Every year on 23rd March, Eritreans remember the liberation of Nakfa with great pride and enthusiasm.
The inhabitants of Nakfa along with veteran fighters are preparing to celebrate the 43rd anniversary of the liberation of the historic town from Ethiopian colonial army. Traditionally, the people of Sahel called Nakfa “Nakfa hamelmal” latter began to be called as a “mother of perseverance and resilience”. Nakfa was the center of gravity of Eritrean revolution. There are few words and places which gained popularity equal to Nakfa during the thirty years’ war of liberation. Nakfa, Sahil, Denden, perseverance, resilience, sacrifice, freedom fighters and EPLF are some of the words and places that gained reputation in the struggle for independence of Eritrea. It’s impossible to imagine the Eritrean revolution without these places and words.
Resistance against foreign domination and fighting for dignity has become a tradition in Eritrea. Long before the start of the armed struggle in 1961, Eritreans were engaged in constant fight against war lords, and different colonizers. The collective character of Eritreans including their transformative revolution cannot be understood without going back to the past and coming forth to the recent history.
In the national narrative of Eritrea, Nakfa was a symbol of resilience and perseverance. During the long and bitter struggle, Nakfa proved to be the reliable sanctuary of Eritrean fighters. When EPLF decided to liberate place and people piece by piece, Nakfa become the first place to be liberated in 23rd March 1977, after a long siege and an all-out offensive by the freedom fighters. The initial attempt to liberate the town was undertaken in September of 1976. The Ethiopian army stationed in Nakfa was known as ‘lion.’ EPLF has experienced the positional warfare for the first time since its formation. The first surgical unit of EPLF was also formed in the siege of Nakfa.
When Nakfa liberated once by EPLF, the Ethiopian army couldn’t capture again in the subsequent years. Ethiopian army tried many deadly battles to regain Nakfa, but to no avail. During the strategic withdrawal followed after the massive soviet military assistance to Ethiopia, EPLF was forced to withdraw from the gates of Asmara to Nakfa. EPLF’s resilience has demonstrated in its ability to attack while retreating. The battle of Elabered, battle of Ma’emide and the battle of Bogo are few to mention among the major battles in the midst of the strategic withdrawal. Thus Eritrean revolution’s long march toward Nakfa whose solid mountains had been chosen as a rear base and the last line of defense. The strategic withdrawal was a meticulous decision to face with diligence to the newly created disruption in the balance of power in the field following the Soviet intervention.
As part of the liberation strategy, the journey from Nakfa reached to the siege of Asmara in 1977/78. The advance by the Eritrean liberation front was later reversed by the massive intervention of the Soviet Union. EPLF was forced to made the historic strategic withdrawal to save and continue the revolution. EPLF that once departed from Nakfa and reached the outskirts of Asmara again returned to and stationed in Nakfa in 1979. In the same year, the Nakfa front was created and marked the end of the strategic withdrawal. The sacrifice and endurance of the fighters to stand against the adversity was the bold mark in the modern history of humanity. In the mountains of Nakfa, the fighters faced the new reality with courage and determination. They fought with determination regardless of what they have lost and look forward a better harvest in the upcoming battles. They fall hundred times and stand up hundred one times. The greatest quality of EPLF fighters is not in never falling, but in rising every time they fall. Like a tiny seed with potent power to push through tough ground and become mighty tree, EPLF when stationed in the mountains of Nakfa bred unimaginable strength. The difficult conditions left the organization stronger and more resilient. Resilience and commitment helped the fighters to persevere and defend Nakfa for ten years. The freedom fighters become masters of the reality. Instead of becoming the victim of the condition they become conquerors. The mental compass of tegadelti was reinforced by confidence, resilience and reliance was not dismantled by chaos.
Throughout the armed struggle, and particularly during the last years of the struggle various types of ammunitions including the cluster and napalm bombs rained day and night over Nakfa and the freedom fighters. Nakfa and the freedom fighters resist and stand against the incredible suffering. The immense grief, made Eritrean freedom fighters more resilient, empowered and authentic. In the face of global aggression, Eritrean freedom fighters did not become bitter; instead they become better. They discovered and found humility, dignity, and discipline within the mountains of Nakfa. Residing in resilience, they refused to surrender their dignity.
The association of Nakfa and resilience fits in all respects and directions. Resilience is not only about being able to bounce back and stand again. Resilience can best be described as consistent resistance to surrender. EPLF fighters fought for six months straight to liberate it and after the strategic withdrawal they fought for ten years to defend Nakfa. The resistance demanded ultimate sacrifice and it was demonstrated by the freedom fighters. It was here in Nakfa that the freedom fighters unleash, explore and expand their fullest potential to become the David that defeated the Goliath. Life tried and knock the fighters down but they were stubborn with passions and cultivate bravery, resilience, tenacity and endurance. The freedom fighters of Eritrea are the teachers and Nakfa is the place of resilience. To honor its contribution played and position held in the history of Eritrea, the government of Eritrea has organized its third congress in Nakfa. The post-independence cadre school was also constructed in Nakfa. Above all, Eritrea’s currency is named after Nakfa.