The Guardian: The Guardian view on Ethiopia: change is welcome, but must be secured – 07 January

  • In an editorial, The Guardian says that while the reform agenda promised by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been met with “genuine enthusiasm”, “obstacles and perils” remain for his premiership and the country, including an “alarming rise” in ethnic violence.
  • Abiy’s reforms include appointing a gender-balanced cabinet, freeing political prisoners, and the peace initiative with Eritrea and wider regional rapprochement. However, more than one million citizens have been displaced by violence.
  • The Guardian says that “too much rests upon Mr Abiy at present. One concern is that charismatic leadership can slide into unchecked personal power”, and that a reformist leader like Abiy will inevitably face opposition from powerful interests within the governing Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front.
  • With elections due in 2020, The Guardian argues that “there is still no proper political roadmap from the government” and “swift progress is needed in reforming repressive laws.”

Face2Face Africa: Merry Orthodox Christmas to Egypt, Ethiopia and Eritrea – 07 January

  • Face2Face Africa reports on Christmas celebrations in Coptic Orthodox Churches, which mark the festival on 7 January in accordance with the Julian calendar.
  • The main Coptic Orthodox Churches in Africa are found in Egypt, Ethiopia and Eritrea.
  • Coptic Christians have been observing ‘The Holy Nativity Fast’ or ‘Fast of the Prophets’ (Tsome Nebiyat in Ethiopia), which begins on 25 November in the Gregorian calendar and ends on 6 January, their Christmas Eve. Following the tradition, throughout this period, Coptic Christians only eat a vegan diet and avoid eating foods containing chicken, beef, milk and eggs.
  • The article includes a tweet from St Ita & St Thomas of Canterbury Churches in Chicago, where Eritrean members of the congregation celebrated Christmas Eve.

Nordic Monitor: Eritrean Muslims courted by Erdogan as they set up office in Istanbul – 08 January

  • Stockholm-based news website Nordic Monitor reports that Eritrean Muslim organisation the Eritrean Ulama’a League has opened an office in Istanbul.
  • The keynote address at the inauguration, held on 5 January, was given by Yasin Aktay. Aktay is chief advisor to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Erdogan’s government has supported the Eritrean Ulama’a League, apparently as part of a “global campaign to woo various Muslim groups including the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami”, according to Nordic Monitor.
  • Nordic Monitor reports that Aktay was deputy chairman of the ruling AKP responsible for managing the AKP’s foreign relations, and also served as party spokesperson. He is known to be an influential figure in shaping government policies in the Arab and Muslim worlds.
  • The Eritrean Ulama’a League’s president, Sheikh Burhan Said, visited the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) in February 2017. The IHH is a charity group that has been identified as an arms smuggler to jihadist groups in Libya and Syria, which Nordic Monitor reports is backed by the Turkish government.

BBC News: Ethiopia-Eritrea border boom as peace takes hold – 09 January

  • BBC Africa correspondent Emmanuel Igunza reports on the ‘dramatic’ changes seen in the towns surrounding the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea since it was reopened last year.
  • Eritreans are now free to visit and shop in Adigrat, an Ethiopian town close to Zalambessa, just 24 miles south of the border. Mebrhit Gebrehans, a woman who trades at the market, says that “when the Eritreans come to this market, I welcome them with a smiling face. They buy spices, honey, grains and even biscuits. And we buy different clothes from them”. She also says that even in times of peace, the people fear war.
  • Haile Bisrat, a shop owner, says that the diplomatic thaw made good financial sense, and that through trade with his “Eritrean brothers” he has been able to turn a greater profit.
  • Beyene Tewelde, an Eritrean living in Adi Qeyih, comes to shop in Adigrat, where he finds the prices “very fair” and more convenient than Asmara, where he used to shop.
  • Igunza writes that there has been a “dampener” in recent weeks, “with moves that have brought confusion and uncertainty over the future of the open border crossings”, including demands from Eritrean officials for those crossing the border to present authorisation.

Eritrea Hub: Protests mar opening of Ethiopia-Eritrea border – 09 January

  • Eritrea Hub carries an article on the recent opening of the Ethoipia-Eritrea border checkpoint at Omhager-Humera, which was met by protests by local residents.
  • On Monday 7 January 2019, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Eritrea’s President Isaias and Gedu Andargachew, President of the Amhara region, visited the Ethiopian town of Omhager to officially open the border crossing.
  • Eritrea Hub reports that the event was apparently forced to move to the Eritrean side of the border after local people protested the presence of Gedu, as the Amhara region does not have a border with Ethiopia. The demonstrations come as thousands of people have been displaced from the Amhara region and are now camping in Humera.
  • Other protests have also taken place in the nearby Ethiopian city of Shire, where people blocked access to 50 trucks moving armaments from a military depot and out of Tigray.

Independent.ie: Taoiseach meets with Ethiopian President as part of week-long visit to Africa – 09 January

  • The Independent reports that Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar has met with his Ethiopian counterpart Abiy Ahmed, as part of a week-long visit to Africa.
  • Varadkar also met with President Sahle-Work Zewde, the first female president of Ethiopia.
  • On 8 January the Addis Standard reported that Varadkar was expected to visit camps near Shire, a city which hosts Eritrean refugees. It said he would engage with local authorities to discuss Ireland’s support for Ethiopia in hosting the second largest refugee population in Africa, and their joint commitment to the Global Compact for Migration.
  • In 2018, the Government of Ireland, through Irish Aid, invested €30 million (970 million Ethiopian birr) in social protection, health, rural development and women’s empowerment in Ethiopia. In 2019, Irish Aid will increase this investment by almost 7% to €32 million (1 billion Ethiopian Birr).

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