Eritrean leader Isaias Afwerki arrives in Nairobi for two-day visit

Wednesday February 08 2023
Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki departing Asmara for Nairobi on February 8, 2023 for a two-day official visit to Kenya, his first tour to the country since 2018. PHOTO | COURTESY


Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki on Wednesday arrived in Nairobi for a two-day official visit, his first tour to Kenya since 2018.

He is accompanied by his Foreign Minister Osman Saleh and Presidential Advisor Yemane Ghebreab.

Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel said the trip was “on the invitation of President William Ruto”, with whom they are expected to discuss bilateral issues in Nairobi.

Mr Isaias had last visited Kenya officially on December 15, 2018 during the tenure of former president Uhuru Kenyatta, although he often makes private trips to Kenya.

The trip may mark a significant turn in relations that looked on the ice for most of the decade.

In December, President Ruto visited Asmara, officially to discuss trade but also on the issues of regional security. Ruto’s assurances led to the gradual withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Tigray, an important step in influencing the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rebels to begin surrendering their weapons. The TPLF, who have since signed a peace deal with Ethiopia, had accused Eritrean soldiers of committing atrocities.


Tighter relations

Asmara and Addis Ababa are closer these days, having normalised ties in 2018, but Eritrea had in the past withdrawn from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), saying the bloc was being used by Ethiopia against Asmara.

Kenya had earlier in 2011 accused Eritrea of providing arms to Al-Shabaab militants. Despite denials, Eritrea was later sanctioned by the UN Security Council. The sanctions were lifted in 2019.

In 2015, a Kenyan presidential jet was turned away mid-flight as it neared the Eritrean airspace. Eritrea rejected accusations it had refused a flight path to the Kenyan leaders’ jet.

Ruto has been reaching out to Eritrea to have them participate more in regional affairs.