Showing his true colors: A despot speaks

by Scott A Morgan

Although not widely seen on the internet, a Swedish TV Channel had an interview that was both interesting and revealing. The Network TV4 had a show featuring Eritrean President Isayas Afewerki and some of the statements were stunning.

Eritrean family crossing a street in Asmara. This is perhaps the only country in Africa where people cross the streets at the right place!

Eritrean family crossing a street in Asmara. This is perhaps the only country in Africa where people cross the streets at the right place!

Eritrea’s relations with the rest of the world can best be described as tenous. It fought a war of liberation with Ethiopia. After gaining its independence in 1993, a line of demarcation was drawn that left neither party satisfied. To this date, tensions are still simmering along that border. Relations with Djibouti are also strained as Eritrean troops have occupied a small area of that country.

Another area of contention is the status of press freedom in Eritrea. Since private media was banned in 2001, several journalists were thrown into secret prisons without being charged or tried. There have been high profile cases of journalists such as the late Fesshay Yohannes who died in Custody. In 2004 President Afewerki stated that he did not know Mr. Yohannes.

When pressed for information about the status of Dawit Issac, an Eritrean journalist with Swedish citizenship, the President said that he didn’t know what crime was committed. He also said that “he did something bad.” In the lexicon of Eritrean politics that can be seen as saying anything that goes against President Afewerki.

Another statement President Afewerki made was interesting. Afewerki claimed that there were no actual private media outlets in Eritrea and that those media outlets were financed by the CIA. This is not the first time that President Afewerki has claimed that the US Government is working to undermine his government.

More often than not, this claim has centered around Somalia. It seems that every so often, the UN or the US claims to have evidence that Eritrea has been supporting the insurgency in Somalia. The UN often rescinds the claim but rarely will the US do so.

It seems that whenever any leader has issues with human rights or democracy in general, they blame the United States. That always seems to be the rule for hiding whatever abuses are being committed. Blaming the US leads to resentment of the US for intervening in internal affairs.

Another area of concern that the US has with Eritrea is over freedom of religion. Relations with Iran will also place Eritrea on the radar in Washington as well.

There is a saying that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Having people put in prison because they did not write anything about you is a sign of absolute power. As a hero who liberated a country, one would not have thought Afewerki could use such tactics while in power. Sadly, on achieving power, despotism reigns once again.

The Author publishes Confused Eagle on the internet and comments on US policy towards Africa. It can be found at

Picture by Eric Lafforgue


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