The people of Eritrea have been through life-changing events many times over. In 1941, after Britain won over the Italian army and controlled Eritrea, the brutal British Military Administration made Eritreans suffer. The British shut down the livelihood of the people and tried to starve Eritreans into submission.
This was a modus operandi for Britain that engineered one of the worst famine India faced. Nearly five million Bengali Indians died in 1943. This was Winston Churchill’s approach to controlling populations, and he did not spare Eritrea.
In 1974, when the Derg military took power, Eritrea quickly became an open prison. The Derg quarantined the people, especially in the city of Asmara, by fear, daily killings, imprisonment, and harassment that forced everyone to stay home or run away.
There were curfews. People could not venture out after six PM. People were fearful of their life day and night. At night it was impossible to sleep comfortably. Gunshots in the middle of the night and random heavy artillery by Ethiopian soldiers in the city that hit homes while people were asleep. This was a regular occurrence.
After every night of heavy fighting, we were afraid to go out because we knew what we will see in the streets in the morning. Dead innocent men and women randomly shot on the streets and the harassment of young Eritreans by Ethiopian militias (Primarily from Tigray province) that terrorized the people.
It was dark, no electricity and water shortages were acute. Everything was scarce. People faced shortages of fuel to cook. No grains in the market. No sugar, oil, and other necessities. They shut down everything. Ethiopian forces blocked all the main arteries that brought commodities from the villages.
Getting out of the house was like playing Russian roulette. Eritreans were afraid to go out on the streets, to work or socialize, and to play stuck in their homes for months. It was a complete lockdown.
If we were to compare it to the current COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, those days were possibly worse because of the constant fear, lack of support from the outside world, and the duration. It went on for 17 years.
However, despite all the hardships they faced, Eritreans sailed through it by supporting each other. By kindness, by looking out for each other and by supporting one another as a family. Selflessness and courage carried Eritreans through one of the most difficult moments of Eritrean history.
After independence, after a brief respite between 1991 and 1998, TPLF unleashed an unexpected war that tested the resolve of the people of Eritrea and for years it forced Eritreans to die in defense of their nation.
After the war ended and after signing the Algiers Agreement in 2000, Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) unleashed new warfare sponsored and supported by the United States. Having failed to achieve their objectives militarily, the TPLF and Washington unleashed asymmetric warfare on the people and state of Eritrea with the sole aim of dissolving Eritrea. This was a global campaign the like of which no African country has ever faced.
Their goals were to divide, make her insolvent, weaken her to where it can no longer master the ability to defend herself. They targeted Eritrean youth and the Eritrean community around the world who helped to bring independence. They targeted the remittances Eritreans sent.
Ironically, the TPLF unleashed Tegaru who grew up and lived in Eritrea during the communist military Derg regime of Ethiopia on Eritreans abroad. These are the sons and daughters of the militias that terrorized Eritrea during the Derg. They are in many countries around the world as Eritreans because they thought asylum as Eritreans. These avowed enemies lived amongst Eritreans for decades and have learned how Eritrean live, communicate, spend, entertained, etc…
Over the last twenty years, they have exposed themselves bare. When Washington and its handlers worked against Eritrea, they felt they found opportunity and planned for Tigray Tigrigna, to carve out a new nation at the expense of Eritrea. They have spent countless resources, used all means, and used every minute to destroy Eritreans all over.
They harassed Eritreans by going to their events; invested heavily for an extensive campaign they proudly call Digital Weyane targeting Eritreans on their social media platforms, and in every way possible. They have made it their daily routine to defame defile Eritrea to damage the Eritrean brand. They intend to damage the pride of Eritreans and belittle the values that sustained Eritrea. Of courses, there are some wretched souls who call themselves Eritreans that march alongside these criminals. In doing so, they have shown who they truly are, the enemies of the people.
From many directions, for 18 years, Eritrea faced pressures that no other nation faced and lived to tell about it. Eritrea faced one of the most debilitating sanctions, economic isolation, and asymmetric warfare. This was a very tough period for Eritreans everywhere. The assaults on our culture, history, music, historic pictures, festivals, and the interference on the Eritrean lives abroad were intrusive. It disrupted, suffocated, and made Eritrean life difficult.
Yet, Eritrean resolve never wavered. For 18 years Eritreans challenged the international machinations and the TPLF’s assaults daily. They tirelessly faced the challenges head-on every day and defeated it. In Geneva, at the UN, and in Washington, Eritreans campaigned hard.
Eritrean campaigns were organic and based on truth. They held demonstrations in New York, DC and Geneva by traveling thousands of miles to express solidarity with their government. They showed the world no matter the circumstances they will never relinquish independence won by the blood of brave Eritreans. Hence, without the participation of Eritreans everywhere, the sanctions and human rights-based accusations Eritrea faced would have gone unchallenged.
In the end, Eritrea prevailed. They lifted the sanctions. The people of Ethiopia stoned the minority regime, the TPLF, out of Menelik Place. Today, the TPLF leadership that used to brag daily on how it will bring regime change in Eritrea are hiding in Mekelle Tigray. They are sitting in an open prison relegated to begging Eritrea to open her borders to save them. They are in suits, and nowhere to go. They can’t even go to Addis to enjoy the palaces they built.
Truly, Eritrea sustained heavy damages. And because the hardships Eritrea sustained were over a long period, it took a toll on the people and the country. It has been a persistent long struggle. From 1941, when the British took over until 2018, Eritrea never had a break from hardship.
Hence, the people of Eritrea never established a country they yearned to build due to unwelcome interference and hardships it caused. However, despite it all, Eritrea never knelt to beg for food out of hunger. In the war’s aftermath in 2000, for example, the first thing they tried was to starve Eritreans. They denied Eritrea food to starve them so they can revolt against their government.
However, Eritrea quickly established dams all over Eritrea, started robust agricultural programs, and developed an indigenous capacity that ensured self-reliance. Today, Eritrea has dams full of water everywhere. Communities throughout Eritrea can grow vegetables, many agricultural products, fruits, and husbandry.
There is an abundance of agricultural products and domestic animals throughout Eritrea. Eritrea not only survived but thrived by making moves that became the foundation for the future of Eritrea.
When the world championed globalization; in isolation, Eritrea hunkered down and established solid infrastructures for the future despite all the hardships she faced. Eritrea did it without handouts, with indigenous power and mind outside the debt trap.
The plan designed to weaken her ended up strengthening Eritrea’s position. The sanctions and the hardships it caused turned out to become the blessing in disguise. Campaigns they designed to break Eritrea became the salvation of Eritrea.
Coronavirus COVID-19, the Reset and Opportunity
The global pandemic is and has been a challenge to everyone around the world. And like everyone else, Eritrean communities are sick and suffering from no one knowing and without help. There are elderly Eritreans in nursing homes suffering by themselves. There are many single individuals sick with no one to take care of them and there are families are suffering. Many people have passed without a proper burial. And the fear, uncertainty, and the economic hardship the pandemic brought are immeasurable.
Over the decades, on every stage of Eritrea’s struggles, first, in the fight for independence, and after independence and in the fight against the neo-colonial neo-liberal world order that aimed to conduct regime change; the people of Eritrea have overcome and positioned Eritrea on a better platform than the previous stages.
The transformation of Eritrean struggle from a few men to becoming well organized revolutionary struggle with a full-fledged mechanized army, and to becoming a formidable nation that can withstand insurmountable odds is historic. Over the past twenty years, especially, the people of Eritrea have been through many challenges. And as in the past, they overcame, and find themselves in a good place.
Today, the world is facing similar challenges. Every nation, poor or powerful, is facing the same problem. The virus is indiscriminate. It attacks everybody. And it is safe to argue that there are equal playing fields for nations because everybody is in the same boat.
Hence, nations and communities that play it smartly can take advantage. Eritrea is better positioned to take advantage of many opportunities for three key reasons:
1) Eritrea’s history, the experiences, and the fact that we have been through these hardships under worse circumstances. That there is an unspoken understanding between Eritrean officials, who have been through many challenges, and the people. The people of Eritrea know and trust the government. They know the leadership will come through during the worst circumstances. The leadership has experiences that few governments in history have. Solid, strong, resilient, and experienced leadership that knows how to stand against the biggest players.
2) Eritreans are organized. The organizational abilities of Eritreans date back centuries. In the last 60 years, however, the people of Eritrea have learned to organize around the world. These are gifts a handful of communities around the world enjoy. Hence, it doesn’t take them long to come together when needed.
3) Eritreans are: dedicated, generous, kind, willing, and gracious. They are committed, and willing to sacrifice for the greater good and with the big picture in mind.
The Eritrean communities all around the world have been an integral part of the nation in this and many other ways. From the beginning of the struggle until Independence and beyond, Eritreans stood firm. Eritreans always rise to the challenge. For example, during the war in 1998, in the Washington DC area alone, Eritreans raised over five million dollars in one day.
So, therefore, the way Eritreans rose to support their people in the fight against COVID-19 is very Eritrean. It is exemplary. However, it is not new. It is the way Eritreans worked for decades. And as customary, Eritreans worldwide are contributing to help the Eritreans overcome the global pandemic in ways no others have done. In twenty days, Eritreans worldwide have raised over eight million US dollars.
The coronavirus pandemic is temporary. It will pass. However, it will do a lot of damage. When the pandemic passes the world as we know will change. It will change the way we live, entertain, gather, dine outside, do business, exercise, educate, and everything else we in our lives.
The world has already changed in ways we did not envision 30 days ago. The globalization agenda that runs the world is in critical condition. Nations are more likely to focus inward. Regional organizations such as the European Union will face many challenges that threaten the existence of the organizations. Nations will face cash shortages, whatever they have must stimulate their economies.
It will also bring new world order. The global order, the unipolar global order the US won after World War II, especially after the Cold War in 1991, is ending if it hadn’t already.
Understanding these changes, expecting the impact on our societies and taking part in it, is the responsibility of every Eritrean.
Positioning Eritrea on the right path enabling her to compete in this upcoming global economic and geopolitical environment will require the participation of every Eritrean.
One thing for certain, Eritreans will keep doing their part to beat Coronavirus. Eritrean Artists, for example, are doing major fundraising campaigns to raise more funds. On April 26, under the banner of Artists for Eritrea, they are to conduct a live entertainment and educational program.
The reaction by Eritreans and all people around the world, the willingness to do good is inspirational. It has taught people many things about what is important in a short time. It is an opportunity for all Eritreans to craft new ways and to play a part in ways they never envisioned. It is time to assess what roles we must play to place Eritrea on a better path. It is an opportunity to push the reset button.
Eritreans all over the world must be ready to serve each other at the highest level. It is time to refocus on energy that will make a difference in the lives of the people, each other. However, that can only happen when we realize what is important. Time and each other.
To do so, we must understand what the needs are. Eritrea needs medicine, education, agriculture, fishery, tourism, and a robust economy. Eritrea needs Eritrean communities all over the world organized and ready to operate like a well-oiled machine.
The government of Eritrea must also create a conducive environment to embrace the diaspora as it has since the beginning of the struggle. It must also establish the infrastructure necessary that facilitates participation.
The people of Eritrea have won. They are winners a million times over. Eritreans will also win over COVID-19 because it is no different from the fights Eritreans fought successfully in the past. So, let’s use this opportunity and time to refocus rebuild our communities and nation anew. It is important to fight COVID-19 with a long-term view in focus.