News Highlights: Fano attacks continue in Amhara, Swedish oil executives charged with war crimes in Sudan, Gabon suspended from AU

In this week’s News Highlights: Burhan travels to Egypt; Conflict situation in Sudan; 110 NGOs call the UNHRC to set up independent investigation mechanism; Hand grenade and brutal attack in Mekelle; Sexual violence in Tigray continued after November 2022; Ayder hospital at a breaking point; Amhara conflict continues; Giessen location refuses festivals, as Switzerland investigates Eritrean spies; The number of refugees continues to rise in the Horn; Migrants stranded in Niger following coup; Weber visits Tunisian President Saied expecting results; Lundin trials on alleged war crimes in Sudan by oil company executives to start; Mattarella urges for more legal migration options and increase “entry quota”; Belgium’s new law for single male refugees; Ship rescues 438 migrants; Wildfires in Greece fueling prejudice against migrants; Gabon suspended following coup. 

Greater Horn of Africa
Sudan: Burhan travels to Egypt

Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, head of  the Sudan Armed Forces, arrived in El-Alamein city in Egypt for a one-day meeting with Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Tuesday. This comes after Burhan was able to leave the army’s General Command for the first time since the conflict started.  This trip marked the first foreign visit of Al-Burhan since the beginning of the conflict in Sudan. Burhan is also expected to travel to Jeddah. Meanwhile, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) published a statement outlining their vision to end the fighting and expressed willingness to enter into a ceasefire. However, observers doubt the authenticity of the statement, or speculate it may be a political ploy aimed at foreign mediators. 

Sudan: Conflict situation

Shelling in Nyala, South Darfur, has intensified on Tuesday, reportedly killing at least 39 civilians. Victims, mostly women and children, were hit by shelling of their homes. The arms market is thriving in the eastern part of Sudan near the borders with Ethiopia and Eritrea with demand being high since the beginning of the conflict in Sudan. Arms shipments are received by dealers every two weeks. Sudan is facing a “humanitarian emergency of epic proportions,” warns UN Relief Chief Martin Griffiths, as the spreading conflict depletes supplies and threatens agricultural lands. Dire situations are reported from eastern Sudan’s displacement camps and Chadian refugee camps, due to flooding and lack of food.  Additionally, a hacker group, Anonymous Sudan, carried out a cyber attack on X, formerly known as Twitter, calling on Elon Musk to open Starlink satellite connectivity services in Sudan. 

Sudan: 110 NGOs call the UNHRC to set up independent investigation mechanism

At least 110 NGO’s, led by DefendDefenders, have called the UN Human Rights Council to form an independent investigative mechanism on Sudan. An initial call was made after the fighting broke out in April 2023, but no investigation was established. This mechanism would need to aim to “investigate human rights violations and abuses in Sudan, collect and preserve evidence, and identify those responsible”. Additionally, they emphasise that a gender focus should be included. 

Tigray: Hand grenade and brutal attack in Mekelle

A hand grenade explosion reportedly killed four people in Mekelle on Thursday night, 24 August. People were celebrating the Ashenda festival at the time. The hand grenade was thrown as a cover-up for a kidnapping and murder attempt on two women, reports state. One woman survived and is in the hospital, while the other was run over by a vehicle several times and died. Perpetrators are reported to be veterans of the Tigray Defense Forces using government vehicles. The motive was identified by police as a “personal feud”. 

Tigray: Sexual violence in Tigray continued after November 2022

Widespread and brutal acts of conflict-related sexual violence have been perpetrated by military actors in Tigray and they have not stopped since the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities (CoH) Agreement, a report by Physicians for Human Rights found. The majority of sexual violence cases were perpetrated by multiple people, and the majority of perpetrators identified by survivors were Eritrean forces. 128 out of the 305 reviewed records were from instances of conflict-related sexual violence that occurred after November 2022, when the CoH Agreement was signed. The Women’s Association of Tigray also stated that the crimes and violence against women continue even since the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement was signed in November 2022. 

Tigray: Ayder hospital at a breaking point

Ayder Hospital in Mekelle is at a breaking point, as exhausted staff is leaving and medical equipment, including the region’s only MRI machine, remain out of order. Kibrom Gebreselassie Desta, Chief Executive Director of Ayder, calls on the international community to provide medical supplies and equipment, donate money to pay staff, send professionals to help rebuild the hospital and press the Ethiopian government to allow for more aid and rebuilding of Tigray.  

Ethiopia: Amhara conflict continues

Fano militia in Amhara have taken up the strategy of opening new fronts through ambushes and attacks on the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF). This is preventing the ENDF from securing and maintaining positions, analysts say. The tactics are forcing ENDF to move around troops to assist other units under pressure, which allows Fano to retake cities such as Debre Berhan. Arega Kebede was appointed as new president of the Amhara region after Yilikal Kefale resigned during an emergency meeting of the regional council on Friday 25 August. Amhara authorities are divided on whether to negotiate with Fano or pursue military action. The UN human rights office stated that at least 183 civilians have been killed in Amhara.

Eritrea: Giessen location refuses festivals, as Switzerland investigates Eritrean spies

Messe Giessen in Germany has decided to no longer rent out its location for the Eritrea-festival in the coming year. It is preparing for possible legal action by the organisers. A recent article by the Eritrean Ministry for Information dismissing the pushback against the festivals as ‘hypocrisy’ shows that the Eritrean authorities are growing increasingly concerned over the protests. Meanwhile, infiltration by spies from Eritrea in interpretation services in Switzerland leads to pressure on Eritrean refugees, targeting of family members, and omission of information from official asylum interviews. A refugee now living in Switzerland confirmed that he worked in Eritrea for six years, training around 1500 agents for the purpose of spreading the propaganda of the Eritrean regime, he stated in an interview with the Aargauer Zeitung. The agents sent by Eritrean spy on, threaten refugees abroad, and extort money from them. The State Secretariat for Migration in Switzerland stated it wants to investigate it as soon as possible. Adem Osman, Chargé d’affaires of the Embassy and Permanent Mission of Eritrea in Geneva, Switzerland is reported to have defected and asked for asylum in an unknown country.

Sudan/Eritrea/Ethiopia: The number of refugees continues to rise in the Horn

At least 1,072,804 refugees crossed the Sudan border to neighbouring countries and 3,801,754 individuals are displaced internally in Sudan, based on the latest update of the Displacement Tracking Matrix of IOM. In other news, many refugees fleeing the Tigray war through the Red Sea corridor have recounted being shot at by Saudi Arabian border guards in Yemen, following reports of thousands of deaths at the border. This  included the targeting of refugees, both adult and children with heavy weapons and tactics to maximise casualties. The victims are buried in improvised mass graves, while their family at home has no information. Meanwhile, refugees fleeing from Sudan to Libya have been mass-rounded up and detained by Haftar’s forces where hundreds are reportedly sent to the border area of Sabha while hundreds more are detained. Finally, Eritrean refugees in Sudan are stuck “in limbo” as it is no longer safe in Sudan but they cannot return to Eritrea.

North Africa
EU/Niger: Migrants stranded in Niger following coup

An estimated 7,000 people on the move have been stranded in Niger since the end of July when the elected president, Mohamad Bazoum, was overthrown, reports Euronews. As Niger is part of a route to Libya, many refugees and migrants have been stuck in Niger with uncertainty as to when they will be allowed to leave. Additionally to people being restricted to Niger, aid groups have been unable to reach camps and have therefore not been able to distribute food and medical supplies. As Niger was, prior to the coup, very active in trying to curb migration in collaboration with the EU, the EU is going to “monitor and evaluate the situation” to see how this collaboration will be affected by the recent events. 

EU/Tunisia: Weber visits Tunisian President Saied expecting results 

Manfred Weber, the European People’s Party (EPP) chief, has demanded that the Tunisian President, Kais Saied, to “deliver” on the migration deal during a two-day-visit to Tunisia, reports EurActiv and Politico. The EPP reportedly urged the President to further their economic reforms which would encourage more European investors to partner with Tunisia. Weber has stressed to the EU that a different approach should be adopted to migration where more partnerships should be made and maintained with the South Mediterranean region. According to Politico, Human rights watchdogs have said that the agreement with President Saied will mean that more refugees and migrants will experience racist treatment and xenophobia and be relocated with little resources, stating that the president will not abide by human rights. 

Sweden: Lundin oil executives to be tried in relation to alleged war crimes

The Lundin war crimes trial is set to kick off in Sweden on 5 September. The case alleges that Ludin Oil’s former Chief Executive Ian Lundin and its former vice president, Alex Schneiter, are complicit in committing war crimes in Sudan. The case dates back to between 1999 and 2003, when the oil company paid the Sudanese army and allied militia forces to protect the company’s oil operations. This led to the military and militia leading violent operations that displaced around 200.000 people and killed 12.000 people in southern Sudan. PAX and Global Idé have launched a podcast series that will follow the trial.

Italy: Mattarella urges for more legal migration options and increase “entry quota”

Italian President Sergio Mattarella said on Friday that the European Union (EU) should permit legal migration more so that it discourages “the cruel traffic in human beings”, says Reuters. Prime minister Meloni has partly responded to the President’s advice, indicating it would increase the “entry quota” for non-EU migrant workers to 452,000 in the period of 2023 to 2025. However, some companies and unions have requested that it be increased further to 833,000. Meanwhile, Meloni has met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to discuss migration and the EU Stability and Growth Pact with both countries being at the frontlines of migration from North Africa and Turkey respectively, says EurActiv.  

Belgium: Belgium’s new law for single male refugees

The Belgian government is enforcing that single men should not be offered shelter when in the process of seeking asylum, according to Al Jazeera. This is because it is believed that women, children and families should be prioritised over single men. Belgium already has a history of being unable to provide shelter for all the refugees that seek asylum. 

France: Ship rescues 438 migrants

Ocean Viking, a rescue ship under SOS Mediterranee, rescued 438 migrants on Friday off the coast of Libya and Tunisia .The NGO says that included in the rescue were “32 unaccompanied minors, nine babies and five people with disabilities”. The same boat later rescued another 136 people. The number of people who have died this year is already higher than for the entire period of 2022 with at least 2,013 people having gone missing or having died. On Monday, 56 NGO’s expressed a joint statement that was blaming the Italian government for interfering with NGOs and charities trying to rescue refugees at sea endangering many lives.

Greece: Wildfires in Greece fueling prejudice against migrants

With Greece experiencing a number of wildfires in recent weeks, tensions have risen against migrants. A number of Greek citizens are concerned that due to the wildfires, it will make it easier for migrants to enter the country. Since June, at least 2,300 immigrants have been arrested, reports EurActiv. Additionally, many locals are blaming migrants for starting the fires due to “irregular activities”. This has led 3 Greek citizens to detain 13 migrants whom they suspected of starting fires. Videos and photos circulated showing the 13 migrants put in a trailer. These migrants were acquitted of any blame. An additional 4 immigrants were detained by more local citizens with the same accusation. An investigation is ongoing. According to Amnesty International, at least 19 burnt bodies of suspected migrants are were found after the wildfires. Adriana Tidona, an Amnesty International migration researcher, has said that these 19 people who died were victims of 2 injustices with climate change on the one hand and the “lack of access to safe and legal routes for people on the move” on the other. 

African Union: Gabon suspended following coup

The African Union’s peace and security council decided to immediately suspend Gabon from the African Union following a military coup that overthrew President Ali Bongo. The coup followed allegations that the recent election, in which Ali Bongo came out as the winner, were not legitimate. The army said that General Brice Oligui Nguema will be sworn in as transitional president on Monday.