TORONTO | NEW YORK (IDN) - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has commended Kazakhstan for signing the Paris Agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The signing comes as Kazakhstan prepares to host EXPO 2017, which will focus on sustainable energy for the future.

In a meeting with Kazakhstan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Erlan Idrissov, Ban congratulated the Central Asian country on its June 28 election as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.

- Photo: 2020

Withdrawal of US Troops from Somalia Underlines Critical Situation in the Region

EEPA Report on Horn of Africa Situation on December 23

BRUSSELS (IDN) – The situation in the Horn of Africa is getting increasingly critical in the Horn of Africa. A case in point is that the Expeditionary Sea Base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams is “conducting maritime operations off the coast of Somalia” to “reposition U.S. DOD personnel from Somalia to other locations in East Africa,” AFRICOM spokesperson Kelly Cahalan told VOA in an email. The operation is dubbed Operation Octave Quartz.

Military situation

Social media sources indicate heavy fighting on three fronts on December 22. Tigray sources report an ENDF brigade was destroyed in Hugumburda on the way to Mayichaw town, a division destroyed in BietMara, Alaje, one battalion destroyed in Maykintal (Central front), and two brigades on Zana, Shire fronts.

Further Tigray reports indicate an Ethiopian fighter jet was downed at Abiy Addi.

Advisor to the elected government of Tigray, Getachew Reda, states that fighting continues on many fronts: “enemy forces are being routed in Zana, had already lost hundreds of soldiers in Adet and Tsimbla.” He claims that Eritrean and Ethiopian forces have lost an air force gunship in BietMara.

Getachew Reda accuses the Ethiopian Government of carrying out a “genocidal campaign” in Tigray.

Regional situation

The United States Africa Command reports that the USS Makin Island ship has arrived in Somalia to relocate US “forces in Somalia to other East Africa operating locations while maintaining pressure on violent extremists and supporting partner forces”.

Refugees International reports that Eritrean refugees are being rounded up in Addis Ababa and returned to Tigray after having fled from Tigray and are also being deported back from Tigray to Eritrea, from where they originally fled. This confirms reports by journalist Stijn Vercruysse (VRT) who interviewed Eritrean refugees in the refugee camps in Shire reporting forced deportations.

VRT journalist shows images of Eritrean soldiers in Tigray. It would appear from the now available evidence that Eritrean soldiers crossed the border in Ethiopian uniforms, and participated in fighting, and are looting in Tigray.

International dimension

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Commissioner Bachelet urges independent investigation of human rights abuses, stating “the need for independent human rights monitors to be given access to Tigray to adequately assess the human suffering resulting from the conflict, verify allegations and to help ensure accountability for violations”.

OHCHR Bachelet urges Ethiopian authorities to provide unhindered access to the Tigray region. Two humanitarian assessment missions have entered Tigray on Monday (21 Dec.)

OHCHR spokesperson Liz Throssell office states that OHCHR has held talks with the Ethiopian government and plans to prepare a team to verify reported rights abuses as soon as possible.

UK House of Lords member David Alton sends a report to UK Government Ministers which warns of serious human rights violations in the conflict in Tigray and increasing internationalisation of the conflict.

Social media messages state that Eritrea would have ordered Egyptian ambassador to leave Asmara.

Norwegian Professor Kjetil Tronvoll states in an open letter to Ethiopian authorities that he has experienced “repeated and grievous ad hominem attacks from an Ethiopian government spokesperson and internet trolls associated with the regime”.

Norwegian Refugee Council appeals again for unhindered access to Tigray for their aid workers and relief trucks, which are on standby.

Reported situation in Tigray

Journalist Stijn Vercruysse, VRT reporter currently in Tigray, reports serious injuries caused by bombs; stating that there is an acute lack of assistance, doctors and medical supplies in Shire, Tigray. According to the VRT, the situation is a humanitarian disaster in the making.

The VRT has also seen evidence of tanks filled with loot in Shire.

VRT further shows footage of many deserted ghost towns in the Shire area.

Accounts on social media allege heavy damage and looting in Adigrat, Tigray, including factories; source reports the university campuses were occupied by Eritrean soldiers and everything has been taken.

A new provisional administrative department “Setit Humera zone” has been created and will include all the areas west of the Tekeze river in Tigray. This includes almost all the lowlands where many Tigrayans live. This new administrative department will be administered as part of the Amhara region.

Many villages in the Western Tigray region are completely deserted. The majority of the houses have been looted. The inhabitants have fled the area. A witness reports that security administrators in the region are encouraging Amhara to settle in the empty houses and bring their families.

Amhara militiamen are reportedly recruiting 20,000 more men. They want to use this manpower to face Sudan and police the new administrative area, the “Setit Humera zone”. The Amhara special forces are currently fighting the Sudanese army at the border over control over fertile land.

People continue to be killed in the streets by militiamen and soldiers. A video of an unknown date shows panicked people on the streets of Mekelle running from gunshots.

In Humera, a large number of residents have fled and signs in Tigrinya have been covered. Shops and houses are closed. In Dansha, bars and hotels were renamed and reopened after their owners fled.

Shops in Mekelle remain closed.

Situation of refugees

Journalist Stijn Vercruysse (VRT) warns of a lack of food, water, and medicines for the Eritrean refugees and other displaced people.

Refugees in Adi Harush refugee camp state that attackers came to confiscate around 180 cellphones. The refugees feel unsafe, continue to hear heavy weaponry, and are not allowed to leave the camp.

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.

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. The publication is weighed on the basis of interest to understand the 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. [IDN-InDepthNews – 23 December 2020]

Photo: The Pentagon has sent several naval vessels and a marine expeditionary unit to the coast of Somalia to support an operation repositioning hundreds of U.S. troops to bases elsewhere in East Africa. Courtesy of US Navy

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

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