By Bereket Kidane,
The Torch of Independence is continuing its tour of Eritrea. It was last seen in the Gash-Barka region somewhere near Barentu enthusiastically being greeted by the locals. It will continue to tour Eritrea until it finally arrives in Asmara on Independence Day to be ignited during the main ceremony at what’s become Eritrea’s national stadium, the former Cicero in Asmara. The only question is who will have the honor of lighting the torch?
In May of 1993 when Eritrea ended its de facto independence and became a de jure sovereign state, it was a certain tegadalay that had the honor of carrying the torch into the stadium and lighting it at the cauldron in an iconic moment for the brand new State of Eritrea.
The Torch or “Shig” in Tigrigna had long symbolized Eritreans’ desire for establishing a sovereign state and was expressed in secretly coded songs by popular artists of the 1950s and 1960s. Songs such as “Shigei habuni aytetaliluni” or translated in English “Give me my torch don’t delay” spoke directly to the dream that Eritreans had of establishing an independent state. During the years of the armed struggle for independence (1961-1991) the flame continued to burn in every Eritrean’s heart. Shigei became a popular first name for many girls born during the armed struggle of independence.
Independence Day in any country is an important marker of the country’s ability to claim its rightful place among the sovereign nations. Therefore, the means in which a country attains its independence spurs the traditions of that country’s Independence Day celebrations. In Eritrea’s case, independence was earned through blood, sweat and exceptional heroism known to mankind. That the backbone of Eritrean independence is made up of its martyrs’ sacrifice is known to every man, child and woman in Eritrea.
Ideally the Torch of Independence would travel through all of Eritrean towns where heavy fighting took place during the days of the armed struggle and include towns and villages that saw unspeakable horrors and atrocities committed by the Ethiopian Army to commemorate the brave tegadeltis and civilians that sacrificed their lives at the altar of freedom.
The torch’s travels through Eritrea sets us up nicely for the Jubilee Anniversary that is to take place next month.
Meanwhile, Eritrean communities around the world have already started planning their jubilee anniversary parties. This year, in 2016, the American City of Chicago and Canadian City of Winnipeg were the first ones out of the gate to book a venue and announce their jubilee anniversary celebrations on the Dehai board. Winnipeg was one of the first ones out of the gate for the second year in a row to announce its Independence Day plans. A big shout out to those two patriotic Eritrean communities in North America.
The Silver Jubilee Anniversary is a coin in Eritrean hands with two sides, past and present. As we turn it over and over, we feel a mix of pride, nostalgia, and a determination to honor the sons and daughters of Eritrea who gave up their lives so Eritrea can exist.
Long live Eritrea!
Eternal glory to our martyrs!