News Highlights: Crimes against humanity in Libya, Ethiopian and Eritrean connections with North Korea, CoE concern over UK migration bill

In this week’s news highlights: PM Abiy Ahmed’s answers to calls for resignation and Oromia conflict; European diplomats concerned about transitional justice in Ethiopia; Ethiopian and Eritrean partnerships with Glocom and North Korea; 30.000 IDPs in distress in Debre Berhan city; Release of more than 190 ethnic Tigrayan members of ENDF; Water infrastructure destroyed in Tigray region during the war; Cholera outbreak in Oromia region; Eritrea’s spoiler role in peace process between Ethiopia and Tigray; Conflicts with Sudan over demarcations being resolved, says PM; Petition for Sudan government to stop abuse of Eritreans; 20 people die due to flash floods in Somalia; Conflict resuming in Laascaanood; President Kiir appoints Defence Minister, endangering peace; South Sudan Rome peace talks fail; 5 people killed in clash between two groups in Sudan; Sudan discusses military and security reform; Protests in Kenya intensify; UN investigation finds crimes against humanity against refugees in Libya, and finds EU contributed to them; 29 migrants die after shipwreck off Tunisian coast; AU arrangements for the transfer of migrants from Libya to Rwanda; Libyan coast guard shoots at SOS Méditerranée ship during rescue; JMC 5+5 Meeting in Tripoli; CoE concerned over new UK Illegal Migration Bill; CoE condemns European countries for torture and illegal pushbacks of migrants; Negotiations to start on EU migration reform laws; and Somali communities accuse London of racial discrimination.

Greater Horn of Africa

Ethiopia: PM Abiy Ahmed’s answers to calls for resignation and Oromia conflict
During the 11th regular session of the House of People’s Representative (HoPR) of the Federal the Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed faced questions about the lack of peace and security, the increasing cost of living, safety, and security of civilians, sovereignty, and lack of good governance and development of the country. This included calls for resignation from some MPs. In response to issues of peace and security raised by the parliamentarians, the Prime Minister said that there is yet a lot to be done in order to reach full peace, adding that the general public is also called on to assist in all efforts. The issue of the Oromia conflict was raised. The PM was asked about his strategy to answer Oromia’s call for a peaceful resolution of the conflict, to which he responded stating that ongoing efforts are in place. He also affirmed that several talks were conducted within a committee created with this purpose and this already led to engagements with some Oromia’s armed groups. He announced the government’s attempt to outreach to the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), stating that the “government is very interested in resolving this conflict peacefully”, but OLA replied that the efforts “were not sincere”, as reported by Curate Oromia. 

Ethiopia: European diplomats concerned about transitional justice
A European diplomat in Addis Ababa described the work on transitional justice in Ethiopia as a “step in the right direction”, but added that “we are not at the point yet where we are seeing results”, says the New Humanitarian. Another Western diplomat said they were “concerned” about transparency, especially in relation to “criminal investigations and prosecutions”. This comes in the context of a draft paper by the Ethiopian Ministry of Justice on options for transitional justice was provided for discussion on 3 January 2023. The draft document states Ethiopia needs a comprehensive transitional justice approach. It further identifies that transitional justice processes help sustainable state-building. The draft report builds on the assumption that implementation of transitional justice lays a foundation for ensuring human rights and rule of law and considers various options for prosecution in the case of serious human rights violations, including persons holding high positions whose inaction led to the breaches. The draft document also considers the investigation, prosecution and judicial processes. It further considers how to treat crimes against humanity, which are not incorporated per se in Ethiopian criminal law. The draft document highlights the element of reconciliation as a main outcome. The draft document concludes that: “Ethiopia must learn from its experience and espouse an effective transitional justice mechanism that is in reading with the national contexts and opportunities – and complies with best practice and international standards.”

Ethiopia: Release of more than 190 ethnic Tigrayan members of ENDF
Ethiopian authorities released more than 190 ethnic Tigrayan members of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) on 28 March, report the East African Daily. They had been detained for over two years after the eruption of conflict in the country’s Tigray region. The Tigrayan ENDF members were held in the Garbasa military camp located in the country’s Somali region. The 190 released prisoners make up only almost 10% of the total Tigrayan members of ENDF under detention, according to the East African, citing unnamed sources.

Ethiopia/Eritrea: Ethiopian and Eritrean partnerships with Glocom and North Korea
Two shipments of radio equipment produced by the North Korean corporation Glocom were delivered to the Ethiopian military last year, according to a forthcoming report from a UN Panel of Experts seen by NK News. A UN member state is said to have reported to the Panel of Experts that the two shipments of Glocom radio equipment were dispatched to the Ethiopian Ministry of National Defence Directorate in June 2022 for use by the country’s defence forces. This has raised concerns about the efficacy of the sanctions on the DPRK’s military-industrial complex. Former UN expert Katsu Furukawa told NK News that both Ethiopia and Eritrea have been in partnerships with Glocom and North Korea. Furukawa stated Eritrea and Ethiopia “deliberately overlooked the sanction violations, and their negligence has made an essential contribution to the survival of the networks of these sanctions violators and evaders.”

Ethiopia/Eritrea: Water infrastructure destroyed in Tigray region during the war
Ethiopian and Eritrean armies destroyed the water infrastructure of Ethiopia’s Tigray region during the two-year war, says the Tigray Bureau of Water and Natural Resources. Half of the 9,213 total water supply schemes in Tigray were reportedly destroyed and still remain out of service, including the potable water purification and bottling factories in the region. Data from the bureau shows that 3,196 irrigation infrastructures are currently out of service as a result of the destruction by the armies. About 57 percent of irrigation farms around the Tekeze River and 89 percent of Welkait sugarcane farms were reported to have been destroyed during the war on Tigray.

Ethiopia: Cholera outbreak in Oromia and Somali region 
A cholera outbreak is spreading in East Bale, Guji and Borena in the Oromia region and the and Daawa Zone of the Somali region, reports the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). There are 2,276 registered cases and 50 associated deaths. The outbreak is due to water scarcity from the drought period forcing people to get water from unsafe sources and reducing hygiene behaviour to save water. Only limited Oral Cholera Vaccinations (OCV) are available. 

Ethiopia: 30.000 IDPs in distress in Debre Berhan city
More than 30.000 people had to leave their neighbourhoods in the Oromia region and were displaced to Debre Berhan, in Amhara region. Berhanu Zewdu, director of Disaster pre-warning and response Agency of Amhara region told Addis Standard that the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), who are hosted in shelter camps inside government and private factories, lack basic humanitarian aid, like food and shelter. He also urged “the government and other stakeholders to find a charity and non-governmental partners to support the IDPs”.   

Ethiopia: Conflicts with Sudan over demarcations being resolved, says PM
Speaking at the 11th session of the Ethiopian parliament on 28 March, PM Abiy Ahmed said that the conflict with Sudan took place over a lack of demarcated borders, says the Ethiopian Press Agency. The PM stated that in order to resolve the conflict peacefully, a joint ministerial committee has been formed by the countries to work towards the demarcation of the disputed borders. The PM stated that the claim that South Sudan intends to invade Ethiopia is wrong and that there is no threat from South Sudan. He mentioned that the issue with South Sudan involves about 20,000 pastoralists. The federal government is discussing with the South Sudanese government to find a solution to this situation.

Eritrea: Eritrea wants to upend peace process between Ethiopia and Tigray, say observers
Observers raised concerns about Eritrea’s intention to jeopardise Ethiopia’s efforts to complete the peace process with Tigray. The Eritrean army is still at the border with Tigray in large numbers, and still occupies areas. Mohamed Kheir Omer, an Eritrean researcher, warns that Afwerki’s aim is “to finish off the TPLF once and for all” and could launch an attack against the TPLF, as reported by the Africa Defense Forum.

Eritrea/Sudan: Petition for Sudan government to stop abuse of Eritreans
A petition was launched against harassment, indiscriminate arrests and extortion of Eritreans by police in Sudan. The petition warns those arrested include Eritreans with valid UNHCR registration cards and holders of foreign passports. Those detained are reportedly forced to pay the equivalent of USD 1,200 for their release, and this process can repeat itself multiple times. Eritrean organisations note they have received reports of sexual violence affecting both women and men while in detention. Eritreans are also not able to renew their papers due to the process of forming a transitional government.

Somalia: 20 people die due to flash floods
On 24 March, 20 people died and 2 were injured due to the severe floods in the district of Bardhere in Jubaland, Somalia. The Jubba river’s level rose from about 4 to 8.78 metres, causing damage to hundreds of houses and destruction of food crops and forcing people to leave their homes. As many are facing the serious consequences of the flash floods, relief supplies have been sent to the communities affected by the disaster.  

Somalia: Conflict resuming in Laascaanood
A report by the Humanitarian Affairs Committee for Las’Anod-Sool states that fighting has resumed around Laascaanood after three weeks of relative calm. The report states that “mosques, hospitals, restaurants and hotels” are being shelled. Reportedly, 500.000 people are affected by violence around Laascaanood, of which 233.000 are displaced, 290 killed and 1337 injured. 

South Sudan: President Kiir appoints Defence Minister, jeopardising peace
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has appointed a defence minister from his own party, according to South Sudanese state media. This breaches the peace deal which stipulates the position must be filled by the party of the First Vice President and opposition leader Riek Machar. The new minister is Chol Thon Balok, former governor of the Upper Nile State.

South Sudan: Rome peace talks fail
Peace talks between the South Sudan’s government and opposition groups failed and no agreement was reached in Rome. The Italian mediation, namely the Community of Sant’Egidio, adjourned the peace talks to 8th May 2023 to allow the two sides to have further consultation on the agenda and submit their own written proposals. Minister of Presidential Affairs Barnaba Marial Benjamin reportedly assured that the government remains fully committed to the Rome Initiative, as President Kiir disagreed in engaging with any other negotiation talk but the one in Rome. Paolo Impagliazzo, the Secretary-General of the Community of Sant’Egidio, told Radio Tamazuj that Pope Francis met the delegations of the two sides of the peace talks and appreciated their efforts, praying for peace in South Sudan.

Sudan: 5 people killed in clash between two groups
5 people died after a clash occurred between African Masalit and Arab shepherds in West Darfur, Sudan. Two armed assailants killed a merchant in a remote area which led to a series of targeted attacks, killing four more people, states AP News. RadioTamazuj states that the Masalit tribesmen accused the Arab militia of being behind the killing. A Sudanese legal group with a focus on human rights, the Darfur Bar Association, requested that both sides de-escalate the tensions. 

Sudan: Sudan discusses on military and security reform
As part of the agreement to form a new transitional civilian government, on 26 of March Sudan’s military and civilian political leaders held security and military reform workshops. Among other things, the workshops envisaged placing the military under civilian rule, by integrating the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) into the army. “We want to enable any elected civilian authority to have the armed forces under its command”, said Sudan’s military leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in a way that the army stays away from politics and stops support to dictatorial regimes. 

Kenya: Protests in Kenya intensify
Following the third round of anti-government protests in Nairobi, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission called for engagement in peaceful dialogue. Police have been using violence to stop the protests; four people have been reportedly killed so far and properties of the opposition leader Raila Odinga and former President Uhuru Kenyatta were attacked and looted. The East African reports that Odinga accused the government of hiring the vandals. Police officers did not intervene in protecting life and properties, reported by African Press (AP). Human rights violations by the police also raised the complaints of civil society groups, like Amnesty Kenya and the Kenya Human Rights Commission. 

North Africa

EU/Libya: UN investigation finds crimes against humanity, and finds EU contributed to them
An investigation by the UN has condemned Libyan authorities for committing a “wide array of war crimes and crimes against humanity” against Libyans and migrants. The UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya report further accuses the European Union of supporting Libyan authorities, contributing to crimes against humanity to migrants in Libya. The report, comprising 400 interviews with migrants and witnesses, states that “reasonable grounds to believe that sexual slavery, a crime against humanity, was committed against migrants”. Further, the report added that “trafficking, enslavement, forced labour, imprisonment, extortion and smuggling of vulnerable migrants generated significant revenue for individuals, groups and state institutions”. The Mission has stated that it will share its findings with the International Criminal Court with a list of possible perpetrators. Chaloka Beyani, the investigator, said, after the UN fact-finding mission presented the report, “although we’re not saying that the EU and its member states have committed these crimes. The point is that the support given has aided and abetted the commission of the crimes”. The report states that the EU had a role in assisting the Libyan authorities to commit these crimes by providing “directly or indirectly, financial and technical support as well as equipment, such as boats, to the Libyan Coast Guard and the Directorate of fight against illegal migration”. Beyani added that the EU is supporting the Libyan coastguard to push back which led to the violation of certain human rights and that “You can’t push back people to areas that are unsafe, and the Libyan waters are unsafe for the embarkation of migrants”.  In response to these accusations, Peter Stano, the European Commission Spokesperson, argued that they do not fund “any Libyan entity”, but instead “allocate a lot of money, which is then generally used by our international partners.”

Tunisia: 29 migrants die after shipwrecks off Tunisian coast
29 migrants died off the coast of Tunisia after multiple shipwrecks on Sunday (26 March). A human rights group reported that 19 refugees from sub-Saharan Africa had drowned off Tunisia’s coast and 10 bodies were found by the Tunisian coast guard. At least 67 people are still missing. On Saturday (25 March), 78 people were rescued by a humanitarian aid ship near Malta and the day before that 190 people were rescued by a ship operated by Doctors Without Borders off the coast of Italy. 

Libya: Libyan coast guard shoots at SOS Méditerranée ship during rescue
French NGO, SOS Méditerranée, said that the Libyan coast guard fired gunshots in the air and endangered the crew when they were attempting to rescue people from a boat holding 80 refugees and migrants. Another NGO, Sea-Watch, filmed the events from a plane. The French NGO reportedly attempted to contact the Libyan coast-guard, but this went unanswered. The 80 people in the boat were intercepted by the Libyan coast guard and were forcibly brought back to Libya. The Sea-Watch aircraft reported that the coast guard shot in the direction of the migrant boat to force it to stop. In the footage, several people were seen falling off the boat who were later rescued, according to France 24. Peter Stano, the European Commission Spokesperson, said, after being questioned about the incident, “We will see what the Libyan partners will tell us exactly about this incident […] then, there will be time and opportunity to talk about the necessary follow-up”, says Euractiv

Rwanda/Libya: AU arrangements for the transfer of migrants from Libya to Rwanda
The African Union has said that they are arranging the transfer of ‘irregular migrants’ from Libya to Rwanda, says Libya Update. This is based on an agreement that was signed in 2019 between the African Union, Rwanda and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. UNHCR said that it will try to ensure that the migrants stay in Rwanda or are returned to their country of origin. 

Libya: JMC 5+5 Meeting in Tripoli
The 5+5 Joint Military Commission (JMC) had a meeting in Tripoli on Monday (27 March) with Abdoulaye Bathily, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) of the United Nations for Libya, and Mohammed Al-Haddad and Abdelrazik Al-Nathori, the Chiefs of Staff of the military, reports Libya Observer. UNSMIL states that the meeting discussed the role of the military and security institutions in providing a conducive environment for the advancement of the political process and the holding of free and fair elections in 2023. It was affirmed that the dialogue should be within Libya, without foreign interference in Libyan affairs. The rejection of violence was emphasised, so that the unification of the military institutions, through the Chiefs of Staff, could continue as well as the unification of the government. It was agreed that the next meeting would be held in Benghazi during the month of Ramadan. 


UK: CoE concerned over new UK Illegal Migration Bill 
The Council of Europe (CoE) has expressed concern over the UK illegal migration bill, stating that it would be a step backwards in the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery, says The Guardian. Experts of the CoE have said the bill would make it more challenging to identify victims and prosecute traffickers. The bill would allow for almost everyone arriving in the UK in a “breach of immigration control” to be removed. Dunja Mijatović, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, stated that “it is essential that parliamentarians prevent legislation that is incompatible with the United Kingdom’s international obligations being passed”. Other experts have stated that the new bill is not compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), states IB Times. Several legislators from the Conservative Party in the UK want to make the controls tighter, says Reuters, while other opposition politicians want more safe routes to be offered. 

Europe: CoE condemns European countries for torture and illegal pushbacks of migrants
The Council of Europe (CoE) said that there is a clear pattern of physical and psychological abuse and torture in relation to the pushbacks on migration in Europe, states Euractiv. The CoE urged that European countries “put an end to unlawful pushback practices and the ill-treatment of foreign nationals deprived of their liberty in the context of forced removals at borders”. Torture and humiliation has been used on refugees and migrants, as well as informal detention. The CoE court has also condemned Italy for “inhuman treatment” of four Tunisian migrants in 2017 who were denied their freedom by informal detention and “inadequate” conditions and pushed back illegally. The European Commission  responded by saying that it would “take note” and has asked that more efficient border management, with respect of human dignity, must be implemented. 

EU: Negotiations to start on migration reform laws
The beginning of inter-institutional negotiations will start between the European Parliament and EU ministers as members of the European Parliament affirm their position on key migration files, reports Euractiv. Several pieces of legislation are included in the group of files, which will tighten the external border control. This is due to be adopted in Spring 2024. This will reaffirm the ‘Dublin’ system, in which asylum seekers have to apply in the EU country they arrive in, where the screening regulation will be implemented. This will allow arrival data to be shared between EU countries which will discourage ‘secondary movement’, state the stakeholders. This legislation will also allow for the detention of up to 5 days during the screening process, which may become 10 days during crises. These pacts will be negotiated and are aimed to be approved before February 2024, so that the legislative process can be concluded before the EU elections of May 2024. 

UK/Somalia: Somali communities accuse London of racial discrimination
Somali families protested against the Tower Hamlets Council in London, UK, accusing it of racial discrimination and “social cleansing”, as reported by Open Democracy. Somali residents argued that the London Council has been ignoring their needs for social housing for years, by removing them from the housing waiting list and by making the viewings fail. After the protests of the Somali seeking for answers, the council stated that it will take the problem seriously and carry out investigations.