News Highlights: Eritrea wants to join UN Human Rights Council, Plea to aid Libya refugees, Displacement in Ethiopia

In this week’s news highlights: Opposition to Eritrea’s bid for membership in UN Human Rights Council; ethnic violence in Ethiopia causes internal displacement; South Sudan joins 1951 Refugee Convention; suicide attack in Mogadishu on Italian military vehicle; media freedom threatened in Africa, says article; Hungary opposes UN Migration Compact; Human Rights Organisations want Aquarius to continue rescue mission; Human Rights Organisations urge international community to aid refugees trapped in Libya.

Greater Horn of Africa

Human Rights Concern – Eritrea urges UN not to admit Eritrea to the UN HRC
Elizabeth Chyrum, Director of Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE), wrote a public letter to the UN General Assembly, urging member states to deny Eritrea membership in the UN Human Rights Council based on its lack of commitment to human rights and cooperation with the UN body in the past. Credible changes to address human rights concerns are necessary before membership in the Human Right Council could be considered, said Chyrum. In the meantime, activists of the Freedom Friday Movement (Arbi Harnet) in Eritrea reported that three cabinet ministers asked for permission to resign amid tensions in the Eritrean government.

Eritrea: Ethiopian businesses can now access Eritrean ports
According to CGTN Africa, Ethiopian businesses now use Eritrean ports for trade with China.  The shift occurred due to the Ethiopian-Eritrean peace deal. In addition, road transport between the countries is again possible. In the meantime, the governments of Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea called for the end of the sanctions against Eritrea.

Eritrea: Uncertainty around border and new refugees remains
In the past weeks, many refugees have crossed into Ethiopia from Eritrea after the opening of its borders. The Eritrean community states that people in Eritrea still have not received sufficient information from the government on any new developments or the opening of the border. It is reported that the uncertainty is driving people away. Africa Monitors has published a two-part analysis.

Ethiopia: Ethnic violence displaces more than 70,000, UN says
According to local sources, in Ethiopia’s western region Benishangul-Gumuz, people fled from youths that threatened them with rocks and knifes. The violence was a consequence of the murder of four local officials who had traveled to the neighbouring Oromia region. UN agencies report that since April this year, almost one million people have been displaced in southern Ethiopia. As a result of the ethnic violence, reform gains in Ethiopia are destabilized, says Political Science lecturer Yohannes Gedamu in an opinion article.

EU Convoy attacked by Al-Shabab in Mogadishu
Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for an attack in which four civilians were injured and two killed in Mogadishu. A suicide bomber drove a car, hitting an Italian military vehicle. The Italian military is stationed in Somalia as a part of an EU mission to train Somali security forces.

South Sudan: President signs 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees
On Friday South Sudanese President Salva Kiir signed both the 1951 Convention on the Status of  Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. It has already been ratified by the Transitional National Legislative Assembly. “This is a milestone for the world’s youngest nation as South Sudan commits to assuming more responsibility to protect refugees and asylum-seekers in the country,” said Valentin Tapsoba, Director of UNHCR’s Regional Bureau for Africa.

Several African governments are trying to control social media, article states
Media freedom is increasingly restricted by governments in countries such as Benin, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia by imposing taxes on the use of social media platforms or passing laws that enable the government to police the content on social media, according to an article in The Conversation. While anonymous communication via these platforms has had some negative effects in the past, such as spreading terrorist propaganda and calls for ethnic violence, the new measures are perceived as an attempt to stifle opposition to the government, the article states.



Hungary: Government opposes UN Migration Compact
Hungary’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Péter Szijjártó, criticized the UN Migration Compact in his speech addressing the UN General Assembly. According to his statement, Hungary wants to place security of its citizens first, address demographic challenges with more Hungarian children, demanding from the international community to “stop migration, not encourage it”.

Italy: Mayor known for successful integration of refugees under house arrest
Domenico Lucano, mayor of the Calabrian town Riace, has been placed under house arrest because he is suspected of ‘aiding illegal migration’, fraud in the awarding of waste disposal contracts, as well as helping to arrange “marriages of convenience”. His engagement for refugees and their integration into his previously dwindling town had made him the target of a “cynical system”, according to Gioaccino Criao, a writer from Calabria.  

Five human rights organisations call upon European leaders to offer the Aquarius a flag
In an open letter, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, European Council on Refugees and Exiles, International Commission of Jurists, and the International Federation for Human Rights urge European leaders to offer the rescue ship Aquarius a flag after the Panamanian government withdrew it. According to Human Rights Watch, the Aquarius has saved thousands of lives in the Mediterranean Sea.


Northern Africa

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants urges international community to aid refugees trapped in Libya
The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, together with 54 other refugee-aiding agencies from different countries, sent an open letter to the US government, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), pleading for immediate help for refugees and migrants currently located in Libya. As the humanitarian situation has deteriorated dramatically, they call for the protection and resettlements of refugees as well as an efficient monitoring of the country.

Morocco: Government rejects EU’s migrant centres, wants more cooperation with Spain
The Moroccan foreign minister rejected EU plans to open migration centres in his country in an interview with the German newspaper Die Welt, asking Europe not to fear Morocco or treat it like an object.