(GIN) — Long-held grievances between anti- and pro-government Eritreans exploded in the streets of Stockholm this past week during an annual festival of Eritrean culture that drew thousands.
Eritreans who oppose President Isaias Afwerki tore down tents and set cars on fire, according to the Swedish newspaper Expressen. The protesters then marched toward the festival grounds, pushing past police cordons and using sticks and rocks as weapons.
“Between 100 and 200 people have been detained,” said Swedish police spokesperson Daniel Wikdahl. A significant police presence is still at the scene and investigations are underway, he added.
Sweden is home to tens of thousands of people with Eritrean roots.
According to the local Nyhetsbyrån Järva news site, the Festival Eritrea Scandinavia has long been criticized for its connections to Afwerki’s government.
Human rights groups describe Eritrea as one of the world’s most repressive countries. Since winning independence from Ethiopia three decades ago, the small Horn of Africa nation has been led by Afwerki, who has never held an election.
The festival began in the 1990s but was suspected of accepting millions of kronor (Swedish dollars) from the Eritrean government to hold the event.
In previous years, demonstrations against the festival were held by the Dawit Isaak Campaign, a group named after the Swedish-Eritrean writer who has been imprisoned in the country in appalling conditions, without trial, since 2001. Isaak, winner of Unesco’s Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, is being held incommunicado, without access to his family or lawyers, according to Reporters without Borders, because he did his job as a reporter and covered the political debate in Eritrean society 16 years.