News Highlights: USAID halts food aid to Ethiopia, EU ministers agree on stricter asylum procedures, Fighting intensifies in Sudan

In this week’s News Highlights: Indirect ceasefire talks resume in Sudan, but fighting intensifies; Widespread killings in el-Geneina and other parts of Darfur; Infrastructure under attack in Sudan; Humanitarian situation in Sudan; Violence against civilians and journalists in Sudan; Refugees and displacement reach a new highpoint in Sudan conflict; UN Envoy declared Persona Non Grata by al-Burhan; USAID suspends food aid to all of Ethiopia amidst diversion investigation; Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees arrested and killed amidst conflict and insecurity; HOPR letter argues Tigray should not receive tax revenue from wartime; Troops continue to occupy Tigray, AU-MVCM not acting, critics say; Tigray war the deadliest in 2022, suffering continues; Malnutrition in under 5 Tigrayan children; FANO militia killed and arrested in Amhara; Oromia talks will not resume soon; Budget approved by Ethiopian Council of Ministers; HRW writes letter to Ethiopian minister of justice; EHRC reports increasing cases of forced disappearances in Ethiopia; Interview with President Isaias on bilateral relations with Russia; Egyptian migrants and refugees deported by Libyan authorities; Tunisia and Italy hold talks about migration; Nine bodies recovered and 29 people rescued by Tunisian coast guard; EU Home Affairs ministers reach agreement on stricter asylum rules; Refugees and migrants will be housed in barges in the UK; German rescue vessels detained under Italian rules on rescue operations; Italy lied and Frontex helped in the cover up, investigation says; 1500 migrants and refugees rescued in two days off Italian coast; Greek authorities rescue 91 migrants and refugees; Head of IOM talks with Microsoft for migration management; 10 arrested for people smuggling in North Macedonia; The right opposes the French migration agreement with Algeria; Media campaign to ‘deter migration’ in Cyprus.

Greater Horn of Africa

Sudan: Indirect ceasefire talks resume, but fighting intensifies  
Indirect ceasefire talks are reportedly resuming under the auspices of the US and Saudi Arabia as fighting intensified over the last week. The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) are discussing the possibility of a 24-hour ceasefire to be monitored by the facilitators, the US and Saudi Arabia, through surveillance drones. A spokesperson of the RSF stated that in case of a violation, sanctions would be imposed on the party that breached the ceasefire and negotiations would be permanently suspended. US and Saudi monitoring teams and observers are planning to deploy in Sudan so as to carry out investigations on the implementation of the Jeddah agreement. No further details have been disclosed yet and none of the warring sides has confirmed or commented on their participation in talks. Fighting in Sudan escalated after the ceasefire expired on Saturday evening. Most of the fighters in Khartoum are reported to be RSF. Fighting continues to be concentrated around Khartoum and Darfur, making these areas unreachable for aid.  There are concerns that the conflict could reach the southern part of the country, as the SPLM-N forces equipped with thousands of men and heavy weaponry, is mobilising. Residents of Sudan’s South Kordofan State fear clashes, reports Reuters. Deputy head of Sudan’s ruling council, Malik Agar, states that ceasefires cannot hold until the forces withdraw from Khartoum. Both SAF leader al-Burhan and RSF leader Hemedti spoke to Faisal bin Farhan, Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs, on Tuesday recalling their previously announced stances.  Political advisor of the RSF, Youssef Ezzat, is reportedly travelling to Paris, Berlin and London for talks with European powers on the situation in Sudan and the position of RSF in the conflict. Al-Burhan has replaced two state governors, of North Kordofan and of Sennar, state-run news agency Suna reports. The reason for their dismissal is still unclear. Kenya has closed its diplomatic mission in Khartoum after it was coming under increasing threat from the fighting. Up to now, the mission had stayed open to assist Kenyan citizens in Sudan. 

Sudan: Widespread killings in el-Geneina and other parts of Darfur
Witnesses report the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have inflicted large-scale destruction in the capital of West Darfur, El Geneina, and that the southern neighbourhoods have been completely abandoned. The Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) are absent. An estimated 500 people have died in the attacks, and another 500 injured people remain trapped in the city, reports Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Health facilities have been closed and looted, including departments supported by the MSF, and witnesses have reported that some bodies are still left in the streets. Sources said that mostly men are targeted by the snipers and militia, leaving the women to go out and take care of essentials. The gunmen attacking the city are reportedly backed by RSF, while the army has reportedly supplied arms to civilians. A UNHCR coordinator called the situation in el-Geneina and other parts of Darfur “dystopian”. 

Sudan: Infrastructure under attack
46 verified attacks have been carried out on health care facilities across Sudan, confirmed by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Specialised medical care such as renal dialysis centres, obstetric and neonatal care centres have been extremely limited due to lack of staff members, security concerns or power cuts, says WHO. A fuel storage facility in the Yarmouk residential area of Khartoum has been on fire since Wednesday. The facility is in a close proximity to an army base and a factory which manufactures weapons. Fire is endangering the civilian neighbourhoods next to the facility. The fire broke out during the ongoing fighting between Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid support Forces (RSF) over the control of the weaponry complex. Concerns grow over Sudan’s heritage as RSF took control over the national museum in Khartoum and was filmed opening boxes in the storage containing mummies and remains. Extensive looting continues; RSF soldiers have been filmed leaving for Darfur with looted cars and goods. The Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Sudan came under attack in the early hours of Thursday. The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly condemned the attack on residences of Saudi employees and vandalisation of the embassy’s building and property. 

Sudan: Humanitarian situation
13.6 million children in Sudan are in need of humanitarian assistance. 618,000 school age children have been displaced which increases the risk of being recruited as child soldiers in armed groups and severely jeopardises their protection. Cases of sexual violence against women continue to rise. 280 children and 70 caretakers from the Maygoma Orphanage in Khartoum were safely evacuated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to Wad Medani on Wednesday. ICRC obtained assurance from warring sides for the safe evacuation passage. The children were taken into the custody of personnel of the Ministry of Social Development. Civilians struggle to bury dead bodies of victims that are left lying on the street or inside buildings. Using unprofessional methods for burial may destroy evidence of war crimes and can lead to spread of disease, warned Dr Attia Abdullah Attia, the head of Sudanese Doctors’ Union. Neighbours volunteer in digging graves and creating provisional burial places as they feel there are currently no other options due to collapsed infrastructures. In order to provide identification in the future, volunteers are taking pictures of buried bodies. The first showers of the year have started in Khartoum, marking the start of the rainy season. This will further complicate the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Sudan: Violence against civilians and journalists
Women are being attacked en route when they are fleeing their homes, as well as in their homes, in Khartoum. “There is not a single woman in Khartoum now who feels safe, not even in her own home,” said Sulaima Ishaq al-Khalifa, head of the government’s Combating Violence Against Women and Children Unit. The RSF is reportedly taking residents hostage and demanding relatives for ransom and there is a growing number of reports of activists being targeted and disappearing. More than 40 Sudanese journalists and media organisations experienced violations amid conflict in Sudan between 15 and 31 May, reported the Sudanese Journalists Syndicate. The violent incidents are occuring in conflict zones across the whole country. Journalists are being arbitrarily arrested, abducted, threatened and killed. Press media premises have been targeted and many were raided. An air strike on the campus of the International University of Africa in Khartoum killed 10 citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Many weapons are in the hands of civilians, and civilians are also using them, witnesses say. The reports do not only come from Darfur, but also locations such as Omdurman. This increases the risk of general violence. 

Sudan: Refugees and displacement reach a new highpoint
1,428,551 have been reported to be internally displaced inside Sudan with an increase of more than 218,000 IDPs leaving their home in one week between 30 May and 6 June. At least 476,811 refugees crossed to neighbouring countries with Sudan, reports IOM. It is expected that this number will rise to at least 1 million in the next 6 months. New arrivals of people fleeing from Sudan to South Sudan have surpassed 100,000, confirmed UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Operations Raouf Mazou. Most of the new arrivals are South Sudanese returnees together with Sudanese refugees. The response and delivery of basic support is organised  through the UNHCR, IOM and South Sudanese government. The situation for refugees and host communities in border towns however is not easy as basic goods are scarce and prices constantly increasing. An expected 19 million people, or 40% of Sudan’s population, will be in a state of acute food insecurity due to the continuing conflict. About 1000 refugees fleeing Sudan cross the Metema bridge daily to seek refuge in Ethiopia. Refugees show a high level of trauma and report many cases of sexual violence. Human trafficking and smuggling networks are thriving because of the conflict situation in Sudan. Traffickers and smugglers are following groups of refugees and displaced people from Khartoum to Gadaref, abducting them and trying to sell them

Sudan: UN Envoy declared Persona Non Grata
The UN Envoy and head of mission to Sudan, Volker Perthes, was declared Persona Non Grate by Sudan’s de facto leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. Perthes is currently in Addis Ababa. The UN mission is allowed to continue. Burhan accuses Perthes of inflaming the conflict. Perthes has received support from the UN and several member states. Human rights violations in Sudan are being documented and the perpetrators will be held accountable, stated the EU EEAS on Monday as it welcomed the extension of the mandate of UNITAMS in Sudan. The mandate of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission mandate in Sudan (UNITAMS) was extended for six months until 3 December 2023. 

Ethiopia: USAID suspends food aid to all of Ethiopia amidst diversion investigation
USAID is suspending food aid to all of Ethiopia, after uncovering a nationwide scheme of diverting food aid, coordinated from within the federal and regional Ethiopian government entities, according to an internal memo seen by various media. The investigation by USAID uncovered “a coordinated and criminal scheme” in which food aid has been diverted by officials to feed (ex-)combatants and to be sold on the open market. USAID also called on other donors to monitor where the food is going and recommended alternative aid modalities such as cash transfers. The Humanitarian and Resilience Donor Group (HRDG) recommended that the Ethiopian government implement a number of measures, including making public statements condemning the diversions and to identify and dismantle the organised structures that are orchestrating the diversion schemes. They also asked the government to work with local authorities to identify the donor-funded commodities and return them into the custody of implementing partners. This comes after the director and deputy of the World Food Programme in Ethiopia were reported by The New Humanitarian to have resigned, which was later refuted by the WFP. The aid diversion in Ethiopia may span across 8 regions and may implicate Ethiopian authorities, sources say. This has caused a suspension of aid to Tigray until the investigation comes to a close. Interim President of Tigray, Getachew Reda, stated that highlights of findings of the investigation into aid diversion were shared with US Special Envoy Mike Hammer and he gave assurances that the findings would be made public. There would not be impunity for those found guilty of food aid diversion, said Getachew. The US was requested to resume aid to the region, which is urgently needed, stated Getachew.

Eritrea/Ethiopia: Refugees arrested and killed amidst conflict and insecurity
Many Eritreans fleeing Sudan trying to enter Egypt are being arrested. One witness estimated around 300 had been arrested, mostly women. Eritreans in Aswan, Egypt, state that around 800 Eritreans are vulnerable and need essential supplies. Hundreds of mostly Eritrean refugees in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, have been arrested and imprisoned arbitrarily and without court warrant. Many remain locked up without charges. The refugees were told they were imprisoned due to leaving refugee camps or working without permits. Among the prisoners are refugees with expired ID cards showing their status. The process of renewal has been suspended for two years. Witnesses report that two Eritrean refugees were killed in the AlemWach refugee camp in Amhara by Fano militia after refusing to hand over their phones and money. Ethiopian refugees in Sudan continue to be stranded between the escalating conflict in Sudan and unfavourable conditions in their home region Tigray that is continuously occupied by foreign Eritrean forces and Amhara forces, reports VOA.

Tigray: HOPR letter argues Tigray should not receive tax revenue from wartime
The Ethiopian House of People’s Representatives states that the Tigray region is ineligible to receive tax revenue that it missed after the start of the Tigray war as it was “not considered part of the federation”. The letter argues tax revenue should only be given starting from the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement. The Ethiopian constitution has no clause for exclusion or readmission of regional states from the federation, observers note. The Tigray Pension Association held a peaceful demonstration in Mekelle calling on the government to pay out their pension allowances, which were stopped as the war in Tigray broke out in November 2020. 

Tigray: Troops continue to occupy Tigray, AU-MVCM not acting, critics say
The AU Monitoring and Verification Team of the Pretoria Cessation of Hostilities (CoH) Agreement has so far failed to oversee the removal of Eritrea and Amhara forces from Tigray, states the Global Society of Tigray Scholars (GSTS). The occupying forces continue human rights abuses and are a threat to the Agreement, states GSTS. The term limit of the AU Monitoring, Verification and Compliance Mechanism (AU-MVCM) has been extended until December 2023. 

Tigray: Tigray war the deadliest in 2022, suffering continues
The war in Tigray was the deadliest conflict in 2022 globally with over 100,000 recorded deaths, which was more than “the wars in Ukraine, Yemen, Myanmar, Nigeria, Somalia, Mali and Burkina Faso combined” show data of the Peace Research Institute Oslo. Conflict-related deaths in 2022 reached a new global highpoint in 28 years. Two journalists travelling to Tigray found little media interest, but recorded stories of people suffering from continued lack of food and medical attention, including harrowing stories of women with lasting injuries from gang rape. In an IDP camp in Abiy Adi, 2000 people have been living with hardly any support for four months. The Eritrean army is still present in Tigray, having reportedly destroyed houses in Zalambessa. 

Tigray: Malnutrition in under 5 children
The number of children who are under 5 dying from acute malnutrition has risen by 28% between March and April, reports the Tigray regional health bureau. This is largely due to the suspension of aid in Tigray. At least 2,850 children have died of acute malnutrition in hospitals since the beginning of the conflict. 

Ethiopia: FANO militia killed and arrested in Amhara 
Over 200 fighters of the Fano militia in Amhara were killed and more were arrested in a battle around the Debre Elias monastery in Amhara, stated the Ethiopian government. The government accused the monks and other members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC) of complicity with Fano. Fano had reportedly built fortifications and underground shelters in Debre Elias. Debre Elias is part of the diocese headed by Abuna Abraha, current secretary and speaker of the Holy Synod. Meanwhile, Fano militia leader Zemene Kase has been acquitted due to insufficient evidence to support the charges. Zemene was arrested on 11 September 2022 on suspicion of involvement in the homicide of a law enforcement officer. 

Ethiopia: Oromia talks will not resume soon
The situation in Oromia is deteriorating as there are no indications talks will resume. The first round of talks failed on three issues: the Oromo Liberation Army’s (OLA) demand to form a transitional government in Oromia; The government’s demand that OLA must demobilise and disarm before peace talks; and the government’s lack of willingness to accept a third party mediator. 

Ethiopia: Budget approved by Ethiopian Council of Ministers
The Ethiopian Council of Ministers approved the budget for the coming fiscal year, which has an increase of only 2 percent since last year. In comparison, the budget from last year had a 40% growth. The country is facing a shortage of 194.6 billion Birr, leading to the (partial) closure of some government institutions, and non-payment of salaries of government officials in some states.

Ethiopia: HRW writes letter to Ethiopian minister of justice 
Human Rights Watch (HRW) wrote a letter to the Ethiopian minister of justice asking what actions, if any, Ethiopia has undertaken to stop abuses and ethnic cleansing in Western Tigray, and whether crimes by Ethiopian forces against Tigrayans in Western Tigray have been investigated and/or held to account. This letter comes after HRW published a report on 1 June documenting ongoing harassment and expulsion of Tirgrayans from Western Tigray. The Ethiopian government denounced the report, calling the investigation “distorted and misleading portrayal” which is not supported by credible evidence. In its statement, the government accused HRW of having a one-sided interest in reporting on the situation in Tigray which hampers peace and reconciliation efforts. 

Ethiopia: EHRC reports increasing cases of forced disappearances in Ethiopia
Cases of forced disappearance and arbitrary and incommunicado detention are increasing in several parts of Ethiopia, said the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC). Most of the cases are recorded in Addis Ababa, and Oromia and Amhara regions. Persons are often arrested from their homes or in the street. They are taken by the security personnel in governmental uniforms to undisclosed locations without any court order. EHRC called on the Ethiopian government to take immediate measures and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. 

Eritrea/Russia: Interview with President Isaias on bilateral relations with Russia
Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki says that Eritrea will cooperate with Russia to establish a new multipolar world order, in an interview with Sputnik Africa. He stated that “now we are entering a new phase, a new global order”. Isaias returned from his first official visit to Russia on 4 June. 

North Africa

Libya: Egyptian migrants and refugees deported
Eastern Libyan forces deported back to Egypt thousands of Egyptian migrants and refugees “illegally” present in Libya. Those without documentation amount to half of the 4000 migrants and refugees rounded up by the Libyan forces during what they called raids on people traffickers, said Egyptian and Libyan security sources. After being taken to the Libya-Egypt border, the migrants and refugees continued on foot across the border. This comes amidst tensions between General Haftar and Egyptian President El-Sisi over Hafter’s support to RSF.

Tunisia/Italy: Tunisia and Italy hold talks about migration
Tunisian President Kais Saied and Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni held talks about the increased numbers of migrants and refugees arriving in Italy from Tunisia. The meeting, which took place in Tunis on 6 June, was also focused on addressing energy and financial issues in Tunisia. Meloni’s aim is to help Tunisia secure an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan, as the country is facing a financial crisis that could push more people to cross the Mediterranean Sea and reach Europe, reports Reuters. Meloni also wants to push other EU member states to  “support for Tunisia in its fight against human trafficking and illegal migration”, reports The New Arab. The European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen will visit Tunisia this weekend, together with Meloni and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. 

Tunisia: Nine bodies recovered and 29 people rescued
Nine bodies of Sub-Saharan African refugees and migrants were recovered by the Tunisian coast guard after their boat sank on the Mediterranean Sea. 29 people were rescued. The search for other persons is still underway. 


EU: Home Affairs ministers reach agreement on stricter asylum rules
The 27 EU member states have agreed on an initial plan to reform the European Union’s asylum rules, after a meeting of the Home Affairs ministers on Thursday. The plan includes new and tougher border procedures, including preliminary checking and immediate return for asylum seekers deemed to have no chance of asylum. Countries can also stop processing people when they reach a set limit. These rules do not exempt families with children. Asylum applications will have to be processed within six months. Countries unwilling to accept a set quota of asylum seekers will have to pay € 20,000 per refugee or migrant to a fund set out for protection managed by the EU. Poland earlier referred to the payment as a fine, and called it unacceptable. There has been no definitive progress on the issue of return or expanding the list of “safe” return countries, but countries are given more space on returns. Poland and Hungary voted against the deal, which was reached on majority basis. Bulgaria, Malta, Lithuania and Slovakia abstained.

UK: Refugees and migrants will be housed in barges
Sunak announced that alternative sites, such as military facilities and barges, are going to host migrants and refugees, in an effort to move them out of hotels. As for the barges, the PM said that one barge would arrive in Portland in the soon, while other two others had just been purchased to house another thousand people. This is meant to “relieve pressure on local communities”, with whom the government will engage extensively before deciding where to locate the two new ships, reports The Telegraph. Critics doubt the standards of the living conditions in the vessels, while the parliamentary opposition claims these measures are a way to conceal from the government’s failure in working off asylum applications, as reported by The Guardian. The UK plan to stop the arrivals of small boats “is starting to work”, UK Prime minister Rishi Sunak announced during a press conference in Dover, on 5 June. The PM reported that the number of crossings between January and May 2023 decreased 20% compared to the same period in 2022.

Italy: German rescue vessels detained under Italian rules on rescue operations
The German sea rescue vessels Sea-Eye 4 and Mare*Go are being detained for 20 days each, said the Italian Coast Guard. Sea-Eye 4 carried out a first rescue operation of 17 people and then a second one of 32 people before heading to Ortona, the port assigned by the Italian authorities. This double rescue is against a new Italian law which forbids sea rescue vessels from carrying out more than one rescue operation in a row before landing at the port assigned by the Italian authorities, reports InfoMigrants. The German rescue ship Mare*Go, after rescuing 36 migrants and refugees, decided to disembark at a closer port than the one assigned by Italian authorities, also breaking the new disembarkation rules, reports DW. The decision was taken by the rescue ship because it was not “equipped to treat the rescued people on the move for that period of time”, tweeted the NGO. The ship had to travel for 32 hours to reach the port initially assigned by the Italian authorities.

Italy/Frontex: Italy lied and Frontex helped in the cover up, investigation says
The European border agency Frontex and Italy are allegedly involved in a cover-up of key information relating to the Cutro shipwreck of February 2023, which caused the deaths of at least 94 people. The allegation comes from the collaborative journalism team Lighthouse Reports, which carried out an investigation on the issue. According to the report, both Italian authorities and Frontex were informed of the distress state of the boat as soon as it was identified, six hours before the wreck, but intentionally did not intervene. Lighthouse Reports obtained leaked confidential Frontex mission reports, according to which Frontex also knew that it was a “possible migrant vessel”. After the tragedy, the two parties allegedly  covered up the information they had, says Lighthouse reports.

Italy: 1500 migrants and refugees rescued in two days
The Italian coast guard announced that four separate rescue operations, carried out in two days, led to the rescue of almost 1500 migrants and refugees. The four groups were travelling on overcrowded boats, including one sailboat, and were intercepted in the Ionian Sea off the coast of Calabria. The NGO Alarm Phone notified Italian authorities about the presence of the fourth boat in distress and Frontex supported the rescue operations with its vessels. More arrivals are taking place in Italian southern region of Calabria, with a peak recorded over the beginning of the week in the coastal cities of Roccella Ionica and Crotone, says InfoMigrants, reportedly driven by improved weather conditions.

Greece/Turkey: Greek authorities rescue 91 migrants and refugees
Greek authorities, after being notified by NGOs, rescued 91 migrants and refugees from an islet on Evros River. The group, which included 34 children, spent two days on the Turkish side of the islet and then moved to the Greek side on 4 June. By doing so, they enabled the authorities to carry out the rescue, stated the Greek prime minister’s office. The group was transferred to a processing center near the Turkish border. The Greek government called on the Turkish government to cooperate in preventing illegal crossings. 

UN: Head of IOM talks with Microsoft for migration management
The incoming Director-General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Amy Pope announced that she is approaching the private sector to start partnerships in migration management. All but two IOM heads have been American. Pushed by the need of releasing the pressure from the “overwhelmed” asylum systems of the West, she is talking to private companies like Microsoft in order to develop projects in Africa. Such projects represent one of the alternatives for economic migrants who would otherwise decide to apply for asylum somewhere else, said Pope in an interview with Reuters. Among her priorities as IOM chief, she wants to find “climate sustainable solutions” for migration, she said, but she does not agree with granting refugee status to people fleeing climate change consequences.

North Macedonia: 10 arrested for people smuggling 
Police raided 11 locations in North Macedonia and arrested 10 men suspected of being members of an international network of people smuggling. The group conducted its alleged activities along routes that connected Greece, Hungary, Bulgaria and Serbia to various locations in the EU and charged each migrant and refugee between 2,000 and 4,000 euros. Investigators also identified seven other alleged members of the group. They were all sentenced to a minimum of 5 years in prison for people smuggling offences.

France/Algeria: The right opposes the French migration agreement with Algeria
The Republicans in the French Assembly tabled a motion for a resolution to denounce the Franco-Algerian agreement on immigration, states AfricaNews. The agreement, dated December 1968, grants Algerian nationals a special status in terms of movement, residence and employment in France, compared to other countries’ nationals. The motion for a resolution states, “these derogations form what could almost be described as an automatic right to immigration” and that the benefits granted to Algerians are not reasonable. The resolution also criticises the Algerian counterpart for the lack of “willingness to cooperate effectively” with France. Senate President LR Gérard Larcher advocated for a re-examination of the agreement.

Cyprus: Media campaign to ‘deter migration’
Cyprus has launched a social media campaign aiming to reduce migration by highlighting its high rejection rates and a five-year ban on entering the EU when asylum is rejected. The campaign will be aimed at Sub-Saharan Africa.