Horn of Africa

Saudi border guards massacre Ethiopian refugees

Saudi Arabian border guards have killed hundreds of Ethiopian migrants and asylum-seekers attempting to cross the border from Yemen, according to an Aug. 21 report from Human Rights Watch (HRW). The report documented incidents between March 2022 and June 2023, based on interviews with migrants, satellite imagery, and social media posts. According to the report, Saudi border guards used explosive weapons such as mortars against migrants, and shot them at close range with live ammunition. Saudi border guards reportedly fired on people even when they complied with orders. HRW called the recent pattern of killings a change from "an apparent practice of occasional shootings" to "widespread and systematic killings."

Harsh abuses in Eritrea 'national service' program

A report from a UN independent investigator is putting a fresh spotlight on allegations of torture, sexual violence, forced labor, and abusive conditions in Eritrea's system of compulsory, indefinite national service. The investigator noted that Eritrea has ignored repeated calls to ensure legal limits for national service. Since winning independence from Ethiopia three decades ago, Eritrea has been led by President Isaias Afwerki, who has never held an election.

Ethiopia: Eritrean forces still in Tigray?

Eritrea lodged a diplomatic protest with the United Kingdom Aug. 12 after the British ambassador to Ethiopia publicly called "for Eritrean forces to withdraw completely back to their own borders." Eritrean forces intervened in support of Ethiopia's federal government during the two-year war in northern Tigray region, but supposedly withdrew after last year's ceasefire. Asmara's diplomatic statement decried "unwarranted remarks" by the ambassador, Darren Welch, without explicitly stating that it no longer has forces in Tigray. One day earlier, the UK Minister of State for Development & Africa Andrew Mitchel issued a finding that "Eritrean forces remaining in Tigray present an obstacle to the overall objective of peace and stability within the region." The controversy comes 10 months after a formal ceasefire in Tigray that has led to a reduction of violence in the region, although rights abuses and a humanitarian crisis persist, exacerbated by a devastating drought. (AFP, Jurist)

Ethiopia: Amhara militia in new clashes with army

Ethiopia's government on Aug. 4 declared a state of emergency in Amhara state over ongoing clashes between the federal army and local Amhara Fano militiamen. The Ethiopian army and the Fano militia were allies in the two-year war in the northern Tigray region. Their relationship later deteriorated, in part over recent efforts by federal authorities to disband regional paramilitary groups. (Jurist, Al Jazeera)

Somalia to get direct universal suffrage —at last

Somali officials announced May 28 that the country will institute a direct one-person-one-vote democracy by 2024. This comes after years of attempts to implement direct universal suffrage, first mandated by the Somali legislature in 2019, failed due to political divisions and internal conflict. State news agency SONNA called the decision an "historic turning point for the country." This new system will replace Somalia's current electoral process, in which clan elders elect delegates, who in turn elect all other regional and national political leaders.

Ethiopia: Tigray protests demand land restitution

Thousands of people displaced by the conflict in Ethiopia's northern Tigray state took to the streets May 23 in demonstrations, demanding a prompt return to their homes and the withdrawal of central government troops. Protesters in multiple cities, including regional capital Mekele, chanted slogans such as "return us quickly to our homelands" and "invading forces should leave our land." Nearly 3 million people have been displaced due to the conflict in Tigray, which broke out two and half years ago and officially ended with a a peace agreement last November. Efforts to address the crisis and resolve outstanding conflicts on the ground are ongoing, with international organizations led by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs providing assistance to the affected.

Ethiopia: peace talks with Oromo rebels

Preliminary peace talks between Ethiopia's federal government and the rebel Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) have opened on Tanzania's semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar. The confidence-building discussions, mediated by Kenya and Norway, are aimed at paving the way for future negotiations to end the five-year conflict. There have been few details on the dialogue, but the OLA said it welcomed a peaceful resolution to the violence in Oromia, which has included civilian massacres and indiscriminate government crackdowns. The OLA, labelled a "terrorist organization" by Addis Ababa, says it's fighting for greater autonomy for the Oromo people, Ethiopia's biggest but historically marginalized ethnic group. Violence has surged in Oromia following a peace deal in November that ended the war in northern Tigray. The OLA is accused of targeting ethnic Amharas who live in Oromia, while militias from the Amhara region—which borders Oromia—have killed Oromo civilians.

Ethiopia: food aid to Tigray plundered

The World Food Program has suspended aid deliveries "until further notice" to Ethiopia's northern Tigray region following the discovery of the large-scale theft of relief food and its sale on local markets. USAID has also paused its funding of food assistance over the same issue. The concern over missing food—enough to feed 100,000 people—has centered on a warehouse in the Tigray city of Sheraro. Tigray's new regional interim president, Getachew Reda, said he had discussed the "growing challenge" of aid diversion with the WFP last month. According to USAID, "parties on both sides" of the two-year civil war have colluded to steal food through a "criminal network" established in the wake of last November's ceasefire. The agency said both the federal government and Tigray's interim administration have agreed to identify and hold accountable those responsible. Tigray is still facing "severe" food insecurity, despite improved humanitarian access.

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