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Category: English

Protests involving members of Eritrean community clash in Woolwich, one man arrested

CityNews file photo.A violent scene broke out in Woolwich last night as protestors clashed with police and attendants of an event off Highway 7.Police say it started at approximately 7 p.m. when they responded to a demonstration in the area of Victoria Street North and Shantz Station Road in Woolwich.

 

About 100 people were protesting a planned event with approximately 200 attendees.

Police say the demonstration was between members within the Eritrean community.

Violence ensued when protestors gathered sticks and projectiles and started throwing them at police vehicles. They also confronted police and blocked the roadway. Even though the roadway was blocked, more protestors continued to arrive through fields in the surrounding area.

Fights broke out between attendees of the event and the protestors, and ambulances arrived on the scene to treat non-life-threatening injuries.

Roads around the event were closed for about four hours as police remained on scene throughout the protest.

As a result of the protest one man was arrested, a 29-year-old from Toronto, and charged with Assault with a Weapon.

Police were unable to share any details of the event that was being protested.

Category: English

The Unholy Alliance of two East African dictators has become a threat to regional socio-economic and military stability.

  • abyisayasThe Unholy Alliance of two East African dictators has become a threatnto regional socio-economic and military stability. Abiy Ahmed, the renowned preacher prime minister of Ethiopia, who claims he is divinely chosen by God, and who sings Christian gospel while he is in the West,
      
     
    and practices Islam in the United Arab Emirates, and Isayas Afeworki, the illegally
    self-proclaimed president for life in Eritrea, are both power hungry dictators, with
    an unwavering desire and determination to stay in power as supreme leaders in
    their respective countries.
    When Abiy Ahmed approached Isayas Afeworki in year 2018, for an
    unprecedented peace deal, he told him that Ethiopia will unconditionally withdraw
    its troops from the Eritrean occupied territories, and he also promised to
    implement the 2000 Algiers Agreement. However, even though such a hopeful
    and promising proposal was overwhelmingly hailed and supported by the people
    of both countries, the promise was not genuine. It was a hoax, full of all kinds of
    drama and innuendo. Isayas shamelessly told Abiy Ahmed “from now on you will
    lead us” as if Eritrea and Ethiopia were one nation, he also said the border
    conflict is not an issue. Likewise, Abiy Ahemed said, “Isayas and myself are now
    united (tedemrenal), and “when we unite I will share the Port of Assab.”
    To the contrary, the gesture of friendship of these two dictators was not to bring
    peace and harmony to the region, but to bring chaos, instability and human
    extinction. In fact, Abiy Ahmed dreamed of becoming the King of Ethiopia. He
    told the world that his mother told him at the age of seven that he will be the
    seventh king of Ethiopia, which sounded like a hallucination that cannot and
    should not be possible, at this time in age. Moreover, Abiy Ahmed naively picked
    Isayas Afeworki to become his close friend and a mentor, so he could learn all the
    tricks that enabled him to become the king of Ethiopia, and hold on to power, like
    him forever. But, Abiy did not do his homework before he jumped into such a
    dangerous journey. Because it was a great opportunity for Isayas, who had a long
    plan to vengefully destroy the Woyanes. So it was by Isaya’s playbook that both
    attacked Tigray, the Northern part of Ethiopia, on November 4
    th
    , 2020, and he
    concluded by saying game over, TPLF.
    Isayas is an exceptionally cruel, iron fisted dictator who has brutally and single-
    handedly ruled Eritrea for 32 years without any national constitution, parliament
    system or government structure. In short, he has destroyed the country beyond
    repair. A president who destroyed his own country and its people for so long,
    cannot be expected to be an angel to other countries, because injustice for one is
    a threat to justice anywhere. Right after Eritrea became independent, he declared
    that anybody who plays or listens to Amharic music will be imprisoned, and
    violators were convicted. He also continued to say in the open that in order to
    defeat Ethiopia militarily, we should divide it into different ethnic groups. And
  • when Abiy Ahmed invited him to help him invade Tigray, he did exactly that.
    Isayas also sent his troops to Oromo and to the Southern part of Ethiopia. Abiy
    and Isayas conspired to exterminate the Tigray people mercilessly along with
    solders from Somalia, Afar and the Amhara regional special forces. Drones were
    also provided by Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Iran and China. The
    conspiratorial scheme of all those countries against the innocent people of Tigray
    caused the death of more than one million people, with another million and half
    disabled, and more than two million people displaced in Tigray alone. In the name
    of keeping the states political stability the superpowers align themselves with the
    dictators rather than with the oppressed people. But in reality, they prioritized the
    interests of their own countries based on geopolitical considerations.
    Isayas is innately anti-human and anti-peace. He cannot live without war and the
    smell of blood. In the international arena he attacked all his neighboring
    countries, like Ethiopia, Djibouti, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen, at different times.
    He also sent his soldiers as paid mercenaries to Yemen, Congo, Southern Sudan
    and Rwanda. When he single-handedly waged all those unwanted wars, the
    Eritrean people were continuously dying in vain. He was intentionally keeping
    them disturbed and restless, so that he could stay in power, forever.
    Now these two dictators are preparing to go to war against each other - at a time
    when the Eritrean people, spearheaded by the vanguard Briged nhamedu are
    adamantly opposed to more wars. Their uncompromising goal is regime change.
    Likewise, many Ethiopian intellectuals are for the first time voicing their
    opposition to Abiy Ahmed’s intentions of forcefully occupying the Eritrean port of
    Assab. Now that Abiy is shifting his focus to the port of Somaliland, it would be a
    matter of wait and see. In any case, unless a new approach of people-to-people
    relationship is explored, Abiy and Isayas may not hesitate to cause another
    human catastrophe by going to another deadly war, because their common goal
    is to do anything and everything to stay in power. After all, both of them are
    pathological liars with zero credibility. Because of their present adversaries they
    are polarizing the East African neighboring countries, by creating divisions and
    group alliances among nations. Therefore, unless these two dictators are
    contained, their maverick personalities and behavioral actions will continue to
    threaten regional stability, instead of promoting sustainable peace and harmony
    in the region.
    Long live our martyrs!
    -Berhe Desta
    United States of America
Category: English

From Eritrean migrant to activist, the story of Abraham Tesfai

Abraham Tesfai | Photo:  ANSA / VALENTINA MARESCAThe 34-year-old Abraham Tesfai has spoken to ANSA about an odyssey that saw him flee Eritrea to reach Lampedusa after crossing Sudan, Libya and the Mediterranean. Today, he lives in Bologna, central Italy, where he has become an activist.

"In Eritrea, if you pay 5,000 dollars to corrupt government officials, they let you leave. The fee is lower -- 2,500-3,000 dollars -- if you rely on traffickers, and the journey is on foot," says Abraham Tesfai, 34, who reached Lampedusa 14 years ago and now lives in Bologna, in the northern Italian Emilia Romagna region.

"I didn't know anything, and I fled, aware of the risk that I could die due to the 'shoot and kill' law. If you are killed within the country's borders, nobody will hear about you anymore: there is no internet, there are no free media in Eritrea," he says.

The African odyssey prior to reaching Europe

Abraham's flight from Ethiopia was facilitated by the geographical factor.

"I was working on the construction of a dam at the border with Sudan and I fled from there with two friends," he recalls.

"The soldiers saw us and started to shoot and, after being pursued for an entire night, we crossed into Sudan. It was morning there and we stopped."

There were more or less fortunate encounters in Sudanese territory: some people were welcoming while a group of youths threatened them and hit them because they wanted money, he said.

A man invited them into his home, gave them clothes and then took them to a refugee camp, Abraham recalls.

"We were there for about three months, but we weren't safe, because the Eritrean regime sometimes would send soldiers looking for people who had fled, like us. So we escaped to the capital Khartoum. At the time, Sudan was led by dictator Omar al-Bashir who cooperated with ours, Isaias Afewerki," says Abraham, explaining there was now a new list of prices for migrants.

The trafficker had promised a truck but instead came to get us with two pick-ups for a total of 56 people. I held on with all my strength while we were crossing the desert -- falling out would have been my end.

"In Sudan too we had to pay traffickers: 5,000 dollars for South Africa, 30,000 dollars for the US, 20,000 dollars for Europe," he went on to say.

"The most desperate solution was Libya but we didn't have a choice, we left paying 1,200 dollars each. The trafficker had promised a truck but instead came to get us with two pick-ups for a total of 56 people. I held on with all my strength while we were crossing the desert -- falling out would have been my end."

The group reached Libya without any losses, "but a person died in a cell after a brawl for food and others died at sea. I was detained in Libya for a month and a half, then I paid 3,000 dollars for the crossing to Lampedusa after a first, failed attempt," he continued.

Hell in a Sicilian CPR and the studies in Bologna

The arrival on the island was no less unhappy. "They took our fingerprints and transferred us to Caltanissetta where for three months I lived in a container with 10 others without personal space, in a CPR (migrant pre-removal center) which I couldn't leave. I had escaped Eritrea and Libya to end up in another prison," he noted.

Abraham has always worked as a warehouse worker or driver to pay for his lawyers and obtain the necessary permits to stay in Italy, given that going to the Eritrean embassy would be like turning himself over to the very authorities from whom he has escaped.

"The Eritrean regime starves the population and its strategy is to create unrest in neighboring countries so the dictator can become an interlocutor and act following his best interests on different fronts: Eritrea is today the Horn of Africa's cancer," denounced Abraham, who after a period of time spent in Switzerland -- where he was detained and then pushed back -- settled in Bologna.

I had escaped Eritrea and Libya to end up in another prison

"Through (Catholic charity) Caritas, I met a priest who gave me a roof in the parish church. I didn't have a diploma so I took it as a mechanic by attending an evening school, then I obtained a university degree in agronomy and now I am studying for a master's degree in international relations and human rights. I am finishing this year," he said.

Also read: Asylum seekers from Eritrea and the long arm of the regime

The hope for change in the Eritrean diaspora

Abraham's objective is to "fight for all Eritrean refugees who are in detention. There is richness in our country, but it goes to very few while people are starving. There are well-prepared people in the Eritrean diaspora, and I can't wait to go back. It wasn't my choice to leave Eritrea, I fled and I feel in exile, but life in my country is impossible. The regime wants people to flee so that they pay. And so it prospers by taking bribes from migrants who work abroad and then send money back home, as well as from those who return to visit the elderly, or when they lose someone or to guarantee themselves a burial spot in their land."

However, Abraham is confident about the future: "The situation in Eritrea will change, the dictatorship will end like everything else. We members of the diaspora are worn out by the suffering, difficulties, and constant work to support ourselves and our family members who have remained there, but we will be able to overcome barriers to build a strong ruling class and we will be able to send this regime packing," he concluded.

Author: Valentina Maresca

Also read: Abdelfeteh: 'I feel like I'm in a giant prison'

Category: English

Probe into Eritrean riots “should not let regime off the hook”

An investigation into the riots that erupted at an Eritrean festival in The Hague at the weekend should examine the role of Eritrea’s government as well as opposition groups, politicians and academics have said.

On Wednesday the prosecution service said a 28-year-old man had been arrested on Friday, the day before the riots, for posting a video calling on people to attack the gathering at the Opera venue on Fruitweg.

Thirteen people aged between 19 and 36 have so far been arrested in the wake of the riots on Saturday evening, in which police and firefighters were pelted with stones and police cars and a coach were set on fire. Fifteen officers were injured.

The Hague’s mayor, Jan van Zanen, blamed a group opposed to the Eritrean regime, Brigade Nhamedu, for orchestrating the violence, which he called “appalling and unacceptable”.

Van Zanen issued an emergency order early on Saturday restricting access to the venue after receiving indications that opposition activists were planning to disrupt the gathering, but acknowledged afterwards that “signs were missed”.

Politicians have called for an investigation into Brigade Nhamedu’s activities, with some, such as the far-right PVV, calling for those responsible for the violence to be deported immediately.

Eritrea’s government has also condemned the violence and refuted any suggestions it was indirectly responsible.

Negassi Kassa Tekle, the country’s ambassador to Belgium who also serves the community in the Netherlands, told Nieuwsuur: “This is not a political issue. This is a lawless group of people merely focusing on the disruption and obstruction of Eritrean gatherings.”

But Mirjam van Reisen, professor of international relations at Tilburg University, who specialises in human rights in Eritrea, said tensions within the community had increased in recent years as the government tried to exert control through cultural events.

“Violence is never acceptable and can never be condoned,” Van Reisen told Dutch News. “Having said that, Brigade Nhamedu is very concerned about the fact that the long arm of the Eritrean government is given so much leeway and in some cases enjoys official protection, while it is impinging on their freedom.”

Some Dutch MPs have echoed the calls for a wider investigation into the conflict within the Eritrean community. Bente Becker, of the right-wing Liberal (VVD) party, said: “It would be good for the cabinet to investigate the activities of Brigade Nhamedu and take action against the organisation if necessary. But we should also not forget the influence of the Eritrean regime.”

According to the former BBC journalist Martin Plaut, Brigade Nhamedu was formed two years ago following clashes between pro- and anti-government supporters in the German city of Giessen, at what was billed as a cultural event.

Targets

The organisation targets government-organised events because they are seen as fundraisers for Eritrea’s government, one of the most repressive dictatorships in the world.

“Brigade Nhamedu isn’t a close-knit organisation,” says Van Reisen. “It’s more of a network that responds when a festival is organised. People living in the area, as well as some who travel, mobilise and want to make their voices heard.”

President Isaias Afwerki has ruled Eritrea as a one-party state since 1993, two years after it declared independence from Ethiopia, when he won 95% of votes in the national assembly.

Paramilitary organisations supporting the Eritrean government, with names such as Eri-Blood and Eri-Makhete, have appeared at cultural events in recent years, notably in Israel, where 150 people were hurt in clashes in Tel Aviv last September.

Tear gas

Police fired live rounds and tear gas at protesters, with one anonymous source comparing the level of violence to “the kind of scenes you only see on the West Bank”. Eritrean community leaders said they had asked police to cancel the event, warning there would be riots.

Fourth Front, a campaign group backed by the Eritrean government, posted a Facebook message in October announcing a demonstration in The Hague “to take revenge and be compensated for our disrupted festivals”.

Pro-democracy groups such as the Organisation for Eritrean Human Rights Defenders called for the event to be banned, claiming it had a “military character” and would spark riots.

Paramilitiaries

Van Reisen said Eri-Blood was highly likely to have been involved in the rioting last weekend. “Invariably you see these paramilitaries, or I would call them criminal organisations, used at these festivals,” she said.

“If you’re going to investigate Brigade Nhamedu, you should also investigate what the paramilitary organisation Eri-Blood is doing here.

“Is it a criminal organisation? Does it have implications for the rule of law, is it undermining democratic rights? And ask fundamental questions about how a hit squad like that

functions.

“Given the routine infiltration of the diaspora, although this is highly speculative, it’s possible that they posed as Brigade Nhamedu in order to focus attention on Brigade Nhamedu.”

Diaspora

There are more than 26,000 Eritreans living in the Netherlands, out of a worldwide dispora of half a million, and around 4,000 have claimed asylum in the last two years.

The vast majority are granted refugee status, but those who are refused are often unable to return because the Eritrean government refuses to give them passports. The Netherlands does not co-operate with Isaias’s regime because of its human rights record.

“This is not a time when people from the Horn of Africa should be being sent back home,” said Laetitia Bader, a deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Africa division. “The threat of persecution remains very real.”

Military service

Young Eritreans usually flee the country to avoid military service, which everyone aged between 18 to 50 is obliged to perform. Officially the service period is 18 months, but in practice it can last more than a decade.

Educated Eritreans are conscripted into “civil service”: compulsory public sector jobs in government offices or teaching, which has been condemned by the United Nations as a form of forced labour.

But the Eritrean expat community also includes supporters of the dictatorship who fled during the war with Ethiopia in the 1990s and settled in Europe. They are generally better integrated into Dutch society and have more established social networks than their younger peers.

Eritrea’s government tolerates no dissent either at home or abroad. Expats are expected to pay a 2% tax to the government at home and are denied consular services, such as the issuing of passports and birth certificates, if they refuse.

Warnings

The Netherlands has repeatedly warned Eritrea about the tax and other means of extortion.

In 2017 a majority of MPs called for the embassy in The Hague to be closed after television current affairs show Argos highlighted the practice.

During the Covid lockdown foreign affairs minister Stef Blok summoned the ambassador to explain why Eritrean citizens had been ordered to donate at least €100 to fund the government’s pandemic control measures.

The prosecution service also opened an investigation and wrote to Eritrean citizens advising them that Dutch law forbids demanding money under duress. However, the inquiry was wound down when no victims came forward.

Van Reisen says the Netherlands should follow the lead of Norway and Canada and introduce legislation in parliament to prevent cross-border repression.

“We live in a sovereign country where everyone from left to right enjoys the same freedoms,” she said. “I want to see an investigation that focuses on whether this festival was a form of intervention by a foreign state, how it took place and who the protagonists were.

“It’s part and parcel of protecting our constitutional framework so that people don’t need to resort to violence to make their point.”