News highlights: Eritrean troops continue looting and killing, EU Action Plan for Central Mediterranean, Report finds weaponised starvation in South Sudan

In this week’s news highlights: US threatens sanctions to ensure Pretoria agreement implementation; Eritrean troops continue looting and killing in Tigray; Amnesty calls for justice for the survivors of sexual violence in Ethiopia;  Report finds starvation being used as a weapon of war in South Sudan; UN calls on international community to help end cycle of aid dependency; IMF agrees to release 112 million USD to South Sudan; Amnesty calls for African-led justice in South Sudan; Outbreak of dengue fever in Sudan; Sudanese political leader returns in attempt to circumvent military exit; Iran protests mirror Sudan’s struggle with clothing and freedom; Famine in Somalia and the region “foreseeable” says EU official; Egypt and Greece reach agreement on migrant rescue; Refugee minors have a right to family reunification, also when married, rules EU top court; Hundreds of people saved in high seas rescue; Commission proposes Action Plan for Central Mediterranean; Increased Frontex presence in the Balkans under negotiation; Climate top sees Loss and damage fund agreement but a failure to deliver on phasing out fossil fuel.

Horn of Africa

Eritrea: US threatens sanctions to ensure Pretoria agreement implementation
US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Molly Phee, assured the US congress that if Eritrea does not withdraw its troops from Tigray, sanctions will be brought against them, including against Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki. This came after a statement in which US Congressman Brad Sherman accused Eritrean troops of committing atrocities inside of Tigray, emphasising that their presence in the region is fundamentally illegitimate. She also stated that the US would not support financial aid to Ethiopia via the IMF or World Bank or a re-entry into the AGOA scheme until full restoration of services and free flowing aid had been restored to Tigray. Olesegun Obasanjo, High Representative for the Horn of Africa region, is currently visiting Ethiopia to encourage both parties to faithfully implement the Pretoria Cessation of Hostilities (CoH) agreement, especially the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) elements.

Ethiopia/Eritrea: Eritrean troops continue killing and looting in Tigray
A report seen by EEPA by a local organisation in Adigrat details the situation in the North-Eastern zone of Tigray. Various districts remain under partial or full Eritrean control, including Gulomekeda, Zalambessa, Erob and Ganta-Afeshum. Close to 142.000 IDPs have fled to Adigrat; with Eritrean troops close to the city, inhabitants and IDPs fear that looting and killing may occur in the city should the troops enter. The report said that in Adigrat 33 people died and 14 were injured during early November 2022 as a result of shelling attacks. According to the organisation, people in Adigrat received food support only once in 2022, which was 15-kilogram wheat per person. The report states that the lack of medicines also contributes to high death rates in Adigrat.

Ethiopia: Amnesty calls for justice for the survivors of sexual violence in Ethiopia
On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the beginning of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, Amnesty International calls on mediators of the ongoing Cessation of Hostilities agreement between Tigray and Ethiopia to prioritize justice for the survivors of sexual violence.  Flavia Mwangovya, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn of Africa, and the Great Lakes Region, calls on the African Union to pressure the Ethiopian authorities into full cooperation with all investigations and allow unfettered access to experts to establish responsibilities for the atrocities that occurred. 

South Sudan: Report finds starvation being used as a weapon of war
A report published by Global Rights Compliance finds that the government of South Sudan, associated militias and opposition forces are weaponizing hunger against the population. All the parties in the conflict have made themselves guilty of human rights violations and violations of humanitarian law, says the report. These crimes include systematic destruction of food sources, homes and property and targeted attacks on humanitarian workers, finds the law firm. Alex de Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation, stated that “[t]here’s a real hope that there may be a first-ever prosecution in either the South Sudan hybrid tribunal or an international court for the war crime of starvation”

South Sudan: UN calls on international community to help end cycle of aid dependency
Assistant High Commissioner for Operations at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Raouf Mazou, calls on the international community to step up its assistance to South Sudan. The UN calls for “climate adapted” aid in order to help it break the cycle of dependence on humanitarian aid. Historic floods have been ravaging the country and now add to the threat against a population stepping out from years of conflict, now stripped of the means to support itself, says the UNHCR. According to the UNHCR, the country is also a major hub for refugees from all over the region; 340.000 from Sudan only as well as 600.000 of its own that returned home since 2018; though over 2.3 million have yet to return. The UNHCR estimates that it currently faces a 125 million US dollars funding gap, meaning that less than half of what is needed to run operations in the country is so far accounted for.

South Sudan: IMF agrees to release 112 million USD to South Sudan
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and South Sudan have reached a staff level agreement on the release of 112.7 million US dollars to cover the costs of emergency relief, says Al Jazeera. These funds are meant to help the country address food shocks and insecurity, support social spendings and boost international currency reserves, says the IMF. According to the institution, up to two thirds of South Sudan’s population could face severe food shortages in 2023.

South Sudan: African-led justice in South Sudan
Amnesty International and the South Sudanese Transitional Justice Working Group have called on the African Union to accelerate the setting up of the Hybrid Court for South Sudan ahead of the African Union Peace and Security Council on 30 November. They call on the African Union to ensure that the severe crimes and abuses committed in South Sudan are thoroughly investigated. The establishment of such a court is seen as a unique opportunity for the AU to demonstrate African leadership and to offer an African-led solution for some of the most serious crimes on the continent. “It would demonstrate a real commitment to the organization’s principles and show that the AU stands with survivors and victims of crimes for which impunity cannot be tolerated,” stated Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa. He blamed the delays in the formation of the court on an absence of political will in South Sudan to hold those responsible for crimes accountable. 

Sudan: Outbreak of dengue fever in Sudan
Sudan faces its worst outbreak of dengue fever in the past decade, according to the World Health Organization. 1400 people were diagnosed this year in half of the country’s 18 states; though the WHO suspects numbers are in fact far higher. Dr Muntasir Osman, the director general of emergencies at the federal ministry of health in Sudan, blames the outbreak on heavy rains and the absence of preventive measures mostly due to economic reasons.

Sudan: Veteran of the political scene returns in attempt to circumvent plans for military exit
Veteran Sudanese political and religious leader Al-Sayid Mohamed Othman al-Mirghani returned to Khartoum from Egypt on 21 November in an attempt to prevent an agreement between pro democracy groups and the military administration ruling the country, says Reuters. He had previously resided in Egypt for a decade and is a  leader of the main faction of the Democratic Unionist Party, one of the main blocs in Sudan’s political sphere; his return coincides with the announcement of progress in the deal between the two negotiating parties, says Reuters. 

Sudan: Iran protests mirror Sudan’s struggle with clothing and freedom
Basma Khalifa, a Sudanese multi-disciplinary creative living in London, grew up in Northern Ireland being told of “modesty” in her clothing. Upon discovering pictures from the 50’s of her mother in Sudan dressed in a way now forbidden to her, she engaged on a journey retracing the evolution of cultural, moral and religious standards in Sudan. She sees the same struggle taking place in Iran.

Horn of Africa: Famine in Somalia and the region “foreseeable” says EU official
Drought, climate change, political instability and donor fatigue all collaborated to create an imminent food crisis in the Horn region with millions now at risk of famine, said Andrea Koulaimah, Director Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America and Pacific at the European Commission’s DG ECHO. According to the International Rescue Committee, 7 million of the 16 million Somalis are at risk of famine; the number could rise to 20 million Horn region wide by the end of the year, says the World Food Programme. As many countries have made cuts to the development aid following COVID-19, Koulaimah believes there are “collective failures to act quickly enough”. 

North Africa

Egypt: Egypt and Greece reach agreement on migrant rescue
Egypt and Greece have signed bilateral agreements on 22 November regarding the improvement of cooperation in migrant search and rescue missions across the Mediterranean, says AP News. This was also accompanied by a deal allowing 5.000 Egyptian seasonal labourers to remain in Greece for up to 9 months, reports AP. These agreements happened against a backdrop of strengthened relations between Athens and Caïro as they seek to combat Turkish collaboration with Libya in the exploitation of gas in the eastern and central Mediterranean, says AP. 


Europe: Refugee minors have a right to family reunification, rules EU top court
The European Court of Justice has ruled that unaccompanied minors granted refugee status have a right to bring their family, even if they are married. The ruling deems that minors are in particular need of special protection, and that this right supercedes their marital status. The ruling comes after a girl was refused reunion with her family by Belgian authorities, despite them deeming her marriage invalid, because she was married at 15.  

Mediterranean: Hundreds of people saved in high seas rescue
Around 500 migrants were rescued by the Hellenic coast guard while adrift in the Mediterranean following a distress call, says Deutsche Welle. The Greek minister of Migration, Notis Mitarachi, states that the EU Commission would be contacted to activate relocations to other EU members as a part of a solidarity scheme. 

Europe: Commission proposes Action Plan for Central Mediterranean 
The Commission presented an EU Action Plan on the Central Mediterranean ahead of the Extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs Council on 25 November, proposing a series of measures addressing the challenges along the Central Mediterranean migratory route. The action plan proposes 20 measures seeking to reduce irregular and unsafe migration, provide solutions in the area of search and rescue and reinforce solidarity between Member States. Three pillars make up the plan, the first is cooperation with partner countries and international organisations; second, a more coordinated approach to search and rescue; and third, reinforced implementation of the solidarity mechanism. EU Commissioner Ylva Johansson also stated that the 2001 temporary protection directive is unlikely to be activated. The directive allows for immediate access to certain services as well as free movement on a temporary basis for people unable to return to their country of origin in case of “mass influx”, says Euractiv. 

European Council: Increased Frontex presence in the Balkans under negotiation
The European Council announced on 18 November that negotiations for an increased Frontex presence in the Western Balkans (Albania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro) have begun. The agreement would seek to “assist” those countries in the management of migration flows and counter illegal migration, says Euractiv. The negotiation seeks to provide Frontex with increased executive power in the region on top of its existing ability to carry out joint operations.


COP27: Loss and damage fund agreement, but a failure to deliver on phasing out fossil fuel
Chiara Liguori, Amnesty International’s Climate Justice Adviser, describer her feelings on COP27 as “joy at the adoption of a Loss and Damage fund but anguish that, despite overwhelming scientific evidence and escalating human rights impacts, the negotiations failed to secure vital commitments on the phasing out of all fossil fuels”. The fund was obtained thanks to a last minute move by the EU supporting the establishment of the fund, says The Guardian. However, cutting emissions appears far away, says AP News. Frans Timmermans, the European Union’s climate chief, stated the summit did “not address the yawning gap between climate science and our climate policies (…) We should have done much more.”