Biography of Isaias Afwerki
|Isaias Afwerki as a child with his brothers in Asmara -1956|
|#||Isaias Afwerki||Detailed Information|
|Name||Isaias Afwerki||Afwerki literally means 'mouth of gold'|
|Age||February 2, 1946 (67)||Born in Asmara, Eritrea to Eritrean parents|
|Wife||Saba Haile||Saba was a former freedom fighter for EPLF|
|Children||Two boys & one girl||Abraham (28), Berhane (17) and Elsa (19)|
|Religion||Orthodox Christian||Eritrean Orthodox is among the world's oldest faiths|
|Height||6'3" tall (190.5cm)||One of the tallest African Head of State|
|Education||Addis Ababa Uni.||Former engineering student before joining ELF|
Isaias Afwerki was born on February 2, 1946 in Asmara, Eritrea. He was sent to the elite prince Makonnen secondary high school in Asmara, where he graduated in 1965. He went on to attend Haile Selassie University in Addis Ababa to study engineering from 1965-66. In late 1966, he abandoned his engineering studies and headed for Kassala, Sudan, where he joined the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) in exile.
Recalling these early times, Isaias described Eritrean students' political thoughts and sentiments to the historian and author Don Connel as:
"Most of the active students were organized in clandestine groups. Emotionally and sentimentally, everyone was with the ELF. You never knew who was from what tribe or from what religion because there was not even a hint of that kind of thinking."
Against all odds: a chronicle of the Eritrean revolution, by Dan Connell, p. 79
However, after entering the Sudan, his sentiments towards the ELF leadership changed.
"Before I went to Sudan, the ELF was something like a magic organization to me - maybe some kind of fairy tale - but the first day I arrived I became frustrated. People began telling me about the ugly nature of the ELF, and Kassala became a nightmare for me. For some reason we were ostracized, even accused of being agents for the Ethiopians. Very narrow considerations of clan, tribe and religion were the basis for surviving or not surviving. We were living in an atmosphere of terror, where we had to go in groups, especially at dusk, to look after each other. It was definitely an akward situation after all those years of fighting for this organization."
Against all odds: a chronicle of the Eritrean revolution, by Dan Connell, p.79
Despite his critical opinions of the ELF leadership, Isaias stayed committed to the group and even still carries a tattooed letter "E" on his right shoulder as a symbol of his youthful exuberance which in those days symbolized the ELF. In early 1967, Isaias and Romadan Mohammed Nur were selected to study military training course in China. They spent nearly two years in China studying political ideologies and gurrelia warfare. Isaias described these early times with the following quote:
|Isaias Afwerki in the early 1970s|
"I remember when we got back from China," said Isaias later. "It was the peak of politics within the ELF. The talk of reform was everywhere. Everyone trained in Syria and elsewhere joined hands. There were all sorts of revolutionary ideas. We had high hopes in those days. The reform movement was so strong that I wouldn't have imagined it could be frustrated in a few months, but it was infiltrated, and survival was not possible."
Against all odds: a chronicle of the Eritrean revolution, by Dan Connell, p.80
Many of Isaias closest friends describe him as an intelligent, and fiercely guarded man with a no nonsense attitude. One of Isaias' foreign critics described him as, "Imposingly tall, fiercely intelligent, naturally austere, he had chosen his path early in life, rebelling against a father who was a committed Unionist.".
In 1970, disagreements within ELF led to three factions leaving the ELF into three separate groups. One faction took refuge in the mountains of Sahel. Another group under Isaias' command, numbering less than a dozen, left for Eritrea's eastern escarpment. While the third group headed off to Aden and returned by boat to Eritrea, landing south of Assab. These three groups would eventually join to become one and went by the name of the Eritrean Liberation Front-People's Liberation Front (ELF-PLF). When they formally merged in 1973, they changed their name to the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front.
Under ELF-PLF and EPLF
In 1971, using a type writer, Isaias wrote a manifesto called "Our Struggle and its Goals". This manifesto placed strong emphasis on overcoming ethnic and religious differences and on launching revolutionary struggle during the independence war. In 1975, Isaias became chairman of the EPLF military committee. In 1977, under EPLF's first congress, he was elected to be vice secretary-general of the EPLF. A decade later in 1987, he became the secretary-general of the EPLF. From 1989 to 1993, Isaias had served as the secretary-general of the Provisional Government of Eritrea. In 1993, after achieving de-jure independence, Isaias was elected by the Eritrean assembly to be president.
|Isaias being treated for malaria at an Israeli hospital in 1993|
Recalling her visit to Eritrea in 1997 as the former first lady of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton in her book titled: Living history, states the following about Isaias and his wife Saba:
|Hillary Clinton wearing Zuria in Asmara, Eritrea|
The president of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki, and his wife, Saba Haile, a former freedom fighter, lived in their own small house, but they recived me at the Presidential Palace. As we watched folk dancers perform in a courtyard built by the Italians during their colonial occupation, I asked President Afwerki, who had given up his university studies to fight in the resistance, if he had ever found time to dance during their long war. "Of course," he replied. "We had to dance to remind ourselves of a world without war."
Living History By Hillary Rodham Clinton, p. 405
Isaias met his wife, Saba Haile, during the struggle to liberate Eritrea. Like him, she was a freedom fighter and met in Nakfa in the summer of 1981. Together they have three children: Abraham, Elsa and Berhane.
The following are pictures of Isaias Afwerki and pictures related with his brief biography. Click on the images to see larger quality.
|Side by side photo of Isaias in 1956 and Isaias in 1993|
|Isaias Afwerki as a rebel fighter|
|Isaias Afwerki with the Chinese leader|
|Isaias being greeted in a small village|
|Photo of Isaias' wife named Saba Haile receiving an award in UAE|
|Isaias Afwerki with Eritrean youths from Sweden|
|Isaias Afwerki with his teenage daughter at Sawa festival|
|Isaias Afwerki wearing traditional Eritrean clothing|
|Hillary Clinton wearing traditional Eritrean clothing in Asmara.|
Clements' encyclopedia of world governments, Volume 16, John Clements, pg. 136
Against all odds: a chronicle of the Eritrean revolution, Dan Connell, pg. 79-80
I Didn't Do It for You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation, Michela Wrong
Africa Contemporary Record: 1992-94: Volume 24, Colin Legum, pg. 317
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