Eritrea’s government is not prepared to alter its controversial national service programme.
Many of the country’s youth have left as a result of the prolonged service period with several others threatening to leave the country if nothing is done about the duration of the programme.
“I left Eritrea because of the regime in general but I left especially, because I was in the army for three years. I did not see that they were going to release me, I was supposed to have finished my military service in one year and six months. And also the treatment in the military, it was very bad as we were working for the commanders. I was cooking and washing clothes for the commanders,” Tsige Gabrehiwist, an Eritrean migrant said.
The country’s youth between the ages of 18 and 40 years are expected to serve as soldiers or civil servants for 18 months. But the government says continuous threats from Ethiopia has left it with no alternative but to prolong the national service.
“… in the event of war then anybody and everybody eligible can be mobilised again. What has happened is we have had war, people are mobilised for the war. We had a peace treaty, we signed the peace treaty, but the peace treaty has not been implemented,” Yemane Ghebremeskel, Eritrea’s Information Minister said.
Some Eritreans interviewed by Reuters have promised to go back to the country when the situation changes because of love for their families, country and culture.
Eritrea’s Information Minister agrees that the youth are fed up with the situation.
“Migration, I would not say is going to be totally stopped because of the measures that we have taken. But I am sure this is going to have a significant impact on the number of people who would migrate from the country,“Ghebremeskel said.