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  • The U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan have cost American taxpayers $5.9 trillion since they began in 2001.
  • The figure reflects the cost across the U.S. federal government since the price of war is not borne by the Defense Department alone.
  • The report also finds that more than 480,000 people have died from the wars and more than 244,000 civilians have been killed as a result of fighting. Additionally, another 10 million people have been displaced due to violence.

Published 5:15 PM ET Wed, 14 Nov 2018 Updated 9:55 AM ET Thu, 15 Nov 2018

U.S. Marines and Georgian Army soldiers run to the extraction point during Operation Northern Lion II in Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 3, 2013.

U.S. Marine Corps photo
U.S. Marines and Georgian Army soldiers run to the extraction point during Operation Northern Lion II in Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 3, 2013.

WASHINGTON The U.S. wars and military action in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan have cost American taxpayers $5.9 trillion since they began in 2001, according to a new study.

That total is almost $2 trillion more than all federal government spending during the recently completed 2017-18 fiscal year.

The report, from Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University, also finds that more than 480,000 people have died as a direct result of fighting. Over 244,000 civilians have been killed. Another 10 million people have been displaced due to violence.

 

The $5.9 trillion figure reflects the cost across the U.S. federal government since the price of war is not borne by the Defense Department alone, according to Neta Crawford, the study's author.

In addition to the money spent by the Pentagon, Crawford says the report captures the "war-related spending by the Department of State, past and obligated spending for war veterans' care, interest on the debt incurred to pay for the wars, and the prevention of and response to terrorism by the Department of Homeland Security."

It breaks down like this, according to Crawford and the report:

  • Total U.S. war-related spending through fiscal year 2019 is $4.9 trillion.
  • The other $1 trillion reflects estimates for the cost of health care for post-9/11 veterans.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs will be responsible for serving more than 4.3 million veterans by 2039.

What's more, longer wars will also increase the number of service members who will ultimately claim veterans benefits and disability payments.

The U.S. government spent $4.1 trillion during fiscal year 2018, which ended Sept. 30, according to the Treasury Department.

The Defense Department accounted for 14.7 percent of that, and the Department of Veterans Affairs accounted for 4.4 percent.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that the cost has been $5.9 trillion, according to the study.

Source=https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/14/us-has-spent-5point9-trillion-on-middle-east-asia-wars-since-2001-study.html

Bahlbi Y. MalkCanadian Partnership for Reconstruction and Development (CPRD)

Source: Carnegie Council, March 12, 2018

Dictators are not all the same. They use different tools of repression and survival. ‘Divide and rule,’ however, is one of the oldest, most widely used, and most effective of their strategies. It involves creating, maintaining, and even enforcing divisions, distrust, and enmity among ethnic, religious, regional, and socio-political groups. This helps ensure that no unified movement can coalesce to overthrow a dictatorial regime. From Siad Barre of Somalia to Juvenal Habryimana of Rwanda, Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, and many others, the African continent is not short of examples of dictators who have obtained and/or retained power through these divisive tactics.

One aspect of divide and rule is that most dictators retain some domestic support by offering privileges to members of their own ethnic or religious groups in return for their political support, while systematically excluding others.1 In this regard, Eritrea’s president, the dictator Isaias Afwerki, appears to be an anomaly. Isaias2 is highly unpopular throughout Eritrea, including among Tigrignas, his own ethnic group, which is widely spread across several regions. He is believed to have not even favored his immediate family or his ancestral village. In fact, his relationship to Tsolot village in Hamasien doesn’t go beyond his grandfather, who arrived there from Tigray in Ethiopia. He is thus unlikely to seek kinship and lineage-based support from his village, as did Mobutu of Zaire and other African dictators. He has already depleted most of the political capital and national support he earned during the struggle for independence from Ethiopia and is thus reduced to recycling propaganda images of pre-independence military might, discipline, and obedience to mask his current unpopularity and weakness. The state-controlled media produces a constant barrage of misinformation campaigns and lies to hide the truth, regardless how transparent the lies might be.

Instead of rallying public support, Isaias employs coercion, imprisonment, torture, intimidation, and killing to secure obedience, while simultaneously pursuing divide-and-rule strategies. For instance, his party the PFDJ (People’s Front for Democracy and Justice), which is the sole legal political party in Eritrea, has pitted the three highly populated highland regions (Hamasien, Seraye, Akeleguzay), which are predominantly Christian and of Tigrigna ethnicity, against one another by instilling mistrust among them, which I believe has greatly hindered the emergence of an organized opposition against their common enemy. Indeed, his regime, which has been in power since 1993, has not faced any serious threats of collective opposition, apart from the January 2013 mutiny, which was easily foiled. The public protests that took place from late October to early November 2017 against the government’s decision to remove a Quranic class and dress code at a community-funded religious school (Al-Diaa Islamic School) was another rare incident, but it has apparently spooked the dictator into hiding.3

In addition, the top religious leaders in the country, including the mufti of the Eritrean Islamic communities and the Orthodox Christian patriarch, were handpicked and appointed by Isaias. By doing so, he has undermined the institutions’ influence and disconnected the religious leaders from the general public, while delegitimizing them in the eyes of their followers. For example, in 2004, the Holy Synod and representatives of all dioceses jointly elected Abune Antonios, former bishop Antonios of Hamasien, as the third patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church. After the patriarch’s call for the release of political prisoners and his refusal to ‘excommunicate the 3,000 parishioners who opposed the government’ in 2007, he was detained and Isaias replaced him with Bishop Dioscoros of Mendefera.4 As a result, Orthodox Church supporters are divided into two antagonistic groups: those for and against the unlawfully appointed patriarch.

Isaias also manipulates the population by cultivating common fears that unite them, under the guise of national security. For example, Ethiopia’s refusal to implement the Ethio-Eritrea Boundary Commission’s (EEBC) final and binding agreement with respect to the 1998-2000-border conflict and the subsequent failure of the international community to enforce the provision has legitimatized the claim of an external threat. This has catalyzed some popular mobilization, primarily among those who live far from Isaias’s oppression: the diaspora. While those living in Eritrea are gravely threatened by the deteriorating socio-economic and political situation within the country, the diaspora-based supporters of the regime are more concerned with Ethiopia’s threat to Eritrean sovereignty. Many Eritreans view Ethiopia as a historical enemy, and the occupation of Eritrean land in violation of the agreement fulfills the public’s expectations about the ‘external enemy threat.’ This issue has been blown out of proportion, but nevertheless it has provided Isaias with a perfect pretext to use an ‘external threat’ to distract from the internal threat of the state’s aggression towards its own citizens and to blame internal incompetence, failures, domestic stagnation, and insecurity on external enemies.

Furthermore, Isaias has mischaracterized and criminalized domestic opposition to his regime as an ‘Islamic movement’ and as ‘terrorists’ to convince the public that they are better off with him. Although most Eritreans are aware of PFDJ’s political games, it is hard to downplay their impact on the public’s perceptions and behavior. They produce a toxic brew of distrust which risks turning the country into a Muslim versus Christian battleground, even though this is a society long known for its harmonious coexistence.

Controlling the Army and Constant Shuffling of Officials

Isaias knows well that, in Africa, he who controls the army controls the presidency. Therefore, because he doesn’t have full control of the army, he has made sure that none of his senior military officials do either. For example, former minister of defense General Sebhat Efrem, who was supposed to control the military chain of command and oversee subordinates of the army and their activities, wasn’t even allowed to deliver a commencement speech at Sawa (the military and education boot camp for young Eritreans), much less pass military orders. It is always Isaias who issues orders. He has divided the country into five military operation zones (Gash-Barka (Zone 1); West (Zone 2); South (Zone 3); East (Zone 4); and Centre, including Asmara (Zone 5) and six administrative regions (Maekel/Central, Anseba, Gash-Barka, Debub/Southern, Northern Red Sea and Southern Red Sea). Each zone and administrative region is controlled by army generals who report directly to the president, not to the minister of defense.

Thus, Isaias personally oversees the command and control military structures. Now that Sebhat Efrem has been rotated to the Ministry of Energy and Mines, leaving the post of Ministry of Defense empty, Isaias doesn’t have to even pretend that the minister of defense runs the Ministry. The regional civilian administrators operate under the shadow of the military commanders and to make sure that these army leaders remain disoriented, detached from any military unit, and unable to develop independent political base and entourage, Isaias constantly rotates, shuffles, reshuffles, purges, and then rehabilitates them. This practice of abruptly promoting unknown minions to the top and demoting senior officials to the bottom is one of Isaias’s favorite political techniques. He assigns them to fields and sectors they know nothing about and removes them so frequently they don’t have time to learn anything about their new responsibilities. This is because their role is not to implement policies that benefit the public, but rather to do what is good for the dictator. After all, competent ministers are potential rivals, and thus potentially dangerous for a dictator. Only Major General Filipos Weldeyohannes, former commander of Eritrea’s Operation Zone 2 and current chief of staff of the Eritrean Defense Forces, appears to have had relatively stable responsibilities even when his titles change. Known for his corruption, cold-blooded cruelty and despotic personality, he is by far one of the most hated military leaders among the national service conscripts. In the event of Isaias’s death, however, he would probably be the only army general with some degree of military infrastructure and operational command in place to assume power.

The precariousness of tenure and frequency of rotation has created despondent kleptocrats, a fragmented chain of command, and unstable power structures in both the army and the civilian administrations. Even those at the top of the military hierarchy are believed to be “collectively dissatisfied with Isaias’s regime but continue propping it up for two reasons. First, they are profiting handsomely from smuggling food, fuel, and other consumer goods into Eritrea [and smuggling people out of Eritrea], a practice Isaias allows to buy the generals’ loyalty.”5 Second, in his attempt to break up any potential coalition within the army leadership, Isaias has created animosity and rivalry among the senior officials. As a result, “these personal rivalries run so deep that any single general attempting to overthrow Isaias would be immediately contested by the other four, in an attempt to save their positions, fortune and possibly their lives.”6

Yet even though these top-level military officials don’t enjoy a close relationship with the president or with one another, they are all veterans of the war of independence, with deep historical, political, personal, philosophical, and institutional ties that bind them together. The notion of handing power over to people from outside their circle is viewed as a common threat to their survival and legacy. Generally, the state is controlled and run for the benefit of small mediocre and kleptocratic groups who have little or no integrity or competency. The requirements for senior government jobs, including diplomatic posts, are not merit-based but largely loyalty-driven. Even then, diplomats must either be married with a family and/or have parents and siblings in Eritrea as potential hostages in case they attempt to desert the regime. Even if they do flee the regime, many of them remain silent about the crimes their government has committed. Within the country, these handpicked sycophants spend most, if not all their time, running their personal businesses for their own enrichment. Each of them has the power to exploit and abuse the population they control and each kleptocrat in charge of part of the civilian administration attempts to impress Isaias by creating his or her own rules of exploitation. In some instances, they appear to try and outdo one another, with a kleptocrat in one region trying to be more aggressive than others on individual issues. This asymmetrical level of exploitation can mean that each region feels hard done by relative to others on some issues. For instance, in 2005, Mustafa Nurhussein, then administrator of Zoba Debub (Southern highland region) introduced an unwritten policy of punishing the parents of children who evaded and/or deserted the army by forcing them to pay 50,000 Nakfa (3,300 US dollars at the official exchange rate at the time) per child or face prison time. Other kleptocrats have also employed relatively different but equally oppressive tools to exploit their subjects. The bottom line is that each region has been subjected to abuse, albeit in different ways and to different degrees. Perhaps partly because of these differences between regions, they have been unable to collectively challenge the regime. This difficulty has been compounded by the denial of basic rights, including rights of freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, which would let citizens discuss and compare their grievances, learn of their shared misery, and potentially collaborate with each other to revolt against oppression.

Better the Devil You Know than the Angel You Don’t

These top officials have access to socio-economic and material benefits denied to the rest of the population, and this has ensnared them in a web of corruption, rivalry, and crimes. Thus their survival depends on their loyalty to Isaias and silence about his crimes, and they are subject to his command, whether to satisfy his ego or to meet military and political needs. For those top officials, it is a case of ‘better the devil you know than the angel you don’t.’ Despite his abuse, they think they are better off under him than under an unknown alternative leadership.

Isaias has given power, privileges, and impunity to former EPLF (Eritrean People’s Liberation Front) freedom fighters, many of whom are now military commanders. These Teghadelti (freedom fighters) have dominated the country’s socio-economic, military, and political life since 1991. But the dictator needs to prevent top military officials from establishing a political base in the army, where national-service conscripts are in the majority. Thus, in addition to frequent position rotations, he has created a master-slave and “us-versus-them” relationship between the rich and powerful former freedom fighters in top military positions and the conscripts, Warsay, who have remained at the bottom of the social, economic, and political hierarchy. These hapless conscripts are used as a source of free labor for high-ranking army officers to build private homes, perform agricultural labor and other work outside the scope of their normal national service duties. This master-slave relationship, along with the indefinite length of military service, the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of conscripts, and extrajudicial killings, as well as rampant sexual violence by senior military commanders against women conscripts have produced a hatred of PFDJ military leaders in particular and of former freedom fighters in general. This divide-and-rule tactic could backfire, however, as the conscripts’ grievances mean that Isaias cannot rely on the army if there were an uprising.

Although there are numerous opposition parties outside Eritrea, they have all repeatedly failed to take advantage of Isaias’s weakness because of their own weaknesses and disunity, born as much of personal rivalries as from ideological debates. As the regime has denied the opposition a political space within Eritrea, they have remained outside the country and have been unable to catalyze any structural change within the country. However, it’s clear that the Eritrean army is not happy; this is Isaias’s Achilles heel. The dissidents are more likely to find willing collaborators within the army for an alliance to facilitate the inevitable collapse of the status quo. It is not farfetched to claim that the military represents all of Eritrean society. Since all men and women between the ages of 18 and 60+ have been forcibly conscripted into the army (although in general, men remain in service the longest), the Eritrean military is filled with multi-generational military families from all walks of life, with diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Looking Back and Looking Forward

Isaias is 72 years old and has no designated successor. What will happen when his regime comes to an end? Is there the likelihood of a coup d’etat, either before or after his death? Clearly, one of the most potentially explosive issues in the immediate post-Isaias period will be the future of the former freedom fighters, whose wealth, power, and security depend on the current regime. Since the rich army generals have a lot to lose from a coup and are closely watched by Isaias, a revolt is more likely to come from mid-ranking colonels who are far from the dictator’s radar screen but close enough to their troops and the civilian population to rally support and mobilize resources. If a coup occurs, these are the gatekeepers who will hold the key to either relinquishing power to democratically elected leaders or remaining in power for their own benefit, which could reduce the country to chaos. Post-dictatorial experiences have shown that ending years of dictatorship and dealing with transitional political situations pose complex socio-political, economic, legal, and practical challenges. Therefore, it is not uncommon in post-dictatorial situations to hear people say, ‘we were better off under Saddam Hussein… we were better off under Siad Barre…’ etc. It is not that people prefer dictatorships, but in these instances, they are voicing their nostalgia for the previous orderly oppression compared with the turmoil that took its place.

The prolonged existence of a dictatorship not only breaks societal institutions but also leads to radicalization of the political opposition, who become obsessed with punishing a deposed force, which could thwart the ultimate objective of achieving peace, reconciliation, stability, and democracy. While the end goal is to abolish an authoritarian regime, prosecute the main culprits, and transition the nation from temporary military rule to a permanent democracy, the mid-ranked former EPLF fighters should receive minimum threats from the incoming leaders so as they can be and should be turned into strategic allies in the abolition of the authoritarian regime, the creation of a peaceful transition, and restoration of institutions.

Although Eritrea is socio-culturally, linguistically, ethnically, and religiously heterogeneous, the population has been peaceful, harmonious, and cohesive for generations. But that generations-old peaceful coexistence should not be mistaken for homogeneity of demands, beliefs, and grievances. If divide and rule could reduce an ethnically, religiously and linguistically homogeneous country like Somalia to anarchy, heterogeneous societies like Eritrea have even more reasons to be cautious. Therefore, the toxic legacy of divide and rule can only be countered and defused through effective mobilization and collective action, fostering a process of inclusion, cooperation, and depolarization as well as the initiation of reparative measures, and the restoration and/or reconstruction of institutions, all within the normative framework of peace, reconciliation, national unity, justice, fundamental human rights, and rule of law.

NOTES

The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the organization to which he is affiliated.

1 De Mesquita, B. and Smith, A. (2012). The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics. PublicAffairs, New York. See also, Wintrobe, R. (2001). “How to understand, and deal with dictatorship: an economist’s view.” Vol,2. Issue.1, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10101-001-8001-x
2 Eritreans are known by their first names, so from here on Isaias Afwerki is referred to as Isaias.
3 When the protest erupted, Isaias apparently got in his helicopter and flew to an unknown location. Although it has always been difficult to verify information in a country where free press is absolutely forbidden, this information was broadcasted by Eri-medrek, a radio that is run and funded by former high officials in exile with deep connection with many people in power. See EriMedrek, November 10, 2017, Radio Program-Tigrigna. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXcZC19IIiI
4 United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (—-). ‘Patriarch Abune Antonios’ http://www.uscirf.gov/patriarch-abune-antonios
5 http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/12/08ASMARA597.html#
6 Ibid.

Source=https://eritreahub.org/maintaining-power-by-breaking-up-society-eritrea-under-isaias-afwerki-2

 

www.sudantribune.com | Nov 17, 2018

November 16, 2018 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese Commission of Refugees (SCR) said 400 Ethiopian refugees have arrived in the eastern state of Gedaref following ethnic clashes between Amhara and Tigray.

 

Sudan’s commissioner of refugees Hamad al-Gizouli said the Ethiopian refugees have entered Sudan through Gallabat and Metemma border crossing points between the two countries.

 

He expected that further influx of Ethiopian refugees would arrive in Sudan during the next days, saying among the 400 refugees there were 181 children and 100 women including pregnant and breastfeeding women.

 

Al-Gizouli added they have agreed with the UNHCR and UNICEF to provide the Ethiopian refugees with ready-made meals and medical assistance.

 

He pointed out that the 400 refugees have expressed a desire to stay in Sudan and apply for asylum because they are afraid to return to Ethiopia for their own safety.

 

Source=http://www.eastafro.com/2018/11/17/400-ethiopian-tigrayans-refugees-arrive-in-sudan-following-ethnic-clashes/

Sudan: the Impact of the Suspension of the UNHCR Resettlement Programme on Refugees

November 17, 2018

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) resettlement programme in Sudan has been suspended leaving applicants in limbo following the fraud scandal investigation which started in May 2018.

The UNHCR office has not yet resumed its resettlement services to the needy refugees.

It has been closed since May 2018 due to the fraudulent practices of the office which was exposed by IRIN journalist. [See original report below]

Refugees alleged that the UNHCR staff upon receiving bribes have tried to reverse decisions made based on standard eligibility.

This has resulted in the delays of the resettlement process of applicants to third countries.

Following the corruption report to which some of the applicants provided information, the informants feel that their security is at risky because they warned by the UNHCR for reporting the alleged corruption crimes.

Particularly some refugees are in limbo because the suspension came a few days before their scheduled flights.

As the result they have been subjected to a tremendous anxieties and worries sudan-causes-and-effects-of-the-temporary-suspension-of-unhcr-resettlement-program/.

It is to be noted a journalist from IRIN in April this year Refugees in Sudan allege chronic corruption in UN resettlement process conducted an investigative research on the UNHCR resettlement programme by interviewing refugees in Sudan.

In her report, she revealed that staff from the UNHCR office are involved in widespread corruptions jeopardizing the resettlement process.

Following the report, investigation into the corruption allegation was initiated by the UNHCR, Geneva office.


EXCLUSIVE: Refugees in Sudan allege chronic corruption in UN resettlement process

Source: IRIN

Refugees in Khartoum, interviewed by IRIN over a 10 month period, say that individuals working with the Sudanese branch of the UN agency responsible for resettlement engage in corrupt practices, and that life-changing decisions are often made based on bribes rather than eligibility. That agency, UNHCR, says it has now mounted an investigation.

More than a dozen people told IRIN of experiences in which individuals claiming to be affiliated with UNHCR solicited money in exchange for advancing refugees a few rungs up the long ladder to resettlement, in a kind of “pay-to-play” scheme.

A recent staff list obtained by IRIN indicates that several individuals named in interviews with refugees as engaging in corrupt practices were still employed there as of February 2018.

“We call it the mafia – they’re supposed to be caring for refugees, but here, they think of themselves,” said one Ethiopian man in Khartoum, sitting on a bed donated by another refugee he said had paid to be resettled in Australia. The man asked not to be named because he fears arbitrary arrest and deportation by Sudanese security agents, a common concern among Khartoum’s refugees.

UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch confirmed that the agency’s independent, Geneva-based Inspector General’s Office (IGO), which is mandated to look into allegations of misconduct, is carrying out the investigation.

“UNHCR does everything to ensure the integrity of the resettlement programme as it is absolutely vital to maintain the confidence of refugees and the states involved,” Baloch said. “UNHCR investigations are led by professional investigators.”

An entrenched problem

When IRIN first raised refugees’ allegations of corruption with UNHCR Khartoum office in September 2017, the then spokesperson in Khartoum said they were unaware of such claims. IRIN contacted the office with additional information in February, by which time a new spokesperson was in place. She passed on the allegations to the IGO, which later asked IRIN for further details.

The IGO appears to have opened its investigation in March, although UNHCR would not confirm the timing, or whether it was the result of IRIN’s reporting. Some refugees say their cases are now being re-assessed, although IRIN again could not confirm if this was prompted by these allegations and the investigation.

Since July 2017, IRIN has been in frequent contact with refugees in Khartoum and others now living in Europe. Many described an entrenched system of bribery and exploitative practices associated with the UNHCR resettlement programme in Khartoum.

“We call it the mafia – they’re supposed to be caring for refugees, but here, they think of themselves.”

These complaints were echoed by a UNHCR staff member formerly posted to the Sudanese capital, who asked to remain anonymous because of fears of professional retribution.

“The magnitude of corruption in the office… is (on) an unprecedented scale… This operation is the worst in terms of corruption [and] mismanagement,” the staff member said.

The UNHCR employee said the alleged corruption had been going on for a long time, but had become significantly worse over the past four years, with no apparent action being taken to address it.

“If they [staff] talk they will lose their job. They will be attacked and harassed. I believe lots of people in UNHCR know about this but no one wants to talk about it. That’s a problem,” the staff member said. “They know talking about it will not do anything… Even IGO. The IGO takes a long time and nothing happens… Everybody prefers to be quiet.”

59 global probes

Migration in the Horn of Africa is complex and constantly evolving. Lying on a crossroads of these movements, Sudan is both a temporary and long-term host to large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers who mostly come from South Sudan, Eritrea, and Ethiopia, but also from Syria, Yemen, Chad, and the Central African Republic. Many migrants pass through Sudan on their way to Europe via Libya.

For many of the 1.2 million refugees in Sudan and the 22.5 million worldwide, resettlement – the opportunity to start life anew, typically in a Western country – is coveted. But with fewer than one percent of registered refugees resettled each year, the process has been susceptible to abuse and exploitation.

Baloch said that globally, since 2015, the IGO’s Investigation Service has carried out 59 probes related to fraud in resettlement and refugee status determination, and that the allegations were proven in 25 of these investigations.

In 2017, the service received almost 400 complaints about misconduct by UNHCR staff around the world, most of which related to fraud, as well as to sexual exploitation and abuse, according to a recent overview of the IGO’s work. Allegations in half of the cases concluded last year were substantiated, it said.

“Fraud and corruption are not tolerated at UNHCR and would constitute a serious breach of the trust placed in us by the vulnerable people we serve and those who support us,” Melissa Fleming, UNHCR’s head of communications and public information, told IRIN when asked for comment about the Khartoum allegations.

“If it exists, it must be rooted out. UNHCR policy strongly encourages staff, partners and refugees to report any exploitation or abuse that comes to their attention. We are committed to do our utmost to support and protect victims and witnesses of misconduct and to foster an environment in which every person feels safe and free to come forward and speak up.”

In a statement issued last year in relation to allegations of corruption by government officials responsible for refugees in Uganda, UNHCR said: “Every allegation is thoroughly assessed and, if substantiated, leads to sanctions against the concerned staff member, including summary dismissal.”

“What is written is contrary to what’s happening”

Resettlement is a complicated process taking anywhere from several days (in emergency cases) to several years. More than 2,000 people were resettled from Sudan in the year ending September 2017, according to UNHCR.

People arriving in Sudan seeking asylum are supposed to head first to Shagarab camp in the east of the country to be registered as refugees. But many skip this step and head straight to the capital because the area around the camp is a notorious haunt of kidnappers-for-ransom.

Refugees in Khartoum said the going rate to speed up the refugee registration and resettlement process for unregistered asylum seekers in Khartoum is about $15,000. Resettling a whole family boosts the price to $35,000-$40,000 – money usually raised by relatives in Europe or elsewhere. The refugees said bribes were being paid to a network that includes middlemen and UNHCR protection staff.

Similar allegations of corrupt practices have been made elsewhere and in some cases confirmed. In 2001 Frank Montil, a former narcotics detective and senior UNHCR investigator, uncovered a refugee extortion racket in Kenya. At the time, he said, profits from exploiting refugees amounted to millions of dollars, with unofficial fees on migrants starting at $25 to enter a local UNHCR compound and escalating to between $1,000 and $4,000 for resettlement.

When told last autumn about allegations by refugees in Sudan – months before IGO got involved – Montil said he was astounded at the similarities with the schemes he had revealed in Kenya. It was as if someone had read his 2002 report and decided to replicate it, he said.

“It needs to be investigated,” he continued. “If I heard [as a responsible official] what you said now, I would already be in Sudan and looking at it… I would have already sent a team on the ground.”

Jumping the queue

In interviews, refugees recounted being approached by Eritrean or Ethiopian individuals who claimed to have contacts within UNHCR and suggested that money could advance their cases.

These middlemen seemed to have a good sense of their market. “They know which ones are the houses they should go to,” said one man who fled to Sudan in the 1990s from Ethiopia and now lives with his family in a small stone room in a run-down area of Khartoum, having given up on resettlement.

“I believe lots of people in UNHCR know about this but no one wants to talk about it.”

Refugees who raised the requested cash were handed a paper confirming an appointment at the UNHCR offices, where the resettlement process begins with a series of interviews and background checks. Refugees and the former UNHCR Khartoum staff member said a lot of power rests with a small group of UNHCR protection staff, who decide which cases should be promoted for resettlement.

But such payment did not guarantee resettlement. Refugees put forward for resettlement often go through extensive security screenings before they are accepted by a host country.

A number of the interviewed refugees said they believe some UNHCR staff work with outside individuals to obtain money without the knowledge of their colleagues.

Some refugees in Sudan who had applied for resettlement told IRIN their documents had mysteriously disappeared, their case numbers had changed without explanation, or people they knew who lacked refugee status were nonetheless allowed to leave the country after paying money to UNHCR staff.

Many refugees said they and others now avoid the UNHCR in Sudan altogether because of perceived corruption and unfairness in the system. Instead, they turn to smugglers to make the hazardous journey to Libya, the Mediterranean and, eventually, Europe. It’s common for asylum seekers in similar situations to avoid official channels, as they attempt to find the fastest way to a country they consider safe.

The close relationship between UNHCR and Sudanese government officials, and the systemic abuse and discrimination refugees face as “second-class citizens” inside Sudan, were additional reasons refugees cited for avoiding formal channels.

Paying for a fake wife and a UNHCR meeting

One refugee in Khartoum, a construction worker who did not want his name used because of fears of retribution, told IRIN he had been asked by a Sudanese man of Eritrean origin, who identified himself as ‘Saleh’, to pay about $4,500 for resettlement. The man had approached him after the Sudanese government’s Commission for Refugees denied his request for an identity card without explanation. All refugees in Khartoum are supposed to have such cards.

The construction worker, who earns just $50 a month, said Saleh had told him a UNHCR official was willing to help him in return for payment.

The refugee said he paid a portion of the money in 2011, and that Saleh gave him a UNHCR appointment form to meet the official and start the resettlement process.

Saleh also set him up with a “fake wife” to increase his chances of success. The woman in question was another refugee desperate to leave Sudan and had to pay $12,000 for the opportunity. The larger sum is consistent with gender-discrepant smuggling fees throughout Sudan, where Eritrean families are typically charged three times more to keep women safe.

The process went on for three years and included meetings in the UNHCR compound, the refugee said. Then Saleh disappeared, followed by the supposed UNHCR official.

The pair had collected money from many others, the refugee said. The fake wife eventually left, he said, hiring a smuggler to help her travel to Libya and later Germany.

Less well-off refugees, meanwhile, alleged the corruption involved theft of their identities.

Bisirat Tesfamariam, a 53-year-old Eritrean widower who arrived in Sudan in 1981 and now has three children – one a teenager, the other two in their twenties – said UNHCR had twice told him he would be resettled, most recently in 2014, to Canada. But his case was eventually rejected, he said.

He told IRIN that one former UNHCR staff member in Sudan later told him one of his daughters – who was still living with him in Khartoum at the time – had already been resettled abroad. Bisirat concluded that his family’s files must have been given to other refugees in a case of identity theft.

When contacted by IRIN, this person said that they had no immediate memory of the man or his case and declined to comment further.

In April 2017, Bisirat, together with 38 other Eritreans and Ethiopians – all with official refugee status – signed a letter complaining of rampant corruption in UNHCR’s Khartoum office.

The refugees say they gave physical or digital copies to UNHCR’s Geneva and Kenyan headquarters. In September, UNHCR said it had no knowledge of the letter, which named four people the refugees accused of being involved in exploitation. The letter ended by stating: “Please bear with us because we have no alternative possibility but you.”

Bisirat is one of the refugees whose case is now being reassessed.

In a phone call with IRIN in March, hours after he was unexpectedly called and asked to bring his family in for an interview with UNHCR, Bisirat said he felt hopeful for the first time in years. But two months later, after seeing little evidence of any further progression, he sounded despondent again. “Sudan now is very hard,” he said. “Sudan is not changing.”

(Additional reporting by Temesghen Debesai in London)

This story was produced with support from the non-profit 100Reporters, a Washington, DC-based investigative reporting organisation; and Journalists for Transparency, a project of Transparency International.

(TOP PHOTO: Teenagers sit in a dormitory in the unaccompanied minors section of Shagarab refugee camp, eastern Sudan, where many refugees who’ve fled Eritrea first go to get registered. CREDIT: Sally Hayden/IRIN)

sh/am/ag

Eritrea-Ethiopia peace leads to a refugee surge

%PM, %17 %818 %2018 %19:%Nov Written by
MEKELLE/Ethiopia, 15 November 2018
Source: IRIN
 

A group of Eritreans lines up outside a small, green army tent surrounded by yellow scrubland at the top of a ridge marking the Ethiopia-Eritrea border.

After having their details jotted down by bored-looking Eritrean soldiers they get back into the white minibus taking them from the city of Mekelle in Ethiopia’s Tigray region to the Eritrean capital, Asmara. As they set off, another minibus passes them going the other way.

A short time ago, such scenes were unthinkable.

After being sealed for 20 years – following growing tensions at the end of the 1990s and then a two-year war – the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea finally re-opened in September.

To escape the realities of life under President Isaias Afwerki – enforced military conscription, indefinite national service, lack of freedom of speech and movement, and the potential for imprisonment for opposing the regime – Eritreans used to have to risk everything, including a border patrolled by guards with a shoot-to-kill policy.

With the historic peace agreement signed in July, they can now cross without a passport or permit, and they don’t even have to confirm if or when they will return.

This lack of restrictions is being embraced by people on both sides, but the sudden freedom of movement has also seen a surge in asylum seekers crossing in search of new lives, placing an additional burden on Ethiopia’s Tigray region and beyond.

James Jeffrey/IRIN
For some Eritreans, crossing into Ethiopia is the start of a journey that will take them to the Mediterranean and towards the dream of Europe.

While arrivals have since stabilised, the unrestricted opening of the border initially led to a fourfold daily increase in Eritreans crossing and applying for refugee status. There are now around 175,000 Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia.

Despite this, the Ethiopian government appears to be sticking with its open-door policy for refugees – although there are fears it could change its mind and close the border again if it struggles to cope with the influx.

“Ethiopia is a signatory to the Geneva Convention on refugees, so for now there is no change in their refugee status,” said Tekie Gebreyesas, regional coordinator in Tigray for the Ethiopian government’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs, known as ARRA.

“The relationship between the two countries has improved, but the internal situation in Eritrea is still the same,” Tekie explained.

Growing burden

More than 15,000 Eritreans have crossed since the September border opening, according to local Ethiopian authorities. Most have claimed refugee status: around 10,000 by the middle of October, according to UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency.

Ethiopia was already hosting just over 900,000 refugees from various countries, of whom Eritreans are the third largest group.

The Ethiopian government also has just under three million internally displaced persons to contend with – a number that has swollen this year due to unrest in its eastern Somali region as well as in the Guji and West Gedeo zones.

Previous rises in numbers of Eritrean refugees coming into Ethiopia occurred between 2004 and 2014 as the Isaias regime hardened and became more oppressive, while UN sanctions against Eritrea – lifted on Wednesday – came into effect in 2009 and made life harder for ordinary Eritreans, spurring even more to try and leave.

The drop-off from 2014 may be partly down to the EU launching the Khartoum Process, which essentially gave money to Eritrea’s government to help stem migration into Europe.

“There’s no way I’m going back”

Since the border opening, buses have reportedly been sweeping in to the small Ethiopian border town of Zalambessa, just beyond the Eritrean checkpoint, to collect hundreds of Eritrean asylum seekers who muster there over the course of a few days.

Map of Ethiopia showing Eritrea, Tigray, and refugee camps

In Mekelle, first stop for many en route to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, or other urban centres, IRIN found Yohannes* relaxing with some Eritrean friends.

An Eritrean of mixed parentage, Yohannes was conscripted at age 16 and served for 18 years, including fighting in the 1998–2000 border war, which pitted Eritrean soldiers with an Ethiopian parent (like Yohannes) against Ethiopian soldiers with an Eritrean parent.

“There’s no way I am going back to Eritrea,” he said. “I didn’t want to fight. We are the same people. But I had no choice than to fight for my country. If you refused to fight, the government could arrest your family.”

Yohannes and his friends said they planned to make a living in Ethiopia, and if that didn’t work out they would move to another country.

For some Eritreans, crossing the border is the start of a journey that will take them to the Mediterranean via Sudan and then onto Libya, and the dream of Europe.

But many, like Yohannes and his friends, first try to settle in Ethiopia.

After being registered close to the point of arrival, they are supposed to reside in camps unless they have an exemption. But the majority of Eritrean refugees soon move outside the camps and head to the cities in search of work – they make up 79 percent of the urban refugee population in Addis Ababa, where whole residential areas in the city have a notably Eritrean feel.

“A key challenge to providing protection and assistance to Eritrean refugees is the high number of persons leaving the camps to pursue onward movements,” notes UNHCR’s most recent Ethiopia response plan.

“In 2016, approximately 80 percent of the Eritrean refugees left the camps in Tigray within the first 12 months after arriving in Ethiopia,” it said. “Motivated by the desire to access better educational services, reunite with relatives abroad, and earn an income to support their families in Eritrea, many children and young adults consider that their sole option is to reach Europe.”

Ethiopia has committed itself to the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, or CRRF, which came from the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and involves affording refugees more opportunities to leave camps and better access to jobs and education.

How strong that commitment will remain in light of recent events remains an open question.

“The CRRF was a natural fit in Tigray,” said the head of programmes with a foreign refugee organisation based in Addis Ababa, who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the issue. “But now that the situation has changed significantly no one knows if and how the government might rethink its policy to Eritrean refugees. Will they be awarded the same privileges accorded to refugees through the CRRF?”

Reunited after decades

Eritreans used to sneak across the border in search of asylum or a better life. Now, they travel for a variety of reasons. Some are even going the other way too.

“I went from Addis Ababa to Asmara after the border opened to see my father for the first time in 26 years – he died 10 days after I arrived,” said Senait*, one of the Eritreans lined up outside the army tent on the border.

Senait moved to the Ethiopian capital after marrying an Ethiopian but wasn’t able to visit her family after war broke out in 1998, and the borders closed. She’s now taking her uncle back to Asmara to live with relatives, but plans to return to her family in Addis Ababa after the visit.

Many Eritreans are also crossing the border to reunite with family members not seen for decades. Others simply go to shop, or to enjoy the more vibrant social life before returning to Eritrea of their own accord.

“We’ve been here two weeks seeing our families and will head back to Asmara in three days,” said 24-year-old Qemer, speaking in Mekelle alongside her sister and another friend who was visiting long-separated family members. “We were small children when we last saw them properly, though we stayed in touch via Facebook.”

Hotels in Mekelle that used to struggle for business are now fully booked. Tired-looking cars with the distinctive Eritrean registration plate beginning ER1 are parked all over the city and can be seen with the minibuses shooting along the road between Asmara and Mekelle.

James Jeffrey/IRIN
Mekelle, the capital of the Tigray region, is enjoying something of a boom.

Once known for hosting convoys of camels carrying salt from the Danakil desert, Mekelle’s bustling market is seeing a booming trade in cereals, construction materials, and petrol.

“In Eritrea they are limited to how much they can take out of the bank each month, but here they can get money sent by relatives abroad,” explained Teberhe, a Mekelle businesswoman who runs clothing and cosmetic shops and a khat house. “They are taking back construction materials in case building restrictions are reduced at home.”

Doubts remain over the peace deal and over Ethiopia’s capacity to take in so many new refugees, but for now there is genuine joy among ordinary Eritreans and Ethiopians, especially Tigrayans, about reuniting and having a chance to finally reconcile.

“I am really looking forward to visiting Asmara. We belong together. I have family there too,” Teberhe said. “I don’t think there is any way back now for the Eritrean government; Eritreans are experiencing freedom, socialising, and business – the genie is out of the bottle.”

(*Note: Names changed for security reasons)

Here is the full report.

Monitoring Group Report 2018

 

Post navigation

Source: What’s in blue

On Wednesday (14 November), the Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing sanctions measures on Somalia while lifting sanctions on Eritrea, namely the arms embargoes, travel bans, asset freezes and targeted sanctions imposed on Eritrea in resolutions 1907 (2009), 2023 (2011), 2060 (2012) and 2111 (2013). Accordingly, the draft resolution states that the committee pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning Somalia and Eritrea will be known as the committee pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) concerning Somalia. The resolution also terminates the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) and establishes the Panel of Experts on Somalia in its stead.

The lifting of sanctions on Eritrea was the culmination of regional political developments that unfolded since Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki signed a peace agreement in Asmara on 9 July, ending a 20-year conflict. Eritrea and Ethiopia signed an Agreement on Peace, Friendship and Comprehensive Cooperation on 16 September, which was welcomed by Council members in a press statement (SC/13516). Ethiopia then pushed in the Council for the lifting of sanctions on Eritrea.

Not all issues that led to the imposition of UN sanctions on Eritrea have been entirely resolved, however. In the midst of the rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Djibouti transmitted a letter to the Secretary-General on 11 July calling on him, in close collaboration with the Security Council, to use his good offices to facilitate an agreement between the principal parties (that is, Djibouti and Eritrea) on a particular method of dispute settlement, preferably adjudication or arbitration. Resolutions 1862 and 1907 of 2009 called on Eritrea to withdraw its forces to their previous positions from an area disputed with Djibouti (the Ras Doumeira peninsula and adjacent territory), to engage in the peaceful settlement of the border dispute, and to resolve related issues such as unaccounted-for prisoners of war. Resolution 1907 imposes sanctions on Eritrea for obstructing the implementation of resolution 1862 concerning Djibouti.

Over the months that followed, Council members started to discuss the conditions under which sanctions would be lifted, taking into account that over the previous four years, the SEMG had not been able to find conclusive evidence that Eritrea was providing support to Al-Shabaab, the main reason the sanctions had been imposed. Council members conveyed to Eritrea that sanctions could be lifted if Eritrea committed to resolving its dispute with Djibouti and, considering that Eritrea has refused to acknowledge and cooperate with the Council’s sanctions regime, if it were to receive the chair of the Sanctions Committee (Ambassador Kairat Umarov of Kazakhstan) for a visit and meet with the coordinator of the SEMG.

Several encouraging developments ensued, paving the way for the lifting of sanctions. On 6 September, Eritrea and Djibouti announced the restoration of diplomatic ties, following a trilateral high-level meeting with Ethiopia, and the presidents of the two states met in Jeddah on 17 September. Then, on 25 September, Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed met with Umarov, in his capacity as chair of the sanctions committee, in New York. This was followed by a 5 October meeting between an Eritrean presidential advisor and the SEMG, with the participation of Umarov, also in New York.

With respect to Al-Shabaab, Council members received the latest SEMG report in October, which reported that for the fifth year in a row, no conclusive evidence was found that Eritrea was providing support to Al-Shabaab. Furthermore, the report noted that other armed groups acting against Ethiopia with the support of Eritrea have now signed peace agreements with Ethiopia.

Heading into the negotiations on the resolution to be voted on tomorrow, there was consensus among Council members that the recent meetings between Eritrean officials, Umarov and the SEMG coordinator were sufficient to demonstrate Eritrea’s cooperation with the Sanctions Committee, and that there had been positive developments on the Eritrea-Djibouti front. Thus, there was a general willingness to work towards terminating sanctions on Eritrea.

Nevertheless, some Council members were more supportive than others. Ethiopia, with the support of some members, such as Russia and Sweden, expressed its readiness to end the sanctions. The US and France would have preferred to see further commitment by Eritrea and Djibouti to resolving their dispute, such as a letter to the Council.

Taking all of this into account, the draft resolution in blue terminates sanctions measures imposed on Eritrea, while underlining the importance of continuing efforts towards the normalisation of relations between Eritrea and Djibouti for regional peace, stability and reconciliation. In this regard, Council members have been given to understand that Djibouti no longer opposes the lifting of sanctions on Eritrea, provided the Council continues to monitor the situation. The draft urges Eritrea and Djibouti to continue efforts to settle their border dispute peacefully in a manner consistent with international law by conciliation, arbitration or judicial settlement, or by any other agreed means of pacific dispute settlement identified in Article 33 of the Charter, and for the parties to engage on the issue of the Djiboutian combatants missing in action.

Furthermore, the resolution confirms the Council’s intention to support the two countries’ effort to resolve their differences, requests the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council by 15 February 2019 and every six months thereafter on this matter, and expresses the Council’s intention to keep normalisation efforts under review. On the reporting requirement, Russia broke silence over a previous draft, taking the view that reporting should be annual rather than every six months. The final draft, however, retains the semi-annual reporting requirement.

With the lifting of sanctions on Eritrea, Council members agreed to establish a Panel of Experts on Somalia until 15 December 2019, instead of the SEMG. The Council expresses its intention in the draft resolution to review the panel’s mandate and take appropriate action regarding its extension by 15 November 2019. Council members agreed that the number of experts on the panel should be fewer than the eight members of the SEMG; however, there was disagreement on the precise number. Russia wanted the panel to consist of five experts and broke silence on this issue. Other Council members insisted that the panel number six, and the draft in blue requests the Secretary-General to establish a panel of six experts, in consultation with the Sanctions Committee, drawing, as appropriate, on the expertise of the members of the SEMG. The draft further calls on the panel to include the necessary gender expertise, in line with paragraph 6 of resolution 2242 (2015).

The draft resolution further decides that the existing listing criterion under resolution 1844 (2008) on engaging in or providing support for acts that threaten the peace, security or stability of Somalia may also include the planning, directing or committing acts involving sexual and gender-based violence.

In addition to these changes in the sanctions regime, the draft resolution reaffirms the arms embargo on Somalia, while renewing the partial lifting of the arms embargo on Somali security forces. It also requests the Secretary-General to conduct a technical assessment of the arms embargo, with options and recommendations for improving implementation, by 15 May 2019; renews the authorisation for maritime interdiction to enforce the embargo on illicit arms imports and charcoal exports; and renews the humanitarian exemptions to the sanctions regime.

This will be the second resolution that the Council will adopt on Somalia in November. On 6 November, the Council adopted resolution 2442 renewing for 13 months the authorisations allowing international naval forces cooperating with Somali authorities to take measures against piracy in the waters off the coast of Somalia. These include operations in Somalia’s territorial waters and related operations on land.

Eritrea Focus Statement – November 2018

%PM, %13 %896 %2018 %21:%Nov Written by
Tuesday 13 November 2018

Eritrea Focus wholeheartedly welcomes and supports the reconciliation between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The initiative taken by Dr Abiy Ahmed has broken the deadlock that existed between the two countries from the end of the border war in 2000 until this year. President Isaias Afwerki’s decision to accept the hand of friendship – albeit reluctantly – and to participate in this process was an important contribution hopefully to end the hostility between the two nations and reduce tension across the Horn of Africa.

At the same time, we note the bold steps that Dr Abiy has taken to end repressive measures in Ethiopia. Political prisoners have been released; opposition groups – including some armed movements – have been allowed to return from exile and participate freely in the country’s politics; journalists have been freed and internet restrictions lifted. Ethiopia is making strides towards becoming an open democracy.
 

Nothing has changed

The contrast with the situation in Eritrea could hardly be starker. Despite the normalisation of relations with Ethiopia, nothing appears to have changed, and some argue that the situation has in fact deteriorated. Young men and women are trapped indefinitely in military conscription under the guise of ‘national service’. The number of refugees fleeing the country has increased from an average of 50 to more than 400 a day. The jails are full to overflowing with political prisoners who have never been given their day in court. The National Assembly remains suspended, the Constitution gathers dust, and there is only one legal political party. Far from diminishing, the dictatorship of President Isaias continues unabated. No wonder Eritreans continue to flee into exile in record numbers.

This is known and understood by the international community, yet Eritrea is to be rewarded by the lifting of the limited and targeted sanctions, in place since 2009, which hurt no-one but the president and his closest associates. It is a matter of grave concern that the US appears ready to support the ending of sanctions, despite the fact that its own Eritrean staff remain in indefinite detention. Eritrea has also been elected onto the UN Human Rights Council, despite having refused all cooperation with the UN Commission of Inquiry and the UN Special Rapporteur, whom the Council appointed.
 

Political prisoners
 

This has all taken place as a former Minister of Finance was arrested for speaking his mind, joining other political prisoners who have been held in incommunicado detention without charge for more than 17 years. We recently learned of one prisoner who was finally released after being kept for five years in total darkness. He is now blind.
 

Hour of need
 

We call on the British government to not abandon Eritreans in their hour of need. Even if the limited UN sanctions are lifted, now that Eritrean support for armed groups attacking its neighbours has ceased, it would be wrong to end pressure on the regime. There is no evidence that Eritrea will respond to the lifting of sanctions by improving the human rights of its citizens. The UK, together with its international friends and allies, needs to find new means to keep the pressure on President Isaias until Eritrea is a democratic nation that respects the rights enshrined in the UN Charter.
 

Eritrea Focus



www.eritrea-focus.org
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The Eritrean government has a range of foreigners who support it. Some are paid. Some are not.

Few can be stranger than the Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of Orange County, California. He narrowly lost his seat after 30 years. He was close to the Eritrean regime, as well as being a key supporter of President Trump and the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin. [See below]

I am republishing an article written earlier.


Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher – President Isaias’s friend

The Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher may seem like an unlikely supporter of the Eritrean government’s cause, but there’s no denying that he’s consistent.

This week he sent a letter to US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, calling for an improvement in relations with Eritrea and the resumption of military ties with the country. rohrabacher_Letter_Pompeo_-Eritrea

The letter, dated 26th April, argues that:

“Eritrea defeated the Stalinist dictatorship ruling Ethiopia to gain independence in 1991. Eritrea is a key member of the coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE fighting against the Iranian backed Houthis in Yemen. Eritrea has excellent relations with Israel, UAE and Egypt. Cooperation with Eritrea to address the growing Chinese influence in the region, including their new military base in Djibouti and the ongoing fight against Islam makes sense.”

Congressman Rohrabacher is something of an oddball. A former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan, he is now seen as so strongly pro-Russian that he is said to have a Kremlin code-name, signifying that he is viewed as a valuable potential asset by Russian intelligence.

But he is also a man of some influence. He is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats.

Eritrean links

Congressman Rohrabacher has close ties with one of the key people the Eritrean regime uses to woo persons of influence. The Eritrean government hired Greenberg Traurig, a law firm that includes a lobbying team headed by Jack Abramoff.

Their services didn’t come cheap. Greenberg Traurig’s contract with Eritrea, filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, meant the country was paying Greenberg Traurig $50,000 a month for helping “in implementing its public policy goals in Washington.”

As long ago as 2005 the New York Times revealed the links between Abramoff and Rohrabacher.

“Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican who said he had been friends with Mr. Abramoff for two decades and did not shy away from his hospitality.Mr. Rohrabacher, whose name bears the “FOO Comp” designation on the customer list, said he ate at Signatures at Mr. Abramoff’s expense once or twice a month and that the meals fell under the friendship exemption in House rules. He also said he tried to take Mr. Abramoff out regularly, paying for the lobbyist’s meals in return. “Just because you are a member of Congress doesn’t mean you have to give up your friendships,” Mr. Rohrabacher said, adding that “it was dinner with a friend and I didn’t think of it as a gift.”

In 2006 Abramoff pleaded guilty to bribing U.S. government officials in an unrelated case and was jailed for four years. He recently returned to lobbying, according to documents he filed with the Justice Department.

For his part, Congressman Rohrabacher has certainly been consistent in arguing for a pro-Eritrean government position.

  • In 2005, he argued in Congress for the State Department to take a more favourable view of Eritrea.
  • In July 2017 Rohrabacher proposed an amendment to the U.S. Department of Defense budget that would prompt Defense Secretary James Mattis to open negotiations with Eritrea on fighting terrorism.
  • In August 2017 he called for an end to sanctions against Eritrea and better ties with the country suggesting that America should follow the lead of others: “Multiple operations have been launched from Eritrean soil. Eritrean troops reportedly are involved in military operations inside Yemen. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have indicated they welcome and value Eritrea’s participation. Egypt and Eritrea have greatly strengthened their already close ties in recent months, and Israel has cooperated with Eritrea for years.”

So will Rohrabacher succeed? Will this weeks visit to the Horn by top US African diplomat, Donald Yamamoto lead to an ending of UN sanctions against Eritrea and even a US military base in the country?

We should know fairly soon. But perhaps Congressman Rohrabacher will have other things on his mind. He is facing re-election and right now the prospects are not too good.

Perhaps President Isaias and the Eritrean government need to think about finding a new American best friend.


Dana Rohrabacher, a pro-Russia Republican, narrowly loses House seat

 
 

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

November 10 at 9:13 PM

A Republican congressman known for his outspoken support for Russian President Vladi­mir Putin narrowly lost his Orange County, Calif., seat after 15 terms, a defeat that helped Democrats further solidify their House majority.

Democrat Harley Rouda, a real estate executive, beat Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in one of the state’s most closely watched congressional races, the Associated Press projected on Saturday. Rohrabacher’s strong identification with President Trump and his unabashed support for Russia had made him ripe for a challenge in an affluent district that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Rouda had 109,591 votes to Rohrabacher’s 101,081 votes, with 52 percent of the vote to the Republican’s 48 percent, according to the AP.

Democrats won the House majority on Tuesday and since then have picked up additional seats as ballots have been counted in about a dozen unresolved races.

Rohrabacher’s friendliness toward Russia has raised eyebrows over the years and became a focal point in the race. Referred to as “Putin’s favorite congressman,” the longtime Republican lawmaker has said that Putin beat him in a drunken arm-wrestling match in the early 1990s to decide who won the Cold War.


Harley Rouda addresses his supporters at his election night party Nov. 6, in Newport Beach, Calif. (Kyusung Gong/AP)

The FBI warned Rohrabacher in 2012 that Russian spies were actively trying to recruit him. In 2015, Rohrabacher met with a woman in Russia who was later charged in the United States with spying for Moscow, an indictment the lawmaker called “bogus.”

And he has expressed doubts about the intelligence community’s consensus that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

In June 2016, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said there are “two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.”

Rohrabacher has also made a number of controversial comments over the years. In May, he said it was acceptable for people to refuse to sell their homes to gay men and lesbians if they “don’t agree with their lifestyle.” The remark prompted the National Association of Realtors to withdraw its support for his campaign.

plans to build naval base “adjacent to the Red Sea & the Indian Ocean.”

So says General Berhanu Jula, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Ethiopian Armed Forces. He told Addis Standard: “We are consulting with other countries regarding the naval reinstatement, capacity, & structure.”

Ethiopia bases 2

Ethiopia is certainly a great nation. But – apart from a few patrol craft on lake Tana –  what is General Berhanu thinking of? Where will these bases be?

He gave a few more details.

Ethiopia bases

What does ‘adjacent to’ the Red Sea mean, other than establishing bases at Assab or Massawa? President Isaias has travelled to Ethiopia today. Isaias Gondar

Are naval bases on the agenda of the tripartite meeting that President Isaias, Prime Minister Abiy and Somalia’s President Farmajo are due to hold in Gondar?

The three leaders have every right to discuss the proposals, but these are major developments. They need to be put to the people for their consideration. But while Ethiopia and Somalia have parliaments, Eritrea does not.

Without transparency and democratic buy-in, surely the Eritrean people have a right to question the legitimacy of what will inevitably require a reduction in their sovereignty?

President Isaias has already allowed Saudi Arabia and the UAE to develop bases at Assab.  But allowing Ethiopia to return to their former bases would be another matter altogether.

Eritreans fought for independence for 30 years to end Ethiopian control over their territory. They defended it in the 1998 – 2000 border war. Tens of thousands laid down their lives. President Isaias must surely be open with them about what he plans, and obtain their consent.

Ethiopia’s previous naval bases on the Eritrean coast

In 1955, the Imperial Ethiopian Navy was founded, with its primary base—the Haile Selassie I Naval Base—at Massawa. By the early 1960s workshops and other facilities were under construction at Massawa to give it complete naval base capabilities.

Ethiopia Massawa

The Imperial Ethiopian Navy established four bases: Massawa was the site of the naval headquarters and enlisted training facilities; the naval air station and naval academy were at Asmara; Assab was the site of a naval station, enlisted training facilities, and a repair dock; and there was a naval station and communications station on the Dahlak Islands in the Red Sea near Massawa.

Former Ethiopian diplomat Birhanemeskel Abebe speculated that strategic and geo-political security concerns could be driving the navy plan.

“Ethiopia’s right to use international waters demands it has a naval base,” he told the BBC’s Newsday programme.

He suggested Kenya, Somaliland and Djibouti as possible locations for the base. But the ports of Eritrea are much more obvious.

The plan, Mr Birhanemeskel said, was to push for the “unification of the Horn of Africa as an economic bloc and the navy is part of that project”.