Isaias Afwerki is an Eritrean politician who has served as the country’s president since May 1991, when he led the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front to victory in the 30-year-long battle for independence from Ethiopia. A new article looks at his portrait. This article by Faisal Ali and Mohamed Kheir Omer is published by Democracy in Africa. Here is an excerpt:
Isaias Afwerki has never faced an election in the three decades he’s led his country. He tends not to mince words about why this is the case. Isaias cannot stand to take a mandate from the people as that will limit his powers. He believes his stewardship is necessary to safeguard the integrity of the young republic he believes he steered to independence. He doesn’t do it for fun or glory, as he explained in a rare personal interview in 1996. Isaias said he “dislikes” politics, but views it as a sacred “duty.” “Whenever justice is missing in a society, it always grates on you,” he said.
This calling, he explained, has come at a tremendous personal sacrifice, forcing him to put aside his own personal, artistic and literary pursuits to lead his nation. “I do not like the life of a politician,” he continued, “I don’t even like to live like a president.” Given that’s the way he feels, it should come as no surprise that by all common understandings of what these roles entail, he doesn’t do politics, nor does he live like your regular president. At the age of 62, Isaias told a visiting German parliamentarian in late 2008 that he is healthy and expects to live another 40 or 50 years, during which he hopes to continue to lead his country.
The mere suggestion that he needed a mandate from the Eritrean people took him by surprise when a journalist fielded a question about when polls might be held in the country. “What elections?” Afwerki brusquely responded combatively before launching a seemingly unrelated diatribe against the United States. “We will see what the elections in the United States will bring, and we will wait about three or four decades until we see genuine, natural situations emerge.” “Maybe more, maybe more, who knows,” he said with a chillingly straight face.
Read the full article here.