News Highlights: Clashes kill 50 civilians in Oromia, SAF/RSF negotiations suspended, Trilogue discussions over EU Asylum Pact

In this week’s News Highlights: Negotiations between SAF and RSF indefinitely suspended; UN Security Council terminates UNITAMS; US determines war crimes, ethnic cleansing committed in Sudan; Sudan conflict continues as peace negotiations fail; Humanitarian and commercial convoys in North Darfur suspended; Clashes between OLA and ENDF kill 50 civilians; Former Tigray security employees submit petitions to reinstate them; Getachew Reda repeats referendum on western Tigray is unconstitutional; Ethiopian Church leaders agree on humanitarian cooperation; President Isaias’ diplomacy efforts; Rains continue in the Horn, as drought plagues northern Ethiopia; Refugees beaten, sexually abused and killed in detention centres in Libya; EU trilogue over the New Pact on Migration and Asylum; Controversial deal on expansion of EU’s biometrics collection; NGOs sound alarm over the EU’s asylum pact; New unknown agreement signed between UK and Rwanda; and European Court of Justice makes deportation to other EU countries easier. 

Greater Horn of Africa

Sudan: Negotiations between SAF and RSF indefinitely suspended
The Saudi and US mediators in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, have indefinitely suspended the negotiations between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). RSF refused to withdraw its forces from roads and cities, and insisted on keeping its bases and checkpoints in Khartoum. In addition, SAF failed to arrest former regime leaders, a confidence-building measure put forward by RSF. In addition, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) summit of heads of state on Sudan will take place on 9 December in Djibouti. 

Sudan: UN Security Council terminates UNITAMS
The UN Security Council (UNSC) voted to terminate the mandate of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS). The penholder, the UK, noted that the UK delegation would not have chosen to end the mission. The operations of UNITAMS will end on 29 February 2024 after a three-month wind down period. The UNSC called for the Sudanese authorities to ensure the safety of the mission staff in the transition period. The UN country team will continue essential work in Sudan, including humanitarian assistance, in the wake of the termination of UNITAMS, stated a spokesperson for the UN Secretary General. In addition, the UNSC unanimously voted to lift the arms embargo on Somalia. The UNSC called on the Federal government of Somalia to implement the national weapons-and-ammunition-management strategy and to professionalise police and security forces, and to prevent weapons and ammunition from falling into the wrong hands. 

Sudan: US determines war crimes, ethnic cleansing committed in Sudan
The United States determined that the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) as well as Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) committed war crimes since the outbreak of war in Sudan, said US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken. “I have also determined that members of the RSF and allied militias have committed crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing”, added Blinken. Blinken urged both sides to silence the guns and comply with international and human rights law. In addition, the Horn of Africa Special Envoy of the US, Mike Hammer, will travel to Djibouti, Qatar and Ethiopia between 7 – 17 December. He will attend the Extraordinary Summit of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) on Sudan. In Ethiopia, he will focus also on the implementation of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, and the conflicts in Oromia and Amhara. 

Sudan: Conflict continues as peace negotiations fail
An oil refinery in the Al-Jaili area near Khartoum was attacked on Wednesday causing a fire. Both Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) accused each other of carrying out the attack. Between 28 October and 24 November, ACLED recorded over 360 political violence events and over 1,690 conflict-related deaths in Sudan. This brings the total recorded deaths since the start of the war to 12,190. Over 108 battle events took place in Khartoum between 28 October and 24 November. These focus mostly on strategic locations linking Bahri, Omdurman and Khartoum together. In Darfur, RSF is taking over as the de-facto ruling faction, having gained control of 4 out of 5 major cities, as it turns its attention to Kordofan. 12,190 recorded deaths are reported by the UN OCHA in the conflict since 15 April 2023. Sexual and gender based violence is on the rise in Sudan while less than 3% of total cases are being recorded, according to the Combating Violence Against Women Unit. South Sudanese interior minister, Angelina Teny, stated that South Sudanese nationals are engaging in the war in Sudan on both sides of the conflict. She warned that the South Sudanese fighters could also carry weapons across the border into South Sudan. 

Sudan: Humanitarian and commercial convoys in North Darfur suspended
Humanitarian and commercial convoys to deliver supplies to North Darfur have reportedly been suspended as the joint force of armed groups which was previously established to protect civilians and aid convoys abandoned neutrality, reports Sudan Tribune. As a result, all commodities and supplies are critically low in North Darfur with fuel prices soaring to 40,000 Sudanese pounds (approx. €61) for a gallon of gasoline. The cholera outbreak in Sudan continues to worsen, with 5,178 cases confirmed in Gedaref and 161 people dead. Cholera has spread to the Al Jazirah, Blue Nile, Gedaref, Kassala, Khartoum, Red Sea, Sennar, South Kordofan, and White Nile states. Crop production in the entirety of Sudan has been affected by the war, with sorghum and millet production dropping by 24% and 50%, respectively, according to a new report by the Food and Agriculture organisation of the United Nations. Crop production is weakened by pests, lack of fertilisers and plant diseases. Animal production is also affected by ongoing fighting, diseases, unusual rainfall patterns and lack of veterinary services causing unconventional livestock movements. 

Ethiopia: Clashes between OLA and ENDF kill 50 civilians
Over 50 civilians were killed in attacks in Ethiopia between 23 and 29 November as a result of clashes between Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) and Ethiopian government, according to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission. Attacks occurred in the Oromia region as well as border villages in Benishangul-Gumuz. 23 Oromo organisations in the US urge the OLA and Ethiopian government to resume the peace talks and “to be mindful of the scale of destruction the conflict has wrought and agree to honorable and principled compromises”.

Tigray: Former security employees submit petitions to reinstate them
Former employees of Tigray regional security institutions demand for the Tigray Interim Government to take urgent measures to address their unemployment. More than 1,000 people submitted petitions calling for reinstatement of their offices and payment of withheld salaries. The former employees were forced to leave their offices during the two-year war in Tigray but were denied resumption of their duties without lawful justification, says local human rights organisation, Human Rights First Ethiopia. 

Tigray: Getachew Reda repeats referendum on western Tigray is unconstitutional
Getachew Reda, president of Tigray Interim Regional Administration (IRA), reiterated on Tuesday that the plan of the Ethiopian Federal government to hold a referendum over the disputed border areas with the Amhara region is unconstitutional. Getachew Reda made the remarks in the context of a meeting with a delegation led by the US ambassador to Ethiopia, Ervin Jose Massinga, on Tuesday. The parties discussed the need for full implementation of the Pretoria Cessation of Hostilities Agreement. According to Getachew, regional elections, establishment of regional government and withdrawal of the foreign forces need to be prioritised before any referendum can take place. 

Ethiopia: Church leaders agree on humanitarian cooperation
High-level delegations from the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, and the Ethiopian Catholic Church, met at the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, Switzerland, in a meeting facilitated by the World Council of Churches (WCC). The Church leaders discussed the dire humanitarian situation in Ethiopia. The leaders discussed creating a council of churches on advocacy for human rights, establishing a task force to set out the next steps.

Eritrea: President Isaias’ diplomacy efforts
Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki promises to direct Eritrean authorities to provide free visas for Sudanese citizens, grant them residency without fees and treat them as citizens, states Eritrean media source Tesfanews. In addition, Flynas, the national air carrier of Saudi Arabia, announced it will set up weekly direct flights from Jeddah to the Eritrean capital of Asmara. 

Horn of Africa: Rains continue, as drought plagues northern Ethiopia
The Horn of Africa continues to be impacted by heavy rains in relation to the El Niño weather phenomenon. The World Food Programme warns that more rain is projected, stating that the worst is yet to come. In Somalia, the number of people affected has increased to 2.4 million, according to the authorities, with over one 1 million people displaced and 110 killed spread across 36 districts. In Ethiopia, at least 57 people have died. Around 2 million people have been displaced due to floods in the Horn of africa. The European Commission mobilised €3.5 million in additional aid to help those affected by the floods in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. Meanwhile, the Tigray Interim Administration announced the establishment of a Drought Disaster Committee to address the difficult situation caused by severe droughts in the Tigray region. 

North Africa

Libya: Refugees beaten, sexually abused and killed in detention centres
Refugees, migrants and asylum seekers are assaulted, sexually abused, beaten, killed and deprived of basic human conditions in detention centres in Tripoli, Libya, warns Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Severe abuses were recorded by MSF in Abu Salim and Ain Zara, before it lost access in July and August respectively. MSF then decided to stop all activities in Tripoli. MSF published its account on the abuses in a new report.


EU: Trilogue over the New Pact on Migration and Asylum
The European Parliament, European Commission and European Council held an intense trilogue discussion on 7 December in relation to the New Pact on Migration and Asylum. The talks are held to try and resolve sticking points in the negotiations. Under the negotiations, an agreement has reportedly been made that the age for children subjected to proposed new border procedures is lowered from 12 to 6, which could lead to children as young as six being detained. 

EU: Controversial deal on expansion of EU’s biometrics collection
The EU Presidency announced that it is close to reaching an agreement on the expansion of the Eurodac database, which would allow for children as young as 6 to be fingerprinted. The expansion would lead the EU to gain the right to forcefully collect more biometric data, including facial images, which experts warn could be a threat to the privacy of the refugees and migrants. 110 organisations call for the expansion to be stopped. Critics state that the Eurodac extension does not comply with European data protection standards, and integrates institutional racism.

EU: NGOs sound alarm over the EU’s asylum pact
As the EU nears agreement on the overhaul of asylum regulations, NGOs warn that it could potentially be an “irreversible attack” on the right for asylum. One of the key areas of alarm is the “screening” regulation under which police would be allowed to detain someone for up to five days if they do not have residency or citizenship documents. In addition, the NGOs warn against changes in regulations of what constitutes a safe country for return, and externalisation of processing of asylum claims, which could lead to refugees being returned to dangerous situations.

UK: New unknown agreement signed with Rwanda
UK Home Secretary James Cleverly travelled to Rwanda to sign a new agreement on asylum, after the Supreme Court rejected the UK’s deal to send asylum seekers to the country for processing. The agreement is meant to ensure that some of the key concerns of the court are addressed, such as an agreement from Rwanda that they will not expel asylum seekers to dangerous third countries. In addition, the intention is to set up a monitoring committee. If the deal with Rwanda is approved, the UK will start sending thousands of refugees and migrants to Rwanda involuntarily, in exchange for funding to Rwanda. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Thursday defended a Bill which he states addresses every aspect of the concern of the Supreme Court.

EU: European Court of Justice makes deportation to other EU countries easier
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that European courts are not allowed to rule on the risk of an asylum seeker to be deported to their country of origin after being deported to another EU country. The courts are also not allowed to look at the risk of persecution in the country of origin in these cases. This is relevant as courts in the second EU countries cannot examine these questions before an asylum seeker is deported under the Dublin regulation to the first country of entry, which must process their claim. The case was raised by some asylum seekers who feared that they would face deportation to their countries of origin if they were to be returned to their first country of entry.