Eritrea celebrated colorfully the 28th Independence Day anniversary yesterday and with a patriotic zeal after a series of week-long events. This is the day that marks the end of successive colonial subjugation.
As Eritreans around the world are gathering to cheer for their homeland and celebrate the country’s Independence Day on 24 May, it is appropriate to remember how the independent country was born, its independence maintained and how it is pursuing its development policy.
May 24 is a great day in Eritrea’s history as EPLF fighters entered Asmara having defeated the then giant and largest army in Africa. The 30-year armed struggle ended with referendum in 1993 when the Eritrean people voted for independence overwhelmingly, with 99.8%, in the presence of international observers. In the years that followed, the people and government of Eritrea embarked on rehabilitating the war-torn country and started the journey with impressive progress. But this didn’t last long. It was halted by the then Ethiopian government’s aggression in 1998 based on the pretext of border claims. When the war ended with international legal proceedings, Ethiopia continued its belligerent stance till the sweeping changes occurred in April last year that opened a new chapter of peace and harmony between Eritrea and Ethiopia.
Every year we celebrate our independence day with great honor of our martyrs who gave us this light. What makes this year’s Independence Day special is the fact that we are celebrating it in a peaceful atmosphere. The peace will allow us to focus on development and cooperation with our neighbors.
Since May 24, 1991 all Eritreans at home and in the diaspora have celebrated the Independence Day colorfully as the commitments and sacrifices to realize this magnificent day were tremendous and the oppression and pains sustained by the Eritrean people was immense.
Eritrea’s Independence Day is not merely meant for rejoicing. We rejoice precisely because it is an event that brought the protracted colonial rule to an end. More importantly, however, on this day we remember the tens of thousands of fallen heroes who sacrificed their life for independence and renew our pledge to maintain, sustain and develop it.
In order to win our independence, we had to fight practically on our own against all the super powers. This special situation taught us self-reliance which will lead us to our ultimate goal of building a secure and prosperous nation. We know from our experience that the neo-colonial powers set Africans against one another in order to better plunder the continent’s wealth. But Eritrea chose to adopt a development policy that left no room for interference from foreign powers.
At present, all over Africa, countries will celebrate the 60th anniversaries of their independence. Unfortunately, the continent actually never freed itself from colonialism; it h just took on a different form. The Horn of Africa region has been disturbed by foreign interference with the help of governments put to serve them. These regimes have been profiting from the system while the vast majority of their population was condemned to poverty. They are now kicked out of their places and the region has just started peaceful cooperation. As China’s ambassador to Eritrea, Mr. Yang Zigang, said on Monday at Cinema Roma, the cooperation between Ethiopia and Eritrea has influenced the whole region of the Horn of Africa and a wind of hope is blowing.
The theme of this year is “resilience for higher progress” which reflects our commitment to building a secure state standing on its own feet. Eritrea has achieved great success in the last 28 years, resting on five pillars. The first one is agriculture and food security. The Eritrean government understood from the very beginning that we cannot defend our national sovereignty if our population is dying of hunger. Therefore, various projects have been implemented aiming at securing this through different mechanisms which include a focus on encouraging commercial and small scale farming in different corners of the country. Moreover, every peasant owns his or her own piece of land. The government always provides material and other agriculture-related assistance.
The second pillar is access to potable water. In many third world countries many illnesses are linked to unsafe water. But that can be put right by providing safe drinking water to all the villages.
The third pillar is health. Eritrea has an efficient network of clinics spread throughout the country and linked up to hospitals. Moreover, healthcare is provided for free. This sector has achieved commendable progress and it is one of the areas Eritrea has been succeeding in achieving the UN drafted development goals.
The fourth pillar is education, a priority for the government that wishes to develop its human resources. In Africa many have lost sight of the fact that material resources are not enough to bring about development. Of course, this very much suits the imperialist powers that have always encouraged the belief that without their assistance Africans would not be able to profit from their material resources. The human factor is of primary importance for development, and Eritrea, therefore, wants its own personnel to have the competence to exploit its raw materials.
The last pillar, which President Isaias Afwerki referred to as the fourth front, is the Eritrean Diaspora who provide different kinds of assistance to their homeland. In doing so, Eritreans outside the country are providing material and diplomatic support. We have seen western states trying, though without success, to disrupt the link the diaspora Eritreans have to their homeland.
In conclusion, the cruel treatments that the Eritrean people experienced at the hands of the successive Ethiopian rulers are still fresh in our mind. That is why freedom has a special meaning for Eritreans which necessitates the colorful celebration of our independence day.