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Eritrean group to hold anti-government protest in Oakland

on December 20, 2012

In Oakland, some 8,500 miles away from the northeast African country of Eritrea, a group of immigrants are planning a protest on December 29 against what they say is an oppressive government in their home country.

“We want a democratic government with a constitution, “said Solomon Assefaw, North American Vice-Chairman of Eritrean Youth Solidarity for Change (EYSC), the group organizing the protest. He says that EYSC also advocates abolishing forced conscription and the release of imprisoned journalists and political activists in the country.

The Bay Area is home to about 20-25,000 Ethiopians and Eritreans, according to Nunu Kidane, Director of Priority Africa Network, a Bay Area organization that serves those of African descent. Most Bay Area Eritreans settled in Oakland and San Jose in the late 1980s as they fled a violent civil war at home.

Solomon (Eritreans use their first names to formally identify themselves), 40,  fled Eritrea in 1999 while working as a journalist amid a violent border war with neighboring Ethiopia. “I used to work for a newspaper,” Solomon said. “I was writing articles from the frontline.”

He and most of his family settled in Oakland, where they live today. “Me and my family are convinced that we have to fight the dictator in Eritrea,” he said, referring to President Isayas Afewerki.

“Eritrean youth all over the world are demanding President Isayas Afewerki to release ALL political prisoners,” read a statement on the EYSC website.

On September 22, 2011 the EYSC staged a protest outside the United Nations in New York to coincide with a visit from Isayas. Last May, a worldwide protest was coordinated to take place across the Eritrean diaspora. Eritreans in Oakland, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Houston, Chicago, as well as in the UK, Italy, Germany, Norway and Denmark held demonstrations on May 28.

The date of this year’s protest has changed twice but Solomon said the EYSC has now settled on December 29.

“Eritrea is effectively a giant prison, and international pressure should continue on Eritrea until President Isaias frees political prisoners and restores the rule of law,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, a New York-based human rights advocacy group, in a 2011 press release.

There is a strong divide in Oakland’s Eritrean diaspora between those who support and oppose the government back home. Some people in the Eritrean community support the government and say that they are helping the country develop economically.

Last year, about 500 demonstrators protested outside San Francisco’s City Hall. Solomon wants to see more Eritreans come out to support his organization. “We welcome them,” Solomon said. “They are our brothers and sisters and we are from the same country. It is the government who benefits from dividing us.”


  1. Spear on December 20, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    Yes it is time for change. The struggle will continue until power is handed over to our people, and the dignity of our people is restored. A Luta Continua!

    • denden on December 22, 2012 at 4:26 pm

      Ya Spear if change is to come it should come by decent people who are from the community by the community not terorristes the likes of Solomon Asefaw and other criminals by day they portray themselves as political activists by night their are terorrists and criminals vandalising community places. AIf you are one of the criminals you will have to answer for your criminal activities and deport to the country you betray.

    • Tesfay Sebahtu on December 22, 2012 at 9:44 pm

      Who ever you are…..what on earth are you talking about? What do you mean the power is handed over to our people…..are you telling us that those in power in Eritrea today are not our people? You may have lost your dignity because you rely on others for what ever you lack in your life but the people of Eritrea’s dignity in intact and they have never lost it. They relied on themselves during the day of straggle for independence and they rely on themselves in this time of reconstructing a ravaged economy and lost opportunity due to out side interferences.

      • Samuel on December 23, 2012 at 2:14 pm

        The power in Eritrea is hijacked by those corrupt officials in power. They had never given back the power to the people even though they had promised to do so while the people was assisting the in armed struggle. If you are not insane, you should have noted that power can only be granted to the people by democratic process…yeah! time will come soon when the people elect decent leaders who stand for their well being!

        • Aman on December 23, 2012 at 3:16 pm

          Power? What power are you talking about, you teroorists who break community centers and threatens citizens, even in the United States. You’re nothing but kedemti Abay Tigrai? What people need at this time is food, water, shelter, health care and better economic conditions, before anything else, and the government is doing better than any “democratic” government is doing. Then you can talk about “power”! Why don’t you tell America who is holding our country hostage from legal demarcation instead, that has caused “No War-No Peace” environment in systematic plan? You’re nothing but pro-Ethiopian agents in servitude! We will Never Kneel Down!

  2. Hadera on December 21, 2012 at 9:30 am

    Watch this video and tell us what your first reaction is, Mark Anderson and Oakland North. Do you think a person who would do such a thing could preach, with a straight face, about somebody else “dividing our community”? Hardworking and productive Eritrean-Americans opened that community center as a venue for staying connected to each other and passing their Eritrean culture and customs to their American born children. These hoodlums caught on the security camera video feel threatened by a community center where the only “dividing” happens is when Eritreans sit together to break bread and share a meal from one plate of food, as is their custom. Sooner or later the long arm of the law will catch up with them although for now the US laws have been used against the Eritrean community instead of these vandalizing idiots. Hanti meAlti ala!

    • Ron on December 22, 2012 at 1:25 pm

      Thanks for posting a contrasting view. If Solomon was indeed the one pictured in the video, he should be interviewed again and asked to explain his actions. Oakland North, care to correct this one-sided article?

      As with most long-running conflicts, I expect he will have an account of how your side has done some things to his people also.

      • Aman on December 23, 2012 at 3:26 pm

        We hope we will see and read your promise about these terrorists’ background who denied our Constitutional rights of assembly, currently under legal suit!

      • Hadera on December 24, 2012 at 12:26 pm

        Thank you, Ron! We also hope that Oakland North and Mark Anderson will heed your call and get back to us on this.

  3. denden on December 22, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    HAving read the aricle and seen the video is baffling, while clearly these people are a bunch of criminals vandalizing a community center by night and by day they call themselves as political activstes and journalists, if we are going to have a free press by the likes of Solomon Asefaw we would have hate filled paper ad by night he weould have been vandalizing community places that he oes not like. I am amzed by North Oakland news paper to be portrayed as humanitarian and political activites; I beleive Northe Oakland paper had a responsibilty to bring these three criminals to justice and answer their terorrist actions hence this is a community centre provding help and support to the locals; I understand US has a will to export and see democracy flourishing in every corner of the world but if tis going to expect from this criminlas it tarnishes its image and lucks the morall authority to inforce or preach democracy and the North Oakland news paper had a duty to bring these individulas to face justice for their terrorist activites .

    • Samuel on December 23, 2012 at 2:10 pm

      A bunch of criminals are still running the government in Eritrea. They have conscripted the youth into endless servitude; imprisoned and tortured endless youth and women. They took power by involving the mass but never had they ever given it back. Those who are in power are still in power not approved by the society; nobody has ever elected them. You should be ashamed for supporting those criminals and vandals back home and nobody is going to believe you when you lay false allegations on those people. This is america, if you have a hint of truth, you could have gone to the police and justice would have taken charge…!

      • Aman on December 23, 2012 at 3:40 pm

        Labelling “Criminals” for self supporting, away from food aid dependency? And why should it be different when conscripting the youth when defending the country from “UNjust and Unfair sanction led by the US led “international Community” who preach democratic and law abiding? Why don’t you demonstrate against USA led “LAW OF THE jUNGLE” instead who is sabotaging our legally demarcated borders between Ethiopia and Eritrea that has become one of the reason why the youth has to continue on defending the country?And why is it new when it comes to Eritrea’s own Marshal Plan to be self supportive? Haven’t Americans and Israelis done it before?

      • massawa on February 12, 2013 at 8:37 pm






  4. Yosief Tekle on December 22, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    Hadera, hanti mealti ala? If you truely believe there will be a day of reckoning and you are certain you are not on the wrong side of history, so go ahead and reveal you real name. Long arm of the law? What law? Who makes those laws in Eritrea? Do we have such a thing as law makers or parliament in Eritrea? So according to which law or document is the president is in power for 21 yrs and counting? How is it possible for someone who is power unlawfully to accuse others of biolating the law. What happened to commen sense, for heaven’s sake?

    • Aman on December 23, 2012 at 3:48 pm

      Mr Yosef Tekle! You believe in genuine law? Talk to American foreign policy law who has become “Law of the Jungle” under Susan Rice’ leadership in Horn of Africa that has become burden to Ethiopians & Eritreans and the rest in the Horn of Africa, by sabotaging the legally demarcated borders !

  5. temesgen kiflit on December 22, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    Can’t believe we are talking abour these idiots in the same breath of our government. Our goernment has stayed steadfast in all that’s been thrown at it. From unjust illegal sanctions, baised unproven accusations & just about anything you can think of in trying to break our government. NOTHING HAS WORKED!! These FEW, I MEAN FEW IDIOTS will NOT break us either. You want full names disclosed, ok, hello cowards I’m Temesgen Kiflit
    Live in Oakland Ca
    Born in Asmara
    Schooled in UMass
    shoe size 10 1/2
    No one is scared of you.

    • Aman on December 23, 2012 at 3:53 pm

      Thank you Temesgen Kiflit for your posting! How do we know this person’s name is his own anyways? These terrorists who dream to see Arab-Spring type destruction have forgot that the Eritrean people is behind our government who has made miracles in UN Millineum’s MDG goal and economic progress. Let them bark as barking dogs seldom bite!

  6. Arefaine on December 22, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    I doubt that Mark will ever re-interview Solomon and print the story how he and his group vandalized the Eritrean Community Center of Oakland. The Eritrean community knows the criminal that he and his fellow members are now that this incriminating evidence is out for the public to see. For him to preach democracy is absurd. In any case the only story that is fit to print in the west is a story that puts a negative light into the government and country of Eritrea. Otherwise, if they did their homework and write the reality of Eritrea they would find that 99% of Eritrean supports their government. Here in the diaspora or at home. Those who leave Eritrea do so for nothing but economic reason as people from Latin America, or India do migrate to other country.

    • Aman on December 23, 2012 at 4:01 pm

      Thank you Arefaine for your insight! Where were these editors when thousands of Eritreans marched in San Francisco on February 22, 2012 against the US imposed sancction that has become “Rule of the Jungle”?
      Eritrea under our government has become a leading successful development that no country has done before, despite the Us sabotage to not demarcate the borders between Ethiopia and eritrea so the youth will continue becoming frustrated and migrate to the West!
      Freedom, Justice, and Democracy to all!

  7. Tesfay Sebahtu on December 22, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    These are a bunch of political prostitutes who will never amount to anything. Speaking about them in the same breath as our government is an insult to the government and those who are working hard to rebuild the country. No one Eritrean believes that they will accomplish anything except make fool of themselves. But those who want to harm our beloved country will use them until they see that they are nothing but a collection of worthless thugs. Something we Eritreans already know.

    • Aman on December 23, 2012 at 4:03 pm

      Down with terrorist thugs in all forms!
      Peaceful and developing Eritrea will Never Kneel Down !
      Eternal Glory to our Martyrs!

  8. Adam on December 23, 2012 at 3:14 am

    You blind supporters are funny. Even though i don’t support the vandalism seen in the video, it is far from the big vandalism going on in Eritrea by the so called government you support. You are trying to divert the attention from discussing the issue mentioned in the article to the messenger. I don’t care who the messenger is, what i care is the content of what he is saying, which is true. We have a dictator at home, who is refusing to implement a rule of law.
    If you care about people breaking the law, why don’t you speak out against the dictator at home who is breaking the law everyday.
    You are defending a dictator who has implemented a never ending national service to maintain his power, can’t even provide a basic services like water, electricity, gas etc. He talks about food security when basic things like break is rationed.

    • Adam on December 23, 2012 at 3:36 am

      The real criminal is the dictator at home who is destroying thousands of young peoples lives. As the government supporter your mouths are shut when many of brothers and sisters are dying everyday because of the criminal at home. In Eritrea today, as we all Eritreans know every one between the age of 18 to 50 is part of the never ending national service. One is forced to live with 600 Nakfa per month, which can’t even cover the basic needs for a youngster let alone for a family. Ask yourself why so many young people are fleeing the country everyday?. As many people saying it is better to day trying than the daily humiliation of not able to support your family at home. Is it really necessary to keep everyone in the national service?. Can’t we have a better mobilization plan in case of war instead of keeping everyone in the slavery project?. Or what about if every year around 20 thousands new recruits enter the national service, the government frees up 20 thousands who have been in the service for a while?. Why is the government afraid of its own young people?. I strongly believe that the dictator doesn’t want the young people in Asmara because of his failed economic policy he can’t provide them a job and at the end the frustrated young people in the cities will revolt against him sooner or later. This is the only reason to the never ending national service. Those of us who have severed in the national service knows who ineffective it is and doesn’t add any value to the development of the country.

      • massawa on February 12, 2013 at 8:30 pm



    • Aman on December 23, 2012 at 4:10 pm

      Wake up Adam! Learn where Eritrea has reached. Learn about its economic progress it is deading towards. Learn about UN Millineum’s 6 out of 8 MDG goals that Eritrea is praised for. Learn what Eritrea has become in defeating Famine while the US supported Ethiopia is still in famine mode! You want too end “dictatorship” in Eritrea? Demonstrate against US Susan Rice’ led “International Community” who is back tracking from implementing the “Final and Binding” legal verdict in hoping that Eritrea will disintegrate by creating anarchy!

      Barking stray dogs seldom bark but Eritreans under our visionary and hardworking government will Never Kneel down!

      • massawa on February 12, 2013 at 8:29 pm




    • temesgen kiflit on December 24, 2012 at 11:06 pm

      Our government isn’t providing water???electricity??? gas???????? REALLY, What are you reading??? OR MAYBE NOT READING. CATCH UP!!

      • massawa on February 12, 2013 at 8:24 pm






  9. selam on February 7, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    the demonstration in okland was amazing you made the point. so please display the video recorded in that day.

    Dictator Isayas wedi medhin berad can not lead our country and eritrea does not belong to issayas , Because he is fully ethiopian (agame) that is why he let us got on terrible. he should be gone , eritrea is for eritreans.

  10. massawa on February 12, 2013 at 8:17 pm


  11. massawa on February 12, 2013 at 8:21 pm




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