Home | Comment & Analysis    Friday 29 May 2009

President Afewerki: A man capable of causing a fight in an empty room


By Kuyok Abol Kuyok

May 28, 2009 — President Isayas Afewerki of Eritrea’s latest diatribe against the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Government of the Southern Sudan (GOSS) was unjustifiable and deplorable. First, it is extraordinary for President Isayas Afewerki to question the SPLM political stances in national affairs in this manner. As a foreign Head of State he has no right to do that. This attack, from a man whom the people of the Southern Sudan called a friend, is somewhat astonishing. It is perplexing that a Head of State to behave like that. President Isayas Afewerki could have had a discreet word with President Salva Kiir Mayardit. That’s what Presidents do.

Second, show me a single country in the world which is corruption-proof. And since the President is the self-styled corruption Cazr for the Sudan, it was remarkable that in his interview he chose to ignore corruption in Khartoum. Something the regime is internationally renowned for. I do not condone or suggest that the South Sudan is corruption free. Like all societies in the world it has its share of problems. There is no country in the world today, America, Europe, Africa, name it, where there is no corruption. In the UK the latest corruption scandal or sleaze, as they prefer to call it, which is running the rounds is the members of parliament (MPs) expenses.

Third and most importantly, the Southern Sudan is undergoing a difficult transition period from a protracted war to peace in which millions of people perished. The transition period, in which the South lost its leader, marred with many challenges, and compounded by a deceitful partner. In these circumstances one would expect some empathy from a friend. So what is beneath President Isayas Afewerki’s latest tirade against the people of South Sudan and its government?

The early years

President Isayas Afewerki’s Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) ascendency to power in Asmara in 1991 was a symbol of hope not only for the gallant people of Eritrea, but for other oppressed peoples of Africa. It inspired many people in the Southern Sudan. I was one of them. I remember President Isayas Afewerki’s inaugural speech to the Summit of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in Cairo, Egypt in June 1993. It was a magnificent presentation pervaded with Pan-Africanist ideals. He denounced the OAU abysmal failure in living up to its objectives. I thought an iconic African leader in the mould of Agostino Neto, Julius Nyerere, Kwame Nkrumah Jomo Kenyatta, or Kenneth Kaunda, was born. Basically, I thought I was witnessing launch of an African renaissance.

Oppressor and a dictator

Regrettably all those hopes were dashed once the man assumed power. Domestically, he maintained an iron fist regime in the country. No elections in Eritrea since EPLF took the reign of the country. In the United Kingdom (UK) some of my students are Eritreans. I also have some Eritrean neighbours, colleagues and friends. The majority of them lived in Sudan before they resettled in the UK and went back to Eritrea after 1991 to help in the re-building of their country, only to flee to the UK again in the 1990s and the 2000s. Some of these people were comrades of President Isayas Afewerki, members of his own EPLF. They narrate horrific experiences, and atrocities perpetrated by the government machinery against its own citizens. The stories are reminiscent of the Khartoum’s NIF atrocities in Juba in 1991-1993 and currently in Darfur. Some of the Eritrean government atrocities are documented by international human rights organisations, notably the Amnesty International (http://www.amnesty.org.uk/), Human Rights Watch (http://www.hrw.org/) and see in particular the World Report, 2007, page 115.

As a consequence, there are no opposition parties in Eritrea. Half of the EPLF leadership are in languishing in jail without access to legal representations, others have disappeared. Prisons are full to the brim of political opponents and their children conscripted into the army. Even the houses of God, the Churches and the Mosques are not exempted of the state’s interference. There are now tens of thousands of Eritreans in exile in Ethiopia, Egypt, Sudan, Djibouti, Europe and the Gulf States. When President Isayas Afewerki’ accuses others of corruption and lack of political direction he should look closer to home.

The Southern Sudan is a democracy. In South Sudan there are no political prisoners. In the last four years of GOSS’s existence, the Parliament has enacted some of the most progressive and promising measures, that enshrine freedom of political association and speech in the constitution. General elections in which all Southern Sudanese political parties will participate are scheduled for 2010. Most significantly, the Southern Sudan is among a handful of countries in the World where 25% of positions in public services are reserved for women. This is in recognition of the significant role the women of South Sudan played in the liberation struggle and to also seek to rectify gender inequality in the country. 30% of the EPLF fighters were women. What did the President do to them? He jailed them and conscripted their children.

War monger

Worldwide President Isayas Afewerki’s name is synonymous with war, and an exporter in chief of violence and carnage. He waged war against all Eritrea’s neighbours, Ethiopia-his erstwhile allies and in the liberation, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, EPRDF, Yemen, across the sea, Sudan, Djibouti and in Somalia (he arms a faction of Somali Islamists against a nascent government in Mogadishu supported by the African Union, AU). And at one point he wanted to fight Egypt. The only entity neighbouring Eritrea that this man had not wage war against is the Red Sea. And that is for obvious reasons. This President is capable of fighting anything. Eritrea is a small nation, but he is building the biggest army in the region! Why? The man is a threat to international peace and stability. He seems not to recognise the virtues of international diplomacy. For example, at the time Addis Ababa wanted to the go to the negotiations table he did not want to know.

Prophets of doom

The man’s records in office partially explain this latest diatribe. But this could be a wider and subtle attempt to create instability in the Southern Sudan. Why making these criticisms at this time? Why a Sudanese newspaper? Why attacking the leadership of the Eastern Sudan Front when they have had a peace deal with Khartoum? One would at least expect the President to help implement the peace agreements. However, this development came on the backdrop of the most recent Eritrean’s President rapprochement with the Bashir’s regime.

There are a few people out there who might not like South Sudan, and what it has achieved since 2005. Some prophets of doom asserted that the South would fold and fail. It would explode or implode or both. The SPLM leadership and the GOSS have demonstrated the falseness of such predictions. None of these happened nor will hopefully happen. Generally, the South Sudan under the judicious leadership of President Salva Kiir is stable. In the Parliament all the Southern Sudanese political perspectives are represented and the GOSS is a coalition of these political shades.

Peace and stability

Just look around the South Sudan it is mayhem, conflicts and wars everywhere. There are wars in the Northern Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Central Africa Republic, Congo etc. War means turmoil and instability and it deters international investors. Meanwhile, peace and stability equal progress and prosperity. The South Sudan is also blessed with resources, not only its oil, but other natural resources, vast and fertile land, the Nile and of course its people who create the wealth. The stability and these resources offer the South Sudan an edge over others and international credibility among nations, which and can attract some international investment. The globalised economy obliges international companies to invest overseas, where there is labour and market. Some people might perceive the South Sudan as a regional competitor. Others might want the South Sudan to be their subservient satellite state.

Friendlier people

The GOSS administration under the SPLM leadership, since 2005, has sought friendship with all its neighbours and beyond. Africans of all nations are welcomed in the Southern Sudan. Countries around the world, especially African ones, have reciprocated this diplomatic sentiment. The Sudanese people are internationally known for their friendly approach. In Juba today there are many emergent African communities, including an Eritrean community. Some of the members of the Eritrean community in Juba left from the UK.

President Isayas Afewerki’s unprovoked attack on the people of Southern Sudan and their government is a gross mistake and he should reconsider it. If he does not retract this, as expected, the people of Southern Sudan should remember that the man a loner who has no standing in the world. Therefore, he should be taken simply as that. I wish him the best with his new found friends. But, South Sudanese should watch out for the intentions of people like President Isayas Afewerki.

(Kuyok Abol Kuyok is a South Sudanese academic in the UK. His e-mail contact is kuyok.kuyok@googlemail.com)

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  • 29 May 2009 15:07, by Lokorai

    Mr. Kuyok,

    You misunderstood President Isaias; you only interested in pouring out garbage here. Someone a few days ago did the same, by writing chits against President Isaias even by calling him a dictator.

    If you don’t him, then instigate and get back to who is, how he lives back home. Find out too what he said and the context under which he was saying those words.

    Just to remind you: what is it that is empty when we know that Gen. Kiir has lost control of our people? Is corruption war a small thing, or lost of direction a creation from the Eritrean leader? I don’t think they and this where you need to investigate first before coming public and abuse the head of that governement.

    If it was Isaias, we couldn’t have been where we are today; am sorry you don’t know and need not elaborate...

    For those who never participated in the war, shut your hell out and let men only talk; there is no way you could be a hero on a keyboard, never!


    repondre message

  • 30 May 2009 12:52, by Peace Lover

    Thank you Kuyok for your outline on this man, He believes he is the only African leader with the biggest HEART OF BRAVERY fighting anti "CIA Conspiracy" by actually sending his nation into ruins and people into refugee camps.

    repondre message

    • 31 May 2009 19:03, by Honest cia agent

      i understand why kuyko is angry because the president was talking about his government/party negatively . but I must say it is impossible to cause a fight in a empty room whatever the president said must of resonated with the public for them to react to the statement leading me to believe there is some truth in his statement

      repondre message

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