Inform, Inspire, Embolden. Reconcile!

The Snake & Its Skins

When we set out compiling this report, which took about nine months of research, we considered organizing the principals along their functions and responsibilities. We would create a directory for ministers and directors; one for governors, and another for military commanders. But to do so would imply that there is structure and organizational chart in the government. In reality, there is none: there is Isaias Afwerki, and then there is everybody else. He is indispensable, and everybody else is disposable. He is the snake, and the rest are its skin—that he sheds seasonally, and only he knows when the season begins and when it ends.

There was a time in the not-too-distant past that even Isaias Afwerki, before he became an all-powerful dictator, had something and somebody he was accountable to. There were periodic—if always irregular—organizational congresses that required answers. There were central and executive committees made up of his peers—people who started out the journey with him and people who occasionally stood up to him. There was a hierarchy of sorts and everybody knew who reported to whom and why it was improper to bypass protocol.

But now Isaias reigns supreme—the last party congress was in 1994, 15 years ago and the party is now stacked with total yes-men.  There is no parliament, rubber-stamp or otherwise. Isaias bypasses his defense minister to speak to his operational zone commanders, and he bypasses them to talk directly to division and brigade commanders. Can anyone say that there is a coherent organizational structure in Eritrea when the military commanders do not report to the defense minister? Where a chief of staff—Yemane Gebremeskel, a man who has never been elected to any post by anybody ever—is more powerful than the military commanders? Where a secretary and an-all purpose fixer—is even more powerful than above-mentioned Yemane? A country where a minister is a person without a portfolio begging the president’s office for the ministry’s budget which, incidentally, is never published and never audited?

So, there is no structure, no accountability, and no power centers outside the presidency. Everyone serves at the pleasure of one man, the self-appointed president, and what pleases or displeases him is impossible to say.

Thus, the only way to list these entirely disposable men and women is alphabetically. Because any other listing would imply that there is a structure, and there is none.  This is not to say that these men have no power; on the contrary, many of them have too much power.  It is to say that their power can be switched on or off by Isaias Afwerki at his sole discretion.

One more thing: we chose the title because we believe it is the most descriptive. And also because we think the runner-up, The Star and Its Constellation, was too much of a compliment to the snake.

This report will be updated regularly.

Abdella Jaber From the time he joined the PLF from the Massawa area, circa 1972, until 1987, when the EPLF had its second organizational congress, he was a low-level functionary, mostly assigned to the department of news, culture and propaganda and part of the cultural troupe of the Fitewrari (vanguard) at Fah (then the capital of EPLF.) After independence, and specially after the third congress (1994), he skyrocketed to the position of Director of Organizational Affairs of the PFDJ, surpassing not only his peers but the old guards also. He is one of the second-generation leaders who have made it to the top. Hardly in Eritrea now, he travels a great deal and was very instrumental in the Eastern Sudan and Darfur negotiations representing the PFDJ.
Abrahaley Kifle Brig. General. A graduate of Bahr Dar Technical Institute, he joined the ELF in 1973. He was jailed after he shot Dr. Fitsum and was later acquitted and appointed political commissioner of the ELF. He was an instigator of the movement known as Falul (Anarchists) within the ELF. Later he abandoned the ELF and joined the EPLF. He wasa co mmissioner and liaison officer of the UN border committee. Abrahaley had been close to the G15 but betrayed them and engaged in the regime’s campaign defaming the G15.
Abraham Andom Solomon (Afan) Brigadier General. Chief of Eritrean Police Force. He is a member of the clique in Asmara. A tough man with an unflattering reputation. His name is mentioned in any version of story of the death of the businessman Fikre and the assassination attempt on Colonel Simon and the death of Samson the “civil general” who died in a shootout in the environs of a monastery in Maimine.
Alamin Mohammed Said He attended school in Addis Ababa. He was a veteran of PLF and he co-chaired the Information Department with Hale Drue (G15) for a long time and functioned as a member of the preparatory committee in every organizational congress with the political brain of the EPLF, Dru’e. He was a frail person in 1977. After the 2nd Organizational congress he was appointed as chief of foreign relations and was posted in Paris, France. He was then transferred to the field and was reassigned to the Information Department. After Independence he was relegated as secretary of the PFDJ a sort of a recycle bin for him. Ever since that time, he was frustrated and with no political clout. Most of the ins and outs of PFDJ maneuvering was actually done by Isaias through Yemane Gebreab and Abdella Jaber. Finally he suffered from a complication of heart attack and hypertension and diabetes and is being medicated in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.
Ali Abdu Joined the EPLF in 1977, when he was 14. Became an operator of Isaias Afwerki in Anberbeb. He was a relatively unknown person until the time after Independence when he finished a journalism course (distance learning) with the London School Of Journalism. He was appointed as Vice-chairperson of the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students (NUEYS) when Shengeb chaired it (he has since defected) and deputy to the Ministry of Information (under Beraki Habteselasse G-15, now arrested), and Naizgi Kiflu (now “retired” for health reasons.) Ascended to the top post of the ministry, though his title is “acting minister” he has full authority of a minister. When he was with NUEYS, he had a huge picture of Isaias Afwerki in his office, this was considered “counter-revolutionary” idol worship by the Old Guard, but he was unapologetic and explained it as no different from American government offices hanging pictures of Bill Clinton. In any event, this practice did not hurt his meteoric rise in the government, and it surely contributed to the elevation of Isaias to his current demi-god status. Smart, ambitious, but totally dedicated to the service of Isaias Afwerki, and his ministry of information functions as Isaias Afwerki’s Public Relations office.
Amanuel Libanos (Wedi Libanos) An ex-commandos (Israeli trained anti-insurgency units) in the Haileselassie and Dergue era, he joined the EPLF in 1977 and became a driver. He rose within the hierarchy all the way to the middle echelons of the party. Currently the chief of a police station in Asmara .
Amanuel Ljam (Wedi Ljam) Arden servant of the regime, he was a cadre and a member of the “Revolutionary Guard” (the internal spying network) for almost all his field life. Now assigned to the Sports Commission, his job is to collect the passports of all team members and to prevent cases of defection.
Ambasajer Another member of the President’s Office but in a lower position. He screens all complaints about housing or personnel conflict issues that interest the president.
Amna Nurhussein Minister of Tourism. Joined the EPLF in 1975. After independence, she worked briefly as head of CERA. She is now the Minister of Tourism—an office that exists in name only.
Arefaine Berhe Joined the EPLF from America at the end of 1975. He was assigned to the Cadre school in Menteble where he stayed utill 1984 when he became chief of the research center in Himbol. After independence, he worked in various capacities until he became the Minister of Agriculture. He is one of the few who is not a member of the central committee and is yet a minister.
Askalu Menqorious Chair of National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW). A tough lady, she joined the EPLF with her husband Dr. Biemnet (died in 1976.) She worked for a long time in Jelhanti as deputy of the late Mohammed Saeed Bareh. Later, she was assigned deputy to Paulos Ba’atay, chair of the Eritrean Relief Association (ERA), now a dissident. After liberation, she became head of NUEW and was tough on the issue of demobilizing women fighters and came to a head on collision with Isaias Afwerki on the subject. This led to a series of demotions, resulting in her current role as Minister of Labor and Social Affairs and the former tough and blunt woman, the Iron Lady, is no more. She is now an ardent loyalist who demurs to Isaias on everything.
Asmerom Gherezghiher (Hawi Bichir) Brig. General. A popular veteran since earlier times (the sixties), he was part of the EPLF’s Central Committee, until the First Organizational Congress of 1977 when he “didn’t get enough votes.” After the congress, he mostly functioned as a member of the Military Committee and later as Chief of Protocol. In 1988, he was appointed as head of The Property commission, another downward move. After independence, he was assigned as administrator of Akeleguzay province and later of Anseba Region. He was briefly frozen and was disappointed with Isaias Afwerki, to the extent of airing his grievances publicly. He was finally assigned to his current position, Chief of Logistics, and given the rank of Major General.
BBC Known by his nickname, no first name available: An ex member of the artillery division and now working as chief judge in the military court in Paradizo.
Berhane Abrehe Joined the field in 1975 and worked in the Department of Agriculture until 1986 where he became a member of the Higher Commission on The Economy, a four-person committee chaired by General Ogbe Abraha (G15).
Berhane Ghebrehiwet (Qebr we’it) Joined the EPLF in 1976 and became a member of the Department of Trade. When the Commission of Finance absorbed the department, he became its accountant and auditor. After independence he became chief of treasury in the ministry of finance. Appointed as chief of the Inland Revenue in 1997, attended a 1-year course on fiscal policy in the USA. After his return, he was appointed as head of the Housing and Commerce bank owned by the PFDJ.
Berhane Tsehaye (Wedi Tsehaye) A veteran fighter, he was teased by his colleagues in the field for his highest education level: second grade. He was demobilized in 1994 and was assigned to the customs department. He worked in a role that the Italians called “Guardia Della finnansa” (known locally as Flansa.) He had a dispute with Haile Woldensae Drue (later the foreign minister-G15) in 1996 and was frozen for about a year. Finally he was implicated in a corruption scandal and is now in deep freeze, despite his attempts to be noticed by denouncing the G-15 as fifth columnists and traitors.
Debesai Haile Joined the EPLF in 1975 from Russia. A learned person but called by all who know him as the” lamp in the pot” because he never used his education properly. He holds a junior post in the Department of Transportation.

Has a shortened leg from a hip injury sustained in combat and he was relegated to the disabled garrison in Jelhanti and eventually to the Transportation Department.

Debessai Ghide Joined the EPLF circa 1975 and quickly built a good reputation. Assigned to the mechanized brigade and worked in the artillery and anti-aircraft units. Eventually became a brigade commander. Died in 2005 when his Landcruiser was ambushed in the Gash-Setit zone. Eritrean armed opposition were blamed for the incident.
Debessay (Debeb) Colonel. Joined the EPLF in 1975 and served in the military training department. He currently serves an identical role in Sawa as chief of the training camp.
Desu Tesfatsion the former manager of “09” (Red Sea Trading Corporation), he owed his success in the organization to his friendship with Isaias Afwerki. Conversely, he owes his current status (in prison) to his lack of tact and antagonizing of the PFDJ bosses including Hagos Kisha, Alamin Mohammed Said and Abdella Jaber whom he dismissed collectively as having far less revolutionary credentials than he—which included fedayeen operations in Asmara in the 1970s. He lived large bestowing expensive gifts on friends—while ignoring the PFDJ alligators. Soon enough the brass fabricated a corruption issue and hastened the arrest of all 09 staff en masse, including Desu. According to people in the general auditor’s office, there was no discrepancy in the current or fixed assets of the 09 corporation except that there were some benefits the members received form some clients etc (kickbacks) but Dessu was sentenced to 12 years in prison and the payment of around 100 thousand Nakfas. But friendship with Isaias has its privileges: after six years in jail, Dessu exited the prison through the back door and will finish the remaining six years under “house arrest”—and his house is a villa near the Sunshine Hotel.
Estifanos Haile Berhane Joined the front around 1978, as a pre-teen. A member of the young fighters who functioned as messengers of Isaias Afwerki in Amberbeb. After independence, he still continued as a functionary in the President’s Office and was promoted to the rank of a Lt. Colonel. Estifanos is the younger brother of Dr. Mekonnen Haile, an EPLF combatant who died in dubious circumstances—during the Eritrea-Ethiopia border war, he was shuttling between Asmara and Sawa. In one of those shuttles, his helicopter crashed and he, along with 20 others (including Wedi Mokie) died.
Eyob Andemariam (Eyob Manjus) Once a taxi driver in Addis Abeba, he joined the EPLF in 1975 and soon became chief of an operation station, and eventually a region. He was also chief of operations for the Transportation Department. Now he is chief of the PFDJ owned Gemel Transport service. He is too ill to run the day-to-day operations. Related to Estifanos Seyoum (G15).
Eyob Fishaye  (Halibay) Joined the EPLF in 1973. Spent five years (1995-1999) in prison for allegedly embezzling combatants pay. Now he is in charge of allocating housing to combatants and he has become an important person because everybody runs to his office to beg for a decent house. His wife is a chapter director of the National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW.)
Ezra Weldeghebriel Functioned as “Debeb’s” deputy since Sawa’s inception. Now the chancellor of Mai Nefhi College of Technology. Known for his administration of the college as a military institution.
Fanuel Formerly a member of the fuel depot sector but now acting head of the transportation department.
Tesfamichael (Wedi Hawelti) A military man turned bureaucrat after independence. Deputy to the chief of PFD-owned Gemel Transport, which runs the minibuses of Asmara.
Fitsum (Wedi Memher) Brig. General. In charge of the navy. Has all the personality traits of General Wuchu without the infamy.
Fozia Hashim She joined the EPLF in 1976 from high school She functioned as a political educator in the military training camp for female youth and later transferred to the NUEW and was posted in the Sudan. Fozia became the mayor of Agordat for a brief period and surprisingly appointed to the post of minister of justice.
Ghaim Chief of the security in the secretive White Hotel, which is located between the Kfle Hagher and Albergo Keren (formerly Albergo Italia.) Another veteran of Brigade 72, he is a senior officer in the state security apparatus.
Ghebrai Zer’e Joined the EPLF in 1976 and was assigned to the Transportation Department, and rose to become the head of the Technical Section of the department. Briefly imprisoned after independence (reason unknown) and after his release he was assigned back to Transportation Dep’t where he reports to his former subordinate, Weldu Barya.
Ghebrekidan (Wedi Mney) Brg. General. Director of Immigration. A very decent person, by reputation. He is praised by all for his justness. A good manager, he has streamlined the visa process, eliminated the process bottleneck by authorizing the “Agelglot” to approve most of the requirements. Now, exit visas are approved within 2-3 days. Of course, this applies only to those who are “eligibile to travel” which excludes all military-conscription age folks. General Ghebrekidan is looked at suspiciously by the local administrative units (M’mHdra n’us zoba)—an all powerful, corrupt and bureaucracy obsessed bullies.
Goitom Menghistu Frozen and recycled many times, he is now the Activities Director of the Eritrean Defense Force (information and agitation department), in charge of EDF’s sports, publication, and cultural shows. His office is at the old Kagnew Station camp.
Grezgher Andemariam (Wuchu) Maj. General. A former favorite of Isaias Afwerki, he was discredited after he created turmoil in Asmara by imprisoning people on groundless basis. He was even intimidating the foreign delegations when he had chance encounters with them at big hotels or super markets that they frequented. He has been transferred to Barka and has kept a low profile ever since his protégé, “Civil General Samson” failed to kill Colonel Simon Gebredingil.
Habtetsion Hadgu In detention for more than six years now, he was the chief of the ERAF (Eritrean Air Force.) He was an outspoken person who, true to pilot traditions, was a risk taker: his arrest is reputed to be a case of speaking in anger to Isaias Afwerki and calling him “agame.”
Haddish Efrem Chief of operations in the Dankalia zone. His name is often mentioned whenever there are rumors of Eritrea arming Ethiopian or Somali opposition.
Hagos Gebrehiwet (Kisha) He joined the EPLF in the mid-seventies from the USA where he was the EPLF’s representative. For the last ten years, Hagos has been in charge of the PFDJ’s economic giant that monopolizes transport, communication, construction, manufacturing, trading, agriculture, shipping, money transfer and countless other interests of the PFDJ.
Haile Muhtsun Doctor. A former university student and naturally a protégé of Mussie Tesfamichael and Yohannes “John” Sebhatu the brains behind the 1973 reform movement, soon named “MenkaE” and liquidated, Dr. Haile was rehabilitated but unused for the rest of the 1970s. His star started to shine in the 1980s and he spent most of his revolutionary career as chief of the Department of Health. After the rise and fall of the G-15, he gained prominence and became chief of the Reserve Army. Working out of his office at Taba (near ENAIL Hospital), Dr. Haile keeps his counsel and nobody knows his real intentions.
Haile Samuel (China) Maj. General. Commander of Southern Red Sea (Denkalia) Zone: Joined the EPLF from Mendefera in 1975. He was a mediocre person till 1982 after which he became a protégé of Ogbe Abrha. Eventually, he was assigned to Halhal as deputy commander of the famous military strategist Wedi Flansa. His real job was not to learn from the master but to spy on him. Samuel is a typical vessel who cannot talk his mind and only repeats what his mentor Sebhat Efrem says. He did not distinguish himself militarily, His job requires him to be in Assab but he spends most of his days in Asmara overseeing the construction of his villa, located in prime area (Mekane Hiwet Hospital.) The villa is worth more than 8 million Nakfas and it was handed over to him as compensation for his long quiet service. There is no operation or success that he is famous for.
Hfun Brig. General. One of the heroes who saved Assab from Ethiopian occupation during the Third Offensive in 2000 when he disobeyed Isaias Afwerki’s order to evacuate and reposition to Massawa. He told Isaias that the only way that Ethiopia could occupy Assab was by stepping over his dead body. This story told and retold, and corroborated by many to be the truth, made him into a national hero—earning him the immediate and everlasting enmity of Isaias Afwerki. It reminded people that Isaias is a novice when it comes to military strategy and tactics.
Issa Ahmed Issa Currently the ambassador to Sudan, Issa first arrived there as a cadre of mass organization working under Wedi Fitewrari. He worked as undercover agent of the security. Issa became head of the EPLF office of Ghedaref and later Kassala. He worked as consular head in Khartoum.
Kahsai Ghebrehiwet Joined the EPLF after graduating from the USSR in 1981. Assigned to the manufacturing Commission and reported to Tesfay Ghebreselasseie aka Tesfai China, the current Minister of Energy and Mining. He was transferred to the Civilian Administration and assigned to the environs of Qohayin where he originates from to win over the people and resist Wedi Slansa, a local leader of the Ethiopian militia. After Independence, he was made chief of the now-defunct Meringhi Glass factory. When the G-15 emerged and Mesfin Hagos, then the administrator of the Southern Zone became a signatory, Kasai Ghebreihiwet became the administrator. He matches Mustafa Nurhussein in his high praise of Isaias Afwerki—to an extent that at one public meeting he went so overboard even Isaias said, “you are inflating!” When General Philipos and Mustafa’s conflict could not be reconciled, Isaias “solved” it by having Kahsai and Mustafa switch jobs in administrating the zones of Gash Barka and Southern.
Kibreab Formerly a member of the Engineering Corps and later posted in the commission of Finance as chief of the Bank of the Masses (hafash.) After independence, he became an administrator in the National Bank. Ever since Tekie Beyene, the Governor of the Bank, was removed from his post, Kibreab has been the acting director of the bank.
Kubrom Dafla Joined the EPLF in 1976. He was sent to Lebanon as a junior officer after he completed military training. He was later transferred to Italy. He ran the clandestine EPLF companies in Italy and headed PFDJ’s Himbol Currency Exchange and Transfer (Hawala) until he returned to Eritrea in 1996. In 2003 he became the chief of the Inland Revenue System (after the arrest of Brigadier General Estifanos- G15.) He had been successful in the businesses that he headed until he was made the chief of the Eritrean Airlines where he failed spectacularly.
Mehari Kidane Currently a public prosecutor for the military court at Paradizo. He joined the EPLF from Italy in 1975 and held a variety of posts in various departments including Mahmimet (training camp). He was in the anti-aircraft units in Fah until be joined Brigade 31 and was made the Political Commissar of Division 96 in the Halhal front. Limps due to a critical injury he sustained in his ankle in the front lines. Has a reputation for being a brilliant person.
Melaake Teclemariam (Wedi Fitewrari) Whereas Teame “Meqele” is the invisible man moving under various aliases, Wedi Fitewrari holds legitimate titles within consuls and embassies. He is engaged in special operation of the presidential office. He made his mark in Port Sudan, Kassala and Sawakin, in all the wet jobs perpetrated by the EPLF in the Sudan.
Musa Rab’a A veteran fighter, he joined the front (when it was still the PLF) from Port Sudan. He was stationed with the fighting forces in Nakfa for a long time, until he was assigned to People’s Affairs in 1978. In the recycling bin since 2002 for his collaboration with G-15 (he signed the document and then withdrew his support.)
Negash Ghirmatsion (Shaleka) He was formerly with the Ethiopian Dergue regime and defected to the EPLF after the Berlin negotiations. He is now head of military intelligence.
Nguse Ghirmai Joined the EPLF in 1976, and was a True Believer for a long time. Even when he held minor posts (radiator welder or fixer); he had a knack for oratory and passion for Marxism. Naturally, he rose fast through the party hierarchy. He was eventually posted to the mechanized Brigade as an engineer and to the navy in late eighties. He traveled to Italy often, as a Purchaser. He no longer seems to have the enthusiasm for endless praise of the Front (“Wdbna”) and seems to be disgruntled with the regime.
Omer Tewil Maj. General. Commander, Southern Zone: A man with a weakness for alcohol and the company of easy women, Tewil is based in Mendefera. Has had several cases of drunk driving accidents.
Philipos Weldeyohannes Maj. General. Commander, Maekel Command Zone: Formerly in Barka, switched with Wuchu to Zoba Maekel where he functions as security head. His unit is responsible for every imprisonment in Asmara and environs. The military prisons include the ones at Adi Abieto, Mai Sirwa, Serejeqa, Mai Edaga and Track B. The latter is an underground prison which used to detain about 200 nationals caught while trying to cross the border to Sudan or Ethiopia but those have now been dispersed, and Track B now has a few senior party echelons. In addition to the central zone oprations, Philipos is also in charge of the Eritrean Defense Forces in Akele Guzay area: consequently, the feud between him and Mustafa, the administrator of the region, has lit up again.
Riesi Mrak Brig. General. When people fear a post-Isaias Eritrea, they have in mind people like Riesi Mirak, a very dangerous and foolhardy person who, when given power, was rounding up women, children, priests, indiscriminately. He is now based in Massawa.
Ramadan Awliay Maj. General. During the armed struggle, Ramadan used to be in charge of the mechanized division. After independence, his first assignment was as ambassador to Syria, but he was denied accreditation by the Syrian government. This led to a series of posts with increasingly diminishing returns: he was made chief of the Eritrean Navy, which was followed by an assignment to the Special Court, and now chief of the Sports Federation. Scrupulously honest, he actually returns any unused money from his per diem allowance when travelling. This, coupled by his lack of tact or education earns him a “fara” nickname from the sophisticates of the front. By all accounts a Yes Man to the dictator.
Ramadan Mohammed Nur Co-founder and first Secretary General of the EPLF. The EPLF was a merger of three organizations made up of disaffected Eritrean social groups who had grievances against the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF.) They were Christian highlanders (PLF2), Muslim tribe of Obel from the Gash area (“Obeleen”) and the Muslims from Semhar, the Red Sea region (PLF1.) Ramadan and the late Sabbe were the leaders of the latter group. Ramadan was elected the Secretary General of the EPLF in 1977, at the party’s organizational congress—a post he would retain until the second congress ten years later. But everybody knew who was the real power in the organization—including every journalist who went to the field to interview not the Secretary General but his deputy, Isaias Afwerki.

This ruse lasted until the second organizational congress of 1987 when Isaias bluntly told his comrades that the party should eliminate the post of deputy secretary general. “Continue to elect Romodan—but he shouldn’t have me or anybody as a deputy. Elect me—and I won’t need a deputy,” was the message. The fact is he was always interfering in Ramadan’s work while he was the deputy, by the time he wanted to be the chief he did not want any interference from a deputy which could have been a hotheaded Ramadan Mohamed Nur. Ramadan was then relegated to the newly established justice department in Hishkib. After Independence he was appointed Administrator of Dankalia and for a brief period as minister of justice with Adhanom (G15, exiled) as attorney general. But, finally at the ill-fated third organizational congress he resigned under duress from all official posts in the PFDJ or the government. In fact it was Isaias who said Ramadan should be sacked. Thanks to Petros Solomon’s and Haile Woldetensae’s (Duru’e) interference in the matter, he was told to say that he wants to resign due to old age. What really happened was, Duru’e and Petros opposed Isaias in the sense that the EPLF will be a historical folly and a black spot for the front to sack such a personality and it would be much better if it should look as if he resigned willingly in a face-saving way. It was really a shocking affair and a betrayal of unparalleled proportion.

The demoralized Ramadan became a layman. He is occasionally used by the PFDJ for ceremonial purposes. He was pro-G15 and gave an interview in that tone and said: “Change is good there is no development without change.” Later when saw how the wind was blowing against the G15, he withdrew without any fanfare.

Sebhat Efrem General. Cunning, opportunist, timid, vacillating, a proud Machiavellian and great public speaker. A former student of Addis Abeba University, he joined the front with Bruno, Berhane Gherezghiher, Ogbe Abrha, Petros Solomon etc. He was a Political Commissar in the Bileqat Training Camp which was followed by an assignment as Battalion Commissar until the 1st Organizational Congress when he became head of People’s Affairs (Jamheer.) After the martyrdom of the legendary Ibrahim Afa, Sebhat was made chief of the Standing Military Committee, the front’s de facto Minister of Defense. After independence, he was Mayor of Asmara, later the Minister of Health, before he was shuffled back to the military as the Defense Minister following Mesfun Hagos’s resignation from the post. During the G15 movement, he played the role of a double agent: he met with the G15 and provided daily reports to Isaias Afwerki about their plans. This was Sebhat’s second betrayal: he was also implicated in Menka’e (a reform movement of the 1970s which was liquidated) but recanted after Isaias approached him.

But a betrayer is not trusted even by beneficiary of the betrayal, Sebhat is paying for it: he is “Minister of Defense” in name only: all the generals talk only, and report to, Isaias Afwerki.

Selma Hassen, Administrator of Anseba Region. Relatively unknown, her background includes a brief assignment as chairwoman of Eritrean Airlines. She kept low profile for several years while she studied in USA.
Semere Rusom A teacher by profession, he went to America and became a member of the mass organizations (hafash wdbat) there. From there he joined the EPLF after 1975. He is what the combatants call a “four bullet combatant”: those who went to Mahmimet for military training, fired four bullets and were then re-assigned to non-military service. Worked in the Sudan as mass-organizer and security man and stayed there until 1991 and assigned to Ministry of Foreign affairs. Later appointed ambassador to the USA. Recalled to Eritrea and briefly worked in the American desk in the MoFA. He then became the administrator of the Central Region and currently is the Minister of education.
Senait Asghedom (Gala) Joined the EPLF in 1975 and was a member of the Revolutionary Guard. She is now the chief of the rehabilitation section in the prisons. In 2002, she attended the University of Asmara via a scholarship program funded by UNDP.
Simon Gheberednghl Joined the front in 1975, and assigned to brigade 72 until independence. After the dissolution of Brigade 72, he was made chief of the Criminal Investigation Department and was instrumental in the detention of the G15, particularly the former boss of Brigade 72, Petros Solomon. The assassination attempt on his life in October 2007 has left him almost incapacitated and he is not the dynamic and efficient person he used to be.
Tecle Kiflai (Manjus) Maj. General. Chief of the border Defence units of the national security apparatus. All the Ethiopian and Sudanese opposition groups are within his area of responsibility.
Tekeste Haile (Wedi Haile) A valiant fighter during the liberation era who rose to position of brigade commander. After independence he was assigned as a judge in the central regional court. He went to Italy for medical treatment but never returned to Eritrea and is now in Milan, Italy. Disillusioned and unlikely to return.
Tekeste Tesfamariam (Wedi Bashai) He was a member of the 51st brigade in the eighties, assigned to the Revolution School (Bet Tmhrti Sewra) after he was injured until around 2000. He is now the Ambassador to Israel.
Tekie Russom (Blata) Formerly a battalion commander in the mechanized brigade, later assigned to the navy with Maj. General Ramadan Awliay. He currently is the vice president of the Sports Federation which is headed by Ramadan Awliay.
Teklai Habteselassie Maj. General. Chief of the Eritrean Air Force, married to Lu’ul Gebreab, who heads NUEW, the women’s organization. Formerly in charge of the ground forces in Keren, he was placed in charge of Sawa military training camp. He assumed the position of commander of the Airforce when the previous commander, General Habtesion was arrested (and held incommunicado) in 2001.
Tesfaldet The unofficial secretary of the president. Believed to be more powerful than the President’s chief of staff, Yemane “Charlie” Gebremeskel, who himself is believed to be more powerful than all the generals. Tesfaldet is responsible for all clandestine affairs the president engages in, and is in control of everything that goes around and within that office.
Tesfalem Ghaim Now a judge in the military court, he is a teacher by training and joined the EPLF in 1976. Assigned to the antiaircraft unit, he was wounded in the leg but still continued in the antiaircraft units of the mechanized Brigade untill independence. Considered an independent-minded and a straightforward person.
Tesfankiel Gherahtu He joined the filed in 1975. Another “four bullet combatant,” he was assigned to the People’s Affairs department (Jemaheer.) During the First Offensive of 1978, he was stationed in Keren when it was retaken by the Derg, he was sent to the handicapped center inside Sudan because he had hearing problems. He was later assigned to the curriculum section in the Revolution School where he stayed until he was transferred to South Africa, where he alienated the Eritrean University Students and is now Eritrea’s Ambassador to the UK.
Tewelde Qelati Mayor/Administrator of The Central Region. Joined the EPLF in 1975 became a driver with the transportation section. Later he became head of regional operation of transport. He was finally assigned to the EPLF navy in 1980 and continued there until 1995 after which he was assigned as head of the Eritrean shipping lines. In 2007, he became the mayor of Zoba Maekel. No bad thing is heard from this person and most people consider him as an upright fellow who never drinks or goes out to bars or anywhere.
Tseghereda Administrator of Northern Red Sea Zone. Was given the post when he predecessor Maj. General Musa Rae’a was frozen following his flirtation with the G-15 (signed the letter and then recanted.) A former member of the NUEW, Tseghereda doubles as the mayor of Massawa.
Tsegu Fessahaye Joined the front in 1975 and served almost the entire time until independence in the security and intelligence unit (Brigade 72.) He was briefly assigned to the Religious Affairs department, but went back to espionage. Works out of a nondescript office in front of the Hotel Nyala.
Wedi Libsu Maj. General. Another Wuchu, but without the military exploits of Wuchu. He was always a third man in every front and many of the top generals give him the chance to socialize with them only if they want entertainment. After the Ethiopian Army penetrated the western front in the Third Offensive, he was briefly delegated to the recycle bin and later assigned as a third man in the Special Court. Now in bad health, he spends his days in Massawa.
Wedi Liqe Brig. General. A decent person, but rare to find him not drinking. Greatness seems to have bypassed him—was a general since the “agitation and information” days.
Weldu Ghebrekidan (Wedi Roma) Joined the EPLF in 1975 and was assigned in the artillery division. Moved to Brigade 72, where he served until independence. He is now deputy of Brig. General Abraha Kassa, chief of the national security.
Weldu Gheresus (Barya) Colonel. An Injection Pump Technician by training, Weldu joined the EPLF in 1976. By 1985, he was in charge of a branch of the Transport commission, then headed by the late Ahmed Ba’alkeir. Barya functioned in various levels in Mahmimet, Aghet, Merafit, Suakin and Himbol. He was transferred to the mechanized division at a tank repair garage at Etaro.

Shortly after Independence he was frozen and he ran a bar business for a while. During the 2nd Offensive (1999), he was approached by Wedi Mokkie , then in charge of EDF’s garage at Kagnew, and offered a position.

Weldu soon caught the attention of Isaias Afwerki for about six years (until 2006), the two were so close, it was rumored that Weldu was the Number 2 in Eritrea. He consolidated his office at Ashagolgol. He centralized all machinery that belonged to any ministry and the place almost seemed a center for the production of cars, trucks and heavy machinery. He even controlled the public works and the fishery. He travelled to Italy almost every two weeks on various pretexts. His brother is the commission agent of purchases done by Barya. Weldu Barya is a sadist whose default punishment to anybody accused of any crime is “Place Him In The Container” (ab container a’etiwo.) He has concentrated so much power and has no deputy or heads of sections in the vast bureaucracy that he runs. On the strength of his association with Isaias Afwerki (certainly not based on his title) Weldu is the equal or superior of every general and every minister. If a minister or a general wants fuel for his department, he or she has no choice but to go begging of Weldu Barya.

Yemane Badu Joined the EPLF in 1976 and climbed the promotion ladder very fast to become the chief of all garages and eventually became Deputy Director of the Transport Department under the tutelage of the late Ahmed Baalkheir. Yemane was allegedly implicated in a wide corruption scandal that included many cadres in the Transport Dept. He was sentenced to five years and after his release became a full colonel and chief of the ailing Eritrean Railways.
Yemane Fessahaye Berhe (Wedi Rig’o) Joined the EPLF in 1975 and was in the Revolutionary Guard until independence. After the end of the border war with Ethiopia, he was in charge of civilian defense and began to harass and detain people, impose a bar curfew and became notorious for his excessive measures. He once detained a senior official who was with a woman in a parked car. He was sent for an Interpol training to Europe and when he returned, he was arrested for having contact with the CIA which, in PFDJ parlance, meant a life or death sentence. Somehow, he was spared and given some inconsequential job somewhere in the bureaucracy.
Yemane Fessahaye Mietelka A long-time member of the military training department, he later became chief of the bodyguards in the President’s Office. He died in 2006-7 in an ambush near Haikota.
Yemane Ghebreab (Monkey) Joined the EPLF in the mid 1970s from the United States. A devout Marxist-Leninist, Yemane was a bookish person and was assigned to the Department of News and Propaganda where he caught the attention of Isaias Afwerki who wanted to place him on a fast track promotion. This, in the EPLF of the 1970s-80s, required two things: that Yemane (1) join the “secret party” (the labor party) and (2) get elected to the Central Committee, in theory the legislative arm of the EPLF. The latter was tricky as it required the consent of the rank and file. Yemane was elected to represent the combatants to the 1987 organizational congress, a fact so shocking that Alamin Mohammed Said kept demanding a recount until he was made to understand how things really work. There, he was nominated to be a candidate of the central committee member and had enough “votes” to join the CC. And thus his ascension to his current status as an “advisor” to the President and the ideological director of the ruling party, and the godfather of YPFDJ—the youth members of the party.
Yemane Ghebremeskel (Charlie) Joined the EPLF in 1991 from London and is reputed to be an intelligent person. He was first posted in an EPLF office but was later transferred to the Office of the Secretary General. That is the same post he has had whether Isaias was a Secretary General or a President. Yemane Ghebremeskel writes most of the statements that bear the seal of the Office of The President or the seal of the Foreign Ministry. (Isaias writes a few of his own, which never make sense.)
Yemane Tesfai Joined the EPLF in 1976-77, after he grabbed some money from the bank, where he worked as an accountant clerk. He was assigned to brigade 72 (military intelligence unit). In 1985 he was transferred to the Sudan where he stayed utill independence. After the dissolution of brigade 72, he became the Manager of the Commercial Bank of Eritrea.

awateteam@awate.com

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