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Zaid Aregawi says “we don’t see the peace” in query of Abiy’s Nobel prize win5 minutes read

For Ethiopians like Zaid Aregawi, the detentions are the most troubling sign that the peace deal

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Zaid Aregawi says "we don't see the peace" in query of Abiy's Nobel prize win
Zaid Aregawi is photographed at her residence in the Sebeya village bordering Eritrea, near Adigrat in northern Ethiopia, on October 23, 2019. Residents of Ethiopia's northernmost villages complain that there has been no progress on demarcating the two countries' 1,000-kilometre shared border. These problems touch nearly everyone living in cities and towns nestled among the steep escarpments of Ethiopia's northern Tigray region -- the area most affected by the 1998-2000 border war and the long, bitter stalemate that followed. MICHAEL TEWELDE / AFP

When Zaid Aregawi learned that Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, her first thought was of her brother Alem, who is languishing in jail across the border in Eritrea.

He crossed over five months ago carrying wood for an Eritrean businessman — exactly the kind of trade that people in the border region hoped would flourish after Abiy and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki signed a peace deal last year.

But Eritrean soldiers arrested Alem Aregawi without explanation, making him one of scores of Ethiopians who officials say have recently been taken into custody by Eritrean security forces.

For Ethiopians like Zaid Aregawi, the detentions are the most troubling sign that the peace deal — the main reason Abiy was awarded his Nobel — has yet to be fully realised.

READ: Ethiopian youths “pimp out” jalopy Beetles to revive auto culture

“If there is no free movement from both sides, what is the point of the peace deal?” she asked in an interview with reporters.

“They say there is peace, however, we have got big problems along the border.”

Abiy’s attention is currently consumed by ethnic and religious clashes that broke out last week in the capital Addis Ababa and Ethiopia’s Oromia region, leaving nearly 70 dead and highlighting divisions within his ethnic Oromo support base.

Meanwhile, hundreds of kilometres north, frustration with his Eritrea deal is mounting in cities and towns nestled among the steep escarpments of Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region — the area most affected by the 1998-2000 border war and the long, bitter stalemate that followed. 

Residents of Ethiopia’s northernmost villages complain of a lack of progress on demarcating the two countries’ shared 1,000-kilometre border.

Eritrean refugees — who still cross into Ethiopia by the hundreds each day, according to the United Nations — note that peace has not moderated the behaviour of Isaias, widely considered one of the world’s most repressive leaders.

And nearly everyone laments that bilateral relations hinge on meetings between Abiy and Isaias, with little input from people on the ground. 

‘Peace stuck between earth and sky’ –

Alema Baraki, 52, an Ethiopian farmer looks after cattle on his farmland in the Sebeya village, close to Adigrat, along the Ethiopia – Eritrea border, on October 23, 2019. (Photo by MICHAEL TEWELDE / AFP)

“We can say that peace is stuck between the earth and the sky,” said Ahmed Yahya Abdi, an Eritrean refugee who has lived in Ethiopia since the war.

“When Abiy went to Eritrea he flew to Asmara, but he didn’t implement peace here, at the border between the two countries.”

READ: Violent protests against Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed leaves two dead  

The demilitarisation of the border, especially on the Ethiopian side, is the main benefit of peace cited by most people in the region.

It has permitted some Ethiopians to cross for weddings and funerals in Eritrea with little harassment from the security forces.

But Yosef Misgina, an official in the town of Dawhan, says he receives regular reports of Ethiopians being detained, jailed and beaten in Eritrea — often after they are caught transporting construction materials and other goods.

Among them were 13 traders who were taken into custody just days before Abiy won the Nobel, two of whom remain behind bars.

One recent detainee, Tsegay Suba Tesfay, spent two weeks in an overcrowded cell after soldiers arrested him while he was transporting rice and bottled water.

He said police officers beat him with a baton multiple times, and that he was deprived of food and allowed outside for just a few minutes each day.

“They don’t give you any reason when you are detained,” he said.

“In Eritrea, there is no freedom.”

Yosef attributes the detentions to continued ambiguity about the status of the border.

While the main crossings were opened shortly after the peace deal was signed, they have all since been closed, with no word on when they might reopen.

“Now we are asking that peace be institutionalised,” Yosef said. “If it is institutionalised it cannot be disrupted by individuals.”

‘I don’t accept this prize’ –

Ethiopian men carry traditional hand-woven food baskets on their heads as they walk ceremoniously to a reconciliation meeting in the Irob district in northern Ethiopia near the border with Eritrea, near Adigrat, on October 23, 2019. (Photo by MICHAEL TEWELDE / AFP)

READ: Ethiopia’s Oromo region begins Irreecha festival

An even bigger source of anxiety for the region is the border demarcation process, which so far has gone nowhere. 

When Abiy first reached out to Eritrea last year, he stunned observers by agreeing to accept a 2002 UN boundary ruling that Ethiopia had long rejected.

The ruling would transfer some villages and towns from Ethiopian to Eritrean territory, and would split the ethnic Irob community in two.

It is unclear what is holding up demarcation, but many analysts suspect Eritrea is dragging its feet.

“I would say that the Eritrean government probably wants to take things a little bit more slowly because the rapprochement has implications for the domestic situation in Eritrea. It has been a closed country for 20 years,” said Michael Woldemariam, an expert on the Horn of Africa at Boston University.

“The contradictions between the new era of external peace and Eritrea’s internal situation will be a significant challenge going forward.” 

READ: Grenade attack on police camp kills 9 in Ethiopia

For refugees like Sebhatleab Abraha Woldeyesus, who crossed into Ethiopia a few weeks ago, waiting for change from Eritrea seems futile, meaning true peace along the border is likely to remain out of reach. 

“As a human being, I don’t accept this Nobel prize,” he said.

“We don’t see the peace. Abiy and Isaias, they haven’t brought it.”

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East Africa Politics News

“I have not killed any Tutsis”, Rwandan genocide suspect Kabuga tells court

“Since 1994, Felicien Kabuga, known to have been the financier of Rwanda genocide, had with impunity stayed in Germany, Belgium, Congo-Kinshasa, Kenya, or Switzerland,” a French justice ministry statement said.

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A wanted poster with a photograph of Felicien Kabuga is displayed at the French Gendarmerie's Central Office for Combating Crimes Against Humanity, Genocides and War Crimes (OCLCH) in Paris on May 19, 2020. © Benoît Tessier, REUTERS

Arrested Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga has told a French court that the international charges against him are lies, affirming his innocence at the resumed hearing on Wednesday.

Asked if he understood the charges made against him by a United Nations tribunal, Kabuga dismissed the chargesheet as full of “lies”.

“All of this is lies. I have not killed any Tutsis. I was working with them”, Kabuga told the court through an interpreter.

Kabuga, who was arrested near Paris earlier this month after more than two decades on the run, is accused of financing and arming the ethnic Hutu militia that slaughtered over 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994.

France has not disclosed when and how Kabuga who had a $5m US reward on his head, entered France.

“Since 1994, Felicien Kabuga, accused of being a financier of Rwandan genocide, had stayed in Germany, Belgium, Congo-Kinshasa, Kenya, or Switzerland,” a French justice ministry statement said.

His ability to hide to evade an international manhunt for more than 20 years has raised questions over whether he had accomplices in foreign countries.

“It is difficult to imagine he could have escaped into French territory without the help of accomplices in such places,” Patrick Baudoin of the International Federation for Human Rights said.

The International Federation for Human Rights has supported survivors in the prosecution of other Rwandan genocide suspects living in France.

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Tanzania summons top US diplomat over coronavirus warning

The US embassy’s charge d’affaires, Inmi Patterson, met with Wilbert Ibuge, permanent secretary at the Tanzanian foreign ministry, who reminded Patterson about the two countries’ “historical cooperation”.

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Tanzania plans October 1 date for repatriation of Burundian refugees
Tanzanian President John Magufuli has repeatedly played down the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Tanzanian government said Tuesday it had summoned a top diplomat at the US Embassy in the country to object to an advisory that warned of “exponential growth” of COVID-19 cases in the country.

The United states embassy’s “health advisory” published earlier this month contained inaccurate information, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
The advisory reported, for instance, that “many hospitals” in Dar es Salaam, the economic capital, “have been overwhelmed in recent weeks”.

This claim “is not true and could cause panic among Tanzanians and foreigners”, the foreign ministry’s statement said as quoted by AFP.

The US embassy’s charge d’affaires, Inmi Patterson, met with Wilbert Ibuge, permanent secretary at the foreign ministry, who reminded Patterson about the two countries’ “historical cooperation”, the foreign ministry said.
It did not specify when the meeting took place.

The US embassy in Tanzania has been without an ambassador since 2016.
Tanzanian President John Magufuli has repeatedly played down the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic, and it has been nearly a month since the country released official data on case numbers, which stood at 480 with 16 deaths on April 29.

Last week the government announced that universities and sports events would resume in June and also lifted restrictions on flights, even as critics say cases are soaring.

Opposition politicians have criticised the lack of data, which the government stopped giving after Magufuli cast doubt on the credibility of laboratory equipment and technicians.

Laboratory officials were suspended earlier this month after Magufuli said he had secret tests performed in which a papaya and a goat tested positive.
Tanzania’s approach contrasts with that of neighbours such as Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya, which imposed full lockdowns or curfews and movement restrictions and which have been giving detailed daily updates.

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Tanzania’s road to recovery: Tourism picks up as lockdown ends

The country’s commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, hotels and schools are all heeding President John Magufuli’s directive to re-open the entire economy after a significant reduction in coronavirus cases.

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Flight operations resume at the Julius Nyerere International Airport in the commercial city of Dar es Salaam.

The reopening of the Tanzanian economy after nearly two months of lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic has seen tourists returning to the East African nation with its first international flight landing on May 21.

Plane loads of tourists aboard Ethiopian, KLM and Turkish airlines are expected to further arrive Tanzania in the next one week, Uganda’s Daily Nation reported Monday, marking a critical milestone in the on-going re-opening of Tanzania’s economy.

The country’s commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, hotels and schools are all heeding President John Magufuli’s directive to re-open the entire economy following what he termed as significantly reduced cases of coronavirus patients in the country.

The president, in a public address in the capital city, Dodoma, said there is no longer a need to curtail economic activity while hospitals across Tanzania had empty beds having discharged nearly all Covid-19 positive patients after they tested negative for the virus.

“God has heard our prayers. I call upon anyone who has been touched by this to use Friday, Saturday and Sunday to give special thanks to God,” said President Magufuli on Thursday.

Tanzania has not reported its national tally of Covid-19 positive cases since April 29. Its official toll remains at 509 with 21 deaths as at May 7, when the semi-autonomous Zanzibar island last announced its numbers.

It becomes the first East African nation to reopen, charting a new path in the management of the deadly virus that has infected more than 5.1 million people across the world and killed over 333,000 in about six months.

– International flights resume –

Tanzania’s airspace opened for international arrivals on May 18.

A chartered plane with four Greek nationals onboard landed at the Kilimanjaro International Airport on May 21. The visitors proceeded straight to sample the country’s tourist attractions after the lifting of a 14-day mandatory quarantine that had been imposed on April 4, local media reports said.

Entrants into the country will now only have their temperatures checked on arrival, as per new guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health.

Tourism is a critical sector of Tanzania’s economy, contributing about 17 per cent to the annual Gross Domestic Product and employing an estimated 623,000 workers.

About 1.9 million tourists visited the country’s parks and beaches last year, injecting $2.5 billion into the economy according to data from the Ministry of Natural Resources.

The country estimates that a continued shutdown of its borders would have drastically reduced earnings from tourism by 75 per cent. Majority of the tourists who booked their travel prior the pandemic postponed their trips to next year.

President Magufuli also announced that High School candidates whose final examinations were postponed in May will resume classes on June 1.

He instructed the education ministry to prepare a special programme to prepare them for the final exams later this year and enable them to join universities without interrupting the academic calendar. Primary and junior secondary schools will however remain closed.

Some European countries, which form the bulk of Tanzania’s tourists, have started re-opening their economies after months of shutdowns. The UK, France, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Turkey and Iceland have all announced variations of relaxations in their lockdowns that will even see them partially re-open their airspaces.

“We’re resuming our tourism activities, getting ready to receive international tourists from all over the world especially now that nations have started lifting lockdowns,” said Hamisi Kigwangalla, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism.

All entrants will be required to fill out travellers’ surveillance forms and submit to Port Health Authorities upon arrival. They will be required to adhere to Infection Prevention and Control measures, which include hand hygiene, wearing masks and physical distancing as appropriate to avoid further spread of the virus.

Flight operators will be given instructions on how to clean and disinfect their aircraft before and after landing in the country.

All commercial passenger flights, diplomatic flights, emergency aircraft related to humanitarian aid and medical relief are now allowed into the country without restrictions.

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