News Highlights: Former Eritrean minister arrested, violence in Ethiopia, report warns EU to stop working with abusive militias

In this week’s news highlights: New peace deal signed between Ethiopia and Eritrea in Saudi Arabia; former Eritrean minister of finance arrested; rebels return to Ethiopia and deadly violence sparks; NGOs urge UN not to vote human rights abusers in Human Rights Council; US considers easing sanctions on Sudan; EU migration policies in Sahara can make things worse, says report; EU proposal to strengthen Frontex causes mixed response; EU continues funding for Nigerien authorities; and Merkel visits Algeria.

Greater Horn of Africa

Eritrea/ Ethiopia: New peace deal signed in Saudi-Arabia
Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki and Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed signed a new peace deal in Jeddah in the company of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and UN Secretary-General Antonio Gueterres. UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, voiced hopes that with the signing of the peace deal the military service in Eritrea can be limited, the constitution implemented, and political prisoners released or alternatively receive a fair trial. As a consequence of Eritrea’s slow opening-up policy, Djibouti is becoming a hub for illegal arms trafficking, states a report by intelligence company EXX Africa.

Eritrea: Former Eritrean minister of finance, Berhane Abrehe, arrested in Eritrea
Former Eritrean minister of finance Berhane Abrehe, prominent critic of Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki, has been arrested in Asmara on Sunday. Observers had expected the Eritrean regime to take action against Berhane after the publication of his two-volume book “Eritrea Hagerey” (Eritrea, my Country) in which he called for prompt elections and the replacement of Isaias Afwerki. Eritrean groups and other organisations such as Amnesty International call for Berhane’s immediate release.

Ethiopia: Government welcomes rebel leader returning from Eritrean exile, violence erupts
On Saturday, the leader of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), Dawud Ibsa, returned from Eritrea to Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. The chief of staff of the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Fitsum Arega, welcomed him in a Tweet, hoping to reach a “culture of peace”. However, after his arrival, ethnic Oromo attacked members of ethnic minorities northwest of Addis Ababa causing 23 deaths.

Sudan: New round of talks between US and Sudan to remove it from terror list
Sudan and the United States will continue their dialogue regarding the normalization of their relations and the removal of the former from the list of countries that support terrorism. According to a Senior Sudanese diplomat, this new round of talks will be held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meetings. Although the US-imposed economic sanctions on Sudan were lifted, the US isdemanding that Sudan improves in a variety of sectors according to Sudan Tribune.

UN Human Rights Council upcoming elections: organizations express concern
In October 2018, the next UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) meeting will determine which states will sit as members of the Council for the next three years. In a letter sent to the Permanent Representatives of Member States of the Human Rights Assembly, a number of NGOs and other organizations have expressed their concerns that there are several States running for election that fail to fulfill human rights standards. In addition, some countries fall short in cooperation with the UNHRC and other UN bodies.


Clingendael institute publishes report on the impact of EU migration policies on central Saharan routes
The Dutch think tank Clingendael published a report detailing the effects that EU migration policies have in Niger, Chad, Sudan and Libya. The findings suggest that financing and aiding certain militias in Northern Africa does often not stop migration flows, leads to new forms of human trafficking and human rights abuses, and can destabilize the region. Meanwhile, the EU Court of Auditors criticized the EU’s aid for African security missions as too ineffectual.

European Commission: Mixed reactions after Commission’s proposal to strengthen Frontex
While a group of member states surrounding Austria, which holds the Council presidency until December, welcomed the Commission’s plans to upgrade Frontex to a larger-scale European border and coast guard, member states at Europe’s borders remain skeptical. NGOs and a member of the S&D faction in the European Parliament oppose the plans. The idea has been discussed at the informal meeting of European leaders in Salzburg without any breakthrough.

EU Council: Council adopts conclusions on the priorities of EU-UN Partnership on peace operations
On 18 September 2018, the Council of the EU adopted conclusions on the priorities of the UN-EU Strategic Partnership on peace operations and crisis management for the period 2019-2021. The Council reiterated “the EU’s firm commitment, along its Member States, to a strong United Nations (UN) as a bedrock of the multilateral rules-based order.” Furthermore, the conclusions highlight the significance of women’s inclusion, as well as of peace and security as an overarching priority.

EU Council: Mandate of EUCAP Sahel Niger updated
The European Council recently extended the mandate of the EUCAP Sahel Niger and agreed on a new budget of €63.4 million until September 2020. Furthermore, the mission’s mandate of advising and supporting Nigerien authorities “in strengthening their security capabilities” was updated. The press release reaffirms that “EUCAP Sahel Niger contributes to the development of an integrated, multidisciplinary, coherent, sustainable, and human rights-based approach among the various Nigerien security actors.”

Northern Africa

Algeria: Merkel visits Algeria, talks about migration
German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Algeria on Monday, holding talks with Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia about migration and trade. The Prime minister agreed to take back rejected asylum-seekers from Algeria from Germany. Merkel stressed that routes for legal migration from Algeria to Germany have to be strengthened, especially for students. The German government also seeks to declare Algeria a safe country of origin, which would facilitate deportations to Algeria. In the meantime, European Council President Donald Tusk praised Egypt to be a model for other Northern African countries in preventing migrant departures from its shores.