posted by : MALACHIAN
S E C R E T ASMARA 000543
DEPT FOR AF/EX AND AF/E
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/05/2010
SUBJECT: BIO NOTES ON ERITREAN PRESIDENT ISAIAS AFWERKI
REF: ASMARA 345 “IS ISAIAS UNHINGED?” ” ኢሰይያስ ዘይሩጉእ ኣእምሮ ዲዩ ?”
Classified By: Ambassador Ronald K. McMullen for reason 1.4(d)
(C) Summary: Isaias is an austere and narcissistic dictator whose political ballast derives from Maoist ideology fine-tuned during Eritrea’s 30-year war for independence. He is paranoid and believes Ethiopian PM Meles tried to kill him and that the United States will attempt to assassinate him. He is not notably nepotistic and has not favored his ancestral village or immediate family. This message includes some biographic tidbits offered as an addendum to USG bio information on foreign government leaders. End Summary.
(ኢሰይያስ ሕሉፍ ነብሰ ፍትወት ዘለዎ ዲክታቶር ኮይኑ ፖሎቲካዊ ስነ-ሓሳብ ድማ ካብ ማኦ (መራሒ ናይ ቻይና ነበር) ካብ ዝሓለፈ 30 ዓመታት ዘጥረዮ ኢዩ። ኢሰይያስ ዘይ ሩጉእ የእምሮ ኢዩ ዘለዎ ፡ መለስ ክቅትሎ ከምዝፈተነን ከምኡ ድማ ሕቡራት መንግስታት ኣመሪካ ክትቀትሎ ክትፍን ሙኻናን ኢዩ ዝእምን። ፖሎቲካዊ ስልጣን ንበተሰቡ ሓለፋ ዘይ ህብ’ዩ ከምኡ ድማ ሞቦቆል ዓዱ ኮነ ናይ ቀረባ ቤተሰቡ ኣይፈትወምን ኢዩ።)
(C) Aiming for 112: Isaias, 62, told a visiting German parliamentarian in late 2008 that he is healthy and expects to live another 40 or 50 years. He said he hopes to serve his country as long as he is able. In a May 2008 television interview, Isaias said Eritrea might hold elections “in three or four decades.”
(S/NF) An Alleged Ethiopian Assassination Attempt: Isaias and Meles, brothers in arms during the 1980s, are now blood enemies. Why? In 1996, while returning from a vacation in Kenya, Isaias, his family, and his inner entourage stopped in Addis, where Meles offered to fly them back to Asmara in one of his aircraft. Isaias accepted the offer; en route the aircraft caught fire, but managed to turn back and land safely in Addis. According to someone who was on the aircraft, an infuriatd Isaias accuse Meles to his face of trying to kill him and his family. Isaias has not trusted Meles since, according to this source.
( ኢሰይያስ 112 ዓመት ክነብርዩ መዲቡ ዘሎ። ኣብ 2008 ንዑደት ዑደት ዝገበሩ ኣባላት ፓርላማ ጀርመን ምስ ሙሉእ ጥዕና ከም ዘሎን ንተወሳኺ 40 ወይ 50 ዓመት ክነብር ትስፉው ሙኻኑን ነጊርዎም። ክሳብ ዘሎ ንሃገሩ ክገልግል ክምዝትስፎ ውን ነጊርዎም። ኣብ 2008 ኣብ ተለቪዥን ቃለ-መጠይቅ ኣብ ዝገበረሉ ኣዋን ምርጫ ምናልባት ድሕሪ 30 ወይ 40 ዓመት ክካየድ ክምዝኽእል ኣተንቢሁ። ክሲ ፈተነ ቅትለት ፥ ኣብ 80ታት የሕዋት ዘነበሩ ኢሰይያስን መለሰን ሕጂ ደመኛታት ኮይኖም ። ስለምንታይ ? ብ1996 ኢሰይያስ ምስ ስድራቤቱ ካብ ዕረፍቱ ካብ ከንያ እናተመልሰ ከሎ ኣብ ኣዲስ ኣበባ የዕሪፉ ነይሩ። ናብ ኣስመራ መምለሲ ትኸውን መለስ ሓንቲ ካብ ነፈርቱ ንኢሰያይስ ሂብዎ፡ እንተ ኾነ እታ ነፋሪት ኣብ ኣየር ኮላ ሓዊ ተቃጺላ ሽዑ ንሽዑ ናብ ኣዲስ ኣበባ ተመሊሶም ብሰላም ድማ ዓሊባት። ሓደ ካብቶም ምሰኡ ዘነበረ ዝበሎ ፡ ኢሰይያስ ብጣዕሚ ከም ዝተቕጠዕን መለስ ንኢሰይያስ ምስ ሰድራቤቱ ክቀትሎ ከምዝፈተነን ወቅሲዎ። ካብ ሽዑ ኣትሒዙ ኢሰይያስ ንመለስ ኣሚንዎ ኣይፈልጥን።)
(S) Fears of an American Assassination Attempt: Isaias thinks the United States will attempt to kill him by missile strike on his residence in the city of Massawa, according to late 2007 information from the Force Commander of UNMEE.
( ፍርሃት ፈተነ ቅትለት ብኣመሪካ ፡- ብመሰረት ሓቤረታ ካብ ኣዛዚ ሓይልታት UNMEE 2007። ኢሰይያስ ፡ ሕቡራት መንግስታት ኣመሪካ ኣብ መንበሪ ገዝኡ ኣብ ባጽዕ ከሎ ብሚሳየል ክትሃርሞ ሙኻና ኢዩ ዝሓስብ።)
(C) Holier Than Thou: Isaias has berated the Chinese ambassador in Asmara for China’s embrace of market capitalism. Isaias was sent to China by the Eritrean Liberation Front for political commissar training in the 1960s, where, according to the Chinese ambassador, “he learned all the wrong things.” Isaias was turned off by the cult of personality surrounding Mao, but apparently internalized Maoist ideology.
( ሆሊይር ታን ቶ ፡ ቻይና ነጻ ዕዳጋ ብምድጋፋ ኢሰያይስ ንኣምባሳድር ቻይና ኣብ ኣስመራ ኣነኣኢስዎ። ኢሰይያስ ብ60ታ ብግንባር ሓርነት ኤርትራ ናይ ካድረ ትምህርቲ ክመሃር ናብ ቻይና ከይዱ ነይሩ። ብመሰረት ኣምባሳደር ቻይና ” ኢሰይያስ ኩሉ ኩፉእ ግብሪ ኢዩ ተማሂሩ” እቲ ናይ ማኦ ሰነ ሓሳብ ኣብ ደሙ ኢዩ ኣትዩ።)
(C) Fluent in Arabic: Asmara-based Arab ambassadors are impressed by Isaias’ fluency in Arabic. There is some debate about where he learned it, but all agree he is a comfortable and capable Arabic speaker.
( ምልከት ቃንቃ ዓረበኛ ፡ ኣብ ኣስመራ ዘለው ዓረባውያን ኣምባሳድራት ብልከት ቃንቃ ዓረበኛ ናይ ኢሰይያስ ብጣዕሚዮም ዝግረሙ። ኣበይ ከም ዝኸኣሎ ቁሩብ ዘካትዕዩ እንተ ብዘይ ድኾነ ጸገም ዓረበኛ ከምዝዛረብ ኩሉ ኢዩ ዘሰማማዕ።)
(C) Talented Speechwriter: In mid-2008, after Isaias delivered an impressive address in English to a gathering of ministerial-level representatives on the subject of Darfur, Yemane Ghebremeskel, the director of the office of the president, said Isaias had written the speech himself.
( ኪኢላ ናይመደረ ጸሓፊ፡ ኣብ መፋርቅ 2008 ኢሰይያስ ብጉዳይ ዳርፉር ንዝተኣኻኸቡ ወከልቲ ሚኒስተራት ኣብ ዘቕረበሎም ዘድንቅ ናይ ኢንግሊዘኛ መደረ ፡ የማነ ገብረኣብ ዳይረክተር ቤት ጽሕፈት ፕረሲደንት ኢስይያስ ነቲ መደረ ከምዝጽሓፎ ተዛሪቡ።)
(C) Hot Temper: At a January 2008 dinner he hosted for a codel and embassy officials, Isaias became involved in a heated discussion with his Amcit legal advisor about some tomato seedlings the legal advisor provided to Isaias’ wife. Isaias complained that despite tender care by his wife, the plants produced only tiny tomatoes. 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.
( ሓረቅ ፡ ብጥሪ 2008 ንእምባሳድራት ድራር ኣብ ዝጋበዘሉ እዋን። ኢሰይያስ ምስ ሕጋዊ ኣማኻሪኡ ኣሚስት ብዛዕባ እቲ ፍረ/ዘርኢ ኮሚደረ ንሰበይቲ ኢሰይያስ ዝሃባ ኣብ ዲቅ ዝበለ ዝርርብ ኣተዉ። ኢሰይያስ ፡ ሰበይቱ ዘይሕለል ጻዕሪ ከም ዝገበረት እንተ ኮነ እቲ ኮሚደረ ኣዚዩ ደቂቅ ከም ዝኾነ ናማኻሪኡ ኣሚስት እናኣማረረ ነገሮ። እንተ ኾነ እቲ ኣማኻሪኡ እቲ ንሰበይቲ ኢሰያስ ዝሃባ ፍረ/ዘርኢ ናይ ጸብሒ ኣቡን (cherry tomatoes) ሙኻኑን ግድን ድማ ደቂቅ ኮሚደረ ከም ዘፍሪ ድሕሪ ምብራሁ ፡ ኩሉ ሰብ እንኮላይ ነቶም ናይ ጸጥታ ኣባላቱ ብዘሰንብድ መንገዲ ኢሰይያስ ብነድሪ ካብቲ ኣደራሽ ወጸ።)
(C) Holds a Grudge: A senior party official said Isaias and Djibouti President Guelleh had agreed during a 2008 telephone conversation to try to resolve at the presidential level issues related to the June border clash. According this senior Eritrean official, Isaias was livid when Guelleh supposedly shortly thereafter lambasted Eritrean aggression in a media interview. Isaias reportedly felt personally betrayed by President Guelleh, and has been obstinate about resolving the Djibouti-Eritrea border dispute ever since.
( ተሓዚ ቂምታ ፡ ሓደ ላዕለዋይ ሓላፊ ከም ዝበሎ ኣብ 2008 ኢሰኣያስን ፕረሲደንት ጂቡቲ ጉለህ ብዛዕባ እቲ ኣብ ወርሒ ሰነ ዝተፈጥረ ናይ ዶብ ግጭታት ዝምልከት ብናይ ክልቲእም ፕረሲደንታት ምርድዳኣ ክፈትሕዎ ተስማመዑ። ብመሰረት እዚ ላዕለዋይ ሓላፊ ፡ ፕረሲደንት ጉለህ ኣብ ቃለ-መጠይቅ ብደይ ንሕሲያ ንናይ መንግስቲ ኤርትር ትጻባእነት ድሕሪ ምውቃስ ኢሰይያስ ብጣዕሚ ከም ዝነደረ ገሊጹ። ኢሰይያስ ብፕረሲደትን ጁቡቲ ከምዝተጠልመ ኮይኑ ተሰመዖ ካብ ሹዕ ኣትሒዙ ድማ ንጉዳይ ጁቡቲ ንምፍታትሕ ሓንጊዱ ዘሎ።)
(C) Thin Skinned: Isaias asked to be named the patron of the World Bank-funded Cultural Assets Rehabilitation Project (CARP). When individuals involved with CARP published the book “Asmara: Africa’s Secret Modernist City,” it failed to include a note of thanks to CARP’s patron. Isaias was miffed and shut down CARP.
( ነቐፈታ ዘይቅበል ፡ ኢሰይያስ ተቆጻጻሪ ገንዘብ ናይቲ ብዓለማዊ ባንክ ዝምወል ባህላዊ ዋኒናት ናይ ምጥያስ ፕሮጀክት (CARP) ዝፍለጥ ትካል ክኸውን ሕቶ ኣቅረበ። ድሒሩ ብኣባላት ባህላዊ ዋኒናት ናይ ምጥያስ ፕሮጀክት (cultural assets rehabilitation project) ” ኣስመራ ፡ ናይ ኣፍሪቃ ምስጢራዊት ዘመናዊት ከተማ” ትብል መጽሓፍ ምሰ የሕተሙ። ኣብታ መጽሓፍ ድኾነ ናይ ምስጋና ጹሕፍ ንተሓዚ ገንዘብ CARP ዝብል ኣይነበራን፡ በዚ ዝሓረቐ ኢሰይያስ ነቲ ብ CARP ዝፍለጥ ትካል ዓጸዎ።)
(C) Good Op-Sec: 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. When dining in restaurants, Isaias will often switch plates with a subordinate, apparently to avoid being poisoned, according to the Qatari ambassador.
( ኢሰይያስ ተልፎን ምዝራብ ኣዝዩ ኢዩ ዝጽለእ ከምኡ ድማ ፈተነ ቅትለት ኮነ ፈተነ ዕልዋ ክፍሽል ብቅጻሊ ኣብ ዝተፈላላየ ቦታታት ኢዩ ዝድቅስ። ብግዜ ሓጋይ ዝበዝሕ ግዜ ኣብ ኣስመራ ዘይኮነ ኣብ ባጽዕ ኢዩ ዘሕልፎ። ብመሰረት ኣምባስድር ቀጠር ዝበሎ ፡ ኢሰይያስ ከይስመም/ከይምረዝ ብምፍራሓ ብቅጻሊ ኣብ ረስቶራታት ኣብ ዝምገበሉ ጊዜ፡ ኢሰይያስ ብቅጻሊ ምስ ትሕተኡ ዘለዉ ሓለፍቲ ብያቲ ይለዋወጥ።)
(C) The Early Years of Little Beer Pot: Isaias’ father, Afwerki, comes from the village of Tselot, which is perched on the lip of a 7,000′ escarpment four miles southeast of Asmara. When Isaias was a boy Afwerki reportedly spent much of his time in Tigray, where he owned a coffee farm that was later nationalized by the Derg. With Afwerki largely absent, Isaias lived with his mother (rumored to have family roots in Tigray) in a working class neighborhood in eastern Asmara near the train depot and the Lutheran church. Isaias’ mother made and sold a traditional beer called sewa. By some accounts, Isaias was nicknamed the Tigrinya equivalent of “Beer Pot,” after the ceramic jug from which sewa is dispensed. Today he is a heavy whisky drinker, but perhaps as a youth his nickname referred as much to his habits as to his mother’s business.
( ዘበነ በራድ ስዋ፡ ኣብኡ ንኢሰይያስ ካብ ጸሎት ዝበሃል ቦታ ኢዩ። ኣቡኡ ንኢሰይያስ ናይ ቡን ሕርሻ ስለ ዘነበሮ ኢሰይያስ ቆልዓ ከሎ ኣቡኡ ዝበዝሕ ጊዜኡ ኣብ ትግራይ ኢዩ ይሕሊፍዎ፡ ደሓር ግን እቲ ግራት ብሰርዓት ደርግ ተሃጊሩ። ዝበዝሕ እዋን ኣቡኡ ምስእም ስለዘይ ነበረ ዝበዝሕ ጊዜ ምስ ኣደኡ (ናይ ትግራይ ዘርኢ ኣላዋ ተባሂሉ ኢዩ ዝሕመ) ኢዩ ይሕሊፍዎ። ኣደኡ ንኢሰይያስ ሰዋ ኢያ ትሽቅጥ ነይራ። ሓደ ሓድ እዋን ብበራድ ስዋ ዝበሃል ሳጋ ኢዩ ዝፍለጥ ነይሩ። ኣብዚ ሕጂ እዋን ብጣዕሚ ሰታይ ዊስኪ ኢዩ ።ምናልባት እቲ ናይ ቀደም ሳጋኡ ምስ ናይ ኣደኡ ስራሕ ዝተተሓሓዘ ክኽውንዩ ዝኽእል። )
(C) No Pork for His Ancestral Village: In November 2008 emboffs visited Tselot and saw no indication that the village has received any special favor from Isaias. Like most Eritrean villages, it has electricity but no running water or sewer system. Gaunt cattle and untended donkeys roam the village. Their droppings are quickly gathered and formed into oval patties, which are then stuck on rock walls, dried, and used as fuel for cooking. Afwerki is said to be buried in the village cemetery, but emboffs could not locate his grave. Isaias’ immediate family is rarely featured in the state-run media and keeps a low profile. Although his portrait adorns many shops in Asmara, there is no cult of personality in Eritrea. Isaias often appears in the media clad casually in slacks, jacket, open-necked shirt, and sandals or loafers. He rarely travels in a motorcade.
( ጭብጢ ናይ ሞቦቆሉ የለን፡ ኣብ ወርሒ ሕዳር ኣባላት አምባሲ ናብ ጸሎት ከይዶም ነይሮም ፡ እቶም ዓዲ ንኢሰይያስ ድኾነ ሓለፋ ኣቀባብላ ከምዘይገብሩሉ ውን ተዓዚቦም። ከም መብዛሕቲእን ዓድታት ኤርትራ መብራህቲ ኣለዋ እንተ ኾነ ግን ኣገልግሎት ዝስተ ጹሩይ ማይ ኮነ ፈኛቱራታት የብላን። እቲ ተቀማጢ እቲ ዓዲ ከም ምንጪ ጸዓት ንምስራሕ መግቢ ዒባ ኢዩ ዝጥቀምም። ኣፈወርቂ ኣብቲ ዓዲ ከም ዝተቅብረ ኢዩ ዝንገር፡ ኣባላት አምባሲ ግን ነቲ መቃብር ክረኽብዎ ኣይከኣሉን። ናይ ቀረባ ናይ ኢሰይያስ ቤተሰብ ኣብ መድያ ብዙሕ ኣይቀርቡን። ዋላ’ካ ስእልታቱ ኣብ ቡዙሕ ዱካናት ኣብ ኣስመራ እንተ ኣሎ እንት ኽነ ግን ኣብ ኤርትራ ከም ኣምልኾት ኣይምልኹዎን ኢዮም። ሳሕቲ ኣፍልቡ እናተራየ ካምቻ ኮነ ሰንደል ተኸዲኑ ኣብ ተልቪዥን ይረአ ኢዩ። ሳሕቲ ውን በመካይን ኢዩ ዝጋዕዝ።)
(C) Hard-hearted: When a visiting U.S. movie star in early 2008 raised the plight of two Embassy Asmara FSNs who have been imprisoned without charge since 2001, Isaias glared stonily at her and replied, “Would you like me to hold a trial and then hang them?”
( ጨካን ፡ ኣመሪካዊት ናይ ፊልም ተዋሳኢት ንኤርትራ ኣብ ዝበጽሓትሉ ጊዜ ፡ ብዛዕባ እቶም ኣብ ኢምባሲ ኣመሪካ ዝሰርሑ ዝነበሩ ክልተ ኤርትራውን ካብ 2001 ብዘይ ፍርዲ ክሳብ ሕጂ ብምእሳሮም ሓቲታ ነይራ። ኢሰይያስ ብጭካነ ኣብ ዓይና እናጠመተ ከምዚ ኢሉ መለሰላ ” ኣብ ቤት ፍርዲ ኣቅሪበ ድሕሪኡ ክሓንቆም ደሊኺ። “)