December 10, 2012 (ADDIS ABABA) - The Eritrean government has dismissed recent reports alleging that the long-time leader of Eritrea, Isaias Afewerki, has decided to stand-down in 2013.
- Eritrean president, Isias Afewerki (AFP/Getty)
However, Eritrea’s presidential spokesperson, Yemane Gebremeskel, told the GermanDeutsche Welle Radio’s Amharic program, that the rumours are baseless.
“In a recent post I asserted that there is a pattern to these rumours. They are usually engendered when some within Ethiopia who want to hide or obscure some event inside Ethiopia,” he said adding they “are just distractions.”
Ethiopian Review claimed that “the Eritrean president wants to be a Mandela or George Washington-like figure to his country by overseeing a smooth transfer of power on his own terms.”
Anonymous Eritrean opposition political groups based in Addis Ababa told Sudan Tribune on Monday that it is “totally unlikely” that the “Eritrean dictator” will resign or allow a smooth power transfer.
The opposition officials further stressed that the only way to remove Aferwerki from power is by military means or with an uprising, as seen in other countries during the Arab spring.
The Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization (RSADO), chairman, Ibrahim Haron, told Sudan Tribune in November that Eritrea is witnessing a growing division among political and military leaders following worsening corruption in the poorly-funded military.
Afewerki was seen as a hero by many of the Eritrean people for his role in the fight for freedom, however when he assumed power he shut down independent news outlets, and stifled freedom of speech and religious practise. Eritrea was described by Human Rights Watch in 2012 as "one of the world’s most repressive governments."
Tens of thousands of Eritrea’s citizens have fled to neighbouring countries to seek refuge. UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson, Andrej Mahecic said during a visit to East Sudan in January, "This is the area hosting one of the most protracted refugee situations in the world. At the moment there are some 70,000 refugees mostly of Eritrean origin and they reside in 12 camps in this part of the country."