In Eritrea, there are widely shared proverbs and sayings that indicate selfreliance is deeply rooted within the Eritrean society. Some of these proverbs indicate that those who expect something from others hardly get what they expect. There is also another commonly shared proverb which can be roughly translated as: a beggar is treated like a monkey. In short, such proverbs remind us that depending on others unnecessarily are a disgraceful act. The said proverbs also indicate that self-reliance is not a new (or a borrowed) concept in Eritrea; rather it is one of the most important heritages in the country. The message conveyed by these proverbs is that anybody (or for that matter a society) that fails to be self-reliant is unlikely to be strong and to have a strong base through the support of others.
In Eritrea, the importance and relevance of self-reliance was practically tested during the struggle for independence. We were able to achieve and maintain over independence simply because what we do is based on our own resources. And this principle in turn enables us to have independent choices in designing policies and strategies. Therefore, self-reliance is the basis of
our development endeavors. This has been comprehensively documented in our National Charter.
To quote from what has been stated in the National Charter of Eritrea:
“Self-reliance is one of the major success factors of our struggle for independence. Had we failed to basically depend on our own internal resources during the struggle, our struggle for independence would have been futile. Self-reliance is a fundamentally important principle in all aspects of life in our society -political, economic as well as cultural life of our society. Politically, we need to have an independent choice and we must place more emphasis on our own internal situation. In the economic sphere, we need to depend on our own internal resources and we need to further develop our own capability to have our own aspirations materialized. When it comes to the cultural aspect of life, we need to be confident about our own way of doing things and we need to develop and improve further our cultural heritages. Self-reliance does not mean that those who advocate it have to be isolated from the international community and a modern way of doing things. It is just the basis for interacting confidently in the international community. For one to be successful in an interdependent relationship, first and foremost they need to be independently successful. This is what self-reliance means.”
The principle of Self-reliance is not an ideology. Some exaggerate what Self-reliance means and they tend to associate it with isolation and failure not to interact with your neighbors and the world at large. However, this principle is about the need to basically depend on your own resources and note consider aid as a secure means of addressing your concerns. If we try to note the nature of the problems perpetuating in the world, in one way or the other they are associated within the inability to basically depend on your own resources and the inability to make an optional use of the resources one is endowed with.
We need to continuously apply the principle of self-reliance in our development endeavors as it is the basis of our success and sacred heritage in our society. When it comes to democracy and economic recovery, instead of dependency on what is fashionably provided for sale by others in the market place of ideas, we must design alternative models that are relevantly applicable in our own context. This does not mean that we do not need the input of others that is, the skills and contributions of skillful people. What it means is that we need to primarily depend on our own skills and on our own skillful people. The support of others does not go beyond complementing what we primarily have to do with our own resources.
The Eritrean people have learned an important lesson from those countries that were able to attain their independence 60 years ago. Instead of developing their own independence policies and strategies, many of such countries have been unnecessarily exposed themselves to dependency problems that significantly jeopardize their independence. So the lesson we have learned from the experiences of our neighbors and other countries that have been negatively affected by dependency is that self-reliance is helpful (is the basis) for having independent policies and priorities that emerge taking into account our internal circumstances and local resources. In this case, we should not harbor in our minds habit that are associated with aid. While aid appears to be a solution in the short-term, in the long term the problems it creates are much more that the problems it solves. The fact that the aspirations associated with the recovery of our economy are being materialized as a result of the principle of self- reliance can enable Eritrea to be a good example for others.
In sum, the corner stone for realizing our goals in Eritrea is the lesson we have learned about self-reliance and our determination to depend on our own resources instead of looking for short term solutions that worsen our problems in the long term. Our cumulative experience of depending on our own resources coupled with modern technology will certainly move forward our overall progress in having our basic aspirations realized. In this case, the key to our success is our determination to do the things self-reliantly and the experiences we have developed in relation to this principle.