I was reading some postings about the recent Acria student’s demonstration in Asmara when I remembered what my father had told me some years back about a similar incident that happened in Eritrea almost 60 years ago! He had told me that he was imprisoned in the same Asmara prison (Karsheli) in 1958 during the student unrest in Eritrea.
Students from Haile Selassie Secondary School in Asmara had demonstrated in front of the Ministry of Education branch in the capital ostensibly to complain against the then director of the school. In the ensuing days the demonstrations turned violent when students who had boycotted classes destroyed property in the school and beat up some students who had defied the boycott.
My father told me that the students then tried to hold a meeting in the outskirts of Asmara but the meeting was disrupted by police on horseback. By then it became clear that the student movement was politically motivated. Another poignant anecdote that my father told me was when students marched along the main streets of Asmara all the time being escorted by the police who did not use any violence against the students (sounds familiar?).
The students were led by the police towards the Karsheli Asmara prison. The police opened the main gate of the prison to allow the students to enter peacefully. The students spent one night in the prison and kept themselves warm by burning the doors of the prison cells.
They were released the next day after their parents signed some sort of paper vouching that they will be responsible for their children’s conduct. And now we hear that the Acria school students were incarcerated in the same prison! The current regime in Eritrea is using the same tactics that the Ethiopian rulers used in the fifties. Sometimes I wonder. Dictators use the same tactics to stay in power but eventually they all fall.