September 1, 2017 marks the 56th anniversary of the beginning of the Eritrean armed struggle for independence. When the peaceful political struggle for self-determination of the people of Eritrea in the 1940s and 1950s fell on deaf ears, Eritreans took up arms and September 1, 1961 was the day that opened a significant historical chapter of an armed struggle for self-determination.
Although September one triggered the only option the Eritrean people had for self-determination, it was with the birth of the EPLF leadership that the movement grew in leaps and constituted a formidable force.
Imperial Hailesselassie visited Eritrea on 4 October 1952, and pledged that he would respect the demand of the Eritrean people unequivocally. But, Hailesselassie rushed to bake conspiratorial loaves to annex Eritrea. Putting aside the irrefutable demand of Eritreans for independence and national freedom, he declared that “Eritrea is an inseparable part of Ethiopia”, and soon, after one decade almost, he officially cancelled the federation status on 14 October of 1962. The United Nation was silent in the face of this inexcusable and unjustifiable political maneuver.
Contrary to the objectives and principles of its founding principles, the United Nations, emboldened for the miscalculated political step aimed at expanding its sphere of influence denied Eritrea its rightful place and supported instead the wrong move of the invaders. Even five years before the official cancellation of the federation, Eritrean students were holding peaceful demonstrations, and politically motivated strikes against the despotic leadership of this puppet and black imperial regime in the months of March to June of 1957.
Those historically well honored youngsters from Kehaz Secondary school (now Keih Bahri Senior Secondary School) students from San Giorgio (Mendefera), Hibret (Debre Sala elementary school), Islamia of Akria, Asmara Technical School and Keren, kindled the torch of historical awareness about the conspiratorial packages the emperor and other few mercenaries were concocting to annex Eritrea.
In 1962 students and nationals did similar demonstrations from the University of Asmara. However, as the representative of the shameful imperialist office in Asmara had been engaging in putting destructive crackdown actions over every Eritrean who participated in peaceful demonstrations, instead of resolving the question, they resorted to assassinating influential nationals, jailing innocents and putting them under high surveillance of security forces, forcing people to move to Ethiopia in the form of exile.
Though the brutal action of the regime seemed to cool down the demonstrations and strikes, the political awareness of the people was growing high, and the determination to fight against any invader, be it black or white, was growing stronger.
Factories and industries that were uprooted from Eritrea and erected in different parts of Ethiopia. This triggered the swing of economic development that started regressing at staggering rate; unemployment rate was sky rocketing, families started to realize their future fate was becoming very gloom, students and professionals started feeling that there is no light at the end of the tunnel with no foreseeable future.
The first bullet for cutting the fetter of invasion was fired on September 1, 1961 by Idris Awate with his six colleagues from Adal. They had six old guns but they did have the courage and commitment. Through time many more people joined the armed struggle. When the few freedom fighters started the journey for independence, they knew the hard, twisted and long way to get it. They knew freedom is not for free.
As expected, the journey of the armed struggle was not smooth. There were many ups and downs. It was after the 1970s that many youth joined the armed struggle and the struggle was shaped in a new and correct way. During the first few years of the 70s, the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) developed a reputation at home and abroad as highly disciplined political movement, whose members consistently articulated its outlook, promoted its programs and modeled its values.
After thirty years of protracted war and massive military operations, the first bullet that was fired by Idris Awate and his colleagues brought another national pride; a new era on May 24, 1991. The painful, incontestable and nostalgic memories of the thirty years of war rewarded the tenacious people, freedom and tranquility.
History tells us that many revolutionary movements were doomed to fail due to internal split and foreign interference before they bring any result for which they were established. Others who gained their independence through arduous struggle were seen to fail to form a viable government because of foreign interest groups eager to expand their sphere of influence and pave the way to control natural resources of those countries. This fact is true in many African countries that gained their independence in the 60s.
This did not happen in Eritrea. As I unflinchingly believe, the EPLF, unlike the other failed revolutionary movements, had situated its all-rounded principles of self-reliance, deep nationalism and readiness to sacrifice for a cause on solid ground by inculcating it in the hearts and minds of the Eritrean people, in general, and the liberation fighters, in particular. And it is because of the farsighted vision of the leadership of the revolution that Eritrea won its independence without raising its arms for external help.
To this date the people and government of Eritrea believe in hard work and determination to develop the country, simply by depending from internal resources and human capacity. And the Eritrean people are celebrating this hard won independence with enthusiasm and fervor spirit every year.
It is unfortunate that some from the West, especially the so called intellectuals who are backed by notorious political organizations, perceive East Africa as the land of restless conflicts which have been emanating from narrow political ideologies. Hence, these negatively fabricated terminologies have been setting this region in the much defamed position by baptizing it with different names; the land of conspiratorial war games and mass carnages.
We have demonstrated to the world that we are not among the frail societies who are ready to sell their holly pledges for easily penetrable issues. September has witnessed the prolific success we are registering, the foundation we are laying for the bright future, and the fruit that we are about to harvest in terms of economic development. Surely there is not any impasse which could restrict this nation of determined people from doing miracles.