Africa
tigray protest

Podcast: solidarity with Tigray

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)

Africa
Tigray

Abuses, aid blocking continue in Ethiopia

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)

Africa
somalia

Somalia: drought compounds political crisis

The political heat is rising in Somalia over the determination of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as Farmajo, to cling to power despite his term having ended in February. He’s embraced a decision by the lower house of the Federal Parliament to extend his (and their) stay in office for an extra two years, to allow the running of delayed elections. The move was rejected by the Senate as “unconstitutional. The Senate called on Farmajo to rejoin UN-led talks—which he has rejected. As the crisis deepens, there are reports of a troop build-up in the capital and the fragmentation of the security forces. Yet this political tussle is being played out in the Mogadishu bubble. In the countryside, where the government holds little sway, a new drought emergency is underway. Almost 40,000 people have been forced from their homes in the first three months of the year due to poor rains, joining the 1.3 million displaced in 2020 by combined humanitarian disasters. (Photo: Joe English/UNICEF)

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OLA

Ethiopia: Oromo rebels behind new ethnic massacre?

At least 29 were killed, including women and children, when gunmen attacked a church in Horo Guduru zone of Ethiopia’s Oromia regional state. Local residents were gathered in the church to celebrate the start of the two-month Lent fast by followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo rite. The massacre was the bloodiest in a wave of attacks on residents of the Amhara ethnicity in the region over the past months. The National Movement of Amhara (NaMA) blames the attacks on the rebel Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), but also accuses the central government of complicity. NaMA said that at rallies in support of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in the region, Amhara are stigmatized and referred to by the pejorativeneftegna—meaning “rifleman” or “musketeer,” a reference to armed settlers in Oromia under the Amhara-dominated Abyssinian monarchy. (Photo via Addis Standard)

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)

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Jubaland

Breakaway regions at issue in Somalia-Kenya rift

Somalia severed diplomatic ties with neighboring Kenya, accusing it of violating Somali sovereignty and meddling in its internal affairs. Although the statement cited no specific grievances, it came exactly as Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta was hosting in Nairobi the president of Somaliland, a breakaway region in Somalia’s northwest that declared independence in 1991. Kenyatta and Somaliland’s President Musa Bihi Abdi signed a pact on increased security and economic cooperation—which is clearly viewed by Mogadishu as a step toward formal recognition. Two weeks earlier, Somalia ordered the expulsion of Kenya’s ambassador, accusing Nairobi of interfering in the electoral process in Jubaland, an autonomous region along the Kenyan border. Kenya maintains a military force of some 3,500 troops in Jubaland, where elections last year solidified the rule of the incumbent regional president, Ahmed Madobe, who is harshly at odds with Mogadishu. (Map: African Executive)

Africa
Somaliland

Russia seeks naval base in Sudan —and Somaliland?

Just after Russia finalized plans to establish a naval base on the Red Sea in Sudan, Moscow’s UN ambassador for the first time weighed in diplomatically on the dispute between Somalia and the separatist enclave of Somaliland, urging both sides to find a compromise solution. The move sparked speculation within the region that Russia is seeking a second naval facility at Somaliland’s port of Berbera, on the Gulf of Aden which guards the southern mouth of the Red Sea. This would allow Russia to establish a counter-presence to US, French and Chinese bases in Djibouti, just across the land border to the northwest, as well as Turkish military forces in Somalia proper to the south. (Map: Somalia Country Profile)

Africa
Somalia

Trump announces (pseudo-) withdrawal from Somalia

President Trump has ordered the withdrawal of nearly all the approximately 700 US troops in Somalia by mid-January. But the troops are not coming back to the US—they will be stationed just outside Somalia’s borders, in Kenya and Djibouti, ready to go back in as circumstances mandate. Air-strikes and drone warfare are to continue. Also remaining in Somalia will be a team of Pentagon advisors and a significant force of private contractors from the DC-based firm Bancroft Global, working with a US-trained elite commando unit to fight al-Shabaab and ISIS insurgents. (Photo: Nick Kibbey/US Air Force via Military Times)

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)

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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)