Violent Clashes Feared Among Eritrean Diaspora over Independence Day Celebrations

Law enforcement worldwide is on high alert for potential violent clashes during Eritrea’s Independence Day celebrations on Friday. Disgruntled Eritreans unable to protest at home may do so at events abroad marking 33 years since the country’s independence, prompting some nations to ban the celebrations altogether.

While gaining freedom from Ethiopia after a three-decade hard-won conflict was, the anniversary is bittersweet for some as promised freedoms never materialized under unelected President Isaias Afwerki’s 33-year rule. Eritrea has no constitution, prohibits any political dissent outside the ruling party, and has had no free press since 2001.

Hundreds of thousands of young Eritreans have fled abroad to escape indefinite military conscription, making Eritrea one of the world’s most militarized societies. From this diaspora pool, a new radical opposition called Brigade Ni’hamedu emerged two years ago, fed up with fragmented exiled groups. Determined to fight the regime they believe forced them out, their “Blue Revolution” campaign targets pro-government events organized by embassies.

The two rival groups have clashed violently over the past year across multiple countries, using stones, sticks, and knives. In Tel Aviv, tit-for-tat attacks killed a Blue Revolution activist and critically injured a pro-government supporter. Most Blue Revolution supporters oppose Eritrea’s involvement in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict.

While one side accuses radicals of resorting to violence at raucous patriotic celebrations abroad, the other sees authorities surrendering by canceling events as the wrong solution. Both agree law and order must prevail and those breaking laws must face consequences.

About Geraldine Boechat 2737 Articles
Senior Editor for Medafrica Times and former journalist for Swiss National Television. former NGO team leader in Burundi and Somalia