By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
May 21, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – Thousands of Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia on Wednesday vowed to take up arms and join opposition forces in the struggle to remove the government in Asmara.
The decision by the Eritrean refugees comes as Eritrea celebrates its 23rd independence day. The Red Sea nation gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1991 after 30 years of struggle.
President Issaias Afeworki who has lead the country since independence turned the country into a one-party state which is considered as one of the most repressive regimes in the world.
In a joint communiqué extended to Sudan Tribune, the Eritrean refugees said the regime in Asmara has failed to bring democracy, human rights and freedom to its people and they don’t want to see the regime prolonging its grip on power.
Despite gaining independence, the refugees said the younger generation in Eritrea has during the past 23 years become the victim of executions, imprisonment, disappearances, harassment and intimidation.
“Eritrea was liberated but not its people” reads part of the statement adding that “tyrannical Eritrean regime is committed to further crimes and atrocities against innocent Eritreans” and it was time to take collective military action.
They said some hundreds of refugee at camps in Ethiopia have decided to join the armed struggle rather than remain as refugees in Ethiopia for an indefinite period of time.
“We don’t want to wait and see here for a miracle to happen that would bring a democratic system of governance in Eritrea.”
Over the last ten years hundreds of thousands of Eritreans including members of the army and navy have fled their country to neighbouring countries, including Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti and Yemen.
In Ethiopia alone, there are 92,460 Eritrean refugees at end of April, Kisut Gebregzabiher a United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) representative in Addis Ababa told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday.
Gebregzabiher said that an average of 2,000 Eritreans cross into Ethiopia every month fleeing political repression or to escape military service which is mandatory to all citizens aged between 18 and 50 and can last a lifetime.
International human rights organisations say that Eritrea stands amongst world’s top worst human rights and press freedom records. The regime is also accused of turning the country into a “giant prison”.
Reports indicate that there are up to 10,000 political prisoners languishing in the country’s harsh and secret detention centers, which are sometimes shipping containers.
The Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia further called up on those forces of change within the Eritrean ruling party, including the army to join them in the struggle to topple the regime so that democratic change is achieved.