is an independent collection of professionals”, even this legalistic window-dressing has been peeled away. Abiy said that “Prosperity Party is a political party that is responsible for everything including managing COVID-19 threat and continues to govern the country until the next election period”. To justify the legitimacy of the ruling party to do so, the prime minister asserted that Prosperity Party is one of the parties “favoured by the majority for winning the next election”.

This approach violates the separation of powers, one of the pillars of democracy. How could the prime minister executively announce that his government will remain in place until the next election period before the Council of Constitutional Inquiry has concluded its work and before the House of the Federation—part of the legislative branch—makes its decision on the Council’s recommendation?

In addition, after a strong warning that “the demand to get power through illegal ways or by trying to undertake illegal elections is unacceptable,” Abiy did not utter one word to extend his hand to the opposition.

I recently wrote “Abiy seems to have deprioritized the transition’s success in favour of becoming the next in a long line of Ethiopian ‘Big Man’ rulers”. This is confirmed by recent events. The ruling system the Nobel laureate yearns for becomes clearer and clearer.

Since the Coronavirus turned into a global pandemic, heads of state and leaders of international and regional organizations have turned to conference calls rather than direct meetings. However, Isaias Afwerki travelled on May 3 to Ethiopia for a face to face meeting with the Ethiopian prime minister Abu Ahmed. So, what is the important matter that forced him to break the coronavirus lockdown? I think it was the state of hostility between him and the TIGRAY People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the developments related to this hostility.

The differences between the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) (now known as People’s Front for Democracy and Justice) and the TPLF date back to the 1970s, but they escalated in 1985 specially in the ideological aspects. The most prominent ideological disagreement was related to the policy of recognizing the right to self-determination of the nationalities adopted by TPLF, which they wanted the EPLF to adopt, as Eritrea is a multi-national country. When the latter rejected it, the TPLF accused it of not being democratic. Both organizations launched media campaigns against each other and deployed armed organizations in each other’s country.

The estrangement between the two organizations continued until April 1988, when they reconciled for practical reasons, at meetings held in Khartoum. At that time, they needed each other in the face of Mengistu Haile Mariam's army, and they agreed to coordinate their military operations, but they didn’t resolve their ideological differences

In a television interview in February 7, when Isaias Afwerki claimed that ethnic federalism had failed in Ethiopia, he was sending a message to the TPLF that the dispute over this issue had been resolved in his favour. He also said he had warned them in 1992 against implementing ethnic federalism. He added that the current situation in Ethiopia was of concern to Eritrea, and the upcoming Ethiopian elections were not particularly significant.

On March 31, the Ethiopian National Electoral Board announced that the elections could not be held as scheduled in August. On April 29, the prime minister met with the political parties to discuss how to avert the impending constitutional crisis due to the lack of provision in the Constitution for the deferral of the elections. The government presented four options: dissolving parliament; declaring a state of emergency; amending the Constitution; or seeking alternative legal interpretations of the Constitution.

On May 4, the TPLF’s Executive Committee, which did not participate in the meeting, decided to hold regional elections on time, in defiance of the National Electoral Board which is responsible for both national and regional elections.

On May 5, the Ethiopian parliament met and approved the government’s fourth option, as it seemed that was what the government wanted. Isaias returned to Asmara on May 5.

From this narrative, I think it is clear that, that although the two leaders may discussed other issues, the main aim of Isaias’s journey to Ethiopia was to support Abu Ahmed in the battle over the elections and how to deal with their postponement.

The turn round was in favour of Abu Ahmed (read Isaias), but the battle is not yet over.

Yaseen Mohmad Abdalla

Edited by Peter Riddell