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Eritrea’s Afwerki: Rumoured to have died but surfaced in Ethiopia

President Issias Afwerki of Eritrea has answered speculations suggesting his own death by resurfacing in neighbouring Ethiopia where he began a two-day working visit on Sunday.Wild reports in both Eritrea and Ethiopia about the reclusive leader’s supposedly declining health had persisted for weeks with some claiming he had died.

Coming against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, Afwerki had not appeared in public for weeks, fueling speculations about his whereabouts.

He had reportedly returned from Saudi Arabia where reports suggested he had been on a medical trip.

However, as these reported gained traction, the veteran leader had suddenly surfaced at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa for an unexpected visit. 

He was welcomed to the country by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and proceeded to hold talks with Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde.

The event took place in full glare at a public park in Addis Ababa. 

Afwerki’s trip to Addis Ababa had raised eyebrows, given the reluctance of world leaders to leave their countries since the pandemic took hold of the world in recent months.

With planes grounded and borders closed, summits have been held virtually as leaders avoid running the gauntlet by making use of technologies to hold talks with their peers in the relative safety of their for offices. 

Relations between Asmara and Addis Ababa had improved markedly since last year after PM Abiy Ahmad took the initiative of ending all hostilities with its smaller neighbour.

Although the guns had remained silent after a violent border war in the turn of the century, the two neighbours have still been technically at war ever since.

Eritrea and Ethiopia have opened their shared border, and exchanged ambassador in each other’s capital.  

Published on 28.04.2020

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