Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia call for democratic rule
April. 22 2011
ADDIS ABABA, April 20 (Reuters) - Hundreds of Eritrean refugees gathered in the Ethiopian capital on Wednesday to call for democratic rule in Eritrea, which thousands have fled in recent years citing rights abuses.
Under banners that read "Yes for democratic change", around 1,600 Eritreans met to decry what they described as repressive rule under President Isaias Afewerki, who has led the country since it won independence from Ethiopia in 1991.
The refugees also called for an end to unlimited military service in the country, with one of Africa's largest armies fed by a yearly conscription of men and women aged 15 to 45.
Some analysts blame the prolonged service for Eritrea's refugee exodus which now amounts to thousands every year, according to the United Nations.
"We are here to highlight the injustices in our country. We want an end to dictatorial rule," Kibrom Sibhatu, head of the Eritrean Urban Refugees Association, told journalists.
"There are 60,000 Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia and all fled because of crimes carried out by the dictatorship," he said.