Searches, Arrests, and Tension in Eritrea

The repercussions from the interference of Eritrean forces in the Ethiopian civil war is being felt in Eritrea.

Activities of rounding up citizens who can join the war efforts has started a few months ago. Reports indicate rounding up of youth is continuing. Families whose children didn’t report to the authorities to join the military forces were evicted from their homes have been scattered to where they can secure a roof over their head. Meanwhile, their house stayed locked or sealed with a warning paper by the authorities. Removing the warning papers and entering the houses without the permission of the authorities resulted in severe punishment.

Special forces were brought from Adi Abeyto prison forces to major cities including Asmara the capital city. Adi Abeyto is in the outskirts of the capital city where thousands of prisoners are housed in overcrowded cells and shakes.” The soldiers search houses for absconding adults; they arrest if they found any or evicted their families if they couldn’t tell the whereabouts of the missing family member.

Our reporter said, “the search is so relentless that soldiers do not wait until the residents open the door but jump over the walls or break the doors to catch anyone hiding by surprise.”

Since last month, some of the evicted people defiantly removed the seal or broke the doors and returned to their homes.

A face off was reported in some places when the security forces came to the houses that were supposed to stay sealed off, but the residents have broken in defiantly. The number of families who defiantly returned to their sealed houses was overwhelming forcing the security forces to retreat.

A previously evicted parent told Gedab News, “the insecurity of the people has become unbearable, and we are not afraid of any consequences anymore.”

Eritreans felt relieved when the Ethiopians signed a peace agreement in Pretoria and Nairobi and hoped the rounding up of people would stop. However, an officer told the complaining parents, “We have to stay alert because the TPLF might violate our sovereignty.” He didn’t answer when a parent asked him if the Ethiopian peace deal meant an end to the conflict.

In rural areas more people were rounded up or arrested because, “it’s difficult to hide in a village of a hamlet.” And the damage to the countryside is colossal since families depend on their work to farm, harvest, or tend to their farm animals. A villager told our reporter, “Only the old and the very young are left in most villages and we cannot do much work without our grownup children.” He added, we are suffering together with our livestock.

Eritreans find the situation, “reminiscent of Eritrea’s previous occupiers who rounding up adults in similar ways to support their war efforts.”

The impact of such actions is widely visible around Eritrea, particularly in the countryside where the economy depends on manpower and village cooperation. A parent told a reporter, “the impact of the rounding-up and the war, on the family and national economy, is disastrous.”

In one instance, a disabled war veteran who traveled to Sudan for medication took his two sons along. Reportedly, he was not interested in being hospitalized but to smuggle his two sons outside the country. During his absence, security officers received a tip that two adults were hiding in the house and raided the house and found the veteran’s relative and  her young daughter. But couldn’t find the adults they were looking for, and the woman who was looking after the house could not provide information on their whereabouts. They evicted the woman with her child and sealed the house.

Upon his return from Sudan, the veteran found his house sealed and defiantly removed the seal, broke the locks, and entered into his house.

Some officers discovered their houses have been raided or sealed during their absence in the warfronts of Ethiopia. According to reports, the situation has created tensions among the authorities who objected to the widespread search due to pressures from their relatives and friends.

Our reporter said, “it’s difficult to imagine how the people will react once the names of the Eritrean soldiers killed in action would be formally announced.”


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