At the beginning of September, an Eritrean cultural festival was planned in the Bern suburb of Worb. However, the parish canceled the promise for the event. This because there was a protest rally against the festival in the room. The background is a conflict between opponents of the political leadership in the East African state of Eritrea and the organizers of the festival, who are described as pro-government.
The festival in Worber's Rüfenacht district should have taken place on September 1, as reported by the "Aargauer Zeitung" on Tuesday. Pictures of the Eritrean army were emblazoned on the invitation and in Tigrinya it was written: «Victory for the people! Eternal memories of our heroes!».
Eritreans in exile in Switzerland expressed dissatisfaction with this festival, which is allegedly backed by Eritrean circles loyal to the government. "These are slogans and pictures of our dictator at home!" the newspaper quoted an Eritrean refugee named Elyas as saying. The newspaper changed his name.
Demonstrators against festival
Elyas and his friends forwarded the invitation to other refugees and they quickly found around 150 people who wanted to demonstrate against the festival in Rüfenacht, as the "Aargauer Zeitung" continues to write. The group tried to request a rally.
The Mayor of Worber, Niklaus Gfeller, confirmed the cancellation of the festival on Tuesday. The rejection letter from the parish states that the parish was informed of the announced demonstration by the Worb police department. The parish then canceled for safety reasons and because the location would not have been suitable for a festival plus a counter-event, Gfeller explained.
There have been similar Eritrean cultural festivals in the past, also in Switzerland. Recently, however, protests against it have increased. Opponents of the cultural festival demand that Switzerland should find out more about who is behind such events.
Not the first demo against cultural festivals
As long as the regime in Eritrea is in power, it will try to influence and put pressure on Eritreans in exile.
Demonstrations against the cultural festivals have taken place in several places in Europe and overseas in recent weeks. In Giessen, Germany, for example, the police had to register in large numbers, and there were injuries. Riots also broke out in Stockholm and people were injured during the protests.