Q. Was Mr. Isaias Afewerki a dictator during the independence struggle
April 09, 2009
Q. Was Mr. Isaias Afewerki a dictator during the independence struggle?
MH: During the liberation struggle, Isaias was a popular leader of the revolution. I don´t feel I have the space in this interview to explain the sources of his popularity at that time. Aside from those taking power through military coup d´etat, most dictators do not come to power as dictators. It is gradually and through subtle use of the popularity given them by the party that brought them to power that they consolidate their dictatorial mantle. As they get corrupted by more power, dictators entrench their absolutist rule that eventually becomes clear for all to see. This is how the dictatorial nature of Isaias was developed. Many people who were not with the EPLF during the period of the liberation struggle usually allege that it was the comrades-in-arms of Isaias, and particularly the G-15 group, who helped Isaias to become what he is – a dictator. May be there is some grain of truth in this surmise. But it is not that easy to conclude the matter in this manner.
In the era of the liberation struggle, the question of the survival and continuation of the Revolution was given the uppermost priority by every fighter, including by the upper echelons of the leadership. On this basis, I cannot say that the issue of dictatorship was of concern to us. True, there were many senior cadres who were in disagreement with the method of work by Isaias. If they claim that they disagreed with Isaias then knowing he was a dictator, then I can only tell them that this was not true. Isaias made good use of the sincerity (naiveté) and/or personal frailties of some people in order to satisfy his greedy behaviour. Be it through wits or through the popularity he gained through sheer circumstances, Isaias skillfully unleashed fights among his close comrades and he remained the arbiter and advisor of their squabbles. Therefore, the dictatorial practices of today´s Isaias were part of his inborn behaviour that were enhanced after liberation. The difference was only of time and situation. This extremely general and rough description of the person cannot give a full picture of what Isaias is.