CrisisWatch

Tracking Conflict Worldwide

CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, a tool designed to help decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace.

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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 Tigray; 26 March said Eritrea had agreed to withdraw troops. Meanwhile, UN humanitarian office 22 March said Eritrean forces had been deployed alongside Ethiopian troops and ethnic Amhara militias in disputed Al-Fashqa border area between Ethiopia and Sudan. EU 22 March announced sanctions on National Security Office and its leader, Maj Gen Abraha Kassa, “for serious human rights violations in Eritrea, in particular arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances of persons and torture”; authorities immediately denounced “malicious” move. Govt continued to strengthen ties with Saudi Arabia: Saudi delegation 28 Feb-2 March visited Eritrea to discuss political, economic and security cooperation.

February 2021

Africa

Eritrea

Govt continued to be accused of perpetrating serious international crimes in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. EU 8 Feb called for withdrawal of Eritrean forces from Tigray, said they were “fuelling the conflict” and “exacerbating ethnic violence”; govt next day rejected accusation, denounced “appalling” statement and criticised EU for past support to Tigray People’s Liberation Front-led Ethiopian govt. NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) 11 Feb accused Asmara of committing serious abuses including “extrajudicial killings” alongside Ethiopian federal forces in Tigray in past few months. NGO Amnesty International 26 Feb accused Eritrean troops of killing hundreds of civilians in Axum city in Nov massacre that “may amount to a crime against humanity”; govt same day dismissed “preposterous accusations”. Tigray conflict continued to affect Eritrean refugees. UN refugee agency (UNHCR) 5 Feb reported “infiltration of armed actors”, killings and abductions in Eritrean refugee camps in Tigray, as well as “forced returns to Eritrea at the hands of Eritreans forces”; said 15,000-20,000 Eritrean refugees are currently dispersed across Tigray and cut off from access to UNHCR. Meanwhile, United Arab Emirates (UAE) started to dismantle military base in Assab port after recently ending operations in nearby Yemen; UAE accused of contributing to Ethiopia’s drone campaign in Tigray. Govt 24 Jan-1 Feb released 70 prisoners, mostly Evangelical and Orthodox Christians, who had been imprisoned in past 12 years; move follows early Dec release of 24 Jehovah’s Witnesses, including prominent conscientious objectors. UN special rapporteur on human rights in Eritrea, Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker, 24 Feb highlighted lack of tangible improvement in human rights situation in Eritrea, notably on issue of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. HRW 26 Feb called on AU not to endorse Eritrea’s bid for re-election at UN Human Rights Council.

January 2021

Africa

Eritrea

Reports of country’s involvement in Tigray conflict in neighbouring Ethiopia continued to emerge. As fighting persisted between troops of Ethiopia’s federal govt and regional state of Tigray (see Ethiopia), UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi 14 Jan said UN refugee agency (UNHCR) continues to receive “many reliable reports and first-hand accounts” of human rights violations in Tigray, including “forced return of refugees to Eritrea”; govt next day accused UNHCR of “smear campaigns against Eritrea”. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell 15 Jan stated as fact that Eritrean forces are involved in Addis Ababa’s military operations in Tigray. Ethiopia 20 Jan denied Eritrean involvement. U.S. State Department 26 Jan said there is “evidence of Eritrean soldiers forcibly returning Eritrean refugees from Tigray to Eritrea”. Amid Sudan-Ethiopia border tensions, FM Osman Saleh and presidential adviser Yemane Gebreab 5-6 Jan visited Sudan and met with Sudanese PM Hamdok, Sovereign Council head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and deputy head Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti” to discuss regional security and bilateral ties. President Afwerki 8 Jan also received high-level Sudanese delegation led by Hemedti, discussed conflict in Tigray and bilateral relations. Amid tensions with Yemen over disputed Hanish islands, authorities 9 Jan released two dozen Yemeni fishermen who had been in custody for three months; 21 Jan released additional 80 Yemeni fishermen who had reportedly been arrested inside Yemen’s territorial waters few days earlier.

December 2020

Africa

Eritrea

Reports of Eritrean involvement in fighting in neighbouring Ethiopia’s regional state of Tigray kept emerging. As fighting continued between forces of Ethiopia’s federal govt and Tigray (see Ethiopia), Tigray President Debretsion Gebremichael 4 Dec again accused Asmara of supporting Addis Ababa’s military offensive, saying that “Eritrean soldiers are everywhere”; Eritrean FM Osman Saleh next day denied involvement, denounced “propaganda.” Evidence of Eritrean soldiers’ presence and involvement in hostilities in Tigray, including in state capital Mekelle, also reported by aid workers, UN and EU officials. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi 11 Dec said UN refugee agency had received “an overwhelming number of disturbing reports of Eritrean refugees in Tigray being killed, abducted and forcibly returned to Eritrea”. Eritrean delegation led by Saleh and presidential adviser Yemane Gebreab 8 Dec travelled to Sudan and met with Sovereign Council head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan to discuss Ethiopia-Tigray conflict and impact on regional stability. Amid Sudan’s efforts to reclaim territories on border between Sudan’s Al-Qadarif state and Ethiopia’s Amhara region, Eritrea late Dec reportedly moved troops toward its border with Sudan.

November 2020

Africa

Eritrea

Conflict between Ethiopia’s federal govt and Tigray regional state spilled over to Eritrea as rockets were fired on country’s capital. Ethiopian federal govt 4 Nov launched military offensive against Tigray which shares border and has long had hostile relationship with Eritrea (see Ethiopia). Tigray President Debretsion Gebremichael 10 Nov accused Eritrea of sending troops into Tigray in support of Addis Ababa; Eritrean FM Osman Saleh same day denied allegation, saying that it “is an internal conflict” of which “we are not part”. Tigray 14 and reportedly 27-28 Nov fired several rockets at Eritrean capital Asmara. As part of regional tour mid-Nov, Eritrean delegation led by Saleh and presidential adviser Yemane Gebreab notably discussed Ethiopia-Tigray conflict with Sudanese PM Hamdok and Sovereign Council head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan 11 Nov and with Egyptian FM Sameh Shoukry 18 Nov.

October 2020

Africa

Eritrea

President Afwerki consolidated regional ties as part of effort to play greater role in regional politics. Afwerki 4-5 Oct received Somalia President Farmajo, leaders agreed to upgrade July 2018 agreement that restored diplomatic relations between two countries and to re-double regional integration efforts on basis of Sept 2018 tripartite agreement between Eritrea, Somalia and Ethiopia. Afwerki 12-14 Oct visited Ethiopia, discussed bilateral and regional issues with Ethiopian PM Abiy, including Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam; visit took place amid harsh dispute between Ethiopian federal govt and Tigray regional state which shares border with Eritrea and has long had hostile relationship with Afwerki. Govt 31 Oct accused Tigray ruling party of obstructing regional peace and stability. UN Human Rights Council 7 Oct appointed Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker as new UN special rapporteur on human rights in Eritrea. European Parliament 8 Oct adopted resolution calling on govt to “put an end to detention of the opposition, journalists, religious leaders and innocent civilians” and condemning “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations”; also expressed concern that “COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the situation of famine and malnutrition that exists in parts of the country”.

September 2020

Africa

Eritrea

Human rights groups denounced compulsory military training amid COVID-19, while opposition group claimed attack on Eritrean officials in Ethiopia. Govt early Sept sent thousands to infamous Sawa military camp to undergo compulsory military training despite movement restrictions and closures of schools amid COVID-19 pandemic; NGO Human Rights Watch 11 Sept urged govt to reverse decision, citing risk of virus spreading in overcrowded camp, and to end compulsory military training. Eritrean opposition group Eritrean Defence Forces for National Salvation early Sept claimed attack on officials from Eritrea’s ruling party Peoples’ Front for Democracy and Justice in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa in late Aug, leaving one dead and two injured; if confirmed, incident would be first attack on Eritrean officials in Ethiopia since 2018 peace deal between two countries. In capital Asmara, authorities 4 Sept arrested senior security official Colonel Teame Goitom, who has worked with Eritrean security and intelligence bodies in Ethiopia since 2018, for unclear reasons. President Afwerki 7 Sept received Sudanese delegation led by Sovereign Council’s Chairman General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, both sides agreed to bolster bilateral ties and regional peace.

August 2020

Africa

Eritrea

Concerns persisted over food insecurity amid COVID-19 pandemic. UK-based human rights group Eritrea Focus 3 Aug accused govt of using COVID-19 to increase hardship for population by imposing prolonged lockdown and rejecting international medical aid, called on UN to intervene to stop “deliberate starvation and death of Eritrean people”. Govt 13 Aug reportedly began releasing prisoners in bid to limit spread of virus in overcrowded prisons, excluding political prisoners.

July 2020

Africa

Eritrea

President Afwerki and Ethiopian PM Abiy reflected on progress made since 2018 peace deal, while govt’s harsh COVID-19 measures continued to raise concerns over food security. Eritrean information minister 11 July said that “progress achieved” since Eritrea and Ethiopia signed Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship in July 2018 had not been “fully congruent with expectations and aspirations” and regretted that Ethiopian troops remain present in Eritrea; President Afwerki 18 July received PM Abiy in capital Asmara where they took stock of progress and obstacles in implementing peace declaration; both sides agreed to bolster bilateral cooperation. During UN Human Rights Council session 30 June-17 July, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Eritrea Daniela Kravetz said there had been no significant progress this past year in Eritrea’s human rights situation; she also expressed concern that “COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the situation of famine” in parts of Eritrea, and urged authorities to ensure that “emergency food supplies reach all segments of the population”; UK-based Eritrean human rights group 15 July said ethnic Afar people faced “mass starvation”  in Red Sea region in south east, where govt has imposed drastic coronavirus restrictions since April, and called on international community to put pressure on Eritrea to supply Afar community with food “as soon as possible”.

June 2020

Africa

Eritrea

Amid COVID-19 pandemic, govt accused of deliberately starving ethnic minority, while tensions with Yemen increased over disputed Hanish islands. NGO Red Sea Afar Human Rights Organisation (RSAHRO) 7 June called on international community to put pressure on govt to “lift the deliberate siege and stop the systematic starvation” of ethnic Afar in mineral-rich Red Sea region in south east, where govt has imposed draconian COVID-19 restrictions since April. Inside Yemen’s territorial waters, between Hanish Islands – most of which belong to Yemen since 1998 international arbitration – and Yemen’s Al-Khokha coast, Eritrean naval forces 3 June seized 15 Yemeni fishing boats and arrested 120 fishermen; Yemeni coast guard same day detained two Eritrean ships and arrested seven Eritrean soldiers attempting to alight on Greater Hanish island. Yemeni govt immediately urged Eritrea to stop trespassing inside its territorial waters and to release its fishermen; Eritrea 4 June released around 60 fishermen, in exchange Yemen released captured Eritrean soldiers (see Yemen).

April 2020

Africa

Eritrea

UN special rapporteur on human rights in Eritrea and NGO Amnesty International early April called for release of prisoners from overcrowded prisons amid COVID-19 pandemic. Govt 8 April extended nationwide lockdown imposed late March for three more weeks.

February 2020

Africa

Eritrea

In rare public comment on ongoing border dispute with Ethiopia, President Afwerki 7 Feb said refusal by Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, regional party in Ethiopia, to return disputed Badme area back to Eritrea was obstructing progress to demarcate border following 2018 peace agreement. Govt early Feb denounced U.S.’s late Jan decision to suspend issuing of visas for six countries including Eritrea. Govt continued to consolidate regional ties: FM visited Sudan 7 Feb and Afwerki visited Saudi Arabia 18 Feb.

January 2020

Africa

Eritrea

Eritrea alongside seven other states bordering Red Sea and Gulf of Aden in Saudi Arabia 6 Jan established regional bloc to improve maritime security.

October 2019

Africa

Eritrea

President Afwerki 2 Oct held talks with South Sudan delegation in Adi Halo, near capital Asmara, reiterating his support for govt of President Kiir.

September 2019

Africa

Eritrea

President Isaias 14-16 Sept visited Sudanese capital Khartoum for first time since 2014; he and chairman of Sudan’s Sovereign Council Lieutenant General Abdel-Fattah Burhan 16 Sept announced that their countries would increase security cooperation.

August 2019

Africa

Eritrea

Following celebrations marking 25th anniversary of Sawa Military Training Centre and launch of compulsory military service 1-4 Aug, President Isaias early Aug confirmed govt would maintain program.

July 2019

Africa

Eritrea

President Afwerki received Ethiopian PM Abiy in capital Asmara 18 July one year after they signed peace agreement and discussed deepening cooperation, no substantial outcome. Russia 22 July lifted sanctions, which it imposed on govt in 2009, to conform with Nov 2018 UN Security Council resolution that called for lifting sanctions on Eritrea following its normalisation of relations with Ethiopia and Somalia.

June 2019

Africa

Eritrea

President Afwerki 14 June received in Asmara chairman of Sudanese Transitional Military Council for which he has expressed strong support.

May 2019

Africa

Eritrea

Govt early May increased security forces in capital Asmara without giving explanation and temporarily shut down Facebook and messaging apps. U.S. removed Eritrea from updated list of countries not cooperating with its counter-terrorism efforts 29 May.

April 2019

Africa

Eritrea

Govt closed two border crossings with neighbouring Ethiopia without giving reasons: Omhajer-Humera crossing 18 April and Bure-Assab crossing 22 April.

March 2019

Africa

Eritrea

President Afwerki 3 March hosted trilateral meeting of Kenyan and Ethiopian leaders to discuss regional and bilateral issues. President Afwerki and Ethiopian PM Abiy 4 March met South Sudanese President Kiir in South Sudan capital Juba to discuss country’s peace deal. Eritrean delegation 18 March met Somaliland President Bihi in Hargeisa, Somaliland, and agreed to step up bilateral relations.

February 2019

Africa

Eritrea

Following reopening of Eritrea-Ethiopia border in Sept 2018, President Afwerki and FM Osman Saleh 22 Feb met Ethiopian PM Abiy in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to assess Oct-Jan trial period for trade and transport relations and work toward deeper cooperation. Ethiopian ambassador in Eritrea 19 Feb said two countries were close to signing comprehensive cooperation agreement to institutionalise trade, immigration and transport links. EU 8 Feb announced €20mn program to build roads linking Eritrean ports and Ethiopian border.

January 2019

Africa

Eritrea

President Afwerki and Ethiopian PM Abiy 7 Jan reopened border crossing between Humera in Ethiopia and Oum Hajer in Eritrea as part of ongoing reconciliation. Kenyan President Kenyatta 24 Jan visited Eritrea for first time since 1999. Sudan 31 Jan reopened border with Eritrea, shut for a year to combat trafficking of weapons and foodstuffs.

December 2018

Africa

Eritrea