Friday, February 3, 2012

Isaias Afewerki

Isaias Afewerki (born February 2, 1946) is an Eritrean politician who has been the first President of Eritrea since 1993. He led the Eritrean People's Liberation Front to victory in May 1991, thus ending the 30-year old armed liberation struggle that the Eritrean people refer to as "Gedli". Two years later, he became President following an independence referendum.

Early Life and Rise to Power
Born in Asmara, Afewerki joined the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) in 1966, and the following year he was sent to China to receive more advanced military training. Four years later he was appointed commander in the ELF army. However, citing irreconcilable ideological and tactical differences, he and a small group of combatants separated from the ELF and founded another front called the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF). Since survival at the heels of the ELF wasn't easy, the EPLF allied with other two groups that had splintered from the ELF earlier: the PLF1, led by Osman Saleh Sabbe, and another group known as OBEL. In 1976, the EPLF split from Sabbe's group after the latter signed a unity agreement with the ELF (the Khartoum Agreement). Isaias Afewerki served as a leader of the EPLF during the long Eritrean struggle for independence that was crowned with independence after 30 years of armed struggle.

In April 1993, a United Nations-supervised referendum on independence was held, and the following month Eritrea was declared independent. The EPLF renamed itself the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) on February 1994 as part of its preparation to usher itself as a political party[citation needed] in a democratic Eritrea. However, due to the fact that Eritrea finds itself on a war footing as a result of the unsettled border conflict with Ethiopia since 1998, the drafted Eritrean Constitution and its implementation are indefinitely put on hold.

After Independence
After Eritrean independence was achieved de facto in 1991 and de jure in 1993 after a referendum, Afewerki became the first head of state. During the first years of his administration in this new state government, the institutions of governance were structured and put in place. This included a top to bottom restructuring of the structures of governance by provision of an elected local judicial system to expanding the educational system to as many regions as possible.

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