At the so-called Eritrea Festival in Gießen, Hesse, police said there were riots in various parts of the city in western Germany. There have been massive attacks on police officers by throwing stones and bottles. Smoke bombs were detonated and fences were torn down, the police said. 22 emergency services were injured.
There were also fights. The police used pepper spray and batons. At least 60 people were taken into custody. The police had been preparing for the arrival of potentially violent opponents of the event for days.
The festival is considered controversial because of its proximity to the East African country’s government. Already in August last year, there had been riots with injured visitors and police officers at the previous event.
The Central Council of Eritreans in Germany is the organizer of the cultural festival and expected around 2,500 visitors on Saturday and Sunday. The city of Gießen had initially banned the festival due to security concerns. This was overturned by the Gießen administrative court. According to the police spokesman, the festival is “a cultural event” that celebrates Eritrean culture and traditions. “It is a peaceful and family event for everyone.”
One-party dictatorship in East Africa
However, allegations had already been raised last year that money was to be collected there to support the regime. Eritrea is located in East Africa on the Red Sea and has around three million inhabitants. It is largely isolated internationally.
President Isayas Afewerki has ruled in a one-party dictatorship since independence from Ethiopia, which was won 30 years ago after decades of war. Other parties are banned, freedom of expression and freedom of the press are severely restricted. There is no parliament, independent courts or civil society organizations. In addition, there is a strict military service and forced labor system, from which many people flee abroad.
uh/hf (dpa, afp)