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Eritrea: Model of Peace and Harmony Built on Resilience

By Aman Nebiat, May 17, 2024

Eritrea has maintained stability, peace, and harmony in a turbulent region for 33 years since gaining independence, despite facing significant challenges. To understand how this nation, often and unjustly portrayed in very pejorative terms” is thriving in adversity, it is essential to delve deeper into its methods. Despite obstacles, Eritrea has sustained a peaceful society and has been instrumental in resolving regional conflicts.

This piece will delve into Eritrea’s peace framework and its impact on stability in the Horn of Africa as it embarks on celebrating its 33rd Independence anniversary under a fitting theme “PEACE ANCHORED ON RESILIENCE”

The Eritrean Peace Model:

The Eritrean peace model includes several components such as upholding human rights, encouraging unity among various ethnic and religious groups, advocating for fairness in society, building resilience in its broadest sense, following a foreign policy of non-alignment and resolving conflicts to name a few.

Respect for humanity:

Eritrea has long been known for its dedication to humanity. Throughout the 30-year armed struggle for independence, the EPLF set a new standard in caring for prisoners. Detainees received thorough medical treatment, opportunities for cultural activities and education, and chances to join other Ethiopian dissidents or pursue better opportunities abroad. This exceptional treatment was well-documented at the time by organizations such as Red Cross, and others, as well as through firs-thand testimonies from former captives like MamoAfeta who recounted his experiences in the novel “Antu Be’Enat” https://borkena.com/2022/04/10/captive-who-ended-up-marrying-a-woman-from-the-captors-force-amusing-eritrean-ethiopian-story/#google_vignette.

The gesture of compassion towards those who caused suffering was evident again during the 1998–2000 border conflict and was instrumental in the 2018 reconciliation with Ethiopia, despite the significant damage inflicted by the TPLF-led EPRDF government during its 27-year tenure. Eritrea’s respect for humanity is not merely a strategic move for public image; it is deeply rooted in the daily life and societal structure of Eritrean society both at home and on the global stage.

Harmony in ethnic & religious diversity:

Throughout its history, Eritrea has been a melting pot of various religions and cultures, consisting of nine ethnic groups, each with its own unique language and traditions. Despite this rich diversity, the country has cultivated an atmosphere of inclusivity, where all cultures are honored and treated with equality. Christianity was introduced to the country in 329 A.D. In around 614 A.D., followers of the Prophet Muhammad seeking refuge from persecution in Mecca arrived in Eritrea and established the renowned “al-Sahaba Mosque,” marking it as the first mosque built in Africa https://mosqpedia.org/en/mosque/1487. Other Christian denominations (Protestantism, Catholicism etc.) were introduced to the country especially in the 19th century.

The ethnic/religious harmony that began during Eritrea’s fight for independence continues seamlessly in present-day Eritrea. Government policies outlined in the National Charter promote equality irrespective of religious beliefs, gender, or ethnicity. These policies also emphasize equitable development and cultural preservation to prevent any group from feeling marginalized.

An illustration of the Government of Eritrea’s dedication to cultural and language preservation is the event held on March 31, 2024, by the Commission of Culture and Sports in conjunction with the Ministry of Education on “the oral tradition of the Tigre language” https://shabait.com/2022/04/16/presentation-on-the-oral-tradition-of-tigre/ . This initiative encourages public involvement in safeguarding their language, highlighting the strong commitment of both the government and Eritrean society to peace and unity.

Furthermore, Eritrean national festivals, celebrated both domestically and internationally, exemplify the country’s unity. Events like Independence Day and Women’s Day feature lively showcases of cultural attire, music, and dance representing all ethnicities, underscoring the nation’s shared identity. These festivities not only evoke national pride but also reinforce the notion that in Eritrea, diversity is a valuable asset, as evidenced during the struggle for independence.

Ensuring Social Justice — Protecting Human Dignity:

Eritrea’s National Charter enshrines the principles of human rights and dignity emphasizing the importance of treating every citizen with respect and dignity by implementing policies to ensure social justice. This ethos is reflected in the nation’s legal framework and in all governmental policies and institutions, which includes efforts to provide equal opportunities for all citizens, regardless of their background.

The educational system emphasizes the values of tolerance, unity, and cooperation, equipping students with the mindset and skills needed to contribute positively to their communities and the nation as a whole. Additionally, the Eritrean government has also placed a strong emphasis on building a unified society through education and national service. This has helped to consolidate a sense of common purpose and shared responsibility among the Eritrean people. The curriculum is designed to reflect the country’s diverse culture and history, promoting a cohesive national narrative.

Guided by the belief that education is a crucial vehicle for promoting respect for humanity, ever since independence, the Eritrean government worked diligently to make sure every Eritrean citizen is afforded free education from kindergarten to higher education opportunities including fully paid scholarship studies abroad students. The following MoE_Link provides a detailed research on Eritrea’s Ministry of Education (MoE) expenditure on education. It is also worth noting that the number of graduates from colleges, vocational schools and training institutions have been increasing steadily over the years with zero gap between male and female graduates.

Providing free healthcare to all Eritrean citizens – another important and main goals of the GoE – is protected by the National Charter. Despite limited resources, sponsored wars, political & economic sabotages, illegal economic sanctions by the UN & US and high medical costs, the GoE miraculously managed to provide efficient medical care to all Eritreans. From lowering child and maternal mortality rates to elimination of HIV/AIDS, TB & malaria infections are well documented by UNDP and other international organization, for reference click here . Another case in point is preparedness, early detection and rapid response to Covid-19 pandemic cases that resulted in minimal infections & deaths compared to global statistics. For more click here and here.

Self-reliance and Resilience:

Understanding present-day Eritrea requires examining its colonial and post-independence history. The detrimental impact of British actions from 1941 to 1952, which destroyed Eritrea’s industrial strength; the illegal federation with Ethiopia leading to annexation; prolonged conflicts with Ethiopia spanning over six decades; and the unjust and unlawful sanctions imposed by the UNSC and US have all significantly hindered Eritrea’s economic growth and development prospects.

Since achieving independence, Eritrea has faced obstacles from the United States and its allies, impeding its political, diplomatic, and economic advancements. Following the liberation of Eritrea by the EPLF in 1991, the nation encountered the challenging endeavor of reconstructing its economy and institutions. However, merely seven years later, Ethiopia invaded Eritrea with tacit support of the US and its allies, initiating a prolonged period of turmoil aimed at disrupting Eritrea’s progress.

For the latter, the tragic conflict was seen as an opportunity to steer Eritrea away from its independent political and developmental trajectory.

However, Eritreans are resilient and independent, refusing subjugation despite attempts to disrupt their path to development and economic liberation. They prioritize self-reliance and seek solidarity with like-minded countries to advance their nation and maintain peace and security in Eritrea and the region.

Despite these challenges, the GoE has consistently emphasized the importance of self-reliance, a principle that underpins all its policies. It is important to clarify that self-reliance does not equate to isolation, as some critics suggest. Rather, it involves making independent decisions about one’s future, including political, economic, and security choices, while also engaging with regional and international partners on shared interests without interfering in their affairs or allowing interference in its own.

It is not surprising then that Eritrea commands respect from superpowers like China, Russia, and India, as well as other global South nations. Eritrea represents the ideals they aim to achieve and uphold. President Isaias Afewerki’s visits to Russia and China, along with his participation in the BRICS and Africa summit in South Africa in 2023, were significant historical moments. These events demonstrate that Eritrea and its leadership are significant players in both the regional and global political spheres; standing on equal footing with world powers rather than being puppets.

Independent Foreign Policy and Non-Alignment:

Eritrea’s excellent track record of independent foreign policy, non-alignment & conflict resolution domestically as well as regionally is well documented. Eritrea’s emphasis on self-reliance & complementarity have also extended to the country’s foreign policy. When it joined the Non-Aligned-Movement (NAM) in 1995, Eritrea had under its belt 30 years of experience in battling colonialism, in all its forms, political interference, polarized alignments etc.  As a result it was a perfect platform for Eritrea to share its experiences and strengthen the movement in creating a fair, peaceful and equitable world.

Creating a peaceful world requires strength, de-escalation and strengthening international institutions such as the UNSC, UNGA etc., to empower them to fulfill their mandates in conflict resolution as opposed to being tools of oppression by certain powers, and facilitating meaningful peace talks. Examples of this abound again when we look at Eritrea’s history. From accepting the final and binding decision of the Eritrea-Ethiopia boarder commission despite Ethiopia’s refusal to accept the decision with the full support of US and EU leaders, to Somalia, Sudan or other global conflicts, where it has maintained a policy of non-interference.

Conflict Resolution Efforts:

Eritrea’s approach to peace has not only fostered a peaceful society within its borders but has also been instrumental in resolving conflicts in the region. Analysis of Eritrea’s methods for resolving conflicts reveals a focus on neutrality, dialogue, respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of others, inclusivity, non-interference, and the pursuit of sustainable solutions to prevent further violence.

Eritrea has demonstrated its commitment to peace through various initiatives, such as hosting the Somalia reconciliation meeting in Asmara in 2007, facilitating peace talks between Sudan and South Sudan, and brokering deals in Asmara on Oct 14, 2006. Additionally, Eritrea has advocated, in conflicts with international ramifications, for adherence to international norms and prudent policies that exacerbate perilous and avoidable conflagration.

Furthermore, Eritrea has diligently worked with its neighbours to help facilitate an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire and enduring resolution to the tragic conflict in the Sudan. International recognition, including UNSG AntónioGuterres’ special envoy visit to Eritrea in late April 2024 is indeed a testimony and appreciation of Eritrea’s relentless pursuit to peaceful coexistence within its borders as well in a region prone to conflict.

Emphasis on unity, building inclusive societies, nurturing national identity & patriotism, creating a diversified economy to benefit the entire society, prioritizing resilience, learning from adversity, preparedness & response to crises, encouraging innovation & entrepreneurship are what describe Eritrean society and it has garnered Eritrea and its people much respect globally.

Conclusion

Eritrea’s approach to peace has been a success in a region troubled by conflicts and instability. The focus on unity, self-reliance, and resilience has not only led to a peaceful society but has also helped in resolving conflicts in the Horn of Africa.

Eritrea’s consistent respect for humanity is not just an idea but a reality that influences every aspect of the nation. From cultural events to legal and educational systems, Eritrea demonstrates how to uphold human dignity. This dedication to unity and respect sets an example for other nations striving for a more inclusive and harmonious world. Eritrea’s journey highlights that valuing humanity can bring people together and enhance societies. Eritrea proves that when a country prioritizes unity and dignity, it sets the stage for a future that respects and empowers all its citizens.

Happy 33rd Independence Anniversary!

Contact: iguskemambesa@gmail.com

Written by Aman N.

Passionate and interested about Eritrea, Ethiopia, the HOA in general

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