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Turning 2 9 with Eritra: Celebrating Independence Day under the reality of the ‘New Normal’

When the month of May comes Eritreans inside the country and in Diaspora gear up to celebrate Independence Day.

Independence Day means so many different things to so many Eritreans. For some it means remembering all that was sacrificed by a loved one or themselves. For some it’s just a day with family celebrating what this day means. For others it’s meditating on the idea of what this day gives. But for all of us this day means celebrating, remembering, and being grateful for the freedom we all enjoy today.

“Hi, Rahel, it has been ages. Do you live in Asmara?”

“No, I’ve just arrived from Germany to celebrate Independence Day?”

“Is that your daughter?…..Hi, little girl!”

“She can speak Tigrigna. I have taught her myself.”

“Where is Tedros, (her husband)?”

“He is coming in August for the festival.”

In normal times, we would now be celebrating Independece Month in the streets and parks, enjoying the wonderful spring weather outdoors. But, like most countries, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Eritreans are commemorating their Independence Day indoors.

The corona virus pandemic has caused many to either cancel events such as weddings, birthdays , anniversaries and Independence Day or to alter their plans to fit the new reality of social distancing and stay-at-home guidelines. Eritrea will celebrate its 29th Independence anniversary on Sunday under these guidelines.

Fireworks, speeches, parties, feasts and general celebrations have marked our Independence Day ever since the courageous women and men freedom fighters set foot in the capital in May 1991 with their tanks hoisting the Eritrean flag, which was hoisted at the United Nations two years later.

Now, under the prevailing global ‘new reality’ it is vital we celebrate our Independence Day in line with the Ministry of Health’s nationwide stay-at-home guidelines. Of course these guidelines are the complete opposite of how we usually celebrate our Independence Day; but let’s remember we are adhering to these rule so that we can guarantee the safety of our country and its people and resume normal life in the near future.

The Government of Eritrea issued on April the 1st “Stay-at-home” Guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Over the course of the month the number of infected citizens reached 39. But with concerted efforts made by the government, relevant ministries and the wider community, the Ministry of Health reported on May 15 that the last remaining COVID-19 patient, the 39th, was discharged like the others after having fully recovered.

Our community has made progress not only in reducing the spread of COVID-19 but in fully controlling it and recording 100% recovery of infected patients. At the moment it would be tempting to assume the worst is over and ask for a let up on social distancing and stay- at-home guidelines to celebrate the country’s Independence Day. But it is crucial we remain cautious and adhere to the current guidelines as globally we are all still in the woods.

Of course, it is logically impossible to go out and celebrate our Independence Day outdoors with the wider public but that shouldn’t stop us from being creative in our respective homes. Crank up the old VCR player and play cassettes of Eritrea Independence movies, tune in to Eri-Tv and catch the different programs being broadcast depicting the struggle for Independence, read books on the armed struggle, hoist the Eritrean Flag outside your house to celebrate the day, make independence signs and on the day gather around with your close family members to have lunch together followed by the traditional coffee ceremony. Most importantly make plans for the near future once things have settled down.

As we turn 29 with Eritra, this monumental day should serve as a reminder that this is the land of the Can-do People. Our laudable achievement in curbing the spread of COVID-19, flattening the curve and recording 100% recovery of COVID-19 patients right before we celebrate our Independence day is no mere coincidence but an outcome of our sheer willingness and vigilance of the Eritrean People and Government to work together in tandem.

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