Ethiopia featured Horn of Africa drought 2015-2016 Humanitarian Hunger News

Ethiopia: Priority woredas doubled, 157 m USD more needed to feed 4.5 m people

A Joint Government and Humanitarian Partners’ Document “Humanitarian Requirements Mid-Year Review 2015” has revised its previous projection of the number of relief food beneficiaries (3.3 million) to increase to 4.5 million.

According to the document, the number of nutrition hotspot “priority 1 woredas” doubled from 49 to 97 in the last four months. The revised total funding requirement for 2015 now stands at USD 312 million. Of which, USD 157 million is expected from donnors.

The earlier document published in January had identified 2.9 million relief food beneficiaries and USD 281 million for multi-sector humanitarian response.

“Differing from the forecast at the beginning of the year, the onset of the belg/gu/ganna/sugum rains was delayed and ceased earlier than normal. The rains were erratic and inadequate in amount negatively affecting water and pasture availability and reducing belg harvest. Unseasonal livestock migration and livestock deaths were reported in pastoral areas. Consequently, food insecurity deepened and malnutrition rose in affected areas”, the document elaborated.

According National Metrology Agency, an early retreat of the kiremt rains, unseasonal rains leading to flooding in the last quarter and dry spells are expected as the El Niño phenomenon strengthens.

The government spokesperson, Minister Redwan Hussein has told the press last week that aid is being distributed from emergency stock and that the government has allocated 700 million Birr to address the issue.

A technical committee comprising Ministry of Agriculture, Agricultural Transformation Agency, National Meteorology Agency and Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute, has been formed to deal with the issue

OCHA attributed the disturbance of weather to the on-going El Niño, which is a band of warm ocean wind that develops from the central and east central Equatorial Pacific. It is a recurrent weather problem that usually occurs at intervals of two to seven years, usually lasting from 12 months up to 18 months. The last time Ethiopia suffered from El Niño was in 2005/06.

According to OCHA, the on-going El Niño phenomenon will most likely continue to negatively affect rainfall patterns until April 2016 (80 per cent probability). This may further impact harvest in some areas, and cause unseasonal heavy rains in October-December 2015 with Crop damage and flooding being high risk during this period, said OCHA’s update.

Table - Ethiopia, 2015 revised relief food requirement


Environment Ethiopia featured Horn of Africa drought 2015-2016 Humanitarian Hunger News

Ethiopia: Delayed rains causing "crisis" in Afar, Somali regions

Delayed seasonal rains are causing livestock loss and risk of food shortage in some parts of Ethiopia especially in the Afar and Ethio-Somali Region.

Due to under-performance of two consecutive rainy seasons (Belg and Meher) the food insecure people dependent on relief food assistance (2.9 million people at beginning of the year) is expected to increase significantly.

The US-funded FEWS-Net characterized the situation as “crisis”(or IPC-3) , while it is put in the higher “emergency”(IPC-4) level by the European Commission.

Based on the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) system, IPC phase 1 is “Minimal/No Acute Food Insecurity” while “Stressed” is IPC phase 2.

“Crisis” and “Emergency” are the 3rd and 4th IPC phases, respectively, before “Famine/Catastrophe”, which is the fifth and worst stage of food insecurity (IPC Phase 5). The description, criteria and appropriate responses for each phases are listed here.

According to an update released yesterday by FEWS Net (Famine Early Warning System Network):

  • “Belg-producing areas in Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR), northeastern Amhara, southern Tigray, and some areas in central and eastern Oromia will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) from July to September while areas in southern Afar and Sitti (formerly Shinile) Zone of northern Somali Region will be in “Crisis” (IPC Phase 3!) Only with the presence of humanitarian assistance through at least December.”
  • “Poor households in SNNPR, northeastern Amhara, southern Tigray, and some areas in central and eastern Oromia will be “Stressed” (IPC Phase2!) from October to December. While Southern Somali Region, with the presence of humanitarian assistance, will have a large majority of households able to address their food and nonfood needs and be in “Minimal” (IPC Phase 1!) from October to December.”

However, European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) reported on Thursday that food insecurity is widespread and rates of acute malnutrition are growing now above the international thresholds that define an emergency.

“In the southern pastoral areas, the situation has now slowly improved somewhat, the main crises areas are now concentrating in the North East and Eastern parts of the country: Eastern Tigray, Eastern Amhara (North and South Wollo, North Showa), Afar, Northern Somali region (Siti zone in particular), lowlands of Central and Eastern Oromia (West and East Hararghe, Arsi)” ECHO said.

National Metrology Agency of Ethiopia has last week said that many areas especially Afar State had delayed rainfall that affected the level of dams and local water storage resulting in loss of livestock and crops. The Agency also projected that there will be near normal rainfall level in the next ten days in most of the country, according to an FBC report.Map - Ethiopia, Belg-producing areas affected drought

On the other hand Kassim Keder, agriculture extension head at Dodotta Wereda in Arsi Zone has said that the Agriculture Bureau at Arsi is now receiving several complaints from farmers expressing their need for help, saying they can no longer manage to feed themselves and their children. “On August 6, 2015 the bureau sent a team to three Kebeles to assess the situation and returned with requests for aid, including requests from 25 households in one Kebele alone”, Kassim said.

Oromia State Livestock Development & Health Agency has reportedly requested additional funding from the federal government for the purchase of animal feed for seven zones. “We are going to make sure the production and productivity will meet the target. We do not think that the food stock in the country will fail to feed the country”, said the Communications Officer of the Ministry of Agriculture, Alemayehu Berhanu.

The Associated Press also reported last week that the government sees no risk of a food shortage quoting Agriculture Ministry spokesperson, Wondimu Filate, as saying, “The government has enough food stock and it is assisting farmers to continue their farming practices with improved seed items and drought-resistant crops.”

That assertion was confirmed on Wednesday at a press conference given by Redwan Hussein, Minister of Government Communication Affairs Office. The government spokesperson has told the press that aid is being distributed from emergency stock and that the government has allocated 700 million Birr to address the issue.

Redwan also said that the rainfall is getting stronger and there is enough food stock and the main focus is to maintain the level of annual production output.

According to the minister there were prior preparations done based on early indications of a shortage of rainfall and the areas affected are the ones who haven’t done enough preparations. There is no reason for inflation of food items as the lost output will be replaced from emergency stock, he said.

The government has called on international donors to extend additional support to ensure timely emergency response. A technical committee made up of the Ministry of Agriculture, Agricultural Transformation Agency, National Meteorology Agency and Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute, has been formed to deal with the issue.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, (OCHA), credited the weather disruption to the on-going El Niño, which is a band of warm ocean wind that develops from the central and east central Equatorial Pacific. The last time Ethiopia suffered from El Niño was in 2005/06. It is a recurrent weather problem that usually occurs at intervals of two to seven years, usually lasting from 12 months up to 18 months.


China Economy & Business Ethiopia featured News Politics and Legal

Obama in Ethiopia: Did We Just Insult China?

Addis Ababa is abuzz with Obama’s historic visit. Ethiopians were nonchalant about his visit with no sign of a fraction of the excitement Kenyans showed towards Obama’s visit. That seems to have changed once the president arrived in Addis.

Live state TV coverage started even before the arrival of Air Force One, the presidential plane, above Addis Ababa skies. Premier Hailemariam Desalegn welcomed President Obama at the airport along with top Ethiopian government officials and US Ambassadors for Ethiopia and the AU.

The social media was also super active from the get go as Ethiopians dissected and commented on every bit of footage, from a coincidental rainbow seen at the airport to the protocol lapses by government officials greeting the president.Photo - Pres. Obama and PM Desalegn, Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

A few minutes later, the president’s mile long motorcade left the airport to pass through new roads built by Chinese loans, with flag waving children greeting on the roadside.

There is no question the warm welcome was fitting for the most powerful man on Earth. The visit, which is the first ever for a sitting U.S. president, was considered as a recognition of Ethiopia’s transformation from a poster child of war and famine to the club of fastest growing countries in the world.

However, the over-the-top reception the government organized and the unprecedented live coverage of the state media raises some questions. Why is the reception for the Chinese premier Li Keqiang, who visited on May 5 of last year was not on par to this visit? What message does that send to our Chinese allies who were very generous in funding our infrastructure projects for a decade? Who does the government of Ethiopia take as its strategic and critical ally?

China has provided Ethiopia with loans amounting in billions of dollars to build roads and bridges, railways and dams, factories and almost everything. Ironically, even the tallest building in the capital, the AU building where Obama is going to make a speech is a Chinese donation. The strong friendship between China and Ethiopia extends to ideological concurrence between the ruling political parties. China considers Ethiopia’s friendship as a “gateway to Africa”. On the other hand, Ethiopia considers China as an alternative world power and source of finance free from the preconditions that come attached with loans from her western partners and the Britton Woods institutions.

This partnership has been a fruitful one for more than a decade. Recent loan and trade agreements between Ethiopia and China suggests that there is a partnership growing stronger. Hence, this marked difference in the reception afforded to leaders of China and U.S. could just be an aberration or maybe a demonstration of U.S. leaning elements in the government.

Whichever the case, getting our signals right and not disappointing our reliable allies is something that should be noted.


Africa - General Development Economy & Business Ethiopia featured Finance News United Nations

What makes the FFD3 Conference in Addis a big deal?

This year, we can make history by adapting an ambitious, sustainable development agenda and a universal climate agreement. But without the right financing and policies, we cannot achieve our ambitions… Addis Ababa can be the starting point for a new era of global partnership.” –UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon told world leaders in a video posted on YouTube in May.

The Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD3) is being held in Addis Ababa, from 13th – 16th of July 2015.

The conference aims to produce an agreement on the financial and non-financial means of implementation for the” post-2015 development agenda”. This framework, is a buildup on the Rio+20 Sustainable Development Conference to ultimately result in the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the successor of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The financing and implementation agreements at Addis Ababa will be fundamental for the SDGs that will be agreed upon by world leaders in the September UN General Assembly meeting in New York. The SDG targets will be formally adopted on March 2016 after the decision on its financing.Logo -  Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD3)

The Reduction and ultimately elimination of illicit financial flows by 2030 in order to raise new development finance is one of the issues to be dealt by this conference. The creation of a global tax body to achieve this is a potential outcome.

Financing to close the infrastructure gap, promoting international development cooperation, ensuring policy coherence and an enabling environment at all levels for sustainable development are some of the key focuses of this conference ahead of the next phase of global development drive.

In Addis, the world moves from billions in financing commitments to trillions, with ever ambitious development goals.

The conference is being attended by several world leaders, top officials of various international financial institutions and more than 5000 delegates and guests. It is dubbed “historic” and “crucial” with the global development endeavor of the next decades at stake.

The symbolism of the conference being held at Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, which is one of the leading countries in the achievement of the MDGs and also the political capital of Africa, is of monumental significance.

So far on the conference

*The United Nations launched a new initiative, the Global Financing Facility (GFF), to help end maternal and child mortality by 2030. It was also announced that $12 billion funding has been aligned for country-led five year investment plans for “women’s, children’s and adolescent’s health” in the four GFF “front-runner” countries, the Dem. Rep. of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania.

*The IMF announced that it’s going to expand access to all concessional lending for developing countries by 50% in an opening speech addressed on behalf of its Managing Director, Christine Laggarde.

*The Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), (that are African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, European Investment bank, Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank Group), and the International Monetary Fund also announced plans to extend $400 billion in financing over the next three years ahead of the conference.


Economy & Business Ethiopia featured News Society

Ethiopia designated World Best Tourist Destination & Favorite Cultural Destination

Ethiopia designated as the World Best Tourist Destination for 2015 and as the Favorite Cultural Destination in 2015.

Prime Minister Hailemariam was also selected as World Leader of Tourism and as member of “European Tourism Academy”.

The titles were presented the to Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn of Ethiopia on Friday, at the National Palace in Addis Ababa, by a European firm named “European Union Council on Tourism and Trade (ECTT)”.

ECTT reached the decision following a debate on a report, by its President Professor Dr. Anton Caragea, titled “Ethiopia: The Perfect Cultural Destination; The Land Chosen by God”.

According to ECTT’s website, the World Best Tourist Destination is the highest honor to be awarded for a country for achievements in tourism. The award is “offered to countries that are complying with United Nations Tourism Division, UNESCO and ECTT principles on fair tourism, ethical tourism and safety standards and historic preservation of cultural sites”.Photo - European Union Council on Tourism and Trade (ECTT) presenteing the awards PM Hailemariam Dessalegn

South Korea, United Arab Emirates, Trinidad and Tobago, Laos and Zimbabwe were the last five winners since 2010.

Professor Dr. Anton Caragea, ECTT President, has said that the impact of the award is massive as witnessed on the 2014 award winner, Zimbabwe, which become the most sought after destination and the number one country in Africa, in term of tourism growth for last year. Laos, winner of the 2013 World Best Tourist Destination award also crossed the 3 million-tourist benchmark, surpassing all the countries in the region, he added.

The announcement of the award was delayed by six months in order not to influence Ethiopian parliamentary elections that were held last May, according to ECTT’s officials. The ECTT intends to compensate the six months Ethiopia lost by pushing next years’ award announcement by about three months.

The president explained that the award went to Africa consecutively as Ethiopia is the second country to be selected from Africa next to last years’ winner Zimbabwe. This is the first time the ECTT has selected a winner from the same continent of the winner of the previous years’ award, he emphasized. This is, he said, due to the decision to show solidarity as the Ebola epidemic in West Africa last year and the bad publicity led to the subsequent drop in travel to Africa.

The winner of the World Capital of Culture award, which is yet to be announced, is Tbilisi, Georgia, HornAffairs learnt from ECTT president.

The European Council on Tourism and Trade  (ECTT) was established in 2005, and operates as a  non profit-making international organisation with its headquarters in Bucharest . Its members are from 27 European Union Tourism Organizations, whose role is “to market and promote tourism and investment opportunities outside the European Union”, according to its website. European Tourism Academy is also a project of ECCT.


Ethiopia featured Human Rights Media News

Ethiopia drops charges against 2 bloggers, 3 journalists

Ethiopian prosecutors released today two bloggers and three journalists after sixteen months incarceration.

The individuals were among the bloggers and journos detained in the last weekend of April 2014. The bloggers belong to the Zone 9 blogging collective.

Prosecutors dropped the charges in a letter sent a letter to the Federal High Court yesterday, according to the quasi-official media Fana.

The two bloggers released today are Zelalem Kibret and Mahlet Fantahun who were employed as lecturer and Data Officer, respectively, until their detention.Photo - Edom Kassaye and Mahlet Fantahun

Tesfalem Weldeyes, a reporter at Addis Standard, Edom Kassaye, a freelance reporter and Asmamaw Hailegiorgis, editor of the now-defunct Amharic weekly Addis Guday are the journalists released today.

The bloggers and journalists were charged under Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism law  for allegedly working with the Ginbot 7, a group classified as a terrorist group by the Ethiopian parliament and IGAD. They were charged with incitement and terrorism.

Nonetheless, their lawyer says: “No witness is brought who has either direct or indirect knowledge of the material element of the charge”.

The abrupt release happened after the Court has finished hearing evidences and was due to deliver a guilty-not-guilty verdict next week.

The case of the rest five still in detention, Befekadu Hailu, Natnail Feleke, Atnaf Berhane, Abel Wabella and Soliyana Shimeles, who is charged in absentia, is expected to proceed.

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has today released a statement saying that: “The release of these five journalists is a welcome turn of events in Ethiopia, where the number of journalists in prison has steadily increased in recent years. We call on authorities to release the remaining Zone 9 bloggers and all journalists”.

The social media is abuzz with the news with many connecting the release with the upcoming historic visit of U.S. President Obama. The president was receiving bad press for his decision based on Ethiopia’s human rights record.


Ethiopia featured News Social Tigrai

Mekele Univ. honors Bob Geldof, Kiros Alemayehu, the Robisons

Mek’ele University today awarded honorary doctorates to four distinguished individuals on its 23 graduation ceremony. The awardees are Tigrigna music icon Kiros Alemayehu, rock star and Irish humanitarian Sir Bob Geldof and Max and Kathryn Robinson, founders of Nicholas Robinson School in Mek’ele city.

Kiros Alemayehu, was a songwriter, singer and influential artist that is dubbed as the king of Tigrigna music by many. He popularized Tigrigna songs through his albums to the non-Tigrigna speaking Ethiopians. A memorial library is under construction in Wukro near his birthplace. Kiros’s wife and sons received the award on behalf of him.Photo - Bob Geldof, Kiros Alemayehu, Max and Kathryn Robinson

Sir Bob Geldof, an Irish singer-songwriter, author and international activist, is widely recognized for responding to a BBC news report from Michael Buerk about the famine in Ethiopia by mobilizing the world to do something through his organization, Band Aid.

Geldof wasn’t present to receive the award but made an acceptance speech read for him in which he said he is proud that his name is associated with Ethiopia. His award was given to him through two Ethiopian representatives that are survivors of the famine for which his role was honored.

Max and Kathryn Robinson are being honored for the school they founded twelve years ago. The British couple started a school primarily for children of disabled veterans of the armed struggle against the military regime. They received their award in person and Mr. Robinson made his acceptance speech in Amharic to the delight and applause of the graduating students.

The couple set up a foundation, Rainbows for Children, that has built a school with the help of the Tigray Disabled Veteran’s Association (TDVA) to provide education primarily for children of disabled veterans who were unable to support and educate their children until Kathryn and Max stepped in. Since then a primary and secondary school have been constructed and construction is underway on a special needs unit while construction for a technical school is to begin next year.

The patron of the foundation, Rainbows4children, is the renowned BBC journalist, Michael Buerk, who was awarded the Golden Nymph award at the Monte Carlo festival for his reports on the famine from Korem in Ethiopia, first broadcast on 23 October 1984.


Andargachew Tsigie's saga Country Ethiopia featured Human Rights News Politics and Legal

Britain displeased by Andargachew Tsige’s arrest conditions

Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary of United Kingdom, is deeply concerned over the detention of a British national, Andargachew Tsege, according to a June 25 press release from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

The press release was published a day after the Foreign Secretary and the Ethiopian Foreign Minister, Dr Tedros Adhanom discussed over the phone on the continued detention of Andargachew Tsege.

The Foreign secretary expressed his “deep concern” that a year after his detention Andargachew “remains in solitary confinement without a legal process to challenge his detention”. He is also disappointed that repeated requests for regular consular access have not been granted despite promises according to the press release.Andargachew-Tsige-leader-of-Ginbot-7-Ethiopia.jpg

On the phone call, Philip Hammond has asked Dr Tedros “to permit immediate regular consular access” and that his concerns regarding Andargachew’s welfare to be addressed. “I have also asked that the Ethiopian authorities facilitate a visit by Mr Tsege’s family”, he said.

Andargachew Tsigie, a British leader of an Ethiopian rebel group, Ginbot-7, was detained at Sena’a airport, Yemen, on June 23, while in transit from Dubai to Eritrea, where the group’s armed unit is stationed. Ginbot-7 has been described as a “group which espouses violent overthrow of the government” in a 2011 US State Department report. It is designated as terrorist by the Ethiopian parliament and the regional inter-governmental body, IGAD.

The British Foreign Ministry has previously noted its “concerns about the death penalty that Mr Tsige could face in Ethiopia”. Though Andargachew Tsigie has been sentenced in 2009 to death in absentia in connection to a foiled attempt to “overthrow the Constitutional order”, it is unlikely that he will be executed. Ethiopia has not implemented death penalty for about 10 years and can be considered as have abolished it de facto.


Africa - General African Union Eritrea Ethiopia featured Human Rights News UN Human Rights Council United Nations

In Addis, Geneva, Tel Aviv: Eritreans march to end torture, tyranny

Eritrean diaspora and refugees demonstrated in-front of at African Union (AU) Headquarters in Addis Ababa, at the United Nations’ European headquarters in Geneva, and in Tel Aviv Israel in the past two days.

The demonstrations were called in support of the damning UN report on the Eritrean regime. The report detailed “systemic, widespread and gross human rights violations amounting to crimes against humanity”

In Addis Ababa, over 400 Eritrean refugees demonstrated at the AU headquarters on Friday demanding the AU push for democratic reforms in Eritrea.

“I left to escape the indefinite national service, once you are enlisted in the military service, it is impossible to get out. The only way to escape is to go into exile”, Yohannes Yosief, a young Eritrean refugee who has been in Addis Ababa for five years told Agence France-Presse .

Eritrea’s only president since independence, Isaias Afeworki, has ruled his country with an iron fist earning Eritrea the tittle “The North Korea of Africa”.

There are about 100,000 Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia, a neighboring country the Eritrean regime claims to be a “national threat”. Estimates show that 200 Eritreans cross the border to reach Ethiopia every single day.

Photo - Eritreans demonstration in Addis Ababa - June 2015
Photo – Eritrean demonstration in Addis Ababa [Credit – EthiopiaFirst]

In Israel, hundreds of Eritrean refugees protested on Thursday in-front of the European Union delegation’s Israeli headquarters located in Ramat Gan, a suburb of the commercial capital Tel Aviv. The protesters urged action against the Eritreans regime and called for recognition as refugees by Israel.

Demonstrators railed against the assumption that Eritrean migrants were only seeking economic opportunity. “Eritreans don’t flee their home and their country because they want a better job, or a car, or a plasma TV, We flee our homes because we are born to be free and live in dignity and safety.” read a statement from the protest organizers, according to International Business Times..

According to The Times of Israel report, the protesters waved Israeli and Eritrean flags while one banner reads “In memorial of those who have been beheaded and who have drowned,” in reference to the killing of nearly 30 East Africans by ISIS this year, and the drowning of some 800 migrants in the Mediterranean in April.

Photo - Eritrean demonstration in Tel-Aviv - June 2015
Photo – Eritrean demonstration in Tel-Aviv [Credit – Times of Israel]

In Geneva, Switzerland, thousands of Eritreans from all over Europe, the US and Canada held a big demonstration at the European Union headquarters of the United Nations.

A Sweden-based opposition figure and one of the protest organizers, Nagash Osman, told Al Jazeera that he is in Geneva to say thank you to the Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry, which published the June 8 UN report. “It is the first time Eritreans feel that the world is finally listening to us. The findings of the report are not new to us, we already know this. But it feels like the world is starting to understand our suffering,” he said.

Photo - Eritrean demonstrators in Geneva displaying torture - June 2015
Photo – Eritrean demonstrators in Geneva displaying torture forms [Credit – Martin Plaut’s blog]

A pro-regime rally a day earlier this week forced Swiss police to double security for members of the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea after they were threatened and intimidated by the pro-regime protesters.

Close to 5,000 Eritreans flee the the Horn of Africa nation every month trying to reach refugee camps in neighboring countries like Ethiopia while many others try to make it to Europe through deadly boat travels across the Mediterranean sea. Eritreans are the second-largest group seeking asylum in Europe next to war-torn Syria.


Eritrea featured Human Rights News UN Human Rights Council

Eritrean protestors threatened UN experts in Geneva

Security redoubled for members of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea following threats and intimidations by pro-regime protesters in Geneva, Switzerland. According to protest organizers, 6,000 people from Eritrea and around Europe protested the Inquiry commission outside the U.N on Monday.

The disclosure was made by the President of the UN Human Right’s Council president in a meeting slated for member states to hear testimonies and discuss the June 8 report of the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea (CoIE). The 23rd Meeting of the 29th Regular Session of Human Rights Council was held on Wednesday in Geneva.

Council president Joachim Ruecker told the session that:

“Members of the commission had been subjected to various threats and acts of intimidation in their hotel and in the streets since their arrival in Geneva. Security around members of the commission has had to be redoubled… [and] taken security measures to ensure that the interactive dialogue proceed with calm and dignity”.

Reuters reported that Swiss police was guarding the team even inside the United Nations compound in Geneva.

The delegation of the US, Australia and Belgium among others expressed their dismay at the harassment and intimidation against the Commission members’ and urged that it should be “fully investigated”.Photo - Eritreans protest in Geneva against UN Commission of Inquiry

The leader of the Inquiry team Mike Smith told Reuters that the threats were related to the Monday demonstration against the inquiry. “Accidentally or not, members of the commission came into contact with some of the demonstrators. And there was a bit of a discussion that got a little bit more than that,” Smith said.

There was also “stuff on the blogosphere” directed at fellow commissioner Sheila Keetharuth, which he said was “not very pleasant”. The government of Eritrea was able to influence Eritrean communities abroad and is very active in promoting its interests abroad, while witnesses were scared to give evidence even though they were living securely outside the country, he added.

Eritrean’s state-owned media reported that the demonstrators emphasized, “Eritrea safeguards the basic rights of its citizens and earned the reputation of being an island of peace and security in a war-torn region”.

The commission’s 485 page report details human rights abuses in Eritrea that may amount to crimes against humanity including extrajudicial killings, widespread torture and enforced labor. It was prepared based on 550 interviews and 160 written statements as Eritrea refused to cooperate with the investigators and let them enter the country.

The EU delegate said, “We are deeply disturbed by your assessment that some violation may amount to crimes against humanity,” while the US delegate noted that, “the Eritrean leadership rules through fear”. The Australian delegation urged that “the perpetrators of such crimes must be held to account.”

The report recommended further examination on whether Eritrea’s government was committing crimes against humanity; therefore, a decision could be taken about whether to refer the case to the ICC. Eritrea’s neighbors Djibouti and Somalia are reportedly supporting a resolution to extend the Commission’s mandate for a year to enable it to declare if crimes against humanity were committed.

The resolution apparently improves the terms of reference of the commission that constrained it from declaring on that.

Eritrean Ambassador Tesfamichael Gerahtu told the council that the inquiry commission was “ignorant”, had “a sinister political agenda” and that the report was “a travesty of justice”.

Joachim Rücker, president of the council, rebuked the Eritrean Ambassador saying “I would like to ask the distinguished delegate from Eritrea to use a language in the future that is adequate for this council and preserves the integrity of our mechanisms.”