Eritrea – the mask of normality on an extraordinary state

On 14 December the Eritrean government reported that The National Association of the Society of Eritrean Earth Science and Mining Engineers held its founding congress.

Absolutely nothing extraordinary about that. Except for the absence of the relevant Minister.

The Minister of Mines and Energy, Sebhat Ephrem, failed to appear, despite the fact that the association works under the Ministry.

Where is Sebhat Ephrem? To this there is no answer. It should not be forgotten that he was almost assassinated in February this year, and spent months convalescing in the Emirates.

Who was behind the attempt on his life? No-one knows. His family was not allowed to travel with him.

The person who shot him gained access to Sebhat’s house in the centre of Asmara.

There is speculation that the person who shot the general did so because of the general’s betrayal of reformers in Eritrea. This took place twice – once when with the G15 critics of President Isaias and then during the Forto rebellion of 2013.

Towards the end of 2018 it seems that some  senior military  were planning a fresh act of rebellion, but this was also quashed. There are suggestions that it once again failed because of General Sebhat.

His story is further complicated by rumours that this year’s attempt on General Sebhat’s life was authorised by the President himself.  This – like so much else in Eritrea – cannot be confirmed, because of the censorship that makes serious internal journalism next to impossible.

Since then there has been little news of General Sebhat.

Vacant ministries

Eritrean government is further complicated by the fact that several ministries have no Minister.

The country has had no Minister of Defence since 2013, when General Sebhat was removed and re-assigned to the Ministry of Mines and Energy. There has been no appointment since then – a period of six year.

There is no effective Minister of Education. In theory this position is held by Semere Russom. But, since he is also the Eritrean Ambassador to Ethiopia, and meant to be in Addis Ababa, he is effectively absent from his position.

In reality none of this makes very much difference. The Ministers have little, if any, clout. All power is held by President Isaias, which he exercises without reference to anyone in his government.

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