THEIR mission inside Eritrea enters its second week. The Two prominent reporters from the Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) yesterday reported about their unexpected encounter with President Isaias Afwerki. What caught the reporters with surprise was the place of the encounter as it happens fast and without a warrant.
Fasil YeneAlem and Mesay Mekonen was traveling with a group that consists of opposition dignitaries that arrived from the U.S. and Europe and leaders of the newly minted “Arbegnoch – Ginbot 7″ front and other relevant authorities in a luxury mini-buse and 4WD Toyota convoys.
The convoy, however, changed its course unexpectedly through a dirt road and travelled for about 35 km outside the outskirts of Asmara. When all reached into a certain construction site, they saw Mr. Yeman Ghebreab, the head of Political affairs and adviser to the Eritrean President, leaving the group behind and entered into a small office located at the side of the site. It was a huge dam that was under construction for irrigation farming purposes. They all think they came all the way from Asmara to visit such an unfinished dam.
When Mr. Yemane came out of the small office, however, everybody was caught by surprise; seeing President Isaias coming forward to greet the group personally. Fasil and Mesay, like the rest of the group, were not prepared for this. It was neither in the agenda nor in their long list of itinerary to meet the president, much less at a construction site.
There comes a shortage of sits as it was not pre-planned in the first place. But the president requested for more chairs and a bunch of wooden benches brought to accommodate all. While the rest of the dignitaries including the country’s top official, Mr. Yemane Ghebrab, was siting on the wooden benches, the lucky ESAT reporters got the two chairs around the president’s casual table. What follows afterwards was a general discussion on questions related to Eritrea’s foreign policy towards Ethiopia and the work that awaits the Ethiopian opposition groups after the merger.
President Isaias reportedly said that the helping hand that Eritrea is extending towards the struggle for Ethiopians freedom and unity by no means should be taken as a favor. Instead, he said, it is as an obligation to help save Ethiopia from the present dangers of division and fragmentation. A united and stable Ethiopia is always to Eritrea’s best interest.
The president went on to remind the visitors that his leadership was instrumental for preventing the secession of Tigray from the rest of Ethiopia. He said, the ‘Abay Tigray’ manifesto was rejected by his leadership from the get-go since it has a design for creating an independent Tigray state at the expense of a fragmented Ethiopia.
President Isaias stressed that his leadership does more to the unity of Ethiopia than the TPLF. Thanks to our weakness in public relation, no one until now understands our stand. Other than that, said President Isaias, he feels no remorse.
The president also said he was against the policy of ethnic federalism from the very first day when the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi brought to him for a strategic support. “The only thing I regret to this date,” said President Isaias, “was I didn’t do enough on that regard than voicing my complete disagreement over the plan, given circumstances around the transitional period and of special relation with Meles.”
Now, he said, “we are all paying for that mistake and correcting that mistake should be the primary task of all the opposition forces”. He promised to continue to help them until they achieve their goal of a united, strong and peaceful Ethiopia.
ESAT promised to present all the details of their Eritrea mission including the surprise meeting with President Isaias as soon as its reporters returned back to their Washington and Amsterdam base.
That’s is not all. President Isaias also agreed to conduct an exclusive interview with ESAT before the two reporters wind up their Eritrean mission.
In the meantime, you can hear what Fasil YeneAlem and Mesay Mekonen has to say about the said surprise encounter with President Isaias Afwerki in the following audio report. (play start @01:04:00)
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