US ambassador portrays Isaias Afwerki as part menace, part weirdo

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US ambassador portrays Isaias Afwerki as part menace, part weirdo

Dec 08,2010


The US embassy cables WikiLeaks cables: Eritrean poverty and patriotism under 'unhinged dictator'

US ambassador portrays Isaias Afwerki as part menace, part weirdo and tastes 'aptly named' sewa at lunch with minister


Isaias Afwerki, Eritrea president Isaias Afwerki, the Eritrean president, is described as 'cruel and defiant' in the WikiLeaks cables. Photograph: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP

Eritrea, an impoverished, mostly friendless country located at the wrong end of the Red Sea, has become synonymous with trouble-making in the Horn of Africa region since it wrested independence from Ethiopia in 1991 after a bitter 30-year war.

The national capital, Asmara, is an ill-kept, run-down former Italian colonial outpost where night-time electricity cuts contribute to a sinister, cowed atmosphere. The repressive policies and appalling human rights abuses of the authoritarian, one-party government of President Isaias Afwerki Eritrea has never held a national election mostly keep the population in check.

In a secret diplomatic cable written last year, the then US ambassador to Eritrea, Ronald McMullen, appears determined to impress upon his private Washington readership just how awful the situation really is. Weird, dysfunctional Asmara, reminiscent of an Evelyn Waugh novel, is notorious among western diplomats as a hardship posting. McMullen seems to be feeling the strain.

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