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The Irony of Celebrat-ing Independence Under Lockdown

The human race has always encountered countless challenges, both natural and manmade and at all levels.

Colonization, war, economic crackdowns, famine, plague, disasters, crimes etc… But the nature of adaptation never fails to outrun many of them.


Of course, the process to overcome such calamities demands a big price. Like many other peoples of the world, the Eritrean people have faced many of these challenges, with some being a matter of existence as a nation. As a nation, we have been colonized, killed and plundered. Though it is natural for people to fight for what they believe is theirs, the Eritrean people have fought for their very existence and paid their lives to stand as a nation.

The vitality of freedom can be traced in the histories of many that have paid so much for their independence. Independence is more than just the ability to do whatever you want. Many of the things we become depend on how independent we are as a group or nation. It is a very wide notion and people explain it in millions of ways. Independence for me is a state of self-dependence, given that you are governed by yourself in your country and your country’s rules. Being independent preserves the integral sense of who you truly are as a nation.

Likewise, Eritrean independence is one of the most valued holidays in the country. For the past 28 years, the Eritrean people have celebrated it with all they have. Best food, concerts and laughers and cheers. Celebrations of independence are also unique in that they are holidays to everyone who is a citizen to a country. You can celebrate it at home or wherever you are and with anyone. This means that, unlike other holidays, Independence Day is equally precious to all citizens whatever their age, ethnicity or religion.

A week before Independence Day, the streets are decorated with flags, national slogans and neon lights. But, of all the days of celebrations prior to May 24, the eve is by far the most exciting in cities like Asmara, Keren, Massawa, Mendefera and others. For example, in Asmara, around mid-night people gather from all corners of the city at Harnet Avenue to see the spectacular fireworks and take part in the shouting and cheering of the people that fills the air.

Now, that is the essence of independence. You can be wherever you want and celebrate however you want. Our forefathers were banned from many places and confined to some space in their own lands during colonization, but now we cheer for independence from the places they were not allowed to pass through. When I was young, I cherished any gifts I got from my parents. I used whatever they bought me proudly and it kept me waiting every time.

Independence Day, especially for Eritreans, is an honor, right and the best gift their martyrs have given them. It is a garment of honor and respect that we all fit in as a nation.

Our Independence Day celebration this year is challenged by Covid-19, which has forced nations to be in lockdown. That is why we have to celebrate our independence day behind the doors but in the comfort of our own homes surrounded by family.

Celebrating Eritrea’s Independence Day every year is not only about neon lights, dancing, carnival shows and fireworks. While these are ways the people express how they feel and how much they treasure the day, this year’s celebrations are underway in accordance with the COVID-19 ‘new normal’. The years of oppression, tyranny and the pains of wounds sustained in the dungeons of the oppressors are not forgotten. The faces of the loved ones who fell for the people’s revival and the years of dreaming for deliverance have not faded from people’s memory. There are still big scars in everyone’s heart that still remind us of those days.

Many countries were also forced to celebrate their liberation days in lockdown. Italian and Portuguese’s liberation days from their fascist regimes were celebrated in their own ways. The Italian President marked the day by laying a wreath at a soldiers’ war memorial in Rome and the people sang the Bella Ciao, the anthem of the anti-fascist resistance and waved flags from their balconies. And in Lisbon, the parliament held an official ceremony with reduced attendants. In contrast, some countries like Senegal postponed the celebrations until after the pandemic.

With all 39 Covid-19 patients in Eritrea having recovered, I would dare to call this a double independence day, free from colonization and free from the pandemic. Of course, I am aware that such things are never guaranteed, especially with the current pace of the infection in the world and specifically in our region.

That being said, the Eritrean Independence Day this year shall be celebrated from inside our houses. Different kinds of artistic performances are to be held at Cinema Roma and people are to watch it live on Eri-TV. It is a time that requires us to celebrate a national holiday as a family. We have to stay at home and celebrate the event virtually. In the past, we have faced a lot more deadly challenges as a society, and this is as adaptable as any of them except that this one requires medical experts at the frontline instead of soldiers. For yet another time, Eritrea has to hide its light under the barn and keep its children from the harms of the pandemic enemy. As wise people say, this kind of situation calls for the best in one’s self. This might be calling for the best in all of the independence celebration ideas. Let us save the get together for later, when all this is over, and cheer from where we are because we are a nature of wonder and we can adapt. Good luck with being positive and creative about independence in lockdown.

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