Arbi Harnet (Freedom Friday) activists in Asmara confirms news that has been circulated by Eritrean radio broadcasts about the closure of hundreds of businesses across the city.

According to the activists it is unclear how many firms have been affected. The exact reason for the closures differs slightly from business to business.

bar AlbaAn activist, who was in contact on Monday, confirmed that :‘many of Asmara’s iconic landmark cafes and hotels are not open for business, this includes Bar Alba and Sweet Asmara Café (you can see the pictures showing that they are both shut in the middle of the day).

This is where ordinary people gather for coffee and chats.

In addition, some large hotels and resturants are also affected.

Median and Savana are the ones I can confirm. Restaurants like Golden Fork have also been targeted’.

Although the exact reason for the closures is unclear, the pretext seems to be ‘failure to follow financial regulations’.

Some are accused of hoarding their cash (rather than depositing it into banks) while others are accused of attempting to evade taxes.

However, the activists noted: ‘if they deposit their money they can’t have access to it easily as there are limits of 5000 Nakfa [per month] (about $330), and this includes their personal expenses’.

Businesses are required to carry out all other transaction by cheque or bank transfers, which are not convenient for many.

Remarking on the other potential reasons for the government’s heavy handed action Sweet Asmara Cafethe activist concludes: ‘this is clearly a measure to control people and their activities.

Financial activities are one aspect, but these are public places where people gathered and discussed many issues, including their grievances against the government and that could be the reason for all this.

It also shows that the government isn’t interested in promoting business or tourism in the country. Guests in these hotels had to evacuate with almost immediate effect.

No doubt those that had the means to do so would leave the country. Those who had been thinking of visiting visit will reconsider their plans’.