Thursday, January 18, 2018

Merera Gudina, Ethiopia opposition leader, freed - BBC News





Ethio
Image captionHuge crowds welcomed Mr Merera home


Jailed Ethiopian opposition leader Merera Gudina has been freed after more than a year in detention.
The leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress was released on Wednesday morning and allowed to go home, where he was welcomed by thousands of people.
He has been in prison since December 2016 and was facing charges, including association with terrorist groups.
The Ethiopian government announced on Monday that it would drop charges against more than 500 suspects.
Human rights groups have long accused Ethiopia of refusing to allow opposition groups to operate freely.
The government has denied holding any political prisoners but says the releases will foster national debate and "widen the political sphere".
Those being freed will first undergo two days of "rehabilitation training", the government says.
At the beginning of January, Prime Minster Hailemariam Desalegn announced the government would close Maekelawi - a detention facility in the capital, Addis Ababa, allegedly used as a torture chamber.

Why was Mr Merera arrested?

Mr Merera was arrested in November 2016 at the airport in the capital, Addis Ababa, after he flew in from Brussels.
He had violated Ethiopia's state of emergency by having contact with "terrorist" and "anti-peace" groups, state-linked media reported at the time.
That month, Mr Merera had criticised the state of emergency in an address to the European parliament.
The government imposed it in October 2016 to end an unprecedented wave of protests against its 25-year rule.


Map of protests and violence in Ethiopia in 2016


More than 11,000 people were arrested, mostly in the Oromia and Amhara regions, which were at the forefront of anti-government protests.
Many in the two regions complain of political and economic marginalisation.

Who else will be freed?

It is still not clear which other politicians will be released.
Ethiopia says it will not free anyone convicted of using force to overthrow the government, destroying infrastructure, murder or causing physical disability.
However, it says it will pardon some of those convicted under the anti-terrorism law.
Critics and human rights groups have accused the government in the past of labelling its opponents, and some journalists, as terrorists.
Rights group Amnesty International says the release of Mr Merera and other prisoners should not be the last.
"Hundreds of prisoners of conscience continue to languish in jail, accused or prosecuted for legitimate exercise of their freedom of expression or simply for standing up for human rights," Amnesty's Netsanet Belay said.


Presentational grey line


Five more high-profile Ethiopian prisoners:

Bekele Gerbadeputy chairman of the OFC - arrested together with Dejene Fita Geleta, secretary-general of OFC, and 20 others in connection with the 2015 Oromo protests that resulted in the death of hundreds of protesters.
Andargachew Tsegeleader of Ginbot 7 (designated a terrorist group by Ethiopia) - arrested in 2014 while on transit in Yemen and taken to Ethiopia, where he faces the death penalty after being convicted in absentia. A British national, human rights groups have been pushing for his release.
Andualem Aragievice-president of the Unity for Democracy and Justice party - imprisoned since 2011, and now serving a life sentence on terrorism charges.
Eskinder Negajournalist and blogger - imprisoned since 2011 after criticising the use of anti-terror laws to silence the press. He was subsequently sentenced to 18 years in jail.
Woubshet Taye, journalist and editor - imprisoned since 2011 and sentenced the next year to 14 years in prison for terror-related offences.



Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Sudan deploys more troops to Eritrea border | Ethiopia News | Al Jazeera






Sudan deploys more troops to Eritrea border
The latest tension was sparked after Sudan signed an agreement to temporarily hand over the Red Sea island of Suakin to Turkey [Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters]


Sudan says it has sent more troops to its eastern border with Eritrea as tension in the Red Sea region continues to rise. 
Early this month Khartoum closed its borders with Eritrea and sent troops to its border region of Kassala, following reports that Egypt has deployed troops in Asmara.
"Sudan's national army has sent part of its forces to this area to protect Sudan's security as we have information that some parties are targeting us," Sudanese foreign minister, Ibrahim Ghandour, said after meeting his Ethiopian counterpart Workneh Gebeyehu in Khartoum on Sunday.
Ghandour said that they were not talking "about threats to a country per se" but that they have information that shows there are some who would mean them harm.
"This is why we are anticipating whatever danger can come from there," Ghandour said.
The meeting took place amid deteriorating relations between Sudan and Ethiopia on one side and Egypt and Eritrea on the other. Khartoum has also recalled its ambassador in Cairo following the reports of Egyptian troops presence in Eritrea.
The latest tension was sparked after Sudan signed an agreement to temporarily hand over the Red Sea island of Suakin to Turkey. 
Ankara and Khartoum said Turkey would rebuild the ruined, sparsely populated Ottoman island to increase tourism and create a transit point for pilgrims crossing the Red Sea to Islam's holiest city of Mecca. Turkey is also set to build a naval dock on the island.
Egyptian media criticised the agreement and alleged Turkey would build a military base on the island.
Ties between Turkey and Egypt have been frosty for some time.
Ankara strongly condemned Egypt's military coup in 2013, which overthrew democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Political tension between the Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia has been rising for years over the use of the water of the Nile River and Ethiopia's decision to build the continent's biggest hydroelectric dam on the river.
Egypt has been at odds with Sudan and Ethiopia over the $4.8bn dam project, with Cairo fearing that its position downstream may affect its access to water from the Nile River basin, which will feed the dam.
Cairo accuses Sudan of supporting the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project, while Khartoum accuses Egypt of supporting rebels in Sudan.
Meanwhile, Eritrea has fought two border wars with Ethiopia - which has had a decades-long dispute with Egypt over the Nile River water. The border wars left more than 80,000 people dead and the two East African countries are technically still at war.
Radio Erena: Eritrea's free voice and refugee hotline









THE LISTENING POST
Radio Erena: Eritrea's free voice and refugee hotline
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

Afwerki speaks on Horn affairs, denies Egypt's troops are in Eritrea









 President Isaias Afwerki denied the presence of any Egyptian troops in Eritrea on Sunday, amid heightened regional tensions that have led Sudan to deploy additional troops on its side of the border.



Afwerki’s remarks came during a broadcast interview with state media Eri-TV and Radio Dimtsi Hafash. He called the reports of any Egyptian troops on Eritrean soil "fake news” and blamed foreign media for perpetuating the story.


The Minister of Information, Yemane Meskel, previously denied accounts that Cairo had sent troops to the Horn of Africa nation in recent weeks, which have seen diplomatic relations among Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia and Eritrea stressed over regional developments. The issues include ongoing negotiations over Nile River water rights as Ethiopia moves forward with its USD $4.8 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project, and the Suakin Island deal between Sudan and Turkey.


Afwerki said President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan needs to make his intensions clear as he widens a Red Sea presence, including a naval site, as part of a $650 million agreement with Khartoum.



Afwerki, who visited Cairo last week, stressed the importance of regional stability and Eritrea’s commitment to neighbors including Somalia, but condemned interference by Ethiopia and international actors including the United States.



The Eritrean president is casting a wary eye on any Sudanese alliance with Ethiopia as well, despite the fact that both of those countries are caught up in conflict over the dam project’s impacts on water resources. Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Ibrahim Ghandour met with his Ethiopian counterpart, also on Sunday.



The complete interview video is availablehere.

Sudan says faces 'threat' on Egypt-Eritrea border

Sudan says faces 'threat' on Egypt-Eritrea borderSudan says faces 'threat' on Egypt-Eritrea border by Shelley Chandler | January 15, 2018 | 22:33 The Egyptian leader also called on his country's media to cease attacks on Sudan, saying it should follow the example of his administration which, he said, refrained from insulting its neighbors even in the face of intentional slights. Last Saturday, Sudan closed its border with Eritrea and sent thousands of troops to the Kassala state near the border. Ghandour said that they were not talking "about threats to a country per se" but that they have information that shows there are some who would mean them harm. "Sudan's national army has sent part of its forces to this area to protect Sudan's security as we have information that some parties are targeting us", Sudanese foreign minister, Ibrahim Ghandour, said after meeting his Ethiopian counterpart Workneh Gebeyehu in Khartoum on Sunday. "Some of the opposition forces are present in the eastern part of our country, so we are figuring out what can come from that place", he stated. Egypt believes Sudan is leaning towards the Ethiopian position in the dispute. Previously, on January 4, Khartoum had recalled its ambassador from Egypt for consultation, amid tension with Cairo over a disputed border region. The latest tension was sparked after Sudan signed an agreement to temporarily hand over the Red Sea island of Suakin to Turkey. Turkey is also set to build a naval dock on the island. Ties between Turkey and Egypt have been frosty for some time. Relations between Egypt and Sudan have soured in recent months due to disputes over the ownership of the triangle, and over the broader issue of the use of water from the River Nile that passes through their territories. "Egypt will not fight its brothers". Egypt has expressed mounting alarm over a soon-to-be-completed upstream dam in Ethiopia that Cairo fears could cut into its share of the Nile River, which provides almost all its fresh water. The Blue and the White Nile tributaries converge in Sudan's capital Khartoum and from there run north through Egypt to the Mediterranean. Egypt, with a population roughly equal to Ethiopia's, has traditionally received the lion's share of the Nile's waters under agreements reached in 1929 and 1959. 10ThousandCouple http://10thousandcouples.com/2018/01/sudan-says-faces-threat-on-egypt-eritrea-border/

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Fight not flight: Eritrea's youth taking matters into their own hands - African Arguments


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The student protest in Asmara last month was rare and unique, but not unprecedented.

Are Eritrea's young people saying enough is enough? Credit: David Stanley.

Are Eritrea’s young people saying enough is enough? Credit: David Stanley.
On the 31 October, Eritrea experienced a rare protest as hundreds of people took the streets in opposition against the nationalisation of an Islamic school. Government forces reacted in characteristically brutal fashion and dispersed protesters with gun-shots in the capital Asmara.
A protest in the hugely repressive state of Eritrea is remarkable in of itself. But last month’s demonstration was additionally notable for the make-up of its participants. Many of those who took to the streets were secondary school students. An article on the Ministry of Information’s portal dismissively referred to the protestors as “a group of teenagers”.
For over 16 years, there has been virtually no space to challenge the government of Eritrea. There is no independent press or right to free association and movement. Internet penetration is almost non-existent. And extreme militarisation and surveillance pervade society. All the government’s former critics have all been imprisoned, disappeared or have fled.
However, that does not mean there is no opposition to the regime in the country. They may be disconnected from one another and uncoordinated, but 31 October was not the first time “a group of teenagers” has expressed its frustrations and openly defied the all-powerful Eritrean government.
The plight of Eritrea’s youth is well-documented. Facing indefinite military conscription and a lack of jobs, the youth are fleeing the country in droves only to be stranded in the neighbouring countries or faced with the risky journey across to Mediterranean. Even the sons and daughters of the ruling elite try to escape the country, including the youngest son of President Isaias Afwerki. They would prefer to cut ties with their parents and risk living as destitute refugees than remain in Eritrea.
Of course, not everyone leaves. Some stay happily. But for the many disillusioned young people who remain in the country, there is the feeling of a deepening divide between their generation and the governing system. Recently, this has manifested in a number of under-reported clashes between protesting youth and the government.
The regime attempts to suppress such incidences, which is made easier by its restrictions on international media. This means that these events largely remain confined to those directly affected, but they could have a much broader significance.

Fighting back

Despite continued repression and an education system set up to produce obedient citizens, Eritrea’s youth currently seems to be the only group ready to openly confront the regime. Young people in national service have reportedly booed officials coming to conduct seminars and killed commanders’ goats in protest.
The class of 2013 was reportedly particularly insubordinate. According to students and an internal report that was leaked, many of that year’s intake was punished for their defiance by being told they would be recalled to the military training centre Sawa after their exams. They were told to prepare for a long walk. That night, however, hundreds of students fled. Soldiers were deployed to lock down the camp.
Those who remained – more than 12,000 – were rounded up and forced to travel on foot for over 21 days. The report says two students drowned crossing a river, while another two died from snake bites. On arriving at their destination, the group was put in open prison camps without proper shelter. 34 more died, while there were 17 unwanted pregnancies.
This year, there was news of similar collective resistance. In July, 6,000 students were reportedly deployed to Adi-Halo where President Afwerki is attempting to establish a college of agriculture and machinery. However, there was allegedly no proper lodging to accommodate the students, many of whom were assigned there involuntarily.
They believed they were brought there to work on Afwerki’s projects in the area. In protest, they started leaving rocks on the road the president takes to his office in Adi-Halo and demanded he address their concerns.
When the military intervened, the unarmed students openly challenged the guards. In October, tensions escalated and protesters began throwing stones at them. The Eritrean opposition radio Medrek reports that the military responded by forcibly moving the students to Naro in the far north for military training.

Eritrea’s youth standing up

These isolated but notable incidents suggest that the protest in Asmara last month was unique, but not unprecedented. In that demonstration, hundreds took to the streets of the capital in defiance of the regime’s repressive rule and in anger at its decision to wield greater control over the education system. Once again, many of them were students.
These acts of insubordination suggest that many young people are now saying enough is enough. There does not seem to be coordination around a collective movement. But in the face of clear threats and repression by the regime, and in the absence of an organised opposition, groups of youth may be beginning to take matters into their own hands. Knowing no-one will instigate change for them, frustrated young people may be feeling a greater sense of ownership over their own affairs and future.
If they do continue to mobilise, they may nevertheless find support amongst their as yet quieter compatriots. In Asmara, police sent to disperse the protest reportedly told demonstrators that they share their grievances and refused to fire on them.
That is reportedly how the protesters managed to get so close to the Office of the President. It was there, however, that Special Forces fired on them in a show of violence that leaves those who would question the regime in no uncertain terms about what they ultimately are up against.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Canadian firm to face historic legal case over alleged labour abuses in Eritrea | Global development | The Guardian

Workers and visitors walk within the processing plant at the Bisha Mining Share Company in Eritrea, operated by Canadian company Nevsun Resources

Workers and visitors walk within the processing plant at the Bisha Mining Share Company in Eritrea, operated by Canadian company Nevsun Resources. Photograph: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

A Canadian mining company has lost its bid to block a lawsuit accusing it of human rights abuses against miners in Eritrea after a ruling by an appeals court in British Columbia.
The decision, against Nevsun Resources, paves the way for a groundbreaking legal challenge that links the Vancouver company to allegations of modern slavery.
The case, launched in 2014 by three refugees who alleged they were forced to work at Bisha mine and endured harsh conditions and physical punishment, is one of only a handful in which foreign claimants have been granted access to Canadian courts to pursue firms based in the country over alleged human rights abuses abroad.
Filed in Canada, the lawsuit was directed at Canada’s Nevsun, which owns a controlling interest in the gold, copper and zinc mine through a chain of subsidiary corporations.
The case was catapulted into the spotlight last year when a court in the province of British Columbia ruled that it could be heard in the Canadian legal system.
Nevsun appealed the 2016 ruling, arguing that any lawsuit should be heard in Eritrea. On Tuesday, however, the British Columbia court of appeal dismissed the company’s challenge, noting the risk of corruption and unfairness in the Eritrean legal system.
Joe Fiorante of Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman, the lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said: “There will now be a reckoning in a Canadian court of law in which Nevsun will have to answer to the allegations that it was complicit in forced labour and grave human rights abuses at the Bisha mine.”
In affidavits filed with the court, the plaintiffs – all of whom have since left Eritrea – alleged that as conscripts in the country’s national service system, they were forced to work for government-owned construction firms subcontracted to build the mine. They claimed the conditions were inhuman and work was carried out under the constant threat of physical punishment, torture and imprisonment.


A truck arrives to ferry excavated gold, copper and zinc ore from the main mining pit at the Bisha Mining Share Company in Eritrea
Pinterest
 A truck arrives to ferry excavated gold, copper and zinc ore from the main mining pit at the Bisha Mining Share Company in Eritrea. Photograph: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters


Since Nevsun owns 60% of the Bisha Mining Share Company, which owns and operates the mine (the other 40% is owned by the Eritrean government), the plaintiffs claim the Canadian company must have been aware of the reported abuses, but failed to prevent or stop them.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
In their decision, the British Columbia appeals court judges referenced a 2016 UN inquiry into human rights in Eritrea, which found the government had committed crimes against humanity in a widespread and systematic manner. The report noted that officials in the one-party state had enslaved up to 400,000 people, with many describing how the country’s system of lifelong military service amounts to modern-day slavery.
This system is at the heart of the case against Nevsun, said Fiorante. “Our case alleges that people that were conscripted into that system were forced to work in service of building a Canadian-owned gold mine in Bisha, Eritrea,” he said.
Fiorante added that about 60 people have so far come forward with similar claims of being forced to work at the mine.
Nevsun has denied the allegations contained in the lawsuit. While the company declined to comment on the latest ruling as the matter is before the court, a Nevsun spokesperson referred to a 2015 human rights audit of the Bisha mine, noting that contractual commitments strictly prohibit the use of national service employees by Bisha’s contractors and subcontractors.
Last year the Guardian spoke with several people who alleged they had been forced to work at the mine, earning as little as a dollar a day. The work was carried out amid horrendous conditions and a climate of fear and intimidation, they claimed.
“The mine was like an open prison,” said one former security guard, speaking on condition of anonymity to protect family still in Eritrea. “They can take you and do what they want with you. I was owned by them. We were like objects for the government and for foreign companies to do with us what they wanted.”

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