Ethiopian refugees who fled Tigray region, queue to receive food aid within the Um-Rakoba camp in Al-Qadarif state, on the border, in Sudan. December 11, 2020. REUTERS / Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

One of 2022’s deadliest wars, in and around Ethiopia’s Tigray region, has for now ground to a halt. Two of the main belligerents – Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which dominated Ethiopian politics for decades before Abiy assumed power in 2018 and then fell out with him – signed a deal on 2 November in Pretoria, South Africa, and, 10 days later, a follow-up agreement in Nairobi. But the calm is fragile. Key questions remain unsettled, notably whether Tigray’s forces will disarm and whether Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, whose army has been fighting alongside Ethiopian troops, will withdraw his troops to the internationally recognised border.…  Seguir leyendo »

Elena plays checkers using bottle tops with Hailemariam in May at a reception and day center for displaced Tigrayans in Mekele, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. Thousands of Eritrean refugees are among the most vulnerable groups in the Tigray conflict. (Ben Curtis/AP)

For the past year, Ethiopian federal troops have been fighting against troops loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in a conflict that has killed thousands of people and displaced over 2 million. Last month, armed conflict escalated in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions. And this week, Ethiopia’s government called for citizens in Addis Ababa to prepare to defend the capital as rebel groups reportedly seized towns along the road to Addis Ababa.

A month ago, the Ethiopian government alleged that United Nations officials had meddled in the country’s affairs and expelled seven of them. This move may complicate civilians’ access to humanitarian assistance, as the threat of famine looms.…  Seguir leyendo »

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki is greeted upon arrival at Khartoum International Airport outside the Sudanese capital Sept. 14, 2019. (EBRAHIM HAMID/AFP via Getty Images)

The continuing war in Ethiopia has shocked the world with its brutality — and also offers a reminder of the viciousness of the dictatorship in neighboring Eritrea, which has welcomed the chance to settle scores with old foes across the border by intervening in the fighting.

Yet the atrocities committed by Eritrean forces in this conflict will come as little surprise to those who have followed President Isaias Afwerki’s efforts to transform his country into one of the world’s most relentless autocracies. And no one embodies the victims of his regime better than Dawit Isaak, a prolific writer and courageous journalist who may soon mark the 20th anniversary of his imprisonment.…  Seguir leyendo »

The war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region just took an unexpected turn. Seemingly isolated in mountainous reaches of central Tigray only weeks ago, Tigrayan rebels last week overran regional capital Mekelle and other cities and towns they had left last November when federal troops moved in. They were met by dancing and cheering crowds. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who had promised a short clash in Tigray and declared victory late last year, pulled federal forces back after a run of battlefield defeats. It’s a stunning turnabout in a brutal war.

So, is the fighting over? Sadly, probably not. If Abiy and Tigrayan leaders can somehow reach agreement on a ceasefire and getting urgently needed aid into Tigray, that would calm things down.…  Seguir leyendo »

When the Norwegian Nobel Committee gives the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize medal to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Tuesday, celebrations will be undercut by many expressions of disappointment and outrage. Local and international voices criticizing his domestic record attracted considerable media attention, while some took to opinion pages to develop their arguments further.

But Abiy's domestic record was not why he was awarded the prestigious prize. According to the committee, he was chosen for "his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea", resulting in a peace deal they hope "will help to bring about positive change for the entire populations of Ethiopia and Eritrea".…  Seguir leyendo »

An Ethiopian military officer stands guard in the outskirts of Badme, a territorial dispute town between Eritrea and Ethiopia.Credit Tiksa Negeri/Reuters

Early this month, the Ethiopian government declared that it was finally ready to implement a peace deal it signed with Eritrea nearly two decades ago. The Eritrean government didn’t respond to the announcement for over two weeks — until Wednesday, when President Isaias Afwerki said that “the positive direction that has been set in motion is crystal clear.” Mr. Isaias also promised to send a delegation to Ethiopia “to gauge current developments directly and in depth.”

For many years, however, even as Ethiopia declared its willingness to implement a 2002 judgment about the two states’ border, it refused to withdraw its troops from Eritrean territory until other issues — about armed groups, trade, access to Eritrea’s ports on the Red Sea — were settled.…  Seguir leyendo »

Abiy Ahmed, the newly elected chairman of the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front, in April. Credit Mulugeta Ayene/Associated Press

If nature abhors a vacuum, politics abhors a military standoff, especially between two nations in one of the poorest, most volatile and most strategically sensitive regions of the world.

And so there was much excitement when the government of Ethiopia announced on Tuesday that it would fully accept the ruling of an international tribunal in the country’s boundary dispute with Eritrea — some 16 years after the judgment was issued.

In 2002, a special international commission delineated the border between the two countries, as they had agreed in the peace deal that ended their 1998-2000 war. Demarcation on the ground was expected to start swiftly, allowing cross-border trade and cooperation to resume.…  Seguir leyendo »

Se me cae la cara de vergüenza. Tengo un sentimiento de impotencia y profunda pena. Dawit Isaak, el periodista eritreo-sueco al que amadrino desde hace años, se pudre en una inhóspita cárcel de Eritrea, posiblemente en Asmara, pero pasan los años y me da la sensación de que lo que escribo, las gestiones que hemos hecho desde España, no sirven de nada ante la feroz dictadura de Isaías Afewerki en ese pequeño estado africano. Tampoco sirven las múltiples gestiones que ha hecho su familia, ni el gobierno sueco, ni Reporteros Sin Fronteras.

A Dawit le acaban de conceder el premio Mundial de Prensa Guillermo Cano de la UNESCO, un premio importante, de los que se jalean en la prensa internacional.…  Seguir leyendo »

A boat with 158 migrants is spotted by the Italian coast guard in Lampedusa, Italy, on 8 July 2011. MAGNUM/Patrick Zachmann

When world leaders meet in New York next week for summit meetings hosted by the UN and the U.S. to tackle the global refugee crisis, they must redouble their efforts to resolve those conflicts driving the global exodus and to prevent new conflicts before the emergency is compounded. Additionally, leaders should commit to resettle at least 10 per cent of the world’s refugees annually, share responsibilities more equitably, increase support for front-line states facing the greatest challenges, and respect fully the rights of refugees.

The number of refugees and internally displaced now stands at more than 65 million, the largest figure ever recorded.…  Seguir leyendo »

Eritrean citizens in Switzerland protesting a recent U.N. report that accused Eritrean leaders of committing crimes against humanity. Salvatore Di Nolfi/European Pressphoto Agency

On June 8, a special U.N. commission released a report accusing the leadership of Eritrea of crimes against humanity. It cites cases of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture, rape and extrajudicial killing. It claims that up to 400,000 Eritreans have been enslaved in a vast conscription program, forced to work in the army or the bureaucracy for next to nothing, often for a decade or more.

Isaias Afwerki, a former rebel hero, has ruled Eritrea since its independence in 1993. A constitution drafted in 1997 has yet to be implemented. National elections have never been held. Opposition political parties are illegal.…  Seguir leyendo »

In Europe’s debate about how to deal with the flow of desperate migrants from Africa, there is an important element missing: the crisis in Eritrea. Every month almost 4,000 Eritreans flee to escape oppression, according to a United Nations special rapporteur.

A visit to Asmara, the Eritrean capital, is revealing. In the cafes you won’t hear people talking about the government of President Isaias Afewerki, and in the streets you will never see a march or a demonstration. Any sign of protest is quickly crushed, and opponents of the government face immediate imprisonment and torture, often in underground jails in remote areas.…  Seguir leyendo »

Six years ago, I fled to Israel from my native Eritrea, fearing for my life at home. Two weeks ago, after waiting for six years for Israel to review my application for refugee status — something it has repeatedly refused to do — I joined thousands of other Africans in a strike to force the government to recognize our basic human rights.

I am not in Israel on a whim. I had no choice but to leave Eritrea, where arrest, forced labor and indefinite military conscription are facts of daily life. In 2008, after four years in the military — which often contracted me out to private companies as an unpaid construction worker — I asked when I would be discharged.…  Seguir leyendo »

In the Horn of Africa, a minerals boom has begun and the tyrannical leadership of Eritrea, which regularly imprisons and tortures people on account of their religious faith, stands to reap a windfall of profits. Will the developed world - and the United States and Canada in particular - turn a blind eye to this repression in exchange for the modern-day equivalent of 30 pieces of silver?

Rich in base metals and gold, Eritrea has been granting licenses to foreign firms for exploration projects. The first of these projects, the Bisha mine, run by Canada's Nevsun Resources, Ltd., is about to become a major gold producer.…  Seguir leyendo »

Connaissez-vous Biniam Simon ? En France, aucune chance. En Erythrée, en revanche, toute personne possédant un poste de télévision répondra par l'affirmative. Là-bas, Biniam Simon est un personnage public : le PPDA du pays. Tous les soirs, pendant quatorze ans, ce journaliste érythréen a présenté le journal sur la chaîne publique Eri-TV, la seule à diffuser des informations depuis la fermeture forcée des médias indépendants en 2001.

Sa situation était donc bien établie. Mais début 2007, Biniam Simon est brusquement contraint de laisser cette partie de sa vie derrière lui. Lors d'une formation au journalisme multimédia, au Japon, il apprend l'arrestation de treize de ses confrères à Asmara, la capitale de l'Erythrée.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last week, Abrehale Misghina, a 28-year-old Eritrean refugee, committed suicide in broad daylight in a public park in Tel Aviv. He had snatched a mobile phone from a young boy and, after a desperate attempt to make a call, collapsed in tears. He then returned the phone to its owner, dragged a dustbin to a nearby tree, climbed on top of it, threw a rope over a branch, placed a noose around his neck and hanged himself.

Misghina's story is typical of the suffering of Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers. Increasing numbers Eritreans have fled their country since President Isaias Afewerki came to power in 1993.…  Seguir leyendo »

Little guys often make up in aggressiveness what they lack in size - and tiny Eritrea, the Horn of Africa's plucky bantam, is no exception. The Red Sea nation of 5 million people is currently engaged in verbal fisticuffs with the United Nations, the US government, and its giant neighbour, Ethiopia (population 77 million). As they say in boxing, it is ducking and weaving like a good 'un.The problem with this latest David and Goliath act by Eritrea's mercurial president, Isaias Afwerki, is that even the smallest miscalculation could bring disaster. An estimated 225,000 troops are now within glaring distance of each other along the disputed Eritrea-Ethiopia border.…  Seguir leyendo »

Nine years ago, two nations began the first modern war in sub-Saharan Africa, leaving in two years more than 100,000 dead. Today Eritrea and Ethiopia could reignite their old border conflict. Arms and money from radicals throughout the Middle East, as well as troops trained in Eritrea, have strengthened an insurgency in Ogaden Province, in southeastern Ethiopia.

A new war in the Horn of Africa would destabilize the region and bolster radical Islam’s push to build a Muslim caliphate.

Sadly, Congress is poised to fuel the march toward war by passing a bill that threatens to cut off technical assistance to Ethiopia, one of our closest allies, if it does not, among other things, release political prisoners, ensure that the judiciary operates independently and permit the news media to operate freely.…  Seguir leyendo »