Eritreans hunted down for avoiding military call-up

Eritrean authorities have intensified military mobilisation and are hunting down draft dodgers across the country, as the war in neighbouring Ethiopia escalates, multiple Eritrean sources have told the BBC.

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.

They spoke on condition of anonymity as Eritrea is a highly restrictive state that controls almost all aspects of people’s lives.

Eritrea has sent troops to help the Ethiopian government against forces from its northern Tigray region, which borders Eritrea.

“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.

Checkpoints have been set up along major roads, and widespread searches are taking pace in cities and villages.

In the capital, Asmara, round-ups are being carried out on the streets while in many rural areas, the authorities have sealed homes, confiscated cattle and harassed relatives if a wanted person is not found, the BBC has been told.

The BBC has contacted the Eritrean government for comment.Last month, Information Minister, YemaneGebremeskel, said that a “tiny number” of reservists had been called up, denying that the entire population had been mobilised.

The almost two-year-long war in Tigray and neighbouring regions has been described by some analysts as bloodier than the conflict in Ukraine. But there has been less media coverage of it as the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments have heavily restricted travel, and communication lines to Tigray have mostly been down.

The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which controls the region and is leading the fight against Ethiopia’s government, has also embarked on a mass mobilisation campaign to bolster its forces. This follows the collapse of a five-month-long truce in August and the failure of the African Union to get peace talks off the ground.

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”. -BBC

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