Saturday, November 18, 2006

Issayas Afeworki’s auxiliaries
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1202 18/11/2006

After ousting all those who could stand up against him, the Eritrean President is now governing on his own, with only a handful of his staunch supporters from the country’s one party as his advisors.

President Issayas Afeworki has never taken much heed of the advice of his entourage and is acting more and more on the basis of his own opinion. His handful of advisors are all very loyal members of the executive of the country’s single party, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ). Some of them were born in the former Agame Province, now part of the Tigray Regional State in the north of Ethiopia. The spokesman and general secretary of the presidency, Yemane Gebremeskel is the Head of State’s closest collaborator: he lived in the United Kingdom before the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF, ancestor of the PFDJ) came to power in Asmara and had an insignificant role during the struggle for national liberation. The same is not the case for Yemane Gebreab, the PFDJ’s official in charge of political issues and Afeworki’s advisor on the same subjects. From Agame and very religious in his childhood, he studied in the United States where he joined the student wing of the EPLF before being sent to the front in Eritrea where he has always been loyal to Afeworki. He is so discreet and reserved that his opponents nastily call him “Yemane Monkey”. His mother, a Tigrayan called Adey Gabriela, owns a small shop at Adwa in the north of Ethiopia.

The present Eritrean Minister for Defence, Sebhat Efrem, is the de facto advisor on security matters and shares Afeworki’s liking for drink. After studying at the Asmara Evangelical Lutherian High School, he opposed Afeworki in the 1970s during an internal split within the liberation movement. But since their reconciliation, he has been a staunch supporter. Another of Afeworki’s advisors from Agame, Hagos Gebrehiwot, has been nicknamed Kisha (bag) because he is the Head of State’s main funds raiser and financier. Without any formal qualifications, he is a veteran of the EPLF and has always been loyal to Afeworki. As for Amare Tekle, Afeworki’s advisor for foreign affairs, he has spent the majority of his time in the United States for the last few months. He has dual nationality (American and Eritrean), is a graduate of the University of Denver. Since then he has always been an apologist for the Asmara regime at the United Nations.