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Friday, 20 July, 2001, 22:51 GMT 23:51 UK
Attack on president 'no big deal'
President Isaias
President Isaias is accused of "one man rule"
The Eritrean Government has played down scathing criticism from one of its own former diplomats, calling it "not a big deal".

The government was reacting to an attack on President Isaias Afewerki by the country's former ambassador to Scandinavia.

In a statement, Ambassador Hebret Berhe said she could no longer serve a government that was trying to block the Eritrean people's aspirations for democratic transition and rule of law.


Kangaroo courts are firmly in place doing a great disservice to justice

Eritrean Ambassador Hebret Berhe
Dismissing her attack, an official said "in war it is the strongest that can take the strain. She has not got the stamina."

Kangarooo courts

The envoy was recalled to the captial Asmara, but refused to go, and has since resigned from her position and from the president's party and gone to the United States.

She now says she will add her voice to those in Eritrea campaigning for democracy.

She accused President Isaias of "one-man rule" and said "Kangaroo courts are firmly in place doing a great disservice to justice."

The dissident said the implementation of the country's new constitution and multi-party elections planned by the ruling People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) had been "postponed indefinitely", an act which she said "was against the tide" of public opinion.

Shocked

The BBC's Alex Last in Asmara says the diplomat's resignation has shocked Eritreans who are concerned about the increasing public division in the ruling party.

Mr Isaias's political movement came to power in the wake of the overthrow of the Ethiopian Marxist regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991.

Eritrean scene
The former diplomat says Eritreans want more democracy
During that time it developed into a tight, centralised organisation that had little room for open public debate.

The first open dissent against the PFDJ came in May, when 15 members signed a declaration alleging that President Isaias's behaviour had plunged the country into crisis.

Their unprecedented criticism, posted on a website, accused the president of "conducting himself in an illegal and unconstitutional manner".

It would appear that the fallout from the end of the war between Eritrea and its neighbour Ethiopia in December of last year has lifted the lid on political tensions that had been bubbling away beneath the surface.

See also:

31 May 01 | Africa
Dissent surfaces in Eritrea
17 Apr 01 | Africa
Eritrean minister speaks out
30 Oct 00 | Africa
Eritrea confronts the future
20 Jun 01 | Africa
Eritrea reveals human cost of war
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