Eritreans are torn between two scenarios: President Isaias Afwerki has died or is seriously sick that it is a matter of time before his death is made public. "I don't want him to die," one Eritrean wrote on an opposition blog. "I want him to face justice for the crimes he committed over several years."
Well, there could be a surprise as well. The much-feared Isaias may make an impressive comeback to public life, a la Fidel Castro style.
For now, what's certain is Isaias Afwerki has been out of public life for nearly a month, and the top brass of the army is in charge of the country.
Eritrean opposition sources like Assenna.com believe General Sebhat Ephrem has been elected leader of the hastily formed supreme command that's still meeting behind closed-doors.
Armored vehicles and tanks are positioned around banks, while the mother of Isaias Afwerki has been flown in to the capital from her long-time residence in the United States. The sources say her sudden recall is so that she would pay her last respects to her reclusive son.
The secret meeting is being attended by the very few and most powerful men who have been clustered around Isaias since rebel days, and these are:
Gen. Sebhat Ephrem, Brig. Gen. Abraha Kassa, Major Gen. Oumer Tewil, major general filipos w yohannes, Abdella Jabir, Yemane Charlie. Brig. Gen. Abraha Kassa is second in command, after Gen. Sebhat.
While it is reported that political prisoners linked to the G-15, a reformist group that Isaias threw into jail in the early 2000, are released and being treated at clincs in the Eritrean capital, other Eritrean sources call for the release of all political prisoners and the lifting of the news blackout that has thrown the entire country into confusion.
If the fear is proven right, and Isaias fails to crawl back to life like Castro, the following developments are very likely to evolve over Eritrea:
1.Eritrean army officers may split in two: those who will defend the status quo so that those who have been Afwerki's confidantes wouldn't be brought to justice if they lose power, and those who abhor dictatorship, and vow a new government should be elected after first ever elections in Eritrea.
2.Eritrean opposition parties, almost all of them, about a dozen, based in neighboring Ethiopia, will no doubt push for Eritrea's clean break with the Isaias past, and call for general elections, possibly monitored by the UN.
3.In the event that Eritrea descends into choas, there would be no doubt that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the man who played the most important role in the fight for the independence of Eritrea at the cost of making Ethiopia landlocked, would send forces to quel any threat to Eritrean peace, stability, sovereignty and independence on the one hand, and on the other, make sure any Eritrean group that is coming to power in Asmara wouldn't be a bone in the throat of Mr. Zenawi himself.