CrisisWatch

Tracking Conflict Worldwide

CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, an early warning tool designed to help prevent deadly violence. It keeps decision-makers up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises every month, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace. In addition, CrisisWatch monitors over 50 situations (“standby monitoring”) to offer timely information if developments indicate a drift toward violence or instability. Entries dating back to 2003 provide easily searchable conflict histories.

Filter
Filters Active
Crisis Watch Filter
Clear Filters

January 2024

Africa

Eritrea

President Isaias met with Somali counterpart amid heightened tensions over Ethiopia-Somaliland memorandum of understanding.

Ethiopia and Somaliland 1 Jan signed memorandum of understanding that would allow Ethiopia to develop naval base along coast of Somaliland; Hargeisa said deal includes recognition of Somaliland’s independence, though Addis Ababa’s commitment to this step appears tentative (see Ethiopia, Somaliland). Announcement ratcheted up regional tensions. Mogadishu, which views Somaliland as part of Somalia’s territory, 2 Jan called agreement an “act of aggression” and began rallying regional allies in order to exert pressure on Addis Ababa to halt deal (see Somalia). Notably, Somali President Mohamud 8 Jan met with President Isaias in capital Asmara. Mohamud next day claimed Isaias supported “the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Somalia”; Asmara issued no official statement but is widely expected to side with Mogadishu on issue amid deteriorating relations with Ethiopia. 

December 2023

Africa

Eritrea

23rd anniversary of Algiers Agreement with Ethiopia passed amid deteriorating bilateral relations.

12 Dec marked 23 years since Ethiopia and Eritrea concluded Algiers Agreement to establish peace and demarcate common border. U.S. and UK issued statements urging sides to honour their commitments under deal and emphasising respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and pursuit of regional peace and stability. Anniversary came amid deteriorating bilateral relations, however, fuelled by competing ambitions and unresolved grievances; Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed’s Oct comments on access to Red Sea port exacerbated mistrust. Rising tensions have increased prospect of slide toward war, though unlikely in near term given both countries’ weakened militaries and war-ravaged economies. Meanwhile, clashes 30 Dec erupted in UK capital London between supporters and opponents of Isaias’ govt, with supporters reportedly calling on Eritrean community to prepare for another war with Ethiopia; police intervened, said four officers were injured in violence.

November 2023

Africa

Eritrea

Asmara defended its role in Ethiopia’s Tigray war, and President Isaias attended Saudi Arabia-Africa summit.

Asmara defended involvement in Tigray war. On first anniversary of peace deal between Ethiopian govt and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), Asmara 2 Nov defended its involvement, saying it was compelled to enter war amid alleged TPLF plans to invade Eritrea, overthrow govt and expand its territory. Minister of Information Yemane Gebremeskel same day accused U.S. and “certain European countries” of making “unsubstantiated allegations” about continued presence of Eritrean troops in Tigray region.

Isaias attended Saudi Arabia-Africa summit. President Isaias 9 Nov travelled to Saudi capital Riyadh for three-day Saudi Arabia-Africa summit beginning 10 Nov; 13 Nov met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. While in Riyadh, Isaias held separate meetings with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Somali President Hassan Sheik Mohamud to discuss Red Sea security. Isaias and Sisi also discussed Sudan crisis, during which Isaias reportedly called for African Union (AU)-led peace initiative. In interview with media outlet Asharq al-Awsat next day, however, Isaias launched scathing critique of AU, alongside Intergovernmental Authority on Development and Economic Community of West African States, dismissing them as ineffective.

October 2023

Africa

Eritrea

Authorities rejected Ethiopian PM’s calls for direct access to sea, laying bare deteriorating bilateral relations; govt continued to expand regional partnerships.

Asmara dismissed Abiy’s calls for negotiations over sea access. In audio released 13 Oct, Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed said that securing direct access to sea (Ethiopia has been landlocked since 1993 Eritrean independence) is vital for Ethiopia’s development and stressed historic links to Red Sea; he called for open discussions with neighbours about possible solutions and warned that Ethiopia’s lack of access was potential source of future conflict. Eritrea 16 Oct responded harshly, dismissing “excessive discourses” on water and sea access and emphasising that Asmara will not “be drawn into such alleys and platforms”. Response laid bare worsening relations between Addis and Asmara, with latter fearful that its larger neighbour may have territorial ambitions.

Eritrea continued to strengthen regional ties. Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud 8-9 Oct visited Asmara amid concerted Eritrean efforts to enhance bilateral relations. High-level delegation led by FM Osman Saleh 12 Oct travelled to Egypt to discuss Sudan conflict with Egypt’s FM Sameh Shoukry; delegation 14 Oct met with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Meanwhile, delegation led by Ambassador Negasi Sengal 23-24 Oct attended Forum on China-Africa cooperation in Chinese capital Beijing.

September 2023

Africa

Eritrea

UN report warned of ongoing Eritrean violations in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, President Isaias met with Sudan’s army chief, and several Eritrean diaspora events descended into violence.

UN accused Eritrean forces of ongoing violations in Tigray. UN rights commission report published 18 Sept warned of “ongoing atrocities” in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, confirming that Eritrean troops, alongside militia members from Ethiopia’s Amhara region, “continue to commit grave violations”, including “systematic rape and sexual violence of women and girls”.

Asmara continued work to bolster regional standing. President Isaias 11 Sept met with Sudan’s army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in capital Asmara; according to state media, Isaias reiterated Eritrea’s pre-war plan for political stability and security in Sudan, dubbed “Transition to Safety”, and underscored need to harmonise various external peace initiatives instigated after outbreak of hostilities (see Sudan). Meanwhile, African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina 1 Sept met with Isaias, praising govt and pledging more support for country’s economic development.

Violence broke out at Eritrean cultural festivals in Israel and Germany. Supporters and opponents of Isaias’ govt 2 Sept clashed during Eritrean cultural festival in Israel’s capital Tel Aviv, leaving around 150 people injured; violence 16 Sept broke out between opposing sides during another cultural festival in German city of Stuttgart. Asmara 9 Sept accused “Eritrea’s detractors” of fomenting unrest among diaspora communities.

August 2023

Africa

Eritrea

Asmara rejected fresh accusations of troop presence in Ethiopia’s Tigray region while fears simmered that Ethiopia’s Amhara rebellion could draw Eritrea in; army accused of human rights abuses.

Asmara dismissed allegations of troop presence in Tigray. Ministry of Foreign Affairs 10 Aug summoned British Chargé d’Affaires after British Ambassador to Ethiopia Darren Welch 9 Aug called for complete withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Ethiopia’s Tigray region; govt accused Welch of “endorsing the TPLF’s [Tigray People’s Liberation Front] irredentist claims”.

Amhara rebellion heightened risks of Eritrean involvement on insurgent side. Ethiopia’s Defence Minister Abraham Belay 22 Aug announced plans to return hundreds of thousands of people displaced from Western and parts of Southern Tigray (under Amhara’s administration since Nov 2020) to their homes; Abraham added that govt will dissolve Amhara’s “illegal administration” in these areas in accordance with Nov 2022 peace deal with TPLF (see Ethiopia). Remarks came amid escalating rebellion in Amhara region, led by nationalist militia known as Fano, and increased likelihood of Asmara supporting Fano rebellion in order to prevent Tigray from recovering control of disputed territory and gaining access to an external border.

UN spotlighted human rights abuses in army. UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Eritrea Mohamed Babiker 7 Aug said Eritrean conscripts are subjected to torture, inhumane or degrading treatment, sexual and gender-based violence, forced labour and abusive conditions during military service.

July 2023

Africa

Eritrea

Eritrean forces’ continued presence in Ethiopia’s Tigray region hindered peace process; President Isaias attended summits in Egypt and Russia amid efforts to boost international standing.

Eritrean forces maintained strategic positions in Tigray. Coalition of regional and international civil society organisations 10 July published report warning that peace deal in Ethiopia’s Tigray region is “marred by significant gaps” (see Ethiopia), including continued presence of Eritrean troops who were supposed to withdraw under terms of accord. Though Asmara mostly withdrew its forces in Feb 2023, it has maintained strategic positions in region and could still disrupt peace process, especially if Amhara-controlled Western Tigray is returned to Tigray’s administration.

Asmara’s efforts to bolster its international standing continued. In bid to play more active role in regional affairs, President Isaias 13 July attended Sudan’s Neighbouring States Summit in Egypt’s capital, Cairo, to discuss possible solutions to Sudan crisis. Summit ended with plan to establish ministerial mechanism, aimed at facilitating comprehensive peace agreement. Isaias 28 July met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on sidelines of Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg; leaders reportedly held “extensive discussions on bilateral ties and international matters of mutual importance”, including war in Ukraine.

June 2023

Africa

Eritrea

Asmara re-joined regional bloc in sustained effort to bolster international standing; President Isaias continued seeking closer ties with Russia.

Eritrea sought to bolster regional standing. Eritrea 12 June formally rejoined regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) after 16-year hiatus. Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel same day said IGAD should play leading role in resolving Sudan crisis. High-level delegation led by FM Osman Saleh 13 June participated in 14th IGAD regular meeting in Djibouti.

President Isaias completed first official visit to Russia. President Isaias late May-early June made first official visit to Russia, held talks with President Putin on strengthening bilateral ties and agreed to participate in second Russia-Africa Summit in July. In interview with state-controlled TV channel Russia Today, Isaias 5 June supported Russia’s “right to defend itself” against “hegemonic forces … led by Washington” that have “declared war against humanity”, calling for “global solidarity” to forge new world order.

May 2023

Africa

Eritrea

Eritrea’s efforts to bolster its international standing continued as President Isaias spoke out on Sudan conflict and strengthened ties with China, Russia.

President Isaias sought influence in addressing Sudan crisis. In 1 May interview with state media, President Isaias discussed conflict in Sudan, urging “an immediate end” to fighting and emphasising potential mediating role of neighbouring countries, including Eritrea; also advocated for Intergovernmental Authority on Development regional bloc to play support role. During meeting with Sudanese ambassador 12 May, Isaias denied allegations Asmara is cooperating with United Arab Emirates to provide sanctuary for fighters from Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.

Eritrea bolstered relations with China and Russia. President Isaias 14 May arrived in China for four-day state visit at invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping as countries sought to “enrich their strategic partnership”. Leaders held talks on bilateral cooperation, regional stability and global issues, with Xi saying China “is ready to work with Eritrea to advance mutually beneficial cooperation”. Isaias 30 May arrived in Russian capital Moscow for four-day official visit at invitation of Russian President Putin, who 31 May announced sides would soon sign various cooperation agreements.

April 2023

Africa

Eritrea

Military delegation travelled to Ethiopia amid stepped-up regional engagement.

High-level delegation visited Ethiopia as Asmara sought to consolidate ties. Military delegation led by National Security Agency chief Abraha Kassa 3-5 April visited Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. Possibly seeking to demonstrate strong bilateral ties following Ethiopia’s peace deal in Tigray, Minister of Information Yemane Gebremeskel 5 April said Ethiopian military chief Birhanu Jula praised Eritrea’s support during Tigray war, saying it “can never be compensated”, while Abraha Kassa 5 April said Eritrea’s “aspirations” are for “durable peace” in Ethiopia. Trust-building visit could presage further Eritrean troop withdrawals from Tigray region, provided Asmara is satisfied with progress on disarmament of Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

Engagement with other regional actors continued. Delegation led by FM Osman Saleh and Presidential Adviser Yemane Gebreab 3 April arrived in South Sudanese capital, Juba, meeting with country’s President Salva Kiir. Sides reportedly focused on bilateral ties and regional developments amid worrying deterioration in Sudan (see Sudan), as well as Eritrea’s interest in promoting “peace and reconciliation among the people of South Sudan”. Same delegation 11 April met with Kenyan President William Ruto in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

March 2023

Africa

Eritrea

U.S. accused Ethiopian, Eritrean and Tigray forces of war crimes in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict, Asmara worked to forge new alliances, and UN condemned Eritrea’s “dire” human rights situation.

U.S. accused Eritrea of crimes against humanity in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict. Following two-day trip to Ethiopia, U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 20 March announced U.S. had determined that members of Ethiopian federal, Eritrean, Amhara and Tigray forces committed war crimes in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict, and that members of Ethiopian federal, Eritrean and Amhara forces committed crimes against humanity (see Ethiopia); Asmara next day dismissed “unsubstantiated and defamatory accusations”.

Asmara continued to seek new alliances. President Isaias 28 Feb-1 March visited Saudi Arabia, 1 March held talks with Saudi Crown Prince and PM Mohammed bin Salman on “spectrum” of bilateral issues. Isaias 13 March received vice chair of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereign Council, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemedti”, in capital Asmara. Somali President Mohamud 13-14 March visited Eritrea for third time since coming to power in May 2022. Stepped-up diplomatic efforts signalled Isaias’ resolve to prevent Eritrea’s isolation following Tigray peace deal in Ethiopia.

UN spotlighted “dire” human rights situation. UN human rights body 6 March accused Eritrea of committing serious human rights abuses against citizens with “complete impunity”, including military servitude, forced conscriptions, forced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture and killings.

February 2023

Africa

Eritrea

During two-day trip to Kenya, President Isaias discussed Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict, strengthened ties with Nairobi and pledged to rejoin regional bloc.

Isaias spoke about war in Tigray during rare media briefing. President Isaias 8-10 Feb visited Kenya’s capital Nairobi, 9 Feb spoke to international journalists about Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict for first time since war broke out in 2020. Isaias dismissed as “fantasy” claims Eritrean soldiers committed atrocities in Tigray, sidestepping questions about accountability, significant losses and troop withdrawals from Tigray (Eritrean soldiers have mostly left region but small units remain in strategic positions in border areas). Isaias added Eritrea has “no intention of interfering” in Ethiopia’s peace process amid concerns it could act as spoiler. In separate interview conducted in Asmara, Isaias 12 Feb said it would have been “game over” for Tigray People’s Liberation Front had “Washington enablers” not saved it via peace deal.

Asmara agreed to strengthen ties with Kenya and pledged to rejoin regional bloc. During Kenya trip, President Isaias and Kenyan President Ruto pledged to strengthen bilateral ties, which have been strained since 2011 when Nairobi openly criticised Eritrea for its alleged support of Islamist insurgency Al-Shabaab. Leaders abolished visa requirements for respective countries’ citizens and Kenya agreed to open its embassy in Asmara. In signs Asmara may wish to end its isolation, Isaias also said Eritrea would rejoin regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development; however, Asmara’s conditions for rejoining a bloc it views as dominated by Ethiopia remain unclear.

January 2023

Africa

Eritrea

Significant Eritrean troop withdrawals from Ethiopia’s Tigray region occurred after progress on Tigray’s disarmament; Russian FM met with President Afwerki to boost support for war in Ukraine.

Eritrean troops withdrew from most major cities in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Ethiopia’s federal govt and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) continued to make progress on implementing peace accord (see Ethiopia). Notably, Tigray’s forces 10 Jan began handing over heavy weapons to Ethiopia’s federal military. Within days, Eritrea withdrew its troops from most major cities in Tigray. Notably, news agency Reuters 21 Jan reported that troops had left Shire (North Western Zone), while other witnesses reported their withdrawal from Adwa (Central Zone) and Axum (North Western Zone). Senior Ethiopian military officer Teshome Gemechu 28 Jan claimed “there is no other security force in the Tigray region except the Federal Defence Forces”. However, Eritrean forces reportedly retained presence in outskirts of some urban areas and in rural areas. Since it is not party to peace accord, which stipulates withdrawal of foreign and non-federal troops from Tigray concurrent with heavy weapons handover, Eritrea may retain military presence in region until TPLF’s full disarmament. Meanwhile, Tigrayan reports of Eritrean attacks on civilians and looting of properties in region continued to emerge during month.

Russian FM met with Eritrean leader in capital Asmara. President Isaias Afwerki 26 Jan met Russian FM Sergei Lavrov in Asmara during Lavrov’s tour of Africa to bolster support for war in Ukraine; Minister of Information Yemane Meskel said discussions centred on “dynamics of the war in Ukraine and enhancement of bilateral ties on sectors of energy, mining, information technology, education and health”.

December 2022

Africa

Eritrea

In significant development for Ethiopia’s delicate peace process, Eritrean forces began withdrawing from Tigray.

Asmara began withdrawing its forces from Tigray late Dec. Following news early Dec of continued Eritrean abuses in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, news agency Reuters 30 Dec reported that Eritrean troops had retreated from several towns in Tigray, including strategically important Shire and Axum towns, in Central and North Western zones (see Ethiopia). Reported withdrawal, which coincided with 29 Dec launch of African Union monitoring mission in Tigray, marks significant development in Ethiopia’s fragile peace process since Asmara’s stance remains crucial factor in implementing accord. Earlier in month, reports emerged of Eritrean forces looting and attacking civilians in Tigray’s north. Notably, senior Tigray official Getachew Reda 12 Dec alleged Eritrean soldiers were still carrying out “genocidal campaign”; media outlet Bloomberg late Nov accused Asmara of allowing its forces to continue attacking civilians, which Eritrean embassy in U.S. 5 Dec dismissed as little more than “crass disinformation”.

In other important developments. First batch of Somali troops, who have participated in controversial training program in Eritrea since 2019, 21 Dec returned to Somalia. Kenyan President Ruto 9-10 Dec visited Eritrea at invitation of President Isaias; leaders agreed to abolish visa requirements and cooperate on regional peace, security and development.

November 2022

Africa

Eritrea

Asmara quietly consented to fragile peace accord between Ethiopia’s federal government and Tigray leaders, but could act as spoiler over disarmament protocols in coming weeks and months.

Asmara hinted at satisfaction with deal to resolve Tigray conflict. Following peace accord signed 2 Nov between Addis Ababa and Tigray leaders in South Africa’s capital Pretoria (see Ethiopia), Asmara remained silent, indicating its tacit acceptance of deal to end conflict despite not being party to accord. Meanwhile, its military activities in Tigray subsided although reports of ongoing Eritrean violence against civilians in Shire city and surrounding areas persisted during month.

Asmara could spoil peace process absent speedy implementation of disarmament protocols. Longstanding enmity between Tigray People’s Liberation Front and Asmara could coax latter to challenge implementation of accord if it feels Tigray’s leaders are backtracking on some political concessions, most notably promised reduction of Tigray’s military capabilities. Meanwhile, Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel 28 Nov criticised U.S. for endorsing African Union Envoy Olusegun Obasanjo’s comment that “no country should accept the presence of a foreign country on its land”, defending troop presence in Ethiopia as “defense architecture”.

Somalia’s president met Somali cadets during second visit to Eritrea this year. Somali President Mohamud 10-12 Nov visited Eritrea, second such trip since his election in May this year, signalling continued desire for cooperation. Mohamud 12 Nov met members of Somali National Army who have been undergoing military training in Eritrea since 2019; program, estimated to include about 5,000 cadets, has been shrouded in controversy regarding participants’ alleged deployment in Tigray. Mohamud 12 Nov returned to Somalia without Somali troops, suggesting he had again failed to convince Asmara to allow cadets to return to Somalia, possibly due to ongoing discussions over payments.

October 2022

Africa

Eritrea

Eritrean and Ethiopian federal forces gained ground in Tigray, raising fears of mass atrocities against local population.

Ethiopian-Eritrean offensive gained ground in Tigray, fuelling fears of large-scale attacks on civilians. Eritrean forces continued supporting Ethiopia’s military and regional allies in Tigray after returning to frontline fighting early Sept. Eritrean troops fought Tigray’s forces in Tigray’s Eastern, North Western and Central zones throughout month, making significant advances. Notably, joint Ethiopian-Eritrean offensive 17 Oct drove Tigray’s forces from strategic Shire city (North Western Zone), after which they began pushing east from Shire toward Aksum and Adwa cities, and could threaten Tigray’s capital Mekelle (see Ethiopia). Battlefield advances of Ethiopian and Eritrean forces, alongside potential for continued strong Tigray resistance, raised risk of Ethiopian and Eritrean forces escalating atrocities on civilians in Tigray, who largely back Tigray’s resistance led by Asmara’s long-standing rival, Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Eritrea 24 Oct accused humanitarian and media groups, as well as western govts, of “insinuating perpetration of ‘unspeakable atrocities’” to “rehabilitate the TPLF” for geopolitical interests.

Asmara rejected calls to withdraw its forces from Tigray. International actors condemned Eritrea’s military activities in Ethiopia and urged troop withdrawal. Notably, European Parliament 6 Oct accused Eritrea of “playing a destructive role in the Tigray conflict”; Asmara next day condemned “spurious accusations”. Australia, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, UK and U.S. 12 Oct published joint statement condemning “escalating involvement of Eritrean military forces in northern Ethiopia” and urging them to “cease their military operation and withdraw”. Asmara 15 Oct released second statement, accusing western countries of “wilfully harassing the victims of the TPLF” despite TPLF’s “acts of continued destabilisation of Eritrea”. As talks between Ethiopia’s federal and Tigray negotiators 25 Oct got underway in South Africa, concerns that Asmara will spoil any future peace process remained.

September 2022

Africa

Eritrea

Following resumption of Tigray conflict in neighbouring Ethiopia late Aug, Eritrea once more became embroiled in fighting.

Eritrea joined Ethiopia’s federal forces in launching military offensives against Tigray’s forces. Following renewed hostilities 24 Aug in northern Ethiopia, Eritrea 1 Sept became heavily involved in frontline fighting once more, backing Ethiopia’s federal forces and allied militia amid longstanding enmity between Asmara and Tigray’s ruling party, Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). According to Tigray authorities’ statement 1 Sept, Eritrean and federal forces launched major offensives from Eritrea in Tigray’s north, expanding conflict to new fronts (see Ethiopia). Reports 17 Sept emerged that govt was calling on reservists from armed forces to join fight. Tigray authorities 20 Sept accused Eritrea of launching “full-scale” offensive via multiple border crossings in Tigray’s north, marking further escalation; U.S. Special Envoy Mike Hammer same day condemned actions. Tigray authorities 27 Sept accused Eritrean forces of airstrike on Adi Daero town in region’s north west 25 Sept that killed five civilians.  Meanwhile, Asmara 16 Sept criticised European Union over 14 Sept statement, which accused Eritrea of “impeding ongoing efforts towards peace in Ethiopia”. Asmara said statement overlooked “fundamental causes” of war and insisted that TPLF continues to pursue longstanding policies of “territorial aggrandizement and ‘regime change’” in Eritrea through force. Desire to defeat TPLF and fear of Tigray invasion suggests Asmara will continue its military offensive and spoil any future peace process between Tigray and federal authorities that allows Tigray’s current military force to remain intact.

Asmara continued diplomatic engagement, notably with China. China’s Special Envoy to Horn of Africa Ambassador Xue Bing 16 Sept met with President Isaias Afwerki, stressing China’s readiness to contribute toward “regional efforts of conflict resolution and sustainable peace”. FM Osman Saleh 28 Sept held bilateral talks with his counterparts from Iran and Cuba; both meetings discussed strengthening bilateral ties.

August 2022

Africa

Eritrea

Amid renewed Tigray conflict in neighbouring Ethiopia, threat of fresh clashes between govt troops and Tigray forces along Eritrea-Ethiopia border loomed large. Situation highly volatile late Aug at border with Ethiopia’s Tigray region amid resumption of hostilities between Ethiopia’s federal govt and Tigray (see Ethiopia). Notably, senior Tigray official Getachew Reda 31 Aug accused Ethiopia’s federal govt of sending “tens of thousands of troops to Eritrea”, while Addis Ababa same day accused Tigray’s forces of expanding fight to multiple fronts. Previously, after apparent failure of Asmara’s efforts since April to ally with Khartoum, Asmara’s attempts to forge ties with Sudanese subnational actors faced headwinds. After authorities invited high-profile delegation from eastern Sudan, including rebel group leaders who stayed out of 2020 Juba Peace Agreement, to participate in President Isaias Afwerki-sponsored forum on eastern Sudan’s insecurity, Sudanese border police 4 Aug reportedly prevented around 112 delegates from entering Eritrea at Laffa border crossing in Kassala state, citing lack of entry visas; Eritrea has long wielded influence in region, given geographical proximity and potential impact of eastern Sudan’s political and security dynamics on Eritrea’s national security. Meanwhile, foreign ministry 3 Aug criticised U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, accusing Washington of “provocative” attempt to contain China and “deplorable” violation of “norms and provisions of state sovereignty”.

July 2022

Africa

Eritrea

Precarious calm prevailed at border with Ethiopia’s Tigray region; President Isaias and Somali counterpart vowed to strengthen bilateral cooperation. Border areas between Eritrea and Ethiopia’s Tigray region throughout month remained calm but volatile and inaccessible to humanitarian agencies. Tensions persisted between Asmara and Addis Ababa as Ethiopian govt took further steps toward peace talks with Tigray leadership (see Ethiopia). Meanwhile, media outlet BBC 14 July reported that over 10,000 Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia’s Alem-Wach refugee camp (Amhara region) were facing severe flooding. Somalia’s newly elected President Mohamud 9-12 July embarked on four-day trip to Eritrea, signalling willingness to maintain ties with Asmara. In seven-point memorandum signed 12 July, Isaias and Mohamud notably agreed to enhance defence, security, diplomatic and political cooperation. During visit, Mohamud also met with Somali soldiers who have been undergoing secretive military training in Eritrea in 2019; later renewed pledge to bring soldiers home amid long-running controversy around program participants’ alleged deployment in Tigray.

June 2022

Africa

Eritrea

UN special rapporteur on Eritrea condemned country’s “dire” human rights record; fighting with Tigray forces along Eritrea-Ethiopia border subsided. In report published 10 June, UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker condemned country’s “dire” human rights situation, citing forced labour, indefinite military conscription, arbitrary arrests, torture and disappearances. At opening of 50th session of UN Human Rights Council, Babiker 13 June shed light on Eritrea’s forcible recruitment for war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, saying thousands including women, children and Eritrean refugees in Ethiopian camps have been rounded up and sent to front lines since late 2020. Around 500 ethnic Afar Eritrean soldiers 2 June reportedly defected from Eritrea and arrived in Ethiopia’s Afar regional state. No fighting reported in June between Eritrean and Tigray forces along shared border.

May 2022

Africa

Eritrea

Fighting between govt troops and Tigray forces erupted along Eritrea-Ethiopia border; Asmara continued diplomatic efforts to build alliances. Clashes between Tigray and Eritrean forces reported 8 May near Badme and Rama border areas, which Asmara has largely controlled since Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict started in Nov 2020; Eritrea 11 May reportedly started to strengthen positions in border areas by relocating some units from Western Tigray. Asmara 17 May said Tigray forces were advancing toward Eritrea with “support and blessing from the West”, vowed to defend Eritrean territory. Eritrean forces 28-29 May allegedly shelled Sheraro town in Tigray, killing one child and wounding 18 people; Tigray authorities 30 May claimed they had repelled Eritrean offensive launched 24 May, killing or wounding over 300 Eritrean soldiers including four commanders. Amid cooling relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia since latter declared ceasefire in Tigray in March, and Asmara’s ally President Farmajo’s electoral defeat in Somalia, isolated Eritrea increasingly sought to build new alliances. FM Osman Saleh and Presidential Adviser Yemane Gebreab early May led high-level delegation to South Sudan, meeting with President Salva Kiir 5 May and holding talks with Presidential Security Adviser Tut Gatluak next day. Same delegation 9 May met with Chad’s Transitional Military Council leader Mahamat Idriss Déby in N’Djamena.

April 2022

Africa

Eritrea

Govt downgraded diplomatic mission to Ethiopia in sign that bilateral relations may be souring. After Ethiopian PM Abiy 24 March declared humanitarian ceasefire for Tigray region, local media early April reported Asmara 30 March downgraded diplomatic mission to Ethiopia, replacing outgoing Ambassador Semere Russom with Chargé d’Affaires Biniam Berhe. Asmara yet to accept letter of credence from newly appointed Ethiopian ambassador to Eritrea, Fekadu Beyene. Meanwhile, violence against Eritrean refugees in northern Ethiopia continued: six unidentified gunmen 2 April raided Dabat refugee camp in Amhara region, injuring eight Eritrean refugees. High-level govt delegation 11 April visited Sudan, met with Sovereign Council head Gen Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan and expressed solidarity with latter’s “efforts to overcome the ongoing crisis”; 16 April presented peace initiative to end Sudanese crisis, which Sovereign Council next day welcomed. FM Osman Saleh 27-28 April travelled to Russia, met with counterpart Sergey Lavrov, reportedly called on Russia and Ukraine “to find bilateral solution to their conflict”.

March 2022

Africa

Eritrea

Authorities voted against UN resolutions condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, making Eritrea sole country in Africa to do so. Eritrea 2 March joined Russia, Belarus, North Korea and Syria in voting against UN General Assembly resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, said it was acting in opposition to “illegal” and “unilateral” imposition of sanctions on Russia; 24 March voted against other UN resolution demanding protection of civilians in Ukraine.

February 2022

Africa

Eritrea

Govt continued to face accusations of military involvement in Ethiopia’s civil war, and Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia suffered new attacks. Tigray govt 4 Feb accused Eritrea’s military of backing Afar forces’ alleged attacks on Tigrayan civilians at Tigray-Afar border in late Dec and Jan; Asmara did not respond. UN refugee agency (UNHCR) 18 Feb said attack by unidentified gunmen on Afar region’s Barahle refugee camp 3 Feb killed five and displaced at least 14,000 Eritrean refugees; also expressed concern about “safety and wellbeing of thousands of Eritrean refugees” caught up in conflict in northern Ethiopia.

January 2022

Africa

Eritrea

Alleged Eritrean attacks in Tigray region drew renewed scrutiny on country’s sustained role in Ethiopia’s civil war. Tigray govt 9 Jan said Eritrean military previous day launched “fresh attacks” on Tigray forces near Sheraro town in north-western Tigray. In rare interview to state media, President Isaias Afwerki 8 Jan used bellicose rhetoric saying his troops would strive to prevent Tigray forces from attacking his country; also said unexpected withdrawal of Ethiopian federal forces from Tigray in June 2021 was “tactical setback”.

December 2021

Africa

Eritrea

Opposition parties formed united front vowing to overthrow President Isaias and Somali opposition denounced Eritrean intelligence’s presence in capital Mogadishu. Eritrean nationalist organisations 18-20 Dec held three-day conference and formed Eritrean United National Front with declared goal of overthrowing Isaias’ regime through “armed resistance”. Somali pro-opposition news outlet Goobjoog News 1 Dec claimed Eritrean intelligence officers were in Mogadishu to help secure Somali President Farmajo’s re-election. Eritrea alongside Somalia 17 Dec voted against UN Human Rights Council resolution to investigate alleged human rights abuses during Tigray conflict in northern Ethiopia; Eritrean troops have long fought alongside Ethiopian troops there, and speculations in recent weeks emerged around training of hundreds of Somali soldiers in Eritrea to fight in northern Ethiopia.

November 2021

Africa

Eritrea

U.S. imposed sanctions on military and ruling party over their role in year-long war in neighbouring Ethiopia. U.S. Treasury Dept 12 Nov sanctioned four entities and two individuals associated with Eritrean govt, including military and ruling party, for contributing to ongoing conflict in northern Ethiopia. Asmara next day condemned “illicit”, “immoral” sanctions, accused Washington of trying to “stoke and perpetuate a vicious cycle of chaos”. Joint investigation by Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and UN Human Rights Office published 3 Nov found “reasonable grounds” to believe that all parties to conflict in Ethiopia’s north, including Eritrea, have committed human rights violations, some of which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity; Eritrean govt same day rejected allegations.

October 2021

Africa

Eritrea

Country’s re-election to UN Human Rights Council widely criticised. UN General Assembly 14 Oct re-elected Eritrea to Human Rights Council (HRC) for another three years. NGO Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect same day said election to HRC of “states that have a history of violating human rights and perpetrating atrocities at home and abroad”, including Eritrea, “deeply disturbing”. Prior to election, NGO Human Rights Watch 12 Oct had called on UN member states to “refrain from voting” for Eritrea, citing country’s “abysmal rights records” both at home and in neighbouring Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

September 2021

Africa

Eritrea

Govt continued to face accusations of war crimes in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. NGO Human Rights Watch 16 Sept released new findings, accusing Eritrean forces and Tigrayan militias of involvement in “killings, rape and other grave abuses” against Eritrean refugees in Tigray’s Hitsats and Shimelba refugee camps between Nov 2020 and Jan 2021; said attacks amount to “evident war crimes”. U.S. President Biden 17 Sept allowed U.S. govt to sanction certain individuals and entities involved in Tigray conflict, including Eritrean govt. In address to UN General Assembly in New York, FM Osman Salih 27 Sept accused U.S. and its “European allies” of defending Tigray forces and their “illicit and dangerous acts of insurrection and mayhem”.

August 2021

Africa

Eritrea

Amid spreading violence in Ethiopia’s north, govt faced renewed scrutiny over troops’ presence in Tigray. As fighting expanded across Ethiopia’s north, Tigray region’s leadership throughout month claimed Eritrean forces had moved into western Tigray and neighbouring Afar region. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken and Sudanese PM Abdalla Hamdok 4 Aug discussed alleged movements of Eritrean troops in Ethiopia “which impact regional stability”. UN refugee agency (UNHCR) 10 Aug said it had regained access to Mai Aini and Adi Harush refugee camps in Tigray; both camps had been cut off from humanitarian aid since early July due to violent clashes in area, amid reports of killings and other human rights violations against Eritrean refugees by Tigray regional forces; UNHCR also called on all parties to allow safe passage of refugees to new camp in Ethiopia’s Amhara region. U.S. Treasury Dept 23 Aug imposed sanctions on Eritrean Defence Forces Chief of Staff Gen Filipos Woldeyohannes over Eritrean troops’ alleged role in extrajudicial executions, rapes and torture in Tigray; Blinken same day warned “large numbers” of Eritrean troops had re-entered Tigray after reportedly withdrawing in June.

July 2021

Africa

Eritrea

Govt continued to face international pressure to withdraw its forces from Ethiopia’s Tigray region. As violence in Tigray started to spread to other Ethiopian regional states (see Ethiopia), UN Human Rights Council 13 July passed resolution calling for “swift and verifiable withdrawal of Eritrean troops” from Tigray; govt previous day had called on council to reject resolution, denouncing “unjust and unfair treatment [of Eritrea] by some western countries”. Meanwhile, allegations of rights violations against Eritrean refugees in Tigray mounted throughout month. Notably, UN refugee agency 13 July said it had received credible reports of “reprisal attacks, abductions, arrests and violence” meted out against Eritrean refugees there, with “hundreds” reportedly arrested in Tigray’s Shire town in previous weeks; 27 July said armed elements operating in and around refugee camps had killed at least two Eritrean refugees in Tigray’s Mai Tsebri area since 14 July. Tigrayan forces mid-month also allegedly abducted over a dozen Eritrean refugees in Tigray’s Adi Harush camp; Tigray leaders 22 July denied targeting Eritrean refugees. Some 300 Eritrean refugees 29 July demonstrated outside UN refugee agency office in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa demanding protection for fellow Eritrean refugees stuck in Tigray camps.

June 2021

Africa

Eritrea

Govt continued to face accusations of war crimes in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Amid ongoing fighting in Tigray (see Ethiopia), Ethiopian govt 3 June said Eritrean forces had begun withdrawing. UN humanitarian agency early June accused Eritrean troops of blocking aid shipments in Tigray, notably stopping trucks belonging to NGO near Hawzien town, Eastern Tigray Zone. In letter to UN Security Council, Eritrean FM Osman Saleh 7 June blamed current conflict in Tigray on U.S. long-time support for Tigray’s leaders and accused U.S. President Biden of “stoking further conflict and destabilization” through “intimidation and interference” in region. During informal UN Security Council meeting on humanitarian situation in Tigray, UN Humanitarian Chief Mark Lowcock 15 June accused Eritrean forces of using starvation as weapon of war; Eritrean mission to UN next day denied allegations and accused Lowcock of making “repeated unsubstantiated allegations” about Eritrea’s role in Tigray conflict. UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Eritrea Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker 22 June said Eritrea had “effective control” of parts of Tigray.

May 2021

Africa

Eritrea

Govt forces accused of blocking aid access to Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Amid ongoing Tigray conflict (see Ethiopia), Tigray’s interim govt and humanitarian workers, among others, late April-early May accused Eritrean soldiers of blocking movement of humanitarian aid and workers in Tigray region; UN Sec-Gen’s Office 12 May said “blockades by military forces” were impeding humanitarian access in rural areas; govt in following days denied allegation. Ethiopian Federal Attorney General 21 May admitted involvement of Eritrean troops in Axum massacre in Nov 2020, said Eritrean forces then killed 110 civilians. Aid workers 25 May claimed Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers previous night forcibly detained around 500 internally displaced persons in four camps in Shire town, northern Tigray; Asmara immediately dismissed claim as Tigray People’s Liberation Front propaganda. U.S. Horn of Africa Special Envoy Jeffrey Feltman 6 May met with President Isaias in capital Asmara, emphasised imperative for Eritrean troops to withdraw from Ethiopia and risk of Tigray conflict sparking regional escalation. U.S. State Dept 23 May imposed visa restrictions on Eritrean and Ethiopian former and current govt and security forces officials for “undermining resolution” of Tigray crisis and 27 May warned of further action if “those stoking the conflict fail to reverse course”. Amid ongoing Sudan-Ethiopia tensions over disputed Al-Fashqa border zone, Isaias 4-5 May travelled to Sudan’s capital Khartoum, met with General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of Sudan’s ruling Sovereign Council, and Sudanese PM Abdallah Hamdok; visit comes after Khartoum earlier this year accused Eritrea of interfering in border dispute in support of Ethiopia. 

April 2021

Africa

Eritrea

Authorities acknowledged troops’ presence in Ethiopia’s Tigray region amid mounting international pressure for military withdrawal. As fighting continued between forces of Ethiopia’s federal govt and Tigray (see Ethiopia), Ethiopian FM Demeke Mekonnen 3 April said Eritrean troops had “started to evacuate” from Tigray. NGO Amnesty International 14 April reported Eritrean troops 12 April had deliberately opened fire on civilians in Tigray’s Adwa town, killing at least three and injuring at least 19. In statement to UN Security Council, UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock 15 April said UN had seen no proof of Eritrean withdrawal from Tigray more than two weeks after Addis Ababa made that commitment; U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield same day mentioned “credible reports” that Eritrean troops were “re-uniforming as Ethiopian military”. In first acknowledgment by Eritrean official since conflict started, Eritrean Ambassador to UN Sophia Tesfamariam 16 April acknowledged troops’ presence in Tigray and pledged to withdraw, however repeated Addis Ababa’s narrative that Eritrean troops have only been active in Ethiopia-Eritrea border area. U.S. State Dept 21 April confirmed there was no evidence of Eritrean troops’ withdrawal, reiterated calls for immediate military departure. Meanwhile, pro-Tigray forces Tigray Media House 5 April published interview with 16-year-old Eritrean prisoner of war who said Eritrean troops were sent to Tigray in late 2020 to recapture historic border town of Badme, at centre of 20-year Eritrean-Ethiopian conflict, and other territories.

March 2021

Africa

Eritrea

Amid ongoing accusations of serious international crimes, authorities reportedly agreed to withdraw troops from Ethiopia’s Tigray regional state. As fighting persisted between troops of Ethiopia’s federal govt and regional state of Tigray (see Ethiopia), UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock 4 March said Eritrean forces are operating throughout Ethiopia’s Tigray and “countless well-corroborated reports suggest their culpability for atrocities”; UN Sec-Gen Guterres and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield same day called on Eritrean troops to leave Tigray. Echoing allegations made by NGO Amnesty International in Feb, NGO Human Rights Watch 5 March accused Eritrean forces of killing hundreds of civilians, mostly men and young boys, in Tigrayan city of Axum in Nov 2020, and called on UN to establish independent inquiry into war crimes and possible crimes against humanity by all parties in Tigray. For first time since conflict started in Nov 2020, Ethiopian PM Ahmed Abiy 23 March acknowledged presence of Eritrean troops in Tigr