Long Awaited Dream Realized During Inception
Theoretically, Eritrea’s independence was achieved much earlier before the launching of the armed struggle just when the people of Eritrea resisted in unity against any sort of colonialism. It is this spirit of not succumbing to alien invaders that makes the country’s independence a reality. It is through the strong conviction they had that a few veteran fighters who didn’t exceed the number of fingers set out to free Eritrea from the clutches of the colonizers believing that the entire Eritrean people would follow such initiatives. Nation Building process was also started since then. Every single experience of the struggle for independence was of a paramount importance for the development of a can-do spirit that continued in the post-independence period. So, the secret behind Eritrea’s independence and its progress inherently emanates from the timeless strength of the Eritrean people.
Nobody thinks of sparing one’s life, but was certain that independence would be achieved one day and all resources of the nation would be of the nationals. Living amidst flames of war, freedom fighters just see a bright light that would be lit through one’s flesh and blood. Comradeship and brotherhood was what strengthened their ties and prompted them dedicate their precious time and life for the noble cause.
Let alone spare human flesh, the firing of guns which cause the shrapnels scatter everywhere had burned the mountains, the vegetation, and even the soil of the battle fields were burned. However, every freedom fighter had unyielding conviction that no matter how harsh the conditions were, there would be a time for eternal triumph. “Even the stones are burning” is a profound expression of the late Mother Zeyneb Yasin which strongly described the bitterness of war in short terms. This being the fact, the Eritrean people along its gallant fighters decided to achieve independence irrespective of what could befall them by the colonizing powers. So, before they fought, Eritreans won against the heavily armed troops who were morally in a shaky ground.
Who else would think, during the days of armed struggle, that severely wounded fighters would regain life through the medical assistance that were given in the wildernesses and the operations that were conducted under trees shades. But, this was true for every medical expert was ready to sacrifice one’s life to save the life of a fellow fighter heedless of the firing of guns and bombardments of fighter jets.
Hard to believe wonders were accomplished that huge logs of trees that could be very trying even for a machine were transported from far distances to the trenches on the shoulders of freedom fighters. Impenetrable rocks were dug to construct a number of kilometers long canals through bare hands of the freedom fighters. Willing to pay their life, the tegadelti at the same time had a vision to serve an independent Eritrea. Always thinking of victory and making due preparation for unforeseen dangers, the freedom fighters cherished in their mind a freed and economically prosperous Eritrea in which its people live in peace and harmony. Thus, in the very trying periods of life and death, they were educating themselves under the shades of trees and flat rocks were used as blackboards.
Technical schools were built and garments and medicine factories among others workshops were established in the underground trenches. Garages and utensils workshops were opened and a number of heavy artillery shrapnels were modified to be spare parts and were made into equipment of day-to-day uses.
In the case of medical care, that is, before the establishment of medical departments a number of fighters were provided with vitamin K tablets to prevent excessive bleedings during casualties and every medicine was stored in caves. At times, even though medicines were seized from enemy’s hospitals, they were evenly distributed to different units of the EPLF. But later, medical department of the EPLF was established in January 1977. Many visitors who saw the underground hospital in Ararb were very amazed and believed that such a hospital was among the longest underground hospitals.
Until the establishment of medicine manufacturing factories in the strongholds of the EPLF, medicines were imported from abroad. But, some of EPLF’s pharmacists came up with an idea of manufacturing medicines by their own. Based on the research documents obtained from Italians, attempts were also made to produce medicines from indigenous vegetation in the early 1977.
During those days, shipping containers made up of fiber optics were utilized as laboratories and were carefully sterilized to be utilized for manufacturing infusions. These containers were divided into rooms that contain sanitary sections and were modified by the department of technic. The containers that were used as laboratories were placed in safe places under mountains so as to keep the medical equipment save from air raids. Even though the laboratories and medicine manufacturing factories were established in the wildernesses, their cleanliness was like an operating room (OR). Here, it is important to notice that it took 36 hours for the first 20 liters of infusion production.
The starting of infusion production was a medical breakthrough that prompted the EPLF’s surgical unit to begin conducting operation in Nakfa. Such progress was a great leap in medical service. Then medicine manufacturing activities continued in the trenches. At first vitamin K was very much demanded but infusion was also very much needed. And, therefore, the EPLF planned to locally produce it. Through this first of its kind project, infusion production was raised from 20 liters a day at the beginning to 400 liters a day in its later development. Any medical service was conducted with flexibility and bandages were manually made through cutting cotton fabrics into pieces.
Different construction units that used to pave roads on the sloppy cliffs of the battle fields have now been developed into big companies in the post-independence period. These companies have now been playing due role in the nation building process. Owing to the experiences gained during the war times, today’s Bdho General Construction Company had no difficulty to construct the Egila-Demhina road through penetrating what seemed impenetrable. A number of extraordinary tasks were accomplished in roads construction by such like construction units of the EPLF during the times of war.
Cultural shows that were performed by EPLF’s cultural troupe and varied sports activities were among the recreational activities that used to relive the freedom fighters from painful memories of the fierce battles. But, what could be the motivating force which enabled the cultural troupes continue their regular activities in the battle fields that spares no time for relaxation? It is a very simple logic which is centered in the hardworking nature of the freedom fighters, who were committed not only in creative writing but also in translating Shakespeare’s works into Eritrean languages to be performed in the battle fields. Cultural activities were viewed as a means of encouraging creativity. A number of fighters who would have been immersed into tense state of mind due to a great loss of a fellow fighter were relaxed through such instructing, touching and very delighting cultural performances. A number of plays that were written in Eritrean languages and translated into English in the post-independence period such as Alemseghed Tesfay’s “The Other War” among other literary works were also part of Eritrea’s cultural renaissance. Such plays were very descriptive in exposing enemy’s tactful political agenda of ethnic cleansing and destroying true Eritrean nationality and ruling a nation through the offspring of its womb. This is in fact the same as what one of the principal characters deed in marrying an Eritrean woman not because out of love, but believing is the best way to stain the patriotic spirit through the other blood.
All in all, culture was revitalized during the period of the struggle for independence; nation building process was started in some liberated areas during war times. All development sectors such as education, healthcare, construction, scientific experimentation, invention and renovation activities and technical competence were developed in great deal in the times of life and death. The opening of garages and technical schools were a millstone to nurturing competent captains and technicians of swift boats that were modified to fight against giant enemy war fleets. The technical Know-how of Anberbeb Share Company which is today’s importer of different vehicles was fundamentally acquired in the former workshops of the EPLF.
Sium Ghebremariam alias Ghrbi once in an interview he conducted with Eri-Tv’s program Dbab tried to describe Eritreans through the theory of unity in trinity. At large Eritrean fighters are part of the larger Eritrean society, but are represented in a simplified form as EPLF and in a more simplified from as individual fighters. So Eritreans can simultaneously be viewed as one and three. This expression highlights the very idea of one standing for all and all for one. Every freedom fighter joined the armed struggle for the common cause and the entire Eritrean people stand for every individual fighter. Thus, all in unity freed Eritrea and this very unity is building and safe guarding the nation. A noble idea translated into pragmatic deeds in the earlier times, is still making a difference in all aspects of national development.