Eritrean Carnival attracts huge crowds every year during the independence celebrations. Every year in the month of May, the main streets of Asmara such as Martyr’s and Liberty avenues are decorated for independence day celebrations. People stand in their favorite spots along the avenues, mostly on the front row, so as not to miss the spectacular shows. Carnivals organized by institutions and subzonal administrations reflect past victory, progress on national development as well as upcoming vision.
Last Tuesday, May 22nd, guests, residents, veterans, young and old were treated to themed activities from thirteen sub zonal administrations. Exhibits were drawn from the eleven divisions of the armed struggle and the entire parade lasted one and half hour. The eleven divisions were formed to ensure social justice and bring political, economic, cultural and educational change. These divisions were made official in 1977’s Eritrea People Liberation Front (EPLF) first assembly.
The 2018 Carnival was officially opened by governor of the Central region, Major General Romodan Awliyay, and PFDJ Secretary, Mr. Alamin Mohamed Seid in Shida Square. Following the cutting of the ribbon, Marching band, majestically in theirblack uniforms, played melodious tunes on their musical instruments.
The subzone of Down town Administration was first inline of the procession and it presented a rotating 3D pyramid form of Sahel Mountains representing the ‘Mass Administration’ division of the armed struggle. In line with this, the block came up with header of Jemahir- the Mass on top, and underneath it the all-time slogan of EPLF “Enlighten, Organize and Arm the Mass”. This is because one of the ultimate activities of the organization was forming public institutions. A pyramid contour was presented in a spiral design to show the hierarchy and role of the mass, public elder’s committee, agricultural toils, and trade cooperatives. The scene included the names of the 11 divisions marking Sahel as the focal point to victory over the enemy.
The second block, ‘Economic’ division, was organized by the subzones of Gejeret and Godaif administrations and it was presented in two scenes. Back in the days, this division was established by ten directives which are agriculture, handcrafts, construction, transportation, trade, finance, logistics, property and transitory, pharmaceutical manufacturing and also technical school. Economic self-reliance has been one of the amin principles of the EPLF since the armed struggle and the presentation in the carnival tried to reflect the success achieved since. The first scene involved freedom fighters engaged in the construction of roads using shovel, pick axe, sledge and surveying equipment in their hands. The next scene had freedom fighters carrying a tractor to forward the message of non-subjugation of the freedom fighters, particularly while constructing the Sahel Mountains’ road, the Bdho road, which was one of the major roads constructed during the armed struggle and was featured at the carnival. Another scene that followed was the night travels made by freedom fighters. As always was reflected in some revolutionary movies, Trucks moved under the cover of darkness to escape attacks by the enemy and this was well performed in the carnival.
The second scene of the ‘Economic division’, presented by the subzone of Godaif administration, continued to demonstrate material innovations that helped the daily lives of freedom fighters -handcrafts, agriculture and logistics. Freedom fighters had to carry crops to sustain their challenging livelihoods in the fields. The scene portrayed the coordination between the farmers and freedom fighters. Meanwhile, the role of a camel (brought in live at the scene) in transporting goods from and to the battle fields was instrumental.
‘Social Affairs’ division was presented by the subzone of Akriya administration. The Eritrean people were forced into exile, suffered from hunger and disability due to the 30 year bloody war. Many endeavors were made by the EPLF under the division of Social Affairs. The presentations at the carnival reflected the rehabilitation centers of Bdho, Jelhat and Ararb. The scene also included the disabled playing volleyball. Another scene showed the famous Haben Disabled Cultural Group singing their famous songs in the streets. Further, the role of women, particularly ‘Solomuna Center Mothers’, was critical in the 6th offensive. They had to make masks and bake bread for the fighters, look after their kids and organize cultural events. However, enemy bomber jets were giving them a hard time, as they run for their lives. All of these scenes were finely performed in the night. Another captivating scene was the wedding ceremony of freedom fighters. So many couples were collectively announced “married” by uttering the national slogan – Awet Nhash. Wedding certificate of that time is enlarged and presented in the street show.
The Paradiso subzone administration was in charge showcasing the ‘Justice and Foreign Relations’ division. The ‘Justice’ division was established at the second EPLF congress in 1988. The division drafted the civil and criminal law. Law institutions were instituted in villages, districts and provinces and high courts were also established. To showcase this a ‘scale’ is seen as a symbol of justice. Customary laws of different ethnic groups were discussed by elders back then. Laws such as Logo Chiwa, Mi’e Mehaza, Adkeme Milga’e, Shewate Anseba, and Fithi Mehari were presented in a floating figurative display.
The Foreign Relations’ division was established to form diplomatic ties with nations and gain support for the Eritrean’s struggle for independence. Initially, the division had a central office in Beirut, later in Paris and in 1987 it relocated into the fields. By opening offices in Sudan, the Middle East, Italy, France, Germany, Sweden, Great Britain, North America and Australia it expanded its operations. All of the hard work in this division had paid off. Satellite communication in the fields was a success memory of 1987. Revolving names of the offices were presented in the carnival.
To show the activities of Hafash Wdubat – Mass organizations, the subzone of Tiravolo administration organized a complete inside and outside roles of the group. Hafash Wdubat significantly helped the People’s Front (PF) and contributed to the independence. The group comprised youth who justified the Eritreans armed struggle to the world. A shape of camel with two wings on its back was shown in the carnival to reflect the insideout comprehensive activity of the group.
The subzone of Arbaete Asmara administration represented ‘Health Guard’ division. The division was one of the quickly raised divisions in the days of the armed struggle. Establishing health centers under the auspices of PF, the Health Guard division managed to successfully deal with minor ailments and major surgeries. Under tree and tent health services were depicted in the carnival show. A 3D form of syrup bottle was beautifully made representing the pharmacy and medicine available at that particular period. Pharmaceutical manufacturing in the fields was also illustrated through the machines of that time.
The PF, under the theme of “establishing a strong military army”, thrived to form army with a behavior of comradeship, political awareness, revolutionary discipline, bravery and sacrifice. The division of ‘Military Training’ was responsible to conduct military training in the safely marked places. The training involved shaping rangers, training new combatants and publishing a magazine named Teateq. The military rangers operation which burned 33 enemy jets in Asmara Airport in May 1984 was a great scene. Young students managed to depict the parades of those times in the 2018 carnival.
The division of ‘Arms’, starting from its establishment had a strong theme that says Xela’ei bbretun btiytun, roughly translated as fighting the enemy with its own weapons. Another theme regarding safeguarding any weapon brought into the fields was Kab Merfie ksab Medfi’e. It means every weapon (regardless of its size) should be handled well. Military parades of both gender wearing the typical shorts of the pioneer freedom fighters walked on the streets holding guns and showing their maintenance.
The ‘Revolutionary Guard’ or Halewa Sewra division was presented by the subzone of Abashawl administration. In the fields the division was responsible to unveil enemy’s secrets, overcome and correct problems that happened within the field, provide rehabilitation schooling, and teach the public and freedom fighters through the Halewa magazine, for security reasons. Eventually, the EPLF worked tremendously in spreading awareness to captured enemies whom it finally set free. A moving stage drama that showed a group of captives being told by members of the revolutionary guard division that they are free to go was presented in the carnival. The captives back then used to applaud and appreciate the humanity of PF.
The subzone of Sembel administration represented the ‘Security and Undercover’ division and it demonstrated the division’s role and integration with the mass and how it defeated high rank enemy officials.
The ‘National Conduct’ division was concerned with education, news, political awareness, culture, printing, and the cadre school. The subzones of Maitemenay and Edaga Hamus administrations tried to reflect up on the wide activities of the division. The institutions within the division were each symbolized. For instance education with torch, news with tent or antenna and etc… To represent the establishment of Dimtsi Hafash radio, a tent was spread in the scene. The scene was decorated by program instruments and the audience in the streets heard several language broadcasts of the time. The slogans of the educational campaign to eradicate illiteracy were really given much attention. The campaign was successful as teachers enlightened students and students taught elders. Moreover, some 80 young kids in the night acted as the cultural groups of Qeyahti Embaba. Their active and quick dance moves reminded the audience of the historic good times.
The subzone of Edaga Hamus administration kept track of showing the ‘National Conduct’ division activities. This time the scene represented the political awareness, culture and the cadre school. A written slogan that says awareness adopted by mass, changes into powerful thing, was raised high and was accompanied by a song Cadre. A scene that showed the traditional and modern musical instruments was also presented.
All of these divisions individually and collectively had an impact in achieving the independence of Eritrea. The military structure of these divisions was well organized and efficient to carry out all the activities contributing to the war.