K. O. Peppeh — March 7, 2014
The Eritrean Ministry of Information has announced the death of the chief of staff of the nation’s armed forces.
Major General Gebregziabher Andremariam, alias ‘Wuchu’, reportedly passed on in Asmara, where he had been undergoing medical care.
The cause of his death is currently unknown.
Maj Gen. Andremariam is a veteran of the defence force and was notably involved in the fight to separate the province of Eritrea from Ethiopia between 1961 – 1993.
Yemane Ghebreab, an advisor to the Eritrean President, has described the late chief of staff as a ‘legend’, ‘patriot’ and a ‘brave commander’, according to a report by Tesfa News.
Eritreans on social media continue to pay tribute to the major in their numbers. But many commentators have highlighted the slow pace at which the news of his death reached the world as evidence of the negative effects of the government’s tight control of the media.
Since 2001, the government of Eritrea has reportedly prohibited the operation of private media outlets. Currently, all the media houses are operated by the state.
The country is ranked to have one of the poorest human rights record in the region, with arbitrary arrests and frequent disappearances.
The government has justified its authoritarian control of the state as necessitated by the nation’s war with rebels, who are reportedly sponsored by the Ethiopian government.