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Cablegate: Independence Day Does Not Mean Freedom in Eritrea

VZCZCXRO1291
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHAE #0464 1411159
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 211159Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASMARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8866
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1356
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1534
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0611
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEPADJ/CJTF-HOA J2X CAMP LEMONIER DJ

UNCLAS ASMARA 000464

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

LONDON FOR AFRICA WATCHERS
PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHERS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM ER
SUBJECT: INDEPENDENCE DAY DOES NOT MEAN FREEDOM IN ERITREA

1. In the days leading up to Eritrean Independence day on May 24,
the Government of Eritrea flexes its muscles and shows again to the
people of Eritrea how Eritrean independence does not equal freedom.
The streets of Asmara are flooded with soldiers, in small and large
groups. Placed at intervals as short as two blocks, the soldiers
stop pedestrians, cyclists and drivers asking for their
identification papers and permits. In traveling less than one mile,
an individual can be stopped four or five times and asked to show
the proper papers. Carrying guns and sticks, the soldiers make an
intimidating and frightening force, leading some Eritreans to elect
to stay home. One Eritrean father imposed a 7pm curfew on his four
sons and made it clear this family curfew was non-negotiable. There
are unconfirmed reports that gender-based violence by the police,
national security officers and military patrols is increasing as
well.

2. Complementing the increased force on the streets, the GSE has
restricted the movement of all expatriates. From May 20 to May 30,
all roads outside of Asmara are closed to travel by foreigners.
One Eritrean commented, without any irony, to an Embassy family
member, "the roads are closed for freedom day." While the GSE has
not clarified the restriction, most believe that Eritreans may
travel freely without limitations during this time, while foreigners
are not permitted to travel from Asmara.

3. Comment: This time of year the GSE typically increases security
on the streets. Complementing the usual police with military
support, the visible presence accentuates the repression felt by
Eritreans on a daily basis and serves as a reminder that charming
Asmara is really the capital of a police state. End comment.

DeLisi#

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