Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ethiopian Opposition Group Threatens Armed Resistance


Douglas Mpuga
Ethiopia’s opposition Ginbot 7 Movement for Unity and Democracy has decided to use armed resistance in addition to peaceful resistance against the government in Addis Ababa. This follows the move of the group’s leader from the United States to Eritrea.
Berhanu Nega travelled to Ethiopia’s northern neighbor following the merger of his Ginbot 7 with the Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front. “It’s true he travelled to Eritrea, he went on July 17, 2015,” said the spokesman for the group, Dr. Tadesse Biru.
“He is the leader of an organization that strives to bring about democratic order in Ethiopia, and he went to fulfil his leadership role,” he explained in reference to Dr. Berhanu, who was sentenced to death in absentia while living in the US.
Ethiopia’s government classes Ginbot 7 as a terrorist group. It comprises former members of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy, an opposition grouping that made unprecedented gains against the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front in 2005 elections.
Tadesse confirmed the merger of Ginbot 7 with the Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front this year. On armed resistance, he said: “We do have a kind of blended strategy to challenge the government in Addis Ababa. We have been trying to stage civic disobedience; we tried peaceful resistance starting in 2005.”
But, a non-violent solution, he said, has been closed by the government in Ethiopia, and the group has been forced to consider all possible avenues including civic disobedience and armed resistance.
Tadesse emphasized, however, that the group is still open to a non-violent settlement. “We are always open to possibilities of a peaceful resolution. The group emerged from a peaceful movement but now we are forced to consider armed resistance. It’s not our choice but there is no other feasible option to challenge the government in Addis Ababa.” 
He said civil disobedience will continue, but will be complemented by ‘non-peaceful resistance, like it was done in South Africa’.
Some observers say the move of the group to Eritrea could renew tensions between the Horn of Africa nations, which fought a two-year war that ended in 2000.
The spokesperson dispelled such fears, saying nothing will happen since the two countries had no friendly relationship anyway. “Eritrea has provided us an opportunity to organize our movement there, that’s all. I don’t think it will in any way affect the relationship - it has not been good.”
As to the strength of the group’s armed force, Tadesse said: “yes, there is a small group that has been training in Eritrea, and there is a movement developing.”
Officials in Addis Ababa have dismissed the group’s move.  A special adviser to the Prime Minister was reported saying Ginbot 7 is militarily weak and Berhanu’s move to Eritrea is a “publicity stunt.”

Monday, July 13, 2015

Eritrean migrants face new asylum battle in EU - BBC News

By Martin Plaut

  • 10 July 2015
  • From the sectionEurope

Eritrean migrants in Rome
Eritrean migrants in Rome press for rights as refugees who fled from "a dictatorship"

The exodus from Eritrea is complicating Europe's efforts to tackle the Mediterranean migrant crisis.
Eritreans - struggling ashore or picked up at sea - form the second-largest group of migrants risking their lives to reach Italy, after Syrians.
Eritrea, in the Horn of Africa, is not in the grip of war or famine. Yet around 5,000 Eritreans flee every month. Why?
A damning United Nations Commission of Inquiry report blames the country's "gross human rights violations".
"Faced with a seemingly hopeless situation they feel powerless to change, hundreds of thousands of Eritreans are fleeing their country," the UN says.

Rights abuses

Indefinite national service is one of the main drivers, according to the report. Everyone from the age of 17 can be conscripted into the military, and it continues for years. Some conscripts have served for more than 20 years.
UN investigators say "slavery-like practices" are widespread, with conscripts subjected to hard labour, with poor food, bad hygiene and wretched pay.
The Eritrean government has dismissed the UN's findings as "totally unfounded and devoid of all merit".

Eritrean migrants picked up in the Mediterranean include families and many lone children

Yet for most Eritreans, it is impossible to get an exit visa to leave the country legally. And by fleeing conscription they risk being arrested as "traitors" if they return.
The EU cannot send Syrian refugees back to their war-torn country.
And Eritreans' asylum claims have generally been treated as legitimate in the EU.
But despite the abuses in Eritrea, documented by the UN and human rights groups, some countries are now considering sending Eritreans home.

Policy shift

Danish Immigration Service report, from November 2014, suggested that Eritrea's policy towards returnees had become more lenient. It was based on a fact-finding mission, but did not name its sources.
It quoted the Eritrean Foreign Ministry as saying Eritreans abroad could now "regularise their relationship with the authorities" by paying a 2% income tax at an Eritrean embassy and signing an apology letter.
"This has been done by a number of people and they have returned to Eritrea without any complications," the report said, quoting a ministry statement.
But the ministry gave "no specific information" about whether Eritrea's national service would be changed.
The report was criticised by Danish media and Human Rights Watch, which described it as "more like a political effort to stem migration than an honest assessment of Eritrea's human rights situation".
The Norwegian government sent its own assessment team to Eritrea. It was led by Norway's Deputy Minister of Justice Joeran Kellmyr.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Kellmyr said he had received an assurance from Eritrea's foreign minister that national service would be reduced to 18 months.
"It's important for everyone," said Mr Kellmyr.
"If national service is reduced, according to human rights standards, this could mean that a lot of Eritrean people don't any more have the right to seek asylum."

Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki (left) rules with an iron fist

In December UK officials also visited Eritrea to discuss the migration problem.
And in March this year a new UK policy towards Eritrean asylum-seekers was announced.
New guidelines stated that conscription would no longer be automatic grounds for granting asylum, since national service would no longer continue indefinitely.
But an Eritrean migration expert, Prof Gaim Kibreab, said there was "no evidence" for the UK guidelines' assertion that "national service is generally between 18 months and four years".


Eritrea - key facts


  • Nation of six million on Red Sea - one of Africa's poorest countries
  • One-party state - no functioning constitution or independent media
  • Former Italian colony, later formed loose federation with Ethiopia
  • 1962 - Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie dissolved Eritrean parliament, seized Eritrea
  • Eritrean separatists - the Eritrean People's Liberation Front - fought guerrilla war until 1991, when they captured capital Asmara
  • Eritrea voted for independence in 1993
  • May 1998 border dispute with Ethiopia led to two-year war costing 100,000 lives
  • Still no peace settlement - thousands of troops face each other along 1,000km (620-mile) border

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Ethiopian Premier Warns Eritrea Against the Danger of Igniting War Again

Ethiopia threatens action against Eritrea - Sudan Tribune: Plural news and views on Sudan

July 7, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – Ethiopia warned on Tuesday it would take necessary action against arch-rival Eritrea unless it refrains from an alleged destabilizing role in the volatile east African region.
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Ethiopian prime minister Haile Mariam Desalegn (Photo: Getty Images)
While addressing parliament, Ethiopian prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, accused the Eritrean government of continuing to engage in destabilizing peace and security of Ethiopia and the region at large.
Addis Ababa has repeatedly accused Asmara of trying to destabilizing the horn of Africa’s nation by backing Ethiopian rebels and by providing direct and indirect support to al-Qaida allied Islamist militants in Somalia.
However Eritrea’s subversive activities in the region are mainly targeting both directly or indirectly at Ethiopia.
While responding to queries from MPs, Desalegn said although Ethiopia is ready for peace negotiations to restore ties and normalize relations with Eritrea, however he said “Asmara has shown no sign of interest for regional peaceful coexistence”.
In 2009 the UN slapped Eritrea with sanctions over charges it armed and provided financial support to al Shabab. But, Asmara has denied the allegation and stresses there is no justification for imposing the sanctions.
In a rare threat to take direct measures, the premier said that unless Eritrea changes its policy of destabilizing the East African region, "Ethiopia will then be forced to take an appropriate action to quell its destabilizing efforts".
The two neighbours have routinely traded tough rhetoric following a 1998-2000 border war which has killed an estimated 70,000 people.
The Ethiopian leader said the regime in Asmara is using its destabilizing acts as a tool to divert the attention of the people from internal instability and to further maintain its grip on power.
Every month around 5,000 Eritreans flee home to neighbouring countries mainly to Ethiopia and Sudan in protest to political repression at home. Currently Ethiopia hosts at least 90,000 Eritrean refugees.
Recently the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea has recently released its report where it unveiled the government’s gross human right violations.
As a result the UN Human Rights Council extended for another year the mandate of the Special Rapporteur as well as Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea.
It also decided to assign human right experts who will investigate human right violations including to alleged “crimes against humanity” committed by the Eritrean government.
The UN body has also accused president Isaias Afeworki led-government of committing extra-judicial executions, torture, arbitrary and incommunicado detentions, enforced disappearances, sexual violence and other forms of right abuses by the regime.
There are an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 political prisoners in Eritrea.