Ethiopia's PM Abiy Ahmed (L) receiveds Eritrea's FM Osman Saleh (R) at Addis Ababa airport on 26 June 2018 (Photo Mulugeta Ayene/AP)

September 29, 2018 (ADDIS ABABA) - Eritrea’s Foreign Minister Osman Mohammed Saleh Saturday accused some Security Council members of seeking to hamper the lifting of international sanctions imposed on his country despite the recent reconciliation with Ethiopia and Somalia.

On December 23, 2009, the Security Council imposed an arms embargo on Eritrea, travel bans on its leaders, and froze the assets of some political and military officials after accusing the Eritrean government of funding and arming Al-Shabaab group but Asmara denies the charges.

However, in July 2012, U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea reported that Eritrea had cut its support for the al Qaeda-allied militant group in Somalia.

In his speech before the UN General Assembly, Saleh pointed to the "unwarranted sanctions" on his country saying they have caused much of economic damage in Eritrea and once again called for its removal.

He further said that in spite of the historic reconciliation between his country Ethiopia and Somalia still there some international powers seeking to prevent the lift of

"With positive winds of peace flowing in our region, several UNSC member States are these days calling for the immediate lifting of the deplorable sanctions. The diplomatic discourse is not however fully coherent," he said.

"As it happens, some countries are looking for procedural and other pretexts and preconditions. The apparent aim is to move the goalpost and maintain the illegal sanctions on Eritrea," he stressed.

The Eritrean top diplomat was pointing to recent statements by Tibor Nagy, the U.S. State Department’s assistant secretary for Africa who told the Congress last September that his administration has concerns over Eritrea’s human rights record and relations with North Korea.

Nagy cited the detention of U.S. embassy local staff and several Americans for "politically-motivated reasons". He further pointed to the detention of religious and political prisoners and the indefinite national service saying they are also a source of worry.
On North Korea, he said Washington wants a full explanation from Eritrea over past weapons purchases from North Korea highlighted in a U.N. report.

"Eritrea cannot assume that by saying wonderful things and opening good relations with the neighbours that will automatically lead to sanctions relief," stressed the former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia.

Asmara in the pas denied accusations of human rights violations by Amnesty and Human Rights Watch.

Last July during a discussion on the lift of sanctions on Eritrea, the British Ambassador to the United Nations Karen Pierce said such matter needs more time to discuss it.

"At some point that will need to be reflected in what we do on sanctions. But the Council hasn’t had a full discussion of that yet," she told reporters after the UN Security Council meeting.



An assessment of Eritrea

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This paper from the German independent foundation, Bertelsmann Stiftung, gives some penetrating analysis of the state of Eritrea.

This extract is striking:

“The economy remained in a poor state, and the chronic electricity blackouts, shortages of fuels and drinking water continued. The government did not use the revenues from the Bisha mine, estimated at about $1.2 billion since 2011, to invest in the economy, nor did it provide the population with basic imported consumer goods. Military officers applied their own regulations in the administrative regions under their control, while the civilian administrative apparatus was powerless. Military and PFDJ leaders continued to run their own shops.”

The full report, dated 2018, can be found here: BTI_2018_Eritrea.

Below is the Executive Summary

Executive Summary

During the period under review, the Eritrean government made no significant change in its political and economic agenda, remaining a surveillance state committed to a command economy and an autocratic political system. The economy was under the control of the ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) party and the military. High-ranking military officers were involved in illegal activities, including goods smuggling and human trafficking of Eritreans seeking to leave the country. Human trafficking of Eritrean refugees across the border to Sudan and from Sudanese refugee camps to Libya continued with the involvement of corrupt Eritrean and Sudanese officials. The high-ranking PFDJ cadres of Muslim faith who had been arrested in the aftermath of the January 2013 mutiny remained in custody without due process of law.

The economy remained in a poor state, and the chronic electricity blackouts, shortages of fuels and drinking water continued. The government did not use the revenues from the Bisha mine, estimated at about $1.2 billion since 2011, to invest in the economy, nor did it provide the population with basic imported consumer goods. Military officers applied their own regulations in the administrative regions under their control, while the civilian administrative apparatus was powerless. Military and PFDJ leaders continued to run their own shops.

In late 2015, the government introduced “currency reform.” All existing Nakfa currency notes had to be exchanged for new ones at a 1:1 rate. However, in this process only an amount of ERN 20,000 could be exchanged in cash, all assets exceeding this amount had to be deposited at a bank account. Through this process, the government attempted to contain illicit business activities and to force its citizens to disclose their properties. Since then, withdrawal of cash has been severely limited (to ERN 5,000 per family per month), and the black-market exchange rate dropped to a certain extent. However, in the absence of any economic liberalization it is doubtful if this measure can contribute to containing corruption, and economic activities remain severely hampered.

Politically, Eritrea remained a dictatorship in which public political participation was impossible, civil rights and freedom of expression and assembly were absent, and human rights were routinely violated. In summer 2016, the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea stated that the government of Eritrea has committed crimes against humanity since the time of independence. In 2014, President Isaias announced the establishment of a commission with the purpose of drafting a new constitution, but no progress to this end had been achieved as of January 2017. The unlimited-term of national service remained in place without any reforms. Males between 18 and up to 60 years and women until the age of 27 were forced to serve either in the army or the national service, and elderly citizens were forced to patrol their neighborhoods as “militia.” The government continued to exploit the sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council to raise money from the diaspora communities by portraying Eritrea as a victim of international conspiracies.

Government functions were executed by the president and a small group of advisers, for which the PFDJ’s head of political affairs Yemane Gebreab played a decisive role. The ruling PFDJ is the only party allowed to exist. Together with the military, it holds a monopoly on the economic sphere. The party-owned Hdri Trust Fund controls all state enterprises with no external financial monitoring allowed. The mass exodus of tens of thousands of Eritreans continued unabated, and throughout 2016, several thousand Eritreans crossed the borders to Ethiopia and Sudan every month. State institutions and social services were further weakened by this process, as large numbers of professionals (teachers, doctors, engineers, etc.) were among the refugees. Arbitrary arrests and religious persecution continued.

There was absolutely no progress toward democratization, which has been ruled out by the president. The public was unable to communicate civic interests without the risk of being arrested. However, the elderly “neighborhood militias” continued their passive resistance against patrolling their communities. In the absence of free market mechanisms, the import-export trade remained in the firm grip of the ruling party’s elite, while the military operated large-scale contraband activities. The city of Tessenei bordering Sudan remained a hub for the contraband trade of goods, organized by military officers and PFDJ cadres, including the Minister of Trade and Industry Nesredin Bekit. There is no public welfare system, and traditional social safety networks based on extended family structures have been continuously weakened by prolonged recruitment into the national service. Diaspora Eritreans usually support their families inside Eritrea financially, and many of them paid the 2% tax imposed on them by the government either voluntarily or by coercion, providing a stabilizing factor for the regime.

Malnutrition and poverty, which are endemic in Eritrea, worsened due to drought-like conditions in 2015, although the government denied any shortage of food in contradiction to UNICEF statements. The continuous use of charcoal for cooking purposes accelerated environmental degradation. Generally, Eritrea has continued to follow a destructive path, which runs counter to democratization and economic liberalization.

Foreign relations with all regional neighbors except for the Sudan remained poor, as were relations with the United States. European politicians approached the Eritrean government throughout the period under review in the hope of curbing the refugee outflow, and development cooperation between the EU and Eritrea resumed. However, European representatives lacked a deeper understanding of the root causes of flight and failed to demand reform of the national service as a precondition to stop the mass exodus. The sanctions imposed on Eritrea by the United Nations in 2009 and in 2011 remained in place.

Below is a Google Translate version of an article that appeared in the Italian newspaper, Republica 

Premier Conte will go to Ethiopia and Eritrea in October

The Prime Minister will be in Addis Ababa in the first half of October, most probably the 11th, for a bilateral agreement with the new premier Abiy Ahmed, which will be followed by a visit to Eritrea where he will meet President Isaias Afewerki.

ROME – After Canada and the United States, Giuseppe Conte will fly to Africa. In fact, the Prime Minister will be in Addis Ababa in the first half of October, most likely on the 11th, for a bilateral agreement with the new premier Abiy Ahmed, followed by a visit to Eritrea where he will meet President Isaias Afewerki.

The news of the premier’s institutional visit takes place five days after the historic, new course of peace between the two African countries, started on July 8th with the signed declaration of the two leaders for the stop to the state of war that lasted 20 years and sealed on 17 September in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia in the presence of the Saudi King Salman, who mediated the peace process together with the Arab Emirates, the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, and the President of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamated. A choice that places Italy at the center of an exceptional event that will bring with it positive consequences throughout the continent and overseas.

Conte’s mission wants to be a support to this rapprochement in a zone of the nerve-cropping Africa for Italy, considering our common historical past that bind us in a bond also affective. The president of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, went to Addis Ababa in 2016.

We must not forget that Ethiopia is for us the second beneficiary of international cooperation on the continent. The peace between the two countries and the presence that Italy wants to confirm with this Count’s visit could favor positive developments on the issue of migration flows, of which Eritrea is one of the major countries of origin.

Eritreans fleeing to Ethiopia in rising numbers

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In just five days nearly 4,000 Eritreans were registered by the Ethiopian authorities after they crossed the border, seeking asylum.

To put these figures in context: the UNHCR has previously said that up to 5,000 Eritreans were crossing into Ethiopia monthly. If these numbers continue to flow out of Eritrea the figure could reach 20,000 a month.

The numbers of people who have been registered at official Ethiopian entry points for the period Friday 21st September until yesterday, Tuesday 25th, are as follows:

Friday 21st: 526

Saturday 22nd: 550

Sunday 23rd: 223

Monday 24th: 1839

Tuesday 25th: 575

Total: 3,713

This is just the number that have been registered: another 1,500 are waiting at the border to come to official reception centres.

The Ethiopian authorities, supported by the IOM and the UNHCR, are doing all they can to improve the facilities at the Endabaguna camp and other refugee camps in the area.

An Open Letter to the Ethiopian Parliament

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Dear members of the parliament of the Ethiopian People

First, allow me to convey my warm greetings to your respected parliament and my wish for the successful accomplishment of its mission to the people of Ethiopia. I am writing this letter in the capacity of a simple Eritrean to bring to your attention a mixed feeling and my views, which I believe is shared by many Eritreans, i.e. a positive hope but also a concern and worry on the ongoing peace process.

The war between Eritrea and Ethiopia

Dear members of parliament,

From my personal experience, I would like to remind you that for the last almost 60 years except those 7 years after the independence of Eritrea, i.e.  From 1991 to 1998, as Eritreans we have been in a continual threat and fighting with Ethiopia. As a consequence, there is a feeling of bitterness, suspicion and negative feelings of victimization. I myself am and has been part of this experience throughout my entire life.

Small as we are, we have paid a very huge price in our 30 years of armed struggle and this was again followed by the “Badme War”, which erupted in 1998 under the current leaders of Eritrea, but also by your parliament’s acknowledgment and decision.

Dear members of parliament,

These last 20 years were even worst, than those 30 years of war of independence in terms of human and material lose. Only in those two years, i.e. between years 1998 to 2000, we lost 1/3 of what we has lost in those 30 years of our struggle for independence. Hence this war have shredded many Eritrean lives and this also true for Ethiopians.
In my humble understanding the reason for this huge lose and fierceness of the war is twofold:

1)     The handling of the problem by the leaders of the two countries, which your parliament played a role.

2)     Our peoples exaggerated nationalism and fear of losing the hard won independence

When the war erupted, the reason which was given to our people was that Ethiopia started a war to thwart our independence and occupy our territory, hence the war was conducted in the name of Eritrean sovereignty. This triggered rage in the hearts of the Eritrean people, because of our past experience and fear of losing the hard won independence. Many Eritreans were saying let it cost what it costs and many also followed Ato. Isias’s saying, if Ethiopia occupies our land again, this time “Badme”, it is tantamount that the sun will never rise again.

So our peoples understanding, when the war erupted first, was a renewed threat to our independence. The propaganda from the people in power was that, Ethiopia is invading our territory and endangering our sovereignty and that was the reason for all that huge sacrifice and that big lose for both parts, Ethiopia & Eritrea.

This being from the Eritrean side, from Ethiopia, it was your parliament which was in charge and decided to conduct the war the way it happened, hence you know it better, but we all agree t was a big lose to both people and countries.

Even worse, the two year were followed by the “no war no peace “situation with a devastating consequence especially for Eritrea.

About Similarities between people

Eritrea, a product of Italian colony got its borders defined by the Italians, in a same way as all African colonies got their borders defined by the Europeans. It borders, with Sudan, Djibouti and Ethiopia and the Sea.  The sea, the Red sea, always bring us both blessing and curse. Blessing because of the civilization, trade with outside world, prosperity that we got through the sea. Curse because of the wars and unrest by all the invaders who come across the sea and the continual push that we get from you, our brothers from the south. Therefore the sea has always created on us a feeling of obligation to protect it, protect what is ours. Hence, this feeling and obligation to own and protect the Red Sea is a very important issue of identity to us, Eritreans. However, the sea is to benefit all of us and be used by all of us, be it Eritreans, Ethiopians and others.
After all these years again, due to the change in Ethiopia, we started to see the glimpse of peace and when the peace process started we became hopeful. However, we are fearing again, because of what we are hearing, the utterance from both the leaders of Eritrea and Ethiopia, which made us very busy in deciphering these statements. For example, from Ato Isaias, who said: “Who he/ she thinks these two people of Eritrea and Ethiopia are different is one who does not know the truth” and then Dr. Abby, said “we had never talked about the border and borders are meaningless” wait a minute … what? What do they mean? Where are these guys heading to? , was the general question by many Eritreans, all over the world.
As Eritreans, we were dumb folded and confused when he heard such utterances because our expectation was simple and straightforward, which was to demarcate the border either way and to start business as usual between two neighboring countries and people.

But to answer to Ato Isaias, that if we Eritreans and Ethiopians are the same people?
The answer is yes and no. It depends in what context you raise and ask the question? Yes because we are people in the same area, region and besides that Eritrea was part of Ethiopia after the federation, the annexation until independence. Because of this, we have many similarities, in terms of look, culture the way we dress, eat handle our issues and many more. Especially the highland part of Eritrea is the same people like the Tigrians and Amhara of Ethiopia. But, likewise, the Hidareb are the same people with the Harendewa in Sudan, and Eritrean Afars are the same like the Afars in Djubuti.

For those who know the world, everywhere you go, you will/ can find same people but in different countries and states. For example, The Germans, in the city of Aachen have the same look, culture, beliefs, set of life like their Belgians neighbors and the Duchess from Holland. The Swedish and the Norwegians are the same people and the similarity becomes more along the border area. The Zambians looks the same and have the same culture like the Malawians and the Zimbabweans. This is just to name a few that people of the same look and identity can and live in different countries and states. Hence, I failed to understand Ato Isaias, when he brought this political rhetoric, since he is a politicians and too much of that, his utterance was not accepted by Eritreans but brought suspicion and skepticism instead.

As Dr. Abbeys’ speech about the border issue, I have already explained before the significance of the demarcation to Eritreans and the meaning of settling this issue. That the peace process starts from starting and handling the border issue seriously and with care. This is politics and politics is about managing sensitivities; and issues like this need to be well articulated and defined. We have still wounds years from way back, from the era of federation and annexation of Eritrea. We are very sensitive to words like: we are the same, Assab, ports etc… For us, when someone utters these words we need to understand clearly what he/she means and what he/ she wants. It triggers our feelings of past experience and the price we paid and it takes us to a defensive position of our interest.  Every home or family have paid one, two and even more of its family members. These have made us to value genuine peace associated or connected with the real expectations of the people; we want our borders to get demarcated, and live in peace and harmony with our brothers/ neighbors. For us clarity is important, we are victims of conspiracies and wars, we are wounded people who are very paranoid to such words, who are associated with our independence and sovereignty. Now, please understand us we want be free as people and don’t want to live in suspicion. Hence, I would say the least, things have to be clear and agreements to be well defined and articulated, if not we will always be suspicious and this will and can be an impediment to the ongoing peace process, which we don’t want to happen again.


Peace & the People

The peace that we want to achieve should be, peace between the two countries and between our two people, Eritrea and Ethiopia. Furthermore, we want this peace to be genuine and transparent, which mean a process that avoids conspiracies and eliminate any suspicions. We need a sustainable peace, where trust is fostered and all political actors are relatively happy. Unfortunately, that is not the case with the on-going peace process, hence, our dissatisfaction. There are many factors which are missing and these are issues of representation and issues of transparency which need to be addressed seriously for a genuine and sustainable peace.

Dear members of parliament,

This time of our history we must achieve a genuine and sustainable peace and look forward to enjoy life as happy and trusted neighbors. We can only see and bring about a bright future for the people by closing the past chapter of our history and address the wounds, mistrust, suspicion, conspiracies, rightly. For this, your parliament bears a huge responsibility, as more than any period of the Ethiopian history, I think, this is the first time that a parliament was able to be fully accepted to represent Ethiopia and Ethiopians, the reasons being the following:

Ø  All opposing political parties are allowed to conduct their political activities freely inside the country,

Ø  All opposition armed forces has returned back to Ethiopia freely

Ø  There are no political prisoners

Ø  Full freedom of press, assembly is allowed and people are exercising this right.

Hence, although, in a process, we can say the current parliament represents almost the entire people of Ethiopia and is accepted by almost or all political parties and therefore is more democratic than any previous parliaments.

My wish is for you to continue on this path and progress and sustain it. However, with all the above achievements, on the other side, more than any time in the history of Ethiopia, the possibility for disintegration of Ethiopia has never been close as it is now. This can be seen from the lawlessness in the streets and villages, the killings and lootings, the ethnic clashes and the language of hatred and bitterness used among the people of different ethnic groups. All this is alarming and need a very careful, smart and honest handling and approach. One of this careful and honest handling is your governments approach to the on-going peace process with Eritrea. As you know almost all of your armed opposition groups were in Eritrea, and if the handling of issues continues in the same old way, secretiveness and conspiracies are the business of the day and that the peace process itself is conducted in murky way, the same politics of suspicion and non-inclusiveness will continue to infest inside Ethiopia; and there will never be a real peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia neither will be unity and harmony inside Ethiopia. The democratization process and all that acceptance of your parliament by the Ethiopian people and the various opposition parties can’t last long.
As you also know, conditions inside Eritrea are in the same way as it was before the peace process starts; that political opponents are in dungeons of the regime, the mass arrests are a daily occurrence, that there is no freedom of speech and no freedom of press. There is no representation and no participation of people in the affairs of the country. As you can see all your peace agreements are done with one man and his two messengers, where they don’t have any legitimate representation of parliament or people. And hence a risk, for it might not bring about the genuine and sustainable peace required by the two countries and two peoples.

I honestly don’t need to tell you this because you know how much it cost you to come to this level of parliamentarian representation and acceptance.

The Peace Process & Priorities

The 1998, war which is known as a “Badme” war is a border war. Although now, the regime in Eritrea is saying it was not a border war, for us Eritreans, it will always remain a border war. Because, that is why our people fought for and our martyrs will always be remembered, as fallen to maintain Eritrean sovereignty; no matter what was inside the head of Ato Isaias. Actually, this reminds me of an old saying from Amilcar Cabral, the leader of the PAIGC, a Ginue Bissaua, guerilla leader, when he said, “ We are not fighting for the ideas in once head, we are fighting to gain material benefits, to see our lives go forward and to guarantee the future of our children”, hence, no matter, the ambitions and the ideas of Ato Isaias be, our people fought the Badme war to defend the sovereignty of Eritrea thinking that Ethiopia is invading our territory and for the “no war no peace” years, because the two countries could not implement the Algeria’s agreement.

Therefore peace should start by solving this impasse first, that is, by addressing and demarcating the border and with full cooperation and acceptance of people from both sides of the border or/ and directly implementing the Algeria’s agreement. After demarcating the border the peace process can be pushed to its highest level with full accordance and heartily support of the people of both countries. Genuine and sustainable peace can only be achieved when the people who have interest in the peace are fully involved, represented and respected. Sustainable peace is a result of a WIN-WIN situation of both negotiating parties.

Having said this, I would like to bring to your attention, as much as we are happy with the new developments of peace and see the people in both sides of the border hugging each other and start living a normal life, we are very concerned and worried the way the peace process is conducted and continues. Let me make it clear once more: For us Eritreans, the issue of the border demarcation is crucial and the first step to further genuine cooperation and normalization. We want our relationship with our brothers in Ethiopia to be clear, honest and transparent. We don’t want to be suspicious and don’t like to conduct murky agreements. This is due to our past experiences and history. Hence, overcoming the suspicions and build trust and addressing issues in a clear and transparent manner, which can benefit both parties is very important. However, to the contrary, the current peace process between, the two countries is carried out in a very secretive and non-transparent manner, and can’t be acceptable for the people of Eritrea.

To make things clear when we say demarcation, we don’t mean to put walls
and fences, what we mean is a well-known, borders between the two sovereign countries. Unfortunately, this is not only with you, this is also with others neighbors, including Djibouti, We had problems on the issue with all our neighbors hence is important for us to settle it once and for all. We believe addressing the issue now can prevent other future problems and conflicts for future generations. Once, it is demarcated and we know clearly our borders we are for the idea of free movement of people, capital, and goods: and various kind and levels of agreement can be reached between the countries which can benefit us all and grow our economies and living standards. We know that it is an era of global village and we are for the view that all negotiations must emanate from the interest of both countries and from WIN-Win principle.

As Eritreans, we also connect the peace agreements with you with our internal affairs. Because, after the signing of the peace agreement in Algeria, many Eritreans were arrested including high level government officials and journalist. The accusation is that they have conspired with you, Ethiopia, with a foreign power, hence the accusation was treason. This was later followed by mass arrests through-out the years and mainly in the name of collaboration with enemy, i.e. Ethiopia. These prisoners, still suffering in the dungeons of the regime, your current peace partner, are not only simple citizens but are our heroes and leaders of our armed struggle. As a consequence of this and other handling, you know more than anyone in these world the number of youth, children, women and aged people which are daily fleeing Eritrea, to come to your borders.

We thank you for hosting the refugees but you should also remember with whom you are conducting the peace agreements and also how you are conducting it. For a viable and a sustainable peace, it need to be with Eritrea and its people not with one man and two messengers.


At the end, I would like to conclude and point out the following for your attention:

1-     The peace process should start by addressing the main border issues

2-     The border must demarcated ASAP

3-     All economic, social and political agreements should/ can follow after fully the border issue is settled

4-     Any agreement should be in the spirit and principles of Win-Win

5-     Bear in mind that Eritrea does not have a parliament and a legal institution that represents all parts of the population at the moment. Hence, the weight of all agreements should reflect the current situation. In short, there issue of legitimacy.

6-     Bear in mind the agreements might not be accepted at all by the Eritrean opposition organizations, in that case it can and will be null and void at least by those organizations and their followers

7-     Although, may be not your full responsibility, I advise you to ask for a legal representatives to deal with instead one man and two messengers, think issue of sustainability.

8-     All peace processes should be with the involvement, representation of both people and to the common and mutual interest of both countries and people

In my humble opinion, the above points has to be partly or wholly accepted. Addressing those issues is the way forward to achieve a sustainable peace and progress for the two countries and people.

May genuine and sustainable between Eritrea and Ethiopia prevail.

Tedros Fessahaye


Swedish Radio's Africa correspondent Samuel Larsson in place at the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea.


"Peace will not contribute to democracy"


Published at 06.38; 2018.09.26


The peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia has not stopped Eritreans from fleeing the dictatorship in their homeland. Indications are such that the number of people leaving to Ethiopia since the border between the countries was opened is now instead increasing sharply.


At the reception center in Indaba Gunna, Ethiopia, a few miles from Eritrea, it is full of Eritreans who have reached the border the latest hours, sought asylum and are now waiting to register and get refugee status.


We asked about the quantity, how peace and the open border have influenced the stream of refugees that chooses to leave the dictatorship in Eritrea, but the issue is sensitive and no one except the Ethiopian refugee authority ARRA is able to talk to the media. And there is no information to get.


But others in Indaba Gunna tell us what they see. We give a lift to a policeman telling us that today's full reception center is nothing compared to yesterday, there was a long queue out on the street then.


A driver at one of the many aid organizations in the area tells over a lunch that the number of asylum seekers here has increased from earlier around 150 a day to 1500 a day now.


Indications are that many Eritreans now take the opportunity, fearing that the possibility of an open border will soon be gone again.


Diplomatic sources in Addis Ababa state that after peace, the issue of the Eritrean refugees is more controversial than ever before for the Ethiopian government. A rushing refugee stream disturbs the image of harmony in the Horn of Africa, as leaders in both countries now want to create.


- He's like Hitler, says a young Eritrean at a cafe in a nearby city, and refers to Eritrea's dictator Isaias Afewerki.


The man and his friends are in Ethiopia as tourists, but have an understanding of those in their generation who choose to seek asylum abroad.


"Peace will not contribute to democracy in Eritrea. People will continue to flee in ever greater numbers, and Afewerki will be left to God Himself to pick him up, they summarize.


Samuel Larsson, Indaba Gunna, Ethiopia

Amnesty condemns 'mass arbitrary arrests' in Ethiopia

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Abiy Ahmed













Since taking office Ethiopia's Prime minister Abiy Ahmed has freed dozens of jailed dissidents and welcomed back opposition groups

Amnesty International condemned the recent arrests of thousands of people in Ethiopia's capital, saying the detentions "threaten a new era of human rights gains" under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

The rights group was responding to a statement from Ethiopian authorities that police had conducted a wave of arrests in the wake of recent violence that killed dozens in the capital and its Burayu suburb.

"While the Ethiopian authorities have in recent months made a commendable attempt to empty the country's prisons of arbitrary detainees, they must not fill them up again by arbitrarily arresting and detaining more people without charge," said Amnesty's regional director Joan Nyanyuki in a statement late Monday.

"The government must renew its commitment to a new era of respecting and upholding human rights," Nyanyuki added.

The clashes in Addis Ababa and Burayu were between groups from the largest ethnic group the Oromo, who inhabit the land around the capital, and residents of the diverse city, including many ethnic minorities.

Addis Ababa police chief Degfie Bedi said about 1,200 people believed to be involved in the fighting were detained, with charges filed against 107 suspects, state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate reported.

A further 2,000 were arrested at casinos, or at establishments where people smoke shisha or chew the leafy khat narcotic stimulant, Fana said.

Degfie said those suspected of taking part in the violence, but who were not being charged, would be released after receiving "training".

A source involved in the investigation told AFP last week that as many as 65 people had been killed.

Since taking office in April, Abiy, an Oromo, has freed dozens of jailed dissidents and welcomed back opposition groups, including the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), that were formerly labelled terrorist organisations.



Ethiopia and Eritrea’s second rapprochement

Ethiopia and Eritrea should not repeat the mistakes of the 1990s, when a period of rapprochement ended in war.

Al Jazeera
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika with Ethiopian PM Meles Zenawi and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki after the signing of a peace agreement on December 12, 2000, in Algiers [AP]
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika with Ethiopian PM Meles Zenawi and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki after the signing of a peace agreement on December 12, 2000, in Algiers [AP]

Ethiopia and Eritrea took one more important step towards normalising their relations on September 17, when Eritrean PresidentIsaias Afwerkiand Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed signed a peace agreement in the Saudi city of Jeddah, the details of which have not been publicised yet.

A week earlier, during the Orthodox New Year’s celebrations, the leaders of the two countries met on the border town of Zalambessa to re-openthe common border.

The rapprochement that began in June has been marked by a number of symbolic gestures and events, including official state-visits by both leaders. During Isaias Afwerki’s visit to Addis Ababa on July 14, the strongman who is known for his stern image and carefully choreographed speeches, emotionally declared to the Ethiopian prime minister “you are our leader now”.

Abiy then proclaimed to the cheering crowd: “when we become one, Assab will be ours,” in reference to the symbolic Eritrean Red Sea port, which was once part of Ethiopia. This hasn’t been simply a process of rapprochement between two states; it almost seems like a social reunification.

Telephone lines have been opened and commercial flights restarted allowing people to call and see their relatives and friends for the first time in decades. The two countries have also exchanged ambassadors and reopened old trade routes.

The international community has welcomed these developments with enthusiasm. The secretary-generalof the United Nations, Antonio Gutteres, hailed the reconciliation as “illustrative of a new wind of hope blowing across Africa”. Peace between these two nations was long overdue and has already had some positive effecton the Horn of Africa.

But the two countries have gone through a similar euphoric moment before – in 1993 when Eritrea got its independence from Ethiopia. That rapprochement, however, did not end well.

The secession of Eritrea was supported by the new government of Ethiopia at that time and was celebrated internationally as an ideal separation. Then, five years later, Africa’s deadliest war broke out between the former allies.

What made this conflictextraordinary – even in a global context – was that it took place under conditions of extensive economic interdependence and social integration between the two states.

Today, as the two countries start rebuilding their relations, it is absolutely crucial that they revisit this moment of history and do not repeat its mistakes.

The first rapprochement

The peaceful secession of Eritrea from Ethiopia in 1993 marked the beginning of the first rapprochement between the two nations after the end of the 30-year-long civil war.

The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) had both fought against the Ethiopian communist military government, the Derg, and by the early 1990s had taken power in Addis Ababa and Asmara respectively.

There was a common understanding that the Derg had been the sole source of past animosity and a convergence of interests between the two states was uncritically taken for granted.

The emergence of two young and charismatic revolutionaries – Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi and Eritrea’s Isaias Afwerki – was hailed internationally as a landmark moment in which the “next generation” of African leaders was taking over.

Their first diplomatic act after the partition was to sign a cooperation agreement known as the Asmara Pact. The 25-protocol agreement was an ambitious plan to integrate the two nations in all sectors, including defence.

Eritrea’s economy was in practice already integratedinto Ethiopia’s, as around 80 percent of its export products were destined for its neighbour. At the same time Ethiopia relied on Eritrea’s main port as a transportation hub for most of its trade with the world.

After the partition, the Eritreans were allowed to keep almost all the benefits of Ethiopian citizenship, but with a sovereign state of their own. In practice both peoples continued to live as if they were still one state.

On the foreign policy front, they cooperated against Sudan’s attempt to export its Islamist ideology to East Africa and Ethiopia supported Eritrea in its war against Yemen in 1996.

These unusual policies were rooted in an ambiguous approach to Eritrean nationhood by both governments. There was a common understanding that the two nations were really one people, despite the secession.

In his first visit to Ethiopia after the secession in 1993, President Afwerkideclaredthat after economic integration, the two countries could move towards political integration. His Ethiopian counterpart, Zenawi, was also convinced this was inevitable.

Due to these fraternal sentiments and optimistic expectations, important aspects of the relations between the states, including the demarcation of the common border and currency exchange rates, were resolved. They were simply not considered priorities in the first years after independence.

Ethiopians and Eritreans were therefore caught off-guard when a dispute over a relatively unimportant piece of land turned into a full-blown war in 1998.

The war was fought with the same emotional zeal with which cooperation and integration had been pursued only a few years earlier. The two governments were unyielding and fought for two years in a deadly warthat claimed more than 100,000 lives.

During the war and the subsequent decades of hostility, people on both sides saw it as the product of betrayal and deceit, rather than as an outcome of conflicting interests and policies.

Regardless of who is to blame for the conflict, both governments have to take responsibility for not doing enough to resolve differences peacefully.

The second rapprochement

While it is unlikely that history will repeat itself with another major military conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, it is nevertheless important for the two states to establish clear mechanisms for arbitration and communication. After all, in the early 1990s, a war between the two was also deemed extremely unlikely.

The international community and the governments and people of Ethiopia and Eritrea have been desperate for peace, and now that it’s seemingly here, no one seems to be interested in confronting the thorny issues. Indeed, according to local customs it would be inappropriate to revisit the past during reconciliation.

Nostalgia and notions of fraternity have come back with the new rapprochement. While the historical and cultural affinity of the Ethiopian and Eritrean peoples is undeniable, this shouldn’t be the basis for diplomatic relations. This approach has been tried in the past and has failed – with severe consequences.

The basis for the relationship ought to be based on a dispassionate recognition that Ethiopia and Eritrea are two sovereign states with individual interests that will not always overlap. Rights, responsibilities and mechanisms for managing disputes that will inevitably emerge must be clearly formulated.

Ethiopia and Eritrea find themselves in one of the world’s most conflict-prone neighbourhoods. A number of regional and domestic political actors currently feel left out or marginalised by the peace process and have an incentive to sabotage it.

Two months after the peace declaration, the demarcation of the common border, which was the crux of the two-decades-long stalemate, is yet to begin and there already seem to be disagreements on how to proceed. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (part of the EPRDF), which governs the Ethiopian regional state bordering Eritrea, does not seem to agree with the federal government’s approach to demarcation. It keeps repeating publicly that the physical demarcation has to involve the residents of the borderlands.

Eritrea, for its part, is a state that is not governed by a constitution or parliament. The extreme centralisation of the regime around the figure of the president makes it a highly unpredictable partner. In addition, in a deliberate effort to sow resentment and suspicion, Eritrean diplomats keep insulting the TPLF on Twitter, despite the fact that the latter is a constitutive member of the ruling EPRDF.

All of these factors make the process more prone to derailment than it may appear.

In the context of these outstanding issues, the two states has already taken some steps to resume economic relations. Ethiopia has started using Eritrea’s Assab port on the Red Sea and Ethiopian investors have been looking at opportunities in Eritrea.

But the rules that will regulate the resumption of trade have not been made public yet and much like in 1993, these matters are either being deprioritised or handled in an opaque manner.

In this context, it is important to remember that neither fraternal bonds nor economic interdependence have been sufficient for preventing war in the past; on the contrary, they have served as enablers for emotive and reckless policies that culminated in war and a long and bitter rivalry.

It is imperative that the two governments dispassionately formulate their national interests and institutionalise the terms of their relationship as soon as possible, and leave as few issues as possible to fate, trust or fraternity.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.


Eritrea’s exodus – updated

%AM, %21 %439 %2018 %11:%Sep Written by

Earlier today a story on the numbers of people leaving Eritrea for Ethiopia was published (see below).

Now further information has come to hand, from a reliable source.

“Since 11th September (the Ethiopian new year), the Ethiopian-Eritrean border has been  open. There were two possible scenarios: first, that the influx of Eritrean refugees would decrease and the existing refugees in Ethiopia would gradually return home to Eritrea; and second, that the influx rate would increase significantly.”

“The second scenario appears to be unfolding. The normal entry rate was approximately 50 people per day, but since 11th September, the number increased to 80. In the past three days, however, 310, 700, and then more than 1,000 Eritreans have arrived at reception centres. More are expected to come.”

“The demographic characteristics are almost the opposite of the normal trend. Previously most were young men who had who left their families in Eritrea. The newcomers, so far, are predominantly female and children…over 80%. This appears to be because previously it was too risky for them to try to cross the border.”

“The reception operation is becoming an ’emergency situation’. All organizations are being asked to support the newcomers, especially by providing immediate services like shelter, WASH, and core relief items.”

This is the earlier report

The pace at which Eritreans are leaving the country is increasing rapidly.

With the Ethiopian border open at 18 entry points, hundreds of Eritreans are arriving daily in busses, cars and on foot.

Between 250 and 500 were reported to be crossing daily at the start of September, but the numbers are now rising.

Many are seeking asylum at the Endabaguna screening  centre, which is struggling to register all those who arrive. As many as 600 a day are asking for asylum, some of them Eritrean troops, stretching the centre’s handling capacity.

It is reported that the crossings were closed yesterday (19th September). The official reason given was that this was ‘due to the security situation’.  The border is said to have re-opened again today.

Eritreans registering at official centres may only be the tip of the iceberg. Others don’t bother with registration, instead going to join friends and family already living in Ethiopia.

Professor Mirjam van Reisen, of Tilberg University in the Netherlands, who was recently in the Ethiopia-Eritrea border area, is concerned the situation could escalate out of control.

“Visiting the area we saw the joy of people crossing into Ethiopia, but the numbers are now huge. This is becoming an uncontrolled flight from Eritrea. Ethiopia will need substantial international assistance if it is to cope with a major exodus,” warned Professor van Reisen.

Eritreans say they are leaving because their government has failed to institute political and economic reforms in their country. Others say they are joining family members already living in Ethiopia.

There have been long traffic jams at the border town of Zalambessa as the trade between the two countries has built up. Trucks with grain, flour and building materials are leaving Ethiopia, while electronic goods and other consumer goods are being taken in the opposite direction.


In a joint memorandum dated 18 September 2018, three Eritrean organizations urged the new UN Human Rights Commissioner, Ms Michele Bachelet, to keep the Eritrean regime "under close scrutiny” and never allow it to escape accountability on the monstrous human rights abuses it perpetrated against its own people during the past quarter of a century.


Also copied to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and to the African Union Commission chairman, Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat, the memorandum asked the UN system and concerned international and regional humanitarian bodies to do more than simply asking the rogue regime in Asmara to end its military conscription project.

Three Eritrean Organizations Send Memo to UN docx 1

Eritrean organizations urge UN system to keep Asmara regime “under close scrutiny”.


The Eritrean message alluded to the case of G-15 prisoners and the tens of thousands of Eritreans prisoners who were joined by ex-Finance Minister Berhane Abrehe on 17 September 2018, and called for the full attention of the UN towards implementing the 2016 findings of the UN Commission of Inquiry and the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Council.

Issued by the Eritrean National Salvation (ENS-Hidri), the Eritrean People's Democratic Party (EPDP), and the Unity of Eritreans for Justice (UEJ), the joint memorandum also referred to the ongoing 'under-the-table-deals' of the unrepresentative Eritrean regime with Ethiopia and other countries and said such deals will not be acceptable to the voiceless Eritrean people.

The joint memorandum emphatically added: "Peace in the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea basin can and should start with peace at home. So far this is not the case in Eritrea".

Reproduced below is the full text of the joint Eritrean memo of 18 September 2018.

EPDP and Sister Orgs Appeal to UNHCR to Save Refugee lives in Libya 2


Joint Eritrean Message to the UN Human Rights Chief


To: H.E. Ms. Michele Bachelet,

UN HR Commissioner, OHCHR Geneva

CC: H.E. Mr. Antonio Guterres,

UN Secretary General, New York  

CC: H.E. Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairman

African Union Commission, Addis Ababa                  

18 September, 2018

Your Excellency Ms. Michele Bachelet,


Please accept from us, Eritreans struggling for democratic change and justice, heartfelt congratulations for your deserved election to lead the UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), a UN body from which Eritreans expect as much action as they wait for the appropriate action of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to act on the 2016 findings of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea.


We appreciate, Madam, your 10 September statement in support of the peace accord between Eritrea and Ethiopia although we also expected you to say more than just reminding the repressive Eritrean regime to act on its indefinite military conscription.


What Eritreans still expect from your esteemed office is, Madam High Commissioner, to mobilize the international community towards implementing the decisions of the UN Human Rights Council and the repeated recommendations of the UN Special Human Rights Rapporteur on Eritrea whose periodical updates confirm that nothing is changing in our country.


Dear OHCHR High Commissioner,

We are taking the liberty of confirming to you that arbitrary arrests and all kinds of criminal abuses are continued to this day in Eritrea, and one finds it needless to remind the OHCHR that the Eritrean regime must be kept “under close scrutiny” until all the abuses are stopped. In this regard, we wish to point out that your esteemed office as well as the UN Secretary General’s office are expected per the conclusions of the UN Human Rights Council to “Ensure accountability for those responsible for serious human rights violations in Eritrea.” Eritreans always find it important to underline that our people are expecting the UN system as a whole and all concerned actors like the African Union to see to it that the border ruling between Eritrea and Ethiopia is implemented as agreed two decades ago, and that no ‘under the table deals’ between the unrepresentative regime in Eritrea and Ethiopia will be acceptable to the Eritrean people. Peace in the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea basin can and should start with peace at home. So far this is not the case in Eritrea.


Finally, we wish to note that it was on 18 September, 17 years ago to the day, that the repressive regime in Asmara arrested 11 top officials of the regime and attended their number to the tens of thousands of Eritrean political prisoners and prisoners of conscience who languish in incommunicado prisons without a day at court. Ex-Finance Minister Berhane Abrehe, who recently published a book on the sad situation in Eritrea, was reportedly taken to prison yesterday, 17 September 2018.


That is why, Madam, that Eritreans expect more from the UN system than just asking the Asmara regime to act on its “indefinite military conscription”.

Sincerely Yours,

For: -

The Eritrean People’s Democratic Party (EPDP)

United Eritreans for Justice (UEJ)

The Eritrean National Salvation (ENS-Hidri)