Until 1991, when the EPLF-led armed struggle for the creation of an independent Eritrean state was realized, successive foreign powers ruled Eritrea for centuries.
Under colonization, the country’s natural resources were extracted and taken away. The people were marginalized and placed far from the horizon of development. The cultural cord that holds the people together was disrupted or corrupted deliberately to leave the people in a limbo.
Like other African countries, Eritrea was a creation of European colonization. The long European and Ethiopian colonial administration in Eritrea ended without having affirmative effect on the social and economic transformation geared to nation building. Instead it played a role in disrupting the socio-cultural and political structures of the Eritrean society. The post-independence relapse of invading Eritrea manifested by the TPLF regime also created a lot of problems and hurdles in Eritrea’s developmental efforts.
My point here is not to delve in past grudges to remember the pain caused by successive colonizers and TPLF invaders, but to demonstrate Eritrea’s struggle to free herself from colonial rule and TPLF conspiracy and the values developed in the defense of Eritrea’s independence.
Eritrea entered a new room of hope and guarantee first in 1991 and then in 2018 for the second time, leaving the agonizing experience of despair and uncertainty to history. The revolutionary legitimacy gained by Eritrea’s successful accomplishment in the struggle for liberation and its society’s burning desire to have a government of its own helped the country make a smooth transition which is unique in the a African experience. The tradition of a smooth transition was repeated in 2018 when the twenty-year hostility ended with the signing of peace and friendship with Ethiopia. In the last twenty eight years of independence, Eritrea’s progress toward development was considerable and commendable. Eritrea achieved admirable success in nation building, national unity and socio-economic development.
At independence, the government of Eritrea inherited a functionally and structurally devastated country. To make matters worse, people’s expectation was growing high above the ashes of the war and the desire for quick change floated above the smoke of the thirty years of war. The new government, helped by the advanced structure and organization setout during the armed struggle era, was able to manage the transition period without the occurrence of any kind of crises. The provisional government of Eritrea moved enthusiastically to repeat its revolutionary success in nation building. The revolutionary front quickly transformed itself into a government to help realize the hopes of the people through the arduous task of nation building.
The government was determined to build the nation along modern lines of state building through the provision of necessary services and the institutionalization and democratization of the state machinery. In an attempt to setup institutions that govern the economic, political and social life of the country, considerable progress has been made until the TPLF invasion of 1998 which endangered the survival of the nation.
The newly formed government organized a referendum which resulted in the formal declaration of Eritrea as a sovereign state in 1993. The government established a constitution commission to draft the constitution and establish a national assembly. Significant proclamations were issued concerning the national assembly (1992), the national service, new regional administration (1996), establishment of community courts and election of judges(2003), local and regional elections, new civil and criminal laws (2015). All are considered part of the effort of the government to institutionalize and democratize and empower people’s leverage on decision making and to enhance qualitative participation and equality of citizens.
In the social sphere, education and health programs have been given high priority in the developmental transformation process of Eritrea. Schools and clinics have been built at high speed in historically disadvantaged rural areas. The state’s educational and health policy spins around the belief that the main asset of Eritrea is its human resource. Education in Eritrea is a fundamental right and a lifelong process by which all individuals are given opportunities to attain their potential as all-rounded citizens. The health sector has been organized to praomote and provide quality, preventive, curative and rehabilitative health care service through effective, efficient, acceptable, affordable and accessible means. Today, schools and clinics are found in every corner of Eritrea waiting for school-age children and patients. The performance of the country is manifested in her ability to achieve many aspects of the MDGs.
The ultimate objective of the provision of social service throughout the country is to level the field for the players.
Another important achievement made by the government is laying down essential infrastructure that is imperative to the social and economic development of the nation. Widespread network of roads, telecommunication, air-port, large and medium strategic dams constructed by development workers of the national service program have given the nation fresh breath.
Eritrea is able to accumulate enough capacity to initiate and implement programs of its own, to mobilize its people living inside and outside Eritrea, to provide peace and security for citizens by defending from internal and external aggressions, to deliver essential social services, and above all, to implant Eritrean national identity on every citizen.
National unity in multi-ethnic populations is necessary for nation building without which it’s impossible to claim the existence of nationhood. Eritrea is home to nine ethnic groups and two major religions of equal proportion. The inexorable political core of the country, the PFDJ, continues its long standing motto “unity in diversity” to contribute its share in nation building. National unity is one of the most highly guarded national values of Eritrea. As part of this policy, the government restructured the administrative territory of Eritrea in a way that promotes national unity. The new regional administration (1996) that divides the country into six administrative regions dismantled the traditional and colonial map drawn along sub-national lines. Sawa and the national service also give additional leverage to the national unity by bringing together Eritrean youth from all over the country.
The peace and security enjoyed in the country is not the outcome of a strong police and security forces but the harvest of the government’s investment in equitable distribution of resources. Since the policy of social justice has no room for alienation, discrimination and marginalization, no group exist to grumble over these issues.
To sum up, the government of Eritrea following a policy that looks on nation building, national unity and socio economic development as inseparable and indispensable factors for development and continuity of the country. Despite the multitude challenges faced, Eritrea is driven by wise and audacious policies and has become an island of peace and security in the turbulent region. Currently, with its strong national unity and promising socio-economic development, Eritrea is gaining confidence and increasing its momentum to speed up its nation building efforts. The hard found peace with Ethiopia and the alliance in our region would add additional energy to Eritrea’s galloping toward development.