Police have charged five people after last weekend’s riot in Bergen that involved Eritreans who both support and oppose Eritrea’s government. It was a relatively rare case of external conflicts flaring up in Norway.
The violence prompted rapid mobilization of police forces in Bergen, with all available officers including those off-duty called in. There were no serious injuries, partly because a busload of Eritreans arriving from other parts of Southern Norway was turned away.
The riot erupted after an Eritrean organization wanted to mark the 30th anniversary of Eritrea’s separation from Ethiopia. Other Eritrean refugees in Norway viewed any support for the anniversary as a show of support for Eritrea’s government, which has been described as one of the worst dictatorships in the world.
Professor Torkel Brekke of Oslo Metropolitan University wrote in newspaper Aftenposten this week that Norwegian authorities must be prepared that such conflicts “can be imported” but it’s unusual. He questioned whether Norway’s culture of open debate and freedom of expression provide “security vents that take the air out of potentially deadly conflicts,” but thinks more research on the issue is needed.