News Highlights: UK Supreme Court blocks Rwanda deal, African Development Bank staff arrested in Ethiopia, Saudi-Africa Summit concludes

In this week’s news highlights: Spiral of violence in Sudan, warns the UN; Block on surgical supply transport is endangering lives in Sudan; Al-Burhan meetings in Kenya and Ethiopia; Refugees continue to flee Sudan in the tens of thousands; Amhara war continues as observers carefully optimistic about OLA talks; USAID to resume food aid in Ethiopia; Economic situation critical as Ethiopia gets debt-service suspension; African Development Bank decries arrest and physical assault of staff in Addis; Eritrean President makes himself heard in Saudi-Africa Summit; Sudan asks for UNITAMS termination; Rumours of coup attempt in South Sudan; El Niño floods predicted to cause more havoc in Horn; Climate refugees still displaced after flooding in Libya; UK Supreme Court blocks Rwanda deal; Italy-Albania deal falls ‘outside’ EU law, claims Commissioner; Definitive indictment in Eritrean criminal trafficking network case; EU plans new deals with Egypt and Tunisia before the end of year; European Commission proposes plan to reinforce legal migration; EU budget for 2024 agreed; and French asylum-claims workers protest new proposed migration law.

Greater Horn of Africa

Sudan: Spiral of violence in Sudan, warns the UN
The UN warns about the deadly spiral of violence in Sudan as the conflict spreads to new regions, and intensifies in existing conflict areas. The UN Assistant Secretary General for Africa particularly warns that the impending advance of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on El Fasher, the last Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) holdout in Darfur, could have devastating humanitarian consequences. In addition, the Shambat bridge connecting a strategic road between Omdurman and Khartoum has been destroyed after a massive explosion on Saturday. Both warring parties confirmed the collapse of the bridge and accused each other of being responsible for the destruction.Fighting was reported between RSF and SAF over the air military base in Jebel Aulia, south of Khartoum. Access and bureaucratic challenges cause loss of time and resources in delivering vital humanitarian aid in Sudan, said Clementine Nkweta-Salami, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Sudan. Human rights situation is of great concern as abuse and violence are “verging on pure evil”, added  Nkweta-Salami. 

Sudan: Block on surgical supply transport is endangering lives
The supplies for life saving surgeries are quickly running out in Khartoum due to a ban on transporting surgical supplies in areas controlled by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warns. MSF states the ban contravenes international laws of war. The ban was implemented to prevent wounded RSF fighters from getting treatment, but also impacts civilians. MSF fears hundreds in Khartoum will be impacted over the next weeks. Meanwhile, the cholera-outbreak in Sudan continues to worsen as 89 people have died and nearly 3,000 suspected cases of cholera have been reported across seven states, UN OCHA reports.

Sudan: Al-Burhan meets officials in Kenya and Ethiopia
Sudanese Sovereign Council Chairman General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan met with Ethiopian Prime Minister  Abiy Ahmed and African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki in Ethiopia yesterday. Al-Burhan briefed the leaders on the situation and emphasised the Sudanese willingness to cooperate with all initiatives to find solutions to the crisis, a Sovereign Council statement stated. Kenyan President William Ruto met with al-Burhan on Monday. They have agreed to work towards a framework for an all-inclusive dialogue in Sudan, which includes a summit of IGAD leaders to address the situation.

Sudan: Refugees continue to flee in the tens of thousands
85,800 refugees fleeing Sudan’s conflict sought refuge in the neighbouring countries over the past month, according to a UN report.  3 million children in total have been forced to flee their homes due to the conflict in Sudan. Currently, it is the largest child displacement crisis globally. Ethiopia has become the third largest refugee hosting country in Africa, according to the UNHCR. In total 953,664 refugees have been seeking refuge in Ethiopia with 143,029 arrivals registered in 2023.  The largest group is refugees from Somalia with 92,411 new arrivals in 2023, followed by Sudan with 25,820 arrivals this year. 

Ethiopia: Amhara war continues as observers carefully optimistic about OLA talks
Fighting in Amhara is now mainly happening in South Showa and around Gondar, and the border with Benishangul-Gumuz, where the most intensive fighting is, sources state. There are still some skirmishes around Lalibela, including usage of heavy weapons. The strategy of assassination of regional Prosperity Party (PP) officials by Fano is increasing. One high-ranking PP functionary was assassinated in Addis Ababa. Ethiopian media state that the capital city is no longer safe for high ranking PP officials. Assassinations, also in other regions, create a lot of unrest in the PP. Some officials have stopped going to work. Reports of the talks between Ethiopian authorities and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) in Tanzania are carefully optimistic that the talks may yield results. Two Ethiopian senior officials – Minister of Justice Gedion Timothewos and national security adviser to prime minister Redwan Hussein –  joined peace negotiations that commenced in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, last week.  Agreements have been reached on a number of issues, and now progress is being sought on the key issues. No further details were given.

Ethiopia: USAID to restart food aid
USAID announced that it will restart food aid to Ethiopia in December. They have reached an agreement with the Ethiopian government that the warehouses will be controlled by NGOs and the registration of beneficiaries will be conducted by NGOs, with observers from the government. The government will also give USAID and third-party monitors unimpeded access to inspect sites.

Ethiopia: Economic situation critical as Ethiopia gets debt-service suspension
Ethiopia has reached an agreement in principle on an interim debt-service suspension. The agreement was made with its bilateral creditors. IMS and World Bank advised Ethiopia to apply for the temporary debt suspension. The ministry of finance also stated it will start talks to restructure its $1 billion Eurobond, which will mature next year. Equipment leasing company Ethio Lease, foreign-owned firm which was granted a financial services licence from the  National Bank of Ethiopia, has announced it will withdraw from the country.

Ethiopia: African Development Bank decries arrest and physical assault of staff
The African Development Bank Group stated that two staff members were “unlawfully arrested, physically assaulted, and detained for many hours by elements of the security forces without any official explanation” in Addis Ababa on 31 October. The bank states it has lodged an official complaint about this incident, which it refers to as a “very serious diplomatic incident”. 

Saudi/Eritrea/Ethiopia: Eritrean President makes himself heard in Saudi-Africa Summit
Saudi Arabia hosted the Saudi-Africa Summit  between 10-12 November in Riyadh, to enhance relations and cooperation with African countries. Leaders and officials from more than 50 countries were present at the summit including Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Leaders adopted the Riyadh Declaration which will serve as a roadmap for Saudi-African cooperation. More than 50 deals were signed during the summit covering support in various matters including tourism, energy, finance, mining and logistics. Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki held many bilateral meetings during the Saudi-Africa Summit, observers note, while Ethiopian President Abiy Ahmed is reported to have left early. Abiy is said to have fallen out of favour due to Ethiopia’s abstention from voting at the UN General Assembly vote for a humanitarian truce in the Israel-Gaza war. Eritrean President Isaias stated in an interview to Arabic media that the African Union (AU),  Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) were “stillborn”.  He stated that the institutions were responsible for migration across the Mediterranean Sea, leading them to ‘exploitation’ by the West. Isaias held up Saudi-African partnership as the lifeline for people in the region. He also stated that securing and stabilising the Red Sea is a key component of the cooperation. Meanwhile, the Eritrean government is arresting LGBTQ+ persons in Eritrea, sources state. The exact number of arrests is unknown.

Sudan/South Sudan: Sudan asks for UNITAMS termination
The UN Security Council held an open briefing followed by closed consultations on the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS). In the meeting, the Sudan representative stated that the government of Sudan sent a letter asking to “immediately terminate the UNITAMS mission.” The mandate of UNITAMS is expiring on 3 December. The UK is the penholder on the draft resolution to renew the UNITAMS mandate. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council renewed the mandate of the peacekeeping mission in the Abyei region for a year. The Abyei region is a disputed and oil-rich region at the border of Sudan and South Sudan. Furthermore, a new report states that European banks and investors, including large players such as Deutsche Bank, are investing around €700 million in the two international companies with the biggest state in South Sudan’s oil sector. These companies help to fuel violence against civilians in South Sudan, states Global Witness.

South Sudan: Rumours of coup attempt
27 military officers have been arrested by South Sudanese authorities as they are suspected to plan a coup against South Sudanese President Salva Kiir.  Kiir removed the Inspector-General of Police Gen. Majak Akec Balok on Tuesday. Among those arrested are 10 officers of Sudan People’s Defense Forces  (SSPDF) and 17 officers from the National Security Service (NSS). The spokesperson of the SSPDF, Major General Lul Ruai Koang, said that rumours around the coup are unfounded allegations.Security forces have been deployed in and around Juba over the weekend. South Sudan police spokesman, Major General Daniel Justin, said that the security forces are part of standard patrols that are overseeing routine activities to maintain order in the city. 

Horn of Africa: El Niño floods predicted to cause more havoc
At least 111 people have been killed and 770,000 displaced by flooding worsened by the El Niño weather phenomenon in the Horn of Africa, says Save the Children. This includes at least 16 children. The Indian Ocean Dipole phenomenon also increases sea water temperature, and thus increases rainfall. Those displaced are in need of emergency supplies. Many areas in Somalia have been completely cut off. Livelihoods have been washed away. The rains are showing no signs of slowing down, as they are expected to cause heavy impact for at least another month. 

North Africa

Libya: Climate refugees still displaced after flooding
Thousands of people were affected by the flooding in Libya in September, particularly in the city of Derna, where the dams burst. Some 8,000 refugees and migrants were also living in the city; some of them already fleeing climate insecurity. Now those refugees and migrants are joined in their displacement by many Libyan climate refugees whose houses were swept away, states Al Jazeera. However, these refugees are not internationally recognised due to a lack of a climate refugee framework.


UK: Supreme Court blocks Rwanda deal
The UK Supreme Court blocked the UK’s deal with Rwanda on deportation of refugees and migrants for asylum processing. The decision was unanimous. “There are substantial grounds for believing that asylum seekers would face a real risk of ill-treatment by reason of refoulement to their country of origin if they were removed to Rwanda,” the ruling stated. The judges gave great weight to the expertise of the UN Refugee Agency when making the ruling. The UN body highlighted earlier failed attempts by Israel to implement a similar scheme in Rwanda, which put refugees and migrants at risk. UK PM Rishi Sunak claimed that the government has a ‘plan B’. 

Italy/Albania: Migrant deal falls ‘outside’ EU law, claims the EU Commissioner
The deal signed last week between Italy and Albania to outsource asylum claims to Albania falls outside of EU law, states EU Commissioner Ylva Johansson. Two centres in Albania will be built at the cost of Italy and exclusively governed under Italian jurisdiction. Even so, “legally speaking, it’s not the EU law but it’s the Italian law (that) follows the EU law”, according to Johansson. The comments from the Commissioner leave a lot of uncertainty about whether EU norms need to be followed in the outsourced asylum centres. The asylum seekers will not be allowed to leave the centres. The Council of Europe raised concern about the deals, stating that it “significantly increase the risk of exposing refugees, asylum seekers and migrants to a violation of asylum human rights as a potential rapid solution to the complex challenges posed by the arrival of refugees,” said the Commissioner of Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Dunja Mijatovic.

Netherlands/Eritrea: Definitive indictment in Eritrean criminal trafficking network case
On Monday, a preliminary hearing took place in Zwolle, The Netherlands, in the case of the Eritrean suspect Tewelde G., also known as Walid. He is accused of leading a criminal network that committed grave human rights violations in Libya and extorting refugees to pay large sums of ransom.  A large number of Eritreans, including people stating to be victims of Walid, attended the hearing. Walid stated that he is a victim of mistaken identity. He stated that his name is not Amanuel, the name he was convicted under in Ethiopia, but he did not want to answer the question of what his name was. A definitive indictment was prepared by the prosecution. It is largely the same as the draft version, but it additionally includes an extortion fact, a whitewashing charge, a human smuggling case and a more extensive description of Walid’s network. Witnesses will be questioned by the court in March and April 2024; Walid will not be present at this process and it will happen in a private setting, not in open court, to protect the witnesses. The prosecution emphasised that the witnesses have faced severe trauma and that they should be supported in the process of witnessing. Kidane, the Eritrean accused of working together with Walid, has not yet been extradited from the UAE to the Netherlands, but the prosecution hopes that their cases can be tried together, or that Kidane can at least be assigned a lawyer prior to the questioning of witnesses, to avoid double-questioning. Contrary to what he stated before, Walid said in court that he has a wife and two children.

EU/Egypt/Tunisia: EU plans new deals to prevent migration
A new attachment to a letter published by Statewatch in October shows that the European Union is planning new deals with Egypt and Tunisia to stop migration. The partnerships should include “joint operational teams with prosecutors and law enforcement authorities of Member States and partners,” states the European Commission. These deals should be in place before the end of the year, according to the attachment. 

EU: Plan to reinforce legal migration
The European Commission has published a plan to take three actions to stimulate legal migration to the EU, as European employers are struggling to find workers. The actions include making recruitment from outside the EU easier; making the process to recognise professional qualifications and skills gained in third countries faster; and fostering learning mobility for all. It also wants to create an ‘EU Talent Pool’ to make it easier to recruit non-EU citizens.

EU: Budget for 2024 agreed
The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union have approved the EU’s 2024 budget. The budget includes €16.2 billion to support development and cooperation, under which the European Union has included migration. €2.2 billion has been reserved for border protection. €1.7 billion has been reserved for migration-related spending within the EU. 

France: French asylum-claims workers protest new proposed migration law
French asylum-claims workers are striking over a new immigration law restricting the rights of migrants in the country. The bill, voted through to the lower house, restricts the ability for migrants to bring family members into France, as well as birthright citizenship and welfare benefits. In addition, it introduces an annual quota for the number of migrant workers allowed in, as well as substantially reducing medical coverage for workers. It would also make it easier to deport non-nationals. The asylum-claims workers state that the law will make the asylum seeker population even more vulnerable, and increases the workload for asylum-claims workers who are already overworked.