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The Land We Fought For

The nation is getting dressed to  celebrate its Independence Day.  Bright lights and its flag, which  is dominated by a red triangle  extending from the hoist to the fly  (right) with complementary green  and blue triangles above and below  respectively and a yellow encircled  olive standing out right in the middle  of the red triangle, illustrate ideals of  a country. The flag is a reflection of  patriotism and pride of the people  of the country, which sets the right  mood for the celebrations.

 

It was never easy for Eritrea  and its people to rightly hoist  their own flag and call their land  Eritrea. Nonetheless through their  determination and will to gain what  was rightfully theirs, they stayed true  to themselves and broke out of the  shackles of injustice to prove to the  world that this land was theirs.

Only the survivors and the living  could attest to it. In order to know that  a person had truly laid down his life  for his friends or comrades one would  have to hear it from those living. The  late known martyrs—those who  voluntarily sought death and rejoiced  in the fact—had been our Warsay’s.  Their predecessors, Yikealo, had  endured torture and death in order  to make Eritrea independent. Their  modern equivalents in the world  would be none. Today, walking  towards Harnet Avenue one feels a  sense of pride to be Eritrean because  this is our land.

It is said that it is difficult to get  rid of your masters if you have been  living with them for a long time.  You learn fast to stoop low and  accommodate the unthinkable. Even  in the absence of the former master,  the mind bows to the shadow that  still lingers in the slave’s mind.

“I am independent!” he says, but  he is not.

A slave is independent only when  dreaming. The African slaves in  Georgia dreamt about their Ashanti  warrior kings, their elephant hunting  expeditions and their Hajji to  Mecca where they prayed side by  side with fair complexioned Arab  coreligionists. That was by night. By  day, as a slave, you get accustomed  to the masters’ manner of mistreating  you and degrading you. Gradually,  you come to love servitude. Servitude  that makes you even miss a servile  condition when it is already gone.

When the African slaves in  America were set free during the  civil war, many did not know what  to do with themselves and their  newly acquired freedom. What is  freedom? They kept on saying. What  is independence? It is difficult to  look at a source of light the instant  you come out of a dark tunnel.

“Freedom is making the master  happy.” said the white plantation  owner.

“Freedom is singing while picking  cotton,” added his son.  Some even went back to their  former masters. What can you do  with independence if you have  not learned to think, work and live  independently?

But there were some in the crowd  that were born rebellious. They  hated their white masters all along.  A fiercely independent blood ran  inside their veins. They hated to be  told to do this or that. They wanted  to be free. They wanted nothing  short of independence and with that,  equality.

Spartacus (71 BC), a roman  enslaved laborer and rebel led an  uprising that defeated several Roman  armies before he was killed in battle.  He produced many followers in  Europe who caused the downfall of  Kings and tyrants for centuries.

After the death of Spartacus,  slavery continued once again; and  what happened? The slaves were not  organized, to start with, and had no  political agenda. They did not fight  to eradicate slavery, but instead they  wanted a good master. An improved  slave institution would do.

Besides, they did not learn to think  independently. First, they were slaves  to the Romans, and as they followed  Spartacus, they became his slaves.

If the enemy gives you your  independence, it means he is either  fed up with you (you have just  become a case of diminishing  returns) or he wants to come back  through the door when you are not  looking that perchance he may rob  you.

Don’t trust anyone to bestow  independence on you, unless that  person is inspired by some noble  feelings, which, in many cases, are  to be taken with some grain of salt.  In the event the unthinkable happens  and you get your independence on a  silver platter, you would have more  chance to survive if you stayed  clear out of his turf physically and  mentally.

Americans declared their  independence in 1776. But at the  same time there was a declaration  of dependence that echoed from the  other side of the continent. We live in  a very strange world, you know.

It is Kike the lion which, the  moment it is set free in the woods  after a long zoo life, finds it difficult  to hunt on its own. It has been fed  by its owners for too long a time  to be able to chase an antelope for  dinner. Slavery and dependence are  a wounds that heal only slowly.

Our fighters in the field learned  to live independently for 30 years  of bloody struggle for the liberation  of this country. They depended on  themselves and their meager material  and human resources. They fought in  their own manner. No one could tell  them to say this or that or to turn this  way or that way. They refused the  help of those who approached them  with ulterior motives, those who  presented their help packages with  strings attached.

To be independent is to be the  master of your destiny. The way  to take care of your destiny is to  become self reliant as much as  possible. By working and developing  your country, you gradually become  economically independent. By  educating the people, you become  socially independent.

However, the colonial specter that  haunts Western minds does not feel  comfortable with such doctrines.

What do you exactly mean by  that? Says the cooperate world.

“I want to lead my life the way I  want to.” you reply.

“Forget it.” huffs the samsonitesingling  business man.

“We will see.” sighs the skeptic.

In such a situation, the best way to  keep and retain one’s independence  is to watch every step you make. It  is a tightrope walking that may cost  you all that you have worked for all  your life long, the moment you lose  your balance and fall down, you will  be falling right into the outstretched  hands of your would-be saviors. And  they will take you away and will  treat you nicely and will try and cure  you of your fever of independence  and infection of freedom.

“How do you feel now?”They will  ask.

“Fine, just fine!” You will say.

“Do you still believe in selfreliance?”

“It sounds gibberish to me, where  did you get it from?” you wonder.

“How about the brand of  independence you subscribe to  before you were admitted to the  hospital?”

“I lost all sense of independence  and freedom during my free fall to  the ground,” you conclude.

“That is more like it,” they will say  rubbing their hands.

And you will never be the same  ever again.

However, Eritrea is celebrating  its 27 years of independence,  resilience and development; let this  be a testament to the samsonitesingling  business man that, against  any norm or standard, Eritrea is here  to stay forever. Self-Reliance and  independence are two words deeply  imbedded in the Eritrean fabric of  existence and no matter what outside  aggression tries to push it out of  balance, its people are here to pull it  back up. This is the land we fought  for, this is the land we won and this is  the land we will always fight for.

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