Thirty days to the day, Eritrea’s dictator Isaias Afwerki re-appeared on state TV to counter rumors that he is seriously sick or dying.
Heavily made up and wearing an over-sized short-sleeved shirt, light blue pants and sandals, the relaxed-looked Eritrean president was animated in his condemnation of the myriad of enemies who “disseminate cheap fabrications.” He attributed their motive to “destituteness, panic, frustration and consternation” at Eritrea’s rapid progress.
His last appearance was on March 28, 2012.
By way of introduction, the Eritrean dictator explained that he had been out of the country the “last week” and that when he returned, he had been engaged in a 14-hour expedition from the edges of Gash Barka [Western Eritrea], to Afabet, Gulbub, Massawa, and “had breakfast in Gahtelai.” When he returned to Asmara, he went to sleep because “I love to sleep” and that “when I woke up at 7:00, I wasn’t fully awake, Saba [his wife] told me that there is news.” He said that he wasn’t fully awake and did not pay much attention to the “news” [the rumors about his health] until the news spread.
“I don’t follow the internet and I don’t have a mobile phone,” claimed Isaias Afwerki.
“I have no sickness, I am healthy, but because the rumors are repeated…but you can’t chase the wind [or] follow those who are mentally deranged [and spread news]… and people should wise up. If you ask me, ‘are you sick?’ I would say, my illness is in the mental derangement of others.”
He said that those who think this is “psychological warfare” should know that “everything has been tried in the last 10 years.”
The 30-minute interview was conducted at the presidential palace in Asmara.
When the interviewer, State TV reporter Suleiman Osman Abbe asked him to explain why, if he was healthy, he didn’t make an appearance on national TV, the Eritrean strongman said that his expeditions had increased and that not every travel he is engaged in should appear on TV.
This was followed by a lengthy diatribe about how the world is dominated by “9 or 10″ media corporations, how the world of “brainwashing and advertising agencies” work, and how the people should “wise up” to attempts to make them sycophants.
Isaias Afwerki further explained that he can’t appear on TV every time there are rumors of his health and that the only reason he is reappearing on TV is because the rumors about his health were relentless and that he felt an obligation, “out of respect for the people.”
It is not clear why he felt respect for the people 30 days to the day and not earlier when his disciples were in a state of panic about the rumors.
According to Gedab News sources, Isaias Afwerki’s descent into depression started on March 17, 2012 when Ethiopia attacked Adi Tekhlay and Sheshbit. He called a meeting with his military officers to discuss the Ethiopian incursion and angrily announced, “we have been disrespected!” In the meeting, he proposed counter offensive but his officers showed reservation citing Eritrea’s readiness after which he abruptly ended the meeting he had called and stormed out.
A binge drinker, Isaias Afwerki is known to disappear for days and lock himself in a place and engage in heavy drinking. Suffering from a liver ailment, Isaias was sick and suffering from alcohol poisoning and rushed for medical attention–thus his travel “outside the country.”
On Monday, Eritrea’s Minister of Information, Ali Abdu, stated that the president does not need to appear to refute rumors and that he was as fit as a fiddle. In an interview with the BBC, Ali Abdu said that the rumors by the enemies, [including the CIA], were intended to create chaos in the country. But if there was a reason for fear of the stability of the country, it took the president one month to appear and assure the people that everything was alright.
Pressure from the diplomatic community in Eritrea and repeated questions from the supporters of the regime forced it to bring the issue to an end. The regime’s embassies and consulates had been pressuring it to refute the rumor because they saw drastic drop in the 2% tax collection because those who pay stopped paying thinking the Isaias Afwerki regime was no more.
The recent rumors caught the Eritrean opposition off guard and reminded the regime’s supporters that Isaias is mortal and will die someday.