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Message of FM Osman Saleh

Eritrea at the UN: Side-Event on The Referendum

Your Excellencies,

This Year marks 30 years since Eritrea held an internationally supervised referendum on April 1993; two years after winning its Independence from Ethiopia after a long and costly war of national liberation.

Eritrea’s legitimate war of national liberation, launched when its inalienable right to decolonization was denied, was callously ignoredby most countries and strongly opposed by the major global powers.  This occurred even when the country was formally annexed in 1961 by Ethiopia by unilaterally abrogating the UN imposed bogus Federal Arrangement.

But in spite of these historical and legal facts, and while victory was ascertained on the military and political fronts, the Eritrean Provisional Government deemed it important to defer the declaration of de jureindependence pending the convention of the Referendum.

This historical decision was prompted by the desire to demonstrate and amplify to the wider world the natural quest of the Eritrean people to national freedom and statehood.

As it happened, the Eritrean Provisional Government duly constituted the Referendum Commissionby Proclamation no.22/1992 that was issued on April7, 1992.

The UN,the OAU, virtually all governments, numerous regional organizations, NGOs,dignitaries, and international broadcastcorporations were invited to participate as observers in an effort to ensure and enhance full transparency of the process as well as to document the historic event for posterity.

The three-day referendum process took place during 23-25 April 1993.

The event imbued all Eritreans inside the country and abroad with the unprecedented opportunity to once again participate actively in deciding the destiny and future of their nation.

The liberation war succeeded against the backdrop of a stifling environment of international isolation, precisely because the entire Eritrean population supported it in various ways – from joining the arduous armed struggle to extending financial and other contributions from nation-wide civil society organizations and all segments of the Eritrean population inside the country and abroad.

Eritrea’s deep desire and calls for freedom that had been denied for over 50 years was once again redeemed and ascertained on April 28 1993, when the referendum result was announced.

99.81% of Eritreans voted in favor of independence. UNOVER and international observers further announced that the referendum process was free and fair at every stage; that it was conducted in compliance with the norms and provisions of the law and to the full satisfaction of the observers.

Eritrea accordingly declared itssovereignty and rightfully earned its place in the international community of independent States. Furthermore, Eritrea and Ethiopia have also forged a solid framework of bilateral cooperation to promote the mutual interest of the two counties and that is anchored on the respect of each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity even if there were some unfortunate hiccups in the past decades.

In the event, formal independence was declared On May 24th 1993; two years to the day when the EPLF had liberated the country in its entirety.

Four days later, Eritrea was officially admitted to the UN as its 182nd Member State.

This historic event occurred almost 43 years after the UN adopted resolution 390A(V) to federate Eritrea with Ethiopia denying its people independence and forcing Eritreans to opt for a costly armed struggle to assert their independence after all peaceful avenues were closed to them.

In this sense, the Referendum provided an auspicious platform for Eritrea to amplify its hard-won independence that exacted precious and enormous sacrifices of its best sons and daughters in the quest for freedom and sovereignty.


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