Eritrean president Isaias Afewerki told VOA he welcomes President Barack Obama`s message of change and suggested a constructive engagement with the volatile Horn of Africa region.
“The Obama administration could mend and change the past by coming up with a constructive role in the region,” the president told Tewelde Tesfagabir Friday. He said direct contact is more effective than shuttle diplomacy.
In response to critics who say Eritrea is intolerant to criticism, Isaias said it is the westerners who are intolerant. “I am not the intolerant one,” he said. "The Eritrean government speaks with direct, honest and steadfast words. The west misunderstands this and that is wrong and that is what we want to be corrected.”
The president, whose nation is celebrating 18 years of independence this year, made a break with recent domestic policies by inviting VOA and other international media to come to Asmara and interview him. Eritrea has in recent years chosen policies that had shut off public debate, discouraged diplomatic engagement with western nations and cut off development aid from the United States and other donors. Isaias warned in this interview that the whole of Africa is becoming marginalized in the fast-globalizing world, but Eritrea wants to be part of the process of global engagement.
Listen to complete interview: