Eritrea: The Madness Of King Isaias Afwerki
“In views the President expressed regarding the confidential secretes [sic] leaked by the Wikileaks online network, President Isaias noted that the issue is not something surprising. “For some countries, diplomacy means lies, intrigue and hegemony, and as such an exposure of this type only demonstrates concrete evidence,” he elaborated. The President underscored that the dissemination of the entire secrete [sic] documents would lay bare the ploys resorted to in the guise of diplomacy.” -www.shabait.com, 12/28/2010
As reported by shabait.com, the mouthpiece of Isaias Afwerki, the above quote was said in an interview with Libyan media whose main thrust was: Eritrean-Libyan relations are “special and historical.” The reference to wikileaks is meant to serve two purposes: (a) to describe the damaging information disclosed about him in wikileaks as the malicious work of Americans and (b) to serve as a pre-emptive strike to denounce all future damning reports about him.
Nice try. But it won’t work with anyone except the most devout worshipers within his cult. Let’s address both.
Is It All The Work Of Americans?
Ever since Isaias Afwerki achieved prominence, there has always been talk that he suffers from some sort of mental disorder. Some of the most recognizable symptoms of mental illness are severe mood swings, irritability, inability to differentiate between real and imaginary worlds, delusion and paranoia. Those who know him well spoke of this EVEN WHEN AMERICA CONSIDERED HIM ONE OF AFRICA’S GREATEST GIFTS AND LAVISHED ON HIM UNDESERVED PRAISE. Therefore, the reputation of his madness does not stem from America, but from his own behavior.
In the wikileaks reports, it is not just the American ambassador who provides a profile of Isaias Afwerki as an “unhinged” man. It includes the Qatar ambassador to Eritrea—and lest we forget the Emir of Qatar is the godfather of Isaias Afwerki, providing him and his family with jet planes and other bribes. It includes the Chinese Ambassador to Eritrea—and, lest we forget, China is the biggest trading partner of Eritrea. It includes a German parliamentarian. It includes the former Force Commander of UNMEE. It includes the Foreign Minister of Djibouti. It includes his own bodyguard who defected to Ethiopia. It includes ordinary Eritrean businessmen frustrated with his insane policies.
The American ambassador says that Isaias is a “narcissistic dictator” and concludes that “he is paranoid.” He says that “Isaias has an aversion to talking on the telephone and frequently sleeps in different locations to foil a coup or assassination attempt. During the winter months he spends most of his time in Massawa rather than in Asmara.”
The Qatari ambassador to Eritrea says that: “When dining in restaurants, Isaias will often switch plates with a subordinate, apparently to avoid being poisoned.” The Chinese ambassador to Eritrea, who had been a recipient of Isaias’s occasional outbursts of how China had turned its back against Maoism, said that while in China, “Isaias had learned all the wrong lessons.” The UNMEE Force Commander said that “Isaias thinks the United States will attempt to kill him by missile strike on his residence in the city of Massawa.” Narrating the story of how Isaias Afwerki started a war with Djibouti in 1994 while the Eritrean Foreign Minister [then Petros Solomon] was in Djibouti negotiating peace, the current Djibouti Foreign Minister, Youssouf, says: “This man is a lunatic.” A German parliamentarian said that he was told by Isaias in late 2008—when Isaias was 62 years old—that Isaias Afwerki “expects to live another 40 or 50 years.”
This was around the time that the tyrant Isaias Afwerki told Al Jazeera TV that Eritrea will have democracy and political pluralism in “3 decades, 4 decades, maybe more.”
The former bodyguard to Isaias Afwerki defected in Dubai to Ethiopian officials and said of his former boss: “Isaias was a recluse who spent his days painting and tinkering with gadgets and carpentry work. Isaias appeared to make decisions in isolation with no discussion with his advisors.”
Isaias shut down the Cultural Assets Rehabilitation Project (CARP), a World Bank-funded initiative to declare Asmara a cultural heritage center, because the book “Asmara: Africa’s Secret Modernist City” did not adequately thank him. [For the entire drama of Isaias Afwerki and the pettiness of his lieutenants and how the funding of the project came to a standstill, refer to this Wikipedia page.]
Isaias, who, if his media is to be believed, tours the country dispensing “agricultural advice” to Eritrean farmers, does not know the difference between cherry tomatoes and roma tomatoes: his wife planted cherry tomatoes and Isaias was wondering why they were so small. “When the legal advisor explained that they were cherry tomatoes and were supposed to be small, Isaias lost his temper and stormed out of the venue, much to the surprise of everyone, including his security detail.’
Isaias considers imprisoning people indefinitely as an act of kindness and generosity on his part. When a visiting American celebrity asked about the fate of those arrested without charges for years, Isaias glared stonily at her and replied, “Would you like me to hold a trial and then hang them?”
So, no, it is not just the country which craves hegemony (code for the United States) which thinks that Isaias Afwerki is a nut case. The whole world does. And those who don’t always know that he is, sometimes learn a bit late — as the Ethiopian website and its readers which named him “Man Of The Year” a couple of years ago and is now pleading about the whereabouts of its missing heroes, is slowly learning the same lesson when he finally comes after them. They are writing respectful letters of appeal–but how do you reason with a mad man? As our Ethiopian Amhara neighbors say: “mkerew mkerew: embi kale mekera y’mkerew::” (loose translation: those who won’t learn from repeated advice, will learn from bitter experience.) Yes, indeed.
Is Isaias Afwerki’s pre-emptive strike effective?
It should be noted that all the wealth of information disclosed—new to the world, but old news to many Eritreans—is only a tiny fraction of the wikileaks that is anticipated to be dumped. What has come out so far about the madness of King Isaias is only from about 6 cables filed by the American ambassador to Eritrea and the American ambassador to Ethiopia. Hundreds of these cables, going all the way back to the 1930s are now out in the public—on cue, waiting to be released. They will be more not just in quantity, but in quality–the information they reveal—and they will come from countries and individuals that Isaias Afwerki considers his allies. All his accusations against his political enemies that they are “spies” will be revealed for the empty charge that it is, and the boomerang will hit him on his diseased head. Some true believers think that the wikileaks will reveal information about “CIA spies”, etc in the opposition. They will be disappointed–but then, because they share the same paranoid state of mind as their idol, they will find some reason to explain it. The only one who will be revealed to be a tool is Isaias Afwerki.
Isaias knows that far more damaging information about him will be released. And he is following the two-step process all criminals use: step 1, insist there is no evidence against you; Step 2, when the evidence is found, insist that it is planted by corrupt law enforcement officers because they have animosity against you. This, by the way, is what we expect will happen exactly in regards to the work of the committee investigating the allegation that Isaias Afwerki has been arming, training and financing Somali terrorists (Alshabab) in Somalia. The UN committee will meticulously compile and assemble overwhelming evidence that Isaias Afwerki is guilty as charged: and Isaias and his disciples will insist that it is all “fabricated” evidence.
Will this work? Unfortunately, to the devout worshippers of Isaias Afwerki, this is more grist for the mill—the more compelling the evidence, the more confirmation that their poor idol is surrounded by enemies but that he perseveres nonetheless. But to those who are able to exercise independent judgment and use their brain, it will be one more chink in his armor. We always knew the emperor has no clothes. But now it has been confirmed, with more confirmation to come, that he is not well. Pity Eritrea that there are no mandatory medical examinations for heads of states.