The Accused: Isaias & His Clique Print E-mail
By awate team - Sep 01, 2007   

Note: This is a living document and it will be updated as more information is obtained. The persons in the list are the first circle, or, the first tier of the ruling party. In the process of collecting more information, a second, a third and probably a fourth tier of persons may be included in the list of the Accused.

The Accused

In law, there is the concept of “standing”: a person has to show evidence that he or she has been injured before he or she can bring a case. In the absence of civil societies, (associations, unions), legalized opposition groups, independent courts, and a free press, who brings the case of the people when the government declares war on the people?  As citizens, we have taken it upon ourselves to lay the ground work for any future case by, preferably, the Eritrean Court and, if necessary, the World Court.  This, then, is the basis for compiling the list of The Accused.  In subsequent reports, we intend to report on the Crimes and the victims of the crimes, i.e., The Accusers.

In totalitarian regimes and police states, the structure of the government and who holds the strings of power requires a lot of analysis by experts.  In countries with strong one-party states, like the former Soviet Union and present-day China, knowing who is up and who is down inside the party was sufficient to know who is powerful and who is not.  For example, in the former Soviet Union, analysts had to rely on the positioning of individuals in the annual May Day parade to determine their relative power. In totalitarian states where the party is hijacked by one man—like Saddam’s Iraq, Assad’s Syria or Isaias’s Eritrea—the task is even harder. Individuals are arbitrarily rotated, frozen, demoted or promoted.  The party is a hollow shell—there are neither meetings nor congresses or elections.  The question then is this: who, besides Isaias Afwerki, holds the reins of power in Eritrea?  Who, besides Isaias Afwerki, is responsible for the crimes against the Eritrean people?  Is the entire PFDJ apparatus responsible? If not, who specifically are The Accused?

An Introduction to the EPLF/PFDJ Power Structure 


The People’s Front for Democracy & Justice (PFDJ) was created in February 1994. More accurately, the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF), which was formed in 1977, was re-named the PFDJ in 1994. Ostensibly, the EPLF, which had held two previous congresses (in 1977 and 1987) while Eritrea was still occupied by Ethiopia, saw the need to re-name itself following Eritrean independence in 1991.  But the structure was largely intact. It retained the structure and the name of its legislative arm: the “Central Committee”; it retained the structure and name of its executive arm which was called “Executive Committee.”  Like all Marxist-Leninist organizations, it had a secret party-within-party, which it called the Revolutionary Labor Party: this, too, was retained. The “Revolutionary Guards” became the “national security” and the Secretary General became the President. In short, the PFDJ was a continuation of the EPLF—albeit with a new, post-independence, charter.

Following its takeover of Eritrea, the so-called “transitional” government of Eritrea attempted to give its power the veneer of legitimacy by creating a “national assembly.”  The national assembly, which last met in 2002, was made up of the 75 members of PFDJ’s Central Committee and 75 “civilians”—who, in reality, were loyal PFDJ members. Over the next seven years, as the number of regularly scheduled PFDJ Central Committee meetings declined, as scheduled meetings and party congresses were skipped (the PFDJ hasn’t had a congress since 1994) and as the president continuously tested the limits of his power and found there were none, (including when he mowed down handicapped war veterans and initiated disastrous foreign policies that have mired Eritrea in one war or another since 1994), the President’s Office absorbed more and more power. By 2000, there was a fissure within the PFDJ Central Committee with one group (later known as the G-15) accusing the President of monopolizing all power and the other group (the President’s Office) denying the charges and accusing the G-15 of grave but unsubstantiated crimes and, for good measure, hauling them to jails where they haven't been heard of since September 18, 2001. 

Since 2002, the President’s Office has abandoned all pretences to legitimizing its various decisions via people’s assemblies: neither the Central Committee, nor the so-called National Assembly is meeting even to rubber stamp the decisions of Isaias Afwerki and his clique. There is no institution--nothing leglislative, judiciary, not even in traditional power structures of village elders or religious leaders--that can challenge or question the decisions of Isaias Afwerki.  Unlike other dictatorships, there isn't even a group of military officers who can challenge Isaias Afwerki: Eritrea is a one-man dictatorship where the dictator has absolute power over all aspects of the Eritrean polity.

Grave crimes have been committed against the people of Eritrea—and you can’t have crime without criminals.  Who is responsible for holding Eritreans in metal containers in a desert? Who is responsible for beating and torturing the youth mercilessly and pressing them to slave labor? Who gave the order to have mothers and fathers arrested when their children escape from the slave camps? Who gave the order to have dissidents disappear in underground prisons for years? Who gave the order to execute Eritreans without giving them a chance to defend themselves? Who gave the order or allowed the environment to make young girls into the concubines of generals? Who gave the order to have soldiers sent to equip and train renegades and terrorists in faraway lands? Who is responsible for the deliberate erosion of the independence of Eritrea’s churches and mosques? Who is responsible for formulating and executing the decisions that have turned Eritrea into a bankrupt state? Who gave the order? Who implemented it? Who knew it was happening? And who should have known?


The President’s Office 

Though the oppressive machine in Eritrea has, like any other country, a governing structure with ministers and governors, the actual ruling is done from one center: the presidential palace. It is no longer of any use to talk of "Central committee" or the "PFDJ" because those who are responsible for participating in the drafting and the execution of the draconian measures that have turned Eritrea into a big jail are no more than 20. 

To answer this question, we began the process of identifying all the officials who made up the PFDJ's Central Committee.  Long-time readers of will recall our "Isaias & His Musical Chair" reports. But beginning in 2003, we concluded that the musical chair, which used the PFDJ Central Committee as a basis, was badly outdated.

There is absolutely no ideology or core belief that Isaias and the clique follow. It is a member of the coalition of the willing one day and a candidate for sponsor of terror the next; it has mutual defense pacts with a nation one day and initiates a conflict with them the next; it will talk of the Arab League as useless and toothless one day and beg for their help the next.   Isaias Afwerki sets the dictates and the functions of the clique are simple: (1) to terrorize as many Eritreans as possible within and outside Eritrea; and (2) to extort as much money as possible from Eritreans. Its foreign policy is exactly the same: (1) to terrorize as many neighbor governments as possible and (2) to extort as much money as possible from the neighbors.  The clique may have power centers that they control including finance and economy; military; security, politics, organization or administration but the objective is the same: terrorize and extort. Of late, the Clique’s sole ideology of “terrorism and extortion” has encountered stiff resistance from the United States which is considering placing Eritrea on the list of “state sponsors of terror” list. 

The Basis for our List

Since the foundation of Awate in September 2000, we have talked to hundreds of Eritreans.  Some are still in Eritrea; others have escaped. Some were members of agelgelot (the so-called “Warsay-Yeka’alo” initiative); others long time members of the EPLF/PFDJ; some were veterans of the struggle era organizations and still others are ordinary citizens—brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers of those unjustly incarcerated.  Throughout, we found that the same names of the Accused were being repeated over and over.

What we found is that there is only coincidental relationship between the high-profile and high-position government functionaries and those who actually exercise life-and-death decisions.  To cite just one example, General Sebhat Ephrem who is the Defense Minister of the government and who, theoretically, has the highest military authority, is not on the list because we have not heard any accusations against the man.  The military chain of command in Eritrea is an odd one: with some officers bypassing the defense minister and reporting directing to the commanding officer.  Conversely, people who are nowhere in the government structure are frequently mentioned in connection with one crime or another.

Our list, then, is based on our reports and is most likely incomplete.  But we believe it is a good start. It is composed of the main actors in the ruling of Eritrea. They are the trusted lieutenants of Isaias Afwerki and the pillars of the regime. Granted, they are all on a tight leash from Isaias Afwerki but for now and in the recent past, they have wielded enough power and autonomy over their field of activity.  They are collectively accused of being in charge of the grave crimes committed on the Eritrean people. They are in a position to know (or should have known) of the crimes.

Some have argued that the crimes against Eritreans did not start in 2001 and many of those who are now members of the G-15 or in the opposition should also account for their crimes, if any.  We agree.  But more importantly, they agree: every single member of the EPLF/PFDJ who is now opposing and for that matter all opposition leaders have indicated their willingness to face their accuser, any accuser, in an open court of law.  Our focus is, understandably, on those who have yet to disavow themselves from the regime and those who refuse to bring about an open court.  Is it not reasonable to conclude that those who oppose bringing about an open, transparent court have something to hide?

To serve justice and to bring closure to all Eritreans who have been wronged by the current regime, the Clique should appear in front of a court of law where their fate will be determined and from whose trials, other criminals will be identified. Until then, we urge the public to help us in collecting exhaustive data about the persons in the list. We are building a proper profile of the persons above: place and date of birth, school history, history of positions they held and any accusations leveled against them.

You can communicate your information using any of the following:


Voicemail:      to be announced

Fax:             to be announced   

Head of the Clique

1. Isaias Afwerki: Dictator, self-declared president.  His known titles also include: Chief Commanding Officer; Chairman of PFDJ; Chairman of the National Assembly and Chairman of the Council of Ministers; Chancellor of the University of Asmara.  Presiding over a one "party" authoritarian police state, Isaias Afwerki has absolute power over every aspect of Eritrean life. He is the moral compass of his followers including the clique. His edicts that he utters in different occasions make the core belief of his followers and are repeated as an argument: might makes right; the rich accumulate wealth by stealing; to lie in the service of our cause is right; the whole world is against Eritrea; all dissenters are sell-outs, etc.

The Clique

The clique is made up of three groups: (1) The military elite and the "national security" apparatus; (2) The extortion and racketeering bosses and (3) The messengers of deception and the party whips.

The military elite is made up of the four military commanders who have autonomous power over the "command zones" they are assigned.  These commanders have total power over the military and the civilians that fall within their jurisdiction.  The "national security" apparatus is responsible for the vast spying network that permeates Eritrea.

The extortion and illicit trade bosses work for the ruling party's economic conglomerate, the Red Sea.  Their job is to generate hard currency for the party and they are willing to engage in any activity, legal or illegal, to do so. They facilitate arm smuggles, drug (qat) smuggling, contraband goods and other activities.

The messengers are officers within the PFDJ ruling party and their job is to lie, mislead, intimidate and deceive the Diaspora Eritreans for the sole purpose of postponing and stalling any move towards reform and to generate funds and total loyalty to the party.  These are the "long arm of the revolution"--in the old days, they would be the ones executing hit missions.  Now, their hit missions are threats and intimidations.

The Military Elite

1M. Brig. General Tekle Kiflai (Manjos): military coordinator for all the Ethiopian, Somali and Sudanese armed groups hosted in Eritrea. Like the rest of the zonal commanders, he operated prisons in in the training camps where conscripts were tortured and executed. Accused of being the enforcer of the shoot-to-kill orders on the Sudanese border where many people feeling Eritrea were shot and killed. He is also in charge of jailing parents and conducting inhuman giffa.

2M. Brig. General Philipos Weldeyohannes: Zonal Commander and a ruthless person. Like the rest of the zonal commanders, he operates prisons in his region where conscripts are tortured and executed. He is also accused of hand picking Idris Echet Hnna, Abraha Wendrias, Sergente Tewelde Beyn and many others in 1977 from Keren. Thirty years later, there is no news of the disappeared but they are believed to have been executed. He is also in charge of jailing parents and conducting inhuman giffa.

3M. Brig. General Teklai Habteselassie: Commander, Air force. He looks down at the rest of the generals and thinks of them as unrefined. He doesn't have a good working relations with the rest of the military commanders. In charge of Sawa during its founding, he established the manners with which conscripts are treated.  He was also head of the military committee that resulted in the zonal command.

4M. Brig. General Haile Samuel (China): Zonal Commander. Like the rest of the zonal commanders, he operates prisons in his region where conscripts are tortured and executed. He also has a kangaroo court where people are "sentenced" to prison terms or disappeared without given the opportunity to defend themselves. He is also in charge of jailing parents and conducting inhuman giffa.

5M. Brig. General Grezgher Andemariam (Wuchu): Zonal Commander. An ex gambler, contrabandist and illiterate brute, he joined the EPLF and rose to the top military rank. Like the rest of the zonal commanders, he operates prisons in his region where conscripts are tortured and executed. He is also in charge of jailing parents and conducting inhuman giffa.

6M. Brig. General Abrahaley Kifle: special tasks officer. He is a graduate of the Bahir Dar Polytechnic Institute from where he joined the ELF and was soon jailed by the ELF for killing Dr. Fitsum, an ELF commander. He was later freed but soon led a mutiny against the ELF. He later surrendered to the EPLF and rose to the rank of General. He is accused of betraying the G-15 and causing their arrest.


The "National Security" Apparatus

1S.  Brig General Abraha Kassa:  Chief of security and national intelligence.  Responsible for ensuring that one half of Eritrea is spying on the other half of Eritrea. He is allegedly in charge of passing orders to execute tens of prisoners. 

2S. Brig General Simon Gebredengel:  Deputy to Abraha Kassa and an executor of all crimes against prisoners and civilians alike.

3S.  Naizghi Kiflu: Ex-Chief of Security (just returned from England where he was under medication for a long time- he had a kidney transplant). Known to have tortured many political prisoners and was fond of proudly mentioning that his office in what used to be the office of General Tedla Uqbit the Eritrean police chief who was mysteriously killed in the early sixties. His office displayed several torturing paraphernalia that he used.

Extortion & Illicit Trade

1E. Hagos Gebrehiwet (Kisha): Formerly Eritrea’s ambassador to the US, Hagos Gebrehiwet earned the moniker “Kisha” (sack) for his reputation as a money obsessed operative.  Even the PFDJ loyalists found his crazed obsession with money so slippery that they asked for his removal from Washington DC.  Hagos “Kisha” is the bag of Isaias Afwerki and heads the ruling party’s business conglomerate, Red Sea Trading Corporation (RSTC) which is involved in every industry in Eritrea including import and export, banking, housing, agriculture, mining, fishing as well as in the South of Sudan.

2E. Mohammed Omar Mahmoud:  a product of the student union in Cairo , Egypt, of the PLF1 (Sabb’s group), he abandoned it to join the EPLF in 1977. He is the Hagos Kisha of the Middle East.  An ardent Isaias supporter, he is responsible for extorting as much money as possible from Eritreans in the Middle East who rely on the party’s favors and kindness to maintain their legal residence in Middle Eastern countries and to have a chance to visit Eritrea unhindered. He oversees PFDJ funds in the Arab Gulf and represents the clique in shady dealings with the region’s businessmen.

The Messengers of Deception & Threats

1D. Alamin Mohammed Said: His title is the Secretary of the PFDJ and his role is to whip the party members in particular and the people at large.  His stock-in-trade is defamation of the opposition- and of constituencies he believes support the opposition.

2D. Yemane Gebreab:
The party’s political director and “special advisor” to Isaias Afwerki.  Yemane is to Isaias what Kurt Gruber was to Hitler; he is busy organizing youth in the Diaposra to secure continuation of support for the PFDJ regime. He was a member of the Eritreans for Liberation in North America (ENASA’A) until he joined the EPLF full time. Major responsibility for the country’s domestic and foreign policy. A major voice for immoderation and extreme measures.  Interpreter and enforcer of Isaias’s policies.

3D. Abdella Jaber: His title is Director of Organizational Affairs but his real task is that of spy-master against the opposition and espionage within the Sudanese opposition groups. He was in charge of planting ex-EPLF and ELF members into the Eastern Sudan Front’s leadership and oversaw the kidnapping of the ELF veterans from the Sudan by bribing Sudanese officials.

4D. Zemehret Yohannes: Allegedly a researcher and scholar, he is the chief social engineering in charge of eroding Eritrean traditions, cultures and identities to weaken people’s sense of identity and strength. Zemehret was a amember of the ELF and rose to the leadership of the splinter group known as SAGHEM on whose leadership were Ibrahim Toteel, Zemehret Yohannes, Dr. Giorgis and Tewelde Gebreselassie. With the exception of Tewelde, the three leaders surrendered to the EPLF in 1986.

5D. Yousef Saiq:  He is a product of the PLF1 student union, first in Baghdad, Iraq and later in Cairo, Egypt, he abandoned the PLF1 and joined the EPLF in 1977. He is a man who literally built his career on the bodies of the G-15 and rose to prominence for his willingness to be a loyal prison warden. He is the last one to join the clique at the presidential office