Update: Fourth Front ‘Revenge demonstration’ calls on Eritreans across Europe to join Netherlands demonstration

A pro-Eritrean government group referring to the ‘Fourth Front’ or 4G has announced a demonstration with military character in the Netherlands on 16 October to “take revenge and be compensated for our disrupted festivals,” as announced in a message on Facebook. A poster circulating on social media states the location as The Hague, but the organisers call on Eritreans across Europe to join. A full translation of the message to announce the action has been included below.

Translation of the invitation
Good news for our victory!
On 16-10-2023, a peaceful demonstration is planned in the Netherlands. It is a change to move from theory to action and all of Europe needs to participate: Forza, Savoya Fourth Front. We need to take revenge and be compensated for our disrupted festivals. No-one can stay home. If EPLF Mendelay (Eri-Mekhete heroes) attacks and paralyses the waslata-TPLF, they will be useless. The Fourth Front, to fulfill its role in a grand manner, will enjoy its victory without a doubt!

Terms used: The ‘snakeversus the ‘liar’
In the invitation, pro-democracy Eritreans that have been opposing the festivals by pro-government Eritreans are called waslata-TPLF [Tigray People’s Liberation Front]. This translates to TPLF-liars. The TPLF is the party which ruled the Tigray region in Ethiopia at the time of the Tigray war, in which Eritrean forces, alongside Ethiopian forces, committed widespread human rights violations when they invaded Tigray. The invitation therefore compares Eritreans with Tigrayans, while also painting all Tigray people as liars, and suggesting that Tigrayans have been the ones disrupting festivals.

On the other hand, the invitation calls back on Eritrean history by referring to the pro-government Eritrean forces as ‘EPLF [Eritrean People’s Liberation Front] Mendelay’. The EPLF was the name of the current Eritrean government party, People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), during the independence war with Ethiopa. ‘Mendelay’ is a poisonous snake – the Eritrean army refers to itself as ‘Mendelay’.

Concerns from the diaspora
Eritrean refugees and diaspora members fear that this demonstration in fact refers to a military action, and that it means the opening of the ‘fourth front’ in the Netherlands, which they fear could lead to threats or worse. In Israel, where the ‘fourth front’ first become well-known, two Eritreans have died so far in attacks by Eritrean regime supporters.

The Fourth Front
Pro-government Eritreans refer to the diaspora’s role in the “fight of Eritrea’s development” as the fourth front, abbreviated as 4G. The Eritrean Ministry of Information called the Fourth Front the “pride of the country”. They state that “Eritreans living abroad have a culture of reacting quickly to opposition against their people and government” and that by instilling political awareness in the masses, it has become a powerful force. Pro-democracy Eritreans have increasingly linked references to 4G to violent movements and militia, including Eri-Blood, Eri-Mekhete and Eri-Hadelibi. Pro-government Eritreans referring to 4G have now announced a demonstration in the Netherlands on 16 October, most likely taking place in The Hague, in which pro-democracy Eritreans fear violence might be used.

The invitation to the event states that the demonstration is a chance to move “from theory to action” and calls upon pro-government Eritreans all over Europe to participate. The invitation states that “If EPLF Mendelay (heroes of Eri-Mekhete) attack the liars of the TPLF [Tigray People’s Liberation Front] and paralyses them, they will be useless.” It goes on to announce that the Fourth Front will be victorious. The message accuses Eritrean protesters of being Tigrayans, and accuses Tigrayans of being liars.

Attacks on Eritreans in Israel and Ethiopia
In Israel, particularly in Tel Aviv, groups associated to 4G have already been accused of killing two people. After over 150 people were injured during clashes at a pro-government festival in the beginning of September, the violence has continued. Following the events, videos and pictures spread of members of the Eri-Mekhete militia carrying guns and participating in training in preparation for violence. On 30 September, an Eritrean man was stabbed to death and around a dozen others were injured in an attack reportedly committed by pro-government Eritreans. In separate attacks, another Eritrean in Tel Aviv was killed, and two other Eritreans hospitalised.

In addition, it is reported that at least one Eritrean was killed after being beheaded in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, while another Eritrean was stabbed, states Asenna TV. It is reported that the brutal attack is suspected to have been committed pro-government Eritreans. Images and videos from other places, such as Denver, United States, also appear to show pro-government Eritreans bringing guns to protests.

Letter to the mayor
Now pro-democracy diaspora members fear that violence and militia activity propagated through the ‘fourth front’ could spread and lead to further violence against Eritreans abroad. The Eritrean diaspora organisation Organization for Eritrean Human Rights Defenders have written to Dutch authorities asking for the demonstration announced for 16 October to be cancelled, warning that it is in fact part of a military action organised from Eritrea, and that the event incites violence.