By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
October 22, 2011 (ADDIS ABABA) - Two Eritrean rebel groups on Saturday claimed they had killed 12 and wounded 15 government soldiers in a two hour joint military operation.
“Joint military units of Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization (RSADO) and the Eritrean National Salvation Front on 20 October 2011 launched surprise attack against military intelligence units,” the rebels said in a joint military communiqué.
Launched under ’Operation Democratic Change,’ the rebels said the assault was carried out in Kermed, Adi Metras, Ingra Abo, Adi Tela’a and Meshal Akran localities of the Afar region of the Red Sea nation.
The rebels said the causalities were all members of military intelligence units of President Isaias Afewerki’s brigades of the 27th Division.
A large amount of military hardware was also destroyed and various types of weapons captured by the joint forces, Sudan Tribune was told.
On a daily basis, hundreds of Eritreans flee the country to neighboring Sudan and Ethiopia due to enforced military service, lack of religious and press freedom and high unemployment.
Since Eritrea became independent in 1993 it has been a one-party state. Rebel groups in neighbouring Ethiopia say that the authoritarian regime’s increasing tendency to target young people and minor ethnic groups, like the Afar and Kunama, has led them to intensify their struggle to overthrow the current government.
Communities in the area where Saturday’s fighting took place have long suffered from flagrant human rights violations due to the oppressive policies of the regime, the joint rebel communiqué stated.
“Specifically, up on Eritrean Red Sea Afar area, there is a serious violation of international humanitarian law such as breaching of security rights, due process rights, liberty rights, political, equality social and welfare rights”.
RSADO has long accused the Afewerki-led government of having a genocidal policy against the Afar minority in Eritrea. Following the 1998-2000 bloody border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, members of the Afar tribe in Eritrea have been suspected of having secretive relation with Afar people in Ethiopia. They claim that Asmara sees them as “friends of the enemy.’’
The attack was in retaliation to “the oppressive practices of the regime against innocent Eritreans and the youth in particular,” RSADO spokesperson, Yasin Mohamed Abdela in Ethiopia told Sudan Tribune by telephone.
He vowed such military operations will be stepped up, until the current rule in Asmara is toppled and democratic change is achieved.
The two political organisations called upon peace-loving Eritreans to join in the ongoing struggle against the dictatorial regime.
Meanwhile the Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization (RSADO) in an annual summit it held in Semera, a town in Ethiopia’s Afar region, condemned “the murder, torture, rape, disappearances, expulsions, forcible confinements and aggression,” by the government against the Afar nationals in the country.
The Semera declaration reaffirmed commitment to establish with all Eritrean nationalities, a liberal democratic federation based on the principles of freedom, autonomy and equality for all nationalities.
”We declare that it is the solemn will of the Afar people to participate in a reformed Eritrea on the basis of these principles: the rule of law, democracy, the equality of each nationality and each nationality shall exercise the rights of self-government and self-determination in a federated autonomous region.”