Eritrean troops have re-entered the northern Ethiopian province of Tigray—a region they had largely vacated in June under military pressure from the rebel Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The new Eritrean deployment, in support of the Ethiopian government, is reportedly to the contested western part of Tigray—a target for the TPLF. The United States has demanded the withdrawal of all Eritrean forces from Ethiopia and imposed sanctions on Eritrea’s top general, Filipos Woldeyohannes, for “despicable acts” of rights violations. While much of Tigray has been declared “fully” accessible for aid deliveries, fighting in Afar province—a key supply route—between the government and TPLF has blocked aid getting into Tigray itself. Since July, only some 320 trucks have entered the region, a fraction of the cargo required to meet the humanitarian needs of at least 5.2 million people, according to the UN relief agency, OCHA. (Map: Political Geography Now)
At least three people are dead following an outbreak of inter-communal violence in Djibouti. Fighting erupted in several areas between members of the Afar ethnic group, which straddles Djibouti’s borders with Ethiopia and Eritrea, and the Issa, the country’s other main ethnicity, which is a sub-group of the Somali people and straddles the borders with Ethiopia and Somalia. Issa protesters blocked the rail line and road connecting Djibouti’s port to Ethiopia, a key artery for the landlocked Horn of Africa giant. The violence came in response to a deadly attack on Somali Issa civilians four days earlier within Ethiopia. Fighters from Ethiopia’s Afar region raided the town of Gedamaytu (also known as Gabraiisa) in neighboring Somali region, reportedly killing hundreds of residents. The two regions have long been at odds over three contested kebeles (districts) on their shared border, which are predominately inhabited by Issa but located within the regional boundaries of Afar. (Map: ISS Africa)
In Episode 70 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews Daniel Woldu, US representative of Omna Tigray, an international network calling for action to halt the genocide in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. Woldu discusses the abrogation of Tigray’s self-rule under the Ethiopian regime of Abiy Ahmed, atrocities that have taken place under cover of an information blockade, the ongoing plunder and weaponization of humanitarian aid, why Eritrea has intervened on the side of the Ethiopian central government, and the urgent need for accountability and an independent investigation into war crimes and genocide. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Omna Tigray via Twitter)
International pressure on parties to the conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region is building, but abuses of civilians and aid blockages and looting continue. The Eritrean military remains in Tigray, and is accused of looting and abuses despite a pledge by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed that its forces would pull back. AFP news agency obtained documents from Tigray’s Abiy-appointed interim government describing harassment and looting of aid supplies by Eritrean troops. Meanwhile, reports mount of the rounding up and detention of thousands of Tigrayans, seemingly on grounds of ethnicity. The UN says 90% of displaced people have still not received help with shelter, and a major road into the region was blocked by hostilities for 12 days. (Photo: UNHCR)
The head of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, expressed concern over the humanitarian conditions in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and its impact on civilians, particularly Eritrean refugees living in four camps. Grandi said he continues to receive reliable reports and first-hand accounts of ongoing insecurity in the region and “grave and distressing human rights abuses including killings, targeted abductions and forced return of refugees to Eritrea.” He also cited open-source satellite imagery from California-based company Planet Labs which indicates fires and other fresh signs of destruction at the two camps located in Shimelba and Hitsats. Grandi termed these “concrete indications of major violations of international law.” (Photo: Chris Melzer/UNHCR)
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet addressed allegations of human rights and humanitarian law violations in Ethiopia, calling for an investigation into the claims, and urgent protection of civilians. The conflict between central government forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) began seven weeks ago, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. The claims include bombardment of civilian populations and ethnically targeted massacres. Abuses were reportedly carried out by both central government and TPLF forces—as well as by the armed forces of neighboring Eritrea, which has entered the conflict on the side of the Ethiopian central government. (Map via EthioVisit)
The already horrific conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray state seems set to escalate after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that a three-day ultimatum for local forces to surrender had expired, clearing the way for a government offensive on the regional capital Mekele. At least 20,000 refugees have fled to Sudan amid air-strikes and mounting reports of atrocities on both sides. Neighboring Eritrea has also apparently entered the conflict—ironically on the side of the Ethiopian government, long its bitter enemy. The state government of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) accuses Eritrea of sending tanks and thousands of troops over the border to support Ethiopian federal forces. Although this is denied by Eritrea, Tigray state forces have fired rockets into the Eritrean capital, Asmara. Mekele has also fired rockets at the airports in Bahir Dar and Gondar in Ethiopia’s Amhara state, whose local forces have joined the conflict on the side of the central government. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)
The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit began hearing oral arguments in International Refugee Assistance Project v. Donald Trump, a case challenging the administration’s travel bans. The plaintiffs argue that, despite the Supreme Court ruling in Trump v. Hawaii, their case is not barred. They contend that the high court simply addressed the preliminary injunction, and not the merits of the overall travel ban, while the administration argues that Trump v. Hawaii settled the constitutionality of the proclamation. (Photo: Syria Solidarity NYC)
Following peace talks hosted by Eritrea, the government of Ethiopia announced a peace deal with the Oromo Liberation Front rebels. The deal guarantees rebel leaders the right to participate in Ethiopia's political process in exchange for laying down arms. The OLF has long been backed by Eritrea, and the pact comes one month after a formal end was declared to the two-decade state of war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, with Ethiopia ceding its claim to the contested border town of Badme. This points to a softening of positions under Ethiopia's new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed. The Badme deal was also said to have been quietly brokered by the United Arab Emirates, which has emerged as politically isolated Eritrea's most significant foreign patron, part of an apparent design to encircle Yemen. (Photo: Yassin Juma)
Human Rights Watch accused the United Arab Emirates of operating secret facilities in Yemen, where detainees have been "forcibly disappeared, tortured, and abused."
Independent sources say the ominous border clash was sparked when Eritrean troops shot at military deserters and an Ethiopia-backed armed opposition group returned fire.
As Libyan peace talks open in Morocco, ISIS militants abduced 86 Eritrean Christian migrants—including 12 women and several children—at a roadblock outisde Tripoli.