US secretary of state raises concerns that large numbers of Eritrean forces have ‘re-entered Ethiopia after withdrawing in June’.

Source: al-Jazeera

US, EU warn of influx of Eritrean troops in Ethiopia’s Tigray

US secretary of state raises concerns that large numbers of Eritrean forces have ‘re-entered Ethiopia after withdrawing in June’.

The United States and European Union are raising alarm over the recent deployment of troops from Eritrea to Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where nine months of war have killed thousands of people and sparked a worsening humanitarian crisis.

Forces from Ethiopia’s rebellious Tigray recaptured much of the territory in June, in a major setback for Ethiopia’s government. But the new Eritrean deployments, which come months after Ethiopia said foreign troops were pulling out, raise the prospect of an escalation of fighting.

“The United States is concerned that large numbers of (Eritrean Defence Forces) have re-entered Ethiopia, after withdrawing in June,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Monday.

Those remarks came as the Treasury Department announced sanctions against a leading Eritrean official it accused of human rights abuses during the war in Tigray. Eritrea said the allegations are baseless.

EU diplomats, meanwhile, wrote in an internal memorandum on August 20 that Eritrea was sending reinforcements across the border into Tigray.

The document, seen by Reuters news agency, said Eritrean troops had deployed to the already heavily militarised and contested western part of Tigray and “taken up defensive positions with tanks and artillery” around the towns of Adi Goshu and Humera.

It also said that Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed visited Eritrea’s capital Asmara on August 17, a visit that was not announced by his office, while en route to an official meeting in Turkey.

Spokespeople for Eritrea’s information ministry, Ethiopia’s prime minister and Ethiopia’s military did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

War broke out last year between Ethiopia’s federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which controls the Tigray region, and more than two million people have since been forced to flee their homes.

Eritrean troops entered Tigray to fight alongside federal forces in a conflict marked by abuses, including rapes, according to investigations by the UN and rights groups.

The Ethiopian government said in April that Eritrean troops had begun withdrawing.

However, the spokesperson for the Tigrayan forces has repeatedly said that the Eritrean soldiers have remained. He was not immediately reachable for comment on Tuesday.


“General Filipos is the Chief of Staff of the Eritrean Defence Forces. In this role, he commands all of the EDF forces that have been operating in Ethiopia. The EDF are responsible for massacres, looting, and sexual assaults. EDF troops have raped, tortured, and executed civilians; they have also destroyed property and ransacked businesses.”

Source: US Treasury

Treasury Sanctions Eritrean Military Leader in Connection with Serious Human Rights Abuse in Tigray

August 23, 2021

WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned General Filipos Woldeyohannes (Filipos), the Chief of Staff of the Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF), for being a leader or official of an entity that is engaged in serious human rights abuse committed during the ongoing conflict in Tigray. Filipos is designated pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13818, which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and targets perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption around the world.

“The Treasury Department will continue to take action against those involved in serious human rights abuse around the world, including in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, where such acts further exacerbate the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis,” said Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control Andrea M. Gacki. “Today’s action demonstrates the United States’ commitment to imposing costs on those responsible for these despicable acts, which worsen a conflict that has led to tremendous suffering by Ethiopians. We urge Eritrea to immediately and permanently withdraw its forces from Ethiopia, and urge the parties to the conflict to begin ceasefire negotiations and end human rights abuses.”


The ongoing conflict in Tigray has exacerbated a humanitarian crisis that threatens hundreds of thousands of lives. Despite the Ethiopian government’s June 28 unilateral ceasefire declaration, parties on all sides continue to escalate the conflict. The EDF reentered Tigray after an initial withdrawal following the June 28 ceasefire. Meanwhile, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has moved into neighboring Afar and Amhara regions, potentially further widening the conflict. Despite an estimated 5 million people in need of humanitarian aid, and more than 400,000 people experiencing famine conditions, Ethiopian federal and Amhara regional forces continue to restrict humanitarian access, while the Ethiopian government has called for all capable Ethiopians to mobilize to support the campaign in Tigray. These escalatory actions risk furthering a severe humanitarian crisis.


General Filipos is the Chief of Staff of the EDF. In this role, he commands all of the EDF forces that have been operating in Ethiopia. The EDF are responsible for massacres, looting, and sexual assaults. EDF troops have raped, tortured, and executed civilians; they have also destroyed property and ransacked businesses. The EDF have purposely shot civilians in the street and carried out systematic house-to-house searches, executing men and boys, and have forcibly evicted Tigrayan families from their residences and taken over their houses and property.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Tigray have described a systematic effort by the EDF to inflict as much harm on the ethnic Tigrayan population as possible in the areas the EDF controls. IDPs reported that in some cases, the EDF used knives or bayonets to slash open the torsos of pregnant women and then left them for dead. The EDF have forced survivors to leave the bodies of the dead where they lie or face execution themselves. Countless IDPs recounted instances of witnessing the rape, murder, and torture of friends and family members by the EDF. Sexual violence is being used as a weapon of war and a means to terrorize and traumatize the entire population; the majority of rapes are committed by men in uniform, such as the EDF. IDPs also spoke of a “scorched earth” policy intended to prevent IDPs from returning home.

Filipos is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13818 for being a foreign person who is a leader or official of an entity, including any government entity, that has engaged in or whose members have engaged in, serious human rights abuse relating to his tenure.


As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of the person above that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked. Unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC, or otherwise exempt, OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all transactions by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons. The prohibitions include the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any blocked person or the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.


Building upon the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, E.O. 13818 was issued on December 20, 2017, in recognition that the prevalence of human rights abuse and corruption that have their source, in whole or in substantial part, outside the United States, had reached such scope and gravity as to threaten the stability of international political and economic systems. Human rights abuse and corruption undermine the values that form an essential foundation of stable, secure, and functioning societies; have devastating impacts on individuals; weaken democratic institutions; degrade the rule of law; perpetuate violent conflicts; facilitate the activities of dangerous persons; and undermine economic markets. The United States seeks to impose tangible and significant consequences on those who commit serious human rights abuse or engage in corruption, as well as to protect the financial system of the United States from abuse by these same persons.


Source: New York Times

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times
Aug. 22, 2021

NAIROBI, Kenya — He swept to power preaching unity and hope, struck a landmark peace deal with the longtime foe Eritrea, released thousands of political prisoners, lifted restrictions on the press and promised to overturn decades of repressive authoritarian rule. For those accomplishments, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019.

But now, mired in a grinding civil war, Mr. Abiy has embarked on a radically different track, stoking war fever and urging all able-bodied men and women to join a widening military campaign, either as combatants or in support roles.

The Ministry of Defense has not said how many new recruits it has signed up, but the spokesman for Sintayehu Abate, deputy mayor of Addis Ababa, the capital, has said that 3,000 residents of the city have enlisted since the campaign started and that thousands more have reportedly signed up around the country.

Critics have denounced Mr. Abiy’s latest campaign, saying the injection of fresh recruits into the fighting will only lead to more bloodshed in the deeply polarized and ethnically divided nation, potentially destabilizing the wider Horn of Africa.

Ethiopia is a patchwork of at least 80 ethnic groups and 10 regional governments. Analysts worry that a protracted conflict could push groups within Ethiopia to take sides and potentially draw in countries from across the region.

Credit…Eduardo Soteras/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“This is a declaration to turn civilians into combatants that will further plunge the country into a genocidal war and create bad blood between peoples for generations to come and an economic free-fall,” said Mehari Taddele Maru, a professor of governance and geopolitics at the European University Institute.

Over the past nine months of conflict, thousands of people have been killed and some two million have been displaced, while hundreds of thousands of others face famine conditions amid reports of massacressexual assault and ethnic cleansing.

The roots of the conflict can be traced to last November, when Mr. Abiy ordered a military offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, onetime rebels who led Ethiopia with an iron fist from 1991 until Mr. Abiy’s ascent in 2018. He accused the group of attacking a federal military base and trying to steal weapons.

The war quickly escalated, with militia fighters from the Amhara region to the south and Eritrean troops from the north joining the Ethiopian military against the Tigrayan forces.

But the swift victory Mr. Abiy promised never materialized. Instead, the hostilities settled into a grinding war in different pockets of Tigray. In June, Mr. Abiy declared a unilateral cease-fire after the rebels shockingly routed the government forces and captured Mekelle, the regional capital of Tigray, altering the course of the war.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

Emboldened by their wins, the Tigrayans issued a set of demands that called, among other things, for a “transitional arrangement” that would essentially see Mr. Abiy removed from power.

Mr. Abiy rejected those demands and recently urged Ethiopians at home and abroad to defend the “motherland” and be “the eyes and ears of the country in order to track down and expose spies and agents” of the Tigrayan forces.

Since then, the Ethiopian authorities have ramped up mass recruitment drives, calling on popular musicians and artists to galvanize the war effort.

This past week, the military posted photos from the town of Debark in the northern Amhara region where young men — wielding machetes, guns and sticks studded with nails — rallied in support of the war and enlisted in droves. In the eastern city of Jigjiga, hundreds of men, women and some children attended a rally to support government forces.

In Addis Ababa, dozens of army veterans waving the country’s multihued flag lined up to re-enlist.

Credit…Eduardo Soteras/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Among them was Alem Bilatte, 54, a retired army officer, who called the Tigray forces Ethiopia’s “enemy” and promised to train new recruits or go to the battlefront himself. “My blood is boiling,” he said as he registered in the capital.

Bekelech Ayalew, 47, a former infantry nurse draped with an Ethiopian flag, said she was ready to treat soldiers on the front lines. “Sacrificing my blood and dying for Ethiopia is a privilege,” she said.

As the recruitment drive has gotten underway, rebel forces have continued to advance in western Tigray, an area that ethnic Amharas historically claim as their own and took over in the early stages of the conflict. Heavy fighting, including artillery fire, has been reported in the Amhara, Oromia and Afar regions, according to an internal United Nations security document seen by The New York Times.

The dynamics of the war are also shifting as the fighting escalates.

This month the Oromo Liberation Army, designated a terrorist organization by the Ethiopian government, declared an alliance with the Tigrayan forces, raising the prospect of other splinter groups or regional governments becoming involved in the fighting.

Mustafa Omer, the president of the eastern Somali region, which has sent hundreds of soldiers to join the war on the government side, said he would never negotiate with the T.P.L.F., which he said had tortured and killed his brother and made other family members disappear in its authoritarian, nearly three-decade time in power.

“They caused a lot of harm, and they are looking to bring back the same political designs if they win,” Mr. Omer said in a phone interview. “They are a danger to the country.”

Over 200 people, including more than 100 children, who were sheltering at a school and health facility in the Afar region were reportedly killed this month, UNICEF’s executive director, Henrietta Fore, said in a statement. The government and Tigrayan forces have both blamed each other.

The United Nations has said physical access to Tigray remains limited because of lack of infrastructure, floods and security concerns. Underscoring the grim conditions, Samantha Power, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said that aid workers could run out of food to distribute as soon as this week.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

UNICEF said that almost half of all pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers screened in Tigray were acutely malnourished, while the number of malnourished children was expected to jump tenfold in the next year.

A recent flare-up in ethnic violence — particularly between ethnic Afar and Somalis — has added to the country’s growing security woes. Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday that ethnic Tigrayans were being arbitrarily detained and disappeared in the capital — adding to discriminatory practices that many Tigrayans reported from the onset of the war.

Until recently the most stable of the countries in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia and its mounting domestic crisis pose a significant risk to the region’s overall stability and economic growth, said Sanya Suri, the East and Southern Africa analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit.

A protracted conflict, she said, “sends worrying signs to investors over the government’s efficacy” and would derail Ethiopia’s agenda for overhauling the economy, which included liberalizations and privatization of key sectors like telecommunications.

“Ethiopia’s long-run growth prospects also remain grim,” Ms. Suri said.

Last week, the U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, was back in the region in a bid to halt the fighting. In addition, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey offered to back a peaceful mediation to the war. But with Mr. Abiy rebuffing a meeting in early August with Ms. Power, Tigrayan forces advancing and fresh government recruits heading to face them, there is little prospect so far for a substantial de-escalation, experts say.

For many Ethiopians, that means bracing for more bloody days ahead.

“The prime minister is calling Ethiopians to fight against their own people,” Weyni Asgedom, 28, a former bookstore owner in Mekelle whose husband is fighting alongside the Tigrayans, said in an interview. “The only choice is to fight back.”


“To meet the vast humanitarian needs in Tigray, 100 trucks carrying tons of food and life-saving supplies need to arrive each day, which should have meant a total of 5,000 trucks since July 1. However, as of a few days ago, only around 320 had arrived—less than 7 percent of what is required.”

On The Humanitarian Situation In Ethiopia

United States Agency for International Development
Office of Press Relations
Samantha Power, Administrator
August 19, 2021

In Tigray, where hundreds of thousands are facing famine, food warehouses are virtually empty. This week, for the first time in nine months of conflict, aid workers will run out of food to distribute to the millions of people who are going hungry. USAID and its partners as well as other humanitarian organizations have depleted their stores of food items warehoused in Tigray.

Despite the small trickle of convoys into Tigray and an average of two UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) flights per week to Mekele during the first half of August, the flow of humanitarian assistance remains woefully insufficient. This shortage is not because food is unavailable, but because the Ethiopian Government is obstructing humanitarian aid and personnel, including land convoys and air access. The U.S. calls on the Ethiopian Government to immediately allow humanitarian assistance to swiftly move into Tigray in order to prevent a catastrophic stop to food assistance that millions need to survive.

Humanitarian organizations have food loaded onto trucks, and they are waiting in Semera, Afar, and other places in Ethiopia, but for the last month and a half only a small trickle of aid convoys has been allowed into Tigray. To meet the vast humanitarian needs in Tigray, 100 trucks carrying tons of food and life-saving supplies need to arrive each day, which should have meant a total of 5,000 trucks since July 1. However, as of a few days ago, only around 320 had arrived—less than 7 percent of what is required. While the Government of Ethiopia has been quick to hail the limited aid as a positive step, it is far too little and far too late. People in Tigray are starving with up to 900,000 in famine conditions and more than five million in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.

Humanitarian workers continue to face entirely too many hurdles to make aid convoys happen. They have encountered unacceptable delays at multiple checkpoints, some of which take hours to clear, as well as repeated intensive searches. Aid workers are harassed, and we have seen an increase in troubling and harmful rhetoric coming from the Ethiopian Government against humanitarians. Instead, we need to see action from the Government of Ethiopia that will enable humanitarians to do their jobs and save lives. Fuel deliveries, electricity, telecommunications, and banking services must all be immediately restored and maintained, and humanitarians and relief supplies need to be allowed to move quickly, regularly, and unimpeded into Tigray. In addition, restrictions on aid organizations bringing cash and telecommunications equipment into Tigray need to be lifted in order to facilitate the delivery of lifesaving assistance.

The TPLF’s offensive into other regions will only prolong this conflict and the suffering of the Ethiopian people. The United States urges the TPLF to halt its offensive and withdraw its forces immediately from the Amhara and Afar regions, the Amhara regional government to withdraw its forces from western Tigray, and the Eritrean government to withdraw its forces immediately and permanently from Ethiopia.

The United States remains committed to the welfare of all Ethiopians. All parties must allow humanitarian aid to reach the people whose survival depends on it, and they must end hostilities and commit to a negotiated ceasefire.

For the latest updates on U.S. humanitarian assistance for the Tigray response, visit: Ethiopia | Humanitarian Assistance | US Agency for International Development.

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA - JUNE 13: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed attends the inauguration of the newly remodeled Meskel Square on June 13, 2021 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is seeking reelection in the upcoming national and regional parliamentary elections, which could lead to the country's first democratic transfer of power, after the original date of August 2020 was postponed amid the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

(Bloomberg) -- Ethiopia will begin holding a national dialog in September to address grievances that have undermined stability in the Horn of Africa nation, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office said.

A roadmap for the talks will be announced this month and a structure will then be put in place to facilitate them, Billene Seyoum, Abiy’s spokeswoman, told reporters in the capital, Addis Ababa, on Friday. The discussions form part of a reform process the government embarked upon three years ago, she said, without saying who will participate.

Federal troops and militia’s have been battling dissidents from the northern Tigray region since November, fighting that’s displaced hundreds of thousands of people and left millions more facing hunger. Ethnic rivalries have also degenerated into violence in several other areas, and Abiy is facing calls to grant regional authorities greater autonomy.    

On Thursday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Ethiopia’s government and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, which controls Tigray, to end hostilities and enter into talks.

“It is time for all parties to recognize that there is no military solution and it is vital to preserve the unity and stability of Ethiopia which is critical to the region and beyond,” Guterres said, adding that his special envoy Martin Griffith met TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael to discuss the conflict. 

The U.S. is also trying to broker peace, with President Joe Biden’s special envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman making his third trip to the region to discuss how to kick-start talks. Samantha Powers, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, visited the country earlier this month. 

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Source=Ethiopia Plans National Dialog in Bid to Defuse Tensions - BNN Bloomberg


Source: Kjetil Tronvoll

Is Eritrea and the Eritrean Defence Force (EDF) preparing a new military offensive against Tigray?

Over the last week information of considerable Eritrean troops deployments in Western Tigray has been confirmed by both the Tigray Defence Forces (TDF) and international sources.

It is believed that Eritrean forces are filling the vacuum left by the Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF) and Amhara special forces which have pulled out of Western Tigray to fight the TDF offensives in Amhara. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has allegedly promised the Amhara People’s Party that he will defend Western Tigray and has endorsed Amhara control of the area.

More concerning, however, is intelligence on new the Eritrean troop reinforcements along the Eritrea- Tigray/Ethiopia northern border, on the Badme, Rama and Zalambessa frontlines. After the EDF pulled back from central Tigray, there has not been substantial active military engagement on the northern front.

Seen from Asmara, the war in Ethiopia is a “do or die” moment for President Isaias Afwerki.

If the TDF-Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) alliance is successful in bringing about a political transition in Ethiopia, the Eritrean regime will be vulnerable. Hence, Isaias needs to sacrifice more of his people to ensure the survival of Abiy.

As the TDF offensives in Afar and Amhara move forward, Tigray has committed many troops and resources outside of their region, possibly leaving their northern flank vulnerable (at least as seen from Eritrea and Addis/Ethiopia).

Furthermore, in order to ease military pressure on the ENDF and Amhara, and to halt the TDF offensives against Bahir Dar, Semera and Addis Ababa, it would serve Abiy’s interest for Eritrea to launch an attack on the northern front, forcing the TDF to rethink their southern offensives.

The UN, UN Security Council, the US and EU should be attentive of this development, as a renewed Eritrean war in Tigray would be likely to be even more disastrous, with more atrocities, than their earlier engagements.

[Note: this is from a series of Tweets by Kjetil Tronvoll]

EPDP 2021 - A Short Profile

Tuesday, 17 August 2021 20:22 Written by

Source: Refugees International

David Del Conte

 August 13, 2021

Since November 2020, a brutal war in the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray has trapped civilians in a waking nightmare. Countless reports have detailed human rights abuses, displacement, sexual violence, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes. A growing number of people living through the violence are dependent on life-saving humanitarian assistance for survival, but communications, banking, and access to the region has been largely cut off by warring parties as fighting rages on. Meanwhile, the region is teetering toward widespread famine.

Despite the horror of the situation for millions of people, Tigray’s famine has rarely made front page news or the top of international agendas. But the world cannot look away as Tigray starves. Here are seven facts you need to know about Tigray’s famine:

  1. Tigray is experiencing famine. On August 8 – just two months after the UN declared that “famine-conditions” were affecting 350,000 people in Tigray and just and one month after USAID declared 900,0000 Tigrayans were facing famine – the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) published its food security outlook for Tigray. The report shows there are people throughout the region identified as in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5, i.e. famine). An estimated 5.2 million people are now critically food insecure and require sustained life-saving assistance to prevent them from falling into famine.
  2. Relief aid is not getting in. At the end of June, the Ethiopian government imposed a blockade on Tigray. Since then, according to USAID, only 10 percent of the necessary relief assistance required is being allowed entry to the region. The World Food Programme (WFP) has said it needs 100 trucks every day to enter Tigray to keep up with needs. Given the extreme shortage of relief assistance entering the region, one must assume those needlessly suffering is far higher today.
  3. The blockade is causing extreme human suffering. Since the blockade took effect in June, banks have remained closed, preventing civilians from accessing their money to purchase food. Communications remain cut, blocking people trapped inside Tigray from telling their families they were alive. And fuel has not been allowed entry into the region, shutting down flour mills, water pumps, and electricity generation necessary to maintain medical services.
  4. Needs are mounting. The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA’s) most recent Humanitarian Update details the extreme shortage of support for millions of people trapped in the region. In every ‘life-saving’ sector (food, health, water and sanitation, nutrition, and shelter), needs massively outweigh the valiant and dangerous effort of aid workers.
  5. Children are needlessly suffering. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that the number of children under the age of five suffering from severe acute malnutrition in Tigray had jumped from 33,000 to 160,000 in just three months, and now estimates a 10-fold increase in the number of children who will suffer from life-threatening malnutrition in Tigray over the next 12 months. Nearly 50 percent of pregnant and lactating mothers screened at health facilities suffer from acute malnutrition.
  6. This is a man-made famine. Humanitarian agencies are concerned that the extreme shortage of food supplies and basic services caused by the blockade will continue to drive famine. The Ethiopian government and parties to the conflict must uphold their responsibility to protect civilians and allow unfettered access for humanitarians to reach populations in need with life-saving assistance before it is too late. It is within their power to do so.
  7. This is the region’s second famine in less than forty years. People in northern Ethiopia also experienced a famine in 1984-85, when an estimated 2 million people died from starvation and related illnesses. This tragic history cannot be repeated.

Right now, people in Tigray have nothing to eat and nothing to feed their children. This is happening in real time. But there is time to prevent the absolute worst of it. The UN Security Council and African Union must set aside political division and see the catastrophe as it really is: a real and growing threat to international security.

AUGUST 17, 2021  NEWS

16 August 2021

Source: Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)

The Egyptian Immigration Authorities are planning to return two Eritrean Asylum-Seekers to their country of origin where they are certain to be imprisoned and likely to face tortured or might even be killed.

Alem Tesfay Abraham and Kibrom Adhanom have been detained at Al Qanater prison in Cairo, since March 2012 and 2014 respectively. They have been detained in humane, harsh conditions, and without due legal process. These two refugees, who had to leave Eritrea for genuine fear of persecution and who wished to claim asylum in a safe country, have spent over nine years in Egyptian prisons without having committed any crime.

The Egyptian and Eritrean governments are planning to forcibly return the two detainees to Eritrea in violation of international law. On Sunday 8 August 2021, the prison management took them to the immigration office, where they met two Eritrean Embassy officials and were informed by the Egyptian immigration officers that they would be sent back to Eritrea.

Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees that “everyone has the right to freedom of movement” and “the right to leave any country, including his own.” These two men have simply exercised these rights.

Egypt is party to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and is also a signatory to the African Union Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. Under these Conventions, Egypt is duty bound to make every effort to protect the rights and ensure the safety of asylum-seekers and refugees, of whatever nationality. Additionally, Article 91 of the country’s 2014 Constitution stipulates that political asylum must be made available to anyone who has been persecuted.

Mr Adhanom and Mr Tesfay Abraham were conscripts in the Eritrean National Service,  which can lasts for decades. All able-bodied men and women over 18 are conscripted into National Service for indefinite periods, and are often used as cheap labour, which amounts to slave labour, under very poor conditions in government owned projects, including construction, mining or any other use the regime finds for them. Because of this appalling treatment, thousands of young Eritreans desert and escape their country. Mr Adhanom and Mr Tesfay Abraham are two of such escapees.

The punishments for desertion are severe. If Mr Adhanom and Mr Tesfay Abraham are refouled, they would most certainly be imprisoned incommunicado, under harsh conditions, and tortured. Seeking asylum in another country is a crime in Eritrea; therefore, Mr Adhanom and Mr Tesfay Abraham would be in grave danger if they were to be returned to Eritrea as failed asylum seekers.

Anyone who has left Eritrea without official permission is regarded as a traitor who has committed a crime, according to the Eritrean regime’s policy. Returnees have to sign a “repentance” form and accept ill-defined punishment for this confession. Refouled Eritrean asylum-seekers have faced incommunicado detention, torture, inhumane and degrading treatment for extended periods of time upon return.

The findings of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry into the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea, by highly respected UN experts who took evidence from many witnesses, confirm this mistreatment: –

“A common pattern of treatment of returnees is their arrest upon arrival in Eritrea. They are questioned about the circumstances of their escape, whether they received help to leave the country, how the flight was funded, whether they contact with opposition groups based abroad. Returnees are systematically ill-treated to the point of torture during the interrogation phase. After interrogation, they are detained in particularly harsh conditions…. Returnees… were held in prison between eight months to three years… They were made to undertake forced labour and were frequently punished by prison guards. The Commission finds that, with a few exceptions, those who have been forced to return to the country have been arrested, detained and subjected to ill-treatment and torture.”

In the light of this well-documented and internationally attested evidence, Human Rights Concern-Eritrea (HRCE) urgently calls upon the government and Immigration Department of Egypt: –

  • to cease all efforts to repatriate the above-mentioned Eritrean refugees;
  •  to release them immediately from prison;
  •  to provide them with temporary safe accommodation;
  •  to ensure they are accorded all the rights outlined in the UN and African Refugee Conventions;
  • to ask the UNHCR to assess their asylum cases and seek a safe country where they may be resettled.

Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

+44 7958 005 637


The war in Tigray is tearing at the seams that bind the current structures holding the nations of the Horn of Africa together.

When the Eritreans joined in the invasion of Tigray, supported by Somali troops, at the start of this war in November this year this was the inevitable outcome. Sudan is now caught up in the war, while all the nations of the region look on with concern.

As the US Institute for Peace warned last year:

“While many of the facts remain unclear, the risks of escalation are certain: Intrastate or interstate conflict would be catastrophic for Ethiopia’s people and for the region and would pose a direct threat to international peace and security. The acceleration of polarization amid violent conflict would also mark the death knell for the country’s nascent reform effort that began two years ago and the promise of a democratic transition that it heralded.

As we cautioned in the study group’s Final Report and Recommendations released on October 29, the fragmentation of Ethiopia would be the largest state collapse in modern history. Ethiopia is five times the size of pre-war Syria by population, and its breakdown would lead to mass interethnic and interreligious conflict; a dangerous vulnerability to exploitation by extremists; an acceleration of illicit trafficking, including of arms; and a humanitarian and security crisis at the crossroads of Africa and the Middle East on a scale that would overshadow any existing conflict in the region, including Yemen. As Ethiopia is currently the leading Troop Contributing Country to the United Nations and the African Union peacekeeping missions in Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia, its collapse would also significantly impact the efforts by both to mitigate and resolve others conflicts in the Horn of Africa.”

Even if an Ethiopian state collapse is avoided, it is clear that a new dispensation for Ethiopia is required, which could involve a new relationship with neighbouring states – and Eritrea in particular.

The Tigrayan perspective

Whether Tigray should remain part of Ethiopia or become an independent state has been a question hotly debated since the TPLF was launched in the 1970’s. It is – not surprisingly – once again on the agenda. The atrocities inflicted on Tigrayans, and particularly on Tigrayan woman, has given this extra impetus.

How might an independent Tigray relate to the remainder of Ethiopia? Would it be viable? What would its borders look like? All these questions – and more – are issues that need to be resolved before a final decision is taken, hopefully in agreement with other Ethiopians.

It is a question for the people of Tigray and the people of the region to decide upon.

The Eritrean perspective

It should not be forgotten that President Isaias convened a meeting of his senior advisers and commanders just before the war began.

As Eritrea Hub reported at the time:

The president told them that the country had to accept that it has a small and not very viable economy and a lengthy Red Sea coast, which Eritrean cannot patrol on its own. He is reported to have suggested that some sort of “union” with Ethiopia might be possible, at least in terms of economic co-operation and maritime security.

In so doing Isaias appears to be echoing Prime Minister Abiy’s grandiose dream of re-establishing the old empire-state of Ethiopia. This idea is not as far-fetched as it would appear, despite the fact that Isaias led Eritrea’s 30 year war of independence from Ethiopia.

The war, which has involved the enforced conscription of tens of thousands of young Eritreans and cost so many lives, has not produced the unity President Isaias was looking for. But it may yet see a new relationship between Eritreans and the people of the region.

Key criteria for regional transformation

If the map of the Horn is to be withdrawn – and it seems likely – then there are some key criteria that should apply:

  • First – this is an issue for the people of the Horn of Africa. Outside interests should be resisted. Advice can be welcome, but these questions must not be decided by western, Chinese or Russian influence or Arab cash.
  • Second – the outcome will be shaped by the current conflict but it should not be the result of a solution imposed by the victor; whoever that is.
  • Third – solutions need to take into account tradition, history and economic realities. The views and needs of minorities need to be protected.

Points to consider

While the shape of a settlement should be arrived at by negotiations by the people of the region, there are some lessons that can be learned from the past and from abroad.

  • Conflict and war is not inevitable. Bitter wounds can be healed. One only has to consider the tragic losses inflicted on the French and Germans by what amounted to three world wars that they fought against each other. From the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871 through the First and Second World Wars the youth of both countries slaughtered each other in their millions. Yet today they live together in peace and harmony, with borders crossed as if they hardly exist.
  • Nations and nationalities are never finally resolved. One only needs look at the United Kingdom. The British have been attempting to forge a final settlement of the government of these islands since at least 1800 – if not before. Yet the future is far from settled. Ireland gained independence in 1922, creating Ireland and Northern Ireland. Yet the North may – in the not too distant future – leave the UK and join Ireland, if this is agreed in a referendum. Scotland is pushing for independence and this too may come about, if the Scots vote for it in a referendum. There are movements for self-government or independence in Wales, Cornwall and Yorkshire. Some want all of England to have far more devolved administrations. None of this is settled, but these disputes are being resolved by peaceful negotiation and referenda. Not by war.
  • Nation states and forms of government are important, but not invariably critical. Traditions, religions, social and community links can be just as important. Consider a few of these. Eritreans have visited sacred sites in Tigray down the centuries; irrespective of who ruled in Asmara or Addis Ababa. Somali and Afar traders have crossed vast spaces carrying goods down the years. Sometimes they were called traders, sometimes businessmen, sometimes smugglers. Think of the khat trade, which crosses frontiers irrespective of laws, governments or regulations. Farmers follow their flocks, wherever they lead, in search of fresh pastures. These are vital parts of the life of the Horn of Africa and will continue, whatever is settled in conferences, on battlefields or signed into agreements.

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