Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Eritrea 2013 Crime and Safety Report

Africa > Eritrea > Asmara

Overall Crime and Safety Situation
Asmara is rated “Critical” for crime. Though the Embassy receives reports of crime from different sources, the government of Eritrea does not share official statistics.

Throughout 2012, non-Eritrean teachers at the International School have been victims of verbal and physical harassment as well as from property crimes. Early in 2012, an American teacher was walking near the school when Eritreans began yelling anti-American statements at her. (At the time, it was speculated that the Eritreans were yelling at her because they were frustrated at having to wait in long lines for fuel.) They also threw stones at her. She was not physically injured. In August and in November, the Australian director of the school had stones thrown at him while he was walking his dog. He was not injured. Teachers were also the victims of property crime. One American teacher moved after having Eritreans repeatedly throw stones and other objects at her in her yard. Another teacher had his home broken into, and another had his vehicle stolen from in front of his house.

Other Westerners have experienced property crime as well. The security officer for the Israeli Embassy had his propane tank stolen from his yard. (He does not have a residential guard at his property.) Also this year, the British Ambassador’s residence was broken into. Her residential guards did not report seeing or hearing anything and only a camera was stolen. The diplomatic community speculates that this was a staged break-in, as the day before the Ambassador’s spouse was taking photos around Asmara.

Many residential break-ins reported to the Embassy are food-related. In an area that is frequently plagued by drought and famine, it is not uncommon for homes that have no security features (grilles on windows, alarms, etc.) or guards to be robbed of food. In 2010, the Eritrean police held meetings where they blamed citizens themselves for providing opportunities for robberies and other crimes going on in the city.

Though walking in Asmara is, for the most part, very safe, there is a notable population of Emotionally Disturbed Persons (EDPs). In the downtown area near embassies and churches especially, they can be quite aggressive. In the past year, the Embassy has not received any reports of physical assaults on American diplomats although they have happened in the past.

The Embassy has received infrequent reports of serious crimes occurring inside and outside of Asmara; however, it is impossible to confirm the reports. Our limited relationship with the government and travel restrictions placed upon the diplomatic community make information-gathering very difficult.

Overall Road Safety Situation
The most recent statistics by the World Health Organization, dated 2007, listed Eritrea as the deadliest country in the world for motor vehicle fatalities. There were 48.4 deaths per 100,000 motor vehicle accidents in Eritrea that year. This is compared with 13.9 per 100,000 in the United States.

Poor road conditions factor into road safety. The main roads are adequate, but secondary roads are filled with potholes and are not adequately repaired or maintained. Many secondary roads are not paved. Traveling outside of Asmara is especially risky. Asmara is in the highlands, and the roads to reach the lowlands are mountain roads with frequent switchbacks and steep embankments. There are few shoulders or guardrails. Many switchbacks have blind corners, and horrific traffic accidents occur quite frequently. Fog during the winter months reduces visibility, sometimes to nearly zero.

In Asmara, road rules are not uniformly enforced. Though traffic is fairly light (in part due to frequent fuel shortages), the roads are shared with many bicyclists, pedestrians, horse drawn carts, and wheelchairs. Bicyclists and pedestrians are prone to walking or biking in front of oncoming cars.

There is no subway system, but there are taxis. Taxis, which are relatively cheap, are numerous. The Embassy has not received any reports of anyone having problems taking taxis. The Embassy does recommend that riders negotiate the price of the taxi before beginning a trip and instruct the driver not to pick up other passengers. It is common in Asmara for multiple people to share a taxi.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
The government does not generally informed the Embassy of security incidents. Instead, the Embassy relies on secondary sources to tell us what they hear. For example, the Embassy was told in early December 2012 of an explosion at a military training camp in the west that evidently occurred three months earlier.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

The UN has issued sanctions against the government based on evidence of past support of organizations that have destabilized the Horn of Africa region. The government vehemently denies that it is involved with destabilizing organizations in neighboring states.

Civil Unrest

In previous years, the Embassy did not consider civil unrest a major factor impinging on government security, because the government could be counted on to respond harshly to any type of protest. The government monitors groups of more than seven and reacts immediately to any criticism.

In 2012, the government began arming large numbers of citizens with Kalashnikovs and mandating militia training. The Embassy is monitoring this new civilian militia because of the concern that this may lead to factional fighting or to violent unrest against the government. In the nine months since the program began, the Embassy has not witnessed any violence or unrest from the militia.

The Embassy does want Americans to be aware of instances of low key outbreaks of violence against Americans. Fuel is constantly in various states of shortage and when it does appear, lines wrap around blocks as citizens attempt to buy fuel for cars and kerosene to heat homes and cook. One such kerosene station is near the International School. American teachers going to lunch at a nearby café were accosted by a group waiting in line for kerosene. The individuals began yelling anti-American statements, specifically that the U.S. had imposed sanctions causing the fuel shortage. No American was hurt, but they were shaken up by the incident.

Religious or Ethnic Violence

In the highlands, which includes Asmara, the population is mainly Christian. In the lowlands, the majority practices Islam. There are a number of mosques in Asmara, many Orthodox churches, three Catholic churches, and several Lutheran churches. These four religions are recognized by the government. Other faiths are not permitted, despite constitutional guarantees of religious freedom. The government is known to persecute those of faiths other than the four permitted ones. Jehovah’s Witnesses recieve particularly severe abuses, including imprisonment, because their religion forbids them from bearing arms, now required of many citizens due to the militia and to mandatory national service.

The Embassy is aware of a case of an American citizen who entered Eritrea on a religious mission. He reported being in fear for his life because he was followed and questioned by individuals whom he suspected were members of the police. The government may have followed him to determine whether he was meeting with Eritrean citizens who belonged to a non-permitted religious group. Thus, his presence in the country put Eritreans at risk.  

The Embassy is unaware of any incidents of religious or ethnic violence in Asmara or in areas along the border with Ethiopia and Sudan.

Post-specific Concerns
Environmental Hazards

Eritrea lies on a fault line, but there have not been any earthquakes or tremors in recent history.

Industrial and Transportation Accidents

The Embassy is not aware of any recent industrial accidents, although it is possible that such accidents have occurred. Power is unreliable, and power plants are in poor repair. Parts are cannibalized from one plant to the other. Such practices leave plants open to accidents.

Many of the trucks used to transport fuel and possibly chemicals or other toxic substances are in a state of disrepair. Considering that these trucks also must travel the very hazardous roads outside of Asmara, Eritrea is vulnerable to the possible of a hazardous chemical spill.

Privacy Concerns

Westerners, especially Americans, are closely monitored. Official Americans have reported many incidents of being followed and being at restaurants where someone is sitting nearby taking notes on their conversations.

Regional Travel Concerns and Restricted Travel Areas/Zones

Landmines and unexploded ordinance litter the countryside and cause sporadic injuries and death. Although some de-mining efforts have taken place, areas that are not well traveled, especially in the north and west, are potentially dangerous.

The government maintains tight controls over some individuals who fly into Asmara, sending minders to the airport to track those who they are suspicious of. The government does not as a rule track land crossings of the Sudanese border, which is very porous. The Embassy remains in contact with the Regional Security Office in Khartoum. That office monitors Sudan’s eastern border as best it can and informs Embassy Asmara of incidents occurring there.

In 2006, the government issued a decree restricting the travel of Westerners outside of Asmara. Any diplomat wishing to travel beyond 25 km from the capital must receive permission from the government. Trips to Keren and Massawa are usually granted, as these are tourist destinations. In 2010 and 2011, the RSO requested to travel to other parts of Eritrea; every request was turned down, along with most requests by other diplomatic personnel. In 2012, all of the Chargé’s requests were granted, as were most requests on the part of others in the diplomatic community.

Individuals traveling to Eritrea must have visas. Those who arrive at the Asmara airport without visas are subject to arrest. In many cases, they are simply put back on the planes they arrived on and returned to their original destinations. Recently, a Sudanese citizen who is a Legal Permanent Resident of the U.S. was detained for close to five days after having arrived without a visa from the United States. Claiming there was no space on any flights out of Asmara, she was held at the airport until she was put on a flight to Khartoum.

Drug-related Crimes

Eritrea has very strict drug laws. The Embassy is unaware of any drug-related crimes.

Kidnapping Threats

Kidnappings are very rare.

Police Response
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

The current Travel Warning for Eritrea emphasizes the Embassy’s inability to assist in cases of arrest of American citizens, particularly dual nationals of Eritrean descent. In clear violation of the Vienna Convention, the government refuses to allow ACS or any official American to visit an American who has been detained. The government also fails to inform the Embassy if an American has been detained, in disregard of the Vienna Convention.

The Embassy recommends that if an American is harassed or detained, she/he call the Embassy main number at 291-1-120004 and report the circumstances of his/her arrest. If an American is harassed by the police, he/she should attempt to get names or badge numbers and provide that information to the Embassy. The police do not wear badges; obtaining names of officers might be difficult. RSO and local investigators stand ready to follow up with the police.

Where to Turn to for Assistance if you Become a Victim of Crime

The police will respond if notified of a crime, but victims may have to pick them up at the police station and drive them to the scene. For example, in the case of the American teacher’s vehicle theft, he went to the nearest police station and picked up the police officers responsible for investigating. He was not given any type of report. He also described the incident to traffic police, who wrote the information down on a napkin. The RSO has sometimes had to provide pencil and paper to the police to take down a report.

If an American is the victim of a crime, report the incident to the Embassy because it is unlikely it will be relayed by the police.

Crime Prevention Unit: 291-1-125-229
Investigations Unit: 291-1-115-402
Airport Security: 291-1-186-604
1st police station: 291-1-127-799
2nd police station: 291-1-116-219
3rd police station: 291-1-114-942
4th police station: 291-1-159-159
5th police station: 291-1-151-118
6th police station: 291-1-115-551
7th police station: 291-1-186-370

Various Police/Security Agencies

Eritrea has a police force, which investigates different types of crime. The police force has divisions for six zones. Maekel is the zone that encompasses Asmara. Each zone is divided into areas of responsibility given police stations. In Asmara, there are seven police stations. Most crime is handled by one of these stations; however, if a crime involves corruption or the diplomatic community, it is referred to headquarters for investigation. Any traffic accidents or other traffic violations are handled by the traffic police.

Besides the police, there is the military police (carabinieri). Military police are responsible for responding to protests, riots, or other civil disturbances. The Embassy is told that Eritrea has special riot police, but the military police or actual military units respond to anything resembling civil unrest.

Eritrea also has a Diplomatic police unit. At one time, this unit provided police protection at all diplomatic missions in Asmara. It does not protect the U.S. Embassy, which relies on local guards. Members of this unit protect some individual diplomats through bilateral arrangements. The unit is the primary contact in case of any crimes involving diplomatic property or personnel.

Eritrea also has municipal regulatory/administrative police managed by each municipality. These are unarmed police who do not have arrest power and are mainly responsible for administrative issues. They are responsible for visiting building sites to ensure the builder has a permit; verifying that businesses have first aid kits and fire extinguishers; and checking grocery stores to see if they are selling expired items.

There also is now the citizen militia, which performs night patrols. These are citizens who have undergone militia training and who are armed with Kalashnikovs. Per the government, the civilian militia is to patrol the streets and neighborhoods of Asmara to ensure the safety of its residents. When the Embassy was following up on the investigation into the stoning of the International School’s director, the police reported that the civilian militia would try to find the perpetrators during their nightly patrols.

Medical Emergencies
Medical facilities are inadequate by U.S. standards and are extremely limited. The Embassy went to an adult-only dependent policy in 2011. Travelers must bring their own medical supplies or prescription drugs and preventative medicines. Doctors and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for health care services.

Contact Information for Recommended Local Hospitals and Clinics

In 2011, the government closed all private health clinics in Asmara.

Sembel Hospital: 291-1-150-175
Orota Hospital: 291-1-201-917 and 291-1-202-914

Recommended Air Ambulance Services

The policy of the Embassy continues to be to stabilize and evacuate. Evacuation options, though, are limited. A medical evacuation by private air ambulance requires an arrangement with off-shore companies and may take several days to arrange clearance through the Eritrean authorities. In 2010, the GSE refused to allow a medical evacuation of a foreign patient, although a successful air evacuation to Kenya for a foreign diplomat took place in 2012. Travelers are recommended to get adequate air ambulance evacuation insurance prior to arrival.

SOS USA: 1-800-523-6586
SOS London International: 00-44-20-8762-8133
SOS Geneva: 00-41-22-785-6464

CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

Malaria is prevalent in the coastal areas and western lowlands. Malaria prophylaxis is recommended when traveling to these areas. Travelers should check with the American Citizen Services section at the U.S. Embassy for the most current information and the CDC at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/eritrea.htm

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

The Embassy highly recommends that travelers use cash only. In 2012, departing official Americans used credit cards at a local business and found unauthorized purchases had been made after their departure. Credit card purchases may incur a surcharge.  

With that said, it is important that you do not display your cash or wear expensive jewelry. Americans are perceived as being wealthy and thus are targeted by beggars. At times, the beggars can be very aggressive and belligerent. Americans serving at the Embassy have observed that they are especially aggressive near and around local churches and mosques.

Areas to be Avoided and Best Security Practices

The Embassy recommends that anyone visiting Asmara be aware of their surroundings at all times. Though Asmara is a very walkable city, do not walk late at night. The downtown area and the Expo area have multiple bars where numerous robberies and assaults have occurred. Similarly, do not walk late at night because of the civilian militia patrols. These patrols are armed with AK-47s and are there to keep the peace; however, travelers should be aware of sporadic gunfire. Embassy Asmara does not recommend any Americans use public buses as they are packed and poorly maintained.

The Embassy recommends checking with local government and village officials before undertaking travel to remote areas or off the main roads, and travel permits from central authorities are necessary for all travel out of Asmara. Travelers should exercise extreme caution and avoid secondary roads due to mines. Additionally, travelers should ensure that other traffic has recently passed over unimproved roads before traversing them.

U.S. Embassy/Consulate Location and Contact Information 
Embassy/Consulate Address and Hours of Operation

The U.S. Embassy is located at 179 Alaa Street.
The hours of operation are Monday-Thursday 0800-1800 and Friday 0800-1200.

Embassy/Consulate Contact Numbers

Regional Security Officer:  291-1-120-004, ext. 2778 or 124367
Embassy Operator:  291-1-120-004
Medical Unit:  291-1-120-004 ext 2156 or 124652
Consular Affairs:  291-1-120-004 ext 2415 or 120342
Political/Economic Section: 291-1-120-004 ext 2314
There is no MSG detachment.

We also recommend that any Americans travelling here register with the Embassy.

OSAC Country Council Information
The Embassy does not have an OSAC Country Council, as we discourage American citizen travel for any reason other than official business. Due to the anti-American sentiment of the government, the Embassy does not want to risk the security of Americans. 

Fires hit pro-Eritrea groups in Stockholm - The Local

Fires hit pro-Eritrea groups in Stockholm

Fires hit pro-Eritrea groups in Stockholm

Published: 26 Feb 13 07:06 CET | Print version 

Arson investigations have been launched into three fires that broke out near Stockholm in the early hours of Monday morning in three separate locations, all of which house organizations that sympathize with the regime in Eritrea.
All the fires broke out within hours of one another, with emergency services first getting a call shortly after 1am about a fire in Högdalen south of Stockholm.

A second fire was reported in Solna, just north of the city, around 2.30am, followed thirty minutes later by reports of a third fire in Husby, also north of central Stockholm.

More than 50 people were evacuated from their homes as a result of the fires, which were eventually brought under control thanks to the efforts of dozens of firefighters.

The fires all erupted in offices housing organizations that support the regime in Eritrea, the TT news agency reported, although no representatives from the organizations were willing to be quoted by name about the incidents.

However, one person active in the Husby-based organization who wished to remain anonymous due to fears of reprisals said he was "100 percent certain" the fires were "political".

"It's those damn traitors who are behind this," he told TT, referring to Eritrean-Swedes who "hate their country" and often demonstrate against events organized in support of the current Eritrean regime.

Tensions have been running high between groups loyal to the Eritrean government and those critical of the regime of Eritrean president Isaias Afewerki.

When pro-regime actions are held in Sweden, opposition groups often stage counter-demonstrations, according to TT.

Regime critics in turn often blame the Eritrean authorities for engaging in threats and blackmail in order to squeeze tax money from Eritreans in exile.

Preliminary investigations into arson have been opened for all three fires, with police confirming that the Husby and Högdalen blazes were intentionally set, while forensic teams continue to investigate the scene of the fire in Solna.

However, police have refrained from confirming that the fires are connected.

"In Högdalen, the fire broke out in a building that houses an Eritrean organization, as well as several other companies. As far as I know, there is no connection to the fire in a laundry room in Husby. We're obviously looking into any connection, but for the moment we don't see one," police spokesman Mats Eriksson told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

Swedish-Eritrean MP Arhe Hamednaca, who is critical of the authoritarian regime in Eritrea, told TT he doesn't think the Eritrean democratic opposition is responsible.

"It could be a group siding with the government that wants to drag the opposition through the mud; they're known for doing that," he told TT.

He explained that supporters of the regime are desperate following an uprising among troops in Eritrea that took place about a month ago as well as recent reports in the Swedish media about how the regime has been threatening Eritreans in Sweden.

Last week, three people were arrested in Stockholm on suspicion of blackmail and conspiring to commit murder in a case believed to be connected to the Eritrean regime's systematic oppression of Eritreans living in exile.

TT/The Local/dl
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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Eritrea: The Revolution Was Televised - IndepthAfrica

The Revolution Was Televised

Though Eritrean president Isaias Afewerki claimed on February 11 that the Eritrean military’s takeover of the information ministry was nothing to worry about, very few people in the region believed him. On January 21 a force of 200 to 300 Eritrean soldiers, backed up by armored vehicles, surrounded the information ministry headquarters in Asmara. The soldiers told the director general of Eritrean state television to broadcast a demand that all political prisoners be freed. The broadcast was made and then the state television went off the air for the rest of the day.  One source claimed that the broadcast statement included a demand that the 1997 constitution be implemented. Exiled Eritrean opposition groups (most of them have a presence in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa) have been claiming for several years that discontent in the Eritrean military was growing and that there are increasing demands within the military for economic and political reform. Since the January 21 incident in Asmara, the exile groups have said the information ministry incident proved their claim beyond doubt. Initially several exile groups called the incident a mutiny and the first stage of a revolt against Isaias and his regime. The soldiers, however, returned to their barracks. Their leaders did not call for the removal of Isaias.  One source reported that the dissident soldiers were enlisted personnel led by mid-level officers. No senior officers were overtly involved, though since the incident there are reports that a handful of generals have told Isaias that Eritrea’s economic situation is a disaster and that reform is necessary. One unsubstantiated report claimed that Isaias was told this by several senior officers in 2012.  If it is true that Isaias is being confronted by senior officers who favor reforms, then the ministry of information action could be seen as a big time message to the regime sent by some very powerful military reformers. So far no one has reported a release of political prisoners, but then there have been no reports of mass executions of the mutineers. Eritrea has a lot of political prisoners, though no one is precisely sure how many. Estimates on the number of political prisoners jailed by the Isaias regime vary greatly, from 5,000 to over 12,000. Compared to the millions Stalin and Mao jailed, even 12,000 prisoners is small pickings. Eritrea, however, only has a population of 5.7 million people. Ethiopia has a population of some 85 million. Yet Eritrea manages to keep approximately 300,000 soldiers on duty. The figure may be higher, up to 350,000, but the higher figures probably include some of the better armed citizen militia units. Even the lower estimates tell a harsh story about Eritrea’s political, social and dismal economic situation. Somewhere between five to six percent of the entire population is in the military. But this wrinkle on the demographic numbers is the truly telling statistic: at least 12 percent of the country’s labor force is in the military. During the Ethiopia-Eritrea War, Eritrea was often described as a fully mobilized state. Indeed it was. To fight Ethiopia to a draw demanded it. Today, however, Eritrea is a truly militarized state, meaning it is a perpetually mobilized state, so much so that it is fair to argue that the military is the only constituency in the country that matters. That’s why the January 21 incident is significant, no matter what the president says or at least hopes people will believe. A military unit had the courage and wherewithal to publicly demand reform, and it made the demand on live television. Gil Scott-Heron was wrong again. The revolution was televised. (Austin Bay)
February 18, 2013: The Kenyan military (Kenyan Defense Forces, KDF) has been in control of Somali port of Kismayo for six months.  More journalists have been visiting Kismayo, with the apparent encouragement of the Somali government and the KDF. The media reports tend to support the KDF claims that the city is much more secure than it was six months ago. Residents report a drop in violent incidents (especially in hand grenade attacks). Al Shabaab controlled the town for five years and it was the Islamist organizations main contact point with weapons supply sources. The African Union peacekeeping operation in Somalia, AMISOM, continues to battle Al Shabaab militants in the Juba area (southern Somalia, the region around Kismayo).
February 17, 2013: The Ethiopian military has confirmed that it is testing an unmanned aerial vehicle made in Ethiopia. Ethiopia has several defense industrial companies that can overhaul different weapons systems. These companies have done some weapons manufacturing as well. The unmanned aerial vehicle does represent a step-up in local procurement. The UAV can carry cameras and other sensor systems. It has an on-board global positioning system (GPS) device. Media reported that the military intends to use it for border surveillance.
February 16, 2013:  A bomb blast near an elementary school in the town of Garissa (northeastern Kenya) killed one man. Police speculated the dead man was the terrorist bomber. The man was probably putting the bomb together when it exploded. His likely target was the school. Investigators also found two pistols near the blast site.
Ethiopia and Britain agreed to use their political influence to improve stability in the Horn of Africa region. Ethiopian and British diplomats have been taking the lead in efforts decrease tensions between Sudan and South Sudan.
February 15, 2013: Kenya’s High Court ruled that deputy prime minister Uhuru Kenyatta can run for president in the upcoming March national elections. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has charged Kenyatta with crimes against humanity. Kenyatta’s alleged crimes were committed in the  violent aftermath of the 2007 elections. Over 1,000 people died in post-election inter-ethnic violence and 300,000 people were displaced.
Kenyan government officials refused to negotiate with Al Shabaab Somali terrorists who now claim that they have executed a Kenyan soldier. Al Shabaab had demanded the release of several militants who are in jail in Kenya. The Kenyan military reported that the soldier was kidnapped and was not captured in military operations in Somalia.
February 13, 2013: The Kenyan military reported that it has put a special troop unit of soldiers on stand-by alert. The unit will assist civilian police and security agencies should violence erupt during the March elections. Kenyan civilian security forces have already pinpointed areas that have had violent outbursts in the past. Several of these had violent incidents during recent political party primary elections.
February 12, 2013: Ethiopia provides the bulk of forces for the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei  (UNISFA). Control of Abyei is the biggest political dispute between South Sudan and Sudan. Ethiopia has 3,600 soldiers deployed in Abyei (3,700 according to one source). Abye was originally what the UN calls a single troop contributing country mission. However, several nations now provide observers. In January the UN reported that UNISFA now has 3,979 uniformed personnel. The breakdown was 131 military observers, five police officers, and 3,843 soldiers.
February 11, 2013: Ethiopia claimed that the February 9 shooting  of Somaliland police officers by Ethiopian border guards was an accident. The shooting incident occurred at the Wajale border crossing. Ethiopian border guards fired on a vehicle that had entered Ethiopian territory. The vehicle turned out to be a Somaliland police vehicle.  Two Somaliland police officers were severely wounded. The Somaliland police officers were pursuing a smuggler’s vehicle. Ethiopian border guards thought the Somaliland police vehicle was a smuggler’s vehicle.
February 7, 2013: Suspected Al Shabaab gunmen killed one person and wounded several more in an attack in the town of Garissa (northeastern Kenya). The gunmen fired on a vehicle that was traveling through the town. Police said the gunmen selected the target at random.
February 6, 2013:  The UN reported that a NATO naval patrol had stopped a ship carrying weapons to Eritrea. The weapons shipment violated UN arms sanctions. The NATO naval force seized 15 tons of weaponry and ammunition that were shipped by North Korea.  The shipment included rockets and surface to air missiles. The ship had apparently sailed through Singapore and had tried to change its cargo manifest to reflect Singapore as the point of origin.
The government of Djibouti reported that Japan will donate two patrol boats to the Djibouti coast guard. The boats are capable of operations in the Red Sea. The boats will be used on counter-smuggling operations and to stop illegal immigration into Djibouti.
February 5, 2013:  The Eritrean Democratic Alliance (EDA), an Eritrean umbrella organization representing 11 Eritrean political opposition groups, accused the Eritrean government of kidnapping Eritrean refugees who had left Eritrea and were in refugee camps in Sudan.  The EDA claimed that Eritrean refugees are also preyed up by criminal gangs who kidnap them and sell them as slaves.
February 4, 2013: A Kenyan policeman was murdered in the city of Garissa  (northeastern Kenya). Al Shabaab terrorists are the main suspects. Seven people were killed in the village of Loyamorok three of them police officers.  A group of some 300 armed bandits attacked Loyamorok and stole several hundred goats. Police reported the bandits were armed with AK-47 assault rifles.
February 2, 2013: Kenyan authorities reported that a bomb blast in Wajir district killed a Kenyan Army soldier. Three people were injured by the blast.
February 1, 2013: A senior Kenyan Defense Forces official reported that Kenyan Air Force jets bombed an Al Shabaab supply base in Somalia’s Garbaharey area. The air strike destroyed three ammunition trucks and two armed vehicles (technical vehicles).
January 31, 2013: Three Kenyan police officers were seriously wounded in a hand grenade attack on the Ifo 2 refugee camp (Dadaab, Kenya).
The UN’s Under Secretary for Political Affairs urged all Kenyans to make certain that the March national elections are peaceful and fair. The UN wants Kenya to avoid a repeat of the 2008 election violence.
January 28, 2013: The U.S. State Department reported that since 1997 ACOTA (African Contingency Operations and Training Assistance program) has provided training and non-lethal equipment to 254,228 peacekeepers from African partner militaries in 257 contingent units. That means ACOTA has trained a substantial portion of the peacekeepers provided by African nations. So far 25 African nations (Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zambia) have participated in the program. ACOTA began in 1997 and gives African peacekeeping troops special field training for peacekeeping operations. It also provides staff training and exercises for battalion and brigade-sized units and for  personnel serving in international (or multinational) force headquarters units. ACOTA predates the establishment of AFRICOM.
January 25, 2013:  East African diplomats are calling attention to the extensive reports of attacks on Kenyan police and security forces inside Kenya by Al Shabaab Islamist terrorists and “affiliated organizations.”  The attacks include bomb blasts, grenade attacks and small arms shootings (at individuals, vehicles and buildings). Al Shabaab typically portrays the attacks as revenge for Kenyan military participation in Somalia.
January 24, 2013: Egyptian diplomats are once again telling Ethiopia that Egypt wants a peaceful resolution to any disputes over Nile River water rights. Ethiopian diplomats had reported several comments by Egyptian officials in late 2012 that indicated some members of the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Egyptian government were contemplating a military response to what they regarded as a threat to Egypt’s water rights.
January 21, 2013: A unit of Eritrean soldiers took control of the state’s ministry of information headquarters in Asmara. The soldiers forced the ministry of information to read a demand letter which called for the release of political prisoners in the country.

Sinai remains security challenge; Eritrea complains to UNSC on killings - Politics - Egypt - Ahram Online

While Islamist militants in Sinai remain a target of security operations, Eritrea complains to the UNSC that a shoot-to-kill policy is in force for African refugees illegally crossing into Israel
Dina Ezzat, Saturday 23 Feb 2013
File photo: An Egyptian army truck carries tanks and vehicles to Rafah city, some 350 km (217 miles) northeast of Cairo, August 10, 2012 (Photo: Reuters)

Eritrea has sent a complaint to the UN Security Council complaining about Egyptian security's shoot-to-kill policy of Eritrean refugees attempting to cross illegally Egyptian borders into Israel, diplomatic sources in New York tell Ahram Online.
According to one source, the Eritrean complaint, which was signed by President Isaias Afewerki, suggested that Egyptian authorities are opting for a bloody approach to border control that, in the words of the letter, "violates human rights."
This is the second complaint to be forwarded to the UN Security Council about Sinai in less than six months. Last summer Israel complained about a lack of security and border control in Sinai, claiming that the situation undermined Israeli security.
Israel is less upset now with Egypt on Sinai, and according to New York diplomats it is not objecting to the border control mechanism that Eritrea is complaining about. On the contrary, according to one Egyptian diplomat, Israel "is speaking rather positively about the efforts of Egypt to check Islamist militant operations in Sinai, even if it is underlining the need for more to be done."
During the past few weeks, Egyptian military and police forces upgraded their operations in Sinai. On the one hand, Islamist militant groups have been attacked, and on the other, illicit tunnels built between the long-besieged and impoverished Gaza Strip and Sinai for the smuggling of all sorts of commodities, including basic needs, have been flooded by Egyptian forces.
"Sinai is not clean yet. It would take much more work to clean it completely, and it is not easy," said a security source who works in Sinai.
According to this source, there are two reasons why Sinai remains troubled. The first is what he qualifies as "a not so forthcoming willingness on the side of the presidency to apply a firm approach towards Islamists". The second reason, which the source says is more important, are "the strong links between Islamists and Sinai tribes" based on "financial interests and sympathy." "It is the tribes that provide them with refuge and ways of escape," he added.
Last August, some 17 Egyptian borders guards were attacked and killed by Islamists during a Ramadan breakfast. Following the attack, President Mohamed Morsi removed the head and his deputy in the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF).
At the time, "Operation Eagle' was initiated to comb Sinai for Islamist militants. President Morsi announced that he "personally" was "leading the operation."
According to military sources, however, its first week aside, the operation was hesitant in general. "There is a limit to how far we could go in using force to attack militants without causing serious civilian causalities. This is a concern that prohibited us from opting for tough military choices," said one military source.
The source added that at other times the "state leadership" was not fully supportive of the choices of some military commandors in charge of the operation.
The disagreement between presidency and army on the management of Sinai is an open secret, according to military and political sources. "They don't see eye to eye for sure. Sometimes one side succumbs to the wish of the other, and sometimes it goes the other way round," said an informed political source.
Last December, Minister of Defense Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, appointed by Morsi last August, issued a decree restricting the possession of property in Sinai to second generation Egyptians. The decree was interpreted by some political sources as the "army's reply" to plans contemplated by the presidency to sell large parts of property in Sinai to non-Egyptians (some suggested Qataris and others said Palestinians of dual nationality) for purposes of investment.
Today, the Egyptian mission in New York is trying to convince members of the UN Security Council that the killing of Eritrean refugees by security forces in Sinai "is not at all deliberate." Meanwhile, the army is still trying to contain the restive Islamist militant spots in the peninsula.
"Sinai is a tough challenge because we know that the only way to fix the situation there is to pump in massive investment. But there are no investment offers coming our way and our economy is far too frail to allow the state to start a Sinai development scheme that is already there," said a government source.
He added that for the near future Sinai would remain a security rather than "development" file, "even though we know this is not the right approach."

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Team Eritrea Granted Political Asylum In Uganda

TTeam Eritrea Granted Political Asylum In Uganda


Mareeg.com-The 15 Eritrean football players who had asked for political asylum in Uganda in December following their losing match to Rwanda have been granted political asylum, according to BBC.
Of the 15 (including
picture courtesy of BBC
the team doctor) who were granted asylum, 2 returned to Eritrea, adds the report.
This is the latest in a series of defections that have rocked Eritrean sports.
Since 2006, the “Red Sea Boys” have been seeking asylum in the countries hosting their matches. These include Kenya (2006), Tanzania (2007), Angola (2007), and even Sudan (2009).
Instead of dealing with the underlying causes for the brain drain, the Eritrean regime has tried stop-gap measures which have not worked. One of the policies which it required to discourage defections is a demand that each athlete post a bond for 100,000 Nackfa, a steep amount in a country where the average monthly salary is about 300 Nackfas.
Still, that has not deterred the athletes from seeking asylum in foreign countries.
Last year, Weynay Ghebresilasie, an athlete who was carrying the Eritrean flag at the 2012 Olympics, sought asylum in the United Kingdom and is now training to run for his host country.
The Eritrean regime has blamed the West for making it easy for asylum-seekers to abandon Eritrea, completely disregarding the fact that it is its own draconian policies that are emptying out the country of its most productive population.
source awate.com

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Another 30 believers arrested in Eritrea

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Another 30 believers arrested in Eritrea
(Asmara 09-02-2013) A group of 30 believers from Philadelphia Church in the suburbs of Asmara known as Mai- Temenai were taken to prison after their respective houses were raided and some were found to be praying together.
These arrests follow an earlier wave of arrests of another group of 20 believers who were arrested following a targeting surveillance by security officers earlier this month. The latest arrests have brought the number of recent victims of religious persecution to around 50 believers in one month. All the recent victims are reported to being held at the notorious Karsheli prison in the compounds of the 2nd police station.
One of the prisoners is an 85 year old grandmother, who was founding hosting a bible study meeting in her house. Mrs Hajer Yohans a resident of Akriya in Asmara is renowned for her hospitality and love.  Speaking of the arrests Rev Dr Berhane Asmelash director of Release Eritrea said: ‘it looks like we are in the midst of a renewed campaign of raids and arrests and it is worrying that not even the elderly and frail are spared this time, I pray that God will bring all this to an end soon’  .
Release Eritrea will continue to monitor the situation and report any updates and calls on all Eritreans and friends of Eritrea to pray, support and advocate on behalf of these and all other prisoners in Eritrea.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Eritreans told: You can go free if you g... JPost -

02/13/2013 21:07

5 Eritrean detainees say they were told by prison officials that their only way to be freed is to agree to go back to Eritrea or Uganda.

Eritrean migrants protest Negev detention facility
Eritrean migrants protest Negev detention facility Photo: Ben Hartman
Eritrean asylum seekers in detention in Israel are being urged by immigration officials to make voluntary return to their home country, saying there is no other way they can be released, according to a statement by the Hotline for Migrant Workers this week.

A press release by HMW says that they have received testimony from five detainees who said they were told by immigration officers, prison officials, and translators that their only way to be freed is to agree to go back to Eritrea or to Uganda.

Eritrea is run by a dictatorship and is considered one of the worst human rights abusers in the world. Asylum seekers who return could very well be in danger of persecution by the regime. 

The HMW said they were told by a group of asylum seekers that a group of 25 Eritreans agreed to return to Uganda and were taken on Monday to Ben-Gurion International Airport where they were told they were boarding a flight to Eritrea. They were then taken to an immigration office in Beer Sheva where they told officials they would not return to Eritrea, according to the HMW.

The HMW said “while Israel does not forcibly deport Eritrean and Sudanese nationals, in the past few months it has placed considerable pressure on detainees from these countries to sign consent form to "voluntary return," stating that they have no chance of being recognized as refugees and that they will remain in prison for at least three years and perhaps indefinitely.”

The statement by HMW claims that for the past two months dozens of migrants from north Sudan, afforded group protection by Israel because Sudan is an enemy state, have been leaving Israel on weekly flights to Khartoum via a third country.

Sigal Rozen Public Policy Coordinator of HMW said that she had checked with NGOs and human rights activists in Uganda who said that they had not heard about the upcoming arrival of any Eritrean asylum seekers.

When asked if there was an agreement reached with Uganda to serve as a return country for Eritrean migrants, a source at the Foreign Ministry said any such questions would have to be asked of the Interior Ministry.

The Spokeswoman for the Population, Immigration, and Borders Authority Sabine Haddad said she did not know about a group of Eritreans facing possible return, but did say that hundreds of north Sudanese have agreed to be repatriated in recent months, as well as a small number of Eritreans.

Haddad added that her office is checking this particular incident, and in no case do they deport migrants against their will.

In Eritrea, What’s Unsaid Is As Important As What’s Said. Amaric is Forbidden to the people not to the state| Africa talks

In 2003, when the government of Eritrea sent out orders to ban Amharic music in public, there was no official announcement made but simply oral orders passed around in public places such as bars and music shops. The owners of such businesses were told to stop playing music. Of course, that didn’t mean that the government was able to systematically monitor every household and stop people from listening to music.
Al-Jazeera-LogoIn fact, people listened to Amharic music in public places including public transportation. I remember driving in a bus to travel outside of Asmara and listening to Amharic songs loud enough for all to hear. Today, the government has itsown programs in Amharic and Oromigna (both languages spoken only in Ethiopia by the Amhara and the Oromo ethnic groups) on its state-owned television station Eri-TV where it broadcasts programs specifically containing political and entertainment programs mostly targeting the Ethiopian people.
Last week, there was similar news grabbing everyone’s attention on social media. I first learned about it on February 2nd when the Peninsula, a Qatar-based media outlet announced that Eritrea has blocked Al Jazeera news. The report said that orders came after the TV channel covered widespread protests in major cities abroad. Protests were also well-documented by different outlets and social media with videos from Europe and the U.S. in support of a day-long military mutiny on January 21stin Eritrea at the ministry of information. Diaspora groups not only demonstrated out in the streets but also stormed Eritrean embassies grabbing the attention of international media and incidents at embassies were covered by Al Jazeera’s The Stream.
The news, however, came back again with a fresh twist on Tuesday February 5, when Reporters Without Borders claimed that the government not only blocked access by citing Qatar-based newspaper Al-Sharqbut also issued a statement ordering public places to stop broadcasting the TV channel.

Reporters Without Borders: 2013 World Press Freedom MapReporters Without Borders which has labeled Eritrea’s state of freedom of press as one of the worst in the world by ranking it 179 out 179 said:
“The information ministry issued a decree on 1 February forbidding anyone in Eritrea to provide access to Al Jazeera. Public places such as restaurants, cafés and hotels were specifically targeted. To ensure compliance, Al Jazeera’s English-language channels were jammed.”
Reading this report was a stark reminder of the way orders to ban Amharic music passed around by word of mouth in 2003. Contrary to what government apologists repeat—philosophical reasons why there is no need for independent media—people in Eritrea are hungry for information. Rumors run rampant in Asmara and get around quickly. However for people who have lived in the country for years, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. It bears repeating that the government doesn’t have the capacity to control every household and television dish which stream international programs into private homes. And most importantly, it doesn’t have the capacity to block all international satellite in the country.
Media Bashing 101The claim that Al Jazeera was banned resurfaced again on Iran’s television network Press TV when journalist Afshin Rattansi mentioned it during an interview with the Eritrean Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Tesfamicael Gerahtu. Issues broached during the interview include: the January 21st mutiny that the government has refused to give details about despite reports of arrests of high-ranking government officials and military officers and questions of human rights abuses made official by the United Nations human rights chief, Navi Pillay. Rattansi asked if reports say that there are 5,000 to 10,000 political prisoners in Eritrea, why not give access to human rights groups to visit prisoners? The Ambassador didn’t have answers but instead blamed the usual suspect, the media. He, however, can only recite talking points with information available to everyone. This woefully inadequate response should remind all those watching: issues in Eritrea are not all that complicated. Explanation cannot be given until permission is granted from the top.
The root of the problem is a pattern that people fail to recognize. Even when one of the most loyal ministers, the Minister of Information, Ali Abdu, defected, some observers gave the minister too much credit. Even though he held the position for over a decade, what people fail to see is that he was not the puppet master as he may have appeared from the outside. The propaganda machine is not sophisticated. Any other person or minister who is posted to the same position of Information Minister could perform the task as long as orders come from top. After the minister’s defection was made public on the Expressen, a Swedish newspaper, Ali’s brother, who also runs a prominent opposition website based in the U.S. explained the truth loud and clear. It is this simple truth that explains the lack of accountability and transparency in the country and holds the answer to most questions about Eritrea. Here’s a translated verbatim excerpt from the interview .
“It is taboo to ask about things that are not related to one’s job to do. There is an old guerrilla culture in the country. It carries out orders without asking why.”
“It is routine to suspected dissidents arrested without court papers, without any documentation. Those who do the work, oral orders. Sometimes, there is over the phone and in coded language. They are afraid of being intercepted by Western intelligence services.”