News Highlights: Sudan and Ethiopia discuss border force, EU to support road project Eritrea, AU requests peace conference on Libya

In this week’s News Highlights: €20 million EU funds for road project between Ethiopia and Eritrea; Ethiopia and Sudan discuss joint border force; opposition in Sudan releases statement continuing pressure on government; BBC shines light on Sudanese detention; High-level United Nations delegation visits Sudan as UNAMID ends; villagers in South Sudan’s Yei State abused and killed by soldiers; two new commissions look at Ethiopia’s internal border and identity conflicts; an Islamic State ‘empire’ grows in Africa region, warns article; African Union requests a peace conference on Libya; Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) published a report on the deflagging of the Aquarius rescue boat; LIBE Committee has approved new measures to reinforce Frontex; and 100 migrants intercepted by Libyan Coast Guard.

Greater Horn of Africa

Eritrea: EU to spend €20 million on road project in Eritrea
On the 8th of February, Neven Mimica, Commissioner in charge of International cooperation and Development, visited Eritrea. After the visit, the Commissioner announced a €20 million project to rebuild the road connection between the Eritrean port of Massawa and the Eritrea/Ethiopia border. The project will be financed by the EU Trust Fund for Africa and implemented through the United Nation’s Office for Project Services (UNOPS).

Ethiopia/Sudan: Leaders discuss formation of joint border force
During an African Union Summit, Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir and Ethiopian premier Abiy Ahmed discussed the founding of a joint border force and demarcation of the Ethiopia-Sudan border. The talks reportedly also included plans to form a joint border committee. Earlier work on demarcation of the borders, which were drawn by colonisers, was stopped in 2014.

Sudan: Opposition in Sudan presents written statement vowing to continue pressure
In a press conference on 13th February, representatives of opposition to the government in Sudan presented a written statement – the Declaration of Freedom and Change – with principles that form the basis for removing the Sudanese regime and establishing a democratic system. The statement underlined that the unity of the Sudanese people is the most effective instrument to reach their goals. An opinion article in African Arguments outlines how, after years of oppression coupled with lack of opportunities, youth and women (also through No To Women Oppression campaign) became the driving force in the opposition of the regime. Meanwhile, concern over the arrests of protesters, including academics, human rights defenders and journalists, continues to grow.

Sudan: BBC makes video on Sudan detention centres
Analysing videos and speaking to witnesses, the BBC produced a video investigating how Sudanese security agents hunt down protesters, and what happens to the them in detention facilities.

Sudan: High-level United Nations delegation visits Sudan
As the United Nations–African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) confirmed this month that the mission will end, a high level UN delegation has visited Darfur. The delegation was present to  discuss transition of the UN engagement in Darfur as UNAMID was ending, in order to regulate the transfer of peace building tasks to UN agencies and the Sudanese government. .

South Sudan: Villagers in South Sudan’s Yei State fleeing to DR Congo
Following the violence between the SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement), supported by government forces, and the militia group NAS (National Salvation Front), the UN Refugee Agency estimated that more than 8,000 Sudanese civilians had fled the country, of whom 5,000 were reportedly heading for the Democratic Republic of Congo. Many rebel groups remain in South Sudan, states VOA News, including the NAS rebel group (who refused to sign the peace agreement) and the SPLA, a South Sudanese army ally.For months, the conflicts have been taking place in the city of Yei, on the borders of the DR Congo and Uganda. According to the testimonies collected by VOA news, women, children and elderly arrive by feet exhausted, often sick and traumatised by witnessing violence such as rape, abuse and killings by soldiers.

Ethiopia: Parliament creates two commissions to study internal border issues
Ethiopian Parliament approved the creation of two commissions: the Boundaries and Identity Issues Commission and the Reconciliation Commission. The commissions are tasked to study conflict-causing and controversial identity and boundary issues in the country, and propose recommendations to the office of the Prime Minister and House of the Federation.

North Africa

Islamic State ‘empire’ grows in Africa regions
In an article for ARAB NEWS, Baria Alamuddin describes how the so-called ‘Islamic State’, also named Daesh, expands its power and control in large parts of Africa and  how the Islamic State  changes to establishing an Islamic empire: “rather than seeking maximum attention through gratuitous and spectacular violence, they are concentrating on quiet state-building and winning over local people, scrupulously avoiding international attention”.  Baria Alamuddin analyzes Daesh’s growth in varous African States, in particular in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Libya, and Egypt.

Libya: African Union requests a peace conference
The African Union (AU) has proposed a global conference in July 2019 to try to resolve the Libya conflict. A declaration signed by all 55 members of the AU asked the AU commission, the United Nations and the Libyan government, to take “all the necessary measures for the organisation of presidential and legislative elections in October 2019”.


Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) publishes a report on the deflagging of the Aquarius rescue boat
Following revoking of the registration – deflagging – of the Aquarius rescue boat, which was operated by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and SOS Mediterranée, in September 2018, the British NGO Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) wrote a report this week in which they accused the flag states (Panama and Gibraltar) “of putting commercial interests ahead of well-established obligations to save lives, and warned that it was”. David Hammond, founder of Human Rights at Sea (HRAS), also said: “we have asked the IMO, International Maritime Organization, to look at the issue, to see whether or not the deflagging of the Aquarius is the start of a precedent of removing the ability of search and rescue vessels to operate lawfully at sea to save lives.”

 European Parliament: LIBE Committee approves new measures to reinforce Frontex
The Civil Liberties Committee of the European Parliament approved a draft (adopted by 35 to 9 with 8 abstentions) containing new measures to strengthen the European Border and Coast Guard (Frontex). Specifically the draft provides for the creation of a new force, with  10.000 additional operational staff, engaged in border control, migration management and return tasks. The measures are also supposed to provide  more efficient return procedures to countries of origin and strengthen cooperation with non-EU countries. The committee also approved a mandate to start informal consutaltations with the Council.

Italy: 100 migrants intercepted by Libyan Coast Guard
More then 100 migrants were intercepted by the Libyan coast guard within the Libyan SAR area. The alert was triggered by Alarmphone, the telephone service for migrants and refugees in difficulty. The Italian authorities refused to assume responsibility and immediately informed the Libyan Coast Guard. According to what is reported, the Coast Guard of Tripoli has assumed the coordination of the rescue operations, because the boat was located in the area of ​​its jurisdiction.

EASO publishes reports on EU asylum figures of 2018
The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) has published the report on the EU asylum figures 2018 and one of the main aspects that emerges is the decreasing (for a third consecutive year) of  applications for international protection in the EU, which amounts at 634,700 applications in totalSyrians (74800 applications), Afghans (45300) and Iraqi (42100)  included the bulk of applications for asylum. . Other data that emerge from the report concern the nationality ofpeople that applied for international protection in higher numbers than in 2017: Colombians (+ 210 %), Venezuelans (+ 88 %), Georgians(+ 72 %), Palestinians (+ 61 %), Turkish (+ 48 %) and Iranians (+ 37 %).