By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
(ADDIS ABABA) – As Eritrea celebrates its 20th, annual Independence Day, hundreds of exiled Eritreans in Ethiopia on Tuesday marched in the streets of Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, calling for international pressure on president Isaias Afewerki to step-down.
The refugees waved banners and chanted anti-regime slogans denounced repressive rule of Afewerki, calling for freedom and democracy for the Eritrean people.
“There is extreme brutality against the Eritrean people by the Asmara [Eritrean capital] regime. The people have witnessed a return to slavery from freedom” said Yassin Abdela, a spokesperson for the protestors told Sudan Tribune.
“President Isaias Afeworki is responsible for the slaughter of hundreds of Eritreans and for the many more whose whereabouts is unknown or languishing in secret detention centers’’ he added.
Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia on 24 May 1993 after 30 years of struggle, which is annually celebrated across the red sea nation.
However since independence, Eritrea has been engaged in conflicts with neighboring countries and its diplomatic ties have deteriorated following allegations of, amongst others, its support of al-Qaeda militants in Somalia.
In 2009, The UN Security Council imposed tough sanctions on Eritrea, targeting the government and military leaders with an arms embargo, travel restrictions, and asset freezes in a bid to stop Asmara’s support for Somali rebels.
Demonstrators have once again demanded further sanctions on the Eritrean regime.
“We want to see an implementation of past resolutions and further sanctions against this terrorist government” Netsreab Asmelash from theEritrean National Commission for Democratic Change said, adding “we are calling for support from the international community to depose this autocratic rule which is a threat to regional and global security”.
According to organisers, similar rallies are being held in US, Europe, Canada and other parts of the world by the Eritrean communities overseas.
Last month, 60,000 political refugees residing in five camps, some 1,500 of them in Addis Ababa, held demonstration under the theme “enough is enough’’ seeking democratic change and end to the Asmara government.