Protests called work of Eritrean regime
Demonstration at Free Press one of many, faction says By: Carol Sanders The demonstration in front of the Free Press building last month was one of many around the world organized by the Eritrean government, say members
Demonstration at Free Press one of many, faction says
By: Carol Sanders
The demonstration in front of the Free Press building last month was one of many around the world organized by the Eritrean government, say members of the community who’ve remained quiet until now.
“That demonstration was not isolated,” said Ghirmay Yeibio, president of the Community of Eritrean Canadians in Manitoba.
“It’s part of the ‘national rebuff’,” he said. In the Eritrean language of Tigrinya, the ‘Hizbawi Mekete’ campaign by the Eritrean government was carried out by so-called community groups in the diaspora, he said.
Similar events were staged in Malmo and Stockholm in Sweden, and in other cities including London, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Cologne in Germany, and Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.
The protest outside the Free Press followed stories about local Eritrean government agents demanding money from community members to send back to the regime, which has been sanctioned by the UN for supporting terrorism in the Horn of Africa.
Protest organizers in Winnipeg accused the Free Press of labelling 3,000 local Eritrean people as terrorists.
Lambros Kyriakakos, the president of the Eritrean Community in Winnipeg Inc., who organized the protest here, discounted Yeibio’s assertions.
“What you forwarded us is a work of a community of two or three individuals, with no track record of any ‘community activity,’ that is loyally exercising its duty of serving as a mouthpiece of the government of Ethiopia, a government that doesn’t want to wish well to Eritrean-Canadians,” Kyriakakos wrote in an email response.
“We would again like to remind the WFP not to fall into the trap of individuals with ulterior political motives who are engaged in a misinformation campaign and are trying to misrepresent the Eritrean Community in Winnipeg.”
Yeibio said the demonstration was one of many against newspapers that have published stories about the long arm of the Eritrean government, which millions have fled.
“Really, it was to object to sanctions that were debated by the UN Security Council,” maintained Yeibio, whose group broke away from Kyriakakos’ group in 1998 “because of the interference of the Eritrean regime in the community affairs.”
The Eritrean information ministry said in a recent news release these sanctions were instigated by its old enemy, the United States. It accused the U.S. of trying to thwart Eritrea’s economic success because of its strategic Red Sea location.
The “national rebuff” has been going on in countries that have reported on complaints about the Eritrean government. It is the regime’s way of fighting back against the world and the United Nations, Yeibio said.
Its representatives have come to Winnipeg seeking support for the Eritrean defence forces.
To get visas or school transcripts, people have to pay local government agents two per cent of their income in Canada. If people here complain about the regime, they pay the price, as do relatives back in Eritrea, Yeibio claimed.
His own relatives have been locked up by the regime for his criticism of the government, he said, and he’s been asked for thousands of dollars to have them freed.
“It’s a big racket,” said Yeibio, who has written to UN agencies and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to ask for sanctions against Eritrea.
“These people were guerrillas,” said Yeibio. “They never changed. They can’t run a normal country at peaceful times,” he said. “The only thing they understand is force.”
That’s why Eritrea is one of the top source countries for refugees in the world right now, Yeibio said.
Yeibio’s community group has sponsored more than 500 refugees to come to Winnipeg. It is asking Ottawa to close the Eritrean diplomatic mission in Canada.
“Its only purpose is to spy on Eritreans in Canada,” Yeibio said. In 2010, Canadian exports totalled $2.5 million while imports amounted to approximately $250,000, Foreign Affairs says.