Eritreans abroad demand democracy back home


Eritrean activist in South Africa, Eyasu Habtemariam

JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – ERITREANS living in South Africa have regrouped to form a new association aimed at bringing political change while seeking justice back home.

The new grouping is called Umbrella of Justice Seeking Eritreans in South Africa (Tsilal Deleyti Fthi Eritrawyan Ab Debub Africa). It has attracted Eritreans from across nine provinces of South Africa.

An estimated 5, 000-to-10, 000 Eritrean citizens are believed to be living in exile in South Africa after they fled political persecution from president Isaias Afwerki’s regime.

There were similar other movements before which were established in South Africa but all got weakened due to a continuous divide and rule mechanisms of the totalitarian regime in Eritrea.

“Maybe the world does not know about Eritrea‚Ķ..and it’s kind of a closed world. It’s not in the big media. We have a big challenge in Eritrea! We have one of the worst totalitarian systems in the world where people can not live in peace in their country. This is the reason why Eritreans are here in South Africa,” said Eyasu Habtemariam, one of the forum’s participants.

He added: “The system is driving people away from their homes, and even here in South Africa, we cannot live in peace. The struggle for change has been going on, and is still going.”

He said this time, Eritreans have decided to unite and fight for the same goals and objectives, which are to bring desired democratic change back to their home.

“We have been in this movement for change-seeking for the past 20 years now, and the search for peace, democracy and rule of law is still on,” Habtemariam said.

He said for the Horn of African country to overcome the challenges of being weak in the Diaspora would require them to unite with one common goal and objective.

Speaking at the same ceremony, another Eritrean activist, Bereket Ghebru, said has been in South Africa for more than 20 years and desires to return home once democracy returns.

“Some of us came here (South Africa) to study while the majority are seeking asylum,” Ghebru said.

He stated that the Eritreans, who fled the country are now living in Canada, the United States of America (USA), Germany and the Scandinavia countries, namely Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

Those who fled to seek refugee outside their beloved country claimed Afwerki is ruling the country with an iron fist, while ensuring no opposition political party is allowed in the country.

“This is a drop in the ocean (persecution) compared to what is happening in Eritrea by the brutal regime up there. It is good to start, and we will continue feeding the international community in general and our beloved continent in particular the true happenings in Eritrea,” Ghebru said.

Only the nominal one party owned by one dictator, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), is holding the country and its people hostage in Eritrea.

Eritrean activist in South Africa, Bereket Ghebru

The Eritrean National Assembly has 150 seats on paper with national elections have been periodically scheduled and cancelled. There was no election held in Eritrea ever since independence in 1993.

Afwerki has been in office since independence in 1993 when 75 representatives were elected to the National Assembly. The rest were appointed from the so-called PFDJ of whom 11 prominent figures with their huge contributions to the liberation of Eritrea are still imprisoned and no one knows their whereabouts.

According to a report by the United Nations’ Human Rights Council explained: “No national elections have taken place since that time (1993), and no presidential elections have ever taken place.

Local or regional elections have not been held since Eritrea declared its independence. The National Assembly elected Eritrea’s first president, Afwerki, in 1993. Following his election, Afwerki consolidated his control of the Eritrean government.

Afwerki has regularly expressed his disdain for what he refers to as “western-style” democracy.

Some time in 2008, the Eritrean president told the media that “Eritrea will wait three or four decades, maybe more, before it holds elections. Who knows?”

Eritrea is a country located in East Africa. It is bordered to the northeast and east by the Red Sea, Sudan to the west, Ethiopia to the south, and Djibouti to the southeast.

The country is a multi-ethnic country with nine recognised ethnic groups. Nine different languages are spoken by the nine recognised ethnic groups, the most widely spoken language being Tigrinya, the others being Tigre, Saho, Kunama, Nara, Afar, Beja, Bilen and Arabic.

– CAJ News

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