BY KIRUBEL TADESSE
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — A senior Eritrean diplomat denied on Saturday there was an attempted coup early this week in the Horn of Africa nation and said reports to the contrary are a deliberate disinformation campaign.
Girma Asmerom, Eritrea’s ambassador to the African Union, said in a statement that coup reports were “wishful thinking” by people he did not name.
“There has never been an ‘attempted military coup’ and there will never be a coup d’etat in Eritrea,” Asmerom said.
Without explaining the incidents on Monday, Asmerom wrote of acts of terror being called something else.
“As is the case all over the world an armed crazy, stupid and terrorist individual or group can take stupid actions such as kidnapping of individuals or taking hostages by raiding government and private institutions and offices,” he said. “Such isolated incidents which frequently occur in the West are considered terrorist acts. I don’t understand why in Africa they are considered coup d’etats. It is the highest form of double standard and hypocrisy.”
But activists and experts said about 100 dissident soldiers stormed the state broadcasting at Ministry of Information in the capital, Asmara, and read a statement vowing to free all political prisoners and implement the country’s constitution.
Eritrean President Isaias Afworki took power when the country broke away from Ethiopia in 1991 after a civil war that lasted three decades. His regime is seen by rights groups as repressive.
Ethiopia, which has no diplomatic relations with Eritrea, says the incident is not the first attempt to dislodge Afworki and that the president is likely to respond with brutal force.
“In May 1993, embarrassingly a mere four days before the country’s official declaration of independence, soldiers who had received no pay following the country’s de facto independence two years earlier, launched a major protest in Asmara, demanding a meeting with the president and to be paid,” Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said in a statement Friday. “When the president finally agreed to meet them and hear their grievances, he quickly promised to improve conditions and provide pay. The troops returned to the barracks but within a matter of days, with the protests over, hundreds were arrested.”