The lot of the troubled and troublesome leader up in Ethiopia’s north……..

The buzz in Addis Abeba last week was on the lot of the troubled and troublesome leader up in Ethiopia’s north. President Isaias Afeworqi of Eritrea, fondly called Wedi Afom, among his admirers, was speculated to have been clinically dysfunctional, if not dead, after rumours abounded about his admission to a hospital in Europe.

What really happened was somewhere between the rumours and his legendary survivor’s luck that spared him from what could have been a fatal end, claims gossip. Three weeks ago, Isaias was admitted to a hospital in Qatar, his favourite destination for overseas travel and where the Emirs there are his staunch friends, gossip disclosed.

Diagnosed for complications arising from kidney failure, or an ailing spinal cord – depending on which authoritative speaker is relaying the news – the doctors in Doha found their patient to have been in a critical condition – possibly a coma – and beyond their ability to restore consciousness, claims gossip. He was then transported to a hospital in Berlin, Germany, where he has outlasted not just one more ailment, but also persistent speculations of his death over the past couple of years, according to gossip. President Isaias is now recoiling to his most preferred retreat, Massawa, gossip disclosed.

Gossip notes it a normal practice among spin doctors of leaders, to take advantage of visits of delegations or inaugurations of public works as an opportunity to dispel rumours. Yemane Gebremesqel, government spokesperson and Eritrea’s Information Minister, was no different in performing his task. He ensured that Isaias appeared in public receiving a low key Chinese delegation which was in Eritrea last week, to negotiate the transfer of 60pc ownership from Canada’s Sunridge Gold Corporation (SGC) to Sichuan Road Bridge Mining (SRBM) in the Asmara Mining Project. It is not Isaias’s forte to be seen spending time with mid-level officials like Liu Jie, vice governor of Sichuan Province. However, his appearance was perhaps his first show since he was seen receiving Eritrean athletes returning from Beijing in September 2015, claims gossip.

His unexpected disappearance from the scene of power in Asmara two weeks ago has, however, caused the usual frantic moves among his close circle of officials in the civilian government and their foes among the military brass, claims gossip. A provisional committee was constituted for the eventuality, although such committees often emerge whenever the President gets escorted off for overseas medical treatment, gossip observed.

Isaias’s brief stay in their country might have encouraged the Germans to try discussion among officials of Eritrea and Ethiopia, claims gossip. There was an informal meeting between them in Nairobi, Kenya, alongside a peace talk for South Sudan, where Tsegaye Berhe, Ethiopia’s chief of the National Security Council, and Beyene Russom, Eritrea’s Ambassador to Kenya and Tanzania, were in attendance, gossip disclosed.

What came forth from this dialogue is a scenario where leaders in both countries tried to address new realities in the region with old rhetoric, claims gossip. The political configurations in the Horn of Africa, are not today similar to the those close to two decades ago when the two countries logged into a devastating war, gossip noted. Yet, Ethiopia has succeeded over the years in isolating and marginalising the Eritrean regime, which now finds itself cornered with few friends in the global community.

Recently though, the implosion in Yemen, across the sea from Eritrea, has gained the regime of President Isaias new allies, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, countries with leaders desperate to get boots on the ground to repel the Houthis in Yemen, claims gossip. Sudan too is a major factor in the new equation. Those in gossip corridors see the two countries at continued loggerheads benefiting only those with increasing muscle in the region of religious extremists such as Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabaab and the Islamic State (IS).

Published on Nov 09,2015 [ Vol 16 ,No 810]



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