Horn Highlights: Former Tigrayan officials arrested, Estimates of half a million dead, Fast action on drought-related starvation needed

In this week’s Horn Highlights: Former Tigrayan officials arrested in Ethiopia; US committee Chair calls for genocide assessement in Ethiopia conflict; Ethiopian court extends journalist detention; Estimates that war killed 500.000 in Tigray; WHO says it is  awaiting permission to ship 95 tons of aid into Tigray; MSF wants clarity on killings of its staff in Tigray; Mercy Corps urges rapid action on drought-related starvation in Horn; China envoy to the Horn announces peace conference; Eritrea arrests 29 evangelists; Eritrean refugees detained and fined in Sudan.

Greater Horn of Africa

Ethiopia: Former officials from Tigray arrested 
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) says that the Ethiopian government has arrested at least eight former Tigrayan officials. They include members from the Ethiopian government-appointed Tigrayan interim administration.  Daniel Bekele, Chief Commissioner of the EHRC, declined to name those arrested, or the reason for their arrests. A lawyer working for the detainees told Reuters that 14 individuals, including an activist, were arrested in raids on March 7 and 8. The lawyer added that they had not yet been charged, and that the reason for their arrest remained unclear. Among those arrested is Abera Nigus, the former head of the Tigray Justice Bureau. Others included Tigrayan officials from the Prosperity Party, the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s party. Ethiopia has been accused since November of detaining thousands of Tigrayans across Ethiopia. The UN estimates that 15.000 have been imprisoned.

Ethiopia/US: US committee chair calls for genocide assessement
United States Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the chair of the senate foreign affairs committee, has called on  US President Biden to assess whether parties to the conflict in Ethiopia are guilty of genocide. Menendez added that “the atrocities that have taken place in Ethiopia bear the hallmarks of war crimes or crimes against humanity.” He is further arguing that the US must take firm action. 

Ethiopia: Journalist detention extended
An Ethiopian court has extended the detention of Associated Press (AP) accredited Journalist Amir Aman Kiyaro by three months without charging him. The court cites the need for police to interview witnesses in the coming eleven days. AP Executive Editor Julie Pace says that the organisation is “dismayed” by the decision and urges the government to release him. Amir Aman Kiyaro was detained after he interviewed Oromo Liberation Army officials, a group that the Ethiopian government labels as terrorist. The Committee to Protect Journalists said last week that “it cannot be any clearer that authorities have no case”.

Ethiopia: Estimate that war has killed half a million
Researchers at the university of Ghent estimate that half of million people have died as a result of the war in Tigray due to violence or starvation. They estimate that between 150.000 and 200.000 have died due to starvation, between 50.000 and 100.000 due to violent conflict, and another 100.000 due to lack of healthcare and medicine. The numbers used for the calculations are based on figures from USAID, Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, and other sources. 

Ethiopia: 95 metric tons of medical aid awaiting permission to be sent to Tigray
The World Health Organisations (WHO) says that 95 metric tons of medical supplies are ready to be shipped to Tigray. However permission has not yet been granted by the Ethiopian authorities to send the aid.  2.200 metric tons of health supplies are needed in Tigray, estimates WHO. However, only 117 metric tons have arrived so far. This represents 1% of the total need. The WHO was able to airlift 33 metric tons of medical supplies into the region. They estimate this helped 300.000 people. While the region is facing a serious shortage of medical supplies, it also faces serious fuel and food shortages. This has slowed down the deployment of aid, and some humanitarian partners were forced to cease their operations. The Ethiopian government continues to block the entry of supplies into Tigray. The WHO also says that 83 percent of the population is food insecure, and that three quarters of the medical facilities visited by the WHO have been damaged or destroyed.

Ethiopia: MSF wants clarity on the killings of three staff members in June 2021
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is urging the Ethiopian government to take action against those responsible for the killing of three MSF staff on 21 June 2021. A New York Times report was recently published which attributed responsibility to the Ethiopian military, the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF). The NYT mentions that the ENDF commander of the unit was actively involved in the killings. MSF says that they need clarity from all parties and that they will continue to work for the safety of their staff.

Horn: Mercy Corps calls for rapid action to prevent thousands of deaths due to drought
The Mercy Corps, a US humanitarian group, is warning that the drought in the Horn of Africa is already causing food shortages for 13 million people. They add that projections show that this could climb to 25 million people in need of food by the middle of 2022. The situation is expected to worsen until the next rainy season, which is due to start in October 2022. The Horn is seeing the driest conditions and hottest temperatures in forty years. The Mercy Corps adds that fast action is important to mitigate the consequences and avoid further loss of life. In 2011, a delayed response to drought in East Africa led to 260.000 people dying, unlike in 2016-17 when a rapid response alleviated the situation significantly, it states. 

Horn: Chinese Envoy announces peace conference
The newly appointed Chinese Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa, Xue Bing, has announced that China will organise a peace convention in the first half of the year, before june. The conference is meant to create a platform for the different countries in the region to settle their differences peacefully through negotiations. Countries in the region are open to his suggestion, stated the Chinese envoy, and Nairobi has offered to host it. Xue Bing has been on a tour of the region, meeting with leaders in Eritrea, Somalia, Djibouti, and Ethiopia. He met with Ethiopian deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen. They discussed how China can help address “challenges of security, development, and governance”. Among other things, railway infrastructure and commitments to the Belt and Road project were discussed. The envoy underlined the importance of the region to China, and China’s commitment to peace and security in the region.  

Eritrea: BCC reports 29 evangelists arrested in Eritrea
BBC Tigrinya is reporting that Eritrea arrested 29 evangelists in Asmara. They were charged with felony criminal mischief. They are reportedly held at Mai-Sirwa prison, outside of Asmara. The prison is reportedly underground. 

Sudan: Eritrean refugees rounded up and fined in Sudan
Human Rights Concern – Eritrea is reporting that Eritrean refugees in Sudan are being imprisoned and rounded up. They have received evidence that since February 2022, police and soldiers have been taking Eritrean refugees from the streets, their workplace, and their homes, and locking them up. Soldiers and police are also checking the residence permits of these refugees, and fining them if it has expired. Human Rights Concern Eritrea notes that Sudanese immigration offices have been closed for a year, and that Eritrean refugees have been unable to renew their papers.

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