Viewpoint by Prof Muhammad Yunus*

DHAKA (IDN-INPS) - We are living in a time of unparalleled prosperity, fuelled in part by revolutions in knowledge, science, and technology, particularly information technology. This prosperity has changed the lives of many, yet billions of people still suffer from poverty, hunger, and disease. And now, food, oil price and financial crises have combined forces to bring even greater misery and frustration to the world bottom 3 billion people.

Sadly, however, we saw headlines reporting news of a sort many people assumed we would never experience again: skyrocketing prices for staple foodstuffs like grains and vegetables (wheat alone having risen in price by 200 percent since the year 2000); food shortages in many countries; rising rates of death from malnutrition and undernourishment; environmental threats to agricultural production; even food riots threatening the stability of countries around the globe.

- Photo: 2021

UN Concerned Over the Situation of Refugees from Tigray

Compiled by EEPA

BRUSSELS (IDN) – The US Secretary of the Treasury Mnuchin is due to visit Khartoum on January 6. The aim of the visit is to review the economic situation, as well as the US assistance to Sudan. Mnuchin will also visit other countries in the region such as Egypt, Qatar and Israel.

The UN estimates that more than 322,000 people are Internally Displaced (IDP). The provisional Tigrayan government reported yesterday that it believed there were 2.2 million IDPs.

The UN says health facilities outside cities are not operational, while those in cities are in critical need of supplies.

The UNHCR has stated that it needs 156 million US$ to meet immediate needs of refugees in Ethiopia, but only US$ 40 million has been pledged. 

The United Nations says that access to Tigray has improved slightly, but it remains critically challenged. Insecurity and bureaucracy are constraining the aid that can be provided. It has been able to access the main cities, but cannot access rural areas and Hitsats and Shimelba refugee camps.

The UN reports that in East Sudan the first refugees have been transferred from the Village 8 reception centre to the new camp in Tunaydbah, Sudan. Um Rakuba camp has approached full capacity.

UNHCR spokesperson, Andrej Mahedic, states that more than 30% of the refugees arriving from Ethiopia are minors, younger than 18, whilst 5% are elderly, older than 60.

These are some of the highlights of the January 5 EEPA report on the situation in the Horn of Africa. EEPA, Europe External Programme with Africa, is a Belgium-based Centre of Expertise with in-depth knowledge, publications, and networks, specialised in issues of peacebuilding, refugee protection and resilience in the Horn of Africa. EEPA has published extensively on issues related to movement and/or human trafficking of refugees in the Horn of Africa and on the Central Mediterranean Route.

It cooperates with a wide network of Universities, research organisations, civil society and experts from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda and across Africa. Key in-depth publications can be accessed on the website.

Military situation

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) claims that it has killed 100 ENDF soldiers near Abraha Atsbeha, North of Mekelle. It also claims to have destroyed 2 tanks.

A source reports that heavy fighting is taking place between TPLF and Eritrean combatants near Endabaguna and Kisadgaba. Reportedly TPLF forces launched an attack on looting Eritrean soldiers. Endabaguna is the location of the reception center for refugees from Eritrea in Central Tigray.

Tigray Media House reported that a senior ENDF officer died of his wounds in Hospital. Colonel Dejene was ambushed by TPLF while traveling from Maychew to Korem two weeks ago.

Additional ENDF forces moving to Tigray reportedly consist of 8 tanks and troops in vehicles.

Pictures have appeared online, identified as Eritrean soldiers in Idaga Hamus (allegedly).

The Regional situation

The Prosperity Party Chair of Tigray, the ruling party of Ethiopia, has become the second official to confirm that there are Eritrean troops in Tigray. In a statement on Tigray Television, the regional broadcast, Nebeye Sehul said that Eritrean soldiers fighting in Tigray were probably deserters seeking better lives in Ethiopia. Nebeye says that the government is investigating.

According to Africa Intelligence reporting on the 38th Extraordinary Assembly by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) there was an expectation that Ethiopian PM Abiy would invite the AU Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat to visit Tigray. The trip, however, had to be erased from the final communique. Ethiopia rejects “any foreign intervention” in a crisis that it says is purely domestic.

The Communique of the IGAD 38th Assembly welcomed the agreement by Ethiopia of 29th November 2020 allowing “unimpeded, sustained and secure access” for humanitarian support. Such “unimpeded access” has not yet been realised, despite UN and humanitarian organisations urging they need access.

The head of Egypt’s intelligence service has met with the Sudanese Prime Minister Hamdok as well as the Head of Sudan’s Sovereign Council, General Al-Burhan. They discussed regional developments and the GERD dam negotiations. President Al-Sisi of Egypt and Al-Burhan also spoke on the phone on Monday.

Eritrean Minister of Information, Yemane Meskel, informs that Minister of Foreign Affairs, Osman Saleh and Presidential Adviser, Yemane Ghebreab, met Sudan’s Head of the Sovereign Council, General Al-Burhan, delivering a message of President Afewerki.

In a press conference Ethiopian Foreign Affairs Minister and Vice President Demeke has said that Ethiopia wants to resolve the conflict with Sudan peacefully. According to him, the clashes in November and December have not changed the strong relationship between both countries.

The status of the GERD dam negotiations remains unclear. Sudan has not yet returned to the negotiation table.

The Situation in Ethiopia

Ethiopian police have released the Reuters cameraman that was arrested a couple weeks ago. No charges have been filed against him.

VP Demeke said that the government is currently taking measures to provide food and other supplies to Tigray. He also said that reconstruction efforts are on the way and that telecommunication lines are being restored to the whole region. Telecom, electricity, and full banking access will soon start again. 

VP Demeke has also said that planning for a 6th general election is on the way in TIgray. The federally appointed interim government has been tasked with organizing it. Opposition parties have been invited to participate.

The Ethiopian National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) has arrested 21 individuals for issuing travel documents illegally. Most of them worked at the Bole Airport.

The Situation in Tigray

A witness has told federal broadcaster ETV that Amanuel Church was shelled. Civilians were seeking shelter inside and were killed as a result of the attack. Amanuel is near the UNESCO site Negash Mosque, Africa’s oldest mosque, which was severely damaged in December as a result of shelling.

A list has been published on-line, claiming to contain the names of civilian victims of the war in Tigray. The list has 440 entries and has been assembled using information from different sources. Many of the deaths have not been (officially) confirmed. [IDN-InDepthNews – 05 January 2021]

Photo credit: Tens of thousands of refugees have crossed the border from Ethiopia to Sudan, fleeing conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. © WFP/Leni Kinzli

IDN is flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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Disclaimer: All information in this situation report is presented as a fluid update report, as to the best knowledge and understanding of the authors at the moment of publication. EEPA does not claim that the information is correct but verifies to the best of ability within the circumstances. Publication is weighed on the basis of interest to understand potential impacts of events (or perceptions of these) on the situation. Check all information against updates and other media. EEPA does not take responsibility for the use of the information or impact thereof. All information reported originates from third parties and the content of all reported and linked information remains the sole responsibility of these third parties. Report to any additional information and corrections.

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