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Eritrea Ethiopia featured News Politics and Legal Security Tigrai People’s Democratic Movement (TPDM) a.k.a. Demhit

Ethiopia: Official statement on TPDM fighters return from Eritrea

Press Statement by the Joint Anti-terrorism Task-force of the National Intelligence and Security Service and the Federal Police

(Sept. 13, 2015)

Following the organized operation carried out covertly by the National Intelligence and Security Service and patriotic Ethiopians within the destructive force that has been organized by the Eritrean Government for several years, the the fully equipped combatants have arrived home on September 12, 2015.

During the over one-year long contact established with the patriotic Ethiopians within the destructive group organized by the Government of Eritrea and other anti-Ethiopia forces intent on disrupting the rapid growth of the country, and groups determined not to be instrumental to the evil deeds of the forces of destruction have been working covertly with the National Intelligence and Security Service in nipping in the bud the destructive mission of the Government of Eritrea and other terrorist groups.

Accordingly, Molla Asgedom, Chairman of the so-called Democratic Movement of the People of Tigray and the core army of the anti-Ethiopia alliance terrorist group and Vice Chairperson of the Movement established by the Eritrean Government and Guenbot 7, convinced and organized his other patriotic friends to foil the evil mission of the Government of Eritrea; and having maneuvered the whole process in line with the desire of the Government of Ethiopia and after effectively fulfilling his duties along with the patriotic group has brought the force to the motherland.Photo - TPDM fighters in Sudan on September 11, 2015

Although Molla Asgedom and his other patriotic friends had keen desire to return early to their country upon their realization that the dream of the Eritrean Government is destroying their country, the operation continued covertly along the directions they received from the National Intelligence and Security Service to thwart the conspiracy and the mischievous acts of the Eritrean Government and other destructive forces for the past more than one year and until the government decided that they pull out of that country when their mission was fulfilled.

During the stated period, Molla and his other patriotic friends have not only played a big role in thwarting the destructive mission they were given by the Eritrean Government, in supporting the National Intelligence and Security Service to take precautionary measures by providing information, and in feeding timely information about the anti-Ethiopia activities in Eritrea to  the National Intelligence and Security Service, but also made all the opposition groups in Eritrea take a common stand that the Chairman of the terrorist group Guenbot 7, Berhanu Nega, be pressurized to unwillingly move to Asmara from the United States if he was to lead the united army of the front formed recently by Guenbot 7 with the so-called Patriots’ organization.

After the arrival of the terrorist Birhanu Nega in Eritrea and his huge desire to create merger with agents of the Eritrean Government and following the pressure exerted on Molla Asgedom and his friends, Molla’s  group agreed to the merger; but vacated their forces on the morrow to thwart the anti-Ethiopia conspiracy Molla Asgedom and his friends blew into pieces following the fanfare of the Eritrean Government and its agents in celebration of the merger.

Even though the joint plan envisaged earlier was that the over 800-person fully armed and organized group led by Molla Asgedom and his friends enter their country via Humera, since the secret was communicated to the Eritrean Government by a traitor agent of Shaebiya at the eleventh hour and communication with the Ethiopian government abruptly disrupted, the group took a quick measure to realize its plan.

Although the Eritrean government tried to stop the group by mobilizing its forces quickly to Umhajer and close the road, the force led by Molla Asgedom and his friends first destroyed the Eritrean forces in Umhajer and next at the border checkpoint Souk-Alketir as well the properties and vehicles of the Eritrean Army before crossing to Hamdayt, Sudan. A group of over 400 crossed first and the other over 300 led by Molla Asgedom followed to cross over to Hamdayt.   

In the battle, many Eritrean soldiers were killed and unknown number of combatants of Molla Asgedom were also killed and wounded. Meanwhile, a group of more than 100 combatant friends of Molla Asgedom opened a third front at the same time to distract the attention of the Eritrean Army and were able to reach Humera successfully. Those left behind are still entering into Sudan and Ethiopia, and those members of the group unable to get out of Eritrea are prisoners, members of artistic troupes or the sick.  

Tigray and Amhara Regional states as well as the defense forces have participated actively and contributed hugely for the victory of this operation from the very outset.

Moreover, the Government of Sudan which has always been a close ally of peace and development of the Ethiopian people, has been protecting the combatants from attack by Eritrean soldiers on the soils of Sudan, providing food and shelter as well as medical treatment to the wounded. It has also helped them reach home peacefully by transporting the combatants to the border with Ethiopia. The joint anti-terror taskforce would therefore like to extend its highest gratitude to the Government of Sudan for this historic and unforgettable contribution in the name of the Government of Ethiopia.

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Eritrea Ethiopia featured News Patriotic Ginbot 7 (frm. Ginbot 7) Security Sudan Tigrai People’s Democratic Movement (TPDM) a.k.a. Demhit

Ethiopian rebels flee Eritrea en-masse

(Updated on the third paragraph with the report of their arrival in Ethiopia. Updated again indicating they arrived with their weapons)

The leader of the largest Ethiopian rebel group fled from Eritrea, accompanied by hundreds of his troops.

About 683 fighters of the rebel group, Tigray People’s Democratic Movement (TPDM), made their way to Sudan on Friday overpowering an Eritrean army unit, according to multiple reports. TPDM’s leader, Mola Asgedom, was amongst them.

The fighters have reportedly crossed to Ethiopia on Saturday night through Humera and Metema with their weapons, according to a news on the quasi-official Fanabc today.

The group (a.k.a. “Demhit” – its Tigrigna acronym) was founded in 2001 when President Isaias Afeworki’s regime started arming Ethiopian rebels. Photo - TPDM leader Mola Asgedom

The incident took place merely four days after TPDM and three Eritrea based rebel groups formed a coalition, “United Front for Salvation of Ethiopia”, with Berhanu Nega (PhD) of Patriotic Ginbot 7 as chair and Mola Asgedom as deputy. Berhanu Nega, US resident reportedly travelled to Eritrea last July to lead an armed struggle. He was speaking about the coalition to the Voice of America Amharic service on Friday, apparently unaware of the developments on the ground.

TPDM’s fighters crossed the border to Sudan on Friday afternoon.

Mola Asgedom gathered his fighters in Gulje, a rural town near Sudan border, under various pretexts and started heading to the border town Omhajer as per his secret deal with Addis Ababa, according to EthiopiaFirst website citing anonymous government sources. The Eritrean government was alerted at that moment, the website added.

Eritrean army was immediately deployed to block the border crossings, according to multiple reports. An Eritrean opposition website indicated three brigades had been deployed.

TPDM fighters, however, overpowered the Eritrean troops and made their way to Hamdait, after several hours battle. Seven of them were killed and others wounded in the clash, according to the Turkish outlet Anatolia. There is no report of the Eritrean causality so far.

On Saturday, the fighters were camped in the city of Wad-Halwa, Kassala State, Eastern Sudan, handing over their arms to the authorities, while their leaders transferred to unknown place deep inside Sudan. Ethiopian authorities are reportedly in contact with their Sudanese counterparts regarding the matter.

Sudanese sources put the number of fighters who crossed the border at more than 683.

It was not immediately clear what prompted the flee.

There is no official statement from any of the governments so far.

TPDM was described in a United Nations report, as “the most important Ethiopian opposition group inside Eritrea, and it had a dual function as an Ethiopian armed opposition group and a protector of the Afwerki regime.” TPDM’s fighters are estimated in thousands and reportedly favored by Asmara receiving “good salary, nice cars that even the Eritrean army officers or government officials do not even have.”

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These photos are said to be of TPDM fighters – published on Sudanese media on Friday evening.

Photo - TPDM fighters in Sudan (1)

Photo - TPDM fighters in Sudan (2)

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Eritrea Ethiopia featured Humanitarian News Security

Eritreans in Ethiopia celebrated 54th anniversary of armed struggle

Eritrean refugees and opposition parties in exile in Ethiopia celebrated the anniversary of “the start of the struggle for independence” from Ethiopia. Eritrea won its independence in 1994 through a referendum.

The Eritrean struggle for independence is said to have started 54 years ago on September 1, 1961 after Emperor Haileselasei dissolved the federation established by the United Nations.Photo - Addis Ababa - Eritrean refugees commemorating start of independence war

The celebration was attended by more than 3000 members of the diaspora including scholars and singers.

Ethiopia harbors about 180,000 Eritrean refugees in generous conditions providing them scholarship and special work permits.

The organizers has stated that the Eritrean dictator Isayas Afewerki has hijacked what was a struggle for freedom and democracy and created a pariah state where its citizens flee in masses. Ethiopia is treating us with utmost friendliness despite the propaganda of the regime in Eritrea claiming Ethiopia to be the enemy, they said.

The participants also pledged to remove the dictatorship and build a country that lives in harmony with its neighbors.

Close to 5,000 Eritreans flee 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.

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Articles Eritrea Ethiopia featured Human Rights Politics and Legal Security

Eritrea: Thriving Despite Attempts to Isolate it

(Sophia Tesfamariam)

The article “Eritrea – Paths Out of Isolation”, written by Annette Weber, a Senior Fellow of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, is not only replete with factual errors but also seems to miss the larger picture in its perception and discourse on the current realities in Eritrea. In the first place, Eritrea’s “isolation” was not self-imposed; it was an elaborately designed effort by the US and its allies, France and the United Kingdom. Furthermore, from Eritrea’s National Service Program to the Diaspora Tax to Eritrea’s regional policies, Weber seems to have bought Ethiopia’s narrative on Eritrea: lock, stock, and barrel.

Since its inception, Eritrea’s National Service Program and role of the youth in Eritrea’s economic development have been deliberately and maliciously maligned, and misrepresented. Weber regurgitates the very narratives that have been passing for fact in western academic and media reports-and Ethiopia’s propaganda machinery. She writes:

…The main cause is in fact the potentially unlimited military service that was introduced in 2002. Both men and women are obliged to complete this “national service”, which must officially be completed between the ages of eighteen and fifty. While the duration is supposed to be limited to eighteen months, it can in reality last ten years or more. Apart from national defense, citizens may be ordered to work in agriculture, road building or mining. For the Eritrean government in Asmara, national service therefore represents a significant economic factor…

First of all, there is no “unlimited military service that was introduced in 2002. That is categorically false. Eritrea’s National Service program was introduced in 1995, three years into Eritrea’s independence in 1991 and a year after the referendum was conducted in 1994. The 1995 Proclamation lists its main objective as being the creation of a new generation characterized by love of work and discipline, and to foster national unity and equal participation of the people in the development of Eritrea’s economy. The work by Eritrea’s youth in the various sectors of the Eritrean economy are in accordance with Article 8 of the 1995 Proclamation which clearly states:

…all Eritrean citizens from the age of 18 to 40 years have the compulsory duty of performing Active National Service. Active National  Service consists of six months of training in the National Service Training Center and 12 months of active military service and development tasks in military forces for a total of 18 months…

It was not military capacity that consumed the minds of Eritreans; rather, it was the daunting task of nation building which included rehabilitating and reconstructing of Eritrea’s devastated economic and social war ravaged infrastructures.

Weber acknowledges the negative role played by the international community in the Horn region. She writes:

…The Algiers Agreement of 2000 and the 2002 decision of the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) delimiting the border created the formal preconditions for peace. Yet Ethiopia refuses to this day to recognise the proposed border line and continues to occupy Eritrean territory. Neither the African Union nor the UN nor bilateral partners demand that Addis Abeba observe the agreements and implement binding decisions. Ethiopia is one of the West’s closest allies in the “war on terror” and valued as a stable (albeit repressive) regional power in the Horn of Africa. The AU even has its headquarters in Addis Abeba. Ethiopian pre-eminence creates a situation where the West is much more conciliatory towards Ethiopia than to other countries in the Horn of Africa, generally turning a blind eye to repression, human rights violations and antidemocratic measures…

Weber claims the UN sanctioned Eritrea for providing arms and “asylum” to members of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC). Neither the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) nor any other agency of the UN has been able to provide evidence to this allegation fabricated by Ethiopia and its handlers and yet, Weber presents it as fact. Instead of calling on the Security Council to unconditionally lift the illegal sanctions and restore Eritrea’s sovereignty, she writes:

…Reintegrating the country in regional structures could build trust and neutralize the Eritrean narrative of Ethiopian aggression and international conspiracy…The international community could assume the role of a guarantor of regional integration, and should work to neutralise the Eritrean conspiracy narrative. But to reduce Eritrea’s mistrust the West will have to pursue a more balanced policy towards the different countries in the Horn of Africa.

There is no “Eritrean conspiracy narrative”. Ethiopia is militarily occupying sovereign Eritrean territories and the US led international community has sought to isolate and weaken Eritrea economically andPhoto - Eritrean community in London politically. These are not Eritrean narratives, they are facts. Weber neglects to mention the fact that the African Union, the European Union as well as the United States were the witnesses and guarantors of the Algiers Agreements signed by Eritrea and Ethiopia in 2000. The so-called international community has abrogated its moral and legal obligations and has found itself to be irrelevant on matters of peace, stability and security in the Horn region. Eritrea’s mistrust is not misplaced, or unwarranted.

Ethiopia and the US-led international community have, in the past prevented Eritrea from participating in international conferences, meetings, military and counter-terrorism campaigns etc. US officials used demarches to call on Europeans and others to “dis-invite” Eritrea and also took every opportunity in their visits to the region to malign Eritrea and discourage engagement with Eritrea.

Eritrea offered its views on Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen, Syria and others, but the US led international community chose to ignore Eritrea’s positions and in the case of Somalia, even sanctioned Eritrea for not joining the fray. Suffice it to mention a few examples of how the US-led international community and Ethiopia worked to isolate Eritrea economically, militarily and politically:

1/ A 20 August 2009 cable, “Demarche: Egypt Invitation to Eritrea for Bright Star”, authored by AF Phillip Carter is clear of its intentions. The Department was requesting assistance from the US Embassy in Cairo to convince the Government of Egypt NOT to invite the Government of the State of Eritrea (GSE) as an observer to the BRIGHT STAR military exercise. The State Department cable said:

…Embassy Cairo is requested to communicate with Egypt’s Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the highest appropriate level to urge Egypt to remove Eritrea from the list of invited observers to the BRIGHT STAR military exercise. Due to the time sensitive nature of DOD preparations for the exercise, immediate action is appreciated…The U.S. has strong objections to inviting Eritrea to participate in the BRIGHT STAR exercise as an observer…

2/ US position on Eritrea is clearly spelled out in the 2 December 2009 cable,“Response: Pres. Kikwete Tells Rep. Payne That Tanzania & Turkey Will Co-host Somali Talks”. The US State Department had received information that the Government of Tanzania (GOT) had expressed interest in partnering with Turkey to bring the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Somali opposition factions together for talks. Once again, the US does not want Eritrea to participate:

We are specifically concerned about the suggestion that Eritrea would be invited to the table. There have been similar proposals from Qatar and Egypt

3/ On 30 June 2008, the last day of the Slovenian EU Presidency, James Swan led the U.S. in its biannual troika discussion with the EU on African issues. In this cable he clearly states what US intentions vis a vis Eritrea are:

…Roger Moore, European Commission Director for East and Southern Africa, said Commissioner Louis Michel came away from recent meetings with PMs Meles and Isaias believing that neither is really looking for a solution to their lingering border dispute…. Swan questioned a recent 120 million euro allocation by the European Commission for Eritrea and said the U.S. believes the regime should be further isolated. Moore said the money has been allocated, but not yet programmed or transferred…

4/ A 18 November 2009 cable, “Europeans Track U.S. On East Africa But Remain Reluctant To Sanction Eritrea” is an example of the economic isolation orchestrated by the US and its allies-in this case Germany:

…During a German MFA experts level meeting in Berlin to discuss the challenges facing East Africa, it was clear the Europeans saw eye to eye with the United States on most Horn issues but differed on the advisability of sanctions against Eritrea…Whether to engage or isolate Eritrea as a spoiler was what the quint group addressed. Germany reported not being encouraged by its efforts to engage with Eritrea and noted that the German government had decided to freeze its support for the Bisha mining project, which he predicted would paralyze the project…

Seven years later, Bisha thrives. Producing gold, silver and copper!

5/ In the cable, “France Backs European Engagement with Eritrea” from the US Embassy in Paris shows that the US was against Brussels issuing an invitation to President Isaias Afwerki:

…France supports EU and EC efforts to engage Eritrea, including the invitation by the European Commission for President Isaias Afwerki to visit Brussels… LeGal remarked that the invitation to Brussels was well within European Commission norms, which only barred a visit by Zimbabwean President Mugabe. (C) Eritrea was emerging as a regional force, with influential and valuable networks, in the French and EC view, LeGal stated, adding that Asmara’s clout was growing in response to Ethiopian activities. Regarding Darfur, Eritrean knowledge of and involvement with rebel groups was incontestable, she remarked…

Alas, Eritrea’s invaluable insights and opportunity to learn from an astute and mature leadership with deep knowledge of the region and its dynamics were squandered….

The US and its allies have prevented Eritrea from attending meetings that concern regional issues at regional and international forums for the last 15 years. Today, ethnic bloodletting and conflicts define the region and solutions seem remote. IGAD has been completely dominated by Ethiopia and Ethiopia continues its belligerent stance against Eritrea. But Eritrea is thriving, albeit at great cost. It has managed to pull its meager resources-human and material-to ensure food security, develop its economy, achieve 7 out of the 8 UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), build its health delivery system, its higher education infrastructure, educate and train thousands and improve its human resource capacity. International “isolation” has helped Eritrea discover its hidden potentials and build on its social capital.

So it is not Eritrea that needs a “path out of isolation”-but rather, it is the US-led international community that needs to correct its deadly mistakes and rethink its incoherent policies for Africa in general and the Horn of Africa in particular.

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This article was first published on the Eritrean site Madote on Aug. 13, 2015

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Eritrean cyclists success is ”despite the gov’t not because of it”

(Adam Taylor)

Eritrea isn’t a big place. The East African country has a population of 6 million or so. Recently it has come under some serious international criticism: A damning report released by the United Nations last month suggested that the country’s one-party government might be guilty of crimes against humanity. While the government disputes the findings, the huge numbers of migrants risking their lives to escape the nation contribute to a poor international reputation for life in Eritrea.

This week, however, even Eritreans critical of the government may be feeling a sense of pride in their nation. Eritrean cyclists Merhawi Kudus and Daniel Teklehaimanot have made history by becoming the first black Africans to compete in the Tour de France. The Eritrean riders are making their presence felt in the race, with Teklehaimanot winning the coveted King of the Mountains jersey on Thursday.

“This is a day I will never forget,” Teklehaimanot said. “It is a big step for African cycling.”

In a sport still dominated by white Europeans, the success of two black Africans is a big step. And while Eritrea may be a small nation with a troubled history and serious economic and political problems in the present day, few are surprised that Eritreans are leading the charge. As the Economist has put it, cycling is Eritrea’s “unofficial fifth state-sanctioned religion.”Eritrean cyclist Daniel Teklehaimanot at Tour de France

Eritrea’s cycling culture is intertwined with its colonial history. According to Eritrean academic FikreJesus Amahazion, the first bicycle was introduced to the country by the Italians in 1898, and by the 1930s Eritreans were organizing their own bicycle clubs. Amahazion notes that even under the fascist rule of Benito Mussolini, the prowess of the Eritrean cyclists was undeniable: Eritrea’s Ghebremariam Ghebru beat a number of Italian cyclists in a special race organized in 1939 by the colonial administrators, in turn shattering “colonial myths about Eritrean inferiority,” Amahazion writes.

From 1961 to 1991, Eritreans were locked in a bloody war for independence with Ethiopia. Despite the chaos, cycling remained a part of daily life in Eritrea. Dan Connell, a journalist and expert on Eritrea, says he can recall seeing bicycles in Eritrea regularly when he first traveled there in the mid-1970s. “At that time it was just common to see people riding bikes,” Connells said, noting that often he saw “older men riding clunky bikes with no gears on them.” Connell says that this was partly as cars were rare during the war for independence: At one point, bicycles themselves were outlawed because Ethiopia suspected they could be used by the independence movement to aid attacks.

Once Eritrea gained independence, the country’s cycling culture flourished. Perhaps spurred on by its high-altitude environment (Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, sits 7,628 feet above sea level) and mountainous roads, Eritrean cyclists have established themselves as dominant forces in the competitive African cycling world, repeatedly winning African championships. In the Tour de France, Kudus and Teklehaimanot form part of the MTN-Qhubeka team, a South African-registered team that became the first on the continent to participate in the Tour de France after being chosen as a “wild card” pick. The rest of their team is white, with riders from Belgium, Britain, Norway and the United States taking part.

But Eritrea’s problems haven’t made things easier for its cyclists. Even before the recent U.N. report, the country had gained a reputation as “Africa’s North Korea.” While analysts say the “North Korea” tag is an oversimplification, they also argue that Eritrea’s police state is genuinely unique among its neighbors. Eritrea’s mandatory national service, which the government admits can last a few years but the United Nations says can end up being indefinite, has become a focal point of international criticism. Accusations of torture and extrajudicial killings also have been made by human rights organizations.

Eritrean athletes get support from this state – their sporting performances can count as national service, for example – but Eritrea’s troubled reputation complicates matters when they go abroad. Last year, three young Eritrean cyclists were invited to the training center of the International Cycling Union in Switzerland, but their visa applications were rejected by the Swiss government. The decision may have been made because of fears that the athletes would use the trip to Europe as a chance to escape their country permanently. This has happened before: An entire Eritrean soccer team was reported missing during a trip to Kenya in 2009 and later discovered to be seeking asylum.

Georgia Cole, an academic from Oxford University’s Refugee Studies Centre who has researched Eritrea’s cycling culture, adds that Eritrea’s national cycling federation helps cyclists out in many ways but at times its ‘do it alone’ attitude ends up restricting riders: By refusing to align national racing standards to international standards, for example.

The Eritrean government is clearly proud of its cyclists – it was hard to miss the prominent teams of cyclists filmed by the BBC earlier this year when Eritrea granted the news organization rare access. The PR-value of a small, troubled nation producing world-class athletes is immense. The Eritrean government, and many pro-government Eritreans inside the country and in the diaspora, believe that the negative reputation the country has is unfair, that the country’s lack of elections and unimplemented constitution is a justifiable result of its fragile security situation and simmering tensions with Ethiopia.

For evidence of what’s going right in Eritrea, these voices often point toward the country’s living standards, noting particularly that it appears to have been the only one to achieve all of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals related to health. Although some experts don’t buy those figures, sporting success is harder to deny. “When it comes to sports, you are gonna see the results,” Connell says. “It is what it is.”

The success of Eritrean athletes in these conditions may make some uneasy, but Cole says that in general “the success is despite the government rather than because of it.” Teklehaimanot and Kudus’ achievements at the Tour de France are remarkable and they stand on their own.

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* Originally published on The Washington Post, on Jul 12, 2015

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Berhanu Nega Eritrea Ethio-Eritrea relations Ethiopia featured News Patriotic Ginbot 7 (frm. Ginbot 7) Security Tigrai People’s Democratic Movement (TPDM) a.k.a. Demhit

Gov’t confirms clash with insurgents near Ethio-Eritrea border

About thirty armed men were killed and captured after a skirmish near Ethiopian-Eritrean border, according to a statement from the Ethiopian Federal Police today.

The statement came a week after a similar claim by an insurgent group “Patriots Ginbot-7″.

Federal Police’s statement said, “a group of infiltrators, not exceeding thirty, who were sneaking into Ethiopia, had been decimated” without providing details.

The statement did not disclose the specific date of the incidents. Nor did it specify the number of causalities, except that “most of the infiltrators had been killed and the rest were captured.”

The location was described as “in western Tigrai state area adjacent to the Eritrea.”

Photo - West Tigrai, Ethiopia and Eritrea
Photo – West Tigrai, Ethiopia and Eritrea

Though their identity was not released, the adjectives in the statement – “messengers of Eritrea” and “anti-peace elements” – are often used for Eritrea-backed Ethiopian insurgent groups.

The statement resonate a claim made last week by the Eritrea-based group “Patriots Ginbot-7″.

The radio of Patriots Ginbot-7 claimed last weekend that its fighters defeated “a combined force consisting military units, federal police and special forces that barricaded in western Tigrai state” on July 2. Adding that, “more than fifty were killed, sixty were wounded, and the rest retreated.” The group also claimed similar, albeit smaller, incidents took place in the area in the subsequent two days.

The group touted the incident as “a long-awaited whistle pronouncing the start of the freedom struggle.” Apparently indicating that it was the first armed engagement since the formation of the group by the merger of Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front and Ginbot-7 Movement for Justice, Freedom and Democracy last January. The merger was christened Patriots Ginbot-7 Movement for Justice, Freedom and Democracy” (a.k.a. Patriots Ginbot-7) under the chairmanship of Berhanu Nega (PhD).

Federal Police’s statement, however, downplayed that the incident was “no different from the provocations occasionally conducted by Eritrea’s messenger elements.” Adding that, “it was brought under control with small force and easily”. The statement made no reference to Patriots Ginbot 7 or its claims.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn warned last Tuesday that his government “could be forced to take measures” if Eritrea does not stop its attempts to destabilize Ethiopia and the region.

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Eritrea featured News Social Sport

Eritrean Cyclist makes history for Africa at Tour de France 2015

He has already made Tour de France history as one of the first African-registered team ever to take part in the event — and now Daniel Teklehaimanot has pedaled past another major milestone.

On Thursday, Teklehaimanot became the first African to don the polka-dot jersey awarded to the race’s leading climber, his team said.Photo - Eritrean Cyclist Daniel Teklehaimanot

The 26-year-old MTN-Qhubeka rider gave the thumbs-up after earning a third point in the King of the Mountains classification to take the jersey from Joaquim Rodriguez, who dropped a point behind him.

Colleagues on the Eritrean’s team were quick to voice their congratulations on Twitter, writing: “Lost for words right now… Battling to see what’s going on through the tears. Dream come true to have the polka-dot jersey!”

Teklehaimanot’s achievement came when a sprint ride at the Cote du Tilleul saw him cross in first place on the final category four climb of the day.

“I’m really happy about what happened today. I can’t believe it,” he told the official Tour de France website.

“That was my childhood dream, to get the polka dot jersey at the Tour de France. I was excited about having it just for one day.

“After I scored two points, I was nervous that I wouldn’t take one more, otherwise I would be left with nothing.”

Read more at CNN.

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Eritrea featured Human Rights News UN Human Rights Council

UN experts to investigate Eritrea’s crimes against humanity

The UN Human Rights Council extended both the period and mandate of the Commission investigating Eritrea’s human rights conditions.

The Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea, which the Council established last year, had released its final report last month.

In the report, the Commission said “the violations in the areas of extrajudicial executions, torture (including sexual torture), national service and forced labour may constitute crimes against humanity.”

Read: UN report: Massacre and mass graves of Eritrean Kunamas and Afars

The original mandate didn’t authorize the Commission to investigate such international crimes.Photo - Mike Smith, chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea

Yet, it could recommend further investigations if the information collected indicating that such international crimes may have occurred.

Thus, the Commission’s report recommended the Human Rights Council to “mandate a relevant special procedure or otherwise direct an investigation of the extent to which the abuses identified by the Commission constitute crimes against humanity”.

In a June 24 interactive dialogue, Mike Smith, chairperson of the Commission, urged of the Human Rights Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or authorize the Commission to investigate the potential crimes against humanity.

Read: Expert Opinion: Eritrea officially joined the club of rogue states

This week the Human Rights Council adopted a new resolution on Eritrea authorizing the Commission to investigate the matter.

The resolution (A/HRC/29/L.23), among others:

Urges Eritrea to make available information pertaining to the Djiboutian combatants missing in action since the clashes of 10 to 12 June 2008 so that those concerned may ascertain the presence and condition of Djiboutian prisoners of war;

Calls upon of the Government of Eritrea to take immediate and concrete steps to implement recommendations made by the commission of inquiry in its report in order to address the dire situation of human rights in the country;

Also decides to extend, for a period of one year, the mandate of the commission of inquiry to investigate systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights in Eritrea with a view to ensuring full accountability, including where these violations may amount to crimes against humanity.

Djibouti and Somalia co-sponsored the draft resolution, while United States and the European Union expressed their full backing.

China and Russia chose to abstain claiming “opposition to the imposition of external investigation mechanisms” and “the practice of imposing country-specific mandates was counterproductive”, respectively.

Intriguingly, China claimed further that “Eritrea had made positive developments in human rights protection”.

Read: Eritrean protestors threatened UN experts in Geneva

Eritrea’s representative denounced the resolution saying that:

“The architects of the draft resolution dreamed to perpetuate the already failed hostilities aimed to thwart Eritrea’s national building aspirations, violate its sovereign rights, compromise the independent political stance of the nation, and sabotage the promising development achievements in the country. Eritrea would not surrender its sovereign rights nor abandon its independent political stance under any name, including under the pretense of human rights.”

The Commission is expected to present its report to the UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Council in the second-half of 2016.

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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.

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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.”

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