Hundreds of people gathered outside the Eritrean Embassy in London on 10 November to protest against a recent government crackdown in the country.
Traffic was disrupted along White Lion Street as the protesters filled the road outside the Embassy and held placards saying “Enough is Enough” and “Eritrean Dictator Must Go Now”.
The protest was organised in response to reports of the Eritrean security forces committing acts of violence. A rare public demonstration took place in the capital, Asmara, on 31 October. Accounts vary, but it is estimated that the forces shot dead 28 civilians, with many more detained without trial.
Ismail Moussa, who helped organise the London protest, said it was about “standing in solidarity” with protesters in Asmara. “It’s also about demanding democratic change in Eritrea. We are asking for the government there to step down.”
The organisers also want to make the British public aware of human rights violations in Eritrea, and put pressure on the UK government to end any support of the country. The Home Office came under fire in January this year after it was revealed that it had attempted to downplay human rights abuses in Eritrea in order to reduce asylum seeker numbers.
President Isaias Afwerki has ruled Eritrea since it gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993. Protests are rare in Eritrea, since it lacks a constitution that guarantees the rights of citizens, including the right to protest.
In May 2016 the UN Human Rights Council condemned “in the strongest terms” Eritrea’s “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations”, and said it found reasonable grounds to believe the government has committed numerous crimes against humanity.
Protesters have planned more demonstrations in the UK over the coming weeks. The next London protest is on 24 November at 12.30pm, also outside the Eritrean Embassy on White Lion Street.