BY BEREKET KIDANE
One of the hallmarks of Eritrean society has always been its commitment to truth. Our forefathers had a saying that perfectly captured their unshakable belief in the power of truth: “betri Haqi tiqetin ember aytisiberin – በትሪ ሓቂ ትቀጥን እምበር ኣይትስበርን.” Translated in English: The truth stick may get thin but it never breaks. In other words, truth always wins out in the end.
The commitment to fairness, dignity, truth and propensity to “tell it as it is” are among the character traits that differentiate Eritrean society from other societies, especially Ethiopia.
To an Eritrean, his word is his bond. By contrast, in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, for instance, they have a famously wicked saying, “le Hamasien bmahla le derho bmashela – ልሓማሴን ብማሕላ ልዶርሆ ብመሸላ” which basically encourages one to deliberately lie and swear by the name of God in order to manipulate someone. Truly an immoral behavior.
Eritreans in general celebrate their nation as being exceptionally ethical. That ethical behavior is embedded in Eritrea’s national identity and is borne out by the facts. It is also well-recorded in history. For instance, during the Armed Struggle for Independence (1961-1991) while Eritreans were tortured in Ethiopian prisons and hung in public squares by the Ethiopian Army, Eritrean liberation fronts had a strict policy of treating Ethiopian prisoners humanely. Even during periods when food was scarce, Eritrean liberation fighters gave their Ethiopian prisoners basically the same ration as their own fighters rather than allow them to suffer from malnutrition. Eritrean liberation fighters even went as far as teaching illiterate captives how to read.
Another example that illustrates the Eritrean society’s devotion to the concept of justice, ethical behavior and honoring your word is the fact that Eritrea promptly abided by the international tribunal’s decision that awarded a series of disputed islands to Yemen. Eritrea abided by its commitment to honor the court’s verdict even though it adversely affected its territorial interests.
By contrast, the Tigray-led Ethiopian government has been doing verbal acrobatics and lying out of both sides of its mouth ever since the Hague verdict came down and awarded the disputed town of Badme to Eritrea. Quite a contrast in ethical behavior and commitment to truth.
Regarding the Government of Eritrea, it has a sterling reputation among aid donors as an honest government that sees to it that every red cent is spent on the intended program to benefit the population. Businessmen who have operated in Eritrea routinely speak of the lack of corruption in the country.
Eritrea and Ethiopia are a land of contrasts when it comes to their commitment to truth. The Latin phrase Terra Veritatis or “land of truth” when translated in English should be emblazoned on the seal of the State of Eritrea right above the proud, imposing camel. And, yes, truth does always win out in the end. We are seeing that now as the big powers and their useful idiots have finally run out of lies.