Members of the Eritrean community gathered outside the State Library on April 11 to protest against Isaias Afwerki, the dictatorial ruler of Eritrea.
Alamin Idris, the regional officer of the Eritrean National Council for Democratic Change, told Green Left that Isaias had sent troops into Ethiopia, fighting for the Ethiopian government against opposition forces based in the province of Tigray.
The Eritrean National Council for Democratic Change is an umbrella organisation for political and civil society groups opposed to Isaias.
Idris said that Eritrea should not be involved in an internal war in Ethiopia. “Our youth have been sent to Ethiopia to fight in a war they have no interest in,” he said.
Since Eritrea gained independence in 1993, Isaias had started wars with several neighbouring countries, Idris said. These wars have been used as an excuse to repress Eritreans. People between the ages of 18 and 50 have been conscripted into the army, and used as forced labour, including for foreign mining companies.
In 2018, Eritrea and Ethiopia signed a peace agreement. Idris said that, by removing war as a pretext for repression, the agreement could have created an opportunity to democratise Eritrea. But this did not happen. No elections have been held.
Idris also criticised secret agreements between Eritrea and Ethiopia, including for the establishment of a naval base. He said that such agreements threaten Eritrea’s sovereignty.
Australia has supported the Eritrean dictator in the United Nations Human Rights Council, Idris said, and called on peace-loving Australians to demand this change.