Open letter on the Xenophobic, racist and inhuman treatment of Africans in China

Together with our member networks, more than 300 African civil society organisations (CSOs), and African citizens, we sent an open letter to the African Union Commission Chairperson, H.E Moussa Faki. In the letter, we call on the African Union and African leaders to demand a complete investigation and immediate remedial action for the inhuman and xenophobic treatment  of Africans living in China in the context of COVID-19. Read the letter below

To: H.E Moussa Faki

The Chairperson, African Union Commission

P.O. Box P.O. Box 3243, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

13 April 2020

Your Excellency,

We present our compliments to Your Excellency. The undersigned Peoples represent a broad cross-section of the citizens of the African Union (AU) and include civil society organisations (CSOs), women organisations and feminist movements, labour and students movements, youth organisations, professional associations, lawyers, judges, academicians, business people, clergy, artists, activists and journalists.

We note with appreciation the AU’s commitment to the continued transforming of the AU from a union of governments to a genuine union of African peoples that values popular participation and ownership by African peoples.

We further appreciate the AU’s commitment to ensuring that Africa is socially, politically and economically integrated. That the continent speaks with one voice in global affairs. We understand the basis and values of partnership that the drive AU Agenda 2063, including the values of equality, mutual accountability, reciprocity and solidarity. In this regard and given the excellent relationship the AU and majority of its member states have so far enjoyed with China, we want to register our most profound concern and strongly condemn the recent acts of discrimination, xenophobia and racism against the Africans in China.

We welcome the statements of the African Group of Ambassadors in Beijing and reactions from different African governments and your good offices in this regard. There is a need to transform these statements into practical action that puts an end to the horrendous dehumanisation of Africans in China.

Your Excellency, Chinese authorities are allegedly forcefully testing, quarantining and inhumanely treating African people in Guangdong Province in particular. This discrimination and stigmatisation of Africans include being made to undergo epidemic investigation and Nucleic Acid Test forcefully. The Africans have also been subjected to fourteen (14) days quarantine even if they have not travelled outside their jurisdictions or come into contact with infected persons, or had close contact or showing any symptoms of the COVID-19. This treatment is in violation of international human rights laws and principles. It is inhuman and against all principles of dignity and shared humanity that should ideally guide China-Africa relations. Singling out only Africans is a xenophobic and racist act contrary to the spirit of FOCAC 8.

Your Excellency, Africa’s strong cooperation economic ties with China, should not thrive at the cost of human rights and human dignity. These are the core principles of our Constitutive Act 2000.

Your Excellency, these despicable events and other recurrent complaints regarding illicit activities by Chinese businesses in Africa now demand that the framework of cooperation establish clear standards of mutual accountability. Such standards of accountability must be formulated with active participation of African citizens. We believe that without strong mutual accountability frameworks, the message of solidarity preached by China towards Africans, will ring hollow. The participation of African people in defining the framework of partnership will ensure that going forward China-Africa partnership has a human face and is reflected in Chinese business conduct in Africa and our mutual solidarity is also a reality reflected on the streets of Chinese cities and provinces.

Your Excellency, a participatory and inclusive framework of partnership that reflects the Accra, Busan and Mexico principles will place human and peoples’ rights at the centre. This framework will address the imbalance in trade; ballooning debt; restrain dumping of inferior quality goods by strengthening standards monitoring and control illicit financial outflows and corrupt practices by Chinese businesses operating in Africa. These decisive interventions are critical to preserve the dignity of Africa and its people.

Your Excellency, the AU has done well by officially protesting to its Chinese counterparts. We now urge your good offices and African leaders to demand a full and independent investigation into the violations referred to above and immediate remedial action is taken. At the very least, we believe that the spirit of solidarity and partnership demands that China apologises and makes good the grave offence to the African Peoples’. We believe that China understands that we, as African people, deserve respect and equal treatment.

We remain, at your disposal to respond to any additional queries that you may have via Hassan Shire Hassans@defenddefenders.org, phone +256772752752 or Fatou Diagne panafrica@defenddefenders.org phone +221773335845 or Arnold Tsunga atsunga@southernafricadefenders.africa, phone +27716405926. We take this opportunity to reassure Your Excellency of our highest considerations once again.

The 2020 Manifesto of Eritrean Scholars and Professionals in the Diaspora

With a government that commits horrific human rights abuses against its own people, plays reckless political games in regional affairs, amidst the ongoing spread of COVID-19 pandemic and a country with one of the weakest health systems, Eritrea is currently exposed to unprecedented humanitarian and political crisis. We, the undersigned 95 Eritrean Scholars and Professionals, are writing to share our serious concerns about these issues.

In relation to COVID-19, a diaspora-based organization called Eritrean Healthcare Professionals Network (EHPN) has issued a statement that expressed grave concern over the status of the Eritrean health system and how the country is inadequately prepared for the pandemic. COVID-19 has posed a great challenge even for the most advanced and wealthiest countries let alone for Eritrea where there is no enough running water and with electricity service that’s frequently interrupted. To make matters even worse, the health system has been greatly impacted by a government order that closed Catholic hospitals and clinics in the country forcing significant number of health professionals to migrate to other countries. During this critical time, we Eritreans, wherever we may be, should recognize the important role we can play by making the safety and well-being of all Eritreans a priority and pressuring the government of Eritrea to open all closed hospitals and clinics, to allow NGOs to operate in the country and to stop using this pandemic as an opportunity for political and financial gains. We, Eritreans also have a responsibility to reach out a helping hand to the thousands of Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia, Sudan, Libya and elsewhere. Furthermore, we call upon the UN and World Health Organization (WHO) to urge Eritrea to comply with the WHO recommended guidelines for minimizing the risk of COVID-19, to open all closed hospitals and clinics and to release all political prisoners and prisoners with minor offenses.

It is also incumbent upon us Eritreans to remember that Eritrea is among countries with the highest prison population rates in the world and with prison conditions beneath human decency. Reliable sources put the number of prisoners in Eritrea in the tens of thousands. Many of them are prisoners of conscience who dared to express their views and many others who tried to flee the country or escape from the indefinite conscription into the so-called National Service. The Eritrean authorities show no mercy and are cruel to disabled veterans, underage boys and girls, expecting mothers and brides, respected elders and religious leaders, including the Head of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, His Holiness Abune Antonios who has been under house arrest since 2007 and Hajj Musa Mohammed Nur, the Board President of Al Dia Islamic School in Asmara, who died in prison on March 1, 2018. The overcrowded prisons in Eritrea include people who took part in the armed struggle, top military officers, ministers, journalists and religious leaders. It is also important to note that there are hundreds of thousands of Eritrean conscripts, many of them underage and who are currently held in prison-like military camps. Thus, at a time when the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening the world community, it is high time that we Eritreans race against time, come together and do everything in our power to save the people who are neglected by the illegitimate government. We can do this by sharing accurate, reliable and timely information and providing direct support to those in need.

In relation to internal and regional affairs, a few weeks ago, President Isaias Afwerki yet again made unwelcome remarks regarding the unfolding political situation in Ethiopia, which infuriated ordinary Ethiopians and puzzled the few who think of him as a peacemaker and a person of goodwill. Following the seemingly impromptu but controlled interview of President Isaias with two journalists who work for the only government-controlled media in the country, several Ethiopian media outlets reminded the president of Eritrea to stay away from Ethiopian politics.  In addition, some Oromo intellectuals recently addressed the issue in a coherent letter to the president. In their open letter, they called for President Isaias to refrain from his blatant acts of intervention in Ethiopian internal affairs. We agree with this statement and believe his disastrous and unwelcomed interventionist policies and meddling in the internal affairs of Ethiopia should be universally condemned. We are equally dismayed by the Eritrean regime’s attempts to interfere in Sudanese internal affairs through triggering and perpetuating ethnic conflicts particularly in the Eastern Sudan region. We resolutely oppose and strongly condemn these appalling acts of interference.

These are not the only times President Isaias has intervened in the affairs of other countries.  His rogue regime has bullied and undermined neighboring countries in the Horn of Africa and beyond – and has done everything possible to destabilize the region. It is an open secret that the president thrives on fomenting division and sowing discord. Therefore, we reiterate our strong condemnation of his external interventions and internal violations of basic human rights to life, liberty and dignity. We also call upon Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to avoid falling prey to the schemes of President Isaias and becoming an inadvertent enabler and codependent of the dictatorship in Eritrea. We would like to emphasize that any secret deal between President Isaias and Prime Minister Abiy that ignores applicable laws and the interests of both peoples will inevitably increase the risk of future violence in the region.

Although the present state of peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia is by all means most welcome and long awaited,  it is imperative that we carefully assess the much-touted peace deal between President Isaias and Prime Minister Abiy in order to enable us to build an enduring relationship between the two countries based on the principles of peaceful co-existence, cooperation and non-intervention. We would like to reiterate that the Eritrean people stand shoulder to shoulder with their Ethiopian, Sudanese and Djiboutian brethren to promote a peaceful, cooperative and forward-looking Northeast Africa that recognizes, accepts and celebrates differences in the political, social, economic and cultural foundations of our societies and territorial integrity of our countries. We call upon the progressive elements of the region to view Eritreans as victims of President Isaias’ megalomaniac dream and to avoid creating opportunities for the dictator to destabilize our countries.

It is unfortunate that the Eritrean people who have endured dictatorial rule for three decades must once again wonder if Eritrea will be entangled in regional issues as a result of the president’s reckless policies. The Eritrean people aspire to have peace and stability in their region so that they can focus on making Eritrea a democracy, on rebuilding their shattered economy and on restoring the weakened social fabric. They have seen enough mayhem and dislocation to now face more unnecessary problems. The effect of the 30-year war still lingers – not only in the memories of the generation who lived through it, but also in the minds of the younger generation born after the disastrous border war of 1998-2000. Since Eritreans don’t want to take part in any deal that will expose them to future hostilities, we call upon the governments of the region, and in particular that of Ethiopia, not to entertain the excessive ambitions of a ruthless dictator craving more power.

Mr. Isaias Afwerki has lost the moral authority and legitimacy to rule Eritrea, and his removal from power is long overdue. It is encouraging to see Eritreans both inside and outside the country increasingly becoming aware of their future and uniting to bring change and to keep the hard-won sovereignty of their nation. As the Diaspora Eritreans continue to mobilize and organize worldwide, it is also inevitable that the legitimate and democratic fight of the Eritrean people will reach the critical phase to dislodge the oppressive regime and its leader,  who has created so much havoc and brought devastation to the lives of the Eritrean people. We firmly believe change is possible by challenging the divide and rule policies of the regime and building cohesive strategies to empower one another and to take ownership of our own destiny. Enough is Enough! And it is time to start with a new slate and install a legitimate and democratically elected Eritrean government that ensures a peaceful, just and prosperous future for all Eritreans.

Signatories include:

 

1 Dr. Abdulla Idris – Australia   33 Dr. Fissahatsion Ghidey  –  USA   65 Dr. Negussie A Tewoldemedhin – UK
2 Dr. Abdulqadir Dawod   –    UK   34 Dr. Gaim Kibreab – UK   66 Dr. Osman Jafer – UK
3 Dr. Adel Fikak – Australia   35 Dr. Gebremeskel Gebremariam – USA   67 Dr. Russom Ghebrai – USA
4 Dr. Aida Asmelash – USA   36 Dr. Ghebregziabiher Debrezion – USA   68 Dr. Saad Ali – USA
5 Dr. Aklilu Ghirmai – Germany   37 Dr. Ghirmai Negash – USA   69 Dr. Saba Tesfayohannes – USA
6 Dr. Ali Mohammed Saeed – Sudan   38 Dr. Ghrmai Sequar – USA   70 Dr. Sadia Hassanen – Sweden
7 Dr. Amanuel Elias – Australia   39 Dr. Habteab B. Feseha – USA   71 Dr. Saied Ibrahim Saied  – USA
8 Dr. Amanuel G Ghebretinsae – USA   40 Dr. Habtom Habte – USA   72 Dr. Salah Ibrahim Jimi  – Australia
9 Dr. Amanuel Mehreteab – USA   41 Dr. Habtu [Fr. Athanasius] Ghebre-Ab – USA   73 Dr. Samson Yebio – USA
10 Dr. Amanuel Yohannes – USA   42 Dr. Haddish Tesfayohannes Hagos – USA   74 Dr. Sarah Ogbay – UK
11 Dr. Anghesom Atsbaha – USA   43 Dr. Hailemichael Yosief – USA   75 Dr. Simon Y Aman – USA
12 Dr. Araya Debessay – USA   44 Dr. Ibrahim Mohamed – Germany   76 Dr. Solomon Ghebreghiorghis – UK
13 Dr. Asmerom Adhanom – USA   45 Dr. Jalal-AlDeen M Saleh – UK   77 Dr. Tadios Tesfu – Germany
14 Dr. Astier Alem – USA   46 Dr. Kebreab Isaac W/Sellassie – UK   78 Dr. Tamrat Woldu – USA
15 Dr. Bereket Araya  – Australia   47 Dr. Kesete Hadgu – USA   79 Dr. Teame Mebrahtu – UK
16 Dr. Bereket B Woldeab – Canada   48 Dr. Khalifa Saleh – Sudan   80 Dr. Tedros Amanuel – Sweden
17 Dr. Bereket Habte Selassie – USA   49 Dr. Kidane Belay – Australia   81 Dr. Tedros Berhane – USA
18 Dr. Bereket Yemane – USA   50 Dr. Kidane Mengisteab – USA   82 Dr. Teklu K. Tesfa – USA
19 Dr. Berhan Ahmed – Australia   51 Dr. Kiflemariam Hamde – Sweden   83 Dr. Tesfamariam Mehari – UK
20 Dr. Berhane Asmelash – UK   52 Dr. Mahmoud Mohamed Ali – Malaysia   84 Dr. Tesfay Meressi – USA
21 Dr. Berhane Sium – USA   53 Dr. Mathiewos Debessai – USA   85 Dr. Tomas Solomon – USA
22 Dr. Beyan Negash – USA   54 Dr. Mebrahtu Ateweberhan – UK   86 Dr. Tseggai Isaac – USA
23 Dr. Cahsai Berhane – France   55 Dr. Mebrahtu B Sibhatu – USA   87 Dr. Tsigabu Asmelash – USA
24 Dr. Chefena Hailemariam – UK   56 Dr. Mebrahtu Kahsai – USA   88 Dr. Tuquabo Tesfamichael – Australia
25 Dr. Daniel R. Mekonnen – Switzerland   57 Dr. Mehari Tekeste – USA   89 Dr. Yacob A Zereyesus – USA
26 Dr. Daniel Tsegai – Germany   58 Dr. Mengisteab Debessay – USA    90 Dr. Yebio Woldemariam – USA
27 Dr. Dawit Berhane  – Australia   59 Dr. Mentai Mesmer – USA   91 Dr. Yohannes Haile – Canada
28 Dr. Dawit Sium   – Australia   60 Dr. Michael Andeberhan – Australia   92 Dr. Yordanos Beyene  –  USA
29 Dr. Desale Habtzgi – USA   61 Dr. Mogos Y Teweldemedhin – Canada   93 Dr. Yordanos T. Habtemariam   – USA
30 Dr. Eden Tesfu – USA   62 Dr. Mohamed Kheir Omer – Norway   94 Dr. Zekarias Ginbot – Norway
31 Dr. Feseha Woldu – USA   63 Dr. Mohammed Beshir – USA   95 Dr. Zerom Tesfai – USA
32 Dr. Fessehaye W Zemichael – UK   64 Dr. Natnael Embaye – USA  

 

 

 

 

Shegerab Refugee Camp update: Refugees’ Representatives still in police custody 

Although the Camp is quite and calm these days, the refugee representatives who were arrested during the clash with camp security are still in police custody. The arrest took place on 4th of March 2020 and the use of excessive force on desperate refugees happened in front of the UNHCR officers, whom the international community entrusted to protect them. UNHCR kept quite while its officers are the witnesses of the unacceptable use of the live ammunition, teargas and arrest of innocent refugees. It is expected of UNHCR to protect refugees. But the two refugee representatives are incarcerated. For a long time it’s become crystal clear refuges are living under abject conditions and miserable situation. The question is why these two refugees are kept in police detention for days now for seeking help from UNHCR.

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These refugees crossed a long journey and perilous route to arrive to the camp seeking safety. However, the lives of the refugees is under a treat. It is expected of the international community to heed their demands and address their challenges.

UNHCR, COR (commission of refugees in Sudan) and other concerned bodies ought to intervene and ensure the immediate release of the two arrested refugees, listen and address the refugees’ demands, and improve the living conditions in the camp. Besides, as the camp management has completely failed to provide services and security to refugees, it is timely to completely overhaul the administration and place an effective and respectful management team which will safeguard the humanitarian principles. Otherwise in its current state the Camp is no less than a prison..

 

Eritrean Refugees in Shagarab Camp in dire condition

Visitors, believed to be UNHCR staff, came to Shagarab camp on 4 March 2020 and had meetings in the camp. When leaving the camp, a large group of desperate refugees rushed to talk and discuss their plights with them. But they were blocked by the security personnel of the camp. The refugees resisted the blockage and pushed towards the visitors. Finally, two representatives were selected to speak with the visitors, who, unfortunately, were later taken by the security to unknown place. The rest were chased by tear gases and live bullets. Refugees are in terror running away and hiding in the camp.

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According to reliable sources  refugees are facing numerous obstacles to get their refugee status document. Widespread bribes and corruptions, negligence, and harassment, including sexual harassment are daily practices of the camp. Security personnel pay unwarranted visits to women’s barakas and pretend to help them facilitate their files to get done faster. Many of the refugees say there is nothing that can be done without giving them bribes. Whoever has no money, his/her file remains unprocessed.

The working hours and conditions of the camp are unbelievable.  They work less than 10 hours a week, reception is terrible and no respect, and processes only 10 files per day – 7 times less that before. Blocking refugees from talking with visitors is also common. Overall refugees are frustrated of the delays of the identification process, hunger, shelter, water, and other basic necessities. These challenges made them to demand for justice, and wanted to talk to whoever can be of help, like to the visitors from UNHCR.

 

At this very moment, refugees  are more concerned and  worried about the two arrested who are taken to unknown location. They believe that it is the responsibility of  COR and UNHCR to make sure that their safety and security is not compromised. They are demanding their safe return to the camp. International community has a duty and responsibility to follow the developments in the Shagarab camp and help these desperate and helpless refugees. They are crying out for your help; what would you say if your own sons and daughters fell in a such situation. Act responsibly and humanly.

Unusual roundup of Eritrean refugees

A serious and very unusual roundup of Eritrean refugees is underway in Khartoum this week. Security forces are targeting refugees and their establishments, in particular, refugees from Eritrea. Hungry security squads are hunting the helpless refugees from wherever they are: streets, workplaces, and even from their homes. Whoever caught by the security is asked to pay 50,000 or more to be released. Very unfortunately, Eritrean refugees are terrorized and in hiding to save their lives, including who have legal documents from the government and who are recognized by UNHCR.

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This unprecedented and well organized move against Eritrean refugees has no one anticipated. And no one has a clue about the motive behind it. It may have any link with the recent visits to Asmara by the Sudanese authorities. If that is the case, these refugees are in real or in an imminent danger that requires an immediate attention from the international community. The security officers are asking their nationality before they put them on trucks. It’s very worrisome situation for refugees who have no protection from the host country or from their own representative in the country. United Nations and other humanitarian organizations, including UNHCR have the obligation to intervene and save innocent lives. The situation is very alarming and heartbreaking that needs an urgent attention from whoever is engaged in humanitarian works.

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I want to stress that this information is a real that is happening now and continues to happen on innocent people who have no crime or misconduct, their only crime being that they are refugees who fled repression and asked protection in other country. As humans, they don’t deserve protection? They do, in fact, international community shouldn’t wait a second to act; it’s a matter of urgency. Have a look on the pictures below; refugees are under attack, horror, and terror from security and gangs.