According to reports from citizens of Eritrea, government forces have continued to hunt down citizens who reject the mandatory military call-up.
The northeast African country has come under massive criticism over time for mandatory military service imposed on citizens. Following the increase in demand for more soldiers, the government has been accused of taking drastic measures to track those who reject the call-up. Reports claim that the reason for the increased demand for military personnel can be linked to the ongoing war in Ethiopia.
As an ally of Ethiopia, President Isaias Afwerki has committed military forces to assist Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in the fight against the Tigray rebels. Eritrea and Ethiopia share a border, and both leaders share a cordial relationship.
Despite local and international criticism, President Isaias Afwerki has remained adamant in relaxing the laws that uphold Eritrea’s decades-long compulsory military service.
Citizens of the country are seeking international intervention for what they say is an intensified mobilization effort by the Eritrean authorities to hunt down draft dodgers across the country.
Many Eritreans have spoken out, claiming that the latest round-ups are the worst so far as women have not been spared, with many elderly mothers and fathers detained in a bid to force their children, who have gone into hiding, to surrender, they say.
A BBC report which revealed quotes from Eritreans pleading anonymity for fear of their lives, claims that the government has intensified efforts to use those who ignored the call-up as scapegoats and examples to others.
“As many ignored the call-up, the round-up has been intensified,” a source said, adding that wives have also been detained after their husbands tried to avoid conscription.
In addition, they say that multiple checkpoints have been set up along major roads, and widespread searches are taking place in cities and villages to capture young men who have not turned in for the military call-up.
In the capital, Asmara, round-ups are being carried out on the streets. At the same time, in many rural areas, the authorities have sealed homes, confiscated cattle, and harassed relatives if a wanted person is not found, according to a BBC report.
The media agency also reported that in response to its call on the matter, the Information Minister of Eritrea, Yemane Gebremeskel said that a “tiny number” of reservists had been called up, denying that the entire population had been mobilized. A claim that citizens say does not reflect the actual situation in Eritrea.
A source in Eritrea said the authorities were trying to “stir emotions” at public meetings, linking their military intervention to “the existence and sovereignty of the nation” and saying that the TPLF “must be buried.”
Many Eritreans have resisted the latest military call-up, saying they do not want to die in what they see as a needless war. They believe that the war in Ethiopia can be solved diplomatically, especially as the African Union (AU) has intervened and invited both parties for a peace meeting.
Elderly men have also “been forced to be on a war footing in many areas and in most cases, the operation of the conscription is being carried out arbitrarily”, one source said.
An Eritrean in the diaspora expressed concern about his brother and sister-in-law in Asmara. He said his sister-in-law had fled with the couple’s children to her parent’s village, and he feared that his brother had been detained.
In the last two decades, tens of thousands of young Eritreans have left the country to escape conscription, which includes forced labour.
“This situation has affected the children of my martyred brother whom I considered as my hope. They have joined the army. What can I say except to beg for God to protect all the young,” said an Eritrean woman exiled in Italy.
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