News Highlights: Fighting in Amhara escalates, ‘Fourth Front’ Eritrean action in the Netherlands announced, Libyan coastguard rams boat

In this week’s News Highlights: Fighting escalating in Amhara region; Concerns over reports of Eritrean attacks and troops in Tigray; No motion for extension of ICHREE mandate; Chief of WHO was investigated by Federal Government of Ethiopia; At least 18 drought-related deaths in Amhara; Western Tigray banks administered from Amhara; Tigray Interim Administration accuses AU of absence in CoH implementation; New report on the operational status of healthcare facilities in Tigray; Detailed report of UAE’s secret support to RSF; Ethiopian embassy in Khartoum targeted; Humanitarian situation in Sudan worsened by underfunding; Two Eritreans killed in Israel by pro-government Eritreans; US imposes further sanctions on Sudan; EU to start funding again in Ethiopia after aid was previously suspended, despite Amhara escalation; Sea-Watch video shows Libyan coastguard collide into migrant boat; 271 refugees and migrants rescued off coast of Libya; “Fourth Front” announces a ‘revenge demonstration’ in the Netherlands; Poland and Hungary threaten veto as EU reaches an agreement on Crisis Regulation; Migration large part of the European Political Community Summit; EU criticised for lack of human rights in migration policy; and EU and Tunisia clash over funding on controversial EU-Tunisia Deal.

Greater Horn of Africa

Ethiopia/Amhara: Fighting escalating in Amhara region
Sources report that fighting is seriously escalating in the Amhara region of Ethiopia. PM Abiy announced a new offensive, closing off all roads to Amhara. The Fano militia are attacking in what some observers suspect is a tactic to overstretch the capabilities of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF). Sources also report that civilians are being killed through indiscriminate drone attacks, heavy artillery, and hunger. Unconfirmed reports state that weapons and ammunition was received by Fano via Western Tigray, and that Eritrean Defense Forces consultants were seen. The ENDF have posted mechanised divisions at the Eritrean border to prevent entry of weapons into Amhara from that side. The ENDF have also moved prisoners and fuel storages. Media reports on the situation remains scarce. The ENDF commander from Gondar was reportedly recalled to Addis and accused of failure. 

Ethiopia/Eritrea: Concerns over reports of Eritrean attacks and troops in Tigray
Eritrean forces have shelled Rama in Tigray, located 7 km from the border with Eritrea, unconfirmed reports state. Eritrean forces are also reported to have taken the towns of Gursenay and Zalambessa. Tigrayan troops have raised the alarm levels in response. Movement of Eritrean troops has been reported in the Afar region of Ethiopia. Eritrea has started to transfer trained Fano troops and ammunition through eastern Sudan to West Gondar in the Amhara region in Ethiopia, sources state. This may be related to improved relations between Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) commander Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki. Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed recently stated in a training meeting of 2000 Prosperity Party members that he will annex Eritrea and control the Red Sea, and has finalised preparations to do so. Observers note that this may be rhetoric serving to distract from the war in Amhara. The Oromo special forces may be drawn more openly into the conflict in Amhara, observers fear. This could lead to the conflict between the Federal Government of Ethiopia and Fano escalating into an Oromo-Amhara conflict, with possible mass violence. 

Ethiopia: No motion for extension of ICHREE mandate
No motion on the extension of the mandate of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) has been filed to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). The deadline for submitting motions was set for 4 October. There is “strong evidence of the presence of multiple risk factors for further atrocity crimes in Ethiopia”, said ICHREE in its latest report to the HRC on Tuesday. ICHREE found the presence of all common risk factors as identified in the United Nations Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes. Despite many calls from the international community, the EU and member states have diverted from their commitment to support the investigation of crimes committed in Ethiopia “by failing to renew the expert commission”, said Tirana Hassan, director of Human Rights Watch. The official mandate of the ICHREE is due to expire on 13 October 2023.

Ethiopia: Chief of WHO was investigated by Federal Government of Ethiopia
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, chief of the World Health Organisation (WHO), was investigated by the Federal Government of Ethiopia in 2021, according to a report by Bloomberg. The file with documents from the investigation, seen by Bloomberg, was reportedly referred to the Ethiopian police and attorney general, however, no charges are known to have been filed. The investigation appeared to be a targeted campaign based on his Tigray ethnicity, said Tedros, who had been known to openly speak against the Federal government obstructing humanitarian aid distribution in Tigray during the two-year war. 

Ethiopia: At least 18 drought-related deaths in Amhara 
Drought-related hunger caused the deaths of at least 18 people in the Wag Hemra zone and 16 people died in the North Gondar zone in the Amhara region, say administrators of the zones. Herders lost about 10,000 cattle across the two zones. Zonal and district authorities raised the alarm for urgent food assistance to affected areas before the outbreak of an even more serious emergency. 

Tigray: Western Tigray banks administered from Amhara
The bank of Abyssinia decided to administer the bank branches in Western Tigray zones through the Bahir Dar District of the Amhara region. Global Society of Tigray Scholars & Professionals raised concerns that by doing this, the Bank of Abyssinia undermines Ethiopian constitution, goes against the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and fuels the already tense ethnic polarisation in Ethiopia. 

Tigray: Tigray Interim Administration accuses AU of absence in CoH implementation
The African Union high level panel of the peace process in Ethiopia has stopped being active on the implementation of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, states Amanuel Aseffa, chief cabinet secretary of the Tigray Interim Administration. “Many terms remain unfulfilled as dialogue with the federal government did not commence”, states Aseffa. Days of mourning are organised in Tigray as more lists of soldiers killed in the Tigray war have been made public. Symbolic burials are taking place, with many bodies still missing. Meanwhile, the Tigray Interim Administration and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) issued a joint statement promising to tackle corruption in the region, enhance accountability and reform both the interim administration and the TPLF. 

Tigray: New report on the operational status of healthcare facilities
A new report by the WHO states that 86% of health care facilities across the Tigray region sustained damage during the 2 year war period as a direct result of attacks or looting. 27% of the medical equipment was fully damaged while 72% incurred partial damage. 92% of the facilities are currently only partially functioning due to the lack of medical supplies, equipment and financial resources, says the report. 

Sudan/UAE: Detailed report of UAE’s secret support to RSF
The United Arab Emirates is accused of supporting the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) from a covert operation using an airfield and a hospital in a remote town in Chad near the border with Sudan, states the New York Times. Cargo planes from the UAE have been landing in Amdjarass in Chad on a near-daily basis, supplying weapons and treating injured fighters, according to current and former officials from the United States, Europe and several African countries. The operation is disguised as an aid operation. From Amdjarass, the weapons are transported overland for 150 miles to Zurug in Sudan, which is the main RSF base. The movement of UAE planes began in June after President of Chad Mahamat Idriss Déby met with Emirati leader, Sheikh Mohammed. Mohammed gave Chad a USD 1.5 billion loan and military vehicles. 

Sudan: Ethiopian embassy in Khartoum targeted
The Ethiopian embassy in Khartoum was shelled on Tuesday. Both warring parties, Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), have been accusing the opposing side. The embassy building was damaged but no deaths or injuries were reported. Due to recurring attacks on the embassy, the Ethiopian government is preparing an evacuation plan for the staff members. Heavy fighting was reported from Khartoum over the weekend (30 September and 1 October). Shelling in Khartoum on Saturday came within less than 200 metres from the Bashair training hospital, killing at least one person. Meanwhile, relatives have been receiving ransom demands for abductees in Sudan from the RSF; kidnappers are demanding large sums of money. 

Sudan: Humanitarian situation worsened by underfunding
Lack of safety, interference by the warring sides and severe underfunding precludes the UN from delivering operations for 18 million people in need in Sudan, states the UN. Meanwhile, the Sudanese Ministry of Health is not addressing the urgent situation regarding spread of dengue fever and malaria diseases, according to the director of El Salam Diabetes Centre in El Fasher. Diseases have been rapidly increasing across all states in Sudan. Destruction of infrastructure complicates the delivery of humanitarian assistance and medical supplies for patients’ treatment. 

Eritrea/Israel: Two Eritreans killed in Israel by pro-government Eritreans
An Eritrean man was killed in Netanya, Israel, on Saturday. Eight others were injured, including one in serious condition. It is reported that the attackers were supporters of the Eritrean regime, while those they attacked (including the person who was killed) were opponents of the regime. Israeli police arrested ten people who were armed with clubs and stones in preparation to attack more opponents of the government. Another Eritrean was killed in Tel Aviv last week, and two Eritreans were hospitalised last Friday in separate but similar incidents. A video from Denver, US, appeared to show a supporter of the Eritrean regime drawing a gun on protesters demonstrating against an Eritrean festival. Pictures appear to show others affiliated with the festival carrying guns. Sources state that young Eritrean regime supporters are invited to travel to Eritrea for 3-6 months for military training. 

Sudan: US imposes further sanctions
The US imposed further sanctions on Islamists and former regime officials in relation to their role in undermining Sudan’s democratic transition. This includes sanctions against Ali Karti, Secretary General of the Sudanese Islamic Movement. SAF commander al-Burhan denied allegations that he met with Ali Karti recently. Meanwhile, the United States, Britain, Norway and Germany are planning to submit a motion to the UN Human Rights Council to set up an investigation into atrocities committed in Sudan.

EU/Ethiopia: EU to start funding again in Ethiopia after aid was previously suspended
The EU pledged €650 million in assistance to Ethiopia despite escalations in Amhara, after aid was suspended since late 2020 due to war in Tigray. The new Multiannual Indicative Programme (MIP) will focus on three thematic areas namely, the Green Deal, human development and governance, and peacebuilding. Jutta Urpilainen, the EU Commissioner for International Partnerships, announced the EU’s MIP during her meeting with Ethiopia Minister of Finance, Ahmed Shide, on Tuesday in Addis Ababa. Meanwhile, the US appointed a new ambassador to Ethiopia. Ervin Massinga presented his credentials to Ethiopian president Sahle-Work Zewde on Tuesday. 

North Africa

Libya: Sea-Watch video shows Libyan coastguard collide into migrant boat
Sea-Watch International, an NGO and rescue organisation, has condemned the EU’s migration policy of aiding the Libyan coastguard after releasing a video of the Libyan coastguard attacking a refugee boat carrying approximately 50 people. The video, which was taken by the NGO’s aircraft Seabird, shows the coast guard ramming into the refugee boat and the people on board falling into the water. The video shows the migrants swim towards a bigger Libyan patrol ship that later throws life vests into the water. The coastguard reportedly took the refugees back to Libya. Under the post by the NGO on X, Sea-Watch calls this altercation an “attempted murder” and said that it was unclear whether or not there were any casualties. Sea-Watch stated that it is due to the continued support that the EU has provided to the Libyan coastguard, which is “empowering” them to reduce the number of people reaching Europe, as well as the stricter regulations on independent NGO rescue vessels that is causing such human rights violations. 

Libya: 271 refugees and migrants rescued off coast of Libya
In the past week, between 24 September and 2 October, 271 people were rescued off the coast of Libya, reports the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). During the operation, 4 bodies were also reportedly found. Since the beginning of the year, 11,736 refugees and migrants have been rescued and returned to Libya. At least 1,168 people are still missing near Libya on the Central Mediterranean route. 


Eritrea/Netherlands: “Fourth Front” announces a ‘revenge demonstration’ in the Netherlands 
A pro-Eritrean government group referring to the ‘Fourth Front’ or 4G has announced a demonstration with military character in the Netherlands (The Hague) on 16 October to “take revenge and be compensated for our disrupted festivals.” Eritrean refugees warn of the military character of the action and call on authorities to stop it. The pro-Eritrean government invitation states “If EPLF Mendelay (Eri-Mekhete heroes) attacks and paralyses the waslata-TPLF, they will be useless”. The term Waslata-TPLF translates to TPLF-liars; equating pro-democracy Eritreans to Tigrayans, and at the same time condemning Tigrayans as liars. Additionally, the post calls the pro-government Eritrean side ‘Mendelay’ which means “a poisonous snake”; a term of pride used for the Eritrean army. This causes concern for the diaspora as they state this demonstration refers to a military action, opening the fourth front of the Eritrean government party, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), in the Netherlands. The fourth front was referred to by the Eritrean Ministry of Information as the “pride of the country”. 

EU: Poland and Hungary threaten veto as EU reaches an agreement on Crisis Regulation
After the EU reached an agreement on the compromise text of the Crisis Regulation on Wednesday, Poland and Hungary are threatening to veto the proposal at the EU summit in Grenada, Spain, reports France24. On Wednesday (4 October), the Spanish presidency of the EU Council tweeted on X that “EU Ambassadors have reached an agreement on the regulation addressing situations of crisis and force majeure in the field of migration and asylum”. The Crisis Regulation agreement would be applied in “exceptional times when the bloc’s asylum system is threatened by sudden and massive arrival of migrants”, states Euronews. It would allow member states to implement harsher measures, which includes allowing an increase in the period of detention from 12 to 20 weeks and delaying the registration of asylum seekers. Hungary and Poland reportedly voted against the text, while Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia abstained. Many NGOs, including Amnesty International, have criticised that these new regulations will threaten the human rights of asylum seekers and increase the risk of more forced returns. Amnesty International called for the rejection of this proposal as it would cause “severe concerns for human rights and the right to asylum in Europe”. Germany has also voiced concerns about the rights of children and family members as well as the harsher restrictions on humanitarian aids. 

EU: Migration large part of te European Political Community Summit
The 27 member states met in Grenada, Spain, at the third European Political Community (EPC) Summit on Thursday (05 October) to discuss primarily multilateralism, climate and digital challenges, however migration became an important part of the discussion. On the sidelines of the summit, several parties including Albania, Britain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and the European Commission chief met to discuss migration as it was not on the agenda for the EPC. An eight-point document was proposed, which they will work on together in the next months to finalise during the next EPC summit. At the summit, Poland and Hungary stated that Germany and the European Commission were imposing a migration “diktat” on the EU by overhauling the rules on asylum seekers and irregular migrants. Poland and Hungary are opposed to the obligation that they would have to take in a share of migrants or pay other member states who do. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki stated “The plan is to admit illegal immigrants to countries that don’t want to accept them and to impose draconian penalties… Poland strongly rejects this” while Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said “There’s no chance of having any kind of compromise and agreement on migration. Politically, it’s impossible… because legally we were — how to say it — we were raped”, reports France24

EU/Save the Children: EU criticised for lack of human rights in migration policy
Save the Children stated that the EU is not prioritising human rights in their actions on migration. Federica Toscano, the Save the Children Europe advisor, spoke with Euractiv on the 10th year anniversary of a shipwreck off the coast of Lampedusa that claimed 368 lives, with only 155 surviving. Toscano stated that the EU is still failing at saving lives of people crossing the Mediterranean through its tighter regulations and restrictions for NGOs to carry out search and rescue operations. According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), at least 11,600 children have arrived in Italy from the Central Mediterranean route without parents or legal guardians between January and September, states Euractiv. The UNICEF Regional Director for Eurpe and Central Asia and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Response in Europe, Regina De Dominicis, stated “The Mediterranean Sea has become a cemetery for children and their futures. The devastating toll on children seeking asylum and safety in Europe is a result of policy choices and a broken migration system”. UNICEF is asking for the provision of safer legal pathways for people who seek asylum. 

EU/Tunisia: EU and Tunisia clash over funding on controversial EU-Tunisia Deal
Earlier this week, Tunisian President Kais Saied rejected the agreed upon 127 million euros that the EU was to fund Tunisia in the context of the EU-Tunisia deal on migration. According to the European Council of Refugees on Exiles, president Saied said “Tunisia rejects what the EU announced, not because of the small amount … but because the proposal conflicts with the memorandum of understanding signed in July”. In response to this, the EU neighbourhood commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said that Tunisia “is free to cancel its formal disbursement request and wire back the money to the EU budget” as the EU had already reportedly transferred 60 million euros to Tunisia.