“The camel marches and the dog keeps on barking”, is a proverb frequently used to describe the political character of the Government of Eritrea. Eritrea’s national symbol, the camel, reflects the country’s political behavior and symbolizes its real existence, as many other political entities, especially historic, represent and glorify themselves through using the imagery of animals.
The camel is not an animal of luxury. It is an animal of necessity for people living – surviving – within one of the most challenging regions of the world. Endurance and strength are qualities, amongst others, that distinguish the camel from other animals. Considering the geographical location of Eritrea, considering its fractious neighborhood, considering the competitive politics of the region, and considering the often unrighteous international system, any political organization that attempts to lead people to its destination must be as strong, as patient, as confident, and as steadfast as the camel.
Over many years, Eritrea’s people have withstood wars of aggression and conquest, as well as injustice and iniquity in front of the seemingly blind, indifferent world. Through much sacrifice and patience, Eritreans eventually gained dignity and independence.
The current international economic and political system is characterized by shallow rhetorical flourishes, lofty doctrines, and unfulfilled promises. Many of the criminal, ignominious deeds of the colonial period remain, yet appear in a different way.
The poor remain betrayed by political leaders that yearn for power, while only a few leaders muster the courage to resist and fight for a better future.
Noam Chomsky, the renowned scholar and respected public intellectual, describes the exploitative nature of the international capitalist world system in his timeless book, Year 501: The Conquest Continues (1993):
…The South is assigned a service role; to provide resources, cheap labor, markets, and opportunities for investment…the primary threat to these interests is depicted in high level planning documents as “radical and nationalistic regimes” that are responsive to popular pressures for immediate improvement in the low living standards of the mass and development for domestic needs (33).
The USA, the lone global superpower, along with its global proxies, aims to deprive the weak and control the vital resources across the world. Force – and the threat of force – is a key instrument of world order and the silencing of opposition. And it often works as per the plan. Everywhere, we see illegitimate, irresponsible governments sitting on seats of power while serving the interest of others. Failure to respect the order is considered a great transgression and it brings sanctions and reproofs – harsh rods of discipline. For years, the Government of Eritrea has been in the line of that “rod of discipline” for seeking to implement policies that are beneficial to Eritrean people first and not foreign interests. The Government has been traduced by accusations, while it provides schools for children, hospitals and clinics for patients, roads and dams for the population, liberation from dependency, and organization and power from being scattered and powerless. Today, disobedience to forcible servitude to global power is a severe crime meriting harsh punishment.
In reference to this “political crime,” Chomsky states that:
“Radical and nationalistic regimes” are intolerable in themselves, even more so if they appear to be succeeding in terms that might be meaningful to oppressed and suffering people. In that case they become a “virus” that might “infect” others a “rotten apple” that might “spoil the barrel” (36).
The confidence and courage exhibited by Eritrea has caused chronic headaches in the “power centers” and instilled a fear that confidence and courage will spread to others. Consequently, to contain that threat, the people and Government of Eritrea were punished to extinguish the threat and diminish possible expansion of the virus. Despite the repeated great blows inflicted by the wicked sword, the people of Eritrea harvest a splendid victory in defending and developing their homeland. On the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, Eritrea performed admirably, particularly in relation to education and health. Importantly, these areas are effective tools in enhancing the empowerment of citizens. Christine N. Umutoni, Head of the UNDP and UN Resident Representative in Eritrea, described the considerable progress made in Eritrea by recently remarking that the “country produced the most out of the least.”
Since the liberation struggle, self-reliance has been the approach guiding the country’s pursuit of progress, development, and independence. The EPLF stood firmly, fought courageously, and worked confidently to adorn Eritrea with the vesture of independence. In 1991, a century-old iniquity and misery came to an end, and Eritrea celebrated the glory of independence. After independence, the one-time liberation movement turned to government to lead the country forward. It was a government chosen not only by mere ballots, but by the price of life. It carries all the past pains and hopes of the future on its shoulder.
Eritrean Independence was a bitter reality which the world found awfully difficult to swallow. When Eritrea was busily engaged in reconstruction and rehabilitation of the war-torn country, another war – with a new name but with the same old goals – broke out in 1998. Eritrea was derailed from its path towards progress, but it did not remain hostage. After the war, the Government launched the Warsay Yikealo campaign to heal the wounds caused by the invasion. The international journalist, Robert D. Kaplan, writing in The Atlantic, shared his own observations in 2003:
Eritrea is the newly independent, sleepily calm, and remarkably stable state of Eritrea. While the West promotes democracy, market liberalization, military demobilization, and the muting of ethnic hatreds as necessary to domestic tranquility, Eritrea, at least for the moment, provides a rejoinder to all that. The country has achieved a degree of non-coercive social discipline and efficiency enviable in the developing world and particularly in Africa—and it has done so by ignoring the West’s advice… (Kaplan 2003).
Eritrea, focusing on equality and social justice, scaled the walls of hostility and encountered a new dawn. The people internalize the concept of self-reliance and work hard to improve their lives. The country’s men and women enjoy equal opportunities, schools and hospitals have been built everywhere, roads reach out to all regions, all ethnicities and languages are united in diversity, and the people generally live in harmony and stability. We kindly and humbly – yet firmly – tell the rest of the world that Eritrea is a country where advantages and disadvantages are shared equally among citizens without distinction.
Eritrea is for Eritreans. History repeatedly attests, the West cannot legitimately tell us what is best for us. How can the one who ignored the right to self-determination of Eritrea, the one who encouraged and assisted the annexation of Eritrea, the one that made massive demands of us, the one who trained and armed our killers, the one who engineered and supported unjustified sanctions to restrict our progress, the one who put salt on our wounds, profess to care about the rights and prosperity of Eritreans? We are not the people to laugh about their mockery. We do not have the ears to listen to the “advice” that so often stunts or paralyzes. It is only we that can be the people to decide what is best for ourselves and our nation.
The hostile position of the many “special interest” groups aligned towards Eritrea illustrates the English proverb stating that “no one ever kicks a dead dog”. Eritrea truly lives in its own boundaries. Needless hostility attempts to push and pull toward failure, but resistance is vital. Regardless of the persistent barking of dogs, we, as camels, will dare to continue our long journey.