BY BEREKET KIDANE
On May 24, that miracle land kicking its leg into the southern Red Sea, burdened with decades of injustice and unremitting hostility from the big powers on its very sovereignty celebrates her 26th year of independence.
In 2017, Eritrea stands alone as an oasis of peace and tranquility in the Horn of Africa and the southern Red Sea — a region plagued by crises, instability, ethnic uprisings and States of Emergencies.
Eritrea continues to be an oasis of peace and harmony largely owing to its national character but also in part because it has ignored the advice of the West. It continues to put its head down and diligently work on implementing its long-term vision while shunning crippling and dependency-creating Western aid. Since it achieved independence in 1991, Eritrea has been tested by fire and proved its mettle. The journey it has taken as a young nation has been one that exhibits the resilience and determination of its people.
Eritrea’s independence was earned through blood, sweat, toil and heroism unknown to mankind. It took a lot of guts, strength, unity, perseverance and brilliant moments on the battlefield for the Eritrean people to defeat a numerically superior enemy backed by two superpowers and achieve independence. Therefore, no other country’s independence day is more powerful than Eritrea’s.
For me, Eritrea is a miracle land. Some call it “Halal Meret.” Others call it “The Land of Warsay and Yikealo.” Yes, it is all those things and more. Being a tegadalay during the armed struggle for independence meant that you were someone who believes in the impossible being possible, someone who never gives up, someone who willingly sacrifices himself on the battlefield to spare his fellow combatants, someone who overcame great odds and believed in the eventual triumph of “Awet n Hafash.”
With all due respect to other countries, there is no country on this planet whose Independence Day celebrations are as powerful as Eritrea’s. None – no one can or will ever make me change my mind on that.
But Eritrea is not just a country. It is a sacred trust received from our martyrs. It’s one big heart that embodies the indomitable spirit of its brave people. One people, one heart!
Despite all the challenges, existential threats and bullying by the big powers it has faced in its 26 years as an independent nation, Eritrea has never been doing as well or been in a better place as it is in 2017. Lots of exciting things are happening in Eritrea in the fields of geothermal energy, solar powered drip irrigation, health services, educational capacity building and water conservation. Already, some institutions and government ministries are being powered by solar renewable energy. The availability of 24/7 electricity was tweeted by some excited Asmarinos recently giving us a glimpse of what’s possible in the future. A network of water dams and artificial lakes are being built to increase water supply and beautify the landscape.
If 60 is the new 40, then 26 must be the new 16? The point is, nation building is an infinitely complex process and Eritrea as a young nation is doing a good job of it with an eye toward making life for future generations comfortable. As a lifelong and proud Eritrean, I know that Eritrea always emerges triumphant in the end. Always, always, always! I have seen it time and time again.
Approaching its 26th birthday, Eritrea continues to fill us all with justifiable pride and admiration. It’s our pride and joy because so many of its finest sons and daughters were sacrificed to make it a reality. As the national holiday season is set to begin soon in earnest, Eritrean communities around the world have started making preparations to celebrate Eritrea’s 26th birthday in grand style.
This year in 2017, the Eritrean Community of the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) metropolitan area became the first one out of the gate to announce its Independence Day preparations and rehearsals on the Dehai board. A big shout out to the patriotic DFW Eritrean Community and their national holidays organizing committee and youth group known as “Hidri Dallas.”
Hidri Dallas’s motto is, “Building a strong, patriotic and conscious youth.” Kudos to that. Right back atcha! Having seen past footage of DFW Eritrean Community’s Independence Day celebrations, I know that they always make school children the focus of their programs. This is to be commended because today’s school children are tomorrow’s YPFDJ members and leaders of Eritrean communities in the diaspora. It’s all about passing it onto the next generation.
One of the best Independence Day songs performed by a foreign musical band for Eritrea’s birthday was the epic Arabic love song ballad “Rita” by a Sudanese band for Eritrea’s 23rd birthday. The Sudanese band substituted “Rita” with “Eritra” and significantly modified the song for an Eritrean audience adding references to Eritrea’s martyrs “shaheed” and such. Interestingly, the original poem for that epic song was composed by the renowned Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish, who wrote it for a Jewish girl named Rita that he fell in love with. It was later set to music by the Lebanese singer, Marcel Khalife.
The brotherly people of Sudan have always graced us with their musical talents on Eritrea’s Independence Day, but this year in 2017, given that Egyptian-Eritrean relations are at their all-time high why not invite an Egyptian band to perform in Asmara for Eritrea’s Independence Day celebrations? Perhaps the National Holidays Organizing Committee can reach out to the Egyptian Embassy and ask them if they can send a band? It would certainly enhance the people-to-people relations as Egypt is asserting itself by projecting power in the southern Red Sea region and has become an important ally of the State of Eritrea.
As usual, this year in 2017, Eritrea’s national holidays (Independence Day, Martrys’ Day, Revolution Day on September 1st, and all the other commemoration days) will be celebrated with lots of spirit and patriotism at home and in the diaspora by the more than 6 million Eritreans worldwide. The celebration of our national holidays and heroes is an important part of who we are as a people. It’s that time of year once again so start planning your Independence Day programs to celebrate Eritrea’s 26th birthday in grand style.
One people, One heart!
Zelealemawi zikhri n swuatna!
Awet n Hafash!