Dutch ban Eritrean youth congress after ‘incidents’

A police officer stands guard in Nijeberkoop, in the north of the Netherlands, in this May 14, 2016 file photo. (AFP)
Updated 14 April 2017
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Dutch ban Eritrean youth congress after ‘incidents’

THE HAGUE: Dutch authorities have banned a youth congress of Eritrea’s sole political party after protests erupted at the conference center where the meeting would have taken place.
“Public order and security cannot be adequately guaranteed at the moment,” authorities in Veldhoven, in the south of the Netherlands, said in a statement.
Local police said on Twitter they made “dozens of arrests” on Thursday after “incidents” in front of the conference center where the congress would have been held from Friday to Sunday.
The mostly Eritrean demonstrators blocked the center’s entrance after a call to “prevent the conference” was launched by former Eritrean Finance Minister Kubrom Dafla Hosabay on his Facebook page.
The Dutch government had earlier voiced concern over a visit to The Netherlands by an Eritrean presidential adviser to address the conference, saying it found the situation “awkward, since a top Eritrean official will be addressing Eritreans who have left their country.”
Yemane Gebreab, adviser to Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, had been due to address some 650 members of the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ).
According to the youth movement of the PFDJ, the congress would have been the 13th such event held in Europe, which aims to persuade “young Eritreans to become more active in serving their communities and the interests of Eritrea.”
Eritrean refugees make up the second largest group of refugees taken in by The Netherlands in recent years, after Syrians, and some have voiced fears of being intimidated.
In 2016, the Dutch took in some 2,800 Eritreans, some nine percent of all refugees welcomed into the country, according to the official Dutch asylum-seekers’ organization.
The University of Tilburg said many of the 20,000 Eritreans now living in The Netherlands still feel intimidated.
Eritrean organizations here “report on people who are not loyal to the regime and... make sure that this is known so that measures can be taken,” said Van Reisen.
Back home “people are punished. They do not get food vouchers. They are fined. They are put in prison. So their lives are really made impossible and very miserable.”
Isaias’ regime is accused of jailing thousands of political prisoners since he came to power in 1991 in the Horn of Africa nation, one of the world’s poorest countries.
No general elections have been held since the ex-rebel Marxist leader took power after a three-decade independence war against Ethiopia.
The UN last year estimated some 5,000 Eritreans were risking their lives every month to flee the country, making them one of the largest contingents of people risking dangerous journeys to seek a new life in Europe.


Modi secures a second five-year term with landslide win in Indian elections

Updated 6 min 13 sec ago
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Modi secures a second five-year term with landslide win in Indian elections

  • Narendra Modi becomes first Indian prime minister in 40 years to return to power with a majority
  • Election results are a big blow to Rahul Gandhi-led opposition Congress party

NEW DELHI: India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday scored a landslide election victory, increasing its seats in Parliament after a bitter and divisive campaign.

The results amount to a massive blow for the 133-year-old Congress Party, which dominated India’s political life for more than 50 years after the country gained independence in 1947. Narendra Modi has made history by becoming India’s first prime minister in the last 40 years to be re-elected with a parliamentary majority.

The BJP on its own is expected to have a little over 300 seats in the Lok Sabha (lower house), more than it had in the outgoing chamber. The ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA), of which the BJP is a part, will have nearly 350 MPs in the Lok Sabha.

The Congress Party is expected to finish with just 55 seats, albeit 11 more than its 2014 election tally. By most projections, the Congress-led opposition alliance will not even have 100 seats. Congress Party President Rahul Gandhi suffered a major personal setback in the family borough, the constituency of Amethi in northern India, where he lost to a Modi Cabinet minister. But Gandhi won his second seat in Wayanad in the south by a big margin. 

“I concede defeat and congratulate Prime Minister Narendra Modi for winning the elections,” Gandhi said on Thursday. He has offered to resign from his post in his party’s most powerful organizational body, the Congress Working Committee, but political analysts say it is highly unlikely that his resignation will be accepted.

The margin of the BJP’s victory has come as a surprise to many, with the party not only retaining its seats in the battleground states of northern and western India, but also expanding its footprint in two eastern states: West Bengal and Odisha. “Together, we’ll build a strong and inclusive India. India wins yet again!” Modi tweeted after the results showed the BJP sweeping to victory.

Shashi Shekhar, a New Delhi-based political analyst, told Arab News: “This is a phenomenal election victory that has stumped all the pollsters. The BJP was expected to face a big challenge from the opposition alliance in some of the crucial states, such as Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, which together account for 128 seats. But it seems the narrative of muscular nationalism propagated by the BJP overcame all challenges. There’s a now a genuine fear that if the BJP continues with its old policy of marginalizing religious minorities, India might turn into a majoritarian state. However, I hope Modi’s second term turns out to be more inclusive.”

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Sudheendra Kulkarni, a Mumbai-based political commentator, said: “The Congress Party failed to capture the imagination of the people. The party’s slogans didn’t click with voters the way the BJP’s did.”

Against this backdrop of an imminent decisive win, Modi began to receive messages of congratulations from world leaders on Thursday. Among them was Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. “I congratulate Prime Minister Modi on the electoral victory of BJP and allies. Look forward to working with him for peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia,” Khan tweeted.

In his second term, in addition to addressing economic problems at home, Modi will need to keep a close eye on relations with neighboring Pakistan. Bilateral relations remain tense months after they came close to war following a deadly attack in Indian-administered Kashmir on paramilitary soldiers, and an Indian air raid deep inside Pakistan.

“There’s no alternative to dialogue,” said Kulkarni. “We should expect that with a renewed mandate (for Modi’s government), there should be a fresh attempt to engage with Islamabad.”