News Highlights: Ethiopia and Tigray agree to peace talks, EP adopts Tigray resolution, Key Eritrean trafficker extradited to The Netherlands

In this week’s new highlights: Ethiopian and Tigray authorities agree to AU peace talks;  Airstrikes and shelling in Tigray; Statement by commissioner Lenarčič on the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia; War in absence of media coverage; Human trafficking in Tigray, Afar and Amhara regions; Tigray babies are dying at 4 times pre-war levels, study finds; UN Child Rights Committee publishes findings on South Sudan; Alleged perpetrators of South Sudan Unity State violence identified; Sudan faces a descolarized generation; Sudanese civilian groups ask UN to reintegrate, disarm or demobilise RSF; Sudanese pro-democracy groups approve new charter; Somali offensive against Al-Shabab continues; UNHRC holds dialogue with expert on Somalia; Challenges and hope for food transport to the Horn; European Parliament adopts resolution on Tigray; Key Eritrean human trafficker Welid extradited from Ethiopia to the Netherlands to be tried; Partial reforms and mini deals around migration policy amidst increasing deportations; Vatican warns Italian leaders that helping migrants is an obligation.

Horn of Africa

Ethiopia: Ethiopian government and Tigray authorities agree to meet for peace talks
On 5 October, the Tigray authorities accepted the invitation extended to them by the African Union to meet in South Africa for peace talks, according to a letter signed by Debretsion Gebremichael, President of the Tigray regional state. Al Jazeera states these talks will constitute the first formal negotiations to take place since the war first broke out in November 2020. The original invitation by the AU envisioned talks in South Africa this weekend, 8-9 October. The Ethiopian government said it accepted the invitation with no reservations. The Tigray authorities want clarification about participants, observers and guarantors of the process, stating that they had not been consulted prior to the issuance of the invitation.

Ethiopia: Airstrikes and shelling in Tigray
Tigray continues to undergo a bombing campain as Adi Daero was again hit by drone attacks on 4 October when Eritrean and Ethiopian assets targeted internally displaced persons, killing 65 and injuring 70 according to the Tigray Internal Affairs Office. On the 6 October airstrikes were reported by sources on the ground that claimed that the town of Shire had been hit with an unknown number of casualties. Earlier, on 27 September, the cities of Adi Daero and Shire in Tigray were bombed during the religious festival of Meskel. Five were killed  and 16 wounded in Adi Daero while none were hurt in Shire, says AP News. On 29 September Tigray authorities accused the Eritrean airforce of being responsible of the bombing of Adi Daero. Between 20 and 27 September Irob district was shelled over 300 times during the Meskel holidays killing 7 and injuring 26 civilians, says Prof. Kindeya Gebrehiwot, Member of the Tigray government. These repeated attacks are made worse by the collapsing Tigray health system, no longer able to effectively treat patients, says Afewerki Gebrehiwot, reporter for Tigray Television. The Ethiopian government accuses Tigray of storing weapons in residential areas, stating their strikes target these stores. 

Ethiopia: Statement by commissioner Lenarčič on the humanitarian situation 
On 30 September, commissioner Lenarčič expressed the European Union’s concerns regarding the worsening “humanitarian operating environment” in northern Ethiopia since the resumption of hostilities in August 2022. The renewed fighting comes on top of dire humanitarian conditions as 13 million people in Tigray, Afar and Amhara regions are in need of food assistance while Somalia undergoes its worst famine since 1981, says the Commissioner. In accordance with international humanitarian law and to allow for aid to arrive to beleaguered populations, the Commissioner calls on all parties to grant “unhindered access to humanitarian organisations” so that aid organisations may bring relief to those in need.

Eritrea/Ethiopia: How a war is taking place in the absence of media coverage
The conflict in Tigray is being labelled by experts as the deadliest in the world, says the Daily Telegraph. It is however taking place in the context of a media blackout as the Ethiopian government isolated the region from the world telecommunication networks. Ethiopian federal forces supported by Eritrean soldiers and an assortment of allied ethnic militias have been embroiled in escalating fighting with Tigrayan rebel forces surrounded on four fronts since the end of the ceasefire in August. The conflict has now set up the region on course for an “explosive situation which could send the Horn of Africa up in flames”, warns the Daily Telegraph.

Ethiopia: Human trafficking in Tigray, Afar and Amhara regions
UN experts point out the increased risk women and girls in the regions of Tigray, Afar and Amhara are facing as they flee the conflict in northern Ethiopia and increasingly fall victim to abduction and sexual trafficking, says the Officer of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). “We are alarmed by reports of refugee and internally displaced women and girls in the Tigray, Afar, and Amhara regions being abducted while attempting to move to safer places,” said the experts. The experts were particularly concerned about the risk of abduction, trafficking and sexual exploitation for Eritrean refugee women and children.

Ethiopia: Babies are dying at four times pre-war levels, study finds
Babies in Tigray were found to be four times as likely to die in their first month of life compared to before the war, according to an upcoming study observing the impact of the war on women and children, says AP News. Mothers are also five times more likely to die within 42 days of giving birth. The additional deaths are due to preventable causes, says the report shared to AP News. Currently 80% of mothers succumbed outside of healthcare facilities, whereas 90% of mothers received prenatal care prior to the war and 70% benefited from skilled delivery assistance, says AP News.

South Sudan: UN Child Rights Committee publishes findings 
On 29 September, the United Nations Child Rights Committee (UNCRC) published its findings on South Sudan, amongst other countries, regarding the implementation of the Child Rights Convention, says the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR). The Committee expressed its alarm at the continued use of child soldiers and urged the South Sudan government to hold perpetrators accountable. The Committee also addressed the high rates of malnutrition in a context of conflict and climate change; it requested that South Sudanese authorities negotiate safe humanitarian corridors with all warring parties to allow for the delivery of food, medicine and other humanitarian aid to children. 

South Sudan: Alleged perpetrators of Unity State violence identified
The United Nations Human Rights office and United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) believe they have identified nine key individuals who bear the greatest responsibility in the human rights violations committed between February and May 2022 in the Unity State in South Sudan, says the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). They now ask that the government of South Sudan put an end to the situation of impunity and force accountability for war crimes, which they believe to be crucial for the peace process. 

Sudan: Sudan faces a descolarized generation 
The Guardian reports that according to aid organisations, “[n]early every school-age child in Sudan is missing out on education, either completely or facing serious disruption”. According to The Guardian this is caused by poverty, a lack of professors made worse by strikes, the fallout of COVID-19 and low vaccination rates among other factors; to make matters worse floodings and militia attacks destroyed over 600 schools in August and September 2022. For those who are schooled (about ⅔ of children) the level of education falls far below expectations due to teaching conditions for both professors and students with overcrowded classes and hunger stricken pupils, says The Guardian.

Sudan: Civilian groups ask United Nations to help reintegrate RSF and paramilitary groups
On 4 October a draft letter by the Confederation of Sudanese Civil Society Organisations, backed by the main opposition party, was acquired by Reuters. lt stated they would ask the United Nations mission to Sudan (UNITAMS) to provide assistance in reintegrating, demobilising and disarming the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and other paramilitary forces and armed rebels. Reintegration into the unified army is proposed in the letter. Those that would not integrate in the national armed forces are proposed to be  disarmed and demobilised, says Reuters. 

Sudan: Pro democracy groups approve new charter
On wednesday 5 October the Resistance committee composed of 54 grassroots networks of pro democracy groups in Sudan signed a document aimed at getting the country back on track to democracy, says AP News. The yet to be published document seen by AP News is said to contain measures aiming at the removal of military leadership, cancelation of the Juba peace agreement and the implementation of a transitional constitution as well as legislative council.

Somalia: The offensive against Al-Shabab continues
On 3 October, a US airstrike took the life of a leader of the islamist group Al-Shabab, says Reuters. This comes as Somali security forces supported by US troops and drones, as well as an African Union peace keeping mission, have been making gains against the group in the last weeks. This has brought about deadly raids and attacks by al-Shabab, says Reuters. Voice of America reported that on 30 September a top Somali police official was killed by a road side bomb, and a crew of 12 well drillers were killed in southern Somalia. On 3 October, 20 were killed and a further 36 wounded in an attack on Somali headquarters in Beledweyne, says AP News. 

Somalia: UNHRC holds dialogue with expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia
On 5 October, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) held an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, discussing the fourth consecutive failed rainy season and the severe humanitarian crisis coming as a consequence of it, says the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The crisis now affects more than 7 million people and will result in mass displacement and violence, warns experts. The response demands more than immediate life saving but a sustainable action to curtail these recurring crises, says the OHCHR. 

Horn region: As Black sea reopens for Ukrainian food exports, global food security may improve
As the Sea Grain Initiative has allowed 240 food transporting vessels to leave Ukraine since 1 August have brought hope for relief of hunger, other factors continue to hamper food distribution in the Horn of Africa. UN chartered shipments have been able to reach countries such as Ethiopia, says the United Nations. According to Reuters, the program will also allow for deliveries of food to Somalia, where a famine could be declared within weeks. In their EXPLAINER article, AP News details what constitutes a famine and goes over the consequences of such events on individuals and social structures before looking at the specific Somali case in a second article; striking a more human angle on the devastating drought and its aftermath. However, concerns remain as Ukrainian farmers are dis-incentivised to sell due to prices being lower than production costs, says the Deputy Chairman of the Association of Farmers, Vyachyslav Nevmerzhytskyi. Administrative issues also seem to drastically slow down shipment speeds according to UN News. Food prices continue to rise such as in Sudan, hit by a poor harvest and a humanitarian crisis, where staple food prices are between 200% and 300% higher than the previous year, says Al Jazeera.


European Parliament: Resolution on Tigray adopted
On Thursday 6 October, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the human rights situation in Tigray. The resolution calls for immediate cessation of hostilities, safe and unfettered humanitarian access, and the establishment of a ceasefire monitoring mechanism. It reiterates its support for the ongoing African Union-led peace mediation.  The resolution “condemns the Eritrean forces’ invasion of Tigray” and the violations by Eritrean troops. The resolution stresses that the parliament “Is dismayed by the reports of rape and crimes of sexual violence against children, women and men which have been perpetrated on a staggering scale by all the belligerents; is deeply concerned by and calls for immediate attention to reports of the killing and maiming of Tigrayan, Amhara and Afarian children on ethnic grounds, which constitute war crimes and ethnic cleansing”. It condemns “ethnically motivated arrests, harassment, beatings and the targeting of journalists.” The resolution calls for the cooperation between Ethiopian federal government, Tigray authorities, Ethiopian Human Rights commission and the United Nations Human Rights Commission to ensure accountability for all perpetrators of crimes.  The parliament  “strongly condemns the use of starvation as a method of warfare.” It also calls to restore basic services to Tigray and to lift the restrictions on telecommunications. The resolution calls on the EU and its member states to adopt measures to ensure the protection of human rights and sanction those who violate them. Furthermore, the resolution “regrets” a UNSC failure to effectively address the situation in Ethiopia and “urges the EU and its Member States to call on the UNSC to hold regular public meetings on Ethiopia.”

European Union: Partial reforms and mini deals around migration policy amidst increasing deportations
On 30 September, the European Council of Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) published a report discussing the likely outcomes of the partial reforms and mini deals on asylum law, return policy and schengen policy, as the EU reforms its policy guides. The number of deportations from Europe have increased, reaching 100.000 people in the second quarter of 2022, says Deutsche Welle. ECRE states the policy of “gradual approach” was used by the French in the agreement they had planned to broker regarding EU asylum law reforms when they held the Presidency of the Council. It is likely that despite the roadmap signed by Parliament and Council in September 2022, the timeline will force mini deals to be made instead of package proposals, says ECRE.

Netherlands/Ethiopia: Key Eritrean human trafficker is extradited to the Netherlands
According to the Dutch prosecutors, a key human trafficker of Eritrean origin – Tewelde Goitom, known as Walid or Welid – has been extradited to the Netherlands. The 38-year old man is accused of having a leading role in the trafficking of Eritrean refugees from Africa to Europe between 2014 and 2020. Victims of trafficking under Welid were often beaten, tortured, raped and extorted for ransom money. Many did not survive. According to the Netherlands Public Prosecution Service, the human trafficker was already arrested and tried in Ethiopia last year together with fellow notorious trafficker Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam – who escaped. “Under the concept of universal jurisdiction, Dutch law allows cases to be brought against foreign nationals for crimes committed abroad if victims are in the Netherlands”, informs Reuters. Based on the report by the Dutch media outlet NU, Tewelde Goitom arrived in the Netherlands on Wednesday, 5 October, and was due to appear in court on 6 October 2022. 

Mediterranean: Migrants and refugees continue to die at sea 
On 2 October and 6 October, four separate incidents causing the deaths at sea of persons crossing the Mediterranean Sea respectively towards Spain or Greece and Italy occurred. According to AP News, the Spanish Coast Guards reported picking up the bodies of four persons from a dinghy believed to originally contain 30 people as it drifted off northwest Africa. This happens as on 30 September a man was rescued off the canary islands, sole survivor of a bot that appeared to have carried 34 originally. AP News also reported multiple incidents off Greece. Two boats carrying migrants and refugees went down, killing 22 with a dozen still missing. Off of Lesbos, the Greek coast guards found the bodies of 18 young African people out of a believed 40 that had attempted the crossing, with 25 having been rescued as of late Thursday. In Kythira, the bodies of four persons were pulled out of floating debris as 80 people were rescued from a sunken sailboat attempting to reach Italy; 11 are still missing. These tragedies reignited the accusations of Greece towards neighbouring Turkey; pointing the finger at Turkish coast guard for not preventing smugglers from putting the lives of people at risk, crossing in unseaworthy vessels. 

Italy: Vatican warns Italian leaders that helping migrants is an obligation
With Italy’s “centre right” coalition recently winning a parliamentary majority, Cardinal Michael Czerny reminded Italy’s new majority that helping migrants is a moral obligation, says ANSA. The cardinal stated that the government should “not to make things harder” for migrants at sea. The Cardinal expressed his belief that migration is a right that existed for millennia and should be upheld; he reaffirmed his belief that diversity and migration bring host countries great assets in the useful contribution of those new populations. Ultimately he insisted that more needs to be done to remove the root causes of migration.