News Highlights: Sudan peace talks resume as RSF takes Nyala, EU pushes for deal with Egypt, Germany and Italy implement border control

In this week’s News Highlights: Peace talks resume between SAF and RSF in Jeddah; RSF takes over Nyala as humanitarian help struggles to reach certain areas; Spread of Cholera and Dengue in Sudan; Preparatory Meeting for Civil Front to Stop the War in Sudan; European Parliament Roundtable on Eritrea statements; Ethiopian and Eritrean military presence at the border increases; Observers concerned over potential outbreak of conflict in Ethiopia and Eritrea; Tigray administration rejects national transitional justice initiative; Many areas in Tigray still inaccessible to aid, services remain blocked; SSC-Khatumo recognised by Somali government; Eritreans protest in Oslo; Risks of more floods in Libya with approach of the rainy season; EU pushing for Egypt-EU deal; European Council meeting includes migration on the agenda; Large numbers of arrivals in Spain spark racist remarks; Italy deal with Tunisia to take in 4,000 migrant workers; Reflections on Meloni’s policies; 254 migrants rescued off the coast of Lampedusa; Temporary border control implemented to curb migration in Germany and Italy; Highest number of refugees and migrants entering Germany irregularly since 2016; and Swedish government to make getting benefits for non-EU migrants harder. 

Greater Horn of Africa

Sudan: Peace talks resume between SAF and RSF in Jeddah
Peace talks between the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) resumed Thursday (26 October) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The talks are co-facilitated by representatives from the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and are led by Kenya. The first stage of the talks will concern the delivery of humanitarian aid and other humanitarian issues, after which ceasefire and finally a political track towards sustainable peace will be discussed, stated Sudanese Lieut. Gen. Shams Aldin Alkabashi on 23 October. In relation to the likelihood for peace, four scenarios for the conflict in Sudan, ranging from ceasefire to collapse, have been outlined by ACAPS. The most likely scenario identified by ACAPS is protracted conflict. The scenario of a ceasefire has the lowest probability. 40 humanitarian, donor, and academic organisations and independent experts contributed to the scenarios, which were composed to support strategic planning around humanitarian needs. 

Sudan: RSF takes over Nyala as humanitarian help struggles to reach certain areas
The RSF claim to have taken over the city of Nyala in South Darfur. RSF state they have overrun the main SAF base in the city. Apparent videos of RSF soldiers celebrating are circulating on social media. Medical staff at the Italian hospital in Nyala were detained and abused by RSF over allegations that they treated SAF soldiers, unconfirmed reports state. Nyala is de second-largest city in Sudan. The capital of Central Darfur, Zalengei, is also under RSF control. Fighting over the capital of North Darfur, El Fasher, continues. At least 1,500 people have been displaced from Zalengei since the renewed fighting started on 19 October. The areas are currently inaccessible to humanitarian actors, reports IOM. Clashes are also reported in North Kordofan. At least two people were killed when RSF attacked Wad Ashana village in the Um Rawaba locality.

Sudan: Spread of Cholera and Dengue 
The spread of cholera in Al-Qadarif state in eastern Sudan is increasing, as well as the rates of malaria and dengue fever, states a spokesperson for the Coalition of Civilian Forces in Eastern Sudan. 600 cases of cholera infections with 30 recorded deaths, and 1,900 cases of dengue fever with 22 deaths have been reported, but the actual cases are likely higher, the spokesperson warns. The diseases are also spreading in Kassala state. Both states’ health systems are at their limit.

Sudan: Preparatory Meeting for Civil Front to Stop the War in Sudan
A preparatory meeting took place in Addis Ababa from 24-27 October for the Civil Front to Stop the War in Sudan. Initially scheduled for 21 October, the proceedings were delayed to allow more participants to arrive. The organisers say participation includes civil society groups, political forces, resistance committees, armed actors, and others, including former Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok. Some of the most prominent participants were Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), the Sudanese Revolutionary Front, the Justice and Equality Movement headed by Suleiman Sandal (JEM-Sandal), and the Republican Party. The preparatory meeting is expected to develop clear structures and set out a common political vision in preparation for an inaugural meeting of the Civil Front in November. The meeting was welcomed by the Troika (Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States). Meanwhile, UN Women together with IGAD and AU organised a peace building initiative in consultation with 400 Sudanese women peacebuilders, calling for immediate ceasefire and reinstatement of peace in Sudan.

Eritrea: European Parliament Roundtable on Eritrea statements 
Human rights violations committed by Eritrea and its ruling regime continue to occur inside the country as well as in regional and international contexts, according to speakers at the European Parliament Roundtable on Eritrea on Wednesday. The Roundtable on Eritrea was hosted by Member of the European Parliament, Katrin Langensiepen, member of Greens/EFA group, with 11 presenters speaking in different capacities. MEP Langensiepen welcomed the timely debate on ongoing human rights concerns with a need to bring the matters to the European agenda. “The continued presence of the Eritrean Defence forces in disputed areas in Ethiopia, as well as the presence of a large contingent of Eritrean Defence Forces alongside the Eritrean – Ethiopian border is of great concern”, said Dr. Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea in his statement. According to Dr Babiker, the Eritrean authorities have “effectively have raided the country, conducting round ups and conscripting thousands of Eritreans into the military.Dr Babiker attributes the clashes in the Eritrean diaspora to the complete lack of civic space in Eritrea. Vulnerable populations, including women, children and elderly, have been at the centre of attacks by Eritrean troops during the two-year war in Tigray. Sexual violence against women committed on a large scale across Tigray has been used as weapon of war, said Kokob Gebru Kidanu of Mekelle University.  EU member states are directly co-financing the programmes in Eritrea which employ people who are subjected to the indefinite national service. A financial agreement to boost coastal and inland fisheries in Eritrea has been co-financed by Germany since 2016, stated Dr Sara Arapiles. The influence of “a long arm of the regime” is active within many countries across Europe, often carried out by the regime supporters within the Eritrean diaspora, speakers stated. “Many of the Eritrean refugees traumatized by the regime’s cruelty and oppression, feel extremely shocked and provoked to see that regime in Eritrea is using Europe as platform to exercise its power”, said Beyene Gerezgiher, spokesperson for the Eritrean Bright Future Movement. 

Ethiopia/Eritrea: Military presence at the border strengthens 
Both Ethiopia and Eritrea have strengthened their troop presence along the Ethiopia/Eritrea border, particularly at the tri-border area of Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti, sources report. Military trucks from Ethiopia are moving in the direction of Adigrat, towards the border. The number of troops are reinforcements, but do not appear to be enough to start a war, observers note. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent a letter to western countries, stating that Eritrea is obstructing the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, continues to occupy parts of Tigray and is arming the Fano militia in Amhara, states Ethiopian media Ethio Forum. A documentary on Ethiopian television reiterated claims that Ethiopia has a historical right to access the Red Sea and that Ethiopia’s coast line is “occupied by three countries.” “Ethiopia will not assert its interests through war”, said Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed yesterday. The statement comes days after he warned that Ethiopia has rightful claims to access the Red Sea, which caused concerns over regional stability. 

Ethiopia/Eritrea: Observers concerned over potential outbreak of conflict
A potential regional spread of the war between Israel and Hamas may distract international powers and allow either Ethiopia or Eritrea to take action against the other, observers warn, although they do not believe that war is imminent. They note several factors in play. The Ethiopian government has credible information of Eritrea’s silent support to the Fano militia in Amhara, with arms and ammunition going through Western Tigray and Sudan, observers state. This makes Ethiopia unable to definitively weaken Fano. The Ethiopian government is under pressure from the Tigray Interim Administration to deliver on the promises in the Cessation of Hostilities (CoH) Agreement in relation to Western Tigray. The economic situation in Ethiopia is adding to the pressure, as the government is running out of hard currency reserves and has major debts due at the end of the year; donors are insisting that the CoH Agreement should be fully implemented before considering further loans and debt rescheduling. The Ethiopian government is also procuring weapons and receiving deliveries from the UAE.  Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki struggles to keep his over 100.000 forces busy and away from the capital of Asmara, as there are signs of internal disagreement over Isaias’s handling of regional politics. Externally, the Eritrean diaspora is also increasingly moving away from supporting the Eritrean government, observers note. 

Tigray: TIA rejects national transitional justice initiative 
The Tigray Interim Administration (TIA) rejected the national transitional justice initiative proposed by the Ethiopian federal government, stating that it is solely led by the government without international or Tigray input. Tigray officials call for the initiative to be redesigned before implementation continues. Deputy head of the TIA,  Tsadkan Gebretinsae, sent a letter to the Ministry of Justice requesting a meeting to discuss the way forward.

Tigray: Many areas still inaccessible to aid, services remain blocked
Some areas in Tigray, including Western Tigray and other remote areas, are still inaccessible to humanitarian aid, says the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). 59% of people interviewed by UNHCR in 12 woredas (of which 58% IDPs) report a lack of food in Tigray. UNHCR warns that food quotas are insufficient and/or not reaching IDPs. 75% say health facilities are destroyed. 72% say schools are closed due to the conflict. Many people continue to live in damaged buildings or in the open. Unexploded ordinances form a threat to security, especially around Adigrat, Zana and Hawzen. 35% of respondents fears rape and/or sexual harassment; in some locations, this fear goes up to 60-70%, including in Endebaguna and Gulo Mekeda. Many visited locations need cash and material support to restart economic activities. Banking services have not been reinstated in Irob, the northeastern part of Tigray, since their disruption during the war. There are several areas in Irob which are still occupied and controlled by Eritrean forces. The Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, Lion International Bank, and Dedebit Microfinance Institution, which have been previously operating in Irob, were not able to resume services. 

Somalia: SSC-Khatumo recognised by Somali government
The government of Somalia recognised the newly formed administration of SSC-Khatumo, which took over the Sool and Sanaag regions (including the city of Laascaanood) in August 2023. The SSC-Khatumo leader, Abdulqadir Firdhiye, spent 10 days in Mogadishu to discuss the situation in the disputed region. The government of Somaliland issued a statement strongly rejecting the formal recognition of SSC-Khatumo’s authority over Laascaanood, and called it a “deliberate attack on Somaliland’s statehood and territorial integrity”. In the meantime, a car bomb operated by a suicide driver exploded at a security post outside of Mogadishu on Saturday, killing six security staff members and injuring at least seven others. The attack was claimed by Al-Shabaab.

Norway/Eritrea: Protests in Oslo 
The Eritrean diaspora in Norway held protests in Oslo on Friday in preparation for a key discussion in the Norwegian parliament this week in relation to attacks on expatriate communities, including Eritreans. The parliament will discuss a plan of action in relation to a report, published in 2022, which provides evidence of repression of foreign governments of diaspora communities in Norway, but which has not been followed up thus far. The protest on Friday urged the Norwegian authorities to take action on the report’s recommendations.

North Africa

Libya: Risks for more floods with approach of the rainy season 
A report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) stated that after the floods in Libya, many people still require humanitarian assistance and that there is a renewed risk with the rainy season approaching. According to the UNDP Libya Resident Representative Christopher Laker, there are risks of flooding and landslides and that there must be intervention to “clear the mountains of rubble, begin vital repairs to water and sanitation infrastructure, and ensure people can earn a living and have access to cash, so that survivors don’t face a second emergency”. Therefore the UNDP has established a SURGE tema which would help the Benghazi Derna Reconstruction Fund. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) stated that it has brought humanitarian aid to 837 people who were affected by the floods in September. 

Egypt/EU: EU pushing for Egypt-EU deal
Ahead of the European Council meeting this week, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen pushed for a deal with Egypt similar to the deal made with Tunisia, as concerns over conflict in the Middle East grow. In a letter to EU leaders, she called for a “strategic and mutually beneficial partnership with Egypt”. She highlighted the role of Egypt in stability in the Middle East, but also the number of refugee it hosts and increasing the speed of migrant returns.


EU: European Council meeting includes migration on the agenda
A European Council meeting took place on 26 and 27 October, with migration on the agenda. EU leaders will follow up from the informal meeting of heads of state in Granada on 6 October, in which a declaration on migration was adopted. This included a focus on increased external action, effective protection of EU external borders, partnerships with countries of origin and transit, addressing root causes of migration and opportunities for legal migration.

Spain: Large numbers of arrivals spark racist remarks
1,325 people have reached the Canary Islands in Spain from the coast of West Africa this weekend (20 – 23 October) with one boat reportedly carrying as many as 321 people, state several sources. According to Reuters, the previous record for the number of arrivals in one boat was 271. According to the Interior Ministry of Spain, 23,537 have reached the Canary Islands from the start of 2023 (1 January to October 15) with at least 8,561 arriving since October 1st. This is a record number of arrivals in a 2 week period since 2006. Due to the high levels of arrivals, Spain plans to move 11,000 migrants to other areas in Spain, says Anadolu Agency. In response to this, the Popular Party councillor Salvador Escudero said “We don’t know what they’ll do. We don’t know if they’ll take your wallet, rob a car, or if they’re going to try something else because they have nothing. If they don’t put a tag on them like they do for animals, I don’t know how much they’ll be able to control these creatures.” On Thursday (26 October), the Spanish Migration Minister, Jose Luis Escriva, lashed back, accusing the Popular Party of “xenophobia” and “political opportunism” and noted that Spain took in 200,000 refugees from Ukraine with no issues. 

Italy: Deal with Tunisia to take in 4,000 migrant workers 
Italy signed a deal last Friday (22 October) to take in 4,000 workers from Tunisia in an attempt to fulfil its promise to help alleviate the pressure of migrants at the borders. Antonio Tajani, Italy’s Foreign Minister, visited Tunisia where he met Tunisian Foreign Minister Nabil Ammar and President Kais Saied. The deal will allow willing “qualified workers” to move to Italy. 

Italy: Reflections on Meloni’s policies
Observers have reflected on the policies of Italian Prime Minister Meloni, following her first year in office. She was the most right-wing politician that took office since 1946, states Euronews. Several different sources have assessed her actions so far. One of the prominent topics was her migration policy, as she had promised at the start of her term to “put an end to illegal departures by finally breaking up human trafficking in the Mediterranean”. According to an expert that was interviewed by Euronews, Maurizio Ambrosini, the policies that she has implemented to try and curb migration have been “struggling to become operational”. 

Italy: 254 migrants rescued off the coast of Lampedusa 
On 22 October, 245 refugees and migrants were rescued off the coast of Lampedusa by border control boats. The boat they were on had left from Zuara (Libya) and was rescued by three patrol boats of the Italian law enforcement agency the Guardia di Finanza as well as a Frontex patrol. In the boat were 10 unaccompanied minors, who were transferred to Catania the same day so that there was more room for other arrivals. According to Al-Jazeera, locals living on Lampedusa feel conflicted with the turn that their lifestyle has taken due to the increase in arrivals. One of the locals said that although he loved fishing, it can be hard because of the constant emotional turmoil of finding migrant boats or bodies in their fishing nets. 

Germany/EU: Temporary border control implemented to curb migration
Some EU countries, including Germany and Italy, have implemented temporary border control measures to attempt to stem irregular migration flows as pressure increases on the Schengen area. Manfred Weber, the leader of EPP, stated that he has “limited faith” in this approach as  he thinks that protecting the EU external borders is how migration will be stopped permanently, according to Euractiv. In the meantime, after “deadly attacks” in France and Belgium, the EU wants to prioritise “voluntary assisted repatriations” of migrants who “are a threat to security”, reports infomigrants. This has led to more pressure on the functionality of the Schengen agreement as countries demand that refugees and migrants who are unregistered are not allowed to move further into the EU’s borders. 

Germany: Highest number of refugees and migrants entering irregularly since 2016
Data from the German police has revealed that 21,366 people have entered Germany irregularly in September 2023 alone. This is the highest amount it has been since February of 2016. From January to September 2023, 92,119 people have crossed the borders irregularly which is “putting the country on track to exceed the 112,000 people that illegally entered in 2016”. The German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stated that there needs to be mass deportations for “those who have no right to stay in Germany” while also making an effort to ease access for asylum seekers, due to a lower German workforce because of age. 

Sweden: Government to make getting benefits for non-EU migrants harder 
The Swedish government wants to institute reforms that will make it harder for immigrants to get social benefits to discourage migration to Sweden. According to Infomigrants, Sweden is going to require immigrants from outside the EU to learn Swedish to be able to live there and to “compete for jobs in the country’s highly-skilled labor market”. Although this has not yet passed, the leaders from the Sweden Democrats (SD) have expressed that they have “significant problems” with unemployed immigrants having benefits.