Eritrea: UN employees not spared from recent round ups
ASMARA, 11 Nov 04
(AFP) - Eritreans working for the UN Mission in Ethiopia and
Eritrea (UNMEE) have been included in a roundup in Eritrea of people said to
have avoided military service, an UNMEE spokeswoman said Thursday in Asmara.
"Some Eritreans from UNMEE staff have been included in
the recent roundups," spokeswoman Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte told a press
conference in the Eritrean capital.
"It happened in the region of Barentu (West), where a
few have been released, but others remain detained," she added, pointing
out that such roundups occur regularly in Eritrea.
"It is not the first time that Eritrean UNMEE staff
have been caught in these roundups. We sent a letter (to the authorities)
sometime ago explaining the rights that the local staff have and hope those
rights will be respected," she stressed.
Last week, a big roundup led to a riot in an Eritrean prison
which killed some 20 people, said several sources, including diplomats in
Asmara, who asked not to be named.
Asked about these deaths, Eritrean Information Minister Ali
Abdu had told AFP, without giving further details: "I can't say there were
Several young Eritreans, who also asked not to be named,
told AFP last week that "these roundups started in 1998."
"They were severe during the war. Since 2002, they had
been declining, but right now they're increasing. Soldiers go into offices,
houses, stop cars, taxis, buses, and ask for identity cards," they said.
The round ups have been interpreted by some diplomats as
proof of a complicated relation between UNMEE and the Eritrean government,
which might be responsible for the recent replacement of the current
intermediary between UNMEE and Asmara.
Asked on Thursday about this replacement, the UNMEE
spokeswoman said: "We have just been told that Colonel Zecarias Ogbagaber
will replace General Abrahaley Kifle, and at the moment we haven't read
anything more into that."