News highlights: Aid to Tigray still limited, Divisions around Libya’s election process, Tension rises as France enforces border checks with Italy

©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ose
©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ose

In this week’s news highlights: First aid trickles in to Tigray; US willing to impose sanctions to safeguard ceasefire agreement; Ethiopia hosts UN internet meeting with Tigray still cut off grid; Sudan’s pro democracy coalition reaches agreement with the military administration; State of emergency declared in central Darfur; As Somalia’s war against al-Shabab continues, civilian casualties rise; Amnesty International’s human rights recommendations to Somalia’s government; UN extends arms embargo, Somali government protests the decision; Fear around Libya’s election process; Tension rises as France enforces border checks with Italy; Ship carrying 230 people rescued at sea docks in France after being turned away from Italy; European asylum right deregulation increases risk of rights abuses; Official launch of the African Union Compliance and Accountability Framework; African nations ask for more to help combat climate change; Donors must act quickly is famine is to be averted in East Africa; and UN increasingly concerned by privatisation of force.

Horn of Africa

Ethiopia: First aid trickles in to Tigray, but still limited
The International Committee for the Red Cross confirmed on 15 November that their first convoy with two trucks of aid arrived in Mekelle, containing medicine and first aid kits. More have since arrived in Mekelle, Mai Tsemri and other parts of the region, including a test flight by the ICRC to Shire. However, sources state that aid to areas controlled by the Tigray government is still limited. In addition, Ayder Hospital stated it had not yet received any medical supplies. Observers warn that every day counts for the people of Tigray. Ethiopian National Security Adviser Redwan Hussein had previously declared on 11 November that aid deliveries had resumed to Tigray, but this was denied by both Tigray authorities as well as humanitarian organisation workers on the ground, says RFI. The Ethiopian government had also claimed to control 70% of Tigray, a claim similarly refuted by Tigray authorities, says AP News.  

Ethiopia: US willing to impose sanctions to safeguard ceasefire agreement
On 15 November a US State Department official announced the US will not hesitate to impose sanctions to safeguard the Pretoria Cessation of Hostilities Agreement as well as to ensure that those guilty of crimes are brought before justice. The official also added that the Ethiopian government has confirmed their aim to see Eritrean forces but also Amhara and Fano militias leave the Tigray region. Sources indicated that neither of those forces has shown any sign of leaving Tigray.

Ethiopia: Ethiopia to host UN internet meeting with Tigray still cut off grid
The Internet Governance Forum, a UN body dedicated to promoting increased access to the internet, will hold its yearly meeting in Addis Ababa from 28 November to 2 December. This was announced as the Ethiopian federal government has yet to re-establish internet and telecommunications access to the residents of the Tigray region after two years of intentional shutting off of services, says AP News. The UN organisation decries that 2.7 billion people worldwide remain unable to access the internet and wish to focus this year’s edition on “connecting all people and safeguarding human rights”  as well as limiting internet fragmentation. Chengetai Masango, the forum’s program and technology manager, views Addis Ababa as a prime location for the summit due to the continent’s youth and the close proximity of the AU institutions. Concerns about internet access and communications in Ethiopia have already been expressed by the UN Human Rights Office, even before the Tigray blackout, including a communications blackout in western Oromia, where fighting still continues, says AP News. 

Sudan: Sudan’s pro democracy coalition seeks a framework agreement with the military administration
Sudan’s Forces of Freedom and Change coalition stated on 15 November they have established a framework agreement with the military to end the political deadlock that befell the country since the 2021 coup. In their announcement they stated that an agreement had been found on core issues, with some issues still remaining before a full transitional authority can be established. According to Bloomberg this deal was backed by the US and facilitated by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the UK. According to Bloomberg the deal would allow Sudan to be granted access to billions of US dollars in frozen aid and debt restructuring. Sudan’s leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan warned islamists as well as other political factions on 13 November not to interfere with the military as the negotiations with civilian parties continues to form a non-partisan government, says Reuters. Islamists, supporters of former president al-Bashir, have criticised the military for seeking an agreement with pro democracy civilian groups, saying that this is the result of the foreign interference of the UN and others, says Reuters. The Carnegie endowment for international peace, however, sees in this a way for al-Burhan to legitimise and advance his future bid for the presidency. Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called on all parties to keep the interests of the Sudanese people at heart and to make human rights the driving force of the negotiation and new framework.

Sudan: State of emergency declared in central Darfur
A state of emergency was declared in central Darfur after gunmen opened fire on the team of mediators sent to settle tribal disputes that resulted in the death of 24 and wounding of 41, says Voice of America. The team was accused by locals of favouring one side of the conflict in the settlement process between the Wadi Saleh and Bendasi communities.

Somalia: As Somalia’s war against al-Shabab continues, civilian casualties rise
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud continues the country’s war against the terrorist movement al-Shabab amidst an increase in civilian casualties, warns UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk. Mohamud spoke to Somalia’s parliament of the progress of the most recent offensive by national security forces and local militias against al-Shabab that he described as successful, says Voice of America. However the United Nations decry the high civilian cost of the fighting, mostly due to actions by al-Shabab. The UN found that 613 civilians were killed and 948 wounded this year; 94% of those deaths is being attributed to the terrorist group. Türk called on all parties of the conflict to uphold their obligations regarding human rights, humanitarian law and the protection of civilians.

Somalia: Amnesty International’s human rights recommendations to Somalia’s government
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took office six months ago, but his government has so far failed to make good on the promises on security and justice made during the campaign, says Amnesty International. The organisation issued a ten step plan to better the human rights situation of the country. Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, believes that “no concrete measures have been taken to prevent violations of human rights, to hold suspected perpetrators accountable for their actions”, adding that “[t]he government must prioritise the protection of civilians by ensuring that all Somali security forces receive appropriate training in human rights and humanitarian law. The government should also instruct all security forces not to target civilians and civilian objects during military operations.” 

Somalia: UN extends arms embargo, Somali government protests the decision
The United Nations Security Council extended the existing arms embargo on Somalia, arguing that al-Shabab still represented a considerable threat and means of it acquiring arms must be minimised; the decision was disputed by the Somali government, says Al Jazeera. The existing framework was however amended to allow the Somali government more leeway with certain hardware, says Al Jazeera. Somalia’s UN Ambassador Abukar Osman expressed dissatisfaction at the decision, believing the embargo hinders Somalia’s ability to effectively combat the terrorist group.

North Africa 

Libya: Fear around Libya’s election process
UN Special Representative Abdoulaye Bathily briefed ambassadors on the ongoing blockages to the electoral process in Libya. The elections were postponed last december. Libya is still divided between two administrations and the envoy laments that some institutional players are actively hindering the process towards elections. Bathily fears that further delays in the process puts the country at risk of increased economic, political and security volatility as both sides engage in rhetorical escalation and build up of their respective forces despite the still holding ceasefire. He blames the escalating tensions in no small part on the opacity of the resource allocation processes leading to inequality in how the revenue generated by the country’s natural resources is shared. He calls on the UN Security Council to “send an unequivocal message to obstructionists that their actions will not remain without consequences”. 


Mediterranean: Tension rises as France enforces border checks with Italy
On 13 November France decided to unilaterally reinstate border control with Italy due to a diplomatic dispute between Paris and Rome around issues of migration and humanitarian rescue ships, says AP News. The dispute came as a result of Italian authorities initially refusing to authorise disembarkation of people rescued at sea for weeks before backing down, though one of the four ships was ultimately emptied in Toulon, reports AP News. France retracted from the voluntary solidarity mechanism that would have seen it take in 3.000 migrants from Italy, a response seen as disproportionate by Italian authorities that won the support of the other migration “frontline” European countries calling for a mandatorily solidarity mechanism and increased regulation of private rescue ships, says AP News. 

Mediterranean: Ship carrying 230 people rescued at sea docks in France after being turned away from Italy
The Ocean Viking, operated by Médecin Sans Frontières, docked in Toulon carrying 230 people rescued at sea that had been denied the right to disembark in Italy, says Al Jazeera. Prior to this the ship had been seeking a port for weeks and this constitutes the first time France allows a rescue vessel to disembark on its shore, says Al Jazeera. This occurred because of a dispute with Italy with France claiming this was an exceptional measure as the people were Italy’s responsibility under EU law.

Europe: European asylum right deregulation increases risk of rights abuses
Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor warned on 16 November that the Commission’s vague proposal concerning the instrumentalisation of migration would make it easier and more legitimate for EU member states to derogate from their responsibilities regarding asylum. The proposal called “regulation addressing situations of instrumentalisation of migration and asylum” introduced a mechanism allowing EU member states to derogate from their obligations under EU asylum law in situations where migrants are instrumentalized by third parties for political gain, says Euro Med monitor. The consequences of such a mechanism, according to the monitoring body, are disproportionate and unnecessary especially in their impact on the most vulnerable. Ultimately their fear is that this could result in a cherry picking system reducing the fundamental rights of those at the EU border.


EU/ AU/ UN: Official launch of the African Union Compliance and Accountability Framework The official launch of the African Union Compliance and Accountability Framework (AUCF) took place on 15 November in Addis Ababa. The AUCF has the objective to ensure that AU peace support operations are conducted in accordance with human rights law and international law. The AUCF is a tri-party collaborative initiative. Its first meeting was co-chaired by UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ilze Brands Kehris, Bankole Adeoye, Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security of the African Union Commission and Birgitte Markussen, European Union Special Representative to the African Union.

COP27: African nations ask for more to help combat climate change
African leaders at the COP27 are asking for increased funding to help them stave off the effects of climate change, says AP News. Indeed while the continent emits a disproportionately low net and per capita warming emissions, the continent is also inversely proportionally victim of the effects of climate change. According to AP, the promise of 100 billion dollars a year in climate funding to the continent has not been fulfilled despite being past its delivery date; it is estimated that the funding gap would be somewhere between 160 and 340 billion dollars by 2030. 

World: Donors must act quickly is famine is to be averted in East Africa
The head of the International Rescue Committee, David Miliband, asks that donors provide funds to alleviate the effects of hunger on the tens of millions of east Africans going hungry before famine is declared. The region is facing a fifth consecutive dry season and famine is expected to be declared in multiple areas of Somalia before the end of the year, says Reuters. He believes that Ukraine is diverting a considerable amount of both funds and attention from a situation that is already costing lives as the 2011 Somalia famine saw half of its victims die before it was even declared. 

World: UN increasingly concerned by privatisation of force 
UN experts report that an increased reliance on privately contracted security providers to protect vessels, commercial shipping, offshore platforms, ports, and other maritime infrastructure has resulted in a pattern of increased violation of human rights. This conclusion was presented to the General assembly by the Working Group on the use of mercenaries. Chair of the Working Group, Sorcha MacLeod, believes that weak or non-existent regulatory frameworks combined with minimal oversight are responsible for an environment where these abuses are allowed to take place; she also believes the labour rights of those same private security personnel are also increasingly at risk.