DECEMBER 14, 2020  ETHIOPIANEWS

Some members might inquire about reports of mistreatment of Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia. This issue gained heightened attention on 11 December, when Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, issued a statement saying that the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and its humanitarian partners “have had no access to the four Eritrean refugee camps inside Tigray, putting the safety and survival of the refugees at great risk”. He went on to assert that there had been “an overwhelming number of disturbing reports of Eritrean refugees in Tigray being killed, abducted and forcibly returned to Eritrea” and that “[i]f confirmed, these actions would constitute a major violation of international law”.

Ethiopia (Tigray): Discussion of the humanitarian situation under “any other business”

Source: Security Council Report

Tomorrow (14 December) Security Council members are expected to discuss the humanitarian situation in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia under “any other business”, a standing item in consultations. The meeting was initiated at the request of Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, the US, and the UK. An OCHA representative is expected to brief.

Background

Conflict between the Ethiopian government and the country’s northern Tigray region erupted on 4 November. This followed months of rising tensions between the central government and Tigray. Many analysts have noted the desire of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to strengthen federal control over Ethiopia’s regions, including Tigray, which has chafed at what it views as an assault on its autonomy. Citing concerns about the coronavirus, the federal government postponed Ethiopia’s August general elections; in defiance of this decision, Tigray held its own regional elections in September. In October, Addis Ababa slashed federal support to Tigray, and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) (the main political party in the region) rejected the central government’s appointment of a new general to Tigray to take charge of Ethiopia’s northern command.

In this difficult context, Prime Minister Abiy launched a military campaign against the region, after accusing the TPLF of attacking an Ethiopian National Defense Forces base and attempting to steal artillery and military equipment in Tigray. Thousands of people have reportedly died as a result of the fighting since early November, and the humanitarian situation has continued to worsen. Over 50,000 refugees have fled from Tigray into Sudan, and thousands more have been internally displaced.

In addition to refugee flows, there has been further evidence of the conflict’s international ramifications.  On 14 November, the TPLF fired rockets on Asmara, Eritrea, accusing Eritrea of helping the Ethiopian military to stage operations on Tigray. The US also recently accused Eritrea of sending its own troops across the border to support the Ethiopian army in its campaign against Tigray, although Eritrea has denied the allegation.

The AU has thus far led political efforts to resolve the fighting. On 20 November, the AU Chairperson, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, appointed three high-level enjoys to help facilitate a peaceful resolution to the conflict: Joaquim Chissano (former President of Mozambique), Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (former President of Liberia), and Kgalema Motlanthe (former President of South Africa).  These efforts have appeared to gain little traction, with President Abiy reluctant to accept external mediation and defining the conflict as a law enforcement operation. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has expressed the UN’s support for the AU’s initiative to resolve the crisis, including in 20 November and 7 December statements attributable to his spokesperson.

Earlier today, following a visit to Ethiopia to meet with Prime Minister Abiy, Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok announced that Abiy had agreed to a summit of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to address the Tigray conflict.  At time of writing, additional details about a potential summit were unclear.

Security Council Engagement

The Security Council has not engaged actively on the crisis. Although members discussed the conflict under “any other business” on 24 November, the Council has yet to take any concrete action. The 24 November meeting had been proposed by the Council’s EU members and the UK, who called for the meeting after the African members of the Council had withdrawn their initial request for a discussion, maintaining that regional engagement needed more time to take effect and that the high-level AU delegation that planned to visit Abiy had yet to arrive in Addis Ababa. (The AU delegation met with Abiy on 27 November; Abiy reportedly pledged to protect civilians but not to stop the military campaign). During the “any other business” session, members emphasised the importance of de-escalating the conflict, expressed concern about the impact of the fighting on civilians, and underscored their support for regional engagement to resolve the conflict.

Tomorrow’s “any other business” session will depart from the session on 24 November in that a briefer is anticipated and the focus is expected to be primarily on the humanitarian implications of the conflict. Although Abiy announced that the fighting had ended on 28 November, the situation has remained volatile. The OCHA briefer may describe shortages in food, water, fuel, and medical supplies in Tigray. He or she may note that the ICRC-Ethiopian Red Cross Society convoy carrying relief supplies and medicines to Mekelle on 11 December was the first international aid delivery to reach Tigray since the start of the conflict, following weeks of restrictions on international humanitarian access. Abiy has declared that the Ethiopian government is spearheading the humanitarian response in Tigray.

A number of issues are likely to be taken up in the meeting. Some Council members may be interested in OCHA’s views on the prospect of future international aid deliveries to the region. In this regard, they may highlight the importance of permitting unfettered and safe humanitarian access to Tigray.  There may be calls for holding accountable those on both sides that have committed human rights violations during the conflict. Concern is also likely to be expressed about the deaths of four aid workers—including three from the Danish Refugee Council and one from the ICRC—during the fighting.

Some members might inquire about reports of mistreatment of Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia. This issue gained heightened attention on 11 December, when Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, issued a statement saying that the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and its humanitarian partners “have had no access to the four Eritrean refugee camps inside Tigray, putting the safety and survival of the refugees at great risk”. He went on to assert that there had been “an overwhelming number of disturbing reports of Eritrean refugees in Tigray being killed, abducted and forcibly returned to Eritrea” and that “[i]f confirmed, these actions would constitute a major violation of international law”.

In general, there appear to be divergent views on how actively engaged the Council should be on this issue. While some members would like the Council to play a more active role, others appear concerned that this could be counter-productive and interfere with regional efforts to resolve the conflict.

“Any other business”—the format of the 24 November meeting and tomorrow’s meeting on Tigray—is one way that members have traditionally kept abreast of developments in situations not on the Council’s agenda. “Any other business” is also generally conducive to discreet discussions of more sensitive matters, as there is no public record of “any other business” topics.

Warning: Tigray faces a food emergency

Monday, 14 December 2020 15:42 Written by

DECEMBER 14, 2020  ETHIOPIANEWS

Source: Famine Early Warning System

Emergency (IPC Phase 4) expected in parts of Tigray in 2021 if access constraints persist

A IPC Phase 4 means that the households have large food consumption gaps which are reflected in very high acute malnutrition and excess mortality. It is one below Phase 5 – Famine

December 11, 2020

In November, tensions between the national and regional governments developed into widespread conflict in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia. The conflict has driven large-scale displacement, with populations fleeing to areas not directly under attack, neighboring Afar and Amhara Regions, and Sudan. The movement of goods and people, food assistance delivery, and many economic activities have largely halted. Insecurity in the region is likely to persist in the near term, disrupting access to food and income into 2021. High food assistance needs are expected now through at least the next harvest in late 2021 in eastern and southern areas of Tigray, and among displaced populations in Afar, Amhara, and Sudan. Urgent action is needed to reverse restrictions to movement and activities, to open humanitarian space for all humanitarian actors, and to resume and immediately scale up humanitarian assistance necessary to meet basic food needs and prevent further deterioration in food security.

Since the outbreak of conflict on November 4, fighting was primarily focused along main roadways running west to east in the region, though the full extent of conflict is likely still unknown as telecommunication services remain limited. The government imposed a six-month state of emergency on November 6. Fighting was concentrated in western Tigray, but moved eastward as the month progressed, and continues in localized areas of Tigray, with federal forces taking control of the regional capital Mekele in late November. According to UNHCR, as of December 9, nearly 50,000 people have fled to Sudan. While no official figures are available, reports indicate people have also fled to neighboring Amhara and Afar regions and that many are likely displaced within Tigray.

Poor households in Tigray rely on their own crop production and income earned through agricultural and non-agricultural labor to meet their basic food needs. When the conflict erupted, the main season meher harvest was ongoing. Available information suggests that conflict has been relatively low in rural areas, allowing many rural households to continue harvesting and consuming crops. However, reporting also suggests that some rural households in areas affected by conflict have abandoned or cannot access their fields. Furthermore, given official movement restrictions, fear of moving due to the conflict, and reduced intra- and inter-region trade flows, economic activity is generally reduced. Restricted movement is especially damaging to poor households in the deficit-producing mid- and highland areas who rely heavily on labor migration to surplus areas in the western lowlands. Income from labor migration was already negatively affected in 2020 by the COVID-19 related movement restrictions. In addition, livestock sales, an important income source among middle and better-off households throughout the region, are limited by reduced market functioning. Since this income helps support the local economy, generating demand for local agricultural labor, a reduction in livestock sales has knock-on effects for poorer households. Overall, poor households’ access to income has notably decreased.

At the same time, extremely high food prices are further constraining access to food. Information from those who recently left Tigray suggests the destruction of infrastructure, regional border closures, and fuel shortages have resulted in limited food supplies in markets, putting significant upward pressure on food and non-food prices, which were already above average.

The ongoing conflict has also prevented the delivery of humanitarian food assistance and Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) permanent direct support. More than 300,000 people in Tigray, including internally displaced people (IDP) and refugees, typically receive humanitarian food assistance every six weeks, though it is expected they have not received a distribution since October due to the conflict. An estimated 1 million people in Tigray receive PSNP support, covering up to 50 percent of basic kilocalorie needs among poor and very poor households (Figure 1). While most PSNP beneficiaries receive distributions between February and July, roughly 250,000 permanent direct support beneficiaries, including the elderly and disabled, receive year-round assistance. It is believed that these beneficiaries have not received a distribution since August as the federal government did not transfer cash to the region following the tension due to the regional election. On December 2, the federal government and UN announced a humanitarian corridor was opening to government-controlled areas. Humanitarian assistance has likely reached some areas, as the NDRMC reported on December 8, though this is difficult to confirm. However, PSNP distributions are likely to be limited in the short to medium term as the resumption of deliveries, which require federal government funds, will depend on the implementation support of the regional government.

Localized conflict and some displacement in Tigray are expected to continue into 2021. Economic activity is expected to somewhat improve as the military offensive has largely ended; however, with the anticipated continuation of the state of emergency coupled with damaged infrastructure, some disruption to the movement of people and goods is likely through at least mid-2021.

Food security among displaced, urban, and some poor rural households has notably declined. With the availability of the harvest, particularly in surplus-producing western areas, most poor households are likely meeting their immediate short-term food needs; however, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are anticipated in several eastern, central, and southern areas, including some urban and peri-urban areas, of Tigray. Anecdotal reports suggest that IDP and poor households in bordering areas of Amhara and Afar are also having difficulty accessing food and other basic supplies due to limited market activities with Tigray; Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are also likely among these populations. It is expected that some direct beneficiaries of PSNP who have not received assistance since August are likely facing wide food consumption gaps indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4). FEWS NET currently anticipates that PSNP deliveries are likely to resume by mid-2021 and that humanitarian assistance will be delivered to some areas starting in the coming months. However, in the absence of assistance and PSNP, additional very poor households are likely to deteriorate to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in the coming months with the depletion of the harvest, and area-level Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes would be likely in early 2021. Urgent action is needed to enable the immediate scale up of food assistance necessary to meet basic food needs and prevent further deterioration in food security.

UN’s refugee agency says it received large number of reports of Eritrean refugees in Ethiopian region being killed, abducted and forcibly returned to Eritrea.

UNHCR and other aid agencies have not had access to the four main camps hosting for Eritrean refugees [File: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]

UNHCR and other aid agencies have not had access to the four main camps hosting for Eritrean refugees [File: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]

UNHCR and other aid agencies have not had access to the four main camps hosting for Eritrean refugees [File: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said it has received an “overwhelming” number of reports about Eritrean refugees in Tigray being killed, abducted or forcibly returned to Eritrea since fighting in Ethiopia’s northernmost region began more than a month ago.

“If confirmed, these actions would constitute a major violation of international law,” UNHCR head Filippo Grandi said in a statement on Friday, adding his agency has met some refugees in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.

“It is vital that Eritrean refugees be able to move to safe locations, and receive protection and assistance wherever possible, including outside of Tigray, given the traumatic events they report to have witnessed or survived,” he added.

UNHCR and other aid agencies have not had access to the four main camps hosting for Eritrean refugees – Shimelba, Hitsats, Mai-Ayni and Adi Harush – inside Tigray, since fighting erupted in early November between the government and the region’s former ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

Ethiopia’s army has captured the regional capital Mekelle and declared victory, but TPLF leaders said they are fighting back on various fronts around the highland city. Most communications in Tigray are down and access to the area is severely restricted, making it hard to verify either side’s statements.

TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael said in text messages to Reuters News Agency this month that Eritrean soldiers had raided two camps in Tigray and abducted some residents, but provided no evidence. Eritrea has denied this.

The refugees living in camps in Ethiopia near the border of their homeland are in an especially precarious position. Eritreans often leave to escape mandatory, indefinite military service and repression or search for better opportunities out of what has long been one of the world’s most isolated countries.

Earlier this week, Ethiopia’s government admitted federal troops fired at and briefly detained UN workers in Tigray region, blaming them for trying to reach areas where “they were not supposed to go”.

In his statement on Friday, Grandi called on the Ethiopian government to implement steps to ensure safe access for humanitarian workers in Tigray.

“Such access is urgently needed so we can provide desperately needed assistance to refugees and other vulnerable populations.”

Refugees returned back

Grandi’s statement came hours after Ethiopia’s government said it was returning Eritrean refugees to the Tigray camps, asserting that its recently completed military offensive against the forces loyal to TPLF “was not a direct threat” to the 96,000 Eritrean refugees registered in Ethiopia – even as aid groups said four staffers had been killed in the fighting, at least one in a refugee camp.

“A large number of misinformed refugees are moving out in an irregular manner,” the government said in a statement.

“The government is safely returning those refugees to their respective camps,” the statement said, adding that food was being transported to the camps.

The UNHCR was not informed of any planned relocation of refugees in Ethiopia, Babar Baloch, a UNHCR spokesman, told reporters in Geneva. He called the reports “alarming”.

He added, “While we cannot speculate at this time, any refoulement would be absolutely unacceptable.” Refoulement means forcing refugees to return to the country they fled from.

Ato Addisu, deputy head of Ethiopia’s state-run Agency for Refugee and Returnee Affairs, said, “A return to Eritrea would never happen unless they request by themselves – this is against international law”.

Approximately 580 refugees were on the buses to Tigray, he told Reuters.

‘We were getting so scared’

The news agency reported receiving frantic calls from refugees in the capital who had been told they would be bused back to Tigray but feared they were being taken back to Eritrea.

“Please come, please come, the buses are here!” one woman yelled as children wept in the background. Another woman said Eritreans faced mounting hostility from Tigrayans who accuse Eritrea of sending troops into Ethiopia to help Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government battle the TPLF.

Both countries have denied this, although the US State Department said on Thursday that it believes reports of Eritrean military involvement in the conflict in Ethiopia are “credible”.

“Some Tigrayan people beat up my husband,” the refugee said. “People there were saying – ‘your country is coming here and attacking us. So you – we will kill you too.’ We were getting so scared.”

The International Organization for Migration said it was “extremely concerned” about the refugees’ “forced” return and denied it was involved, saying Ethiopia took over one of its transit centres in Addis Ababa on December 3.

An Eritrean who lives in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, told Al Jazeera last month the camps were in “big trouble”.

Even before the conflict, people there were complaining about poor services, and a lack of food or electricity, which led many refugees in the Tigray region to move to cities to try and find work.

Eritrea has long faced accusations of large-scale rights abuses. It has accused Western powers of smear campaigns and luring Eritreans abroad, which they have denied.

Source=‘Overwhelming’ reports of killings of Eritreans in Tigray: UN | Humanitarian Crises News | Al Jazeera
 

Source: IOM email

Friday December 11, 2020

IOM Refutes Allegations Eritreans Held, Processed for Forced Return

Geneva – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) strongly refutes allegations that a group of Eritrean refugees are being held by IOM and being processed for forced return in one of its transit centres in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. The Organization equally rejects allegations that IOM buses have been used to transport the refugees to an unknown destination.

One of three IOM centres in Addis Ababa was taken over by the Ethiopian Government’s Agency for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) on 3 December. IOM has had no management authority, oversight or involvement in any activities undertaken by the authorities in the centre since that time.

IOM does not under any circumstances conduct the forced return of migrants and refugees. The Organization’s approach to return assistance for migrants relies on the pillars of protection, human rights and voluntariness and in full respect of International Law.

The Organization is extremely concerned about these reports and appeals to States to ensure the protection of all civilians, including migrants and refugees. International Law and its Conventions, including the Principle of Non-Refoulement, must be respected at all times.

For more information, please contact: Safa Msehli, IOM Spokesperson in Geneva; Tel: +41 79 403 5526, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

By 

The United Nations and other aid agencies say they have been denied access to some 96,000 refugees in Tigray since fighting erupted on Nov. 4 between the government and a rebellious regional force. They are concerned about food and security in the camps, which they have not been permitted to visit since the conflict broke out.

The government says it has now defeated forces loyal to the region’s former ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), and it is safe for refugees who fled to the capital Addis Ababa to return to Tigray.

“A large number of misinformed refugees are moving out in an irregular manner,” the government said in a statement on Friday.

“The government is safely returning those refugees to their respective camps,” the statement said, adding that food was being transported to the camps.

TPLF leaders say they are fighting back on various fronts. Claims by all sides in the conflict are near-impossible to verify because most communications to Tigray are down and the government tightly controls access.

FRANTIC CALLS

Reuters received frantic calls from refugees in the capital who had been told they would be bussed back to Tigray but feared they were being taken back to Eritrea - the neighbouring country they originally fled.

“Please come, please come, the buses are here!” one woman yelled as children wept in the background.

Another woman said Eritreans faced mounting hostility from Tigrayans who accuse Eritrea of sending troops into Ethiopia to help Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government battle the TPLF.

Both countries deny this, although the U.S. State Department said on Thursday it believes reports of Eritrean military involvement in the conflict in Ethiopia are “credible”.

 

“Some Tigrayan people beat up my husband,” the refugee said. “People there were saying – ‘your country is coming here and attacking us. So you - we will kill you too.’ We were getting so scared.”

Refugees may be facing additional dangers.

TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael said in text messages to Reuters this month that Eritrean soldiers had raided two camps in Tigray and abducted some residents, but provided no evidence. Eritrea denies this.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said on Friday the agency had received similar reports.

“Over the last month we have received an overwhelming number of disturbing reports of Eritrean refugees in Tigray being killed, abducted and forcibly returned to Eritrea. If confirmed, these actions would constitute a major violation of international law,” he said in a statement.

The presence of Eritrean troops on Ethiopian soil would alarm Western allies and risk further inflaming the conflict.

Eritrea has long faced accusations of large scale rights abuses. It accuses Western powers of smear campaigns and luring Eritreans abroad, which they deny.

France, Britain, Germany, the United States, Estonia and Belgium plan to raise the humanitarian situation in Tigray during a closed-door U.N. Security Council meeting Monday and have asked for a U.N. aid official to brief, diplomats said.

FOOD FOR REFUGEES

There are four main camps for Eritrean refugees in Tigray - Shimelba, Hitsats, Mai-Ayni and Adi Harush.

The UNHCR was not informed of any planned relocation of refugees in Ethiopia, Babar Baloch, a UNHCR spokesman, told reporters in Geneva. He called the reports “alarming.”

He added, “While we cannot speculate at this time, any refoulement would be absolutely unacceptable.” Refoulement means forcing refugees to return to the country they fled from.

Ato Addisu, deputy head of Ethiopia’s state-run Agency for Refugee and Returnee Affairs, said, “A return to Eritrea would never happen unless they request by themselves – this is against international law”.

Around 580 refugees were on the buses to Tigray, he told Reuters.

The prime minister’s office dismissed concerns that the war was preventing aid reaching civilians.

“Suggestions that humanitarian assistance is impeded due to active military combat ... within the Tigray region is untrue and undermines ... work to stabilise the region,” it said in a statement on Friday.

Reporting by Addis Ababa newsroom and Emma Farge in Geneva; Additional reporting by Nairobi newsroom and Michelle Nichols in New York; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Alexandra Zavis, William Maclean and Frances Kerry

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Ethiopian refugees rest and prepare food near UNHCR’s Hamdayet border reception centre after crossing into Sudan, 13 November 2020. © UNHCR/Hazim ElhagEthiopian refugees rest and prepare food near UNHCR’s Hamdayet border reception centre after crossing into Sudan, 13 November 2020. © UNHCR/Hazim Elhag

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, working with the local authorities, has now registered nearly 50,000 Ethiopian refugees who have crossed into eastern Sudan, with some reporting having to evade armed groups to reach safety.

Since 6 December, the number of refugees escaping ongoing conflict in the northern Tigray region have been trending downward to under 500 per day.

The recent groups coming from areas deeper inside Tigray are arriving weak and exhausted, some reporting they spent two weeks on the run inside Ethiopia as they made their way to the border.

They have told us harrowing accounts of being stopped by armed groups and robbed of their possessions. Many have spent time hiding in fields and bushes to avoid being spotted. Without access in Ethiopia we are unable to verify these disturbing reports.

UNHCR remains very worried about the safety and condition of the Eritrean refugees in Tigray that have been caught in the conflict and have had no access to services and supplies for more than a month. We echo the UN Secretary-General’s call for unfettered access to Tigray in order to reach people in need.

We repeat the joint UN call for all parties to allow freedom of movement to affected civilians seeking assistance, safety, and security within the Tigray region or outside the affected areas. This includes respecting and upholding the right to cross international borders to seek asylum.

Inside Sudan, UNHCR is working with the local authorities and partners, and continues to scale up its humanitarian response to assist Ethiopian refugees.

We have seen increasing requests for family tracing, as many were separated at the start of the conflict or during flight and have not been able to get in contact since. More medicines are needed, especially for those who were taking chronic medication for diabetes, HIV and other illness.

UNHCR and its partners also need support to preventCovid-19 outbreaks, including more handwashing stations, PPE kits and information campaigns as refugees continue to be in overcrowded conditions.

As of Wednesday (9 Dec.) the first of five additional chartered flights began bringing more urgently needed humanitarian supplies into Sudan. In total, the airlifts from Dubai and Nairobi will bring in some 3,225 tents, 75,000 blankets, 45,000 sleeping mats, 20,000 solar lamps, 17,000 mosquito nets and 8,250 plastic sheets. With these flights, we have airlifted 440 metric tonnes of humanitarian relief since 27 November.

UNHCR also continues to move refugees away from the border with some 14,000 relocated to the Um Rakuba refugee settlement so far.

UNHCR and partners have appealed for US$147 million to cover the needs and to support the government of Sudan, which continues to welcome and host refugees.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Sudan, Dana Hughes, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +249 96 701 9105
  • In Ethiopia, Chris Melzer, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +251 97 819 9207
  • In Ethiopia, Juliette Stevenson, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +251 944 109 031
  • In Geneva, Babar Baloch, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +41 79 513 9549
  • In New York, Kathryn Mahoney, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +1 347 443 7646

DECEMBER 11, 2020  ETHIOPIANEWS

The U.S. called for the immediate withdrawal of Eritrean troops from neighboring Ethiopia’s Tigray region, following “credible” reports of their involvement in a civil conflict.

Source: Simon MarksBloomberg News

Eritrea

The U.S. called for the immediate withdrawal of Eritrean troops from neighboring Ethiopia’s Tigray region, following “credible” reports of their involvement in a civil conflict.

The reports relate to an assault that Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered on the northern regional state Nov. 4, after blaming it for an attack on a military base to try and steal weapons. Eritrea’s involvement would confirm that the conflict has become regional.

“This is a grave development,” a U.S. State Department spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

The U.S. adds credence to accusations by the former rulers of Tigray that Eritrea is supporting the Ethiopian army against them. United Nations officials said earlier they’ve observed troops wearing Eritrean uniforms in the region.

Abiy has stressed that the conflict in Tigray is an “internal affair” and a “law enforcement operation.” At the onset of the fighting, Abiy accused the Tigray People’s Liberation Front of manufacturing uniforms resembling those of Eritrea’s army to “implicate the Eritrean government in false claims of aggression against the people of Tigray.” Abiy’s spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a message requesting comment on Friday.

Eritrea hasn’t commented on whether its forces are involved in the conflict. The nation’s information minister didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

The U.S. said it’s also aware of reports of human rights violations in the region, and called for an independent investigation of the matter.

“All parties must respect human rights and international humanitarian law,” the Sate Department said.

DECEMBER 11, 2020  ETHIOPIANEWS

Ethiopia threatens hundreds of Eritrean refugees with enforced return to Eritrea

IOM Office Bole Airport Addis Ababa

(London 11/12/2020) Arbi Harnet (Freedom Friday) has received disturbing information from Addis Ababa the capital of Ethiopia.

The news relates to around 300 Eritrean refugees who fled the fighting in Tigray.

Some were working in various capacities in Tigray region and some are from the refugee camps that are home to thousands of Eritrean refugees.

Once in Addis they were detained at the offices of International Organisation for Migration  in the area of Bole in Addis and have been threatened with forced return to Eritrea.

The process is presented as voluntary return and they are being held in the voluntary return registration centre of IOM.

In a message smuggled out of the centre the refugees have asked for help in stopping this injustice that is about to be perpetrated against them. They asked for pressure on IOM to not be complicit to this crime of returning them to the brutal regime they had fled from.

Many in the group had arrived in Tigray in the last couple of years and some have been taking advantage of the opportunity to work and settle in the region and live outside the refugee camps.

If returned to Eritrea they will be considered absconders from the national service and be punished for that and the circumstances under which they fled.

In addition, under the current circumstances of active war with Tigray that Eritrea is participating in together with the Federal government of Ethiopia, they might even be considered as agents and collaborators as they had been living and working in Tigray.

Arbi harnet believes that this return that is being orchestrated by the Federal Government of Ethiopia is against the principle of “non-refoulement” which prohibits States from transferring or removing individuals from their jurisdiction when there are grounds for believing that the person would be at risk of irreparable harm upon return, including persecution, torture, ill treatment or other serious human rights violations.

The Group calls for UNHCR to intervene and protect the refugees in accordance to the refugee convention and prevent their return to a certain ill-treatment in Eritrea.

IOM should also be aware that none of the refugees have consented to this return and thus their return is a contravention of their stated objectives.

DECEMBER 10, 2020  ETHIOPIANEWS

Source: Reuters  – Note the full draft resolution is below.

U.S. senators seek possible sanctions over Ethiopia conflict abuses

The proposed resolution was introduced on Wednesday by Senator Ben Cardin, a Democrat, and Senator Jim Risch, a Republican.

It was the first such call by U.S. lawmakers since war between Ethiopian federal forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) broke out on Nov. 4.

The conflict is thought to have killed thousands and displaced more than 950,000 people, according to United Nations estimates, about 50,000 of them into Sudan.

Concern has mounted over reports of civilians targeted by both sides, posing a policy dilemma for the United States, which considers Ethiopia an important ally in a volatile region.

The government has said it will investigate any reports of atrocities or mass killings, but will only allow independent investigations if the government was not able to do so.

Accounts from all sides are difficult to verify because most phone lines and internet connections to the region have been down since the conflict broke out. Foreign journalists are required to have permits to leave the capital city.

The Ethiopian army has captured Tigray’s regional capital Mekelle and declared victory but TPLF leaders say they are fighting back on various fronts around the highland city.

The Senate resolution introduced by Cardin and Risch also called on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and the TPLF to cease hostilities and pursue a peaceful resolution to the war.

“The ongoing fighting in Tigray has already cost thousands of lives and created a humanitarian crisis of disastrous proportions, threatening the long-term stability not only of Ethiopia, but the entire region,” Cardin said in a statement after the resolution was introduced.

Civilians fleeing fighting in Tigray last month told Reuters that they witnessed bombing by government warplanes, shooting on the streets, and people being hacked to death with machetes.

Rights group Amnesty International said scores and probably hundreds of people were stabbed or hacked to death in the town of Mai Kadra in Tigray less than a week after the war began.

Ethiopia’s state-appointed human rights commission’s initial report found that an estimated 600 civilians were killed in that attack.

RESTORING ORDER

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in Geneva on Wednesday that events in Tigray were still “worrying and volatile”.

“There is an urgent need for independent monitoring of the human rights situation in the Tigray region, all necessary measures to protect civilians, and accountability for violations,” Bachelet said.

Abiy’s spokeswoman Billene Seyoum responded that there was

“nothing volatile about Tigray or Ethiopia”.

“The federal government is well equipped and able to restore order and is undertaking such activities as cities and towns slowly return to regular activities,” she said.

Meanwhile aid groups are pressing for safe access to the northern region, which is home to more than 5 million people and where 600,000 relied on food aid even before the conflict.

The government has said it was delivering aid in areas that it controlled, but relief agencies are increasingly frustrated.

A United Nations team visiting refugees in Tigray was shot at over the weekend. The government said it had failed to stop at two checkpoints.

In response to that, another U.S. Senator, Bob Menendez said in a tweet: “Attacks on humanitarians must STOP. Refugees & all civilians must be PROTECTED.”

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres acknowledged the problems on Wednesday and said Ethiopia and the United Nations had now agreed on joint missions to assess humanitarian needs.


Source: US Senate

RISCH, CARDIN INTRODUCE RESOLUTION ENCOURAGING PEACEFUL RESOLUTION TO TIGRAY CONFLICT IN ETHIOPIA

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee that oversees civilian security, democracy and human rights, today introduced a bipartisan resolution calling on the government of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front to cease all hostilities, protect the human rights of all Ethiopians, and pursue a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia.

“The conflict in Tigray presents a dire humanitarian situation and a direct threat to Ethiopia’s historic transition to democracy,” said Risch. “This bipartisan resolution encourages the Ethiopian federal government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front to engage in dialogue that will address grievances and pursue a peaceful and sustainable end to the conflict. A stable and democratic Ethiopia is critical to the security of the broader region, and the United States will continue to be supportive of good-faith efforts to further democratic progress.”

“The ongoing fighting in Tigray has already cost thousands of lives and created a humanitarian crisis of disastrous proportions, threatening the long-term stability not only of Ethiopia, but the entire region,” said Cardin. “For the sake of the Ethiopian people and their loved ones across the diaspora, many of whom I’m proud to represent in Maryland, the violence must stop. All parties to this conflict must work together towards reconciliation, justice, and lasting peace.”

Full text of the resolution can be found here.

US Senate Resolution on Ethiopia and Tigray

DECEMBER 9, 2020  ETHIOPIANEWS

Three reports below: AP, Reuters and CNN

Source: Associated Press

UN: Ethiopia’s conflict has ‘appalling impact on civilians’

Tigrayans who fled the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, start wood fires to prepare dinner, in front of their temporary shelters at Umm Rakouba refugee camp in Qadarif, eastern Sudan, Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Ethiopia’s situation is “spiraling out of control with appalling impact on civilians” and urgently needs outside monitoring, the United Nations human rights chief warned Wednesday, but Ethiopia is rejecting calls for independent investigations into the deadly fighting in its Tigray region, saying it “doesn’t need a baby-sitter.”

The government’s declaration came amid international calls for more transparency into the month-long fighting between Ethiopian forces and those of the fugitive Tigray regional government that is thought to have killed thousands, including civilians. At least one large-scale massacre has been documented by human rights groups, and others are feared.

Senior government official Redwan Hussein told reporters on Tuesday evening that Ethiopia will invite others for assistance only if it feels that “it failed to investigate.” To assume the government can’t carry out such probes “is belittling the government,” he said.

Frustration is growing as the northern Tigray region remains largely cut off from the outside world, with food and medicines desperately needed by the population of 6 million — some 1 million of them now thought to be displaced.

The lack of transparency, with most communications and transport links severed, has complicated efforts to verify the warring side’s claims.

It also hurts efforts to understand the extent of atrocities that have been committed since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Nov. 4 announced that fighting had begun with the TPLF, which dominated Ethiopia’s government and military for nearly three decades before he came to power and sidelined it.

Each government now regards the other as illegal, as the TPLF objects to the postponement of national elections until next year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and sees Abiy’s mandate as expired.

U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said the situation is “exceedingly worrying and volatile” with fighting reported to continue in areas surrounding the Tigray capital, Mekele, and the towns of Sheraro and Axum, “in spite of government claims to the contrary.”

“We have corroborated information of gross human rights violations and abuses including indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian objects, looting, abductions and sexual violence against women and girls,” Bachelet told reporters. “There are reports of forced recruitment of Tigrayan youth to fight against their own communities.”

However, she said, with communications limited, “we have been unable to access the worst affected areas.”

Ethiopia’s government is pushing back against what it calls outside “interference,” from efforts at dialogue to delivering aid, drawing on its history as the rare African country never colonized, a source of deep national pride.

The government wants to manage aid delivery, and on Tuesday it said its forces had shot at and detained U.N. staffers who allegedly broke through checkpoints while trying to reach areas where “they were not supposed to go.”

The shooting incident “is really costly” because it further delays humanitarian operations for people in Tigray who have been waiting five weeks for aid, U.N. humanitarian spokesman Saviano Abreu told The Associated Press.

He said the six-member U.N. team, which was detained in Humera and released two days later, was the first sent into Tigray and was carrying out security assessments along roads that had been previously agreed upon with Ethiopia’s government. Such assessments are crucial before aid can be moved in.

“Now we have to work out additional operational details with the government,” especially on security, Abreu said, repeating the U.N.’s call for unfettered, unconditional access.

The shooting occurred a week after the U.N. and the government signed a deal to allow humanitarian access. The deal, crucially, allows aid only in areas under federal government control.

The need for aid is critical. Mekele, a city of a half-million people, is “basically today without medical care,” the director-general of the International Committee for the Red Cross, Robert Mardini, told reporters on Tuesday. The city’s Ayder Referral Hospital has run out of supplies, including fuel to power generators.

“Doctors and nurses have been forced to make horrible life and death decisions,” Mardini said. “They suspended intensive care services and are really struggling to take care like delivering babies or providing dialysis treatment.”

A joint ICRC-Ethiopian Red Cross convoy with supplies for hundreds of wounded people is ready to go to Mekele, pending approval, he said. It would be the first international convoy to reach the city since the fighting began.

While the risk of insecurity remains in the Tigray capital, there is no active fighting, Mardini said.

Overall, he said, “People in Tigray have been cut off from services for nearly a month. They have had no phone, no Internet, no electricity and no fuel. Cash is running out. This of course adds to the tension.”


Source: Reuters

Ethiopia volatile with fighting, ethnic profiling of Tigrayans – U.N. rights boss

GENEVA (Reuters) – The situation in Ethiopia is “worrying and volatile” as fighting in the Tigray region continues amid reports of ethnic profiling of Tigrayans including in Addis Ababa, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said on Wednesday.

“We have reports that particularly areas surrounding towns like Mekelle, Sherero, Axum, Abiy Addi, and the borders between the Amhara and Tigray regions, fighting continues between federal forces and the TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front), and affiliated militias on both sides,” Bachelet told a news conference in Geneva.

“There is an urgent need for independent monitoring of the human rights situation in the Tigray region, all necessary measures to protect civilians, and accountability for violations.”

Reuters has been unable to verify claims by either side in the conflict since phone and internet connections to the Tigray region are down and access to the area is strictly controlled.


Source: CNN

CNN uncovers reality for refugees on the Ethiopia-Sudan border

CNN hears testimony from refugees at the Sudan-Ethiopia border, all of whom say they were targeted because of their Tigray ethnicity. CNN also heard from a member of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front that the majority of the forces operating in Ethiopia’s Tigray region are from Eritrea, suggesting that one of the international community’s biggest fears – regional contagion – is already happening. CNN’s Nima Elbagir reports.