E.U. must stop treating Ethiopia regime with kid gloves – MEP wants action

March 4, 2018 (African News) — The European Union (E.U.) must start being tough with the Ethiopian regime especially given the current political climate, a Member of the European Parliament has said.

MEP Ana Gomes has thus requested that the parliament summons the E.U. Commission vice-president and top diplomat to explain the body’s most recent statement on the Ethiopian crisis.

According to her, the statement was weak and failed to send a strong signal to the regime especially relating to the reinstatement of a state of emergency (SoE) – the second measure in the last two years.

And the statement made by the European Union is a shame compared namely by the one that was put out by the Americans condemning the reinstatement of the state of emergency.

“I have asked this moment to ask you to raise with the High Representative Mogherini, the situation in Ethiopia. Brutal repression is going on, the Prime Minister has resigned (and) there has been a state of emergency reimposed.

“And the statement made by the European Union is a shame compared namely by the one that was put out by the Americans condemning the reinstatement of the state of emergency.

“I ask you to bring this up with the (European Union) Commission and the High Representative, so that the European Union, indeed, has a position that respects our values and meets the interest of democracy that has to be inclusive in Ethiopia and the establishment of the rule of law and the respect for human rights,” she said in a session on March 1.

My question at @EP plenary today on shameful @eu_eeas statement endorsing reinstatement of  in  (albeit with limits….). @FedericaMog must review disastrous  standing by repression and descent to chaos in Ethiopia https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6zGZSRe2wg&sns=tw via @youtube

Gomes is a Portuguese politician who doubles as a Socialist Member of the European parliament.
She is currently a member of the political committee of the socialist party, is known to be someone who frequently speaks on Ethiopia politics.

She was part of efforts calling on the government to disclose charges against Oromo leader Merera Gudina after his in 2016. She is on record to have slammed the government after his release stating that he did not have to be arrested in the first place.

What did the E.U. statement say in February 19, 2018 statement

The resignation by Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn opens a period of uncertainty in Ethiopia. It will be important for the new government to have the full capacity to pursue the positive reforms initiated by the Prime Minister to address the grievances of the population.

Only a constructive dialogue among all stakeholders – authorities, opposition, media, civil society – will allow for a peaceful and durable resolution of the crisis.

The announced reinstatement of the State of Emergency risks undermining this very objective. It is therefore of the utmost importance that it should be as limited in time as possible and respectful of human rights and fundamental freedoms, notably those enshrined in the Ethiopian Constitution. Violence should also be avoided.

As a committed partner of Ethiopia and of the Ethiopian people, the EU will continue to encourage all actors to work constructively towards a democratic and stable Ethiopia.

What the U.S embassy said in its Feb. 17 2018 statement

We strongly disagree with the Ethiopian government’s decision to impose a state of emergency that includes restrictions on fundamental rights such as assembly and expression.

We recognize and share concerns expressed by the government about incidents of violence and loss of life, but firmly believe that the answer is greater freedom, not less.

The challenges facing Ethiopia, whether to democratic reform, economic growth, or lasting stability, are best addressed through inclusive discourse and political processes, rather than through the imposition of restrictions.

The declaration of a state of emergency undermines recent positive steps toward creating a more inclusive political space, including the release of thousands of prisoners. Restrictions on the ability of the Ethiopian people to express themselves peacefully sends a message that they are not being heard.

We strongly urge the government to rethink this approach and identify other means to protect lives and property while preserving, and indeed expanding, the space for meaningful dialogue and political participation that can pave the way to a lasting democracy




Wal-dhabbee naannolee Oromiyaa fi Somaalee gidduutti mudatee lubbuu lammiilee gaaga’uun namoota kuma 700 ta’an qe’eerraa buqqiseen wal-qabatee, keessumaa daa’immanii fi dubartooni rakkoolee garaa garaaf saaxilamanii jiraachuu UNICEF beeksise.

UNICEF ibsa isaa kanaan daa’imman kuma 85’tti siiqan barnoota isaanii addaan kutuuf dirqamuu isaanii eereera.

Walitti bu’iinsi kun daa’imman kuma 14 ta’an maatiin gargar baasuus ibsuun, daa’imman umriin isaanii waggaa 5 gadii kuma 100 fi kuma 20 ta’an ammoo hanqina midhaan nyaataaf saaxilamanii jiruu jedhe.

Dubartoota ulfaa fi isaan daa’ima hoosisan walumatti kuma 20 kan ta’aniifis gargaarsi midhaan nyaataa hatattamaan kan barbaachisu ta’uus ibseera.

Dhaabbatichi daa’imman sababa wal-dhabbee naannolee lameeniin barnootarraa citan gara barumsa isaaniitti deebisuuf gargaarsi doolaara Ameerikaa miiliyoona 2 fi kuma 900 kan barbaachisu ta’uu ibsuun, Talaallii Qorichaa fi Dhiyeessii tajaajila fayyaaf dabalataan doolaara Miiliyoona 2 fi kuma 900 tu barbaachisaa jedhe.

Daa’imman umriin isaanii waggaa shanii gadii, dubartoota ulfaa fi dubartoota hoosisaniif gargaarsa midhaan nyaataa hatattamaan dhiheessuuf dabalataan Doolaarri Miiliyoona 2 fi kumni 600 kan barbaachisu ta’uus ibseera UNICEF.

Haalli wal-dhabbee naannolee lameeniin wal qabatee mudate ammas furmaata waaraa hin argannee jedhe.

Lammiilee Buqqaafaman dandamachiisuuf tumsi hawaasaa itti fufee jiraatus; Rakkoon hamaan biyyattii keessatti mudatee jiru xiyyeeffannoo fi birmannaa dhaabbilee Addunyaa sadarkaa barbaadamuun hin arganne.

Itiyoophiyaan waggoota muraasaan as mormii hawaasaa jabaa keessummeessaa jiraachuu kan eeru UNICEF; Ummanni biyyattii bilisummaa siyaasaa fi wal qixxummaa diinagdee barbaadaa jedhe.
Biyyattii keessatti malaammaltummaan dagaagee jiraachuus ibsa isaa kanaan eereera

Oromo and Amhara students of Jimma University, Kitto Furdisa Campus, jointly boycotting food as a sign of protest and condolence for their keens who are killed in several universities in Amhara and Oromia and for the Oromo people massacred in Calanqoo, Eastern Oromia. December 13, 2017

25348589_308420396335272_5325022452831618153_n.jpgMuddee 13/2017 Yuunibarsiitii Jimmaa mooraa Sayinsiifi Tekinoolojii Kittoo Furdisaatti Qerroon Barattootni Oromoofi Barattootni Sabaafi Sablammoota Cunqurfamoo barattoota Oromoo Waliin hiriiruun guyyaa har’aa guutummaatti nyaata lagachuun gaddaa guddaa yakka duuguginsa sanyii Calanqootti ilmaan Oromoo irratti rawwatamee balaaleffatan.  Oromo and Amhara students of Jimma University, Kitto Furdisa Campus, jointly boycotting food as a sign of protest and condolence for their keens who are killed in several universities in Amhara and Oromia and for the Oromo people massacred in Calanqoo, Eastern Oromia. December 13, 2017

Letter on Ethiopia to the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs / Vice-President of the European Commission Mogherini

Federica Mogherini

High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs /
Vice-President of the European Commission
Rue de la Loi, Wetstraat 200
1049 Brussels

Brussels, March 23, 2017

Dear High Representative Mogherini,

Human Rights Watch wishes to express our deep disappointment over the one-sided statement issued by your office during your official visit to Ethiopia last week. In the public statement of March 17, 2017, you focus only on the important European Union partnerships with Ethiopia on humanitarian assistance, migration, refugees, and economic growth, and reiterate your support for the dialogue with the political opposition currently underway.

Armed security officials watch as protesters stage a protest against government during the Irreechaa cultural festival in Bishoftu, Ethiopia on October 02, 2016.

Armed security officials watch as protesters stage a protest against government during the Irreechaa cultural festival in Bishoftu, Ethiopia on October 02, 2016.

In our view the statement was a missed opportunity to state publicly and unequivocally that Ethiopia’s repressive response to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly –  illustrated by the government’s brutal crackdown on protests– is not conducive to Ethiopia’s long-term stability or the EU’s ability to partner with Ethiopia on areas of mutual interest.

As you are aware, Ethiopia’s widespread human rights violations against its citizens means that Ethiopia is a country producing refugees and asylum seekers seeking safety.

Since November 2015 state security forces have killed hundreds and arrested tens of thousands of protesters, plunging Ethiopia into a human rights crisis. A state of emergency, called in October 2016, prescribes sweeping restrictions that go far beyond what is permissible under international law, eliminating what little space there was for the peaceful expression of critical views. The government has detained over 20,000 in “rehabilitation camps” since the state of emergency was declared, according to official figures. Widespread and long-standing restrictions on media and civil society groups continue to be enforced. Opposition leaders remain in detention on politically motivated charges, including Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) leader Dr. Merera Gudina, who was arrested following his attendance at a briefing on November 9 in Brussels organized by an MEP. Just three weeks before your visit, he was charged with “outrages against the constitution” and faces up to life in imprisonment.

Harassment through criminal charges, arbitrary detention of political opposition members and supporters, restrictions on financing, and registration problems have decimated opposition parties since the 2010 election. Actual or perceived members of opposition parties have difficulty accessing the benefits of development and humanitarian assistance, including that provided by the EU and its member states. This partisan system ensures that Ethiopians in rural or drought-vulnerable areas of the country are dependent on the government, bolstered by EU support, for their livelihoods, food aid, employment, and health care. This further constricts the space for political expression, dialogue and further undermines the effectiveness of opposition parties. From the government’s perspective, the strategy has been successful — the ruling party and its affiliates won 100 percent of the seats in federal parliament in 2015 despite strong anti-government sentiments in many parts of the country as the protests would later illustrate.

Dismantling opposition parties, imprisoning critical opposition voices, and then inviting whomever remains to engage in a dialogue is not the “right direction,” as your statement said. Nor is having such a dialogue in the shadow of a state of emergency with wide-ranging restrictions on free expression rights. Moderate, yet still critical opposition voices, including Dr. Merera, should be part of any credible dialogue with the opposition, and this should have been stressed privately and publicly to the prime minister as critical for any meaningful dialogue. Your expression of support for political dialogue without acknowledging the systematic destruction of legally registered opposition parties and the suppression of basic human rights is not constructive to the EU’s partnership with Ethiopia.

Discussing economic partnerships during the state of emergency that followed 18 months of brutality partly triggered by the government’s abusive economic development approach illustrates our concern with your recent statement. The Ethiopian government has ignored the rights of those displaced by investment projects, failing to properly consult and compensate them. It begs the question: what polices or safeguards is the EU insisting are in place to ensure that economic development occurs with professed EU commitments to human rights respected?

In this light, the EU-Ethiopia Business Forum should be postponed until the abusive provisions of the state of emergency are lifted. Moreover, the government should make progress on implementing reforms that are crucial for a rights-respecting business environment, such as the repeal or substantial amendment of the Charities and Societies Proclamation.

The contrast between recent statements by the European parliament and the European Union could not be more stark. Parliament has consistently issued strong statements about the government’s brutal crackdown, including a resolution adopted in January 2016 that stated “respect for human rights and the rule of law are crucial to the EU’s policies to promote development in Ethiopia.” The resolution also stressed that the “EU should measure its financial support according to the country’s human rights record and the degree to which the Ethiopian Government promotes reforms towards democratization.” Parliamentary subcommittee hearings on Ethiopia followed in October. European Parliament actions signaled to the Ethiopian government and its people that there are repercussions for brutality against their own citizens – brutality that undermines European priorities in the Horn of Africa.

In contrast, the EU’s tepid approach, epitomized by your recent statement merely sends the message to the Ethiopian government that its repression and brutality carries no consequences or public condemnation from its most trusted friends, donors, and partners.

As all recognize, Ethiopia is an important partner of the EU in the areas of migration, development and economic growth. But these partnerships are dependent on long-term stability in Ethiopia and, thus, should be dependent on respect for basic human rights.

A further downward spiral in the human rights situation in this country of 100 million people could lead to dramatically increased humanitarian needs and out-migration from Ethiopia, all of which would contravene European and Ethiopian interests. This is where the EU’s focus should be.

We strongly urge you to use future meetings with Ethiopia’s leadership to publicly and unequivocally call for the release of key opposition leaders such as Dr. Merera and Bekele Gerba, the lifting of abusive provisions of the state of emergency, an international investigation into the crackdown on government protests, and the repeal of longstanding restrictions on media and civil society. And as stated in the European parliament resolution, it would be beneficial to clarify what progress on human rights you expect from Ethiopia to maintain ongoing EU support. The European Union’s interests in Ethiopia are best served by taking a principled stance on the importance of human rights protections.

Kind regards,

Lotte Leicht
EU Director
Human Rights Watch

Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS), Ms Helga Schmid
Deputy Secretary General for Political Affairs, EEAS, Mr Jean-Christophe Belliard
Deputy Secretary General for Economic and Global Issues, EEAS, Mr Christian Leffler
Chair of the EU’s Political and Security Committee, Ambassador Walter Stevens
Managing Director for Africa, EEAS, Mr Koen Vervaeke
Director, Deputy Managing Director for Africa, EEAS, Ms Birgitte Markussen
Head of Division, Horn of Africa, East Africa and Indian Ocean, EEAS, Ms Claudia Wiedey
Managing Director for Human Rights, Global and Multilateral Issues, EEAS, Ms Lotte Knudsen
Director, Deputy managing Director for Human Rights, Global and Multilateral Issues, EEAS, Mr Marc Giacomini
Head of Human Rights Division, EEAS, Ms Mercedes Garcia Perez
Chair of the Council’s Africa Working Party, Mr Riccardo Villa
Head of the EU Delegation to Ethiopia, Ambassador Chantal Hebberecht
EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Mr Stavros Lambrinidis
Head of Cabinet of the High Representative / Vice-President Mogherini, Ms Fabrizia Panzetti
Deputy Head of Cabinet of the High Representative / Vice-President Mogherini, Mr Oliver Rentschler.https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/03/24/letter-ethiopia-eu-high-representative-foreign-affairs/vice-president-european

Human Rights and the Election of the next Director-General: Public Accountability Now

Humsn Rights Plantations Investigation Human Rights Oromo Protesters - security forcesHuman Rights and the Election of the next Director-General: Public Accountability Now

By Eric A. Friedman

Georgetown University, Washington, DC (O’Neill Institute for National & Global Health) — I believe that human rights, and the right to health in particular, should be a top priority of and guiding principle for the next WHO Director-General, whom the world’s health ministers will choose at the World Health Assembly in May. Human rights, after all, encompass the values needed to achieve health for all and health justice, such as equity, non-discrimination, universality, participation, and accountability. They are legally binding precepts. Above all, they embrace human dignity, and the utmost respect for all people in health systems and health-related decisions. They embody the notion of people-centered health services.

This importance demands electing to the post a credible and strong leader on human rights, someone with a history of fighting injustice, of opposing human rights violations, of standing up for the marginalized and oppressed, of resisting political, corporate, or other interests that stand in the way of human rights. This centrality of human rights means electing an individual willing to stand against forces and policies that tolerate or even perpetuate discrimination, or that let political or other concerns override the rights of women, minorities, immigrants, political opponents, or anyone else. It entails appointing a person who views organizations fighting for human rights as partners, even when their own governments may oppose them.

Three candidates remain in the race to be the next WHO Director-General: Tedros Adhanom, David Nabarro, and Sania Nishtar. All candidates should be accountable for their past support of human rights, and outline their plans for furthering human rights around the world if chosen to lead WHO. While it is important for all candidates to do this, one candidate in particular ought to provide a detailed public account of where he stands, and has stood, on human rights. Having spent more than a decade as a cabinet minister in a government that has committed large-scale human rights abuses, Dr. Tedros must make clear his position and intention.

Dr. Tedros served as Minister of Health of Ethiopia from 2005 through 2012, when he became Minister of Foreign Affairs, remaining in the post until a cabinet reshuffle last November. He was, and remains, a member of the Central Committee of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), long the country’s dominant political party, of the more select, nine-member TPLF Executive Committee, and of the Executive Committee of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), the ruling coalition.

Some background on human rights in Ethiopia is in order. It is a country where the ruling coalition won all 547 seats in its most recent (2015) parliamentary election, which surely says much more about the state of democracy than the government’s popularity. Freedom House rates Ethiopia as “not free,” ranking it below than many other of the “not free” countries (p. 18) and with one of the world’s largest declines in freedom over the past decade (p. 10).

In its World Report 2017, Human Rights Watch calls the media in Ethiopia “under government stranglehold,” with at least 75 journalists fleeing into exile since 2010, and others arrested. A 2009 law “continues to severely curtail the ability of independent nongovernmental organizations.” Security forces “frequently” torture political detainees, of whom there are many. Over the past decade, Ethiopia has denied entry to all UN human rights special rapporteurs, other than on Eritrea.

The Ethiopian government’s repressive ways gained international prominence at the Rio Olympics last summer. As he crossed the finish line, winning the silver medal, Ethiopian marathon runner Feyisa Lilesa crossed his arms as a symbol of protest against the government’s violent response to protests in the Ethiopia’s Oromia region. Two months earlier, Human Rights Watch had released a report detailing the government’s violent response to the protests, the most recent round of which began in November 2015. They broke out in response to the government clearing land for an investment project. This fed into wider fears about farmers being displaced without adequate consultation or compensation as part of a master plan to massively expand the boundaries of Addis Ababa, the capital, into the neighboring Oromia region. Adding fuel to the protests were environmental and other local concerns, and longer-standing grievances among members of Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo, of political, economic, and cultural marginalizationAmnesty International reported that least 800 protesters had been killed by the end of 2016.

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted a blog on its official website in October 2016 (when Dr. Tedros was still Foreign Minister) in response to Human Rights Watch’s reporting on Ethiopia. The piece accuses Human Rights Watch of baseless allegations, intentionally misleading its audience, and propagating “scare stories.” It focuses on the NGO’s response to an October stampede during an anti-government protest at an annual festival in Oromia, though addresses Human Rights Watch’s reporting in Ethiopia more generally. Yet Human Rights Watch is widely recognized to employ a gold standard of research. The above-mentioned report, for example, was based on more than 125 interviews, “court documents, photos, videos and various secondary material, including academic articles and reports from nongovernmental organizations, and information collected by other credible experts and independent human rights investigators.” All material in the report was verified by two or more independent sources.

In light of Ethiopia’s severe human rights abuses and Dr. Tedros’s prominent position within the ruling party and the government, a natural question becomes: What was his role in the country’s systematic abuses of human rights?

I do not know the answer, or the veracity of other charges that Ethiopian diaspora organizations have lodged. In his role in the TPLF and ERPDF power structures, is it possible that he tried to change things from the inside, using his position of power within the government to oppose the government’s repression?

What we do know, though, based on the independent reports of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the U.S. State Department, and others, is that the human rights situation in Ethiopia is dire. And Dr. Tedros has long been an important member of the government.

Dr. Tedros has committed to an open and transparent approach to running WHO. Now is the time for him to demonstrate this commitment, publicly addressing the concerns about human rights during his time in the Ethiopian government, and his role, including as a member of the power structures of the ruling party and coalition. States should evaluate his answers carefully and in light of other evidence.

States should also consider whether regardless of Dr. Tedros’s actions within the government – perhaps unless he vigorously fought against rights-abusive policies from the inside – the mere fact of having served (particularly for a considerable length of time) in a high-level post of a government that perpetuates such severe human rights abuses should be an automatic disqualifier from any international leadership position. Would electing someone put forward by such a government, particularly someone who has long served in that government, in some way represent the international community endorsing, accepting, the legitimacy of that government and its policies, and diminish the importance we ascribe to human rights?

We live in an era where human rights remain under great threat. Especially at such times as these, it is vital that states vote for a candidate whose record and integrity will enable them to lead WHO into a new era of health and human rights

Ethiopian opposition leader pleads not guilty to incitement charges

Ethiopian opposition leader pleads not guilty to incitement charges

Ethiopian opposition leader

By Aaron Maasho | ADDIS ABABA

(Reuters) — An Ethiopian opposition leader from a region hit by deadly anti-government protests last year pleaded not guilty in court on Friday, after prosecutors brought charges against him for inciting unrest.

Merera Gudina, leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress from the Oromiya region which was the center of protests against land grabs, was arrested in November after returning from meeting members of the European Parliament in Brussels.

On Friday, prosecutors formally charged Merera with a bid to “dismantle or disrupt social, economic and political activity for political, religious and ideological aim … under the guise of political party leadership,” according to a charge sheet brought before a high court in Addis Ababa.

Merera was also accused of backing a terrorist group and flouting guidelines of a state of emergency imposed in October during his trip to Belgium.

Two other dissidents were also charged with similar accusations in absentia.

Last week, Human Rights Watch criticized the move to arrest Merera.

“Instead of taking actions that would demonstrate genuine resolve to address long-term grievances, the government again used politically motivated charges to further crack down on opposition parties, reinforcing a message that it will not tolerate peaceful dissent,” the U.S.-based watchdog said.

More than 500 people were killed in protests in the Oromiya region that stretched for months until the government declared a six-month state of emergency in October.

The demonstrations were initially triggered by anger over a development scheme for the capital that demonstrators said would force farmers off their land, but then broadened into demonstrations against political restrictions.

Businesses in Oromiya and other areas, many of them foreign-owned, were attacked. Foreign firms have often been leased land by the government that locals say was seized from them for little compensation and sold on at great profit.

Ethiopia’s government, which scrapped the capital’s development plan after protests erupted, has pledged to increase compensation and enact widespread political reform.

Opposition parties failed to secure a single seat in parliament in the last elections in 2015.

Merera’s trial will resume on March 9

East Africa: Researchers Give Khat Clean Bill of Health


East Africa: Researchers Give Khat Clean Bill of Health

(Kichuu) — Khat, which was banned by the United Kingdom in 2014, is not as bad after all, at least going by a recent study commissioned by Kenya.

The study, which involved more than 800 people residing in major khat growing areas of the country, was the first large study that looked at the public health impacts of the plant. Its results? Khat has medicinal properties that could be a game changer in the region’s health and economic sector.


“We could actually be condemning and ruining the reputation of a plant that has the potential of becoming a billion-dollar industry for the region,” said Dr Charles Mbakaya, the lead researcher of the study conducted by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri).

Dr Mbakaya was speaking at the Kemri Annual Scientific and Health Conference (KASH), where the findings were released.

He noted that khat could play a key role in the development of health products that tackle obesity, which is a major contributor to the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) globally. The study revealed that khat chewers were less likely to be obese or to have a high body mass index (BMI) compared with those who refrained from it.


Obesity is linked to ailments such as diabetes, cancer, hypertension and heart disease which are on the rise in East Africa.

Even though khat had previously been associated with impotency and sexual dysfunction, the Kemri study found that there was no difference in family size between people who chewed khat and those that did not. They all had an average of between five and six children.

Ethiopia and Eritrea Trade Accusations Over Grand Dam ‘Attack’

Ethiopia and Eritrea Trade Accusations Over Grand Dam ‘Attack’

(Newsweek) — Eritrea has denied any involvement in an alleged plan to attack an under-construction Ethiopian dam, which is set to become the biggest hydropower dam in Africa.

Ethiopia’s deputy government spokesman, Zadig Abrha, told the state-run Fana Broadcasting Corporation that 20 members of an Eritrean rebel movement—known as the Benishangul Gumuz People’s Liberation Movement—had been apprehended while attempting to attack the site of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

Abrha said that Ethiopian security forces killed 13 of the rebels, while seven fled into neighboring Sudan. But the Ethiopian government spokesman said that Sudan had handed the rebels over and they were now in Ethiopian custody.

Grand Dam

Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel told Bloomberg News that the accusation that his country sponsored the group “is preposterous and peddled for some sinister reason.” Gebremeskel added that he had “never heard of this group.”

Ethiopia and Eritrea have a history of tense relations. Eritrea only seceded from Ethiopia in 1991 after a 30-year independence war, and the two countries have regularly clashed on the boundaries of their borders. Tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides were killed in a border war focused on the town of Badme between 1998 and 2000.

Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel told Bloomberg News that the accusation that his country sponsored the group “is preposterous and peddled for some sinister reason.” Gebremeskel added that he had “never heard of this group.”

Ethiopia and Eritrea have a history of tense relations. Eritrea only seceded from Ethiopia in 1991 after a 30-year independence war, and the two countries have regularly clashed on the boundaries of their borders. Tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides were killed in a border war focused on the town of Badme between 1998 and 2000.

Ethiopia has also accused Eritrea of sponsoring anti-government protests, led by the Oromo and Amhara ethnic groups, which have been occurring regularly since November 2015. Eritrea has denied the allegation.

Construction began on the GERD project, which is being built in the Benishangul Gumuz region close to the border with Sudan, in 2011. The project is set to cost $6.4 billion and is due for completion in 2018, according to Bloomberg.

The project has been a source of tension between Ethiopia and Egypt, with the latter saying that the dam could reduce the amount of Nile water flowing into Egypt. The presidents of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan signed an initial agreement in 2015 to end the dispute and allow Ethiopia to continue with construction, but Egypt has continued to express its concerns.

Ethiopia has received backing for the project from five other Nile Basin countries: Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. The Horn of Africa country wants to do away with a 1929 treaty, orchestrated by the British, that gives Egypt a veto on any projects relating to the Nile by upstream countries.

EU urged to end cooperation with Sudan after refugees whipped and deported

EU urged to end cooperation with Sudan after refugees whipped and deported

MEP calls for inquiry as Ethiopian and Eritrean asylum seekers receive 40 lashes and $800 fines, while activists warn EU migration aid is emboldening Sudan.

Most of those arrested were Oromo people fleeing ethnic and political repression.

EU urged to end cooperation with Sudan after refugees whipped and deported

The EU is facing calls to rethink its cooperation with Sudan on migration flows after scores of refugees were whipped, fined, jailed and deported from Khartoum last weekend following a peaceful protest over a huge rise in visa processing fees.

About 65 asylum seekers – the majority from Ethiopia and some from Eritrea – were lashed 40 times on their backs and the back of their legs with leather whips, lawyers told the Guardian.

The detainees were also handed fines of more than $800 (£645), and 40 were deported immediately, after being arrested in what witnesses say was a violent police attack on a peaceful protest.

The incident raises concerns about the strength of human rights conditions attached to more than $100m of migration-related aid earmarked for Sudan by the European commission.

The MEP Barbara Lochbihler, vice-chair of the European parliament’s sub-committee on human rights, said the EU should launch an inquiry. “The EU must voice clear criticism on the recent incidents, conduct a thorough investigation, try and help the people concerned, and draw the necessary conclusion: if projects such as Better MigrationManagement carry the risk for the EU to become complicit in human rights abuses, which I believe to be true, we should pull out immediately.”

Judith Sargentini, an MEP on the European parliament’s development committee, said she would be asking a question about the issue in parliament this week.

“Honestly, when we see Ethiopian refugees being harassed, lashed and thrown out of the country, we have to wonder whether we are not legitimising the Sudanese behaviour with our funding,” she said.

“The [EU] training for immigration and border management does not seem to be working very effectively yet,” she added. “I can imagine that [Sudan’s president Omar] al-Bashir thinks he has more manoeuvring space because the EU money is coming.”

A human rights worker in Sudan, who asked not to be identified for security reasons, said the regime’s brutality towards refugees had worsened in the last year as EU cooperation had increased.

“The crackdown on migrants and refugees has escalated,” the activist said. “The government feels empowered to do whatever they want. They think they can get away with human rights violations like this. They see them as goodwill gestures to the EU to show they are controlling the flow of migrants.”

The commission has pledged nearly €2bn to countries taking steps to curb migration to the EU in an emergency trust fund for Africa. Sudan separately received €100m of funds last year to improve border security and address causes of forced displacement.

Sudan is also benefiting from €40m (£34m) set aside under the Khartoum Process’s Better Migration Management scheme to help restrict refugee flows in central and east Africa.

These revenues could be used to pay for military and police border management posts, surveillance systems, transport vehicles, communications, protective police gear, IT systems, infrastructure and power supplies.

EU officials deny that any revenues will go to government forces such as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), border guards on Sudan’s Libyan frontier linked to the notorious Janjaweed militia.

The RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan, known as Hemedity, last year demanded that the EU replace vehicles and weapons lost while his force rounded up 20,000 migrants.

“We are hard at work to aid Europe in containing the flow of migrants, and if our valuable efforts are not well appreciated, we will open the desert to migrants,” Hemedity said.

But it was a Khartoum court’s police that whipped and deported the asylum seekers, not the RSF. Most of those arrested were Oromo people fleeing ethnic and political repression. The court case that followed also fell short of international standards, according to local lawyers.

“It was not a fair trial,” claimed Montasir Mohammed, a lawyer for two of the arrestees. “No legal representatives were allowed to attend the court, and the men were not given a chance to appeal. The flogging was administered immediately after the court hearing. No doctors have been allowed to see them.”

The asylum seekers had been arrested last Friday when police dispersed a sit-down protest by 300-500 people outside the Ethiopian embassy in Khartoum. Eyewitnesses say officers attacked protesters with long wooden batons and tear gas canisters, provoking a dangerous stampede.

One witness, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “People were quietly sitting down on the pavement when suddenly the police came with big sticks and started to beat people. Then the military police arrived and fired teargas.

“People started to run but there was no way to escape except by jumping over a cemetery wall. Then it collapsed because so many people were jumping and pushing on it. All the people trying to escape were badly beaten as they ran, even me. It was painful.”

Use of overseas aid for this kind of political repression is “explicitly excluded” under criteria agreed by the OECD’s Development Assistant Committee last year.

The EU says it has not yet given any funds to the Sudanese government and that monies have been directed through international agencies.

However, a parliamentary delegation to Sudan in December said while EU stocks might not yet have arrived, it was clear that its funding projects “will be providing equipment to national police across the region for border control”.

Sudan is considered a key transit country for migrants to Europe. An estimated 30,000 people travelled through it on the way to Italy (pdf) in the first 11 months of 2016.

Around 500,000 refugees from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia are currently thought to be in the country.

Last week, a British parliamentary inquiry warned that in Sudan, “the European Union’s long-held reputation as a human rights standard-bearer is in danger of being sacrificed at the altar of migration”.

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