Is President Isaias’s welcome for the UAE growing cold?

The United Arab Emirates is no longer being welcomed with open arms in Eritrea despite efforts by Abu Dhabi to sweeten the diplomatic pill with humanitarian aid to combat Covid-19.

Eritrean president Issayas Afeworki.
Eritrean president Issayas Afeworki. ©Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah


The United Arab Emirates has been providing food and medical aid to several countries affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, and commanders at its Eritrean base in Assab had been hoping to extend this soft diplomacy in the Horn to Eritrea. But when they offered to donate aid to the local population in Assab, the proposal was turned down in no uncertain terms by General Teklai Kifle, aka “Manjus“, who in February took over the reins of Eastern Operation Zone 4 where the Emirati base is located.

Issayas blows hot and cold

Along with Colonel Melake Teklemariam, the chief of staff of the head of the Eritrean navy Houmed Mohamed Ahmed (aka “Karikare“), General Kifle is the Eritrean army’s interlocutor with the Emirati military, but both men are opposed to the UAE’s presence on Emirati soil. They have criticised Abu Dhabi for disregarding instructions set out by President Issayas Afeworki by having direct dealings with the local population.

The sudden deterioration in its relations with Eritrea has caught Abu Dhabi by surprise as it had been on very good terms with General Karikare when he was still capable of exercising his full duties, but that is no longer the case. Although still officially the head of the navy, he has been forced through illness to delegate sensitive dossiers to his chief of staff and is often absent for medical treatment. Indeed, thanks to his good relationship with the Emirati military, he has been receiving treatment at the hospital at their base in Assab – a state of affairs that is unlikely to be viewed positively by his subordinates…

Asmara rejects anti-Covid aid

A key plank of Abu Dhabi’s diplomatic strategy has been the provision of medical equipment to combat Covid-19 in order to consolidate its influence in several African countries and in the Horn in particular. But Eritrea has refused all donations of supplies, whether for the government or local populations, and is the only country on the continent to have turned down aid from Jack Ma, the former boss of Alibaba.


  1. I quote, “When Emirates offered to donate aid to the local population in Assab, the proposal was turned down in no uncertain terms by General Teklai Kifle, aka “Manjua”. “ The refusal gives fresh insight into the motive of PFDJ. It is to starve the population by lock down in their houses without and food aid to sustain their day to day living. These has to be taken seriously and need to be addressed urgently by the justice seekers.

  2. I’m not surprised Manjus declined because he is illiterate and unable to read. Unless they assign someone to read for him, he frankly wouldn’t know which way to turn the page.

    I know – because Manjus stayed in my house for a few days after independence.

    Because Manjus is illiterate, he is one of the closest cliques of Isiais. He takes his orders without questions asked. But then again – who in the regime wouldn’t do that? If they did, they would have long disappeared and in most cases dead.

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