BY BEREKET KIDANE
I have often thought about how to best honor the legacy of Hamid Idris Awate, the courageous man who lit up Eritrea’s Armed Struggle for Independence (1961-1991) and shot the first bullet in liberation of Eritrea along with the small group of combatants he commanded on September 1, 1961.
How ‘bout renaming the country’s main airport in his honor? Asmara Hamid Idris Awate International Airport. Asmara’s IATA location identifier or airport designation code of ASM would not need to change.
The more I think about the historical significance of Awate’s and his combatants’ first military engagement with the Ethiopian Army in the liberation of Eritrea, the more I believe that a grander gesture is needed to befit Awate’s iconic status among Eritreans.
Sovereign Eritrea, in general, has been reticent to name major infrastructures after individuals, but I believe it’s time to change that and recognize national heroes with historical significance who contributed to the founding of the State of Eritrea by naming major infrastructures and public places after them. At the very least, it would add richness and interest to Eritrea’s proud history. It would also contribute to the positive development of national pride.
Ironically, the man who prevented Eritrea from becoming a sovereign state, John Foster Dulles, has a major international airport named after him in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.
Who can forget John Foster Dulles’s shameless and cynical reasoning that “… despite the wishes of the Eritrean people and their strong case for independence, the United States’ strategic interests in the Red Sea basin dictated that Eritrea be linked with America’s ally, Ethiopia…”
It took Hamid Idris Awate’s bravery and the generations of fighters he inspired to reverse the nutty John Foster Dulles’s cynical ploy on Eritrea.
Imagine the satisfaction of reading a boarding pass that read DEPARTURE: Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) DESTINATION: Asmara Hamid Idris Awate International Airport (ASM).
Tegadalay and author Haileslassie Woldu have recently produced a most valuable biography of Awate that took nearly 40 years of research to complete and is over 500 pages. The book is written in Tigrigna with sharp attention to detail and captures the complete Awate. With painstaking exhaustive research and unmatched narrative skill, Haileslassie Woldu has managed the extraordinary feat of preserving Awate’s monumental stature for generations of Eritreans. The book will enjoy wide readership once it’s translated into English, Arabic and other languages.
Patriot Hamid Idris Awate enjoys an iconic status among Eritreans for the role he played in lighting the torch for a revolutionary war that helped Eritrea gain its independence. It may be time to name a major infrastructure after him.