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Posts Tagged ‘United Nations’

Eritrea|Is the Horn of Africa facing another collapsing state?

Posted by Ethio Tribune on October 16, 2013

Just as the Horn of Africa is witnessing the slow restoration of one collapsed state – after more than two decades of anarchic conditions in Somalia – it may be facing the collapse of another.

The small country of Eritrea, only 20 years after gaining independence from Ethiopia, has emerged as one of the largest sources of refugees in Africa – as well as one of the most militarised societies in the world. It is increasingly displaying signs of withering state structures and an unsustainable humanitarian situation.

Although Eritrea is sometimes referred to as the North Korea of Africa, a more appropriate point of comparison may be Somalia and its descent into civil war. The already fragile security conditions in Eritrea’s neighbouring states means that its collapse could have major implications for regional stability.

The Eritrean state has, since a 1998 border war with Ethiopia, been caught in a negative spiral of autocracy and deteriorating conditions. President Isaias Afewerki – the only leader this young nation has known – used the threat posed by Ethiopia as a pretext to eliminate all domestic opposition and indefinitely defer implementing the constitution and holding elections. Meanwhile, Eritrean society has been almost totally militarised. An indefinite, compulsory and universal military conscription policy applies to most of Eritrea’s adult population. Its army is now one of the largest on the continent, and has the highest number of military personnel per capita in the world next to North Korea. In 2011, Afewerki took the additional step of arming a large section of the civilian population believed to be loyal to his party, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice.

Although huge amounts of resources have been devoted to Eritrea’s military, the institution appears to be split by personal and group rivalries, both within the leadership and between the rank-and-file and the leadership. Political power is very much personalised in contemporary Eritrea, and remains largely in the hands of the president and a handful of military generals, who are rivalling and contesting each other over power, influence and control over financial resources.


The increasing number of political and military defections is another symptom of what looks to be Eritrea’s crumbling state apparatus. This includes former Information Minister Ali Abdu, believed to be the president’s right-hand man; tens of thousands of soldiers who have sought political asylum in neighbouring Sudan and Ethiopia; and the very embarrassing case of two military pilots who defected to Saudi Arabia with the president’s private jet, who were also later followed by a third pilot in April 2013, sent by the government to retrieve the plane. Other defectors include members of Eritrea’s Olympics team at the London Games in 2012, 13 players on an Eritrean football team, and artist Michael Adonai.

The growing frustration among army officers manifested itself this January with a revolt led by a colonel and members of his brigade. Their desperate actions – they occupied the Information Ministry and forced the director of the national TV station to read their demands for political reform on air – further demonstrated the emerging cracks within Afewerki’s regime.

Reliable data on the size of Eritrea’s population is hard to come by, but estimates range between 3 and 4 million people. Of these, several hundred thousand have fled over the last decade, and the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Eritrea reported earlier this year that the number of people fleeing every month has now reached 4,000. While the regime is in denial of the deteriorating conditions, Eritreans are voting en masse with their feet. The vast majority of the refugees are young males, and hence a significant portion of Eritrea’s productive workforce have either fled the country or find themselves indefinitely conscripted in the military.

Many of the refugees are trafficked out of the country through Egypt’s Sinai desert, where they can be kidnapped, tortured, and their families in the West extorted for ransom money by regional criminal networks. The UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea has identified the involvement of leading figures in the Eritrean military in these criminal networks. The participation of high-level military personnel in these activities – which also include the trafficking of weapons and forced labour – reveals the blatant role illicit economic structures have assumed in Eritrea today. 

A continuation of the country’s current trajectory is unsustainable, and some form of change is inevitable in the near future – the most objective indicator of which is the country’s demographics. Given the absence of institutional mechanisms for managing a leadership change, and the mistrust and insecurities that Afewerki’s divide-and-rule strategies have generated, a collapse of the government could lead to civil war.

Lessons from Somalia

A refugee crisis, high-level military defections, a divided military, ethnic tensions, and a leader displaying irrational behaviour are some of the ways in which Eritrea today resembles Somalia in the years before its collapse in 1991. The case of Somalia also illustrates the difficulty of re-building state institutions once central authority has disintegrated and several armed factions take control.

In the event of state collapse in Eritrea, the security and humanitarian repercussions may in fact outstrip those seen in Somalia. Given the high number of weapons in the country and its near total militarisation, the collapse of state authority and civil war may lead to conflict and deaths on an extraordinary scale. Making this prospect more daunting is the deepening of the country’s ethno-religious divisions in recent years. Nearly every individual in Eritrea’s military and political leadership, for instance, now hails from Afewerki’s Hamasien tribe, and are of Christian background. This has alienated the other ethnic groups and created tensions on a sub-ethnic level as well.

Somalia and Yemen have demonstrated how terrorist groups take advantage of the absence of state authority to recruit members and plan and execute attacks. Groups such as al-Qaeda could find a fertile breeding ground among the politically marginalised and increasingly frustrated Muslim population of Eritrea, which make up somewhere between one-third and one-half of the total population.

Though Eritrea is poor and small, with few natural resources, it has a long coastline along the Red Sea, shares borders with Sudan, Djibouti and Ethiopia and is close to Saudi Arabia and Yemen – making it important in terms of global trade and security.

The Horn of Africa is one of the most conflict-prone regions in the world, and most of Eritrea’s neighbours happen to be rather fragile sates. Given the symbiotic nature of conflict and state fragility in this region most of these neighbours would be severely destabilised by the collapse of Eritrea’s state apparatus. These states are themselves overburdened by their own internal security challenges, and do not possess the resources and capacity to handle the challenge of another collapsing neighbour. Such a situation would thus require a substantial international engagement.  

While Eritrea’s authoritarian system has so far proven to be surprisingly resilient, if the refugee crisis continues on its current trajectory, the regime is unlikely to survive for much longer. This silent mass exodus will, if not stopped, lead to a humanitarian and security crisis of enormous proportions.


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A Letter From Russia’s president Putin to Obama and All Americans

Posted by Ethio Tribune on September 12, 2013

MOSCOW — RECENT events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.

Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization — the United Nations — was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.

The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America’s consent the veto by Security Council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.

No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorization.

The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.

Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country. There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government. The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations. This internal conflict, fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition, is one of the bloodiest in the world.

Mercenaries from Arab countries fighting there, and hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia, are an issue of our deep concern. Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria? After all, after fighting in Libya, extremists moved on to Mali. This threatens us all.

From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future. We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law. We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not. Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression.

No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists. Reports that militants are preparing another attack — this time against Israel — cannot be ignored.

It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”

But force has proved ineffective and pointless. Afghanistan is reeling, and no one can say what will happen after international forces withdraw. Libya is divided into tribes and clans. In Iraq the civil war continues, with dozens killed each day. In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes.

No matter how targeted the strikes or how sophisticated the weapons, civilian casualties are inevitable, including the elderly and children, whom the strikes are meant to protect.

The world reacts by asking: if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security. Thus a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you. We are left with talk of the need to strengthen nonproliferation, when in reality this is being eroded.

We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.

A new opportunity to avoid military action has emerged in the past few days. The United States, Russia and all members of the international community must take advantage of the Syrian government’s willingness to place its chemical arsenal under international control for subsequent destruction. Judging by the statements of President Obama, the United States sees this as an alternative to military action.

I welcome the president’s interest in continuing the dialogue with Russia on Syria. We must work together to keep this hope alive, as we agreed to at the Group of 8 meeting in Lough Erne in Northern Ireland in June, and steer the discussion back toward negotiations.

If we can avoid force against Syria, this will improve the atmosphere in international affairs and strengthen mutual trust. It will be our shared success and open the door to cooperation on other critical issues.

My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

Vladimir V. Putin is the president of Russia.

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Breaking News: Suzan Rice becomes National Secuirty Adviser to Obama

Posted by Ethio Tribune on June 5, 2013

Breaking news

Susan Rice, the US permanent representative to the UN, is to become President Barack Obama’s National Security Adviser, officials say.

She would replace Tom Donilon, who is set to announce shortly that he is resigning after two years in the post.

Ms Rice was once seen as a contender for the job of secretary of state, but was forced to withdraw after opposition from Republicans in Congress.

She was criticised for remarks she made after an attack on diplomats in Libya.



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Eritrean football team disappear in Uganda

Posted by Ethio Tribune on December 3, 2012

KAMPALA (AFP) – Eritrea’s national football team has disappeared in Uganda in what would be potentially the fourth team to abscond from their authoritarian country, officials said Monday.

Ugandan police were alerted after 16 football team members disappeared after losing to Rwanda 2-0 in a regional tournament, according to the Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA).

“The police have been notified,” said Ugandan CECAFA official Moses Magogo, adding that the players failed to return to their hotel after a shopping trip in the capital, Kampala.

Thousands leave the Red Sea nation every month, according to the United Nations, fleeing conscription and a hardline government that jails critics in harsh desert labour camps, and is ranked worst in the world for press freedom.

In 2007, six national players sought asylum in Angola after a game there, while in 2009, 12 Eritrean national football players sought asylum after a game in Kenya.

Last year 13 members of Eritrea’s Red Sea football club asked for asylum in Tanzania.

“When they flew in there was an alert from CECAFA secretariat about the history of attempts to disappear by the team,” Magogo said. “We shared the information with the Ugandan police to keep an eye on them.”

Eritrean officials did not respond to calls.

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Security Council extends mandate of UN peacekeeping force in Abyei

Posted by Ethio Tribune on November 18, 2012


Addis Ababa November 18/2012 The UN Security Council on Friday extended until 31 May 2013 the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping force for Abyei, an area contested by South Sudan and Sudan. In a unanimously adopted resolution, the Council also demanded that the two countries finalize the establishment of an administration for the area, as well as constitute a police service, in line with an agreement signed in June 2011. The pact, signed in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, provides for temporary administrative arrangements for Abyei and the withdrawal of troops by both sides. The Council also urged Sudan and South Sudan to make regular use of the Joint Oversight Committee to ensure steady progress on the implementation of the agreement. The Council established the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) in June 2011 following an outbreak of violence after Sudanese troops took control of the area, displacing tens of thousands of people in the weeks before South Sudan became an independent State after seceding from Sudan. The mission’s mandate includes overseeing the demilitarization of the area and maintaining security. The final status of Abyei, which straddles the border between the two countries, has yet to be determined – one of the outstanding issues of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which helped to end the long-running civil war between Sudan and South Sudan. Source: UN News Center

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Posted by Ethio Tribune on November 18, 2012

A Strong Eritrean Popular Rally at UN Headquarter in Geneva -Switzerland on 16 Nov 2012

The demonstration made of half kilometer long four rows, armed with homemade posters, stood at UN Headquarter square in Geneva with the slogans ‘‘Down to the Eritrean dictator Iseyas Efewerqi!; Yes to the UN sanction! No to Iseyas’ extortion! Stop human trafficking and selling human organs in Eritrea! Free all Eritrean prisoners! The dictatorship must end! Enough is enough! …

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‘The North Korea of Africa’: Where you need a permit to have dinner with friends

Posted by Ethio Tribune on September 7, 2012

It’s not a simple matter to drop by a friend’s house for dinner in Eritrea. If the meal is to be attended by at least three guests from various families, the authorities already consider it a gathering that requires a special permit. Nor would travel to an adjacent village be possible without a similar permit. And if you have an urge to write a song on a slip of paper, you need to be mindful that it could be construed as anti-government propaganda that could land you in jail.

Eritrea truly deserves its nickname as the “North Korea of Africa.” Limitations on freedom of movement are just the tip of the iceberg in this East African country that is among the harshest dictatorships in the world. The group Doctors Without Borders ranks the place 179th among 179 countries when it comes to freedom of expression, even lower than North Korea itself.

One of the most glaring reflections of the harshness of the regime in Asmara, the Eritrean capital, is the mandatory military service that citizens on average serve from age 18 until they are 55 and which has spurred many to flee. A spokeswoman for Amnesty International in Israel notes that in a country where the average life expectancy is 61 or 62, this means many spend their entire adult lives in the army, frequently facing hard labor and meager wages.

Anyone who deserts the army and flees country only to be returned to Eritrea is considered an opponent of the regime, according to Sigal Rozen of the Israeli organization, Hotline for Migrant Workers. Rozen says she has met women who have fled the army after ten years of service because the army bars them from getting pregnant; they knew they would never be able to start a family if they remained in the Eritrean military. On the other hand, Eritrean army officers have the right to have sex with female soldiers. “It’s not considered rape,” Rozen says.

Emmanuel, 33, spent 12 years in the Eritrean military. He left the country three-and-a-half years ago and now lives in Israel with his wife, but left his two children behind in Eritrea. During his army service, he was sent to jail three times. The last stint, of two years, came after he complained to his commander about the short vacation time soldiers got and how they had to build houses for their commanders rather than defending the country. Emmanuel reported that in jail he got one meal a day and one shower a month.

“The jail is underground,” he told Haaretz. “You need permission from the guard to speak. Otherwise they beat you and tie you up. They pour sugar water on you and then throw you outside where you attract all the cockroaches and ants.” He says he is ready to give up the work he has found in Israel and sit in an Israeli jail as long as he is not sent back to Eritrea. Hell, he says, is better.

Every month about 3,000 people flee the East African country. There are about 40,000 Eritreans in Israel, but it is impossible to know how many of them came here seeking employment and how many fled out of fear of persecution. According to a recent United Nations report, more than 84 percent of Eritreans who have sought asylum around the world have been recognized as refugees deserving asylum status.

Eritreans enjoy universal protection through the UN and cannot be returned to their homeland. That’s one reason why Interior Minister Eli Yishai opposed letting the group of 21 Eritreans stranded in Israeli territory between the Israeli and Egyptian border fences into this country. Rozen of the Hotline for Migrant Workers calls on Israel to provide protection for Eritrean migrants, not just by refraining from expelling them but also by giving them rights here. She cites as an example the protection that Turkey is providing to Syrian refugees.

(source: HAARETZ)

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