This is information on the situation in Eritrea from the Awate website. It is unconfirmed, but since there are no independent media (local or international) in the country it is important to take these kind of stories seriously in order to follow the situation. It is not satisfactory, but there are no real alternatives.
In the late afternoon of November 5, Brigadier General Tekle Kifle “Manjus” presided over a meeting to discuss, among other things, the fallout from the youth round-up that was conducted on the weekend of October 26th where, for the first time, it was disclosed that an Ethiopian opposition group based in Eritrea, the Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (TPDM/De.M.H.T), was engaged in altercation with civilians.
The meeting was attended by top security officers including Colonel Fitsum, Colonel Wedi Qeshi (Police Department); Colonel Wedi Isaq (Central Zone (Asmara) police); Colonel Wedi Afwerqi (Office of National Security); “Lenin” (National Security Office); Colonel Ghirmay (station unknown); and, Major Wedi Halima, battalion leader.
Here’s a summary of what was discussed as disclosed to our source:
- Major General Philipos Weldeyohannes, who was supposed to attend the meeting, declined on the grounds that Tekle Manjus is his junior and cannot call him to such a meeting. Tekle Manjus indicated that the meeting was being called under the directive of President Isaias Afwerki.
- President Isaias Afwerki, reported Manjus, wants a detailed report as to how the “sensitive case” of TPDM was exposed to the public;
In the meeting, Colonel Wedi Afwerki explained that he didn’t have sufficient time to organize the youth round-up (giffa) given its unusual urgency and deadline.
He also noted that, for days before the operation, there was no electric power in Asmara and, therefore, radio batteries were not charged. This, he explained, resulted in lack of communication with the command center. Therefore, he explained, units were not able to ask for additional forces from the command center especially when a riot erupted near Hamasien Restaurant.
Speaking for the police, Colonel Wedi Qeshi and Colonel Wedi Isaq explained that they did not have advance information about the round-up; that they only heard about it when the owner of Bar Mesob Werqi called the police to report the riot.
For his part, Wedi Halima, in charge of the battalion that was involved in the roundup, indicated that although his commanders had given clear instructions to TPDM/De.M.H.T. to stay in the background and to have his battalion engage with Eritrean youth, his agelglot (national service) disobeyed direct orders to round up youth, and that’s when the TPDM got involved actively.
The attendants of the meeting were stunned when Brigadier General Tekle Manjus informed them that President Isaias Afwerki said that he learned about the incident through informal channels.
Following the conclusion of the first agenda item, Tekle Manjus moved on to discuss other issues of concern, namely:
- How to control the civil disobedience that is growing, particularly in the Ministry of Health (especially with the doctors) and the Sports Commission;
- The importance of sending a strong warning to all secretarial staff, particularly those assigned to senior posts, to refrain from leaking confidential information to the public;
- That the ministries, particularly Education and Agriculture, should be reviewed carefully as they are disproportionately stacked by individuals from a narrow geographic region (a specific geographic region was mentioned.)
Throughout the meeting, “Lenin” (nom de guerre) listened but didn’t comment on anything; while Colonel Ghirmay took notes of the meeting.