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(Avvenire.it ) Return to the heart of Eritrea

Posted by: Semere Asmelash

Date: Tuesday, 11 December 2018

In forgotten Africa. Return to the heart of Eritrea. Thus hope speaks Italian


Paolo Lambruschi sent to Asmara Tuesday 11 December 2018
Journey to the "little Rome" of Africa, until 1975 inhabited by thousands of Italians. The wounds of the war and the regime, the "lost" generation of those who went away
Return to the heart of Eritrea.  Thus hope speaks Italian

Forgotten and in the dark for over a decade, Asmara is returning to the spotlight. Below the world after the miraculous peace with Ethiopia in July and after the opening of the borders closed from 20 years to September. For the Italians, however, she returned to the search engines for the controversial video 'Chiaro di luna' by Jovanotti, set in the decadent downtown Rationalist buildings built by Fascism and among the common people. For the Italian government the return of interest for the very rapid changes in the Horn of Africa was certified by the lightning visit of the premier Conte to Addis Ababa and the Asmara in mid-October and from Monday 3 Thursday, December 6 by a cultural and economic pioneering mission of the Deputy Foreign Minister Emanuela del Reto seize the opportunities offered by the readmission of Eritrea in the global world following the fall of UN sanctions for arms sales to Al Shabaab Islamist militias in Somalia. Rome has been absent for too long, now both sides want to open a new phase.

It is thanks to the mission that Avvenire, the first Italian newspaper, has managed to enter with a regular visa granted by a regime that since 1998 has put in the drawer constitution and rights, closed the newspapers and made thousands of opponents disappear. To overcome this delicate passage, it is necessary to awaken forgotten ties in Italy, but not here. Because they are at every corner, along with the contradictions, in the eternal spring that has avoided the ruin of the shabby Italian colonial buildings, Unesco heritage, which ensure a unique atmosphere of the province of the 30s in Africa.

Up to 50,000 Italians lived here who enriched the country with factories and work until 1975, when the nationalizations of the pro-Soviet Mengistu in Ethiopia escaped the survivors. After the independence of 1993, the light had rekindled, but the '98 fratricidal war turned everything off. Today the Italians of Eritrea between national, Italian Eritreans and unrecognized mestizos - unresolved question - do not reach the thousand .

The open-air market of Merhano, at the gates of Asmara, where from the end of the embargo comes goods of all kinds from the nearby Tigray

The open-air market of Merhano, at the gates of Asmara, where from the end of the embargo comes goods of all kinds from the nearby Tigray

But Italy is in the bars and restaurants of the central Harnet street,former Corso Vittorio Emanuele, which offer a journey through time. It is in the different vehicles that circulate in the poor traffic at dim lights and dim street lamps, old models of the times of the boom and of austerity whose local mechanics and Italoeritrei assure eternal life. And at Medebere, the caravanserai where everything is recycled, there is in the art of Italian-African enlightenment the secret of the resilience of a people that has endured misery and hardship for an economy blocked 20 years. Our language and our culture have survived thanks to the largest and oldest Italian school abroad with 1,250 students - 80% Eritreans - from elementary to high school.

A middle school boy welcomed Emanuela Del Re in class during her visit saying that her most beautiful experience had been to go to that school. "It is not fortunate that everyone has". "In fact - said principal Vilma Candolini - we have numerous requests that we can not meet and we have asked the government to expand it". In elementary school there are sections with over 30 students and gaps in professorships with teachers who also arrive in the middle of the year. There are at most two five-year terms. «The quality is good - confirms the principal - and thanks to the integration of the scholastic programs in addition to the maturity they support the Eritrean exam with good results».

After graduation the precept is triggered, a high grade allows you to go to university colleges in civil service. The duration of which remains the great problem. The capital is half empty, inhabited mostly by teenagers and the elderly. The generation of asmarine, confirmed by Eritreans and Italians, has in part escaped during the years of the embargo and the long military service on the many routes to Africa , Europe and North America , with separate families, abductions, deaths and endless dramas. The traffickers go without fail with the Eritreans, they say in the streets asmarine, because there is always someone who will pay to free them.

Even after the re-opening of the borders, the free flow continued in Ethiopia to reunite with refugee family members, to seek asylum or to work for political and economic changes. From Blokko, the old colonial duty, part of a daily and frequent service of Ethiopian minibuses towards the border. Even if the civil service wages remain low, the opening of the borders has suddenly filled the stores and brought down food prices by moving from the market to the free market within hours. At the gates of Asmara in the open-air market of Merhano comes goods of all kinds from Tigray, the region bordering the most developed of Ethiopia. They are products of Chinese factories that find the natural outlet in the near poor. The withdrawal limit of 5 remains. 000 nakfa monthly ($ 300) and the lack of exchange and a financial and credit system. Other benefits of peace, the daily air connections with Addis, the improvement of the supply of electricity and water in the capital, where the procurement takes place with barrels. Instead the obsolete network and the absence ofroaming still exclude non-Eritrean phones.

On the inevitability of the changes is certainly the 47-year-old Bergamo entrepreneur Pietro Zambait i, a former cooperator who in 2008 bought the old Barattolo factory, creating the Zaer, a model company with an internal nursery school and scholarships to the Italian school. "We have 500 employees, mostly mothers, exempted from the service. We export to Italy for some brands and we are growing. Certainly with the civil service I can not hire specialized figures.

But the government is working on a gradual demobilization plan. President Afewerki can not immediately free up 400,000 people from the lever without giving them work ». But without labor it is difficult to attract entrepreneurs. "It's like our post-war period, we need to reactivate the car. Everything is needed, there is poverty to beat and the Italian system can be decisive to accompany the development that brings about the changes desired by all ». It is the line of the Italian government, interested in being next to the gate of the Horn of Africa, a planetary area with enormous prospects. In this historical passage, the Catholic Church awaits news, kept under observation and hindered in traditional activities such as education, health.

Four years ago, with a courageous pastoral letter, he had denounced the exodus of young people for poverty, oppression and lack of perspectives. After peace he says that nothing has changed and calls for an end to unlimited leverage and the restoration of the Constitution. Or at least a reform program that eliminates people's uncertainties. The city of the Italian nostalgia of Africa hopes to return to the present, the light must return quickly to the Asmara people.

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