Africa
tigray

Harsh abuses seen at Tigray refugee camps

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)

Africa
Sudan

Sudan: ‘peace’ with Israel, war with Ethiopia?

In a victory for the Trump White House, Sudan officially signed on to the so-called “Abraham Accords,” agreeing to normalization of diplomatic ties with Israel. Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari signed the document in the presence of US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. But leaders of Sudan’s pro-democracy coalition, the Forces of Freedom & Change, have formed an opposition front against the agreement, saying the Sudanese people are not obligated to accept it. Meanwhile, there are alarming signs that the war in Ethiopia is spilling into Sudanese territory. The Sudanese army reported repulsing Ethiopian forces from the contested Grand Fashaga enclave on the border between the two countries. The Grand Fashaga, in Sudan’s breadbasket Gedaref state, is adjacent to Ethiopia’s conflicted Tigray region, and has seen an influx of refugees from the fighting across the border. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

Africa
Ethiopia

Ethiopia: ‘war crimes’ seen in Tigray conflict

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)

Africa
ethiopia

Renewed war in Ethiopia draws in Eritrea

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)

Africa
oromo flag

Ethiopia: Oromo leaders charged with ‘terrorism’

Ethiopia’s attorney general filed charges against 24 activists for alleged terrorism and incitement to violence. Jawar Mohammed and Bekele Gerba, two leading opposition politicians of the Oromo Federalist Congress, were among those charged. The charges arise from events that occurred after the death of Hachalu Hundessa in June. Hundessa, a popular Oromo singer and activist, was murdered, though the precise motivation remains unknown. Following Hundessa’s death, inter-ethnic violence erupted, resulting in the deaths of up to 239 people. Despite being the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, the Oromo have historically faced political and economic marginalization. Jawar and Gerba actively oppose the Ethiopian government and have called for the federal state to give “self-rule” to Oromos and other ethnic groups in regions where those groups constitute the majority of the population. (Photo: Petterik Wiggers via Ethiopia Insight)

Africa
Ethiopia

Tigray region defies Ethiopia election postponement

Elections to fill the 190 seats in the regional parliament were held in Ethiopia’s restive northern region of Tigray—in defiance of a federal government order suspending all polls. Elections in Ethiopia’s nine regions had been scheduled for August, but indefinitely postponed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The central government in Addis Ababa is refusing to recognize the election. Tigray’s governing party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), led the armed struggle that toppled the brutal regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991. Leaders from the small ethnic group went on to lead the country’s governing coalition for nearly 30 years. But that ended after anti-government protests swept Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali to power in 2018. TPLF leaders complain that they have since been unfairly targeted in corruption prosecutions, removed from top positions, and generally scapegoated for the country’s problems. Tigray regional leaders deny they are seeking independence. But the most extreme of the five parties contesting in the polls is the Tigray Independence Party, which openly advocates secession from Ethiopia. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Africa
GERD

Trump wades into Egypt-Ethiopia fight over Nile

Reportedly at the direct instigation of President Donald Trump, the US State Department ordered a suspension of aid to Ethiopia over its move to begin capturing water behind a controversial new mega-dam on the Blue Nile that is opposed by Egypt and Sudan. A State Department spokesperson said the decision to “temporarily pause” some aid to Addis Ababa “reflects our concern about Ethiopia’s unilateral decision to begin to fill the dam before an agreement and all necessary dam safety measures were in place.” The freeze could affect as much as $100 million in aid. The reservoir behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) began filling in July, over the protests of Egypt and Sudan, which rely on the Nile for nearly all of their water needs. (Photo: Water Power & Dam Construction)

Africa
Hachalu

Ethiopia: slaying of musician sparks Oromo uprising

The military has been deployed in the Ethiopian capital amid a general uprising by the Oromo people that broke out after the assassination of a popular singer. Hachalu Hundessa, shot while driving on the outskrits of Addis Ababa, was an icon of the Oromo protest movement that has been mounting since 2015. His songs have been hailed as the “soundtrack of the Oromo revolution,” and he was named “Oromo Person of the Year” by cultural advocates in 2017. Two have been arrested in the killing, but rebellion continues to spread across Central Ethiopia. At least 80 have been killed and many detained. Oromo leader Jawar Mohammed is among those arrested. (Photo: DAGI Pisctures via BBC News)

Planet Watch
Warsaw riot

Biological police state preparations advance

As rising strongmen in places like Poland and Ethiopia exploit the COVID-19 pandemic to postpone elections and grab extraordinary powers, even democratic countries are putting unprecedented police-state measure into place in the supposed interest of a return to “normality.” In the latter category is New Zealand, where a bill has been passed giving police sweeping powers to enter homes without warrants while enforcing new “Alert Level 2” rules. The COVID-19 Public Health Response Act creates a new corps of “enforcement officers” to track social contacts among the populace and conduct raids on the premises of suspected violators. (Photo of Warsaw police action via Twitter)

Planet Watch
#QuedeteEnCasa

Worldwide police-state measures in face of COVID-19

With whole nations under lockdown, sweeping powers are being assumed by governments across the world in the name of containing the COVID-19 pandemic. Hungary’s parliament voted to allow Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to rule by decree. The Russian parliament has approved an “anti-virus” package that includes up to seven years imprisonment for serious violations of quarantine rules. Israel has joined South Korea in authorizing use of personal cellphone data to track the virus. Chilean President Sebastian Piñera has declared a “state of catastrophe,” sending the military to public squares recently occupied by protesters. Military patrols are also enforcing the lockdown in Peru, Italy, Romania and South Africa. “We could have a parallel epidemic of authoritarian and repressive measures following close on the heels of a health epidemic,” said Fionnuala Ni Aolain, UN Special Rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights. (Photo: Peruvian army demonstration video, via YouTube)

Africa
Jubaland

Somalia clashes escalate regional tensions

Somali troops clashed with forces from the country’s semi-autonomous Jubaland region in a flare-up of violence that is raising tensions with neighboring countries and may play into the hands of the militant group al-Shabab. Tensions have been rising since August, when Jubaland’s incumbent president, Ahmed Madobe, won regional elections that Mogadishu described as “not free and fair.” The central government wanted a loyalist candidate to win, as it seeks greater control over Somalia’s regions ahead of upcoming national elections. Kenya, which has troops deployed as part of an African Union peace enforcement operation, is on the side of Madobe, who it sees as an ally against al-Shabab, while Ethiopia has aligned with Mogadishu. Kenya accused Somali troops of encroaching on its territory and destroying property during the new violence, while the US said that the clashes are a distraction in efforts against al-Shabab. An estimated 56,000 people have been uprooted by the recent fighting. according to the UN. (Map: African Executive)

Africa
Almas Elman

Somali rights activist killed in Mogadishu

Almas Elman, a prominent Somali rights activist, was killed in Mogadishu, struck by a bullet while riding in a car. She was apparently heading to the airport after attending a meeting at the Elman Peace Centre, which was founded by her mother Fartuun Adan in 1990. Elman came from a long line of activists. She was the sister of aid worker Ilwad Elman who was recently short-listed for the Nobel Peace Prize. Her father was the respected Somali activist Elman Ali Ahmed, who was himself assassinated in Mogadishu in 1996. In recent years, the Elman Peace Centre has documented rights abuses in Somalia by government troops, Islamist insurgents, Ethiopian occupation forces, rival clan militias, (Photo: RTN-TV via OkayAfrica)