News Highlights: Diplomatic push on Ethiopia, Drought in the Horn, EU-AU Summit approaches

In this week news highlights: Diplomatic processes to find a solution on Ethiopia ongoing; Dramatic increase of people needing immediate food assistance in Ethiopia; Debretsion notices signs of improvement in a peace negotiation with Ethiopian government; EHRC accuses state troops of Oromia massacre; Guterres appeals to immediately end the fighting in Ethiopia; UN renews its cooperation with Eritrea; Droughts cause humanitarian catastrophe across the Horn; HRW calls for concrete action to end violence in Sudan;Amnesty urges EU to reverse migration policy on Libya; UN officer warns Libya is abandoning migrants in the desert without water; Deportation of Eritrean asylum seekers from Egypt; EU-AU Summit approaching; Poland to build a wall at the Belarus border to stop migration; 439 migrants and refugees rescued arrive in Sicily; Cameras to be installed along the Belarus border with Lithuania; UK nationality and border bill attack on LGBTQ+ persons, says MP; Child refugees going missing in Kent and Sussex.

The greater Horn of Africa 

Ethiopia: Diplomatic processes to find a solution ongoing
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has called for Ethiopia to enter into a genuine dialogue in a renewed diplomatic push for negotiation in Ethiopia. Kenyatta called for “an all-inclusive national dialogue, conducted in the spirit of compromise and accommodation”. Kenyatta also spoke with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, the two leaders pledging to play a leading role in promoting peace and dialogue in the greater Horn’s ongoing conflicts, in Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Somalia. The push for dialogue comes ahead of the African Union Summit in Ethiopia this Friday, 4 February, where the conflict is not – officially – on the agenda. 

Ethiopia: Dramatic increase of people needing immediate food assistance
More than nine million people in Ethiopia need immediate humanitarian assistance, the highest recorded number so far, reports the United Nations. Since the beginning of the conflict in November 2020, three regions have been severely affected by the lack of food assistance; Amhara, Afar, and Tigray. Food insecurity concerns at least 83 percent of the Northern Ethiopian population, according to the Tigray Emergency Food Security Assessment. As stated by the World Food Programme’s (WFP) Regional Director for Eastern Africa, Michael Dunford, WFP is doing everything in its power to provide humanitarian assistance in the North, but no land convoy has managed to cross the frontlines of Tigray since mid-December. “If hostilities persist, we need all the parties to the conflict to agree to a humanitarian pause and formally agreed transport corridors, so that supplies can reach the millions besieged by hunger”, he stated. 

Ethiopia: Debretsion notes signs of improvement in negotiation as the situation on the ground remains tense
Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) president, Debretsion Gebremichael, states in an interview given to the BBC, that there is some progress in negotiations with the federal government that may help stabilize the situation in the north of the country. He emphasizes the importance of the federal government addressing the human rights atrocities committed against Tigrayans since the beginning of the conflict. Debretsion noted that the conditions for negotiations, which are withdrawal of Eritrean and Amhara forces from Tigray region, lifting of the humanitarian blockade and a stop to hostilities, remain to be met. Meanwhile, actors on the ground in various Ethiopian regions continue to prepare for renewed conflict, notes The Guardian. In the meantime, Italy has suspended its military agreement with Ethiopia.

Ethiopia: EHRC accuses Ethiopia state troops of Oromia massacre
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has accused the state security forces in Oromia to be responsible for the “Karavu massacre”, which took place in December 2021 and killed 14 civilians. The massacre, which bears the name of the city where the killings happened, was said at first to have been committed by the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), according to the Ethiopian authorities. The regional government has not made any comment yet. 

Ethiopia: Guterres appeals to immediately end the fighting in Tigray
Speaking to journalists this Tuesday, before heading to the Winter Olympics, Antonio Guterres asked for an instantaneous cessation of all ongoing conflict in Ethiopia. He insisted on how an end of the hostilities would be a vital relief for civilians. “The people of Ethiopia continue to suffer greatly from ongoing conflict and bloodshed”, he said. Furthermore, Guterres strongly called for an open dialogue between all parties, including the population. “And these actions will help pave the way to a much-needed inclusive national dialogue involving all Ethiopians”. 

Eritrea: UN renews its cooperation with Eritrea
A delegation of 24 United Nations representatives from various regional offices concluded its visit to Eritrea with a new cooperation agreement. The UN announced that, among the topics of discussion, “regional dynamics in the Horn of Africa and the role Eritrea could play in fostering peace and security” was featured. Relations between the UN and Eritrea have been tense, given that Eritrea severely restricted the work of NGOs and international organizations, expelling most of them, in the last decades. 

Horn of Africa: Droughts cause humanitarian catastrophe across the Horn 
Nearly 20 million people have been exposed to the worst food security risks in 35 years, according to the Nasa Earth Observatory. In Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia, the failure of three consecutive rainy seasons has led to dry weather that is unfavorable for crops and cattle survival and therefore causes severe malnutrition. “We depend on our cattle. We lost many of them. Who knows, people may also die next? I haven’t seen such a drought before… Five years ago, there was a drought in our area, but at least we had food. But now, we don’t have enough food for our family”, said Zainab Wolie, a mother of seven children from Saglo Village in the Somali region of Ethiopia, in an interview with The Guardian. In Somalia, nearly 90 percent of the territory suffers from severe drought and water shortages. As for Kenya, a drought emergency was declared in September 2021, drought reaching the worst levels in almost 30 years, according to the Irish Times. “In areas where people depend on the cultivation of crops and livestock, thousands are becoming displaced as they move to find new pastures or sources of income and food”, says Kurt Tjossem, East Africa Regional Director for the International Red Cross.

Sudan: Human Rights Watch calls for concrete action to end violence in Sudan
Human Rights Watch (HRW) calls for concrete action to end violence in Sudan after documenting incidents of lethal violence used against protesters. HRW interviewed witnesses and reviewed imagery of the protests that illustrate the deadly violence. The report particularly looked at the protest on 17 January, where Sudanese doctors reported seven deaths. In addition, on 30 January, a protester was killed by the security forces while he was attending an anti-coup protest in Khartoum. Since the military takeover and the removal of al-Bashir and his government, in October 2021, the Sudanese new government has formally banned demonstrations. Since then, 79 persons have been killed during protests, said the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors (CCSD). 

North Africa

Libya: EU urged to reverse migration policy on Libya by Amnesty international
On the 5-year anniversary of the European Union’s cooperation with the Libyan authorities on migration management, Amnesty International issued a statement denouncing the cooperation. In those 5 years, over 82,000 migrants were intercepted and returned to terrible conditions in Libya in the EU’s bid to block migrants from reaching European shores, stated Amnesty. At the International Criminal Court, at least three requests have been made demanding that Libyan and European officials, as well as traffickers, militiamen, and others, be investigated for crimes against humanity. Amnesty researcher Matteo de Bellis said that ‘’over the past five years, Italy, Malta, and the EU have helped capture tens of thousands of women, men and children at sea, many of whom ended up in horrific detention centers rife with torture, while countless others were forcibly disappeared.”

Libya: UN officer warns that Libya is abandoning refugees in the desert without water
Ben Lewis, a United Nations Human Rights Official, has warned that Libya is deporting people “faster than ever before’’ and “abandoning migrants without water’’ in deserts. He made the statements in a meeting of the Subcommittee on Human Rights at the European Parliament last week. The Libyan Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration (DCIM) is forcing migrants and refugees across Libya’s land borders without any water supplies; the land borders include remote desert areas, said Ben Lewis. According to a confidential European Union military report that was leaked to the Associated Press this month, over 12,000 migrants and refugees were currently detained in 27 detention facilities across Libya.

Egypt: Arbitrary detention of Eritrean asylum seekers
Egyptian authorities deported 39 Eritrean asylum seekers, including children, back to Eritrea since October, without taking their claims into account, said Human Rights Watch (HRW). Not only had the asylum applications not been examined, but the refugees had also been “tortured, held in extremely punitive conditions and disappeared”, said United Nations human rights experts and the UN special rapporteurs on Eritrea and torture. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported sources saying that Egyptian officials forced “them [the refugees] into signing documents – in Arabic, which they cannot read – which may have been related to their deportation”. Many people flee from Eritrea, where military service is compulsory under the age of 50 and can last for years and human rights are severely impacted by the dictatorial government. The UNHCR reminds that “Egypt is a party to both the 1951 UN and the 1969 African refugee conventions, which prohibit refoulement of refugees and asylum seekers”. Egypt is thus violating international law.


Europe/Africa: EU-AU Summit approaching
The city of Paris is preparing for the upcoming European Union/African Union summit on 17 and 18 February this month. On the agenda is a renewed peace and security architecture that aims to promote stability. The topic of migration is another important point expected to be much discussed during the Summit, although it has been carefully wrapped in the context of education and culture. Finance, including a Europe-Africa investment package, is also on the agenda. The previous EU-AU Summit took place in 2017 and the current Summit, planned originally for 2020, has been postponed until now.

Poland: Poland to build a wall at the Belarus border to stop migration
Poland has started building a metal wall at Tolcza, a village in Poland that neighbors Belarus. The wall is to be equipped with high-tech anti-migration technology. Poland indicates the wall is a response to thousands of migrants and refugees who were left stuck in the borderland between Belarus and Poland last year when both countries were shoving the migrants towards each other and leaving some persons to freeze to death. During the course of the Belarus-EU border crisis, more than a dozen migrants and refugees and two Polish officers died. SchengenVisaInfo reports: ‘’The €348 million-wall is intended to be five and a half meters high and 186 kilometers long, which covers about half of the total border length and is equipped with thermal- imaging cameras and motion sensors.’’

Italy: 439 migrants and refugees rescued arrive in Sicily
On Saturday 439 migrants and refugees arrived in the port of Augusta, in the southern Italian region of Sicily, after being rescued by the ship Geo Barents in the Central Mediterranean Sea. According to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), medical and psychological support was necessary for the migrants and refugees that were rescued by Geo Barents. The refugees and migrants were treated for malnourishment, mild hypothermia, seasickness, and fuel burns. MSF also said that their staff has provided support to those who were survivors of sexual abuse and violence in Libya. On their social media account (Twitter) MSF posted several video statements and photos where migrants and refugees on the deck of the Geo Barents testified they suffered abuse in Libya. According to the United Nations and the UN migration agency IOM, the central Mediterranean route is one of the deadliest migration routes and at least 82 migrants have died or gone missing on this route so far this year.

Lithuania: Cameras to be installed along the Belarus border
Lithuania decided to install cameras along the Lithuania-Belarus border. In May 2021, Lithuania was the first country to register a spike in irregular border crossings from Belarus. Belarus is being accused by the European Union of deliberately sending the migrants to the EU in order to put pressure on the bloc, as retaliation for EU sanctions. According to the news agency DPA reports, the installation of cameras along the roughly 680 kilometre-long  Lithuania-Belarus border may cost up to €40 million; half of the border is already equipped with cameras.

UK: UK nationality and border bill attack on LGBT+ refugees
The UK Nationality and Borders bill will have the worst effect on the most vulnerable – especially LGBTQ+ people seeking sanctuary in the UK, according to Olivia Blake, the Labour MP for Sheffield Hallam. Blake warns that the burden of proof for LGBTQ+ persons to show their sexual or gender orientation is already high – and often seeking any proof is very risky – and the burden of proof in the new bill is even higher. The failure of the current system shows that almost half of LGBTQ+ asylum claim refusal is successfully challenged on appeal, states Blake. In an estimated 70 countries homosexuality remains illegal and 11 of these countries still operate the death penalty. The UK bill is making it more likely that LGBTQ+ people will be sent back to face violence, abuse, or even death, states Blake. The measure in the Nationality and Border bill may discourage LGBTQ+ asylum seekers, since being openly LGBTQ+ in the UK asylum system is already unsafe.

UK: In Kent and Sussex, one child refugee goes missing each week from the Home office
According to police data from Kent and Sussex, each week at least one child goes missing from Home Office hotel accommodation. This data was obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request from Kent and Sussex police, noting that 16 children were missing from hotel accommodation between July 20 and November 25 last year. Only seven of the 16 have since been found. Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said that children could potentially end up back in the hands of traffickers. As Kent County Council (KCC) refused to accept more refugees, the Home Office has been using unregulated hotels to accommodate refugees since July 2021. KCC officials reported in November they had 363 unaccompanied refugee minors in their care. 

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