President Isaias and the ruling party have been humiliated by challenges to their hold over Eritreans living abroad. Members of the diaspora who have joined the opposition are having threats and insults hurled at their families back home.
The message has been repeated in a series of Tweets
It has been repeated across social media
“Anyone who knows where this thief is please let us know immediately as he has moved away from his home for his crimes.”
The Eritrean regime and its supporters are clearly unsettled. From the Netherlands to Germany, Switzerland and Norway, their hold over the Eritrean diaspora is being challenged.
Past regime successes
Ever since 1974 the EPLF – and its successor, the PFDJ – had the field to themselves. They held celebrations in Bologna and then spread the festivities across the world. From the USA to Australia, Eritreans in the diaspora came together.
It was an opportunity for the exiled community to come together and have a good time: to dance, eat and drink. There were football matches with teams representing the many countries in which they lived: Italy, Germany and Sweden, or else the cities they were resident in: Milan, Florence and Bologna.
Eritreans held the Bologna festival in great affection. “All Eritreans scattered in the entire world, we all met there once a year. This is why it was different for us, Bologna was a miracle, something longed for which fell from the sky,” a woman told an interviewer.
More than having fun
But there was a more sinister motive behind the celebrations.
In 2014, on the fortieth anniversary of the first Bologna festival, the PFDJ held a three day festival in the same city. Key figures from the government were invited including Yemane Gebreab, political director of the ruling regime; Yemane Gebremeskel, the director of the Office of the President; Osman Saleh, Foreign Minister; Hagos “Kisha”, finance director of the ruling party and Woldenkiel Abraha, Minister of Local Government.
Their hardline, pro-government message, was pumped out, even after the notorious 2001 crackdown, when the media were closed down and opponents of Isaias (the G13) arrested. And it was not just about politics. Taxes on the diaspora: always the 2% tax but frequently other levies, had to be maintained to provide the resources the Eritrean regime needed to fight its many foreign wars.
In 2014 the opposition got their act together and directly challenged the Bologna festival. Pro-government organisers responded with violence. “Security guards” – Eri blood – were called in to attack their opponents.
Opposition members were left wounded and bloodies.
Fast forward to the present
The Eritrean youth of 2022 are not prepared to allow themselves to be attacked or exploited any longer. Many risked their lives crossing the Eritrean border. They saw their friends dying in the wastelands of the Sahara, or drowning in the Mediterranean.
They have sweated blood to escape Isaias and his cronies. They are not prepared to put up with the regime threatening them in the lands they have finally made a new life in.
And so they fought back. Sometimes with protests and petitions. Sometimes with legal challenges. Sometimes with force.
But Eritrean youth will be silent no longer. President Isaias and the PFDJ fear that the diaspora is slipping from their iron grip. The danger to the regime is real.