News Highlights: Peace talks tackle aid and disarmament, ICC works on justice in Libya, Italy and France clash over disembarkation

In this week’s News Highlights: Talks between Ethiopia and Tigray in Nairobi extended amongst difficult discussions; Eritrean forces continue attacks, as Ethiopia/Tigray ceasefire holds; HRW calls for strong monitoring; Eritrea reacts to peace agreement; Civilians in Tigray waiting for aid and medicines; Heavy fighting in Oromia; BBC analyses a video of a mass killing; Eritrean refugees in Tigray in dire need, says UNHCR; Bombing in Somalia kills 5; Trilateral Mechanism in Sudan sees glimmer of hope as draft constitution accepted; Police accountability in Sudan lacking; ICC speaks from Libya about achieving justice for abuses; Italy and France clash over disembarkation; EU asylum agency warns for increase in arrivals, as frameworks for distribution not in place; ECRE warns of deadly combination of migration deals and rescue obstruction; and Spain asked to explain deaths at its border.

Horn of Africa

Ethiopia: Nairobi peace talks on disarmament and aid extended
Since the beginning of this week, Chief Military commanders of Ethiopia and Tigray are meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, including TDF General Tadesse and ENDF Field Marshal Berhanu Jula. The round of talks between Ethiopian federal government representatives and Tigray representatives has been extended, says AP News. The news outlet reports that the extension is linked with the military commanders working out the details of the disarmament process. Sources state that Tigray insists that Eritrean and Amharan troops must leave Tigray before disarmament begins with phase 1, surrendering of heavy arms. Ethiopia insists that heavy arms must be surrendered first, then ENDF will take charge of security and borders, and then the Eritrean and Amharan forces will leave. This is not the only issue on the table for this round of talks; issues around the restoration of basic services like internet, telecommunications, banking and the resumption of deliveries of humanitarian aid are also being discussed, says AP News. In parallel to this the World Health Organization called on 9 November for an influx of humanitarian aid to be delivered to the region of Tigray as aid has yet to be delivered following last week’s peace agreement, says Voice of America. However, Ethiopia’s lead negotiator claims aid has resumed to the 70% of Tigray that is under ENDF control. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed the agreement but reminded observers that the effective besieging of the region by the Ethiopian federal government had turned hunger and chronic absence of medical material into a weapon of war and that its consequences had yet to be rectified as the region continues to starve and die of preventable causes.

Ethiopia: Implementation of the peace agreement begins, Eritrean troops continue hostilities
After last week’s peace agreement, cessation of hostilities seems to be holding in Tigray, except for fighting and attacks by Eritrean troops. Sources on the ground report that Eritrean forces shelled the towns of Edaga Arbi, Nebelet and surrounding areas near Adwa town in central Tigray on 8 November. BBC reports instances of TDF and ENDF soldiers exchanging food and cigarettes on the former front line. Sources state that the Eritrean government has blocked many buses from returning from Eritrea to Ethiopia in the Teseney area. Numbers of buses mentioned range from ‘seventy’ to ‘hundreds’. The buses are taking Ethiopian soldiers, some injured, on transport back to Gondar. As mandated in the peace agreement, a line of communication has been established between interposed high commands and a new summit is currently taking place, say Reuters and The Intelligencer. The current issues on the table are “how to monitor the deal, disarming Tigray forces and the resumption of humanitarian aid access and basic services to Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region” says The Intelligencer. Redwan Hussein has told the press that humanitarian access could be reestablished by mid or the end of the week. 

Ethiopia: A strong monitoring apparatus is needed to sustain the peace agreement
Human Rights Watch believes that it will be critical for the African Union and “others” to monitor the implementation and respect of the newly signed peace agreement between the Ethiopian federal government and Tigray government to sustain lasting peace. Human Rights Watch urges Ethiopia’s partners to instate an oversight mechanism around human and gender rights, publishing regular reports; as well as be ready to sanction violations of agreements. The lack of attention provided to certain points, such as the status of western Tigray, where ethnic cleansing by Amhara and Ethiopian forces occurred, is also worrying to the rights group. Overall Human Rights Watch calls for international scrutiny of the crimes committed during the war, stating justice cannot be delivered by the perpetrators; a belief shared by the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner. This becomes all the more critical as Al Jazeera reports that Ethiopian forces may not be able to control Eritrean forces still present in Tigray. US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, has warned that the US would “take appropriate measures against those who obstruct a resolution of this conflict.”

Eritrea: Eritrea’s reaction to the cessation of hostilities in Tigray
Besides continued hostilities in Tigray, Eritrean officials and media have shown other signs of not respecting the peace agreement. Eritrean Minister of Information, Yemane G. Meskel, strongly hinted on Twitter that the 2018 secret agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia included planned action against Tigray. He says it is “time to close shop” for Tigray. Eritrea Press Agency Amharic, an Eritrean government news outlet, meanwhile encouraged the Amharan Government to not respect the peace agreement. Habte Hagos, Eritrea Focus chairman, sees history repeating itself; the 2018 peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia led to a war pact to jointly fight Tigray and he believes that, if this peace holds, Ethiopia and Eritrea will once more be at war with each other. The peace agreement not only fails to recognise Eritrea as a party in the war, says Hagos, but also fails to recognise the suffering endured by Eritreans at the hand of President Afwerki. He fears that the continued presence of Eritrean forces in Ethiopia after the peace agreement that enshrines Ethiopian territorial sovereignty could have two outcomes. The first is to trigger a continuation of guerrilla warfare in the region destabilising the whole Horn for “decades” to come. The second would be a refusal to retreat from Ethiopia, causing a TPLF/ federal government alliance to fight the Eritrean armed forces. 

Ethiopia: Civilians in Tigray continue to suffer as talks proceed
The Guardian reports on the desperate wait for the humanitarian bridge to Tigray to open again. The World Food Programme and United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs are pushing to provide assistance to the estimated 13 million people in need of aid in Northern Ethiopia to stave off hunger. Donatella Rovera, an Amnesty International researcher, talking to France24, says the long wait for support, aid and adequate treatment is particularly dire for those who were victims of the numerous sexual crimes that marred the conflict. Ethiopia asserts that aid has resumed in 70% of Tigray controlled by the ENDF.

Ethiopia: Witnesses say dozens dead in fighting in Oromia
AP interviewed eye witnesses of the intense fighting of the past weeks between the Oromo Liberation Army and Ethiopian federal forces who state that at least dozens have been killed, including civilians. They speak of scattered bodies following drone or plane attacks on civilian targets; market places and churches were hit. Sources state an airstrike on Wednesday 9 November by the Ethiopian federal forces has killed dozens of civilians in the town of Mendi, in Mana Sibu district of West Wollega zone. 6 November also saw heavy fighting in the town of  Nekemte in the East Wollega area that was ultimately taken over by government forces. 

Ethiopia: Analysing a video of a mass killing
The BBC analysed videos of a massacre committed near Chefa Robit against Oromo civilians in December 2021 to trace where the massacre took place, and who were the victims and perpetrators. The step by step process demonstrates how videos can be used to trace the origin and perpetrators of massacres. The BBC identified the road seen in the videos, running from Kemiso to Chefa Robit. An anonymous government source provided BBC with a list of 30 Oromo nationals said to have been killed. Some of the family members were contacted, who testified the families were prevented from mourning the victims. The BBC identified the clothing of the perpetrators as that worn by Fano and Amhara Special Forces. It was not able to identify individual perpetrators seen in the video, as the faces were too blurry for confident identification.

Ethiopia/Eritrea: Eritrean refugees in Tigray, the forgotten victims of the war
Concerns remain over the more than 100.000 Eritreans that lived in Tigray before the start of the war, mostly in refugee camps. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) found that only 10.000 currently remain in the region; they have received no food aid since late September and are in part currently being progressively relocated to Amhara region. Many more have relocated to Afar, many of whom may relocate back to Barahle where they had developed livelihoods; many others are currently in Addis Ababa. As reports of Eritrean troops attacking UN camps are surfacing, worries grow about their condition, says Martin Plaut, a journalist specialising in the Horn of Africa.

Somalia: 5 killed in suicide bombing of a military camp 
An attack by a suicide bomber on 5 November has left 5 dead and 11 wounded at the Xero Ncrac military training camp near Mogadishu, Somalia. The attack has been claimed by the terrorist group al-Shabab, says Al Jazeera. Adan Yare, a military official, told Al Jazeera, that there were both civilian and military casualties from the attack. The US military has been continuing to support the Somali offensive against al-Shabab, striking targets in support of the Somali national army near the town of Cadale in Middle Shabelle region. The all out war declared by Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud against the terrorist group has been reaching new hights of intensity as the group increasingly feels its existence is threatened, says Mohamed Husein Gaas, director of the Mogadishu-based Raad Peace Research Institute. 

Sudan: Political jousting continues in Sudan, Tripartite panel announces talks
The Trilateral Mechanism in Sudan, composed of the United Nations, the African Union and IGAD, announced on Thursday that Sudanese stakeholders will meet to agree over a draft constitution, which would create a pathway to a transitional civilian government. The transitional constitution of the Sudanese Bar Association (SBA) is reported to have been accepted by the military component, but with addition of “comments and amendments” to the document. UNITAMS called it a ‘glimmer of hope’ and stated that there now is a workable document to continue from. According to Reuters the military has compiled its views on the proposed new draft constitution but will reject any proposition that would lead to a breakup of the military. Voice of America reports that a new political coalition, Forces for Freedom and Change – Democratic Bloc (FFC-DB), has emerged from armed groups and supporters of the military group. It is seeking to replace the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) group, which opposes military rule. FFC states that the new coalition, while it has the right to form, adds nothing to the process. Some analysts believe the group could rally support from some marginalized groups in the polarized political landscape, however. 

Sudan: Death of man in police custody shows trend of lack in accountability
The death of a man held in police custody in Sudan showcases the trend of absence of accountability of security forces in the country since the military coup last year, say activists and the family to Al Jazeera. Mudasser Kamal was arrested on October 11 by a plain-clothes police officer after his vehicle broke down in Khartoum; he was then taken to the police station and never seen alive again. The police failed to give consistent explanations about his passing to his family, first saying that he had died of natural causes, then of a drug overdose, says Al Jazeera. However his body at the morgue was covered in bruises scars and blood, leading his family to believe he had been tortured to extract money from him. Activists state that the security forces act with impunity as the government fails to properly investigate events such as Kamal’s death. This behaviour has only been amplified by pro-democracy protests where police routinely unjustly detain protestors, use excessive violence, drive trucks into crowds and fire live ammunition at protestors, says Al jazeera. 

North of Africa

Libya: Speaking from Libya, ICC states that justice can reach Libya
The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor addressed the UN Security Council from Libyan soil for the first time, stating that justice in Libya is not a ‘mission impossible’. ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan is visiting Libya to look at the situation of victims of human rights abuses in Libya, including mass graves that have been reported. Khan expressed hope for progress on accountability for human rights abuses committed in Libya: “For the first time since 2011, I can report a regular presence by the staff of my office in the region. In the last reporting period…there’s been 20 missions to six countries in which a variety of evidentiary material has been collected.” A video posted to Twitter allegedly shows an example of abuses committed in Libya, as a young Ethiopian is shocked with electricity by Libyan militia.


Italy/France: France suspends deal with Italy over disembarkation tensions
Part of the 500 refugees and migrants stuck on rescue ships on the Italian coast were allowed to disembark in Sicily after a tense standoff with Italian authorities attempting to enforce their increasingly firm migration policy, currently focused on selective disembarkation; another group have been allowed to disembark in France, says Info Migrants. Although France has allowed the Ocean Viking boat, refused by Italy, to disembark, France suspended the agreed intake of 3500 refugees and migrants from Italy in protest. The French interior minister called the consequences for bilateral relations “extremely severe”. Italy is coming increasingly under fire for failing to fulfil its obligations in regards to the law of the sea which stipulates that a rescue ends when those rescued are disembarked on land, in a place of safety, says Amnesty International. While a deal was struck with France, tensions are rising between the two countries as Italy failed to respect diplomatic procedure and the European Commission got involved. Italy announced the agreement of disembarkation in France before any French confirmation, says Info Migrants. Activists, meanwhile, held a hunger strike in solidarity with those on the ships. Spanish charity Salvamento Maritimo Humanitario announced the postponement of a planned sea rescue mission due to the risk of its ship being seized by Italian authorities. 

EU: The EU Asylum Agency says asylum seeker numbers at highest since 2015
The EU Asylum Agency says that the number of asylum seekers arriving at the EU border has reached its highest point since the peak of migration in 2015, reports AP News. The agency fears the numbers could prove too much for the EU asylum system to handle. Most current migration flows originate from Ukraine; there has also been a large increase of traffic via the Balkan route. An overhaul to the EU asylum system meant to prevent a repeat of the 2015 scenario of failure of management of distribution of arrivals has so far not materialised, says AP News. 

Mediterranean: Rescue missions obstructed, migration deals increase, warns ECRE
Tension rises in the Mediterranean around migration, says the European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), pointing to increased third-party deals and attempts to obstruct rescues. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) expressed its disappointment with Malta’s failure to fulfil its obligations around rescues at sea, failing to coordinate multiple rescues that saved the lives of over 400 people, though they were informed. MSF called Malta’s actions a “non response tactic”. Italy is contemplating a ban on entry for civilian rescue vessels after leaving 1000 migrants unable to disembark off overcrowded ships between the 22 and 29 October. Italy also renewed its agreement with Libya as the EU increases cooperation with Egypt.  This comes as increasing amounts of reports are surfacing of violations and abuses by EU supported authorities outside of Europe. 

Spain: Spain asked to explain deaths at its border with Morocco
The Spanish government is coming under increasing pressure to clarify what transpired on 24 June when 23 people died trying to cross the border separating Spain and Morocco. Moroccan and Spanish border authorities deny the use of excessive force to repel the 2000 people that attempted to cross the border fence, but video evidence and a Spanish parliamentary fact finding mission appear to contradict this version of events, says The Guardian. Now that evidence has surfaced that deaths did occur in Spanish jurisdiction. An inquiry into the event has been launched and authorities have stated all available footage of the events has been made available to relevant groups, says The Guardian.