News Highlights: RSF moves into Al Jazira state, Roundtable on Eritrea, Tunisia sends €60 million back to EU amidst tensions

In this week’s News Highlights: Roundtable on Eritrea; African Union speaks out on Israel-Palestinian conflict; RSF moving into Al Jazira state in Sudan; Number of deaths continues to mount in Sudan; UNHRC adopts resolution to establish independent fact finding mission in Sudan; Sudan education crisis as 19 million children are out of school; Bellingcat investigation geo-locates videos in Sudan; UN Special Adviser warns of heightened risk of genocide in Ethiopia; USAID resumes food aid to refugees in Ethiopia; Tigray Interim Government preparing for defence as ICHREE mandate not extended; Eritrean PFDJ-linked Council announces demonstration in Germany; Ethiopian diaspora calls for cessation of hostilities in Amhara and Oromia; Report looks at Libyan human smuggling dynamics; Tunisia hands back 60 million euros to EU; Tensions are rising between Maghreb countries and the EU; Reform of EU migration policy nears completion; European Commission’s response to Hungary about EU’s migration pact; Med5 group meets in Greece to discuss migration; German draft proposal to facilitate deportations; and German foreign minister addresses misunderstanding over funding to NGOs. 


European Parliament: Roundtable on Eritrea on 25 October
A European Parliament Roundtable on Eritrea hosted by MEP Katrin Langensiepen will take place on 25 October 2023, from 3:15 – 5:15 pm CEST in the European Parliament. The event is public and will be held in a hybrid mode. You are welcome to register through this link. The purpose of the Roundtable is to discuss the current situation in Eritrea and its influence abroad. The aim is to understand the problems that Eritrea presents in the international arena, and the options that Europe has to deal with these.

Greater Horn of Africa

African Union/Israel: African Union speaks out on Israel-Palestinian conflict
The Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, Moussa Faki Mahamat, issued a statement on the conflict that erupted between Israel and Hamas, calling on both parties to negotiate. The Chairperson stated that denial of the rights of the Palestinian people for an independent and sovereign state is the main cause of the Israel-Palestinian tensions. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has offered mediation. African leaders call for a cease-fire, dialogue and the protection of innocent civilians. The outbreak of the Israel war with Hamas will impact the ongoing peace efforts in Sudan, as active parties such as the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are expected to shift their focus. The situation also impacts refugees from Eritrea residing in Israel. Pro-democracy Eritreans in Tel Aviv helped to collect and distribute goods to those evacuated, identifying as N’Hamedu and wearing blue t-shirts to identify themselves.

Sudan: RSF moving into Al Jazira state
On Friday (6 October), Rapid Support Forces (RSF) took over the Al-Ailafoon suburb, which is located 30 km east of Khartoum. Heavy fighting with the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) over the suburb started on Thursday. RSF has displaced thousands of inhabitants and looted their homes in Al-Ailafoon, reports Sudan Tribune. Many Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) were also sheltering in Al-Ailafoon. RSF is expanding their presence in Al Jazira state in Central Sudan by establishing military outposts in Al-Bashaqra, Wad Rawah, and Al-Aidij. The region is very suitable for agriculture and houses many IDPs. Farmers in Al Jazira state have reportedly been threatened by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Authorities have deliberately flooded roads to prevent RSF from moving freely in the region. 

Sudan: Number of deaths continues to mount
On 9 October, at least four people were killed after shelling of the Al Nao hospital, supported by MSF, in Omdurman, Khartoum. Meanwhile, at least 11 people were killed in the Karari neighbourhood of Omdurman by heavy shelling on Thursday (5 October). At least 9,000 people have been killed so far since the conflict in Sudan broke out in April, states the The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED). It mentions that the estimate is conservative. The increasing involvement of other armed groups in Sudan is entrenching the conflict, ACLED warns. The Sudanese Ministry of Health reported that 1,265 people had been killed since the start of the conflict. Médecins Sans Frontières reported that one of their clearly-marked vehicles came under fire between Wad Madani and Khartoum, between RSF and SAF checkpoints. MSF employees escaped injury. Humanitarian aid to Darfur, Kordofan and White Nile states was delayed for the fourth week in a row due to insecurity, reported UN OCHA. Only 22% of NGO requests and 23% of UN requests for visas to Sudan have been processed.

Sudan: UNHRC adopts resolution to establish independent fact finding mission
The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted a resolution establishing an Independent International Fact-Finding Mission for Sudan to investigate the human rights violations committed in the country since the start of war in April. The mission will consist of three members with experience in international human rights law and international humanitarian law. Out of 47 HRC members, the resolution was narrowly adopted by 19 votes in favour, 16 rejections and 12 abstentions. Sudan voted against the resolution. Additionally, the EU adopted a framework of sanctioning people and entities engaging, providing support to, or benefitting from actions threatening the peace, stability or security of Sudan. All the assets and economic belongings of such persons or entities will be frozen

Sudan: Education crisis as 19 million children are out of school
19 million children are out of school in Sudan due to conflict with at least 10,400 schools closed in conflict-affected areas. About 5.5 million children residing in less impacted areas are waiting for the authorities to resume the school year. UNICEF Country Representative in Sudan, Mandeep O’Brien, warned of the education crisis in Sudan becoming one of the most dire worldwide. 

Sudan: Bellingcat investigation geo-locates videos
Bellingcat investigated videos which are rumoured to show Ukrainian special forces operating in Sudan. Bellingcat was able to geo-locate a video to a position close to Omdurman, Sudan, but was not able to confirm the nationality of the armed men in the video.

Ethiopia: UN Special Adviser warns of heightened risk of genocide
There is a “heightened risk of genocide and related atrocity crimes in Ethiopia”, warned Alice Wairimu Nderitu, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide.  She called for immediate cessation of violence, protection of civilians and accountability for perpetrators in Ethiopia. “[I]mpunity constitutes a direct enabler of further human rights violations and potentially atrocity crimes”, said Nderitu in her statement. Ethiopians failed to reconcile their differences through unity instead of resorting to violence, said Ethiopian President, Sahle-Work Zewde, in her speech to the Ethiopian House of People’s Representatives and House of Federation. Zewde urged that it is time to “pause and evaluate” the strategies through which the country tries to address these differences. Differences also exist within the government, as a Prosperity Party meeting, which was held until last Wednesday, ended without a statement. Sources indicate the 10-day meeting was filled with quarrels. Meanwhile, bombings took place in the Amhara capital of Bahir Dar in the last week. Oromia Special Forces are also involved in the fighting in Amhara.

Ethiopia: USAID resumes food aid to refugees
USAID announced it will resume food aid to refugees in Ethiopia after suspending it, pending an investigation on widespread aid diversion four months ago. Aid to Ethiopians remains suspended. The task of  warehousing and distributing food was handed from the Ethiopian government to humanitarian groups, USAID said.  Meanwhile, the situation in Ethiopia is expected to worsen economically, as Ethiopia has a eurobond of $33 million which is due in December, which increases the likelihood that Ethiopia will default as there is no progress with the IMF or G20, Bloomberg states. 

Tigray: Interim Government preparing for defence as ICHREE mandate not extended
The Tigray Interim Government is calling on people to report to military service and to be ready for defence of the regional territory. Meanwhile, three Orthodox bishops in Tigray denounce the non-renewal of the mandate for the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE), warning that the possibility of justice for crimes committed in Tigray are now very limited. The bishops state that people continue to die in Tigray due to lack of medical care and hunger, ongoing presence of Eritrean forces, and continuous targeting of Tigrayans in Amharan-occupied western Tigray.  A letter by the Chair of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) Debretsion Gebremichael of 1 October requested the UN Human Rights Council to extend the ICHREE mandate, but it remained unanswered. 

Eritrea/International: PFDJ-linked Council announces demonstration in Germany
The Central Council of Eritreans in Germany, which Taz calls an extension of the military dictatorship in Eritrea, is organising a march demonstration through Berlin on 20 October. German police confirmed 1,500 registered participants. There are fears of violence erupting during the demonstration. According to its own information, the Central Council is based on four pillars, of which one is the ruling Eritrean party PFDJ and another the youth branch YPFDJ. A Green Party member in Germany, Marcel Emmerich, questions whether the Central Council should be banned or at least have its non-profit status taken away due to the “dubious structures” and the instructions it receives from the dictatorship in Eritrea. A demonstration of similar character has been also announced in the Netherlands for 16 October 2023.

US/Ethiopia: Diaspora calls for cessation of hostilities in Amhara and Oromia
Ethiopian diaspora organisations in the US held a Diaspora Coalition briefing organised by Horn of Africa Community and hosted by the US Special Envoy for Horn of Africa, Mike Hammer in Washington. In a 7 point resolution, the meeting called among others for national dialogue and immediate cessation of hostilities in Amhara and Oromia, distribution of humanitarian aid with focus on Tigray in particular, and sanctions to be imposed on those who have been involved in mass atrocities across Ethiopia. 

North Africa

Libya: Report looks at Libyan human smuggling dynamics
A new series published by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime (Gi-TOC) focuses on the political economy of human smuggling and trafficking in Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Mali, Niger and Chad. The publication on Libya states that 2021 marked the “end of the era of suppressed human smuggling” which had a strong influence in coastal networks in 2017. Libyan authorities started to lose interest in controlling migration. Instead, more “sophisticated” networks took shape which used the opportunities of the return to “more normal levels of mobility” after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and Libya’s stabilisation therein. The report raises a question of whether 2023 brought a “full blown migration crisis”, concluding that hybrid smuggling networks have started to reach out more to exploit new markets due to findings that there is a large number of Pakistani people passing through Libya. Additionally, the report states that an important factor that has the potential for determining the trends of migration and subsequent possible migration crises are the conditions in Libya. 

Tunisia/EU: Tunisia hands back 60 million euros to EU 
Tunisia has handed back the 60 million euros that the EU had already transferred to the Tunisian government as part of the new controversial EU-Tunisia deal. Last week, Tunisian President Kais Saied criticised the commission’s support package, stating that the EU was withholding funds, which raised tensions between the EU and Tunisia. In response the EU neighbourhood commissioner Olivér Várhelyi stated that Tunisia was welcome to return the 60 million euros that the EU had already transferred. Tunisian Foreign Minister Nabil Ammar stated on Wednesday (11 October) that the money had already been officially returned on 9 October. According to Politico, Ammar added “we didn’t start wars and we didn’t plunge humanity into world wars as you did”.

Maghreb/EU: Tensions are rising between Maghreb countries and the EU
Maghreb countries, which include Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, have hardened their stance towards Europe, when they were previously the main partner’s of Europe to curb migration and supply energy, reports Infomigrants. According to a senior fellow from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) Isabelle Werenfels, the three countries have realised that they have bargaining power with the EU which reverses the power asymmetry that previously existed. This is especially becoming volatile relations between Tunisia and the EU due to the recent developments regarding funding for the EU-Tunisia Migration deal. 


EU: Reform of migration policy nears completion
The EU’s New Pact on Migration and Asylum is reaching the last stages of its finalisation, although there continues to be some opposition to the reform. Although the EU member states have agreed, the reform does not become binding until after the legislative procedures are completed. Five main legislative areas of the pact include screening, the Eurodac database, the Asylum Procedures Regulation which covers asylum applications, the Asylum and Migration Management Regulation  which is also referred to as the mandatory solidarity mechanism, and the Crisis Regulation which comes into play during a large number of arrivals. Poland and Hungary have voted against the deal, while Italy approved only after some references to NGO rescue operations were removed. The EU hopes to complete the legislative processes before the next EU elections. 

Hungary/EU: European commission’s response to Hungary about EU’s migration pact
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that Hungary was “legally raped” by the EU members in relation to the migration and asylum pact which was agreed on last week. European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas responded to the statement by saying “before he talks about rape, he should study the European Treaty”, reported VOA News. Shinas stated that any agreements made about migration were based on majority. Schinas added “Personally, I would have preferred unanimity, but you cannot reach an understanding with someone who doesn’t want to”. 

Greece: Med5 group meets in Greece to discuss migration
The Mediterranean 5 group (including Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain) met on Friday and Saturday (6 and 7 October) to discuss migration in Thessaloniki, Greece. The discussions led to a census on the direction that the Med5 feels should be taken by Europe to tackle migration before “more extreme voices” take over, states VOA News. They came to an agreement that there should be a firm take on returning migrants who crossed into the European bloc illegally to their country of origin. The Spanish presidency was complemented by the European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas and Greece’s Migration and Asylum Minister Dimitris Karidis on “doing what is humanly possible” to come to a compromise deal. Additionally, he Med5 requested supplementary funding of 2 billion euros to deal with migration and raised concerns about the conflict between Israel and Palestine which could augment migration to Europe. 

Germany: Draft proposal to facilitate deportations 
Germany has announced that they want to create a system through which migrants can be deported faster. German authorities plan to do this by reducing the notification period and to facilitate searches by officials, said Interior Minister Nancy Faeser. This draft bill was announced on Wednesday and would be particularly targeted towards expelling criminals more quickly. According to Reuters, Faeser said “Anyone who does not have the right to stay in Germany must leave our country”. This new bill would allow people in prison to be deported without notice and for the detention for people who are to be deported to be extended from 10 days to 28 days. Additionally, authorities would be allowed to “search homes for data devices and documents, especially to clarify a person’s identity.”  

Germany: Foreign minister addresses misunderstanding over funding to NGOs 
The German Foreign Ministry stated that Germany will continue donations to NGOs in the Mediterranean Sea carrying out Search and Rescue operations on Saturday (7 October). According to Infomigrants the Foreign Ministry announced this after media reports came out stating that Germany was going to stop funds to NGOs as there was no mention of it on the 2024 draft budget. According to the Foreign Ministry it was a “technical oversight”.