"Self-reliance is interpreted as an isolationist trend, which it is not at all ... Self-reliance is preparing yourself for partnership, equal partnership." — Isaias Afwerki
Interesting Facts About President Isaias Afwerki
Despite being among the most accomplished leaders in the world today, President Isaias Afwerki is also one of the most demonized politicians in Africa. When you challenge superpowers, as Isaias has been doing since the mid-1960s, this should be expected.
But Isaias isn't your ordinary president. He fought for a quarter of a century as a freedom fighter and lead his people to victory. Since then, he has transformed the country for the better, too. Eritrea has arguably accomplished more in 22 years than any developing country in Africa. Some of these accomplishments include:
• Eritrea is 1 of 4 African countries on track to achieve 6 out the 8 (http://www.madote.com/2012/07/eritrea-o ... eight.html
) UN Millennium Development Goals
• Eritrea's life expectancy has doubled since independence and leads continental sub-Saharan Africa. (http://gamapserver.who.int/gho/interact ... atlas.html
• The country has had one of the fastest-growing economies (http://www.madote.com/2012/12/eritreas- ... -2013.html
) in East Africa for nearly half a decade.
• Eritrea's literacy rates have nearly doubled (http://www.madote.com/2013/01/eritreas- ... roves.html
) from 43% in 1991 to 80% today.
• The government provides free health care, education (http://www.madote.com/2012/12/eritrea-a ... gress.html
) and subsidized foods to its citizens (real human rights).
Think as nine but act as one
- Eritrean motto
Isaias also helped forge a culture revolution among the different ethnic groups in Eritrea. For many developing countries, having nine ethnic groups divided along two of the world's major religions is considered a challenge. But Isaias celebrated these differences and created an environment in which Eritreans celebrated their similarities and respected their differences.
Even with the ongoing demonization campaign against him, Isaias still enjoys popular support among his people. In fact, he's the only world leader that can be seen walking around the capital without any security detail. When American Major General Mastin M. Robeson
met Isaias walking alone in Asmara, he was impressed and knew he was dealing with a confident man who was cut from a different cloth. So it's no surprise when he returned home to the states, he would defend Isaias from journalists looking to criticize him.
"Isaias doesn't need bodyguards," he told me. "He goes around alone. He lives in a normal house. He governs an African capital that is crime-free, without slums, even though there are relatively few police. There's no terrorist threat in Eritrea. More than any other country in my AOR [area of responsibility], it has a secular Western sense of patriotism. Isn't that what we claim we want?"
This isn't to say Isaias is perfect. He's human and does make mistakes. But the demonization of him in the media is a disturbing trend that is becoming more extreme and outrageous by the day. By shaping a distorted and extremely negative perception of him in the press, the U.S. administration is hoping this will turn the diaspora against him. Unfortunately for them, it's a difficult task trying to convince people with a thousand words or less that a man who has spent nearly 25 years risking his life for the greater good of his people and country is somehow against their interest when their administration is at odds with him.
The following information are interesting facts about President Isaias Afwerki:
"As a young guerrilla fighter, Isaias got a tattoo of the letter 'e' on his chest to symbolize Eritrea and the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF)."
"He writes all his speeches and is considered an excellent speech writer."
"He obtained his Masters in Business Administration in the early 2000s."
"He's the only leader in Africa that can be seen walking around in urban centers without any security detail."
"He's a big fan of classic rock such as Pink Floyd, the Beatles, and Jimi Hendrix."
"His favorite international football (soccer) team is Arsenal F.C."
"He knows how to speak a total of seven languages: Tigrinya (native), Tigre, Hidareb, English, Arabic, Amharic and basic Mandarin Chinese."
"According to the LA Times, he makes less than $12,000 dollars a year; making him one of the least paid presidents in the world."