News Highlights: Clashes in Amhara, Fears of RSF/Army confrontation in Sudan, Three boats sink off Tunisia

In this week’s news highlights: Violent protests in Amhara against the dismantling of regional forces; Ethiopia talks with IMF over possible USD 2 billion in funding; New displacements from Western Tigray; Discussions on transitional justice in Tigray; Eritrean delegation visits Kenya’s Ruto; RSF mobilisation as fears of conflict rise in Sudan; Perthes under threat, UN asks for investigation; Türk expresses concerns over situation in Sudan; Agreement Sudan/South Sudan talks over Abyei region; Guterres in Somalia for a visit of solidarity; Three boats sink off Tunisian coast, many dead and missing; Tunisian police commits forceful intervention against migrants and asylum seekers; Alleged Libya route human trafficker arrested in Nigeria; Italy announces emergency state on immigration; Reception facility in Lampedusa overcrowded; Malta tells ship not to rescue people in need; IOM says first 2023 quarter the deadliest in 6 years on the Mediterranean; and HRW Condemns UN resolution over Libya human right’s violations.

Greater Horn of Africa

Ethiopia: Violent protests in Amhara against the dismantling of regional forces
Protests took place across the Amhara region after the Ethiopian government announced the dismantling of the regional forces in Ethiopia. Government security forces clashed with civilians as well as with members of the regional special forces, writes Addis Standard. Reuters reports that gunfire and artillery fire was heard in a few cities in Amhara as members of the Amhara special forces were opposing the efforts for disarmament as part of the integration of the regional forces. Residents told Reuters that on 11 April the protests reached other cities, resulting in violent clashes in Kombolcha, and several people were shot. Ttwo aid workers from the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) were shot and killed on Easter Sunday as they were driving back towards Addis Ababa, stated by the US Catholic Church’s international aid agency. Amhara Fano fighters reportedly attacked a police station in Mezzezo town in the Amhara region and seized weapons at around 4 a.m. on Wednesday morning, according to VOA news. Mezzezo residents reportedly heard open gunfire and clashes coming out of the police station. In Gondar, the security command post office imposed 12 different restrictions including the prohibition for bars and nightclubs to serve customers after 9 PM. Amhara President Yilkal Kefale stated that the federal government’s order was not to dismantle regional special forces, but to organise them under federal security institutions, Reuters reported. Due to instability and insecurity in Amhara, WFP temporarily stopped delivering food aid. The situation in Amhara has calmed down somewhat as per Thursday. The Somali Regional state decided unanimously to implement the reorganisation plan for the Somali Regional Special Forces.

Ethiopia: Talks with IMF over possible USD 2 billion in funding
Ethiopian Minister of Finance Ahmed Shide, Governor of National Bank of Ethiopia Mamo Mihretu, and other delegation members met with World Bank (WB), International Monetary Fund (IMF), and International Finance Corporation (IFC) officials on economic reform and fiscal matters. According to Reuters sources, Ethiopia is seeking USD 2 billion to cover its funding gaps. Two sources told Reuters that the IMF calculated Ethiopia is set to face a financing gap of at least $6 billion until 2026, leaving it with a gap of USD 4 billion even if it manages to secure the amount under discussion.

Tigray: New displacements from Western Tigray
47.000 new Internally Displaced Persons have fled Western Tigray in the past month and have arrived in Endabaguna, states the interim administrator of the Endabaguna Woreda. Eyewitnesses say that ethnic Tigrayans are facing persecution by armed groups, including Fano, in the Amhara-occupied territory.  

Tigray: Discussions on transitional justice
Ethiopian Attorney General Dr Gedion Timotiwos and Ethiopia’s human rights commissioner Dr Daniel Bekele have discussed transitional justice in Mekelle, according to Tigray Television. Dr Gedion Timotiwos said the discussion took place in view of the need to start preparations to implement recommendations of the national policy of transitional justice based on the Pretoria Cessation of Hostilities (CoH) Agreement. Getachew Reda, president of the region’s interim administration, and other cabinet members including General Tsadkan Woldetinsae, Vice President for democratisation and decentralised governance, took part in the discussion. Getachew Reda said that ensuring justice and accountability are the priorities for developing and sustaining the peace that came after the CoH agreement. He also said that it is time to implement transitional justice and accountability. Luise Amtsberg, German Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance, is visiting Ethiopia from 11 to 14 April. Her talks with the Ethiopian Government focus on Ethiopia’s efforts to establish a mechanism for transitional justice to address the human rights violations committed during the Tigray conflict. The Commissioner met civil society human rights defenders and women’s rights organisations.

Eritrea/Kenya: Eritrean delegation visits Kenya’s Ruto
A delegation of Eritrea led by the country’s foreign minister Osman Saleh held a meeting with President William Ruto at State House in Nairobi, Kenya. Eritrean information minister, Yemane Gebremeskel, said that the Eritrean delegation briefed president Ruto on behalf of Eritrean President Isayas Afwerki, discussing bilateral and regional issues.  He also said, “President Ruto briefed the delegation on recent developments in the Horn of Africa and East Africa, and, his consultations with regional leaders on IGAD and broader regional cooperation.” He added, “Expressing Kenya’s keen interest in bolstering bilateral cooperation with Eritrea, President Ruto gave guidance for an early meeting of the Joint Cooperation Mechanism.” 

Sudan: RSF mobilises as Sudan misses deadline on transitional government
The Sudanese army denounced the Rapid Support Forces on Thursday for mobilising forces, including at a strategic airport at Merowe, without army approval. Analysts are concerned the RSF, headed by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemedti) might clash with the army. Sudan’s army said that the mobilisation represents a “clear violation of law”, reports Reuters. Furthermore, it shows increasing tensions between rival forces and threatens the process of transition to democracy of the country. Sudan failed to meet the deadline of 11 April to set up a transitional government, as reported by AP. After postponing the signing of a final agreement twice, the Sudanese parties did not stick to the timeline they agreed on. According to it, they should have nominated a new prime minister and other posts of the transitional government on 11 April. The remaining issue of disagreement is the integration of the RSF troops.

Sudan: Türk expresses concerns over situation in Sudan
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk expressed concern over the situation in Sudan after the postponement of the signing of the final political agreement. He urged all sides to join efforts in order to restore the political transition of the country and pursue the interests of Sudanese people. He also underlined the importance of including the human rights commitments as the central element in the final political agreement. He called for a more inclusive political process through the participation of non-signatories parties to the Political Framework Agreement. 

Sudan: Perthes under threat, UN asks for investigation
A video on social media shows a man volunteering to kill UN Special Representative Volker Perthes and asking for a fatwa (religious edict) to legitimise it. The UN expressed concern and urged the Sudanese authorities to open an investigation on the man, who called himself Abdelmoneim. The speech of Abdelmoneim occurred during a gathering of Bashir’s supporting parties in Khartoum, who complained about being excluded from the talks for a final deal ending the Sudanese political crisis. Reuters reports that the UN office in Sudan said the event “will not deter the mission from carrying out its duties”. Despite distancing themselves from the man’s speech, the organisers of the gathering criticised the UN mission for “imposing a foreign vision on the Sudanese people”, reports Agence France Presse (AFP).

South Sudan/Sudan: Agreement on talks over Abyei region
On 10 April, the governments of Sudan and South Sudan signed an agreement to renew their commitment to finding a peaceful resolution of the Abyei dispute. Tut Gatluak, South Sudanese presidential advisor on security affairs, and Gen. Mohamad Hamdan Dagalo (Hemedti), deputy chair of Sudan Transitional Sovereign Council, met in Khartoum to discuss humanitarian issues and the delivery of social services in the Abyei Administrative Area. The agreement, also aimed at promoting community dialogue between the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya ethnic groups, represents a significant step forward in the establishment of the final status of Abyei, reports The City Review. As reported by SudansPost, the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) lauded the two countries’ efforts and remarked on the necessity for people in Abyei to be given the freedom to choose which country they belong to.

Somalia: Guterres in Somalia for a visit of solidarity
On 11 April, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres travelled to Somalia for a “solidarity visit”. During a joint press briefing with the President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Guterres called for “massive support from the international community” as Somalia is facing a serious humanitarian crisis caused by the combination of drought and armed conflict. As reported by AlJazeera, Guterres also condemned the international community for being “absent-minded” towards the difficult situation of Somalis amidst the climate crisis. “It is unconscionable”, he said, “that Somalis, who have done almost nothing to create the climate crisis, are suffering its terrible impact”. He stated that only 15 percent of the  $2.6 billion appeal for humanitarian assistance for Somalia launched by the UN was funded.

North Africa

Tunisia: Three boats sink off Tunisian coast
The BBC reported that on 7 and 8 April two shipwrecks took place off the Tunisian East coast, in proximity of the city of Sfax. Sfax court judge Faouzi Masmoudi said that the first shipwreck left 20 people missing, while 17 were rescued. From the second accident, 36 people were rescued and 3 are missing, while four bodies were found on the beach. On Wednesday (12 April), another boat off the coast of Sfax sank with at least 25 people having died, reports Reuters. The boat was carrying 110 people and 76 were rescued, while the rest are still missing. Masmoudi said that search and rescue operations continue. The refugees and migrants, mostly coming from Sub Saharan Africa, were heading to Italy. According to Reuters, Tunisia has become a key departure country for people trying to cross into Europe. 

Tunisia: Police commits forceful intervention against migrants and asylum seekers
On 11 April, police used tear gas to dismantle a makeshift camp outside the headquarters of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Tunis and dispersed about 100 refugees and migrants who were living there for 25 days, reports AFP. The police also arrested 80 people, 30 of whom were taken into custody, after a group attempted entering the building of the UNHCR. The migrants and asylum seekers stated in an open letter that that they had taken refuge there as they were “chased out” of several Tunisian cities, as reported by AFP. Faker Bouzghaya, spokesperson for the Tunisian Interior Ministry, told AFP that the police intervention took place “at the request of the UNHCR”.

Libya/Nigeria: Alleged human trafficker arrested
On 10 April, the Osun State Police Command of Nigeria arrested Adebisi Muideen for allegedly attempting to traffic four girls via the Tripoli corridor in Libya. According to officer Yemisi Opalola, the man invited the girls for a party in Ile-Ife and gave them food and drinks with sedatives. Once they were asleep, they were brought to Kano where the documents to travel to Libya were to be processed. Three of the four girls managed to escape and contact their families, who then reported the man, while the whereabouts of the fourth girl remain unknown. After investigation, the case will be charged to court. 


Italy: Italy announces emergency state on immigration
Italy has announced that it will go into a state of emergency on immigration due to an influx in people arriving in Italy across the Mediterranean Sea, according to several sources. The measure will allow for quicker expulsion and repatriation, said an Italian government source. This will last 6 months with an initial funding of 5 million euros. Migration facilities in Italy have been criticised for their “inhumane” treatment of people and this is therefore a widely controversial decision, states Reuters. Furthermore, the government is trying to pass other policies that could restrict access to the “special protection” status that is accorded to asylum seekers who are at risk. Matteo Salvini, Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister, stated that the state of emergency is just a “temporary fix” and that the European Union needs to intervene in the larger migration problem that affects the Southern European countries.

Italy: Overcrowded reception facility in Lampedusa
The migrant reception facility in Lampedusa is overcrowded as it hosts over 1000 refugees and migrants while it has a capacity of only 400, as reported by InfoMigrants. The Italian government asked for EU financial assistance to fund the relocation of migrants and asylum seekers across the country. While the Italian government is working to improve the relocation system, military units were made available by the defence ministry to help with people’s transfers and La Maddalena patrol boat was moved from Sardinia to Lampedusa. AfricaNews reports that between 9 and 10 April, 1700 people reached the island of Lampedusa. Alarm Phone warned that the situations on some ships were dramatic. 

Malta: Maltese authorities deny rescue
The NGO Sea-Watch International said that a merchant vessel was ordered by the Maltese authorities not to rescue people on a boat in distress with refugees and migrants onboard between Greece and Malta. The vessel was only provided fuel and water. The NGO called for accountability for Malta’s “ruthless ignorance”. The NGO Alarm Phone raised the alert about the boat on 9 April, stating it was carrying around 400 people who were in distress. The boat departed from Libya. 

Mediterranean: Report states that first quarter of 2023 has been the “Deadliest” in 6 years
The first 3 months of 2023 have been the “deadliest” first quarter for refugees going through the Mediterranean route since 2017, reports the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). The organisation’s Missing Migrants Project has recorded at least 441 deaths in the first quarter of 2023. The project is still investigating “invisible shipwrecks” – ships that were reported missing but have not had any records of survivors or Search and Rescue (SAR) operations. The IOM said that recent NGO-led SAR operations have diminished due to  events where rescue ships were shot at or detained in their attempts to rescue migrants. Furthermore, delays in State-led SAR have led to the death of at least 127 people. The IOM has called for more support from the State to help NGO vessels to “provide lifesaving assistance and ending the criminalization, obstruction and deterrence of the efforts of those who provide such assistance”, further stating that it is every ship’s legal obligation to help boats in distress. 

UN/EU/Libya: HRW condemns “weak” UN resolution over Libya human right’s violations
After the UN Fact-Finding Mission reported the European Union’s involvement in human rights violations in Libya, the Libyan government drafted a resolution to the Human Rights Council that would ensure minimal accountability of the EU, states Human Rights Watch. HRW states that this resolution fails in 2 important ways. Firstly, there is a double-standard when it comes to violations of human rights and the consequent accountability. Secondly is the failure to recognize the involvement of the EU’s key partners in Libya in the human rights violations. The HRW stated that the EU should discontinue any cooperation with Libyan authorities as its negligence of the violations shows the EU’s “complicity” in the crimes against humanities in Libya and the Mediterranean Sea. Furthermore, HRW said that the HRC should implement an “independent mechanism to monitor human rights violations in Libya”.