Eritrean president seeks to calm country

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ERITREAN president Isaias Afewerki has sought to calm fears of unrest, and in his first ­reaction to the storming of the information ministry by dissident troops three weeks ago, blamed “bankrupt enemies” for being behind the attack.

Eritrean soldiers, backed by tanks, took over the ministry on 21 January and obliged the director general of state television to appeal for all political prisoners to be freed.

Calm soon returned in the capital, but Eritrean opposition activists in neighbouring Ethiopia have said there is growing dissent within the army – Africa’s second biggest – over economic hardship.

The incident sparked protests by exiled Eritreans in Europe, who briefly occupied embassies in London, Rome and other cities last month to express support for the mutinous soldiers.

Mr Afewerki, 66, who has led the country for two decades, said his administration had remained silent to avoid “serving the ploys of bankrupt enemy quarters”.

“Entertain no worry at all, as there was, and does not exist, any reason for being apprehensive,” he was yesterday quoted as saying.