In the 1970s when there was massive foreign intervention with the intention of liquidating the liberation movement in Eritrea, massive sacrifices were paid in Massawa and else where in the country.
These sacrifices along with other similar sacrifices have remained ever memorable in Eritrea. It is due to the sacrifices paid as a result of such unjust intervention, among other things, that the EPLF was forced to adopt a strategy of systematic withdrawal, which was very helpful for renewing the tactics in relation to what had to be done for the liberation of the country. As a result of what happened to the freedom fighters then and especially in the case of Massawa, some might have expected the fighters to harbor some negative thoughts in their minds when they tried to click their memories of that time – the 1970s. That means some negative thinkers would have predicted that it would seem unlikely for the freedom fighters to basically liberate the country by liberating the key port of Massawa. This is to mean that, with the ugly experience of the 1970s in mind, liberating Massawa would have been much more fearful for the freedom fighters.
However, when it comes to the mindset of the fighters and the people in Eritrea, the positive thinking that was cultivated during the struggle for independence was more than enough to outweigh t h e inclinations to think negatively. Even the captives (Derg war prisoners) used to openly appreciate that the degree of enthusiasm and commitment of the freedom fighters was so tremendously incredible to turns the minuses to pluses and to make the impossible easily possible.
What memories come to our mind when we celebrate the liberation of Massawa? The sacrifices paid for its liberation – including the civilians killed by the Derg regime in its hopelessness moments. This means we celebrate not only the tremendous achievements but we also try to keep in our memories the sacrifices paid for the liberation of the country in general and that of Massawa in particular; that is, without recognizing the sacrifices we were required to pay for materializing the colorful achievements, it would not be possible to feel the gains as gains enjoyed are often valued depending on the pains one is required to endure. Our martyrs paid their blood to save us by liberating our country.
This may be a means for renewing our commitment to develop the nation, that is, to make Eritrea a prosperous country not by shedding our blood but simply by pouring our sweat.
During the hopeless moments of the Derg regime, the attack engineered by the Derg was redirected to the less powerful and helpless civilians (mainly women and children). War planes redirected their attack not to innocent children and women only but also to public institutions that were designed to serve the public. This indicates how much unconcerned the regime was about the people. The same stories would have been repeated in the case of other cities in Eritrea, but the liberation of the port city of Massawa saved many additional sacrifices as it shortened the long walk to freedom.
The expectation of many people was that Massawa would be liberated after the liberation of some other cities such as Keren and Asmara. This would have caused considerable destruction materially as well as humanly. Hence, we can see that the liberation of Massawa was not an ordinary victory as it tremendously saved lives and property in the country. The Derg regime was not able to breathe properly after Massawa was liberated. For example, the transportation to Eritrea was confined to airplanes only. Such a situation shortened the struggle for independence and significantly minimized the sacrifices we would have paid for the liberation of Eritrea. Sometimes I tend to believe that the liberation of Massawa is much more important even that of the Independence Day. That is why we often celebrate the liberation of Masswa more colorfully.
Fenkil is used in the Tigrigna language mainly to mean uprooting. In connection to the liberation of Massawa, Fenkil means uprooting colonialism from the country. And actually it is the Fenkil operation that enabled the freedom fighters (the Eritrean people in general) to free the entire territory, that is, to eventually uproot colonialism and the ills associated with colonialism. Having said this, hopefully, Massawa, as a major port city in Eritrea and the sea resources surrounding it will play a central role in uprooting the ills associated with poverty, not only the ills associated with war and the like. Let us all hope so and be determined to do so.