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Eritreans have peace, now they want freedom

16 117 0
25.05.2019

Today, Eritrea is celebrating its hard-won independence, a victory earned after 30 years of fierce and deadly armed struggle, followed by 20 years of deadlock with neighbouring Ethiopia, after the border conflict of 1998-2000.

Like previous years, the Eritrean authorities have made extensive preparations to mark the anniversary with a major festival in the streets of Asmara. But this year, the celebrations will also feature a new element: two mannequins representing Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who in a landmark move last year opened the common border for the first time in 20 years.

The regime clearly wants to celebrate the peace agreement and rapprochement with Ethiopia, still brandishing it as a major achievement. However, it will do so under tight security. While round-ups, patrols and checkpoints have been routine features of Independence Day security, they have reportedly been significantly boosted this year as a clear warning to the general population.

The Eritrean people, who initially also rejoiced at the peace agreement, hoping that the resolution of the cold conflict could bring them much-desired relief, are yet to see any change in their daily lives.

For two decades, they had been told that they have to live under a virtual state of emergency because Ethiopia is still posing an "existential threat" to their country and their freedom. All possible justifications for the continuing repression and austerity the regime could manufacture ended with the peace deal, the lifting of UN sanctions and the country's admission to the UN Human Rights Council.

Today, Ethiopia is no longer a threat, given all the documents signed and all the official visits exchanged.

Yet the Eritrean president has clearly demonstrated that he will not relax the chokehold he has had the country in for so many years. As a result, little has changed for most........

© Al Jazeera