Independence Day, which falls on 24th May, is the greatest and most highly celebrated national holiday in Eritrea.
Celebrations take place outdoors at the main avenues in Asmara and throughout the country. Eritreans living inside and outside of the country have always gathered to celebrate the birth of Eritrea. Eritrean flags, neon lights and patriotic slogans adorn the streets. As we honor this day, we thank our martyrs and gallant defense forces for the freedom and independence given to us. Freedom has a price. Many in our midst have dedicated their lives to protect others. Independence Day is therefore a day among many to express our thanks for their public service.
On this happy occasion we take special pride in saluting our flag and recall with pride the greatest sacrifice of our martyrs who have fallen in the struggle for independence and its preservation. Eritreans have developed a tradition of opening celebrations with a moment of silence in memory of the fallen heroes. Twenty-eight years ago the people of Eritrea had begun a new journey as a free nation, guided by the inspiration and vision of the People’s Front. The vision has been to create an Eritrea that is united despite its diversity, one in which no person or group is left out of the journey of development, an Eritrea where every citizen can live a life of dignity and feel proud to say – I am Eritrean. This vision of Eritrea is our proud inheritance from our struggle for independence. For the last twenty-eight years Eritreans have committed to fully realizing it.
Eritrea’s Independence required a lot of sacrifice and endurance. Eritreans have paid 65 thousand martyrs and 30 years to achieve independence. They were again forced to pay around 21 thousand lives and 20 years to preserve the hard won independence. Now with the signing of a peace deal with the new government in Ethiopia, every Eritrean feels happy for the victory achieved in many fronts. Eritrea has moved forward in the many battles against foreign incursion, poverty, ignorance and disease. Although attempts have been made by some to belittle our achievements, Eritrea has accomplished a lot.
Efforts have been underway in Eritrea to end poverty, ignorance, disease and other social ills from the face of the country. The fervent desire of the government is that Eritrea becomes modern and prosperous. Independence, democracy and freedom mean nothing for those who are not touched by the hand of development. That is why the government of Eritrea placed special emphasis on social justice to empower the previously marginalized. Through the expansion of education, health and transport services we have seen many people climb the ladder of development. Yet, there are many who still need support and assistance.
The colonization and domination of Africa remains one of the most significant historical disruptions. Apart from undermining the right of the Africans to self-determination, the period of colonial rule was characterized by deliberate efforts to destroy the cultural and spiritual wealth of Africans. Although targeted by many invaders who were envious of its material and spiritual wealth, Eritrea’s culture of resistance and endurance has always been undeterred. There is no moment in history when Eritreans ceased fighting for independence and dignity. Through resistance and endurance, we ended the period of ill fortune.
The theme of this year’s Independence Day celebrations, “resilience for higher progress,” is relevant not only to our efforts towards consolidating and defending our national independence but also the realization of our vision of transforming Eritrea through the principle of self-reliance and resilience. We must have faith in our strength and confidence in our capabilities. Despite our differences and difficulties, every citizen must recognize that we are Eritreans first. We must always fight against the cheap narratives aimed to weaken and divide us along narrow lines. Our strength lies in our unity. It is that unity which gave us our Independence.
Eritrea’s independence has now become a rock of reality to both friends and enemies. Eritrea’s principles can no longer be belittled or ignored. Our enemies are now barking since their trickery and subversion have failed to encircle Eritrea. At this moment of time, all the deaf ears and blind eyes of the world are alert to hear and see the actions of Eritrea. After twenty years of resistance and endurance, all the predictions rooted primarily in fear and hatred have proved to be incorrect. The national march of Eritrea will not be stopped by bad mouthing. The camel will not stop marching by the barking of the dog. Now we have enough strength to face the future with courage.
We are proud of our struggle made before and after independence for it was a noble and just struggle, and indispensable to put an end to Ethiopian colonization, imperialist domination and false pride of TPLF collectively. The resistance and endurance manifested during our revolution has continues to be the trademark of Eritrea to this day. Patriotic father Weldeab Weldemariam’s response to Ethiopian terrorization during the federation era shades light to understand the long tradition of resistance and confidence of Eritreans. After a series of assassination attempts Weldeab said “No man be, European or African, can force me into the yoke of any kind of bondage. If there be someone who dares to attempt my assassination in order to force me to submit to doing things contrary to my feeling and will, then I also have in me the courage to die for my political beliefs, for the cause of liberty of my country, and for the genuine interest of my brothers and sisters. (Alemseged T. 90- 91).
On the historic moment of Independence Day, we pay our reverent homage and we bind ourselves afresh to Eritrea’s service. Let’s work hard to reach our vision through hard work and sacrifice. We struggle, resist and endure and finally we succeed. Let us all come together and work resolutely for the welfare and prosperity of Eritrea. Happy independence day to the people of Eritrea, the gallant Eritrean defense forces and the leadership of Eritrea.