BBC News: Eritrean leader in ‘historic’ visit to Somalia – 13 December

  • BBC News reports that Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki is visiting Somalia, after decades of animosity during which Eritrea refused to recognise the country’s UN-backed government.
  • Isaias held talks with his Somali counterpart President Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmajo” Mohamed in Mogadishu on 13 December. The Somali presidency called the visit the start of a “new era”.
  • Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel said that Isaias’s visit to Somalia was an “historic” moment, which comes as a result of tripartite summits held in November.
  • The BBC reports that Isaias is also due to hold talks with President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi.
  • The visit was widely reported in other media outlets including Reuters, The National, Face2Face Africa and AllAfrica.

Assenna: PRESS RELEASE – Brussels Conference, 12-14 December, 2018– 13 December

  • Assenna republishes a press release from a recent Brussels conference on Eritrea, which called upon the EU to evacuate and resettle Eritreans detained in Libya “death camps”.
  • Over 200 members of the Eritrean diaspora came together at the conference, titled “We the People: Peace in the Horn & the Safety and Future of the Eritrean People.” They condemned the lack of democratic reform in Eritrea, which continues to see a mass exodus of its people.
  • They say that thousands of Eritrean refugees “perish at the hands of human traffickers in Libya”, where they face torture, starvation, abduction, and a lack of medical care.
  • The group expresses its concern that Eritrea is set to take over the chair of the Khartoum Process in 2019. Mirjam Van Reisen, an International Relations Professor at Tilburg University, said: “We are concerned that to fight human trafficking, more EU funding will be approved this week, for countries such as Eritrea whose highest officials are linked to the practice.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists: Hundreds of journalists jailed globally becomes the new normal – 13 December

  • The CPJ publishes a special report by Elana Beiser, which names Eritrea as one the five worst jailers of journalists worldwide.
  • Eritrea continues to imprison more journalists than any country in sub-Saharan Africa. 16 journalists are currently detained in the country.
  • The majority of detained journalists have been held in custody since the media shutdown imposed by President Isaias’s government in 2001. It is unclear whether they are still alive.
  • The state of affairs in Eritrea is in sharp contrast to that seen in its neighbour Ethiopia. The CPJ found “no journalists jailed in relation to their work in Ethiopia for the first time since 2004.” Beiser concludes that the data collected suggests that “the authoritarian approach to critical news coverage is more than a temporary spike.”
  • Voice of America also reported on the CPJ’s findings.

Ethiopia Observer: Abay Tsehaye makes plea to Eritrean president to “transcend old enmities” – 13 December

  • Ethiopia Observer reports on a plea by Abay Tsehaye, a founder of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), for President Isaias to restore relations with the Tigray leadership.
  • In an interview recorded with BBC Tigrinya, Abay said the TPLF has “forgotten” old animosities, which saw competition between Tigray and the rest of Eritrea following independence.
  • Abay said: “TPLF sent fighters to support EPLF in Eritrean soil, and paid heavy sacrifices. The Eritrean people are well aware of this, the Eritrean fighters are aware of this.”
  • In the BBC interview, Abay invited President Isaias to visit the region and engage in dialogue, stressing the “common language spoken by the two people”. Ethiopia Observer reports that he also called for the opening of the border crossing through Badme and Humera and the use of Port Massawa.

Associated Press: Ethiopia moving troops from Eritrean border amid new peace – 14 December

  • The Associated Press reports that Ethiopian military officials have announced that they will withdraw troops from the border with Eritrea, following regional rapprochement measures.
  • General Asrat Denero, head of the army’s Western Command, said that Ethiopian troops on the border would be deployed elsewhere because the “threat level from the Eritrean side has declined sharply.” Lt. Gen. Molla Hailemariam said the situation had “changed dramatically”.
  • In the wake of reforms led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopian officials say that army commands are being cut from six to four, and that Ethiopia seeks to re-establish a naval force.
  • The AP reports that some Ethiopians have seen army reforms as a means of reducing the power of top military commanders from the Tigray region bordering Eritrea.

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