Eritrea and Sudan to mend fences?

%AM, %30 %494 %2018 %11:%Oct Written by

On Friday, 5th of January, Sudan sent thousands of troops to guard its border with Eritrea. The deployment was said to have been done to ‘confront human trafficking operations,’ the official SUNA news agency reported.

No explanation was ever given for the dramatic development, which saw the Sudan-Eritrean border closed and a state of emergency declared in the area.

Now, it seems, this is about to be reversed.

Eritrea, Sudan to normalize relations soon: report

October 28, 2018 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan and Eritrea would normalise bilateral relations in the near future as a result of regional efforts, according to a press report published in Khartoum on Sunday.

Source: Sudan Tribune

JPEG - 28.3 kb
FILE – Sudan’s President Omer Hassan al-Bashir (R) receiving Eritrea’s President Isaias Afewerki (L) in Sudan’s capital Khartoum (Xinhua)

In January 2018, Sudan accused Eritrea of backing rebel groups unidentified opposition groups and closed the border after deploying thousands of troops. In return, Asmara last May accused Sudan, Ethiopia and Qatar of supporting armed opposition groups to overthrow the government of President Isaias Afewerki.

However, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed reconciled with Eritrea last July and sought to bridge the gaps between the two neighbouring countries as he did with Eritrea and Somalia.

Al-Meghar newspaper reported on Sunday that President Omer al-Bashir would meet his Eritrean counterpart Afewerki after a visit by the Presidential Assistant Faisal Hassan Ibrahim to Asmara in the upcoming days without further details.

The report said the normalisation of relations come after regional efforts to end the tensions between the two countries.

Also, the newspaper mentioned internal efforts by Sudanese political parties that have good relations with President Afewerki without naming these political forces. But it disclosed that Presidential Assistant Musa Mohamed Ahmed who is also the leader of the Beja Congress is currently in Asmara to discuss the normalization of bilateral relations and he would return next Tuesday.

Musa who was the leader of the rebel East Front signed a peace agreement with the Sudanese government brokered by the Eritrean government in October 2006 and remained close to Eritrean president.

Last September the IGAD Council of Minister said it would discuss the normalization of relations between Djibouti and Eritrea; and between Eritrea and Sudan. However, nothing was announced after the meeting of 12 September about this matter.

Berlin has been accused of being "cynical" about progress made in Eritrea following its peace agreement with Ethiopia. Earlier this month, Germany criticized a lack of human rights reforms in the Horn of Africa country.
Eritrea Soldaten beim Training im Grenzkrieg mit Äthiopien 1999
Eritrea has told the Berlin government to "refrain from meddling" in regional affairs after the African country's human rights record drew criticism in Germany's parliament, the Bundestag. A statement posted on the Eritrean Ministry of Information website on Saturday described a speech earlier this month by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas as "appalling."

Maas' comments centered on the signing of a peace agreement in July between Ethiopia and Eritrea to formally end the two neighbors' 1998-2000 war. He noted that while Ethiopia had made headway in expanding the human rights of its citizens, there had been a lack of progress in Eritrea.

Read more: Ethiopia: Women take half of ministerial roles in Cabinet reshuffle
Karte Hirn von Afrika mit dem Roten Meer EN (DW)
"Reforms similar to the bold ones being carried out in Ethiopia have not been initiated in Eritrea so far," Maas told MPs. "On the contrary, there's still no strategy to indicate how an orderly opening up within the country could look."

Maas singled out Eritrea's decision to maintain compulsory national service, which he said was "a key means of controlling society."

He said Germany and its European partners were considering incentives "to help encourage Eritrea to finally break this logic which has resulted in major human rights violations." Mass said Germany would seek to "continue influencing developments in the region when we take up our seat on the UN Security Council next year."
In response, Eritrea said Maas' comments reflected "the hostile stance that the German Government has held against Eritrea for a long time now as well as its perspectives on the unfolding rapprochement between Eritrea and Ethiopia."

The statement, entitled "Germany's Cynical Stance," called on Berlin to "refrain from meddling in the affairs of the Horn of Africa."

Read more: Severe rights abusers get seats on UN Human Rights Council
Screenshot Website Shabait (
Ethiopia and Eritrea's peace agreement formally ended a two-decade standoff following their two-year conflict, which killed tens of thousands of people. The diplomatic thaw began in June when, under a new reformist leader, Ethiopia said it would fully accept the terms of a previously rejected peace agreement.
The war caused massive civilian displacement, which led many thousands of Eritreans to cross the Mediterranean to claim asylum in Europe. Germany currently has about 75,000 asylum-seekers from Eritrea; some 15,000 young Eritreans sought asylum this year alone, Germany Development Minister Gerd Müller said during his recent trip to Ethiopia.
This year alone, Germany has donated €200 million ($228 million) in humanitarian assistance to the region.

This is the final report she will make to the UN before being replaced by her successor.

How little has improved. View her full report  here

Martin Plaut | October 27, 2018 at 7:10 am | Tags: Eritrea, Human Rights, Sheila Keetharuth, UN human rights council | Categories: News, United Nations Human Rights Commission | URL:

By Giulia Tranchina, human rights lawyer specialising in immigration and asylum

25 October 2018

“Thanks to all our efforts and campaign, today UNHCR registered all the 300 Eritrean refugees in Qaser Bin Ghashir.

However, they dont have sufficient food or clothes and are suffering from cold and hunger.

Also thanks to all the public pressure, between yesterday and today UNHCR, IOM and MSF went to the Alfarghi Sebha centre in Tripoli, so the 204 Eritreans received some little food and blankets.

However, the Libyan police is threatening to move them away to a hidden prison if they ask again for food or help.

They are hungry, sick and scared.

We need to continue contacting UNHCR to ask them to evacuate these two groups of refugees most urgently.

Hundreds of human beings are suffering in horrific conditions, from years in Libya.

Please write to UNHCR, IOM and MSG here on facebook via messenger, on twitter and by email, and join us at the next protests!”


Pastor deplores human rights situation in Eritrea

Source: Weltkirche Katholiche

“As an Eritrean,” said Pastor Mussie, “I wonder if it is not possible to bring the bodies of the victims of the massacre of Lampedusa and all the other young refugees who were drowned in the Mediterranean and buried in Italy back to Eritrea.”

[Google translation from German]

Mussie ZeraiDespite the new peace agreement with Ethiopia, the political situation in Eritrea has not improved. This assessment, from the Eritrean priest, Mussie Zerai comes in an open letter quoted by the Vatican press service Fides. Zerai, who now lives in Switzerland, has been campaigning for the rights of migrants for many years and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015.

“The regime in Asmara,” the letter says, “is one of the world’s toughest regimes, a dictatorship that suppresses all forms of freedom, annulled the 1997 constitution, controlled the judiciary and made all citizens almost lifelong Committed to military service. “Especially young people flee from this regime and a poor economy that offers no employment opportunities.

The clergyman in the letter refers to United Nations investigations that record crimes against humanity in Eritrea over the past 25 years. Human rights violations in Eritrean detention centers and military camps, torture, kidnappings and arbitrary detention have to be brought before the International Court of Justice in The Hague, according to the experts.

According to Pastor Zerai, there are still dozens of political prisoners in Eritrea, while international commissions are denied access to the detention centers. Until recently regime opponents were arrested, Catholic schools and hospitals were closed.

Hundreds of thousands of Eritreans left their land and risked the deadly passage across the Mediterranean. Pastor Zerai reminded in this context of the boat crash on 3 October 2013, when more than 300 people died. “As an Eritrean,” said Pastor Mussie, “I wonder if it is not possible to bring the bodies of the victims of the massacre of Lampedusa and all the other young refugees who were drowned in the Mediterranean and buried in Italy back to Eritrea.” So far no one has taken responsibility for it. “It is time to overcome this problem in the name of a human principle: the families need a place where they can pray for their loved ones,” said the minister.

It was not until Tuesday evening that Pope Francis urged the governments of Europe to tackle the issue of migration together and decisively. “I ask everyone to look at the new European cemetery: It is located in the Mediterranean, in the Aegean Sea,” said the Pope.


BHaile Selassie incorporates Eritreay Petros Tesfagiorgis

When the governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea signed their peace agreement the people of Eritrea were over the moon.

Many Eritreans took Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as a peace messenger sent by God. Indeed for the people of Eritrea peace is priceless.

They hoped that President Isaias would end the indefinite national service and other forms of human rights violations, so that they can build their shattered lives and escape from poverty and degradation.

To understand the fundamentals of peace in the Eritrean the context does matter a great deal. It means not only ending hostility with Ethiopia but also ending the gross human right violations that is destroying the fabric of the Eritrean society.

When Prime Minister Abiy launched his campaign for peace he released all political prisoners, invited the opposition political organisations operating from abroad (mostly from Eritrea) to come home and participate in the social, political and economic life of the country peacefully.   On the other hand the president of Eritrea is using the peace with Ethiopia to consolidate his repressive regime and escape international isolation. The UN Human Rights Commission has voted for Eritrea to sit on the Commission. It is shameful that the Commission has effectively rewarded oppression.

Because of the peace with Ethiopia, Eritrean fears of the threat of a “Weyane” Ethiopian Government’s Invasion, which was used to intimidate the Eritrean population into submission has been removed. It was used as an scapegoat to hold the youth hostage in the national service indefinitely, so that they could not rise up and demand an end to the gross human rights violation in Eritrea.   It is expected that the youth will be demobilized.  My concern is that they may be used as cannon fodder (mercenaries) in Yemen’s devastating civil war instead.

Continuing human rights violations

In Eritrea, the human rights violations continue unabated. Arbitrary arrest are still taking place. Recently the ex-Finance Minister Berhane Abrehe – was arrested for writing a book critical of the President. President Isaias squandered the momentum generated by reconciliation with Ethiopia by failing to make peace with the Eritrean people. To add insult to injury, Isaias Afeworki did not bother to brief the people of all the agreements he did with Prime Minister Abiy.   The population has effectively been side-lined. Even his colleagues in the government are ignored.

It is sad to observe that at this critical moment Prime Minister Abiy appears unconcerned by  the gross human rights violations perpetrated by Isaias. One could argue that to take up these issues would amount to interfering in the internal affairs of Eritrea. But he is already involved in so many ways: this includes the extent to which he is allowing Ethiopians to invest in Eritrea (something denied to Eritrean investors.) This is scandalous.

Eritreans finding their voice

In fact, it looks as if the peace is just between two political leaders who are now friends. What happens if they quarrel? This has become a common concern among some Ethiopian intellectuals, and they are beginning to say so.  Eritreans have realized that if they are going to be listened and take seriously they have to unite to fight for this. They can do it: Eritreans have a long history of sacrifice and commitment to justice.  In fact, we are witnessing the Diaspora Eritreans organising conferences, seminars to that end. They are organising so that they will have the powerful voice they have hitherto lacked.

They should not expect any sympathy of their ordeal and pain from Ethiopians.  This has become crystal clear. When Prime Minister Abiy started his peace campaign,   Ethiopians from all walks of life were calling Eritreans “our brothers” and expressing their solidarity and love with passion.   But as soon as they found out that Isaias would not end the brutal repression they became silent.

An important history

I am not surprised of their silence. The history of Eritrea is always told by Ethiopian politicians without its historical context: saying Eritrea was part of Ethiopia.  This gave them the justification for the use force to maintain their occupation until they were defeated and forced to leave Eritrea in 1991.

This belief is particularly strong among the Amhara ruling elite who happen to be the main beneficiaries of feudal rule over 100 years.  (More on that on part 2). My only consolation is to see the genuine enthusiasm and joy of the people of Eritrea and Tigray/Ethiopia as they greet each other in Zalambessa and Rama celebrating the Ethiopian New Year and the feast of Kudus. It was uplifting.  After all, Tigray is the bridge between Eritrea and the rest of Ethiopia. Isaias’s “game over” carries no weight.

An important exhibition

In order to put Eritrea in its true historical context ERITREA FOCUS – organised a photo exhibition of the history in pictures in London.  It was in display for 25 days from 4 to 30 September. It is divided into 4 panels.  1.  Italian colonialism 1882 to 1941 2. British Administration 1941-1952. 3. Federation and annexation 1952 – 1991. 4. Armed struggle 1961-1991, Independence, human rights violation and the present peace with Ethiopia.

The exhibition was educational for the British citizens and particularly for Ethiopians and Eritreans who grew up in the West. Some young Eritreans said that they have seen the picture of Emperor Haile Selassie signing the agreement of the federation (above) for the first time. They had not seen another photograph of when the Emperor crossed the Mereb River  cutting  a ribbon as he steps his foot from Tigray/Ethiopia  to Eritrea.

In Its flyer pamphlet Eritrea Focus wrote: Today there is a glimmer of hope. Ethiopia reached out to Eritrea. Their leaders have met and there is the prospect of reconciliation. Yet Eritreans still long for true freedom. This timely exhibition traces how the years of devastating conflict came about and includes rare photographs – some shown for the first time. The exhibition was opened by Lord Aston of Liverpool and there were about 80 people in the opening and it stayed for 25 days.

The price of ignoring suffering

It is not wise for Ethiopians to ignore the pains and suffering of the Eritrean people and put all their eggs in Isaias’s basket. The trust the people of Eritrea put on Abiy is wearing out. Abiy doesn’t need to sacrifice the people of Eritrea in order to serve the interest of Ethiopia, win-win is the answer. It could be done and is sustainable.   History won’t judge Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Ethiopian people kindly.

At least Prime Minister Abiy could have shown some concern towards the people of Eritrea by raising his voice to help rescue the Eritrean refugees trapped in Libya in this moment in time.   There are voices such as Giulia Tranchina, Meron Estefanos and Elizabeth Blunt   appealing for help persistently (1) reminding UNHCR, IOM to register and rescue the Eritrean refugee trapped in Libya. They are making a difference. To PM Abiy Ahmed the tragedy of Eritrean refuges in Libya presents a chance to show he is concerned about the pains and suffering of the Eritrean people as well and taking advantage of his reputation as a peace maker he is well positioned to ask UNHCR or IOM to move the refugees out of Libya to a third country. His peace campaign has given him powerful voice and he can be heard.

Demonstrate outside the Italian Embassy

Sham Gabriel from the London based organisation Eritrean Youth has called on You Tube for a demonstration outside the Italian Embassy – in London in order  to put pressure on the Libyan Government to give protection to the refugees and treat them humanely. After all it is the Italian Government  that is funding the Libyans in order to prevent refugees going to Italy but what they did is to put them in detention camps worse than concentration camps. They are being enslaved, starved and in danger of their life.

Date of the demonstration is 31 October 2018

The End

  1. ERITREA FOCUS (EF) Founded in 2014 is an association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) human rights organisations, exile and refugee groups and individuals concerned with the gross abuses of human rights of Eritrea. In addition to various activities it has solicited a study and came out with a report titled MINING AND REPRESSION IN ERITREA: CORPORATE COMPLICITY IN HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES Presented to the All-Party Parliamentary group on Eritrea. Can be downloaded from its website
  2. The Urgent Appeal:  Please help us to try to contact these numbers for the 300 refugees including about 150 women and children in Qaser Bin Ghashir detention centre, 27 km from Tripoli. They need to be registered by UNHCR and evacuated most urgently! Below are UNHCR hotline numbers to call: Community Service lines: 1. Tripoli: 00218917127644.2. Benghazi: 00218910007218.Registration line: 00218919897937.Sea Rescue line: 8916998580.
    General Protection and Detention line: 00218919897936.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Source=                                                                                                                               


Members of the Tigrai People’s Democratic Movement (TPDM) – known as “Demhit”, was the most powerful of the Eritrea-based Ethiopian rebel groups.

The 2014 Monitors report for the UN Security Council said Demhit as had 20,000 fighters.

In September 2015 members of Demhit returned to Ethiopia. Here is a report on how this happened.

Torture allegations

Now its members have made detailed allegations that they were tortured while they were in Eritrea.

“Members of DEMHIT revealed how the ER tortured, imprisoned, slaved and used them in forced labour,” was how this was reported in a tweet.

The Facebook report can be seen here.

With its developing ports, the Horn of Africa is an area of significant commercial and military strategic importance where investments carry an increasing risk

By Philip Kleinfeld, October 22, 2018
Maritime 1
Container vessel in port in Djibouti

For decades it has been one of the world’s most fragile regions, plagued by armed conflict, poverty and periodic droughts. But in the 1990s, the Horn of Africa, comprising the states of Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Djibouti, became the focus of a somewhat surprising investor: DP World, a global port operator that is majority owned by the government of Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

We are seeing a race between regional and global players to take advantage of big opportunities located in the region.

From its headquarters in Dubai’s sprawling port of Jebel Ali, the maritime company and its Emirati owners saw in the Horn of Africa what many others didn’t: an area of vast economic potential and geostrategic importance.

In 2006, DP World won a contract to build the Doraleh container terminal in Djibouti, now the small nation’s biggest employer and source of revenue. Years later, in 2016, it signed a $442-million agreement with Somalia’s secessionist region of Somaliland, to manage and invest in the deep-sea port of Berbera. Both decisions proved prescient.

Middle-Eastern countries battle for space in the Horn of Africa

Today, the UAE is among a number of Gulf and Middle-Eastern countries scrambling for control of ports across the Horn of Africa, in a race that analysts say could benefit, but also potentially destabilise, the already fragile east-African region.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have become active in ports and military bases in Djibouti, Eritrea and Somalia, while Qatar and Turkey, who align with Saudi Arabia’s regional rival Iran, are building in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, and the Red Sea port of Suakin, off the coast of Sudan.

“We are seeing a race between regional and global players to take advantage of big opportunities located in the region,” says Camille Lons, programme co-ordinator at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

One reason for this scramble is commercial. The Horn of Africa is strategically located next to one of the world’s busiest sea lanes, with access to both the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. Every day around five million barrels of crude and petroleum products flow through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a neck of water bordered by Eritrea and Djibouti.

“It is one of most trafficked shipping lanes in the world,” says Olivier Milland, a political risk analyst at Allan & Associates.
Maritime 2
Political rivalry meets commercial interest

More ports and better infrastructure are also needed to handle growth in the Horn of Africa’s largest economy, Ethiopia, which is predicted to expand by 8.5 per cent this year, but is landlocked and therefore heavily dependent on Djibouti.

Since sweeping to power in April, Ethiopia’s new, reform-minded prime minister Abiy Ahmed, 42, has made port development a key priority, calling for investments across the region.
“It is very important for Ethiopia to diversify its trading streams,” says Mr Milland.

But Gulf interest in the Horn of Africa is also being driven by regional political rivalries, with different states seeking to secure strategic locations, especially in the context of the war in Yemen, where a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE has been fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels since March 2015.

The UAE has been launching operations in Yemen from a military base around the Eritrean port of Assab and also has armed forces present in Berbera, a port in Somaliland.

Will tensions spill over to conflict in the Horn of Africa?

As geopolitical interest in the Horn increases, observers fear these regional Gulf rivalries could end up spilling over.

This was the case after the Gulf crisis of June 2017, when Saudi Arabia and its allies severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, which they accuse of supporting Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood and a form of political Islam which threatens the stability of their regimes.

During the crisis, the governments of Djibouti and Eritrea sided with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, causing Qatar to withdraw peacekeepers from a disputed border between the two Horn of Africa countries, where they had been patrolling since 2010.

Somalia’s breakaway region of Somaliland, which is not internationally recognised as an independent country, also chose the side of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, while the central government in Mogadishu, which is closer to Qatar and Turkey, stayed neutral.

Analysts say this has amplified dangerous divisions between Somalia and its regions, a divide that can be seen most clearly in Berbera, an ancient port town in Somaliland.
Maritime 3
UAE and Somali rivalries meet and merge

Last year the UAE began constructing a military base in Berbera, which is 190km south of Yemen. In March this year, DP World also finalised a contract with the Somaliland authorities to develop and operate Berbera’s port, in which Ethiopia also has a 19 per cent stake.

The venture has the potential to turn Somaliland into a regional maritime hub, but has prompted a furious response from Somalia’s federal government which regards the region as part of its territory and says the secessionists have no right to sign international agreements.

“The deal has been perceived as a foreign intrusion by Mogadishu,” says Ms Lons.

On March 12, Somalia’s federal parliament took the step of banning DP World from operating in the country in a move Somaliland’s president Muse Bihi Abdi referred to as a declaration of war.

The crisis has since soured relations between Mogadishu and the UAE. In April, Somali security forces confiscated millions of “undeclared” US dollars from a UAE plane landing in the capital. The UAE responded by ending a military training programme it was running in Somalia.

Maritime agreements playing newly strategic role on global stage

Despite its long-standing involvement in the region, the UAE has also run into problems in Djibouti. In February, following years of dispute, the Djibouti government dramatically seized control of the DP World-operated and part-owned Doraleh Container Terminal.

The Djibouti government accused the company of poor performance and failing to expand the terminal as quickly as it had promised. It also claimed the company paid bribes to secure the original concession, a claim rejected by the London Court of International Arbitration.

You have the largest Middle-Eastern maritime logistics shipper DP World in an implicit, forward-looking contest with another global shipping alliance, which includes the Chinese - David Styan, Lecturer in politics, Birkbeck, University of London

With the UAE sidelined in Djibouti, analysts say other countries could step in and that Gulf nations aren’t the only ones in the running. Some have speculated that the Djibouti government may hand over Doraleh to investors from China, which is currently building a naval base in the country.

The involvement of China in the Horn of Africa’s ports adds “another dimension to an already complicated equation”, says David Styan a lecturer in politics at Birkbeck, University of London.

“You have the largest Middle-Eastern maritime logistics shipper DP World in an implicit, forward-looking contest with another global shipping alliance, which includes the Chinese,” Dr Styan adds.

But as different nations scramble for control of ports in the Horn of Africa, Mr Milland says it is worth remembering that the region is still prone to instability. Somalia is dealing with the threat of resilient al-Shabaab militants, Eritrea remains one of the world’s most repressive countries, and even Ethiopia, considered relatively stable, is currently facing widespread ethnic violence and displacement.

“The area has huge commercial potential,” Mr Milland concludes, “but there are still regional and country tensions that could put new investments at real risk.”

Will Russia get a Red Sea base in Eritrea?

%PM, %20 %941 %2018 %23:%Oct Written by

Pres Isias with Russia's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mikhail Bogdanov

The Eritrean government has announced that President Isaias Afwerki has been meeting Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Mikhail L. Bogdanov.

Apart from stating that: “President Isaias underlined Eritrea’s readiness to strengthen its bilateral cooperation with Russia in various sectors,” little has been revealed about their discussions.

But there has been speculation for some time that Eritrea is about to grant Moscow a base – or at least a ‘logistical centre’ – on its soil. See the article from VOA below.

This would allow the Russians to match the other foreign interests active in the Red Sea, including China, USA and France (in Djibouti), Turkey (Sudan). The UAE and the Saudis already have based in Eritrea, from where they fly sorties to Yemen, attacking Houthi rebel targets.

Russia-Eritrea Relations Grow with Planned Logistics Center

Source: VOA
September 02, 2018 

FILE - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, welcomes Eritrea’s Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed, second from left, prior to a meeting in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Jan. 30, 2017.
FILE – Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, welcomes Eritrea’s Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed, second from left, prior to a meeting in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Jan. 30, 2017.

Russia and Eritrea expanded their diplomatic relationship Friday when Moscow announced plans to build a logistics center at a port in the East African country.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov disclosed the plans at a meeting with a high-level delegation from Eritrea, according to RIA, a Russian state-owned news agency.

The scope, location and timeline of the project have not been announced, but the diplomatic development is an important milestone for both countries, each of whom has sought to expand its bilateral ties.

For Russia, it’s the latest effort to forge alliances with countries in Africa, following multiple trips to the continent this year by Lavrov to discuss military, economic and diplomatic partnerships.

In late August, Russia signed a military cooperation agreement with the Central African Republic. That deal focuses on training armed forces in the CAR.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, in St. Petersburg, Russia, Wednesday, May 23, 2018.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, in St. Petersburg, Russia, Wednesday, May 23, 2018.

For Eritrea, a deepening Russia alliance is the latest sign that decades of isolation may be ending, after a historic peace deal in July with neighboring Ethiopia. Since that agreement was signed, Eritrea’s president, Isaias Afwerki, has met with leaders from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Somalia and South Sudan. He’s also received delegations from Japan and Germany.


For Friday’s meeting, Eritrea sent a delegation led by Foreign Minister Osman Saleh and Yemane Ghebreab, a senior presidential advisor, to Sochi, Russia, about 3,100 kilometers north of the Eritrean capital, Asmara. It’s the latest get-together in the countries’ 25-year diplomatic relationship.

Strategic location

Eritrea’s two ports, in Massawa and Assab, occupy strategic points along the Red Sea. Access to those ports is one benefit Ethiopia, a landlocked country, may reap from the peace deal.

Ethiopia and Eritrea began talks about the possibility of joint port development immediately following the deal. Such a cooperation could involve an existing facility or one that hasn’t yet been conceived.

Meanwhile, specifics on the purpose of the planned Russian logistics facility haven’t been announced, but Russian and Eritrean leaders said the project would invigorate trade and business deals between the countries.


If Russia follows through on its plans for a logistics center, it won’t be the first time a foreign player has set up shop in Eritrea.

Assab is already home to a United Arab Emirates naval base, and Eritrea has allowed the U.A.E. to launch planes from Assab to fight Houthi rebels in Yemen. The port, at the mouth of the Red Sea, has a particularly strategic location less than 200 kilometers north of an array of international military bases in Djibouti.

Decades earlier, in the 1940s, the United States established a military and logistics base at Kagnew Station in Asmara for reconnaissance missions in Word War II and the Cold War.

Last year, U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher called for renewed military ties with Eritrea in the fight against terrorism.

Sanctions next?

Eritrea faces U.N. sanctions against specific individuals, along with an arms embargo. It’s hoping to use evolving diplomatic relationships to build momentum to remove the penalties.

Talk of lifting the sanctions has accelerated since the peace deal with Ethiopia, but Eritrea’s sanctions, in place since 2009, were imposed not because of that conflict, but rather separate concerns with other regional neighbors, including alleged support of al-Shabab in Somalia and a border dispute with Djibouti.

The al-Shabab issue is all but settled, with the United Nations deciding last November to disband the monitoring group that was tasked with investigating Eritrea’s links to the armed extremist group, after years of inquiries produced no evidence of ties.

FILE - Djibouti’s ambassador to the United Nations, Mohamed Siad Doualeh.
FILE – Djibouti’s ambassador to the United Nations, Mohamed Siad Doualeh.

Objections over the border with Djibouti, however, have persisted, with Mohamed Siad Doualeh, Djibouti’s ambassador to the United Nations, writing a forceful letter to the U.N. Security Council in late July outlining his country’s grievances, which include occupation of Djiboutian land and prisoners of war who have not been accounted for or returned.

Lifting sanctions will require nine of 15 Security Council votes, including the support of all five permanent members — China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Lavrov said Friday that sanctions against Eritrea should be lifted, according to TASS, a Russian state-owned news agency.

It’s the first time a permanent member of the Security Council has addressed the sanctions issue since the peace deal with Ethiopia and, backed by aspirations for bilateral business deals, increases Eritrea’s odds before a potential vote.

Osman Saleh
Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban 
The United Kingdom says it has no evidence of human rights reforms in Eritrea since the last session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. It added that it had raised the situation with the Eritrean government.

In a written question and answer session in parliament, David Patrick Paul Alton of Liverpool asked the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, FCO, about Eritrea.

His question posed on 10th October was responded to eight days later by Tariq Mahmood Ahmad, Minister of State, FCO, who said UK’s Minister for Africa had raised human rights concerns with Eritrean foreign minister Osman Saleh as recently as September 2018.
Alton’s question was as follows: “To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have seen any evidence of substantive Human Rights reforms in Eritrea since the most recent report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea to the thirty-eighth session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.”

​The October 18 response read: “The UK has seen no evidence of any human rights reforms in Eritrea since the last session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

“The Minister for Africa raised our concerns on the human rights situation with the Eritrean Foreign Minister when they met on 25 September, and expressed our hope for an improvement in light of political developments in the region.”

Minister of Africa, Harriet Baldwin met with Osman Saleh on the sidelines of the 73rd United Nations General Assembly in New York. Eritrea dedicated its address to demand for the lifting of sanctions imposed by the security council.

Eritrea was late last week elected to serve on the United Nations Human Rights Council, a move that attracted condemnation from rights groups that have long condemned Asmara for systemic right abuses.

The UN special rapporteur for the region has in the past called for the government to be held for crimes against humanity. Many political dissidents are believed to be in jails along with journalists and pro-democracy activists.

Government justified their election to the council by saying it would afford the country the opportunity to deal with human rights issues.