News Highlights: Tigray-Ethiopia peace agreement signed; Fatal double bombing in Mogadishu; Nearly 1000 migrants and refugees waiting for disembarkation

In this week’s news highlights: Tigray- Ethiopia Peace agreement signed; Filsan Abdi and her resignation over the Tigray conflict; WHO says Tigray region has run out of medical supplies; Situation rapidly deteriorating, but the population does not revolt; Double terrorist bombing in Mogadishu; Closing women’s clinic in South Sudan symptomatic of waning donor interest; 8 million South Sudanese to face acute food insecurity; Resurgence of ethnic clashes in Blue Nile state; Cash handouts as alternative to alleviate drought suffering; EU funds Egyptian border control to curb migration via Libya; Torture of a minor Eritrean refugee in Libya; UN experts condemn lack of accountability for abuses at Europe’s border; EU looks to strengthen ties with Western Balkans; Lack of political will on migration solidarity; Report calls for an end to Eritrean diaspora tax; Czech Council presidency proposes reworked voluntary relocation mechanism; Extension of internal border checks with Slovakia; 1000 rescued migrants and refugees waiting for disembarkation; The food crisis must be addressed at a global level.

Horn of Africa

Ethiopia: Peace agreement signed
On 2 November, the Ethiopian and Tigray governments signed a peace agreement on permanent cessation of hostilities. Ambassador Redwan Hussein and Getachew Reda, representatives of Ethiopia and Tigray respectively, expressed thanks to the African Union and to the panel and observers; they affirmed their commitment to its implementation, and to carrying forward a robust follow-up towards peace. Getachew stated that “painful concessions” had been made to foster trust in a situation where, as Redwan described, “the level of destruction is immense”. “The devil will be in the implementation,” said former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. The agreement includes setting up of monitoring and supervision mechanisms for the implementation of the agreement. The statement mentions the reintegration of the TPLF combatants in the Ethiopian army; the collaboration with humanitarian agencies; the establishment of a framework for the settlement of differences, and an accountability mechanism. The parties agree to stop propaganda, voices of divisions and hate, and to restore public services. The draft resolution seen by AP News stated that Tigray and Ethiopia agree to stop “collusion with any external force hostile to either party”. The peace agreement has been well received by the international community, says AP News. Humanitarian organisations have stated that “It entirely depends on what the government agrees to. … If they genuinely give us access, we can start moving very quickly, in hours, not weeks”. 

Ethiopia: Filsan Abdi and her resignation over the Tigray conflict
Filsan Abdi, once Ethiopia’s youngest minister ever at the age of 28, has spoken out about her reasons for resigning in 2021. She was the first Somali Ethiopian to be appointed to government in 2020. In 2021, at the hight of the war in Tigray, she resigned in protest of the Ethiopian governement’s failure to adequately prosecute those who had rendered themselves guilty of sexual crimes, says The Guardian. She describes a prevalent culture of hiding away the crimes committed instead of prosecution of those guilty or suspected, with senior officials covering up abuses. She believes the international community and warring parties must do more to protect those vulnerable in this conflict and, according to The Guardian, remains the only Ethiopian senior official to resign over the conflict.

Ethiopia: WHO says Tigray region has run out of medical supplies
The World Health Organisation (WHO) signals that the Tigray region has run out of supplies such as vaccines, antibiotics and insulin, stoking fears that many deaths from preventable diseases are occurring and will continue to occur. The WHO warns that across Tigray only 9% of health facilities remain operational and those are reduced to archaic practices, as staple medicines such as antibiotics have run out. This situation is made all the more dire by the chronic food shortages in the region resulting in “staggering” levels of malnutrition, says Ilham Abdelhai Nour, the WHO’s head of emergency operations in Ethiopia. She stated that of the 5.2 million people in Tigray are in need of humanitarian assistance, 3.8 million are also in need of medical assistance. Tigrayan doctors stated in a webinar on 2 November that the healthcare system was systematically targeted during the war.

Eritrea: Situation rapidly deteriorating, but the population does not revolt
Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, warned in a new report that the situation in Eritrea is rapidly deteriorating. EritreaHub notes that despite the human rights situation and the death toll of Eritreans in the conflict in Tigray, Eritreans are not revolting, due to the systematic repression. The Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki is playing into small divisions to amplify them, and control the narrative inside and outside of Eritrea, notes EritreaHub.  In the UK parliament, Lord David Alton called for sanctions on Eritrea for its role in the Tigray conflict, reports News24

Somalia: Double terrorist bombing in Mogadishu 
At least 121 people are reported to have been killed and over 300 wounded in a double explosion on 29 October in Mogadishu, Somalia. Al-Shabaab, blamed for the attacks by Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, targeted a busy intersection near the ministry of education, the same site of Somalia’s deadliest explosion which occurred October 2017, says Al Jazeera. Sources state that a nearby college campus was also damaged. Children, students and teachers were among those killed. Somalia’s president vows to continue the country’s major offensive against the terrorist group, telling journalists the country remains at war with the group and “we are winning”.  According to The Guardian, Somalia has one of the world’s weakest health systems after decades of war, and is calling on international solidarity to help cover the needs of the victims. On 1 November, the US imposed sanctions on individuals linked to the group for “terrorist weapons trafficking networks” in a continuation of US efforts to disrupt terrorist financial networks in Africa and their involvement in the fight against al-Shabaab, says Al Jazeera. 

South Sudan: Closing women’s clinic in South Sudan symptomatic of waning donor interest
Due to lack of funding, the Mingkaman reproductive health clinic will be closed by December 2022, says the UN. This clinic serves 70 to 80 patients a day on average and in a country where 789 live births out of 100.000 result in maternal death, had never lost a patient, says AP News. But, according to AP, due to a lack of funding by donors, it will be one among many projects in developing countries to be closed. UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan says that the Ukraine war has diverted large amounts of resources away from projects relating to medical care for those victims of sexual assaults; in a country like South Sudan the loss of such a health center can be critical; especially as the clinic serves an internally displaced persons camp, says AP News. 

South Sudan: 8 million South Sudanese to face acute food insecurity
A new UN report predicts that approximately 8 million South Sudanese people are going to face acute food insecurity during the coming dry season as a consequence of intensifying climate shocks such as intense flooding. The report also blames the worsening situation on the global food crisis increasing food prices as well as the diminished funding provided for programs. Josephine Lagu, Minister of  Agriculture of South Sudan called for humanitarian assistance in order to “prevent the total collapse of livelihoods in the country”, reports AP News.

Sudan: Resurgence of ethnic clashes in Blue Nile region of Sudan
According to the UN, a resurgence of violence in Sudan’s Blue Nile state since July has caused 359 deaths, injured 469 and displaced more than 97,000. Alice Wairimu Nderitu, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, warns that further escalation is possible as groups outside of the region are mobilizing to participate in the dispute. She expressed particular concern at the rhetoric being spewed online, potentially fueling ethnic based hatred. She called on Sudanese authorities to put an end to the violence and foster increased inter-communal dialogue.

Horn of Africa: Cash handouts as alternative to alleviate drought suffering
Governments and NGOs in East Africa are increasingly making use of in cash payments to allow catastrophe-stricken populations to ensure their survival, says The Guardian. According to the news outlet, after 4 failed rainy seasons, dire conditions impact 36 million people in the Horn of Africa, coinciding with diminished pledges of funding. Since the 2020 pandemic, cash handouts have become increasingly common. Michel Saad, the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Ethiopia, believes they are an effective way of “putting people at the center”. He believes cash handouts are less damaging to the local economy, and allow local communities, more aware of their immediate needs, to ensure they are met; in addition to cutting large overhead logistical costs that would be associated with transporting in kind goods. 

North Africa

Egypt/Libya: EU funds Egyptian border control to curb migration via Libya
On 30 October, the EU signed an agreement with Egypt to control the borders with Libya. A statement by the EU delegation stated that the Union would be providing a first funding slice of 80 million euros for a border management program. According to Euractiv, there has been an increase of Egyptian migrants at the Italian border, making them the second largest group after Tunisians. Egyptians increasingly travel via Libya, as departures from Egypt’s coast have sharply dropped, states Euractiv. Anticipating increases in migration influx due to demographic changes, climate change and economic conjectures, the EU states it is looking to cooperate with Egypt to help complete the country’s securitized migration policy outlook with “rights-based, protection oriented and gender sensitive approaches”.

Libya: Torture of a minor Eritrean refugee in Libya
An article in AfricaExpress describes the harrowing journey of a young Eritrean, trafficked and tortured for ransom in Libya. The article describes how the young boy was tortured for six months in a trafficking warehouse, paying 5,500 USD for his crossing over the Mediterranean Sea. After being intercepted by Libyan coast guards, the boy was sold to militiamen, who nearly killed him through torture. After paying 2,000 USD to them and another 1,500 USD to a Libyan detention centre, he was freed and arrived in Italy through a rare humanitarian corridor. Despite long hospitalisation, the young man still suffers extreme physical and mental problems. 


Europe: UN experts condemn lack of accountability for abuses at Europe’s external border
UN experts published a statement calling out the lack of accountability faced by Spanish and Moroccan authorities regarding the use of deadly violence against African Migrants on 24 June 2022 in Melilla. They call out the European Union, stating “The events in Melilla, as well as the many other incidences of border violence and death, point to a willingness to sacrifice the lives of African and other migrants and refugees to secure the perimeter of Europe”, thus sanctioning the use of state sponsored violence against those attempting to cross it. The Moroccan and Spanish governments have replied to the communiqué. They lament the loss of life and stated their intent on launching an independent investigation into the incident in the Spanish case. For Morocco, the accusations were perceived as a critique of their border management practices, stating that they too had launched an independent investigation into the event. 

European Union: EU looks to strengthen ties with Western Balkans
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen travelled to the Western Balkans, hoping to strengthen the cooperation between the EU’s external borders agency Frontex and the Western Balkans. North Macedonia signed an agreement with Frontex last week to prevent smuggling and trafficking of people. The European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) warned that such increases in cooperation are accompanied by an increase in violence and pushbacks perpetrated against refugees and migrants. 

Europe: Lack of political will on migration solidarity
Politico warns that the political will to address migration pressure is low, even as levels of migration are increasing. According to Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, the Ukraine crisis and other economic consequences of the pandemic are taking centre stage and allowing for countries to default on solidarity mechanisms around migrant intake in relative anonymity. Critically, this coincides with an increasingly right wing political stage of Europe, says Politico. Theo Francken, former Belgian state secretary for asylum and migration, believes that migration will not fully return on the EU agenda until Germany runs into issues around it as he believes “a lot of countries want to keep it off”.

UK: Report calls for an end to Eritrean diaspora tax
A report signed by Lord David Alton, member of the UK House of Lords, details extortionary practices of the Eritrean government towards its diaspora in the UK. The report calls on the UK to launch a full and formal investigation into the diaspora tax and stop the collection or reduce its harm. The report states the taxes are collected through coercion and threats and are therefore illegal. The report notes that stopping the collection of taxes may “hamper Eritrea’s ability to wage war and act as a spoiler to peace regionally in the Horn of Africa.”

Europe: Czech Council presidency proposes reworked voluntary relocation mechanism
The Czech European Council presidency is currently evaluating potential support for a proposed voluntary relocation mechanism seeking to relocate 5.000 to 10.000 migrants and refugees a year. According to a draft document seen by Politico, member states are invited to consider the annual relocation or financial compensations to overburdened states. The proposal leaves the door open for the Commission to push the number of relocations higher as well as a mechanism to allow secondary movements within the Union in cases where a first destination country would become overburdened by new arrivals, according to the document seen by Politico. The paper is expected to be evaluated in late November, says Politico. 

Czech Republic: Extension of internal border checks with Slovakia
The Czech Republic has announced that it is extending border checks with Slovakia for a further 45 days, says Info Migrants. The border checks were put in place due to what the country describes as  an increased migration flow via the Balkan route, says Info Migrants. 

Mediterranean Sea: Nearly 1000 rescued migrants and refugees waiting for disembarkation
Humanitarian groups that rescued about 1000 migrants and refugees and are currently seeking a port for a safe disembarkation. The groups are raising the alarm over the silence of Italian and Maltese authorities. AP News reports that three ships, the Médecin Sans Frontières operated Geo Barents, which has 572 people on board, the SOS Mediteranee’s Ocean Viking, with 234 people on board, and the SOS Humanity’s Humanity 1 with 179, are concerned. All rescue operations occurred in the period since 22 October. The groups warn that the conditions on board are becoming extremely dire. SOS Mediterranean calls on EU members to  create a “predictable system of disembarkation to ease the pressure on European coastal states,″ saying people rescued at sea “must no longer be traded into political debates”. This comes as new Italian interior minister, Matteo Piantedosi, sets the legal groundwork to ban rescue ships from disembarking on Italian soil.


UN: The food crisis must be addressed at a global level
Michael Fakhri, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, stated on 28 October to the UN general assembly that “the international community has a good sense of how to tackle the food crisis; what we need now is coordinated government action”. He believes COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated existing fragilities in the food system and the absence of global, multilateral, solutions to the issue.