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Happy 71st Birthday to President Isaias Afwerki Tesfa

If you have never heard of Eritrea or wonder why you know so little about this country the reason is, they the system those in charge don’t want you to know.

By Yared Tesfay,

President Isaias Afworki is the founding father of modern Eritrea! He is the essential man in guiding Eritrea at this juncture of its history. He has proven to be incorruptible. He leads by example. He is clearly the greatest Eritrean of his age and has been an inspirational World figure worthy of both admiration and affection for nearly half a century and dedicated his life to freeing his people.

Resolute, determined and possessing a backbone made of steel, President Isaias is the rarest of men, a realistic world visionary who combines a realistic view of human nature with a vision of what a free and united Eritrea could be for posterity.

He has dedicated his entire life to making that vision a reality.

Happy Birthday Mr. President, wishing you all the best!

President Isaias Afwerki’s Biography

Isaias Afwerki as a child with his brothers in Asmara -1956
#  Isaias Afwerki        Detailed  Information
Name Isaias Afwerki Afwerki literally means ‘mouth of gold’
Age February 2, 1946 (67) Born in Asmara, Eritrea to Eritrean parents 
Wife Saba Haile  Saba was a former freedom fighter for EPLF
Children Two boys & one girl Abraham (28), Berhane (17) and Elsa (19) 
Religion Orthodox Christian Eritrean Orthodox is among the world’s oldest faiths
Height 6’3" tall (190.5cm) One of the tallest African Head of State
Education Addis Ababa Uni. Former engineering student before joining ELF

Isaias Afwerki was born on February 2, 1946 in Asmara, Eritrea[1]. He was sent to the elite prince Makonnen secondary high school in Asmara, where he graduated in 1965.[2] He went on to attend Haile Selassie University in Addis Ababa to study engineering from 1965-66.[2]  In late 1966, he abandoned his engineering studies and headed for Kassala, Sudan, where he joined the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) in exile.[2]

Recalling these early times,  Isaias described Eritrean students’ political thoughts and sentiments to the historian and author Don Connel as:

“Most of the active students were organized in clandestine groups. Emotionally and sentimentally, everyone was with the ELF. You never knew who was from what tribe or from what religion because there was not even a hint of that kind of thinking."
Against all odds: a chronicle of the Eritrean revolution, by Dan Connell, p. 79

However, after entering the Sudan, his sentiments towards the ELF leadership changed.

“Before I went to Sudan, the ELF was something like a magic organization to me – maybe some kind of fairy tale – but the first day I arrived I became frustrated. People began telling me about the ugly nature of the ELF, and Kassala became a nightmare for me. For some reason we were ostracized, even accused of being agents for the Ethiopians. Very narrow considerations of clan, tribe and religion were the basis for surviving or not surviving. We were living in an atmosphere of terror, where we had to go in groups, especially at dusk, to look after each other. It was definitely an akward situation after all those years of fighting for this organization."
Against all odds: a chronicle of the Eritrean revolution, by Dan Connell, p.79

Despite his critical opinions of the ELF leadership, Isaias stayed committed to the group and even still carries a tattooed letter “E" on his right shoulder as a symbol of his youthful exuberance which in those days symbolized the ELF[2]. In early 1967,  Isaias and Romadan Mohammed Nur were selected to study military training course in China. They spent nearly two years in China studying political ideologies and gurrelia warfare.[2] Isaias described these early times with the following quote:

Isaias Afwerki in the early 1970s

“I remember when we got back from China," said Isaias later. “It was the peak of politics within the ELF. The talk of reform was everywhere. Everyone trained in Syria and elsewhere joined hands. There were all sorts of revolutionary ideas. We had high hopes in those days. The reform movement was so strong that I wouldn’t have imagined it could be frustrated in a few months, but it was infiltrated, and survival was not possible."
Against all odds: a chronicle of the Eritrean revolution, by Dan Connell, p.80

Many of Isaias closest friends describe him as an intelligent, and fiercely guarded man with a no nonsense attitude. One of Isaias’ foreign critics described him as, “Imposingly tall, fiercely intelligent, naturally austere, he had chosen his path early in life, rebelling against a father who was a committed Unionist.".[3]

In 1970, disagreements within ELF led to three factions leaving the ELF into three separate groups. One faction took refuge in the mountains of Sahel. Another group under Isaias’ command, numbering less than a dozen, left for Eritrea’s eastern escarpment. While the third group headed off to Aden and returned by boat to Eritrea, landing south of Assab. These three groups would eventually join to become one and went by the name of the Eritrean Liberation Front-People’s Liberation Front (ELF-PLF). When they formally merged in 1973, they changed their name to the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front.

Under ELF-PLF and EPLF
In 1971, using a type writer, Isaias wrote a manifesto called “Our Struggle and its Goals[2]. This manifesto placed strong emphasis on overcoming ethnic and religious differences and on launching revolutionary struggle during the independence war.[2] In 1975, Isaias became chairman of the EPLF military committee. In 1977, under EPLF’s first congress, he was elected to be vice secretary-general of the EPLF. A decade later in 1987, he became the secretary-general of the EPLF. From 1989 to 1993, Isaias had served as the secretary-general of the Provisional Government of Eritrea. In 1993, after achieving de-jure independence, Isaias was elected by the Eritrean assembly to be president.

Isaias being treated for malaria at an Israeli hospital in 1993

On January 7, 1993, just a few months before referendum for independence were to take place, Iasias went into a coma and almost lost his life when he was stricken with a severe case of cerebral malaria. He was immediately flown by the US Air Force to Israel for treatment[4]. The treatment was remarkably effective.

Recalling her visit to Eritrea in 1997 as the former first lady of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton in her book titled: Living history, states the following about Isaias and his wife Saba:

Hillary Clinton wearing Zuria in Asmara, Eritrea

 The president of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki, and his wife, Saba Haile, a former freedom fighter, lived in their own small house, but they recived me at the Presidential Palace. As we watched folk dancers perform in a courtyard built by the Italians during their colonial occupation, I asked President Afwerki, who had given up his university studies to fight in the resistance, if he had ever found time to dance during their long war. “Of course," he replied. “We had to dance to remind ourselves of a world without war."
Living History By Hillary Rodham Clinton, p. 405

Isaias met his wife, Saba Haile, during the struggle to liberate Eritrea. Like him, she was a freedom fighter and met in Nakfa in the summer of 1981. Together they have three children: Abraham, Elsa and Berhane.

The following are pictures of Isaias Afwerki and pictures related with his brief biography. Click on the images to see larger quality.

Side by side photo of Isaias in 1956 and Isaias in 1993
Isaias Afwerki as a rebel fighter
Isaias Afwerki with the Chinese leader
Isaias being greeted in a small village
Photo of Isaias’ wife named Saba Haile receiving an award in UAE
Isaias Afwerki with Eritrean youths from Sweden
Isaias Afwerki with his teenage daughter at Sawa festival
Isaias Afwerki wearing traditional Eritrean clothing
Hillary Clinton wearing traditional Eritrean clothing in Asmara.


[1]Clements’ encyclopedia of world governments, Volume 16, John Clements, pg. 136
[2]Against all odds: a chronicle of the Eritrean revolution, Dan Connell, pg. 79-80
[3]I Didn’t Do It for You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation, Michela Wrong
[4]Africa Contemporary Record: 1992-94: Volume 24, Colin Legum, pg. 31

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Written by The Editor

warrior dedicated to the cause of fighting the takeover of our culture.


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