ICC Note: Many Eritreans fought and died for independence during the 1990’s only to witness the quick death of freedom at the hands of Afwerki. Afwerki has been the ruling dictator since he took control in 2001 from his previous title as rebel leader. Once considered a ‘renaissance leader’, Afwerki has turned the former Italian colony into the “North Korea of Africa”. Terror, torture, murder, imprisonment, surveillance, and persecution is the daily life for those who remain. Those who attempt to escape face death elsewhere as Eritrea boasts the third largest refugee population heading toward Europe and North Africa. Among those affected the most is the Christian population who experience Afwerki’s sinister concoction three fold. Many find themselves locked in shipping containers waiting for torture or death as others are gunned down trying to flee the country.
11/09/2015 London (Al Jazeera) — In the brutal misery driving an exodus of Eritreans to Europe, Feruz Werede sees both a national tragedy and a very personal betrayal.
Werede’s parents belonged to a guerrilla movement that spent 30 years fighting for Eritrean independence from Ethiopia, finally defeating one of Africa’s strongest armies in 1993 and propelling charismatic rebel leader Isaias Afwerki to power.
Since then, Eritrea has had no other president, held no national elections, and Afwerki has gone from being described by then-President Bill Clinton as a “renaissance leader,” to being called an “unhinged dictator” by Washington’s envoy to a country now dubbed the “North Korea of Africa.”
The United Nations refugee agency says that some 5,000 Eritreans are fleeing the former Italian colony each month, and outnumber other nationalities on the Mediterranean Sea crossings that have claimed more than 3,000 lives this year.
On a chilly autumn evening in a London café, Werede searched her phone for a photograph of a very different time and place: her parents’ 1980 wedding party in what was then a rebel-held region of Ethiopia.
The sepia-tinged image shows four young Eritreans sitting at a table. Drinks stand in front of them and a crowd mills around behind, as two men lean in, laughing, to talk to the bride; on the right-hand side, chatting to the groom, sits Afwerki.
“He was the best man at their wedding,” said Werede, who left Eritrea with her mother in 2001.
“That’s how close they were. So for my parents, what has happened and is happening now in Eritrea is an absolute betrayal.”
Under Afwerki’s increasingly brutal and paranoid 22-year rule, Eritrea has become one of the world’s poorest, most oppressive and isolated states, in which the only one way for most of its 4.5 million people to improve their lives is by leaving.
After Syrians and Afghans, Eritreans are the third-most-common asylum-seekers arriving in the European Union, and almost all are granted refugee status; a United Nations report issued in June after a year-long inquiry helped explain why.