Court gavel
27 March 2020

The door to justice has finally opened for Eritrean refugees who say they were subjected to inhumane treatment while working at a Canadian mine in their home country.

Eritrean refugees have found rare hope in a Canadian Supreme Court ruling allowing them to continue with a lawsuit against a Canadian mining company allegedly complicit in human rights abuses and forced labour in Eritrea.

"It was hard for me to believe at first," said Abraham, 32, an Eritrean refugee who requested to use a pseudonym to protect his identity. "I felt so happy when I heard the news."

Abraham is one of numerous Eritreans who are suing Nevsun Resources Ltd, a Canadian mining company based in British Columbia. It operates the Bisha zinc-copper mine in Eritrea, located about 150km from the capital Asmara.

The plaintiffs and their team of Canadian lawyers allege that Nevsun engaged two companies that deployed forced labour to construct the mine's infrastructure and facilities. These companies, they claim, were connected to the government and military in Eritrea and workers faced inhumane and cruel conditions while working on the site.

Nevsun had attempted to convince the courts to dismiss the lawsuit, which was initially filed in 2014 by three Eritrean men who had worked at the mine. But in February 2020, Canada's Supreme Court ruled that the lawsuit against Nevsun, in which it is accused of being complicit in crimes against humanity, slavery, forced labour and torture, can go forward to trial. The plaintiffs are demanding financial compensation from the company.

Joe Fiorante, a lawyer from the Vancouver-based firm Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman (CFM), which is part of the legal team, says the court's decision is "historic" and marks the first time a Canadian court has ruled that a corporation can be taken to trial over allegations of violating customary international law.

"It's a significant precedent that opens a path to a Canadian courthouse for any victims of human rights abuses in which a Canadian mining company was complicit," he said.

"It still doesn't feel real," said Abraham, who was forced to work at the Bisha mine for four years. "I used to believe that there was no justice in this world. But, after waiting for a very long time, justice is slowly coming and I feel really, really happy."

Forced labour

Nevsun operated the Bisha mine through its Eritrean subsidiary, the Bisha Share Mining Company (BMSC), after being granted a mining permit in 2008. Sixty percent of BMSC was owned by Nevsun and the Eritrean government owned 40% through the state-owned Eritrean National Mining Corporation (Enamco).

According to a 2013 Human Rights Watch report, Nevsun used Senet, a South African construction and engineering company, as its main contractor for the Bisha mining project. It was the first modern mining project in Eritrea and continues to mine copper, gold, silver and zinc. In 2018, Nevsun sold the project to the Zijin Mining Group, a Chinese company.

Nevsun and Senet contracted the Segen Construction Company to "build roads, staff housing and other secondary infrastructure" at the site, Human Rights Watch noted. Segen is owned by the People's Front for Democracy and Justice, Eritrea's ruling and only political party.

Nevsun had stated that the Eritrean government gave it no choice in the matter and it was "required" to engage Segen. At the time, Human Rights Watch found there was evidence that Segen "regularly exploits" Eritreans forced into serving in the country's national conscription programme, which the UN has called "enslavement".

While Eritrea's compulsory national service programme legally lasts 18 months, in reality many conscripts spend most of their working lives in the service and receive little pay. Conscripts who are caught attempting to escape their service "face imprisonment, torture, and other forms of human rights abuse", Human Rights Watch has stated.

Eritrea's national service is the nucleus of the country's oppressive system of control. Independent media is banned and dissent is met with imprisonment, torture and enforced disappearances. Hundreds of Eritreans risk their lives to flee the country each month. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 15% of the population has fled over the past two decades.

Despite these wide-scale human rights abuses, several small mining firms such as Nevsun have accepted mining and exploration licenses in Eritrea. Human Rights Watch warned several years ago that owing to the fact that conscripts are forced to work for companies owned or controlled by the government or military, "foreign investors in Eritrea's burgeoning minerals sector risk complicity in the system of coercion and abuse that the national service programme has become".

Laetitia Bader, a senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, tells New Frame that her organisation's research had found "strong evidence" that a "significant portion" of the workforce at the Bisha mine were national service conscripts. According to Fiorante, Mereb Construction Company, owned by the Eritrean military, was brought into the project fold in 2009; the company also allegedly uses national conscripts on its projects.

Fiorante says since the case was filed, 50 more Eritreans have come forward and filed companion cases against Nevsun, alleging they too were forced to work at the mine as part of their national service.

'We were treated like animals'

Abraham, who worked at Bisha as a conscript from 2010 until 2014, described a nightmarish scene for New Frame. "It was a horrible life," he said. "We were always hungry and thirsty. We got very skinny. We were eating expired food and we had to drink dirty water."

Abraham says he was paid the equivalent of just $15 (about R260) a month and was forced to work long hours in temperatures that reached as high as 50℃. "We didn't get proper medicine and weren't provided protective equipment," he told New Frame. "We suffered a lot from illnesses like malaria, diarrhoea and skin and eye irritations. Our supervisors would only provide us basic pain medicine."

Conscripts claim they were forced to build the infrastructure, toilets and housing for the Canadian and South African workers at the site, whereas they were made to sleep on the ground outside, without a mattress. Abraham says armed Eritrean soldiers surrounded the mining area, ensuring that no conscript could escape.

"We were treated like animals," Abraham said. His voice paused for several moments as he repeatedly slapped his hand on his thigh, indicating his rising frustrations. "It was very difficult. There was no justice. I really don't like to remember it."

Six years later, Abraham still suffers from health complications owing to the working conditions at the mine, including issues with his eyesight from being forced to work under the sun for hours every day. He also continues to suffer from haemorrhoids due to stress and a prolonged low-fibre diet.

Included in the Human Rights Watch report are details from interviews with two former national conscripts who had worked at the mine and later fled the country. One of them had been kept in national service for 13 years. They told the rights group that those who tried to leave the mining area were "severely punished".

Abraham alleges that the Canadian and South African workers at the site, who were employed as managers, engineers and supervisors, among other positions, were aware of the use of national conscripts and took part in abuses. "They treated us very badly. They were always shouting at us and demanding that we work faster," he said.

He stopped and took a deep breath before continuing: "It was very bad. They knew we were conscripts, but they kept silent and ignored it because they were there for their business and they knew we had no way of standing up for ourselves. Those white people, they cared only about their business. They didn't care about us at all."

Nevsun released a statement following the Supreme Court ruling in which the company wrote that it "denies the allegations made by all of the plaintiffs and intends to vigorously defend itself in court".

'Always fear for your life'

Sunridge Gold, another Canadian company, operated the Asmara Mining Share Company, partnering with Enamco, the state-run company, to mine precious metals in Eritrea.

When New Frame asked the company for comment, a former employee said it had been sold to a state-owned Chinese company several years ago and dissolved itself as a corporation. "It is no longer relevant to your article and there is no one able to speak for this corporation that no longer exists," the individual said.

Australia's South Boulder Mines still operates a mine in Eritrea; in 2015 the firm changed its name to Danakali Ltd. It operates the Colluli project, which mines potash in the Danakil Depression region. Colluli is a joint venture that is 50% owned by Danakali and 50% by Enamco. New Frame also asked Danakali for comment but did not receive a response.

Thus far, Fiorante says, he has not encountered conscripts who had worked at the Sunridge or Danakali sites. "But that doesn't mean that with the attention this case is getting now that people won't come forward and find us," he said. "The challenge in this case is that in order for the victims to seek justice they would have to flee Eritrea, and only then might they be in a position to come forward with a case."

But, he added, "I think they [Sunridge and Danakali] should be concerned about this precedent."

Elizabeth Chyrum, a United Kingdom-born Eritrean activist and founder of Human Rights Concern Eritrea, which had helped refugees to connect with the Canadian lawyers, says that while the court's decision is important for all vulnerable individuals who have been abused by Canadian mining companies abroad, it has provided a rare feeling of hope for Eritreans in the diaspora.

"For people who have no legal avenues to get justice and have been denied basic human rights for their whole lives, this is a major accomplishment," she said.

Another plaintiff, who resides in Europe, was too fearful to speak to New Frame, even when assured his identity would be hidden. Eritrean activists are often targeted by the government and pro-regime supporters for their activities abroad, and some have been threatened, harassed and assaulted.

Although Abraham, who fled Eritrea in 2014 and now lives elsewhere in Africa, is clearly concerned for his personal safety, even requesting that New Frame deletes the WhatsApp chat and his number following the interview, he is pushing past his fears in hopes of obtaining justice.

"To be an Eritrean means that you always fear for your life," Abraham said. "But the truth cannot hide forever. It will eventually come out. Even if we have to wait for a long time, we hope that we will be compensated because we deserve justice, just like everyone else."

Source=https://allafrica.com/stories/202003270595.html

Jamal Khashoggi
 
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is seen in Istanbul, Turkey on May 6, 2018.
Omar Shagaleh—Anadolu Agency/Getty
 
March 25, 2020 5:45 AM EDT

(ANKARA, Turkey) — Turkish prosecutors have filed an indictment against 20 Saudi nationals over the 2018 killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, Turkish media reports said Wednesday.

The private DHA news agency said the Istanbul chief prosecutor’s office completed its investigation into the killing and charged 18 Saudi nationals with “deliberate murder” and two others with instigating murder. Other details of the indictment were not immediately available.

All suspects in the killing have left Turkey and Saudi Arabia has put 11 people on trial over the murder.

Khashoggi’s grisly slaying by Saudi agents in the kingdom’s Consulate in Istanbul drew international condemnation and cast a cloud of suspicion over Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

 
Khashoggi, who was a resident of the U.S., had walked into his country’s consulate on Oct. 2, 2018, for an appointment to pick up documents that would allow him to marry. He never walked out, and his body has not been found.
 
Source=https://time.com/5809525/turkey-jamal-khashoggi-indictment/

March 25, 2020 Ethiopia, News

Source: Lord Alton

Telephone Meeting With Mr. Julian Reilly, United Kingdom Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea. Take action to help the 18,000 Hitsats refugees threatened by removal and by exposure to Coronavirus.

Julian Reilly1

During a Telephone Meeting this morning with Mr. Julian Reilly, United Kingdom Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea – also attended by telephone link by the Earl of Sandwich and Harriet Baldwin MP –  I raised the plight of 18,000 Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia who are being removed from the refugee camp at Hitsats.

Their displacement is not only in breach of World Health Organisation guidelines about the danger of spreading Coronavirus it also compromises Ethiopia’s duties towards vulnerable refugees. 

You can help by sending and sharing the open letter, organised by Eritrea Focus,  to the Ethiopian Government (see the link below).

During the meeting, Mr.Reilly discussed the challenge posed by Coronavirus to the region, the importance of ending conflict and promoting sustainable development, the damage to crops from locusts, planned elections, the role of other countries within the Region, the challenges posed by dam construction, and the  reconciliation initiatives between Eritrea and Ethiopia and within South Sudan.  

Ethiopia: Open Letter On Closing Refugee Camps For 18,000 Eritreans 

18,000 Eritrean refugees imminently at risk because the Ethiopian Government has ceased to apply, as of right, refugee status to Eritreans. The Hitsats refugee camp, holding 18,000 Eritrean refugees, is to be closed and refugees relocated to a camp that has no infrastructure and is already overcrowded.

Exposure to Coronavirus

We are sharing this open letter to the President of Ethiopia

urging the Ethiopian Government to reconsider its plans for this relocation of Hitsats refugees since we believe that such a move will be contrary to the WHO guidelines and efforts to contain the spread of the Coronavirus virus and will expose both refugees and host populations to unnecessary risk of contagion.

We encourage you to share this letter as widely as possible, distribute it via your networks and encourage institutions, MPs, and leaders to take this matter up and help us advocate to protect the refugees.

click on this link for the letter:

Open Letter to the Ethiopian Government

Please share and act!

For more information and news see here

Thank you.  https://eritrea-focus.org/ 

‘If I could, I’d go home to Eritrea tomorrow’

Two Eritrean boys stand outside a church in south Tel Aviv (source: PRI)
Two Eritrean boys stand outside a church in south Tel Aviv (source: PRI)

In the past fifteen years, tens of thousands of Africans, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, have crossed into Israel. The majority of these people now live in south Tel Aviv.

Shapira, a traditionally blue-collar area, is one of the neighbourhoods they have ended up in. Hipsters have also begun to move into the area, complete with fixie bikes and yoga lessons. These newcomers have come into conflict with Shapira’s original inhabitants, most of whom are religious Jews from Uzbekistan, Turkey and Greece.

During the past twelve months, I interviewed people in Shapira to see how they wound up there and what they think of the things happening in the neighbourhood. Here’s what one man had to say.

Pizza dude, 29

How did I arrive in Shapira? I’m from Eritrea, you understand? Is your mic working ok? You can hear me?

Good. So, how did I arrive to to Shapira from Eritrea? Great question. I was in the army. From the age of thirteen, I was in the army. Yes, thirteen years-old. I was in a special part of the military, learning to be a fighter, a commando. I studied that for five years. 

In the army in Eritrea, there is no end. You are there and there is no end. All your life is in the army. So, I studied to be a soldier for five years in the army. I did everything that I was able to do, learnt everything that I was able to learn. I learnt how to be a commando, a fighter, all those sorts of things. 

I looked at my life, how I’d grown and how I was progressing. All my life was in the army, I hadn’t seen my parents, I hadn’t seen my family. I wanted to progress in my life. So I ran away from the army, escaped Eritrea and came to Israel.

The way that I escaped….I escaped in a way that wasn’t legal. Why? I escaped with my gun, with everything to Sudan. I went through Sudan to Egypt and from Egypt I came to Israel. So now I live here. I escaped when I was eighteen from Eritrea. I arrived in Israel a long time, in 2007. I can’t go back now to Eritrea. It wasn’t legal, you understand? I had my gun and all my stuff with me when I escaped. Here too, you don’t get what you need. Eritreans suffer in life.

How did I get here to Shapira in particular? Great question. When I arrived in Israel, first of all, I was in a prison in the desert, near to Beersheva. Then they brought us to a bus and gave us a ticket to the Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv. So you look around in this neighbourhood, you find a place to live and things like that. I lived here in this neighbourhood for 10 years already. 

I still don’t have anything [after 10 years]. In my life, I don’t have anything, you understand? This restaurant? No, it’s not mine. It’s someone else’s – it’s my cousin’s. The guy that owns the building, he’s a Sudanese man that got citizenship here. I don’t have citizenship or a residency permit. 

Listen, I’m not complaining about this neighbourhood. Everything is good here. Good people, everything’s ok. There are some racists that ask you questions. But what to do? We are suffering. 

You are wrong about there being conflicts between us and the Sudanese. You’re mistaken. There are problems between Eritreans and Eritreans. There are those against the [Eritrean] government. There are those that support the government. I hate the government. What good is there? It’s a dictatorship. 

Of course I miss Eritrea. If I could, I would go there right now. Today. No, I don’t prefer to live here. What is it to live here? It’s not better to live here. I don’t speak the language of the Jews, you understand? I speak the language but I don’t understand them, you understand? Everyone should be in the country that’s good for him. If the government in Eritrea changes, tomorrow morning I’ll go back there. 

What’s good in Israel? What’s better than Eritrea? Here there are democrats, there is democracy. You can say what you want. That’s what’s good in Israel. But it’s not my democracy, it’s for the Jewish people. Democracy here is for for the Jews, it’s not for us. We came to Israel, we applied for asylum but Israel doesn’t want to agree to that. Why? Because everyone here makes money. I’m here every day and it costs me money. Why? Because Israel takes a percentage of our money.

I have no problem with anyone. I have friends that are Arabs, that are Jews. There are some racists that hate blacks. There’s also racism from Arabs that don’t like blacks. But there are people here from every background. Ashkenazi, Yemenites, Mizrahim, Eritreans, Sudanese, Filipino – they all live here in Shapira. Why? Because life here is simple. I can’t live in a flat in Allenby [a street in central Tel Aviv], you understand? I can’t live in north Tel Aviv. I don’t have the money to pay 8,000 shekels a month in rent. Here, I can rent a room for 3,000 shekels. One room, it’s not good. But that’s why I live in this area.

Source=https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/if-i-could-id-go-home-to-eritrea-tomorrow/

Mar 22, 2020, 9:44 PM

African asylum seekers who had been detained at Saharonim prison, southern Israel, due to their refusal to leave Israel to a third country, seen being released from the prison. High Court ruled there is  no legal justification to keep them in detention. April 15, 2018. Photo by Hadas Parush/FLASH90 *** Local Caption *** îá÷ùé î÷ìè
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African asylum seekers leaving the Saharonim prison in southern Israel (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

In the past 15 years, tens of thousands of Africans, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, have crossed into Israel. The majority of these people now live in south Tel Aviv.

Shapira, a traditionally blue-collar area, is one of the neighbourhoods they have ended up in. Hipsters have also begun to move into the area, complete with fixie bikes and yoga lessons. These newcomers have come into conflict with Shapira’s original inhabitants, most of whom are religious Jews from Uzbekistan, Turkey and Greece.

During the past twelve months, I interviewed people in Shapira to see how they wound up there and what they think of the things happening in the neighbourhood. Here’s what one guy had to say.

A, 31 years-old

I left my house, my mum, my dad, when I was 14 years-old to join the army. But in the army in Eritrea, you don’t know when it’s going to end. There is no end. You can’t see your family, nothing. In Eritrea, there is no freedom. All the time, you are in the army. I was in the army in Eritrea for 8 years. Yes, eight years. It was enough. One day, after I had been with them for a year and three months, I came home on break and I decided to leave Eritrea. It was 2007 and that was it. 

I left and I went to Sudan and then to Libya. I was in Libya for three years and four months. I wanted to go to Europe but the way via the sea was closed. So I went to Egypt and then to Israel. Now, I’ve been in Israel for eight years. I came here in 2011.

When we came across the border, the Israeli army accepted us and gave us some food and water. After that, there are three places that I went to. The first place, I stayed there for only two days. The next place is a place called ‘Holot’ – in the desert – I was there for three months. After that, they give you a visa and you leave. I have a visa for two months, so I have to renew it every two months. All the Eritreans, they don’t have anything, no visa.

Shapira is a good place. There are lots of Eritreans here, so I have a lot of friends here. But I didn’t come here because of that. There was a problem with my house down the road, the landlord was raising the rent and making problems. So, I asked people in Shapira if there’s a flat near to here. And that’s it, that’s why I’m here.

I like living in Israel, but life here is a little hard. All the time, they are cursing Eritrea – and I’m Eritrean. All the time talking about Eritreans in a bad way. So that’s hard. 

There are Muslims and Christians from Eritrea here. We eat together, sit together. We’re friends. There are no problems, we just don’t marry. That’s it. The Sudanese, I don’t know them. I know them like I know you, just people in the street, that’s it. Yes, I also heard that there are problems between the Eritreans and Sudanese here in Israel but I didn’t see that.

Are there Eritreans in Israel that support the Eritrean government? No, just liars and cowards. There are people here that send money home to Eritrea. So the government there knows who is here and where their family is. So they tell them in some way, if you speak badly about the government in Israel, we’ll kill your family here in Eritrea. That’s it. So you hear people say this and that, it’s lies. It’s because they are afraid.

I don’t miss Eritrea because there is nothing there. If I can, I will continue to somewhere new, Europe or some place. There are a lot of Eritreans that moved to Canada. But if I go back to Africa, there will be a problem. Someone might kill me. Yes, if the government changes, I’ll go back. What do I have here? Nothing. No family, no parents. Here, you just go to work, come back, go to work, come back. That’s it. If you don’t do that, no one is going to help. You’ll have no home, no nothing. 

But there are some things here that are good. Here you can say what you like about the government and nothing will happen. In Eritrea, you aren’t able to do that.

Source=https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/in-eritrea-theres-no-freedom-only-the-army/

March 23, 2020 Ethiopia, News

Screenshot 2020-03-04 at 18.04.38

To:       H. E Dr Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia

Cc:        Director General ARRA

            Ethiopian Minister of Health

             African Union

             IGAD

             Resident Representative UNHCR – Ethiopia

             Delegation European Union to Ethiopia

             All Party Parliamentary Group (UK)

             Foreign & Commonwealth Offices (FCO)

             USA State Department

 Open Letter on the Closure of Hitsats Eritrean Refugee Camp in Ethiopia

We, appreciate and encourage your Government’s efforts towards forging lasting peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea. In particular we are thankful that Ethiopia has accepted and supported so many Eritrean Refugees and that, under your leadership, this welcome has continued to date.

We also value your parliament’s, January 2019, legislation that has given refugees the legal right to work, access primary education, obtain a driver’s licence, register births and marriages and open bank accounts. These actions have been significant and have assisted many Eritreans.

However, recent developments in Ethiopia in regard to Eritrean refugees are very concerning. We are troubled, by reports that: (i) your Government has ceased to apply as of right refugee status to Eritreans; (ii) Hitsats refugee camp, holding 18,000 Eritrean refugees, is to be closed; and (iii) refugees will be relocated to a camp that has no infrastructure and is already overcrowded.

Considering the global Coronavirus pandemic, we strongly urge your Government to reconsider plans for the relocations of Hitsats refugees to a location that is overcrowded and has no infrastructure. We believe that such move will be contrary to the WHO drive to contain the spreading of the virus and will expose both refugees and host populations to unnecessary risk of contagion.

We encourage your Government to continue to adhere to International and National norms and standards for the protection of Eritrean refugees and to cease actions to close Hitsas camp.

Eritrean refugees are fleeing a human right abuse situation in their country that the UN Commission of Inquiry as to Human Rights in Eritrea has described as ‘Crimes against humanity’. After a thorough examination of the situation in Eritrea, in 2016, the UN Commission found that in Eritrea there are:

“…. reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in Eritrea since 1991. Eritrean officials have engaged in a persistent, widespread and systematic attack against the country’s civilian population since 1991. They have committed, and continue to commit, the crimes of enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearance, torture, other inhumane acts, persecution, rape and murder.”

Finally, any changes in the future status of Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia must include the voices of the refugees and must be linked to necessary social and political changes in Eritrea. Therefore, your Government’s ongoing peace dialogue with Eritrea should also address the following issues:

  1. Reform of the National Service. Starting with a freeze on new intakes, the application of the statutory 18 months limit. And, finally decoupling it from education;
  1. The recall of the National Assembly that has not met since 2002. The key institution to further the peace process with Ethiopia;
  1. Peace and reconciliation between the various Eritrea opposition groups including the release of political prisoners;
  1. Implementation of the 1997 Constitution.

If there are no changes within Eritrea, and there are not peace dividends for the people of Eritrea, the youth  will continue  to flee  the country and the best that Ethiopia  will achieve  from the peace process is a higher order  version  of the – “No War , No Peace” that existed  prior to  2018.

While there are no changes within Eritrea, we urge you not to close Hitsats camp and not to transfer refugees to camps that have no infrastructure and are already overcrowded. We also urge your Government to continue:

  1. accepting Eritrean refugees in as of right;
  1. protecting and safeguarding Eritrean refugees.

Yours Truly

Habte Hagos

Chairman

In Solidarity – Open Letter on Closure of Hitsats Eritrean Refugee Camp in Ethiopia

 

Organisation

Logo

1.     African Monitors

Africa Monitors

2.     Eritrea Diaspora in East Africa (EDEA)

Picture 2Eritrean Diaspora in East Africa (EDEA)

3.     Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR)

Picture 3Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR)

4.     Forum Human Rights For Eritreans

Picture 5Foundation Human Rights for Eritreans

In Solidarity – Open Letter on Closure of Hitsats Eritrean Refugee Camp in Ethiopia

5.     Horn of Africa Forum For Civil Society

Picture 6Horn of Africa Civil Society Forum

6.     Network for Eritrean Women

Picture 4Network of Eritrean Women

 

Putting the spotlight on defending the sovereignty of Eritrea By PetrosTesfagiorgis First let me congratulate the brotherly/sisterly people of Tigray and their vanguard TPLF for celebrating the 45 years anniversary of the beginning of their armed

Putting the spotlight on defending the sovereignty of Eritrea

By PetrosTesfagiorgis

First let me congratulate the brotherly/sisterly people of Tigray and their vanguard TPLF for celebrating the 45 years anniversary of the beginning of their armed struggle.  The TPLF defeated  the military Junta (the Dergue)  led by of Colonel Mengustu Hailemariam and brought to an ended the Ethiopian feudal Empire that was built on the total power of the Amhara ruling class over other nationalities.  This victory heralded a new era of self-rule and equality to the oppressed nationalities in Ethiopia. Although other liberation movements such as EPRP, OLF, Sidama Liberation Front, the Ogaden National Liberation Front, Hailu Fida’s MEISON and the Eritrean Liberation Front  contributed a lot to the downfall of the Dergue, it was the combined military offensive of EPLF and TPLF that finally defeated the heavily armed regime in Ethiopia.

As I started to write my article I listened to interviews by Haregu Keleta of ERENA with some Eritreans regarding the speech Dr Debrezion gave during the celebration of their 45 years anniversary.  Dr Debrezion expressed, not for the first time, his unreserved welcome to the Eritrean refugees in Tigray. This time he mentioned the Eritrean army saying “this is your home.”    One commentator said this statement is a call to the Eritrean army to surrender. He expressed that the TPLF has an evil design on Eritrea. His narrative can be taken that Tigray is no friend of the people of Eritrea. All these nonsense talk is out of context. The reality on the ground is different. We should not cheat ourselves; members of the Eritreans army do cross the border to Ethiopia and the Sudan as refugees. And to this day they continue to do so. They don’t need Dr Debresion to tell them to come to Ethiopia. It is an insult to their intelligence.  They are just running away from a brutal regime.

We have some Eritreans suffering from a sense of loss and fail to acknowledge the help the Tigreans are rendering to the Eritrean refugees. In their time of darkness they treat them with kindness.  But the show is polluted by bad language against TPLF/Tigray. This remark is unnecessary and is offending   Eritreans living in the border areas with Tigray.  The world has watched when both Eritreans and Tigreans   expressed their joy and happiness as they warmly greet each other when the border was opened after 20 years. Although it was for a short time only, Eritreans have benefitted from buying commodities at a much cheaper price to that in Eritrea. Witnessing this rendezvous the Just seekers in Diaspora who are talking from their comfort zone should realize that the Eritreans living in the border area have much greater stake in peace more than the rest of us. And they will oppose such anti-peace statements. A group of people from Senafe area did that on the social media. In addition peace and friendship between the two neighborly people could be a bridge for peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia in total. In building peace it is the language of peace that must prevail.

On the other hand in the interview there were rational voices such as that of Elen Tesfagiorgis from Yiakle Washington and Temesgen Kahsai – who took the words of Dr Debretzion as genuine.   Temesgen Kahsai is a mature nationalist journalist by any standard and has shown competence in assessing the present situation. On the other hand, it is an advantage for Tigray to be friends with Eritrea. They don’t want to be encircled by PFDJ.  People speculate that the recent visit of Dr Abiy and the Minister of Defense Lemma Megersa to Asmara was about Tigray.  TPLF has become an obstacle to replace the Federal system by Prosperity party the brain child of Dr Abiy Ahmed. It is therefore a question of mutual survival.

Genuine cordial relationship between Sovereign Eritrea and Tigray region of Ethiopia would contribute to the stability of Ethiopia. It is a bridge to   reach to the rest of Ethiopia. (More on part 2).

In this moment in time putting the spotlight on defending the sovereignty of Eritrea is the priority.

As the geopolitics of the horn changes, we Eritreans must move with it harnessing our energies and ways of thinking to ensure the sovereignty of Eritrea. Isaias is working in slow motion to give away Eritrea to Dr Abiy Ahmed’s Ethiopia. The people of Eritrea did not get peace divided. Eritrean prisoners of conscience are not released, indefinite national service, slave labor and other forms of human rights violations continue unabated. On the contrary Isaias and Abiy have become allies in the unholy mission to kill the Eritrean sovereignty and to crash the TPLF. The TPLF is spearheading the fight to defend the federal system.  In his address to the people of Eritrea on 7/02/20 Isaias declared he will support   Dr Abiy in his bid to abolish the federal system? This is a betrayal of the revolution in Ethiopia championed by the Haile Sellasie University progressive students union in Addis Ababa in the end of 60th and early 70th. The revolution was anti-imperialism, anti colonialism and anti-feudalism. Feudalism is the system that perpetuates oppression of nationalities in Ethiopia. This gave rise to the right of self-determination including secession.  That is why Oromo professionals mostly doctors sent strongly worded letter condemning Isaias talk against the Federal System.  Many Ethiopian social media have spoken out against Isaias and also have broken their silence of the gross human rights violations in Eritrea. The outspoken politician Ledetu Ayalew   and Jewar Mohammed – who runs the powerful Oromia Media Network (OMN) that played a leading role in the Oromo youth (Kero) uprising were among many political analysts who condemned Isaias and reminded him to take his hands off TPLF.  Ledetu said unequivocally the case of TPLF is an Ethiopian case and not Eritrea. Isaias is reckless who can go to war easily. For him the life of the people of Eritrea does not matter.

We Eritreans need peace more than any others because it is the lack of peace or the excuse of it that is ruining our country and destroying the fabric of the Eritrean society.  Peace does not come by itself we have to build brick by brick. We should not live in the past. Peace is about forgiveness and reconciliation. However we have to express our kind of peace that honors our sovereignty and protects the wellbeing of the people of Eritrea.  We are becoming too reactive to what has been said about Eritrea by Ethiopians.   We have to be pro-active and put on the table our terms of peace clearly. One of the terms is to honor the sovereignty of Eritrea.  This is the responsibility of organized bodies representing the justice seekers.  In this case professional people or   Think Tank bodies can be assigned to package the terms in a professional way.

In this extremely challenging period we need an ally and it is the TPLF. In spite of the avoidable Ethio-Eritrean destructive war of 1998 and the deportation of thousands of Eritreans from Ethiopia, the TPLF has never doubted the sovereignty of Eritrea.  And we know if Abiy and Isaias managed to defeat the TPLF then the Eritrean sovereignty will be at risk. Tamrat Negara said “we have to thank Isaias for making Eritrea weak” It is easy to invade Eritrea today; you can do it as you brush your teeth”. General Tzadkan said “it is a matter of time before the Port of Assab is owned by Ethiopia”.   This is not a mere wishful thinking, many Ethiopians wanted it badly. However, we have to differentiate between independent individuals and   Government spokespeople.

In conclusion let me express my Congratulations to the Eritrean Women in London celebrating the international women day. It brings back the fighting spirit of women during the long years of armed struggle.   It is profoundly   inspirational and successful. Women are ethically sensitive less likely to be corrupt. Once they rise up they could do wonders they are the nucleus of the Eritrean society.

The End:  Laluta continua.

Source=https://assenna.com/putting-the-spotlight-on-defending-the-sovereignty-of-eritrea/

  • 12 March 2020

People gather for the rally of Ethiopia's new Prime Minister in Ambo, about 120km west of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on April 11, 2018 Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption Abiy Ahmed drew a huge crowd when he visited Ambo city in his first week in office

Under Ethiopian Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiy Ahmed, the city of Ambo has turned from being a symbol of freedom into a symbol of repression, as the security forces try to curb the growth of ethnically inspired rebel and opposition groups that threaten his "coming together" vision.

Ambo, which has a large student population because of its university, was at the centre of mass protests that saw Mr Abiy rise to power in April 2018 with a promise to end decades of authoritarian rule in a nation with more than 100 million people belonging to at least 80 ethnic groups.

Getty Images
Ambo is where we are going to build the statue of our liberty, our New York"
Abiy Ahmed
Ethiopia's prime minister
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Most of Ambo's residents are Oromos - and the protests were largely driven by anger that despite being Ethiopia's largest ethnic group, they were marginalised from political and economic power, with no Oromo ever serving as prime minister.

Acknowledging Ambo's role in bringing about change during a visit to the city within days of becoming the first Oromo to hold the prime minister's post, Mr Abiy said: "Ambo is where we are going to build the statue of our liberty, our New York."

At a fund-raising event in February 2019, the prime minister sold his watch for 5m birr (about $155,000, £120,000) to kick-start development in the city.

It was a further indication of the huge political significance he attached to Ambo, traditionally regarded as a stronghold of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a former rebel group which laid down arms following peace talks with Mr Abiy.

People fill the road after the rally of Ethiopia's new Prime Minister in Ambo, about 120km west of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on April 11, 2018 Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption Students were at the forefront of demands for change

But a year later, there are few signs of development in Ambo, which is about 100km (60 miles) west of the capital Addis Ababa. Instead, residents are once again complaining of a return of police brutality, with young men being randomly beaten up or detained as they go about their daily lives.

'I was lucky'

I witnessed some of this during a visit to Ambo.

In one instance about six policemen forced two young men to kneel in front of pedestrians, before kicking them and hitting them with sticks.

In another instance, two young men were forcibly taken to a police station. Their elbows were tied behind their backs. One of them pleaded, in vain, with the officers to untie him.

No-one dared to intervene for fear that the police would assault them too.

Bekele
BBC
I saw policemen walk around with scissors, giving haircuts to young men perceived to have long hair or afros"
Bekele Atoma
BBC journalist
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The policemen were from the regional force - and their numbers were swelled last Sunday when hundreds more graduated, raising fears that the crackdown will intensify ahead of the general election slated for August. That is the first time that Mr Abiy will face the voters since the ruling coalition chose him as prime minister to order to quell the nationwide protests.

I also saw policemen walking around Ambo with scissors, giving haircuts on the spot to young men whom they perceive to have long hair or afros.

They considered my hair to be an afro but I was lucky - they let me off with a warning to chop it off myself, which I did not do as I was going to leave Ambo in two days' time.

'I was unable to access the internet'

Police just assume that men with such looks are troublemakers and supporters of rebel leader Kumsa Diriba, who they see as a major threat to western Oromia's stability and Mr Abiy's vision of forcing a new sense of national unity, known as "coming together" .

Kumsaa Diriba Image copyrightSocial mediaImage caption Rebel commander Kumsa Diriba refuses to make peace with the government

Having spurned Mr Abiy's peace overtures in 2018, Mr Kumsa, who is also known as Jaal Maro, is continuing to push for the "liberation" of Oromia from his forest hideout in the remote west.

He split from the OLF, the biggest Oromo rebel group, after it decided to turn into a political party, taking with him an unspecified number of fighters under his command.

The government suspects that Mr Kumsa's rebels have infiltrated Ambo, and were responsible for the bomb blast at a pro-Abiy rally held last month to show that the prime minister still commands significant support in the city.

The rebels, via their supporters and anonymous accounts, have also been slowly gaining a profile on social media in an attempt to raise discontent against the government, especially through the circulation of the names of victims of alleged brutality by the security forces.

The government's attempt to keep a lid on dissent has led to frequent internet shutdowns in much of western Oromia since January, and in some areas people cannot even make or receive phone calls. This is despite the fact that Mr Abiy has promised to liberalise the telecom sector and end the monopoly of state-owned Ethio Telecom.

Presentational grey line

Read more about Ethiopia:

Presentational grey line

In an interview with BBC Afaan Oromoo, the deputy chief of staff of Ethiopia's Defence Force, Gen Berhanu Jula, hinted that the shutdowns were linked to military operations to dismantle camps under Mr Kumsa's control, while a senior official of Mr Abiy's newly formed Prosperity Party (PP), Taye Dendea, denied that innocent people were victims of the security force operation.

"The government has no reason to target civilians, we care about our people more than anyone else," Mr Taye told BBC Afaan Oromoo.

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In Ambo, I was unable to access the internet over my mobile phone throughout my three-week stay. On the two occasions I went to an internet cafe, it had poor broadband connection and I had to wait for a long time before I could check my emails and social media accounts.

Residents suspect that apart from government concerns about the rebels, the shutdowns are intended to limit political campaigning and starve young people of news ahead of the general election.

Residents point out that Jawar Mohammed - who is probably the most prominent and controversial Ethiopian social media activist - is now also making life difficult for the prime minister.

Jawar Mohammed (C), a member of the Oromo ethnic group who has been a public critic of Abiy, addresses supporters that had gathered outside his home in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa after he accused security forces of trying to orchestrate an attack against him October 24, 2019 Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption Social media activist Jawar Mohammed has joined an opposition party

When exiled in the US, Mr Jawar used Facebook effectively to get Oromos on to the streets to rise against the former government.

Having returned to Ethiopia after Mr Abiy took power, he briefly became a supporter of the prime minister but is now a fierce opponent.

Nobel laureate booed

Mr Jawar put out a video on Facebook soon after Mr Abiy was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October, accusing the government of trying to remove his guards from his home in Addis Ababa as part of a ploy to orchestrate an attack on him.

Despite government denials of any such plan, Mr Jawar's supporters staged protests against Mr Abiy in parts of Oromia - in one instance, burning copies of the prime minister's newly published book, which outlines his "coming together" vision.

When Mr Abiy subsequently visited Ambo for a meeting with selected guests in a hotel, pro-Jawar youths staged a protest and booed the prime minister, who had been awarded the Nobel prize for his "decisive initiative" to end the border conflict with Eritrea, and for the "important reforms" he had initiated in Ethiopia with a pledge to "strengthen democracy".

Abiy Ahmed
Getty Images
Key facts: Abiy Ahmed
  • Bornto a Muslim father and a Christian mother on 15 August 1976

  • Joinedthe armed struggle against the Marxist Derg regime in 1990

  • Served as a UN peacekeeper in Rwanda in 1995

  • Enteredpolitics in 2010

  • Becameprime minister in 2018

  • Wonthe Nobel Peace Prize in 2019

Source: BBC
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Mr Jawar has joined the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), which has formed an alliance with the OLF and the Oromo National Party (ONP) to contest the election on what is expected to be a strong ethno-nationalist ticket.

In Oromia, it is likely to pose the biggest electoral challenge to Mr Abiy's PP, which was launched in December after a merger of eight of the nine regional parties which make up Ethiopia's ruling coalition.

Mr Abiy hopes that the PP will foster national unity and keep ethnic nationalism in check.

Chart showing the ethnic make-up of Ethiopia

But he has taken a huge risk as the mass protests that propelled him to power were not just about political freedom - but also about the right of each group to express their ethnic identities more freely and to have greater autonomy for their regions.

So, as far as ethno-nationalists in Ambo and elsewhere in Oromia are concerned, Mr Abiy has sold out.

Worrying for the Nobel laureate, Defence Minister Lemma Megersa, a fellow Oromo with political clout, also expressed doubts about the PP's formation in November, though party officials say he and Mr Abiy have been ironing out their differences since then.

"The merger is not right and timely, as we are in transition, we are on borrowed time. Dissolving the regional party to which the public entrusted their demands is betraying them," Mr Lemma said at the time.

For Mr Abiy's supporters, he offers the best hope of getting Ethiopia's myriad ethnic groups to work together, and avoid the country's disintegration.

They are confident that he will demonstrate his popularity by leading the PP to victory in the election, though its legitimacy is bound to be questioned if the crackdown in Ambo continues.

Source=https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-51657291

March 16, 2020 News

Source: Arab Weekly

Cairo traditionally dismissed the idea of overseas regional bases owing to political sensitivities but has been investing in a new strategy to bolster its maritime power.
Sunday 15/03/2020
A handout released by the Egyptian Presidency on January 9, 2018, shows Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (C-L) welcoming the Eritrean President (C-R) Isaias Afwerki at the presidential palace in Cairo. (AFP)
A handout released by the Egyptian Presidency on January 9, 2018, shows Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (C-L) welcoming the Eritrean President (C-R) Isaias Afwerki at the presidential palace in Cairo. (AFP)

There have been unconfirmed reports that Egypt may be moving close to an agreement with Eritrea, with which ties have been warming in recent years, to host a new Egyptian naval base on Nora island.

Cairo traditionally dismissed the idea of overseas regional bases owing to political sensitivities but has been investing in a new strategy to bolster its maritime power.

Nora Island Map

The reports suggest an agreement between Cairo and Asmara over an Egyptian deployment to Nora, an island on Dakhla Peninsula off the Eritrean coast. Egypt is believed to have a contingent of forces in Sawa, Eritrea, stationed at an Arab base reportedly secured by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for a 30-year period.

Eritrea’s location at the southern entrance of the Red Sea gives it a growing strategic value. Rising international interest and competition in and around the Red Sea, with the Bab el Mandeb choke point to its south and the Suez Canal to its north, generated a renewed effort by Cairo and Riyadh to coordinate on the region’s maritime security architecture.

In January, Saudi efforts to build a new Red Sea bloc moved forward when representatives from eight countries signed a charter to establish the Council of Arab and African States bordering the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

For Egypt, this development comes as part of a multipronged strategy to restore its influence and take on a greater security role in the region — particularly within the maritime sphere.

Egypt has seen new risks emerge with Yemen’s implosion, instability in Libya and earlier with maritime piracy off the Horn of Africa. Cairo’s policies are being driven by a new military build-up in the wider region that has featured a growing footprint for Iran and Turkey.

Turkey, which in December concluded a maritime border delimitation agreement with Libya, has its largest overseas military base in Somalia and secured a long-term lease for Suakin port from Sudan two years ago. More recently, massive gas finds in the Eastern Mediterranean raised tensions as Ankara lays claim to resources off the coast of Cyprus.

Egypt has agreements with Israel and Cyprus for the supply of natural gas by ship and via pipelines from their offshore fields, which it processes and re-exports from gas liquefaction stations in Idku and Damietta.

Last year, Egypt convened the East Mediterranean Gas Forum with the participation of Jordan, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Israel and the Palestinian territories in a bid to establish regional cooperation for the region’s expanding gas market.

Geological surveys suggesting potential gas reservoirs under the Red Sea’s seabed could signal an added maritime security significance for the basin beyond freedom of navigation.

In response to the region’s evolving security dynamics, Cairo has been investing in a major modernisation of its ageing, largely Soviet-era naval fleet to reassert itself as a true blue-water navy. In 2016, Cairo added two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships to its fleet to serve as command centres for the Egyptian Navy’s newly created North and South fleets.

Cairo added a FREMM multipurpose frigate and is said to be finalising the purchase of two more from Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri. Earlier, it concluded orders for six German-made MEKO A-200 frigates, four Gowind-class corvettes, three of which are to be built in Alexandria, and is awaiting delivery of 20 Falaj 2-class patrol boats.

Egypt has also been developing strategically positioned joint bases in Gargoub, on its north-western coast near the border with Libya, in Ras Banas on its south-eastern coast overlooking the Red Sea and at Port Said, close to the Suez Canal.

Increasing strategic premiums attached to overseas bases could well mean Cairo may soon need to revise its traditional policy on the issue and consider developing a strategic presence that enables extended power projection capability through arrangements with partners such as Eritrea.

Eritrea’s growing alignment with Egypt is, however, causing concerns with Ethiopia and Sudan. Cairo and Addis Ababa have been locked in a dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), the continent’s biggest hydroelectric dam being constructed on the Nile River’s main tributary that could threaten Egypt’s water security.

Sudan, which backs GERD, has had complicated ties with Cairo and an unresolved dispute over the Egyptian-controlled Halayeb Triangle, which is near Egypt’s new Ras Banas base.

On the other hand, Ethiopia has been landlocked and without a coastline since Eritrea seceded from it in 1993 following a violent conflict that has killed more than 80,000.

Ethiopia and Eritrea technically remain at war and last witnessed major clashes in 2016. Having built one of Africa’s most capable air and ground forces, Addis Ababa’s confessed desire to reconstitute a naval capability to protect its interests at sea is giving rise to anxiety in Eritrea.

Sudan and Ethiopia have formed a joint military operation along their border whereas Sudan dispatched thousands of troops to its border with Eritrea in response to Egypt’s reported troop deployment to the country three years ago.

Egypt dismisses any intent to interfere in Ethiopia and Sudan as conspiratorial and “fake news.” Despite resolving key disagreements related to GERD with Ethiopia earlier this year when Washington hosted talks that involved the World Bank, symptoms of mistrust between the African neighbours linger.

As Egypt assumes an enhanced regional maritime security role, its future strategy may well need to feature deeper engagement on military matters with security partners such as Eritrea but it will also have to contend with the same traditional rivalries that opened up space in the region for an international military build-up in the first place.

March 14, 2020 Ethiopia, News

Ethiopia: Closure of Hitsats refugee camp in Tigray region

[Thanks to EEPA for this report]

It has been reported that Ethiopian authorities announced the closure of the Hitsats refugee camp in the Northern Ethiopan Tigray region, which hosts around 18.000 Eritrean migrants, states Ezega.com.

Screenshot 2020-03-14 at 08.33.46

The source writes that refugees have been told to relocate by authorities.

The news has been confirmed by anonymous sources in the camp, who state that refugees are expected to relocate to a camp which is overcrowded and has no infrastructure.

The Ethiopian authorities reportedly cited budget concerns as reason for the closure of the refugee camp, which would leave more than ten thousands of refugees, many of them minors, with an uncertain future.

However, sources suggest that the budget had already been allocated and that the political situation with Eritrea is really motivating the closure.

The refugees are reportedly refusing to leave the camp, and the situation is ongoing as government bodies and the UNHCR are discussing how the situation should be resolved.

Sources:

Closure of Hitsats refugee camp in Ethiopia

Anonymous sources confirmed that the federal government of Ethiopia ordered the closure of Hitsats refugee camp in Tigray province of Ethiopia. All camp refugees have been asked to relocate to another camp which is already overpopulated and does not have a functioning infrastructure. The government justifies the closure as a ‘budget constraint’, however UNHCR argues that the budget for 2020 was already approved and allocated to the Administration for Refugee & Returnee Affairs (ARRA), a governmental agency which has the mandate over refugees in Ethiopia. Hitsats, as the youngest camp in Tigray region, is currently home to more than 10,000 Eritrean refugees.

The new decision has received pushback by refugees who have written a petition to the federal government condemning the order. The closure is therefore delayed as refugees are refusing to leave the camp. Several governmental agencies together with UNHCR are meeting in Addis Ababa to discuss the petition and give their final verdict. Neither refugees nor organisations working in the camp know what will happen next and whether government will use force or another strategy to move people out.

According to a source, the move is linked to the political games that are being played on the regional level since the peace deal between Ethiopia and Eritrea has been signed. On the national level, the regional government of Tigray has promised to support refugees in Hitsats and is ready to oppose the federal government. The Deputy President of Tigray said during a meeting of Tigray People’s Liberation Front party that “no force can close the refugee camps in Tigray region”.

Eritreans flee their country due to continuous oppression of the regime through indefinite national service. Ethiopia has kept its doors opened for Eritrean refugees for several years and Eritreans were granted prima facie refugee status. New asylum policy, however, does not allow newly arrived Eritreans to be registered or given asylum. The number of registered individuals decreased from 250-500 per day to only 30 per day. Those who are denied registration are settling illegally in nearby towns and host communities without any help or support from organisations.  According to analysts the government aims to frustrate the refugees and make conditions difficult for them so that they return back to Eritrea. This will allow the government to close all camps rather than openly sending refugees back which goes against international law.

The current situation brought uncertainty and concerns to the refugee population. According to a source “the situation is a bit tense [in Hitsats]. Refugees are vowing not to leave and openly said they would rather die than to leave the camp”. This adds to already high prevalence of traumatic experiences that refugees have undergone. The lack of clarity, information, and monitoring of the situation is exposing refugees to greater vulnerability. It has been observed that those refugees who have limited information are at high risk to fall in the hands of human traffickers.

Ethiopia to Close Hintsats Refugee Camp in Tigray State

By Staff Reporter

Hintsats-refugee-campMarch 8, 2020 (Ezega.com) — The future for 18,000 Eritrean migrants in Hintsats refugee camp is uncertain as Ethiopian authorities announced the decision to shut down the seven-year-old refugee camp in Tigray region of northern Ethiopia.

The Tigray regional government warned that the refugees will face punishments if they are forced to return to their home country.

The Ethiopian government did not disclose why it has decided to close the camps in Tigray contrary to its international obligations and for which it was praised by world bodies for so long. Observers believe this has to do with regional politics between the governments in Addis Ababa and Asmara and to satisfy demands by the Eritrean regime.

Ezega.com learned that the refugees were told by the Ethiopian Administration for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA) to evacuate in ten days and move to another camp.

The Hintsats refugee camp is located near Shire town of Tigray region. It is one of the six refugee camps, sheltering Eritrean migrants and asylum seekers.

Last year, the government of Ethiopia announced plans to close all 27 refugee camps in the country over the next 10 years and integrate the migrants into local communities.

Ethiopia hosts more than 850,000 refugees from South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Eritrea, and shelters more refugees than all but one African country, Uganda.

Thousands of young Eritrean migrants have been flooding Ethiopia fleeing a combination of political-economic conditions that include general lack of freedom, conscription and poor economy. Reports reveal that Eritrean migrants largely unaccompanied continue to enter Ethiopia’s Mai-Aini and Hintsats refugee camps in journeys full of risks.

The Tigray regional government and UNHCR said they do not know if the camp would be closed during a discussion with representatives of the refugees.

The refugees told local media that the decision on the closure of the refugee camp comes after an agreement was reached between Addis Ababa and Asmara.

The Eritrean government wants to cut flow of Eritrean migrants to Hintsats refugee camp which is located near the Ethio-Eritrean border.

Deputy President of the Tigray regional state Debretsion Gebremichael recently said the central government was conspiring to shut down the Hintsats refugee camp. “No force can close the refugee camps in Tigray region, Deberetsion said during the 45th founding anniversary of TPLF.

Following the July 2018 peace agreement, the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments reopened crossing points on their shared border on September 11. According to the Shire District administration, up to 15 000 Eritreans crossed into Ethiopia, some to visit relatives or to buy goods, and many to stay. The opening of the crossing points however did not stay long – not more than two months.

According to UNHCR, the average daily arrival rate of Eritrean migrants has increased, bringing the total number of Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia to 175 000, a large proportion of whom are unaccompanied minors

Eritrean refugees in the Ethiopian side – Living in an uncertain situation

By the end of 2019, the registered number of Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia is nearly 140,000, refugees who crossed through Tigray and Afar regions. Since PM Abiy Ahmed openly started talking about closing the camps, these refugees are in dilemma now. Its unclear why he said so, at least, my sources don’t know the motive behind the move. But one thing is certain that he is not in good terms with TPLF.

Anyway, out of fear of uncertainty, refugees are moving out of the camps and settling in urban cities. However, a refugee must have a relative to reunify with and address prior leaving the camp. Refugees have to look for someone to give them their phone number and address to give it to the camp management. Ethiopians and Eritreans living in Ethiopia found this as an opportunity to make money, charging them from 2000 to 3000 Birr to release their address info. A lucrative business started already!!

On the other hand, there is a precondition from the camp management that refugees who leave the camp will be deprived their refugee status – will not be recognized by UNHCR as refugees (will be removed from the refugee database). The situation is like choosing between a rock and hard place. Refugees are in hard choice, and that the international community have a responsibility to monitor the situation closely. We should leave no one behind to suffer due to the political unrest waged between the central government and the Tigray Regional Administration, in addition to the PIA’s unsacred gesture to involve himself in helping Dr Abiy against the fight with TPLF. Innocent refugees shouldn’t be victims of whatever Isaias and Dr Abiy are cooking behind the scene to topple TPLF from power.

I call upon UNHCR, Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), and others concerned international institutions to closely follow and monitor the developments in refugee affairs, especially in the Tigray region refugee camps. Refugees close to 90,000 in four camps are in a very uncertain situation.