Afwerki, Isaias

Afwerki or Afewerki, Isaias,

1945–, Eritrean political leader, president of Eritrea (1993–), b. Asmara. He studied engineering at the Univ. of Addis Ababa, leaving in 1966 to join the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF), a group fighting Eritrea's unification (1962) with Ethiopia. In the 1970s he co-founded the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF), which battled both Ethiopian forces and the ELF; he became EPLF secretary-general in 1987. By 1991 the EPLF had effectively gained control of the province, and Afwerki became secretary-general of a provisional government. In 1993, following a referendum on Eritrean independence, Afwerki was named both president and chairman of the national assembly, positions he has held since; he is also commander in chief of the army. His party, renamed the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), is Eritrea's only recognized party, and promised elections have not been held. His authoritarian government has been accused of human rights violations and crimes against humanity, including the effective enslavement of several hundred thousand Eritreans through national conscription.
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