Posts Tagged ‘Eritrea’

Global: Die wunderbare Welt des CO2 (Teil 1)

Dienstag, Dezember 4th, 2012


(Tabelle aus: United Nations Environment Programme: The Emissions Gap Report 2012, S. 16, 17
Download des o. g. Reports hier.)


(Quelle: United Nations Environment Programme: The Emissions Gap Report 2012)

Libyen: Die Hetzjagd geht weiter

Mittwoch, Juni 20th, 2012

Libya: Hounding of migrants continues – Preliminary findings of an investigation mission

Last Update 20 June 2012

An investigation led by FIDH, Migreurop and JWBM in Libya (7-15 June 2012) paints an alarming picture of the treatment inflicted on the migrant population, in the confusion that currently reigns in the country.

With rich oil reserves and a small population, Gaddafi’s Libya relied heavily on migrant labour to serve the economy. During the conflict hundreds of thousands of migrants fled to Tunisia, Egypt and neighbouring countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, fearing for their lives. More than six months since the conflict’s end, migrants and refugees in Libya continue to be victims of grave violations of their human rights.

The situation in the country has not yet stabilised and there is no central power capable of governing of the whole territory. So armed militia groups and individuals have taken it upon themselves to decide on the treatment of migrants, outside of any legal framework. Throughout the country, armed militias control, arrest and detain migrants in improvised retention/ detention camps. Invoking security concerns to justify the “clean-up of illegals”, they hunt migrants down, with Sub-Saharan Africans as their prime targets.

The mission delegation visited 5 camps in Tripoli, Gharyan (in the Nafousa mountain area) and Benghazi. The investigation found that migrants are commonly captured as they pass through checkpoints or arrested in their homes. Those considered to be “illegal” are transported to camps run by militia brigades (Katiba), beyond all control of government authorities. Living conditions are deplorable. The mission heard numerous accounts of degrading treatment, physical violence and humiliation. Women, young children, unaccompanied minors and persons in need of medical treatment are among those detained. Migrants and refugees live in fear without any prospect of legal redress and no access to national or international bodies. Some are deported and returned to their countries of origin on charter flights organised by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM); some are offered work by camp directors with employers outside the camps and find themselves in conditions of forced labour; some are able to buy their way out by paying camp guards; while others are simply set free when camps become too crowded.

Burashada Camp in Gharyan (June 2012)

Migrants leaving the camp to work for a local farmer, with the agreement of the guards. Supposedly, migrants are paid 10 dinars a day.


The mission delegation heard numerous reports of the existence of complex networks of traffickers, armed militia groups and unscrupulous employers, who profit from the vulnerability of migrants by extorting money ($700-$1000) and exploiting them on their journeys.

Under the guise of combating “illegal” migration, Libyan coast guards collaborate in EU policy aimed at externalising border controls, by intercepting migrants off the Libyan coast. The new authorities have continued implementation of agreements concluded under the Gaddafi regime and have called on the EU and member states, and in particular Italy, to renew financial, material and technical assistance, invoking the threat of invasion by migrants transiting through Libya. The mission collected testimonies from refugees suggesting that the practice of refoulement of migrants to Libya is continuing in violation of international obligations (which were affirmed in a recent judgement of the European Court of Human Rights, Hirsi v. Italy, 23 February 2012).

FIDH, Migreurop and JWBM express deep concern about the general climate of xenophobia and the particular expressions of racism against black Africans. Accused during the conflict of being mercenaries fighting for Gaddafi, they continue to be victims of prejudice, accused of bringing disease, drugs and crime into the country.

The delegation found that Eritrean, Somalian and Ethiopian refugees lack any protection and survive in the most vulnerable legal and social conditions, without residency or work permits. Refugees fleeing countries in the Horn of Africa have no more chance of being granted international protection in neighbouring countries than in Libya itself. So they turn towards Europe for the protection and assistance to which they are legally entitled. But European policies on border control prevent any possibility of legal entry into EU territory and oblige these men, women and sometimes children, to risk their lives on boats, attempting to avoid detection by the Libyan coast guards.

Tens of thousands of internally displaced Libyans from the town of Tawargha also live in conditions of extreme insecurity. Collectively accused of conspiring with the Gaddafi regime and of crimes against the population of Misrata, the inhabitants of Tawargha fled to seek refuge, mainly in Tripoli and Benghazi, where they currently live in camps, hardly daring to go outside because of fear of persecution, assassinations and other violence committed by armed militias from Misrata seeking revenge.

The current absence of any judicial system with the capacity to investigate crimes and prosecute those responsible undermines any possibility of reconciliation in the short term and leaves the door open to individual acts of vengeance.

FIDH, Migreurop and JWBM make the following recommendations:

  • To the Libyan authorities: to put an immediate end to arbitrary and repressive practices against migrants by militias and to establish migration policy based on human rights and the rule of law.

  • To the international community, and in particular to European states: to cease reliance on Libya for the implementation of their migration policies; and to accept refugees from Libya, so that these persons are no longer obliged to risk their lives travelling across Libya and attempting to cross the Mediterranean sea.

  • To EU member states, and in particular Malta and Italy, to renounce all practice of interception at sea and refoulement of migrants to Libya.

  • To foreign companies resuming investments in Libya and employing migrant labour : to ensure that all contracts require strict respect of the rights of migrant workers, including concerning wages, social protection and living conditions.”

(Quelle: FIDH.)

Eritrea / Südsudan: Veränderte der Krieg das Frauenbild?

Mittwoch, Januar 4th, 2012

“Women Without Arms: Gendered Fighter Constructions in Eritrea and Southern Sudan

By Annette Weber, Senior Associate, Middle East/Africa Division, German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), Berlin, Germany

(…) The results reached through my field research in southern Sudan and Eritrea can be summarized as follows:

1. Women have restricted access to power positions during conflict because they are not fully acknowledged as active fighters.

2. Women are able to perform but not transform gendered fighter images. They can act as fighters but not become “real fighters.” As a result they fail to benefit from the fighter-citizen connection created by the masculine fighter image. Even if they turned into fighters during the war, they are forced to turn back into women afterwards and thereby leave the masculine sphere of power.

3. Masculine fighter images are idealized by men and women alike. But for women to become fighters means crossing established gender lines. Fighter ideals are grounded in gendered body images and narratives and practiced through gendered social roles.

4. Women actively participate in the construction of the masculine fighter idea(l) and legitimize the fighters’ use of force and violence.

5. There seems to be no apparent difference between men and women in the use of violence; it is merely the opportunity factor that leads more men to legitimized uses of violence.

6. The armed movement and civilians create a sub-status of supporters of the struggle, which is hardly contested. Thereby the high status of the fighter is manifested whereas the supporters are not fully acknowledged as active participants in the struggle.

While feminist theorists and peace scholars (Alison 2007; Ruddick 1990, 1994; Reardon 1985, Gilligan 1992; Chodorow 1989), masculinity scholars (Theweleit 1993, 284), and war theorists (van Creveld 2001) discuss both inherent and socialized peacefulness of women and war-proneness of men, my research clearly demonstrates that despite socialized gender norms women can play violent roles during conflicts, both in active fighting and in legitimizing violence. The case studies from Eritrea and southern Sudan clearly show that women possess an interest in the use of violence and in becoming active fighters. Yet one of the manifestations of structural violence in gendered fighter images is exclusion (Weber 2007). In many insurgent groups, armed forces, rebel groups, and militias, women are simply not allowed to operate as fighters. And if they do, they are not formally recognized as active combatants and fail to gain high positions in the military hierarchy. This enforced absence from the armed forces themselves by no means excludes women from war and conflict; on the contrary, the home front, support, and supply are continuously tended by women. And civilian casualties are much higher than casualties amongst fighters.

It is also apparent that civilians, despite the hardship they suffer through war – from the enemy but also from the armed groups of their own side – support masculine fighter ideas and ideals and legitimize privileged access to power through fighting positions. This has already been reflected in studies of men and women in Western armies and conflicts (Boulding 1988, 2000; Cooke 1993; D’Amico 1996; Enloe 1983, 2000; Isaksson 1988; Kaplan 1994; Stiehm 1996, Tobias 1990) and is part of the ongoing debate in feminist theory and masculinity studies (Connell 2005; Goldstein 2001; Hooper 2001). The crystallization of gender dichotomies during war and the privilege of hypermasculinity (hegemonic masculinity) is discussed, yet the debate lacks analysis of the knock-on effect of this militarized masculine mindset on post-conflict society.

The significance of this evidence for post-conflict-societies, demobilization, state-building, peace negotiations, and conflict management is widely neglected. Analysis of war and political violence (Kalyvas 2006; Schlichte 2009; Tilly 2003) addresses “exceptional” politics (Agamben 1998, p.145), but forgets that exceptional politics and the use of violence are normal everyday praxis in gender relations.

The discussion generally focuses on the aspect of peaceful women as carers and mothers, rather than reflecting their function in mothering the frontline, legitimizing violence by “their” sons, and keeping quiet about atrocities. Active female fighters are hardly considered at all, and where they are, are mainly depicted as the exception, the travesty (Sjoberg 2007; Sylvester 2011). While there is a growing literature on the role of men as warriors and fighters in southern Sudan (Burton 2007; Deng 1972; Madut Jok 2007;) and autobiographies of military men turned politicians (Akol 2009; Arop 2006; Igga 2008; Nyaba 1997), there are very few reflections on the experience of women during the war (Hutchinson 1996; Turshen 1989) or autobiographical writings by influential female figures in southern Sudan. The experience of women in the war in Eritrea is more visible (Wilson 1991), but rarely reaches beyond biographical anecdotes (Schamaneck 1989) and is rather unreflective of the political exclusion of former female fighters and the potential consequences for post-conflict state-building. It is important to acknowledge the reality of these women in demobilization and reintegration schemes, and their experience and expertise need to be reflected in conflict management and peace negotiations, precisely because it differs from that of mainstream male fighters. Understanding the relational praxis of fighter-civilian interaction, the attribution of meaning and status to fighters and civilians before, during, and after conflict, is relevant for the success of post-conflict demobilization as well as for the shaping of societies and citizenship. Longstanding and protracted conflicts create social practices that carry on as habitual references after the conflict.

The United Nations acknowledges this connection and the necessity for women to become active participants at all levels of conflict resolution and peace negotiations.13 However, analysis of the basis of the fighter construct and the fighter-citizen nexus is lacking, especially in the efforts to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325. There is also a growing body of literature on African rebel or liberation movements that have become governments (Boas, Dunn 2007; Mampilly 2011; Rolandsen 2007), but a total absence of critical debate about either the broad exclusion of women from fighter status or the existence of female fighters and its repercussion for post-conflict governments.

5. Outlook

Whether gendered fighter images will become an important building block for the grand narrative of the “imagined community” or a mere ridiculized travesty will depends on the political and social transformation from conflict to post-conflict. Especially in cases where the new leadership is unwilling or unable to downsize the armed forces, successfully demobilize and reintegrate former combatants, and subsequently form a national army with a meaningful role, the image of the soldier is degraded. Masses of men with arms but no pay roam the streets – often far away from their families – and become a threat to civilians rather than a force for protection. This scenario is currently quite realistic in the case of South Sudan. The opposite case, mystified over-admiration for everything connected with the fighter, from the assumed spirit of honor and discipline to moderation and endurance, a hierarchical style of leadership, and the foundation of the national identity on an exclusivist fighter experience, is strongly visible in the Eritrean case. Neither the SPLA’s propaganda apparatus, nor its political agenda, nor its community outreach ever reached the level of organization of the EPLF. The SPLA never formulated the need for social transformation in southern Sudan – only a transformation of the political elite in Khartoum. There-fore they did not think it necessary to educate or mobilize the rural and urban population for their struggle. Unlike the EPLF, the SPLA did not engaged in literacy programs for the rural population, nor did they mobilize communities to educate girls and boys alike. The sectors of distribution of public goods, education and health was outsourced to international humanitarian agencies. The fighter image is not constructed in isolation, but is closely linked to the efforts, discourse, and realities surrounding it.

Do women gain anything by actively joining armed struggles? This question has at least two answers. The skills, status, and acknowledgement acquired through active participation in the struggle empower women to perceive themselves as active members of society. The decisive question however remains whether their active involvement, their new skills, their transformed social gender role and praxis are acknowledged by the armed movement and the society at large. If female fighters remain a mere travesty of the construct of a “real” women and the image of the “real” fighter remains a masculine image of a male person transcending beyond the sphere of femininity, the gains for active female fighters in political power, participation, and social transformation are limited. Whereas women in southern Sudan were kept in a subordinated feminine image of support and supply, in Eritrea the fighter image underwent a gender transformation during the struggle, including equal distribution of formerly gendered tasks such as fighting and bringing up children (Pateman 1990; 220).14 The reason why this deep transformatory aspect could not prevail has largely to do with the militarization of society after independence. The retraditionalization of gender roles had a broader support base (the patriarchal non-fighting society as well as many male fighters) that obviously benefitted from the traditional role of women.”


(Quelle: International Journal of Conflict and Violence.)

Global: Orte der Gewalt

Mittwoch, Dezember 28th, 2011


2011 in figures:

66 journalists killed (16% more than in 2010)
1,044 journalists arrested
1,959 journalists physically attacked or threatened
499 media censored
71 journalists kidnapped
73 journalists fled their country
5 netizens killed
199 bloggers and netizens arrested
62 bloggers and netizens physically attacked
68 countries subject to Internet censorship

Reporters Without Borders has this year, for the first time, compiled a list of the world’s 10 most dangerous places for the media – the 10 cities, districts, squares, provinces or regions where journalists and netizens were particularly exposed to violence and where freedom of information was flouted.

Overall, 2011 took a heavy toll on media freedom. The Arab Spring was at the centre of the news. Of the total of 66 journalists killed in 2011, 20 were killed in the Middle East (twice as many as in 2010). A similar number were killed in Latin America, which is very exposed to the threat of criminal violence. For the second year running, Pakistan was the single deadliest country with a total of 10 journalists killed, most of them murdered. China, Iran and Eritrea continue to be the world’s biggest prisons for the media.

The Arab Spring, the protest movements it inspired in nearby countries such as Sudan and Azerbaijan, and the street protests in other countries such as Greece, Belarus, Uganda, Chile and the United States were responsible for the dramatic surge in the number of arrests, from 535 in 2010 to 1,044 in 2011. There were many cases of journalists being physically obstructed in the course of their work (by being detained for short periods or being summoned for interrogation), and for the most part they represented attempts by governments to suppress information they found threatening.

The 43 per cent increase in physical attacks on journalists and the 31 per cent increase in arrests of netizens – who are leading targets when they provide information about street demonstrations during media blackouts – were also significant developments in a year of protest. Five netizens were killed in 2011, three of them in Mexico alone.

From Cairo’s Tahrir Square to Khuzdar in southwestern Pakistan, from Mogadishu to the cities of the Philippines, the risks of working as a journalist at times of political instability were highlighted more than ever in 2011. The street was where danger was to be found in 2011, often during demonstrations that led to violent clashes with the security forces or degenerated into open conflict. The 10 places listed by Reporters Without Borders represent extreme cases of censorship of the media and violence against those who tried to provide freely and independently reported news and information.

(Listed by alphabetical order of country)

Manama, Bahrain
The Bahraini authorities did everything possible to prevent international coverage of the pro-democracy demonstrations in the capital, Manama, denying entry to some foreign reporters, and threatening or attacking other foreign reporters or their local contacts. Bahraini journalists, especially photographers, were detained for periods ranging from several hours to several weeks. Many were tried before military tribunals until the state of emergency imposed on 15 March was lifted. After months of demonstrations, order was finally restored thanks to systematic repression. A blogger jailed by a military court is still in prison and no civilian court ever reviewed his conviction. Bahrain is an example of news censorship that succeeded with the complicity of the international community, which said nothing. A newspaper executive and a netizen paid for this censorship with their lives.

Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire
Abobo, Adjamé, Plateau, Koumassi, Cocody, Yopougon… all of these Abidjan neighbourhoods were dangerous places for the media at one stage or another during the first half of 2011. Journalists were stopped at checkpoints, subjected to heavy-handed interrogation or physically attacked. The headquarters of the national TV station, RTI, was the target of airstrikes. A newspaper employee was beaten and hacked to death at the end of February. A Radio Yopougon presenter was the victim of an execution-style killing by members of the Forces Républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI) in May. The post-election crisis that led to open war between the supporters of the rival presidential contenders, Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, had a dramatic impact on the safety of journalists. During the Battle of Abidjan, the country’s business capital, at the start of April, it was completely impossible for journalists to move about the city.

Cairo’s Tahrir Square, Egypt
The pro-democracy demonstrations that finally forced Hosni Mubarak to stand down as president on 20 February began at the end of January in Tahrir Square, now the emblem of the Arab Spring uprisings. Foreign journalists were systematically attacked during the incredibly violent first week of February, when an all-out hate campaign was waged against the international media from 2 to 5 February. More than 200 violations were reported. Local journalists were also targeted. The scenario was similar six months later – from 19 to 28 November, in the run-up to parliamentary elections, and during the weekend of 17-18 December – during the crackdown on new demonstrations to demand the departure of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

Misrata, Libya
After liberating Benghazi, the anti-Gaddafi rebels took Misrata, Libya’s third largest city and a strategic point for launching an offensive on Tripoli. But the regular army staged a counter-offensive and laid siege to the city, cutting it off from the rest of the world and imposing a news and information blockade lasting many weeks, during which its main road, Tripoli Street, was repeatedly the scene of particularly intense fighting. The Battle of Misrata highlighted the risks that reporters take in war zones. Two of the five journalists killed in Libya in 2011 lost their lives in this city.

Veracruz state, Mexico
Located on the Gulf of Mexico and long dominated by the cartel of the same name, Veracruz state is a hub of all kinds of criminal trade, from drug trafficking to contraband in petroleum products. In 2011, it became the new epicentre of the federal offensive against the cartels and three journalists were killed there in the course of the year. Around 10 others fled the state as a result of the growing threats to freedom of information and because of the inaction or complicity of the authorities in the face of this threat.

Khuzdar, Pakistan
The many cases of journalists who have been threatened or murdered in Khuzdar district, in the southwestern province of Balochistan, is typical of the extreme violence that prevails in this part of Pakistan. The province’s media are caught in the crossfire between the security forces and armed separatists. The murder of Javed Naseer Rind, a former assistant editor of the Daily Tawar newspaper, was the latest example. His body was found on 5 November, nearly three months after he was abducted. An anti-separatist group calling itself the Baloch Musallah Defa Army issued a hit-list at the end of November naming four journalists as earmarked for assassination.

The Manila, Cebu and Cagayan de Oro metropolitan areas on the islands of Luzon and Mindanao, Philippines
Most of the murders and physical attacks on journalists in the Philippines take place in these three metropolitan areas. The paramilitary groups and private militias responsible were classified as “Predators of Press Freedom” in 2011. The government that took office in July has still not come up with a satisfactory response, so these groups continue to enjoy a total impunity that is the result of corruption, links between certain politicians and organized crime, and an insufficiently independent judicial system.

Mogadishu, Somalia
Mogadishu is a deadly capital where journalists are exposed to terrible dangers, including being killed by a bomb or a stray bullet or being deliberately targeted by militias hostile to the news media. Although the Islamist insurgent group Al-Shabaab withdrew from the capital, fighting continues and makes reporting very dangerous. Three Somali journalists were killed in Mogadishu this year, in August, October and December. And a visiting Malaysian cameraman sustained a fatal gunshot injury to the chest in September while accompanying a Malaysian NGO as it was delivering humanitarian assistance.

Deraa, Homs and Damascus, Syria
Deraa and Homs, the two epicentres of the protests against Bashar al-Assad’s regime, have been completely isolated. They and Damascus were especially dangerous for journalists in 2011. The regime has imposed a complete media blackout, refusing to grant visas to foreign reporters and deporting those already in the country. The occasional video footage of the pro-democracy demonstrations that began in March has been filmed by ordinary citizens, who risk their lives to do so. Many have been the victims of arrest, abduction, beatings and torture for transmitting video footage or information about the repression. The mukhabarat (intelligence services), shabihas (militias) and their cyber-army have been used by the regime to identify and harass journalists. Physical violence is very common. Many bloggers and journalists have fled the country. Around 30 journalists are currently believed to be detained.

Sanaa’s Change Square, Yemen
Change Square in Sanaa was the centre of the protests against President Ali Abdallah Saleh and it is there that much of the violence and abuses against journalists took place. Covering the demonstrations and the many bloody clashes with the security forces was dangerous for the media, which were directly targeted by a regime bent on crushing the pro-democracy movement and suppressing coverage of it. Two journalists were killed while covering these demonstrations. Pro-government militiamen known as baltajiyas also carried out punitive raids on the media. Physical violence, destruction of equipment, kidnappings, seizure and destruction of newspapers, and attacks on media offices were all used as part of a policy of systematic violence against media personnel.

Yearly total of journalists killed since 1995



(Quelle: Reporter ohne Grenzen.)

Eritrea: Flüchtlinge und globale Flüchtlingspolitik

Dienstag, Mai 17th, 2011

“Human Tsunamis

Refugees and the Failure of Forced Migration Policy


The world’s attention is understandably fixed on the post-tsunami nuclear disaster unfolding in Japan and the equally seismic political transformations shaking North Africa and the Middle East. Much speculation swirls around the impact of these events regionally and globally. Will fallout reach the shores of Europe and North America? Will more dictatorships be swept aside by swells of democratization? What role should the international community and the United Nations play?

In at least one country, the answer to the first question is clear, if not the second. And the third is another story altogether.

The Northeast African nation of Eritrea marks its 20th year of independence next month. But the festivities will be marred by mourning. President Isayas Afwerki remains firmly entrenched in the seat of power, claiming with alacrity to have foretold the groundswell overtaking his Arab neighbors while banning television coverage of the demonstrations and reorganizing the military to pre-empt a possible coup. Meanwhile, the ripples radiating from the epicenter of his brutal regime are unrelenting, and the fallout has a human face. Tens of thousands of men, women, and children have fled Eritrea in wave after wave of despair. While some of these refugees make it to the shores of Europe and North America, many more do not. Last week, two boats carrying 400 Eritreans and Ethiopians from Libya to Italy disappeared in the Mediterranean Sea. Fishermen and the Coast Guard are still recovering the bodies – evidence of what Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi calls “the human tsunami” battering the walls of Fortress Europe. In the Sinai desert, traffickers of multiple nationalities work in tandem with security forces of Egypt and Eritrea to extort, exploit, abuse, torture and execute refugees seeking to cross into Israel, where they are summarily labeled “infiltrators” in a euphemistic avoidance of international responsibilities to protect asylum seekers.

If refugee flows are a sign of political meltdown, then Eritrea is a level seven nuclear disaster. Figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees indicate that Eritrea, with a population of only about five million, has been among the top ten refugee producing countries in the world for the better part of the decade. In 2006, it ranked second in the world. In 2007 only Somalis and Iraqis lodged more asylum applications than Eritreans, and in 2008 the numbers of claims filed by Eritreans exceeded those of Iraqis.

The reason? Eritrea spends a whopping 20 percent of its national budget maintaining a military comprised of forced conscripts whose virtually unpaid labor is reinvested in further militarization of the society and economy. The Constitution has been on ice since 1997, the promise of multi-party elections remains unfulfilled and even North Korea boasts greater freedom of the press. Civil society institutions and competing political parties exist only in exile. The list of human rights abuses characterizing daily life in Eritrea is longer than the number of international conventions the government has signed. Torture, rape, and execution are commonplace for those who dare put up a fight. The result? Massive flight. “Is there a worse country in the world than this?” mused a Texas lawyer representing one of the hundreds of Eritrean asylum seekers in the U.S. as we reviewed his client’s case.

As an anthropologist who has lived in Eritrea and worked with Eritrean communities in Europe, Africa, and the U.S. for years, I dearly want to defend this country. But the best I can do is to help defend its displaced, abused, and often forgotten citizens. Together with lawyers, Eritrean activists, human rights organizations, UNHCR staff, and colleagues like Magnus Treiber and Barbara Harrell-Bond, I struggle to place the people of this small African country on the global crisis radar. It’s a tall order in these days of perpetual disasters and mind-numbing statistics.

And the statistics on refugees are indeed numbing. The number of people forcibly displaced by conflict and persecution worldwide stood at 42 million at the end of 2008. The total includes 16 million refugees and asylum seekers and 26 million internally displaced people uprooted within their own countries. These figures, of course, hide lots of things, such as the numbers of people removed by development projects like dam-building, by “natural” disasters, by the structural violence of poverty, environmental destruction, and by the alchemy of desperation and profits that forces people to migrate and often to sell their bodies and lives into servitude of one kind or another. These figures obviate human experience.

But human experience is what anthropologists are always after – how to put life and breath and flesh onto the cold bones of statistics; how to illustrate the concrete meanings of political violence and migration policies and practices as people live them. Among such human experiences are those of nineteen members of the elite Air Force of Eritrea who fled to Sudan a couple of years ago, risking the “shoot-to-kill” policy of the Eritrean government — as hundreds of others do every month — seeking to cross the nearest international border.

In Sudan, they registered with the UNHCR and began seeking both refugee protection and resettlement abroad. Their high-ranking and symbolically significant position as the pride of the Eritrean Defense Forces made them more vulnerable to persecution and punishment by the Eritrean government than many of the 100,000+ Eritrean refugees in Khartoum. However, some of these men used to be soldiers with the guerrilla movement that is now the Eritrean government. They have scant hope of ever being accepted by the U.S. or Canada – the two largest refugee receiving countries in the world – because under some very broad terms of the U.S. Patriot Act and a similar Canadian law, they are considered “terrorists.” This is because they took up arms in an anticolonial liberation struggle against the Ethiopian government more than thirty years ago.

Others in the group are young men who were conscripted. Despite their elite positions, their fate was hardly better than most others in the military and their exit signaled refusal of the sort of complicity that makes life more bearable in such conditions. However, these men are also in for a long and treacherous series of legal obstacles due to international reluctance to recognize military deserters and a 2002 policy adopted by the UNHCR rendering ex-combatants ineligible for resettlement.

Similarly, clauses that exclude those who may have participated in human rights violations or persecution of others also present stumbling blocks when applied to real conditions. Virtually every soldier in the Eritrean military has been forced to guard, surveil, or repress another soldier or civilian at some point, and the majority of Eritrean refugees have been soldiers. The very structure and social organization of militarization and political repression in Eritrea blur the neat legal distinction between persecuted and persecutor so critical in refugee and asylum determination procedures. Even the U.S. Supreme Court got drawn in, when the asylum claim of a former conscript named Daniel Negusie was denied because his assignment as a prison guard – punishment for his own dissidence by the Eritrean government – suggested he was complicit in the harm of others.

In the meantime, the 19 men wait in Khartoum, where Eritrean security officials operate with impunity. On any given day, they may be attacked by an agent of their own government, kidnapped and taken back to Eritrea, or, at the very least shaken down and extorted by Sudanese police or soldiers, perhaps beaten and jailed for being unwanted migrants. Should the UNHCR take the situation seriously and realize these men need protection – an unlikely showing of concern for individuals by a bureaucracy whose esteemed reputation is outshined only by its impersonality, impenetrability, and unaccountability – they may be taken to a refugee camp, where they will still be subject to many of the same pressures, only in more concentrated form. This is glossed as “protection,” even a “solution,” though it is hardly that.

While camps in places like Sudan and Ethiopia may comply with UNHCR policy, they are administered by host country agencies and staff, some of whom inevitably participate in the abuse and misuse of refugees, often under the noses of international staff. A trip to the food distribution center may end in rape and a place in the resettlement queue can be bought (or lost) for a hundred thousand birr [Ethiopian currency]. In Shimelba Refugee Camp, in northern Ethiopia, the UNHCR compound is open only a few hours per week, as impervious to refugees’ pleas for help as President Isayas Afwerki is to political transition.

If elite air force men cannot gain the attention of UNHCR, then the situation is far worse for the average person. Some refugees get sick of waiting – who wouldn’t? – and take their chances. But the routes to escape are toxic. If they make it through the Libyan desert to reach the Mediterranean and finally to Malta or Lampedusa, which only a handful do, new problems arise at the gates of Fortress Europe. Are they really political refugees or just impoverished economic migrants? How will a country like Malta – swamped with tens of thousands of refugees – manage to decide their fate? If they move on to another European country, they face imprisonment and deportation under the Dublin II regulation. Consumer values may tout individual initiative and choice but do not extend to “asylum shopping,” thank you very much.

Those who have the connections and money might hire a smuggler, usually for tens of thousands of dollars, who will take them on a risky and tortuous journey to Southern Africa, then Brazil, through Colombia or Venezuela, perhaps Cuba, then Nicaragua, Guatemala, and finally Mexico, where stuffed in the cargo bay of a bus, or in the custody of a coyote, they will cross the border of the US and ask for asylum. For their efforts at being “above board” – that is, presenting themselves to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – they are welcomed to freedom in America through its prison system. While this may stimulate the privatized prison-industrial economy, it is first and foremost an extension of human rights abuses shouldered by refugees. In detention, they discover legal-dilemma redux: many of the same problems that stalled the refugee process in Sudan follow them to the United States. They are possibly terrorists, or implicated in persecution and human rights abuses; they are cowardly deserters of a sovereign state’s military; and of course, they are always criminals for having the audacity to migrate illegally. But had the legal refugee process been responsive to actual human circumstances, such illegality would be far less likely.

I am compelled to shed light on stories such as these not only to highlight the victimization, suffering, and exploitation that runs through them in every direction like capillary veins, that multiply with each person involved, with each new step through “the system” in which legal and illegal intersect all the time; where the life-force that drives people to make such choices in the name of survival and hope can be snuffed out in an instant for profit, power, or sheer indifference. Nor is my primary intention to malign institutions like the UNHCR, or the asylum system in the US and Europe, which are as full of dedicated and committed advocates for refugees’ rights as they are of infuriating inefficiency, corruption, and bureaucratic senselessness.

My goal is to illustrate the complexity and global scope of human rights dilemmas that structure refugees’ lives, and the failures of institutions, policies and laws designed to manage them as technical problems rather than protect them as human beings. It is not enough to simply address the human rights violations that lead people to become refugees at the source, crucial as that may be. All along the way, refugees face multiple and nested issues that are sometimes endemic and even actively produced or aggravated by the very systems designed to protect them.

While earthquakes, tsunamis, nuclear accidents, and revolutions may be dramatic and momentous events, it is worth remembering that their wrenching daily equivalency plays out in political and humanitarian disasters like that of Eritrea’s refugees, more invisible than the radiation seeping into the Pacific but no less poisonous for those affected. As Eritreans mark the 20th anniversary of their revolution, any thoughts of Egypt or Libya will focus on the lives of loved ones lost in the Sinai or Sahara, or those whose fates are yet unknown. Their suffering, and the ripples of despair that radiate throughout the lives of their families and compatriots, is fallout from Isayas Afwerki’s dictatorial rule. But it is also fallout from the international community’s failed, inadequate, and draconian migration policies and laws. The fallout has not only reached our shores – it also originates there. What comes around goes around. Human lives are the currency we use to pay for the failures of modernity.

Tricia Redeker Hepner is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Tennessee, Chair of the Migration and Refugee Studies Division of the Center for the Study of Social Justice, and Eritrea Country Specialist for Amnesty International and The Fahamu Refugee Network. She can be reached at”


(Quelle: Counterpunch.)

Siehe auch:

Eritrea: Refugees and Responsibility

Ägpyten: Neuer Anlauf in der Nilwasser-Frage?

Freitag, Mai 13th, 2011

“Hope on the Nile

by Ramzi El Houry

[Image from]

A new, post-Mubarak Egypt has given both Egyptians and other Arabs alike, hope that Egypt can once again reclaim its role as the focal point from which Arab culture and politics emanate. The opening up of the Rafah border crossing into Gaza and the active promotion of a unity government in the Palestinian Territories are both indications that this is slowly happening. However, Egypt’s regional affiliation is not only with the Middle East, but extends towards its riparian partners along the Nile as well. And on that front, events in the immediate months after the fall of Mubarak indicated that an Egypt in transition, unable to take firm political positions, could be taken advantage of by upstream Nile riparian countries that have for years tried to gain the rights to greater use of the Nile’s water flows. On February 28th, 2011, Burundi became the sixth country to sign the Nile Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement (NBCFA; which was initially signed by four countries On May 14, 2010, and a fifth on May 19) giving the signees the majority needed to ratify it and overturn the existing Agreements of 1929 and 1959 that were agreed upon between Egypt and Sudan. The NBCFA, if ratified, would allow for the equitable sharing of the Nile waters, upending the 1959 Agreement that gives Egypt and Sudan the right to access 90% of the Nile’s water and to veto any project that may be undertaken by countries further upstream. Under Mubarak, Egypt strongly opposed the new Agreement, claiming that the articles within the Agreement that allow for the “equitable utilization of Nile Waters” (Article 4) and to “not significantly affect the water security of any Nile Basin State” (Article 14b) did not guarantee the water security of Egypt would not be negatively affected.

The Nile flows through a total of ten countries, Egypt, Sudan, the newly created South Sudan, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Burundi. Historically, use of the Nile on any meaningful level was dominated by Egypt and, to a lesser extent, Sudan. Decades before the Nile Waters Agreement of 1929, several agreements were signed by Britain on behalf of Egypt and Sudan that barred the construction of any project by the upstream countries that might restrict water flows to both countries. British imperial interests at the time supported the domination by Egypt of Nile politics, due to its colonial links to the country and the vital strategic importance it placed on the Suez Canal. Egypt’s close ties to the British as well as its greater state of development provided the context for which the Nile Waters Agreement of 1929 was signed. Under this Agreement, Egypt was assured a minimum of 48 billion cubic meters per year (bn cu ms/yr), and Sudan 4 billion, leaving around 32bn cu ms unallocated. The Agreement also stipulated that, regarding Sudan, “no works were to be constructed on the Nile or its tributaries or the equatorial lakes, so far as they were under British jurisdiction, which would alter the flows entering Egypt without its’ prior approval.”[1] The remaining riparian states, still mostly under colonial rule at the time, required Egyptian and Sudanese consent before constructing any significant hydroelectric or dam projects.

When Sudan gained its independence from Britain in 1956, it unilaterally declared that it would no longer adhere to the 1929 Agreement, as it required a greater share of the Nile to accommodate the needs of its growing population and infrastructure. The new agreement that was forged between the two countries in 1959 significantly increased Sudan’s share of Nile water usage from 4bn cu ms in 1929 to 18.5bn cu ms. Egypt’s share under the Nile Waters Agreement of 1959 increased to 55.5bn cu ms, which left 10bn cu ms allocated to cover losses from evaporation and seepage. The 1959 Agreement allowed Sudan to finally begin construction of a reservoir at Roseires, to which Egypt had been objecting to. Egypt, in turn, could begin construction of the Aswan High Dam, free of objections from Sudan.

As in 1929, the 1959 Agreement also made no mention of the remaining riparian countries. This time, however, their exclusion provoked criticism from Ethiopia, which claimed it had legitimate rights to exploit the waters originating in its highlands. The territories of East Africa, which were pushing the British for their independence at the time, also protested the fact that they were excluded as well. Having little political, economic, or military capital; these objections could do little to actually change the facts on the ground, and the 1959 Agreement remained in place, maintaining Egyptian and Sudanese control over the utilization of the Nile waters.

However, between 1959 and 2010, the countries further upstream that were having their rights to access the Nile neglected slowly began to gain leverage. As they began to experience population booms and economic development, their desire to utilize the Nile’s water on a larger scale for irrigation, hydropower, and other reasons went beyond justified entitlement and became necessity. Over this time period, Egypt was going to great lengths to ensure this did not happen. The Egyptians often employed direct pressure on the upstream countries, even implying the use of force as an option in the 1970s and 1980s. They have also been accused of lobbying international funding organizations behind the scenes to block investment for upstream Nile projects. All of this culminated in four countries: Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Uganda; banding together to put in place an agreement that would recognize their right to utilize the Nile to further their own prosperity.

Following Burundi’s signing of the NBCFA that created the majority needed to ratify the Agreement, another discouraging event for Egypt took place on April 2, 2011, when Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, announced the official launch of the construction of the Millennium Hydroelectric Project, potentially the biggest hydropower plant in Africa that would produce 5,250MW of electricity and hold 63bn cu ms of water upon its completion. The announcement caused alarm in Egypt, as a massive dam of this scale could create severe reductions in the invaluable water flows that reach Egypt. It seemed, therefore, that upstream Nile countries were taking decisions that were capitalizing on Egypt’s state of turmoil.

However, hope for an amicable solution to the crisis has been bolstered of late as a rapprochement of sorts has been taking place between Egyptian officials and various upstream governments in recent weeks. Most significantly, an Egyptian delegation to Ethiopia, comprising 48 people from across the political spectrum (including three presidential candidates) and civil society, succeeded on   May 6th in convincing Prime Minister Zenawi to delay the ratification of the NBCFA until after an Egyptian government is formed. The two also pledged to work closely together to reach a solution based on cooperation, one that would see greater rights given to upstream Nile countries while not adversely effecting Egyptian and Sudanese access to their needed share of water. This came following a similar visit by Mustafa Al Jundi, the Minister of African Affairs for Egypt’s transitional government, to Uganda in early March to meet with the country’s President, Yuweri Museveni, where assurances were given by the Ugandans that no major steps will be taken by upstream countries on the Nile until an elected Egyptian government can clarify a national position on the issue. For his part, Al Jundi assured President Museveni that the new Egypt would strive to build a new relationship based on cooperation with its riparian partners.

Such a break from the past is welcome for all sides. It is now known, through statements made by former Water Resources and Irrigation Minister, Dr. Mohamed NasrEl-din Allam, who served under Mubarak’s regime, that Mubarak handled the issue of the Nile extremely irresponsibly by devoting very little attention or concern to the controversy with the upstream riparian countries, possibly under the belief that any attempt to alter the status quo against Egypt’s favor could be reversed through intimidation or coercion. This probably explains the mixture of surprise and rage that characterized the Mubarak regime’s initial reaction to the drafting of the NBCFA in 2010. Any new and representative government in Egypt will surely want to break from Mubarak’s general stance of apathy towards the demands of the upstream states, a position that ultimately culminated in the NBCFA taking little heed of Egypt’s water security concerns.

However, one must also remain cautious in their optimism, as a democratic Egypt may find it difficult to ask for too many concessions from its people, many of whom consider unlimited access to the Nile a birthright. Egypt has long argued that its reliance on the Nile is unparalleled, as it is the only source upon which the population depends for drinking water and irrigation. Other Nile countries, they argue, have access to substantial rainfall and alternative sources of freshwater. Yet any path of cooperation towards more equitable water rights for all the riparian states could require huge sacrifices be made by the Egyptians, especially when one considers the dramatic increase in population expected to take place in the region (see Table 1).

Table 1: Projected Population Increase for Selected Countries

























Total Population




Source: Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision


And on the Ethiopian side, serious questions need to be asked about the true cost and intentions behind the construction of the Millennium Hydroelectric Project. For one, the construction of the Millennium Project was awarded to the Italian company, Salini Construction, the same company currently constructing the notorious Gibe III Dam along the Omo River in Ethiopia. According to international NGOs, the Gibe III will have disastrous environmental and social costs by displacing some 300,000 rural inhabitants along the river and doing environmental damage to Lake Tarkana into which the river flows. The fact that both the Gibe III and the Millennium Project were both awarded to Salini Construction in no-contest bids and with no initial environmental assessments raises serious questions about the integrity of both projects. The construction of both projects will see Ethiopia’s hydroelectric capacity rise well above its domestic requirements, suggesting there is an economic incentive to export power to neighboring countries, rather than a seemingly benevolent motive of bettering the society.

The implications for all countries along the Nile, especially Egypt, are significant. With greater strain on river flows set to be exacerbated both by climate change and population growth, the only way forward lies in multilateral cooperation to promote efficiency of use rather than massive projects with no oversight. Innovation and creativity are to be the way forward if the goal is to be achieved of allowing all the populations of the Nile to benefit from its use. And, for now, it seems as though the will to work in this direction is there. One would hope that a new Egypt will seek to regain the regional credibility that was tragically eroded under 30 years of Mubarak, and finally dispense with the arrogant notion that the Nile belongs first and foremost to the Egyptians alone. The decision by Ethiopian Prime Minister Zenawi not to ratify the NBCFA is a strong measure of confidence-building, but it merely postpones the inevitable need to find a common solution. Any agreement that puts Egyptian public opinion on the defensive by asking for too much may not bode well for reaching a consensus between all the Nile riparian states. The upstream countries should take the emergence of a post-Mubarak Egypt as an opportunity to reach a solution that placates Egyptian and Sudanese fears about their water security. On the other hand, Egypt would do well to recognize that the only peaceful way forward is through compromise and a recognition that upstream countries have as much of a right to access the Nile to secure their own well-being, lest it finds itself in an alienated and isolated position once again.”

[1] Collins, Robert O. The Waters of the Nile. Oxford University Press (Oxford: 1990), p 156 


(Quelle: The Jadaliyya Ezine.)