No Protection for Refugee Children in Libya

Sunday, 24 November 2019 20:44 Written by

November 24, 2019 Eritrea, News

By Sophie Stocker

“He is stuck in Libya. If he wants to survive, he must get out. While talking to him it was very clear he was scared. He said so himself. He begged me to do anything that could help him.”

Imagine living in fear. Imagine living in a world where all you know is dictatorship. Imagine having to leave everything behind for a slight chance to survive. Because you know that if you stay, you will be tied to chains in a prison. The prison that you have lived in your whole life. The prison that you know will only shackle you tighter.

So, you risk everything. You leave everything behind so that you might find a better life. A life with freedom. A life without a tightrope around your neck.

Daniel is a 15-year old boy who is currently in Libya. He had to leave his home country, Eritrea, when he was 13 years old. He had gone to school since he was 5, and one morning, while going to school with his friend, Tesfay, he decided to leave without telling his family. He did not want to describe the exact events of that morning, but said that he and Tesfay saw an opportunity to go.

I asked him why he needed to leave his country, what he thought, and he told me that he had to leave because there was “no freedom”. “No freedom” because of the indefinite national service that children have to go to once they enter into the final year of school, “no freedom” because of the restrictions of travelling, “no freedom” because of a future of forced labour under permanent national service.

Eritrea is currently one of the most dangerous countries to live in because of its ruthless dictatorship. The president, Isaias Afwerki, imprisons everybody who doesn’t agree with him. There are strict rules and if the people don’t follow those rules, they go to jail. People have to flee, Daniel said, because there is no freedom in the most literal sense.

Daniel could not tell his mother that he left, because she had no phone. It has been two years, and he still has not been able to tell her. On his journey, he met Eritrean smugglers. They helped him get out of Eritrea to Libya for money. The price he had to pay was 8.750 US$ (7.835€) which his family had to pay up for him, as he had no money. They managed to collect the money by asking people in the church to help, and they then sent the money to Sudan, where the payment was made.

Unfortunately, his friend Tesfay could not pay this money, and therefore he was left behind in Sudan. Daniel does not know what happened to his friend. Whether he is alive or not, he does not know. Daniel travelled on to Libya, where he is still to this day. Throughout his travels, he saw horrible things. People were beaten with sticks, and tortured with electric wires. People were sexually violated and raped. People died at the hands of the smugglers.

Daniel’s bigger sister lives in Sweden, where he was trying to join her, but due to a mistake made in the system about the date of birth of Daniel, he was not allowed to rejoin her through the UNHCR resettlement scheme. He therefore is stuck in Libya. If he wants to survive, he must get out. While talking to him it was very clear he was scared. He said so himself. He begged me to do anything that could help him. In the UNHCR Gathering and Departure Facility (GDF) camp where he is now, there are 1,500 people, most of them young boys and girls, and pregnant women.

So imagine if that was you. Or your child. Or your sister and brother. Just imagine.

*The names of the refugees were changed for security reasons but the real names are known to the author.

The author interviewed Daniel on 2019, October 13 and 15 by phone. The original transcript is with the author. The interview is part of a school project. The author is a 16-year old student. The name of the author is a penname for security reasons.

Eritrean president arrives in Khartoum for visit

Friday, 22 November 2019 10:44 Written by


Chairman of Sudan’s Sovereign Council Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan (L, front) receives Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki (R) at the Khartoum Airport in Khartoum, Sudan, on Sept. 14, 2019. Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki on Saturday arrived in Khartoum for an official two-day visit to Sudan, a statement by Sudan’s Sovereign Council said. (Xinhua/Mohamed Khidir)

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki on Saturday arrived in Khartoum for an official two-day visit to Sudan, a statement by Sudan’s Sovereign Council said.

Afwerki was received upon arrival at Khartoum airport by Chairman of the Sovereign Council Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan and a number of ministers, the statement added.

Afwerki is expected to hold talks with a number of Sudanese officials over the bilateral ties and means of strengthening and developing them further.

KHARTOUM, Sept. 16 (Xinhua) — Sudan and Eritrea on Monday agreed on cooperation in military and security fields.

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki on Monday concluded an official visit to Sudan that started on Saturday, which is considered the first since 2014.

Upon Afwerki’s departure at Khartoum airport, Sudan’s Foreign Minister Asma Mohamed Abdullah announced a joint communique about the two countries’ agreement on cooperation in many fields.

“The Republic of Sudan and Eritrea have agreed to cooperate in the following fields. Cooperation in the defence and military fields, including the ground forces, the air force, the marine forces, the defence industries, training and medical services,” the communique said.

The two sides have also agreed to cooperate in the security fields, including exchange of information, capacity building and combat of organized cross-border crimes, it noted.

In 2018, the Sudanese-Eritrean relations witnessed tension, particularly after Sudan announced the closure of its borders with Eritrea in the wake of what Khartoum said “potential threats on the eastern border.”

After the ouster of former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019, the Sudanese-Eritrean relations witnessed a relative breakthrough, where Asmara sent its Foreign Minister Osman Saleh to Sudan in May.

In June 2019, Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan, the then chairman of Sudan’s Transitional Military Council, visited Asmara and held talks with Afwerki.

During the visit, the two countries agreed to open the joint border and facilitate the movement of the citizens, though the deal has not been implemented on the ground.


Eritrean under-20 soccer players Simon Asmelash Mekonen, Mewael Tesfai Yosief, Hermon Fessehaye Yohannes, and Hanibal Girmay Tekle talk together in a house where they are staying in Uganda.
In this photo taken on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, from left, Eritrean under-20 soccer players Simon Asmelash Mekonen, Mewael Tesfai Yosief, Hermon Fessehaye Yohannes, and Hanibal Girmay Tekle talk together in a house where they are staying in Uganda.

WASHINGTON - The fate of four Eritrean football players seeking asylum in Jinja, Uganda, remains uncertain, weeks after they fled their hotel during a tournament.
The players had been set to compete with the Eritrean National Team in the Cecafa Under-20 Challenge Cup in October. For the past six weeks, they have been moving from house to house to avoid being caught by Eritrean agents in Uganda, their lawyer told VOA.

Kimberley Motley, an American attorney dealing with international law and representing the four men, said they fear being returned to Eritrea, where they could face imprisonment and torture.

“They simply want to be able to live free in a country that is not going to imprison them, and which is a great fear that they have if they’re sent back to Eritrea. And they’re very fearful that they will be sent back by the Ugandan authorities,” Motley said.

Eritrean under-20 soccer players Hermon Fessehaye Yohannes, Simon Asmelash Mekonen, Hanibal Girmay Tekle, and Mewael Tesfai Yosief talk together in a house where they are staying in Uganda.
Eritrean under-20 soccer players Hermon Fessehaye Yohannes, Simon Asmelash Mekonen, Hanibal Girmay Tekle, and Mewael Tesfai Yosief talk together in a house where they are staying in Uganda.

Ugandan officials didn’t respond to VOA’s requests for updates on the footballers’ case.

“They’ve been in hiding,” Motley said. “They’ve been moving from place to place, hoping that a country is kind enough to accept them as asylum seekers based on their very solid claim of being persecuted if they were sent back to their country.”

In a video posted by “One Day Seyoum,”  a group focused on human rights for Eritreans, the footballers said there is a campaign against them, and they fear being tracked and illegally detained by Eritrean agents in Uganda.

“We are in grave danger,” Mewael Yosief, one of the footballers, said. “We are in need of help. Because if they catch us, when we go back home, it’s going to be an unimaginably severe danger for us, because we might face imprisonment — unimaginable punishments. And it might even cause us death,” the 19-year-old said.

Eritrean under-20 soccer players Hermon Fessehaye Yohannes, Simon Asmelash Mekonen, Hanibal Girmay Tekle, and Mewael Tesfai Yosief talk together in a house where they are staying in Uganda.
Eritrean under-20 soccer players Hermon Fessehaye Yohannes, Simon Asmelash Mekonen, Hanibal Girmay Tekle, and Mewael Tesfai Yosief talk together in a house where they are staying in Uganda.

In 2015, 10 players on the Eritrean national football team sought and secured asylum during a World Cup qualifying match in Botswana. In 2009, the team made worldwide headlines when the entire roster defected and refused to fly home after a match in Kenya.
To support the remaining players who did not defect during the Uganda tournament, some members of Eritrea’s diaspora started a GoFundMe drive that has raised more than $44,000 to allow “these young men to be able to enjoy their careers at home and allow them to enjoy their return.”


Ethiopia “ordered” $4Billion worth of French Military Jets

Wednesday, 20 November 2019 10:25 Written by

in News November 19, 2019

Asmara (HAN) November 19, 2019. Regional Security and Stability NEWS.

French Rafale jet.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed wants to modernise his old air force and for this, he has sent an official letter to the French president. The information is revealed on Monday in the French weekly Le Point.

The prime minister sent his “shopping list” to President Emmanuel Macron. Abiy Ahmed asked France to help “reinforce the Ethiopian Air Force” by providing, on credit, a sophisticated arsenal detailed on three pages.

This list includes: 12 combat aircraft (including Rafale and Mirage 2000), 18 helicopters and 2 military transport aircraft manufactured by Airbus, 10 Dassault UAVs, electronic jamming systems.

And even more surprising said the French weekly Le Point, thirty M51 missiles with a range of over 6,000 kilometres and nuclear head! A demand for the least extravagant (and illegal) knowing that France and Ethiopia have signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. If we refer to the sales prices of previous similar contracts, the bill could exceed 4 billion dollars without the nuclear head.

Officially, France refuses to get involved in this “thorny” issue of M51 missiles as it has forged a strategic partnership with Egypt Al-Sissi, a major buyer of French arms since 2014.

French Journalist Arianne Lavrilleux said on Monday in the program Tout un monde, Ethiopia’s problem is that it does not have the means to afford these weapons. “The prime minister recognised it himself and wrote that he would need a loan for all this equipment.”

She added, “Ethiopia hopes to strengthen its credibility in the Horn of Africa and establish its image of local guardian of peace with international institutions. The country is already present in several UN peacekeeping missions in East Africa. It is also a way to win against its neighbours, major powers like Kenya and Egypt, who do not necessarily see a good eye to the rise of Ethiopia.”

Lavrilleux said, “Addis Ababa would, therefore, buy French arms on credit and it is the French State that would guarantee this loan. “So, if Ethiopia could not repay, the French taxpayer would pay.”


Two killed after tribal clashes in Port Sudan

Tuesday, 19 November 2019 12:08 Written by

Participants in the White Banners procession arrive in Port Sudan from Kassala on 1 September 2019 (ST photo)

November 18, 2019 (KHARTOUM) - Two people were killed and at least seven others were injured on Monday as a result of tribal clashes in Port Sudan, capital of the eastern Red Sea State.

The security authorities imposed a curfew from 5 pm to 6 am, while army troops were deployed across the town to prevent the resumption of the intercommunal conflict.

The bloody clashes erupted between members of the Beja and Beni Amer tribes following a public meeting held by the leader of United Popular Front for Liberation and Justice (UPFLJ), and Deputy Chairman of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front Amin Daoud, who returned to Sudan last week after long years of exile during the regime of ousted President Omer al-Bashir.

Witnesses told the Sudan Tribune that Port Sudan, in a matter of moments, turned into a war arena when dozens of people scrambled from neighbouring areas with white arms to take part in the clashes at the place of the meeting.

They added that some houses had been burnt in the adjacent neighbourhoods where took place confrontations with white weapons.

The Red Sea Governor, Hafiz al-Taj Makki, blamed al-Amin Daoud for the lawlessness, saying he did not observe an agreement with him to postpone the meeting until security measures are put in place.

Makki told Sudan Television late on Monday that the state security committee had informed him that the current security situation in the city did not allow the organisation of a mass rally in the wake of tribal tensions in Port Sudan several weeks ago.

The governor who was speaking from Khartoum added that he had conveyed this message to Daoud and agreed together that the meeting would be held after Daoud’s return from Juba as the peace talks will resume within four days.

""We were surprised to learn at nine in the morning that Alamin Daoud moved during the night accompanied by a number of vehicles without permission and without notifying the state government and he was welcomed by a large crowd".

The governor confirmed that there were human casualties as a result of the tribal clashes but he did not give further details.

"The issue has been resolved by imposing a curfew and the measures will continue," he further said.

At his speech, Daoud denounced the state government’s refusal to authorize him to address the public meeting and pledge to complain to the Sovereign Council.

In a separate statement Osama Said, SRF spokesperson and a leading member in the Beja Congress regretted the intercommunal clashes before to condemn "in the strongest terms" the killings and sabotage that occurred Monday in Port Sudan as a result of the "severe tribal polarization exploited by the agents of the former regime"

"We call on all the people in Port Sudan from Ben Amer, Al-Hindawah, Al-Marar and the rest of the Beja branches to restraint and not give the opportunity to the promoters of sedition who want to hit our social fabric and create chaos that taking the whole country into a dark tunnel and bring it back to the era of corruption and tyranny".

He further called on the Prime Minister and his government to travel to Port Sudan to calm the tensions, restore order and to hold accountable the responsible of "this sedition".

At least 37 people were killed last August during tribal clashes in Port Sudan, between the Beni Amer and Nuba tribes.



18 Nov 2019

Published on 14 Nov 2019

‘I have been very moved by the meetings I have had with the inhabitants of the Gashora Transit Centre in Rwanda today. They have been living under atrocious and very dangerous conditions in Libya,’ said Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein.

Mr Ulstein is currently visiting Rwanda in connection with Norway’s contribution of NOK 50 million to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) transit centre.

‘The stories these people tell are stories of violence, torture, fear and hunger. Some of them have been victims of human trafficking and abuse. It is our duty to help, and I urge other countries to contribute too,’ said Mr Ulstein.

Once the centre is fully operational, it will house 500 people. At present there are 189 residents, 79 of whom are unaccompanied minors. Most of the residents are from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia.

‘Rwanda is setting a good example with this initiative. The transit centre is providing important assistance for migrants and refugees in the region, and Rwanda is thus helping to solve this acute crisis,’ said Mr Ulstein.

Under the agreement that the Rwandan authorities have signed with UNHCR and the African Union (AU), Rwanda has undertaken to receive up to 30 000 refugees and migrants from Libya. Those who come to the transit centre will either be given residence in a third country, returned to their country of origin, or allowed to stay in Rwanda.

Norway is the first country to provide support for the transit centre.

‘I’m pleased that next year Norway will take in several hundred refugees and migrants from Libya from this transit centre and a similar transit centre in Romania,’ said Mr Ulstein.


November 18, 2019 News

Source: BBC Tigrinya Service

Eritrea, through PM Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia’s initiative, agreed to a peace deal with Ethiopia in June 2018 following two decades of animosity. Soon after the peace deal, PM Abiy played a big role in persuading the UN to bring Eritrea in from the cold. UN Security Council reciprocated by unanimously agreeing to lift sanctions against Eritrea that were imposed in 2009.

It is to be remembered that an arms embargo, asset freeze, and travel ban were imposed in 2009 amid claims Eritrea supported al-Shabab militants in Somalia. Eritrea always denied the accusations. Eritrea was also criticised for human rights abuses and compulsory national service conscription, which are still driving its citizens to flee in huge numbers.

What happened to the country’s economy since the lifting of the sanctions?  BBC Tigrinya has published a story based on its assessment of the Eritrean economy a year after the lifting of the UN sanctions. 

The story depicts a grim picture – the economic situation of the country has not improved at all for the average citizen a year after the lifting of sanctions. Many Eritreans, including those living abroad, hoped the lifting of the sanctions would usher in a new era in the country.  

On the contrary, “the price of goods has increased [after the peace accord was signed]” reported the story.  “More Eritrean refugees are living in Ethiopian camps now [than ever]”, it added.  

The standard of living in Eritrea remains very low.  And the quality of life continues to get worse.

Border crossings: Opened in summer, closed in winter of 2018

During the brief window when the border was open, trade flourished along border towns.  People were happier and embraced one another. Many families who were separated by the border managed to re-unite. Eritreans could witness for the first time how Ethiopia, particularly the Tigrai region, was transformed while the conditions in Eritrea arrested the development of the country.

After the declaration of peace Eritreans expected the government would take steps to end the open-ended national service and ensure that young Eritreans’ right to education would be respected. This was particularly so after the Eritrean government’s primary excuse for prolonged military service – the “no peace, no war” situation with Ethiopia – no longer applied.  Eritreans also hoped the border, the perennial problem between the two countries, would be demarcated.   

Border demarcation and putting limits to the national service never materialised.  The peace process stalled as the border crossings were once again shut. Many blame Eritrea for closing its border crossings without any explanation.  Experts believe that either opening or closing the border has economic repercussions for the country; and Eritrea’s wavering stance shows the leadership, gripped by paranoia, cannot manage its border crossings efficiently.  They were obviously alarmed by the sudden flow of goods in and out of Eritrea and the fraternal attitude people showed to one another.

The Never-ending National Service

“The peace deal provided some hope that restrictions on national service would be lifted, but so far there has been little change in Eritrea”, said Human Rights Watch. The indefinite conscription system was never lifted prompting more Eritreans to flee. In October 2018, the UN refugee agency noted a seven-fold increase in refugees fleeing Eritrea after the borders opened, with around 10,000 refugees registered in one month.

The effect of mandatory conscription has always had a negative impact on the country’s economy.  According to a report published by HRW (Aug 2019), “the system of conscription has driven thousands of young Eritreans each year into exile: an estimated 507,300 Eritreans live in exile out of an estimated population of around five million. Many of those fleeing are aged 18 to 24. Thousands, including unaccompanied children, take the perilous journey toward Europe.”

Why is Eritrea dragging its feet? 

According to analysts, 2018 did not bring real changes to Eritrea.  Instead, as 2019 witnessed it, the peace accord and the political manoeuvrings that ensued did not improve the lives of Eritreans.   In that case, one can question if the peace accord was just a ploy to have the sanctions lifted.

Introducing real reforms in Eritrea would certainly test its leaders, who are determined to preserve the status quo, to the limit. The peace accord, the lifting of sanctions, opening border crossings, limiting the national service, demarcating the border are important milestones that have yet to be realised in Eritrea. Eritrea will continue to drag its feet because there is much at stake for its leaders if they yield to real changes in this post-stalemate era.


Ruling coalition in Ethiopia is now morphed into a single united national party. It will re-brand itself as Ethiopian Prosperity Party(EPP).TPLF voted against it which means that it will not be part of it.

Ruling coalition _ Ethiopian Prosperity Party _ EPRDFPicture from the ruling coalition’s executive committee meeting on Saturday November 15,2019.

November 16, 2019

Ethiopia’s ruling coalition, Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), has made a landmark decision on Saturday closing one long chapter in the history of the organization and opening a new one.

The coalition was formed sometime in 1988 as a leftist organization based on “revolutionary democracy” under the leadership of Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) towards the end of decades-old armed struggle against colonel Mengistu Hailemariam’s administration.

Until April 2018, that is the time when Abiy Ahmed from what was then called Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO) became prime minister, TPLF dominated Federal government meddled with the affairs of other regional states organized on the basis of ethnicity. 

It was soon after Abiy Ahmed became prime minister that the ruling coalition, which constitute four ethic parties, began to discuss transforming the coalition into a single united party – an idea that was raised during the organizational conferences and shelved indefinitely.  

Today, the coalition has made the final decision and it will no longer be a coalition party but a united single party. 

It was the executive committee of the coalition that passed the decision. According to a report by state affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporation (FBC), majority of the executive members voted in favour of ending coalition era which was marked by deepening  division among Ethiopians along ethnic lines. Especially in the past three years, ethnic based violence became prevalent to a point where citizen’s right to work and live in different parts of the country became risky. Thousands were killed and millions of people were internally displaced. 

Fekadu Tesema, a member of the executive committee member, told state media Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation that the executive committee meeting discussed issues that need attention under the new arrangement. Strengthening the federal system and developing administrative system while maintaining language diversity, ethnic identity and national identity were among the top agenda in the executive committee meeting. 

The executive committee is expected to discuss draft party program starting tomorrow, according to a report by Fana Broadcasting Corporation. 

Only six members of the executive committee members of the ruling coalition voted against the proposal to transform the  organization’s existence into a single united national party – which is poised to be named as, according to information from insiders, Ethiopian Prosperity Party (EPP). 

The six members executive committee who voted against the proposal are from TPLF. And it did not come as a surprise since TPLF has issued a statement sometime in October claiming that the decision to transform the coalition into a single party would trigger disintegration of the country. 

On the other hand, Four other parties that have been described as “agar” (sister parries) see the decision as a move in the right direction for the previous arrangement was discriminatory. 

Parties governing Afar region, Benishangul region, Gambella region and Somali region of Ethiopia were considered as part of the ruling coalition, EPRDF, but they did not have voting privileges and did not have membership in the executive committee and central committee which means that they was no possibly for leaders from these parties to hold the highest office in the country.   But that ends with the end of the coalition. It is a new chapter for the ruling party , and perhaps to Ethiopia too.


(file photo).
16 November 2019

Ethiopian press freedom gained a much-needed push thanks to reforms by prime minister Abiy Ahmed. But already the push back is occurring.

In a small barely furnished office with some of the electric wiring still showing in half-completed walls, Habtamu Mekonnen sits at his laptop putting the finishing touches to tomorrow's Berbera newspaper edition.

Just over a year old, the fledging newspaper is one of a plethora of new publications that sprang to life following the whirlwind of reforms that helped garner Abiy Ahmed the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2019.

The Nobel committee cited the prime minister "discontinuing media censorship" as one of Abiy Ahmed's many achievements in paving the way to establish a new and better democracy in Ethiopia.

Ethnic tensions, journalism and activism

But the bonanza of media activity that followed is now generating increasing concerns that new media freedoms are being abused to stoke ethnic tensions.

Media are being accused of abetting groups seeking to leverage identity politics to destabilise the country for their own ends.

At the same time, the government is now facing criticism for repeating the authoritarian ways of previous Ethiopian governments toward media and attempting to put the lid back on what it opened.

"This paper exists because of Abiy's reforms," says Berihun Adane, an Addis Ababa-based journalist who has been published internationally and who helps mentor reporters at Berera. "But now we are witnessing the same thing that has happened after every regime change: first there are lots of new magazines and newspapers, then the government starts to crack down on them."

Back in 2018, reforms that opened up Ethiopia's previously restricted media space included the freeing of detained journalists and bloggers, along with an end to the blocking of more than 260 websites and the restoration of access to media outlets which had been been forced to work in exile.

Hence in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, Ethiopia jumped 40 places from number 150 to 110 out of 180 countries -- the biggest improvement by any country.

But Berihun has experienced the other side of this, having recently been released from three months in prison due to charges of inciting "terrorism" through his journalism.

"I had the impression Abiy was friendly to media," Berihun says about an interview he conducted with the prime minister. "Now Abiy seems to hold a view that categorizes media as either hate- and ethnic-based or as mainstream. But it should be up to professional institutions to judge media conduct."

Continued unrest

The prime minister's concerns over ethnic tension are not without reason. Ethnic-related conflict has displaced millions, and most recently resulted in about 80 deaths at the end of October.

"Many individuals are mixing up the roles of activist and media when they shouldn't go together," says Abel Wabella, managing editor of the Addis Ababa-based newspaper Addis Zebye. "You have people running media who are calling for protests -- it's totally absurd."

The political activist and media mogul Jawar Mohammed, who founded the Oromia Media Network, has come under significant criticism for making incendiary comments on social media.

The violence at the end of October erupted after Jawar Mohammed alleged that police tried to remove his security guards, which had initially been assigned by the government. His supporters argue he played no direct role in demonstrations that were a spontaneous response to the government's actions.

Read more:Africa's innovative response to internet repression

Abiy even addressed parliament to discuss media "fomenting unrest," focusing on the role of Ethiopian diaspora figures like Jawar Mohammed, who started his International Oromo Youth Association (IOYA) while studying in the United States.

"Using their second nationality and foreign passports as an advantage, these media owners are likely to run away to their safe havens after inciting conflicts and leading the country into chaos," Abiy said.

New laws in the making

Part of the problem for Ethiopia's new media landscape, says Berihun and other seasoned journalists, is that after decades of suppression it remains institutionally weak.

Hence many Ethiopians rely on social media and foreign-based media for news, increasing the chances of misinformation and manipulation permeating the news cycle.

To address this, the government says it is seeking to improve both the capacity of and regulation of local media.

"The Ethiopian Broadcast Authority is in the process of reorienting its institutional form to better regulate," says Billene Seyoum, a spokesperson for the prime minister's office. "The appointment of experienced professionals to such institutions is a commitment by the Government to undo the repressive tendencies of such institutions in their prior form."

At the same time, Billene notes, the government is developing a new media law and an anti-hate speech law.

But some in the media industry are concerned such laws could be used to further stifle their new-found freedoms.

Amnesty International has condemned the government for using anti-terrorism measures to conduct a "surge in the number of arrests" since June.

"The use of Ethiopia's anti-terrorism proclamation to arbitrarily arrest journalists is completely out of step with reforms witnessed in the country," said Seif Magango, Amnesty International's deputy director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes. "This law must be revised to align with international standards and must no longer be used to harass journalists."

'Journalism not possible in this environment'

The shifting and strained media climate makes self-censorship by journalists more likely. Berihune says that as the case against him remains open, he is wary of what he writes and he avoids Twitter entirely in case his posts be used against him.

"In this environment, whereby the government says you are either with us or against us, journalism is not possible," says Eskinder Nega, a prominent Ethiopian journalist and blogger who was released from prison under Abiy Ahmed's reforms in early 2018.

Another problem for media organisations is the challenge of remaining viable financially.

"We have no profit, we can't get any revenue from advertising," says Rekike Tesera, Berera's 22-year-old editor, who earns about 6,000 birr (€181 or $200) a month.

"Organisations and businesses are afraid to advertise with media because of how the government might react, as media are being viewed as ethnically biased. We are viewed as being for the Amhara region, but we cover issues concerning the whole country," Tesera explained.

There is perhaps one upside to the current situation for struggling media. Berihun notes how the Berera readership has increased from around 2,500 a month to about 5,000 due to Ethiopia's volatile situation.

"When the political environment is good, you tend to see a decline in readership," Berihun says. "People are reading a lot at the moment."



New peace institute launched in Tigray

Wednesday, 13 November 2019 11:48 Written by

November 13, 2019 News

High Level meeting launches new peace institute in the Tigray region of Ethiopia

A High-Level meeting on “Rehabilitation, youth employment and digital innovation”, organized by the Mekelle, Adwa and Aksum Universities, was held in the historical city of Aksum, Ethiopia from 9 to 10 November 2019. During the meeting, the Mereb Institute for Peace Building, Development and Rehabilitation was inaugurated and the latest two volumes in the book series “Connected and Mobile: Migration and Human Trafficking in Africa,” were launched. Authors and editors from the two volumes, “Roaming Africa: Migration, Resilience and Social Protection and Mobile Africa: Human Trafficking and the Digital Divide, spoke about the dangers of forced migration, by illustrating human trafficking for ransom in countries such as Libya, and the effects of trauma on refugees.  The books further explore the movement of people in Africa with a diverse group of authors, shifting the dominant and often negative lens through which migration is looked at. Speakers on the cutting edge of peace building and the interlinked issues that drive forced movement on the African continent discussed the nexus between digitalisation, refugees. migration, rehabilitation and youth resilience and employment in mobile Africa. 

Linking academic research with practical solutions, the participants launched several building blocks for solving factors that undermine peace, fair use of data and youth employment. H.E. Aboubacar Sidiki Koné, Chair of the Committee on Cooperation, International Relations and Conflict of the Pan-African Parliament, observed that: “Everywhere we meet refugees, but young persons must work for peace in Africa. […] It is not what you say, but what you do for refugees.”

The Mereb Institute for Peace-building, Development and Rehabilitation is named after the Mereb River that flows between Eritrea and Ethiopia. The Institute will offer training to youth from the host and refugee communities and connect them to the labour market in this way according to the President of Mekelle University, a founding institution, it will: “…enable the youth from both Eritrea and Ethiopia to access education and participate in the economic and social rehabilitation.” The mayor of Aksum city, Elias Kahsay in his opening speech pointed out that: “Young generations should be given an equal chance.” V.C. Chindanya from Great Zimbabwe University observed that the Institute will require: “… a lot of work in terms of objectives but there is clarity on what needs to be done.”

Prof Kinfe Abraha (Mekelle University), co-chair for the event, pointed out that: “In order for somebody to be employable, he or she has to have the needed knowledge, skills and attitude, and that will be the result of training.” And, Prof. Mirjam van Reisen(Tilburg University) added: “The first aim of the Institute, is a certificate programme. We need the youth to have skills and knowledge, as well as experience. It is from that spirit that we feel that as academia, we have a responsibility to make sure that we have a low-threshold accessibility through which we can train up people and bring them in the society in a way they can contribute. They want to contribute; they just need to be shown the way.”

During the meeting concrete steps and solutions linking   research and actions for building peace and combatting disruptive factors to peace, such as human trafficking were also discussed. “I want to emphasize the issue of research, because many times, in various universities, a lot of research is done, but then there is no clear pathway where research is going to inform policy.” Said H.E. Zaminah Malole, Equal Opportunities Commissioner in Uganda.

Activities in the Mereb Institute are planned to start around mid-2020 after careful consultation with stakeholders. “It is supporting the peace dealing process of both governments. The idea that we are having is just a beginning – the main thing is, people have to be engaged.”

For more information, please contact:

Kibrom Berhe – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. – +251 92 025 4476

Or Klara Smits – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. – +251 934 344 960

Roaming Africa: Migration, Resilience and Social Protection(ISBN 9789956551132) and Mobile Africa: Human Trafficking and the Digital Divide (ISBN 9789956551019) are published by African Books Collective and are available through their webshop:

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