In less than two weeks, that miracle land on the shores of the Red Sea will celebrate its 28th birthday. Each year as the calendar turns to May, Eritrean communities around the globe gear up to throw a bash and celebrate Eritrea’s Independence Day in style.
This year is set to be one of the best Independence Day celebrations the State of Eritrea has ever seen because peace has come to the region and its mortal enemy, the criminal Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), has been deposed from power. In fact, TPLF has been smoked out of Menelik Palace and is relegated back to its shabby kilil with its leaders on the run from authorities and living life as fugitives from the law. What can be sweeter than that?
Lightning seems to strike those who set out to destroy the State of Eritrea. What’s become of the Sanna Forum as Eritrea gears up to celebrate its 28th birthday? Where are TPLF’s Meles Zenawi, Yemen’s Ali Abdallah Saleh, and Sudan’s Omar Albashir? Those three stooges were organized by their masters to try to erase Eritrea’s sovereignty while the State of Eritrea was still in its infancy and deemed vulnerable. Let’s just say that not only did it boomerang on them, everything they concocted for Eritrea ended up happening to them.
Sovereign Eritrea lives on and is gearing up to celebrate yet another birthday, perhaps the most fantastic one of all its birthdays so far. Eritrea would be forgiven if it ran a victory lap around Bahti Meskerem Square this year, for it has prevailed over its enemies. Perhaps its enemies should have known better.
As the deeply pious Abona Woldeab Woldemariam (Welwel), an Eritrean nationalist and an early independence movement leader of the 1950s, famously remarked in May 1991: “Eritrea’s crown (sovereignty) is blessed by God. Woes to those who challenge it.” Indeed, Welwel was right. While Eritrea’s Independence Day is not a religious holiday per se, it has a certain sanctity to it because it was achieved with the blood of its innocent sons and daughters. Most of Eritrea’s martyrs died young and did not leave children behind so it’s up to us to remember them.
Independence Week is just around the corner. Eritrean communities at home and in the diaspora have been announcing their Independence Day party plans since the calendar turned to May. Independence Week in Eritrea includes carnivals, street performances, parades, concerts, fireworks, partying at various neighborhood tent parties and lots of unabashed flag waving. Unlike the somber, reflective mood of Martrys Day, the streets of Eritrea come alive to rejoice and party late into the night during Independence Week. Even 80-year old grandmothers stay out late past midnight as the carnival passes them by because independence is the fruit of their children and grandchildren’s sacrifice.
In a sign of growing friendship between Eritrea and Japan, Heavenese, the Tokyo-based band that plays innovative and cool music known for its samurai-style sword fight and unique fusion of R&B and traditional Japanese music, will be headlining the concert scene in Asmara during Independence Week this year. There will no doubt be other musical bands as well from other countries throwing concerts to entertain and excite Independence Week revelers.
Some Eritrean communities in the diaspora in cities such as Toronto, Winnipeg, San Jose, Oakland, and New Orleans choose to celebrate it with a flag raising ceremony in their city hall where local politicians and the elected Mayor of the city join them. It’s the local Eritrean community’s way of expressing solidarity with and support for the State of Eritrea. Flag raising ceremony is becoming an annual tradition in those cities so the blue-red-yellow-and green Eritrean flag will be flying high in those North American cities later this month.
Though peace has come to the Horn following the cancerous TPLF’s ousting from power, Eritrea is not completely out of the woods yet. Therefore, Eritreans must continue to remain steadfast and vigilant. Unfortunately, Eritrea will have to continue to sleep with one-eye open in the near term as there are forces that would love nothing more than to throw a monkey wrench into the Ethio-Eritrea Joint Declaration on Peace and Friendship Agreement signed in Asmara on July 9, 2018, which has the full implementation of the Algiers Agreement as its basis.
The 1998-2000 Ethio-Eritrea War (Werar Weyane or TPLF’s invasion to Eritreans) was a formative event in the State of Eritrea’s history that negatively impacted and sabotaged its development ambitions. That war was fought for the survival of the young Eritrean State. Therefore, it can be described as a “second war of independence.”
Eritrea is just now coming out of a 20-year war that was imposed on it. The negative legacy of the war is still impacting Eritrea. Calls for Western-style democracy and economic liberalism are premature and naïve at best, and dangerous at worst. Consolidation of the new found peace must remain the priority in the near term.
In its 28-year history, through its trials and tribulations as a young country, Eritrea has registered remarkable progress across the board. Though the achievements are too many to list, I’m most proud of Eritrea’s success in reversing environmental degradation, its practical pursuit of renewable sources of energy and inspired efforts at increasing water supply by engaging in smart harnessing. It’s also encouraging to see its Red Sea corals continue to be resilient and immune to climate change at a time when most of the world’s coral reefs are dying due to global climate change. This is important because tourism will some day make up a significant contribution to Eritrea’s economy.
With projects like the Colluli Potash Mine and its 200-year income stream boosting Eritrea’s economy, the State of Eritrea can be expected to increase its overall infrastructure spending and re-direct some of the costly defense expenditures to other more productive sectors upon the consolidation of peace with Ethiopia. I’m very bullish on Eritrea’s future.
Time flies. May 24, 1991 seems like yesterday. But the best is yet to come. Eritrea will soon move from a start-up nation to the next phase with all the pros and cons that the move entails. So go ahead and celebrate Eritrea’s birthday with lots of spirit and patriotism but also keep in mind that Eritrea owes its independence as well as its present and future to the heroes whose unforgettable sacrifices enables the country to exist as a proud and sovereign nation.
Eternal Glory to our Martyrs!
Awet n Hafash!