Addis Ababa, April 21, 2011 [ras] – On Wednesday, a large number of Eritrean refugees joined hands to demand democratic rule in their home country. Calling for a democratic change in Eritrea, the refugees gathered in Addis Ababa to decry the repressive rule of President Isaias Afewerki, which forced them to flee their home country.
Hundreds of refugees flocked to the streets of Ethiopian capital holding banners, reading “Yes for democratic change.” The refugees claim extreme human rights violations in Eritrea since 1991, when it gained its independence from Ethiopia. Most of them blame the unlimited military service for fleeing their country and demand an end to the dictatorial regime, which, they say has been subjecting them to injustice since coming to power.
There are more than 60,000 Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia, and the number is increasing every year. The refugees are camping in Berhale, Shimelba, Maiayni, and Adiharush refugee camps. Most of them are also staying in Addis Ababa as urban refugees. According to UN statistics, the refugee exodus from Eritrea amounts to thousands annually.
The refugees are united on their cause and holding peaceful protests under the theme “Enough – No more to dictatorship in Eritrea.” The refugee community plan to hold such peaceful marches all over the world to attract international attention toward their plight. On Wednesday, they gathered in Addis Ababa to seek support from international community for their cause. They urge the global community to strengthen their action against the repressive Asmara regime so that they can return to their motherland. The refugee community is also using diplomatic channels to air their concerns by inviting the US, Canada, Switzerland, France diplomatic missions in Addis Ababa, among others.
Calling for global help for common Eritreans, the refugees condemn the wrong policies of the Asmara regime and aggressive campaigns against global community, especially its neighbors. They demand further sanctions on the Eritrean regime and alienation of the Asmara government from any diplomatic relation.
Eritrean exile groups often hold peaceful rallies in the Ethiopian capital and refugee camps in northern part of this country to seek support for their cause, hoping that it would spark an uprising against the 18-year-old dictatorial regime back home.
Recently, Ethiopia seems to have adopted a more hard-line approach toward Eritrea, with which it was engaged in a two-year border war. Since the war, there has been uneasy peace on the border, with troop mobilization on both sides. Ethiopia has been accusing Eritrea of sponsoring terrorism in their country, saying that Asmara has dispatched would-be terrorists to Addis Ababa to create havoc during African Union summit; however, the Isaias regime has denied the Meles government’s allegations. Prime Minister Meles informed the nation last month that the revised foreign policy of the country advocates overthrow of the Isaias government.