IN the televised speech he made today on the occasion of the country’s 24th Independence Anniversary, President Isaias Afwerki sends a stern warning to certain “deluded and corrupt” government officials to refrain from aspiring to amass wealth through short cuts.
“The malpractices manifested this year by a few deluded and corrupt individuals and government functionaries who sought to amass wealth by any means without toiling and working hard can only lead [them] to a perilous path,” said President Isaias during his speech.
The president also adds, “Such deplorable practices of corruption and theft must be combated vigorously”
Due to the societies strong ‘anti-corruption’ culture, Eritrea was largely regarded as an egalitarian and corruption-free nation. However, by government’s admission, there are indications that corruption among some government officials and pubic servants do exist.
There could be some factors that contributed to that. For known reasons, the government, for instance, controls all foreign exchanges in the country and become virtually the only legal source of imports and that by itself creates illicit profit opportunities for some military and public officials by colluding with smugglers.
Strict regulations regarding imports and lack of consistency regarding, for instance, granting of exit visas have also encouraged bribery and money laundering among those responsible for customs and immigration.
The 2014 Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International’ ranks Eritrea 166 out of 175 countries with a score of 18/100.
Today’s stern message from the President is, therefore, a signal for the beginning of a crackdown on corruption.
President Isaias Afwerki’s 24th Independence Anniversary Speech
Dear Compatriots at home and Abroad
Ladies and Gentlemen
Allow me first to congratulate the people of Eritrea, and, the friends of Eritrea, on the occasion of the 24th Anniversary of our Independence. The Eritrean people have paid unparalleled sacrifices to make national independence a reality as well as to preserve the integrity of their sovereignty and liberation. They have persisted in bolstering their resilience to reach the current state. Pride and Tribute is due to them!
I also wish to express profound thanks to the Commission of Sports and Culture and all those inside the country and abroad who have made illustrious contributions to embellish the Independence Anniversary celebrations conducted under the theme: “development through resilience”.
As we celebrate Independence Day every year, we assess the journey we have traversed and chart out, in a proactive mode, the tasks we need to accomplish in the period ahead.
The meaning and significance of independence is not only gauged by the liberation struggle conducted and the precious sacrifices exacted, but also by the struggle and sacrifices paid to preserve and build it. The symbiosis between, and complementarities, of the tasks of achieving national independence and building an independent country imply that the struggle and martyrdom of our heroic freedom fighters will have been in vain unless we succeed in building a truly free country. It is therefore with this conscientious culture and heritage that we evaluate our past performances and map out our future trajectory.
Every year, as we assess the current year with its own specific attributes and in conjunction with the cumulative past experiences, the recurring theme we ponder about is whether we have preserved the independence and sovereignty of our country; whether we are building a nation worthy of the ultimate sacrifices paid by its heroic sons, daughters, as well as, its patriotic people? At times, we gauge and compare the difficulties and intensity of the challenges of conducting the liberation struggle with that of building a free nation.
The powers that encroach on our independence and sovereignty are precisely those forces who had maintained in the 1940s that Eritrea’s independence did not serve their strategic interests. These are indeed the same forces who antagonized us subsequently for almost half a century and who were vanquished through our unparalleled heroism and resilience.
The end of the Cold War has ushered in a process of dynamic transformation in the global order in the past quarter of a century. This reality notwithstanding, certain powers prompted by greed and domination and spearheaded by the United States continue to harass us and derail our efforts of nation-building in a serene and stable environment. In this context, they instigated a border conflict with Yemen that never arose prior to Eritrea’s independence and further induced skewed arbitral decisions. Later on, they exacerbated a meaningless conflict on account of Badme and associated border dispute using a subservient TPLF as a convenient umbrella. They blocked the implementation of the final and binding arbitral decision to impede a lasting settlement of the dispute. They stoked war and aggression through the flagrant flouting of justice. And when all these schemes failed to induce capitulation of the Eritrean people, they imposed sanctions on our country on the basis of spurious pretexts.
Furthermore, they prompted a fabricated conflict in collusion with Djibouti on a putative dispute that has no basis whatsoever on the historical, colonial boundary determinations, of this region. This was conceived in order to undermine our historical place and role in the southern Red Sea and Bab-el Mendeb Straight.
All these vain subterfuges were concocted and are designed to keep us hostage in a web of regional crises. They constitute the catalogue of hostilities that we have confronted to preserve our independence and sovereignty. The failed subversive machinations and open military hostilities conducted in the past, and that still continue, to impair the political process of nation-building and to paralyze national economic development and growth are part and parcel of this sad narrative.
The relentless provocations and hostilities perpetrated against our independence and sovereignty is not confined to us alone. This must indeed be seen within the framework of their misguided policies of what they label as their global “strategic interests.” In the last quarter of this century in particular, as the insatiable strategic appetite for domination and monopoly has increasingly faced strong resistance, the tactics they have refined constitute reckless power games of “chaos by war” or “war by chaos”.
Beginning from Afghanistan, the upheavals they have stoked under different pretexts in the region continue to rage without let up:
- turmoil, bloodshed and displacements in Iraq;
- endless crises and disintegration in Somalia;
- continuous turbulence in North and South Sudan;
- subversions weaved to plunge Egypt back into crises as it starts to put its act together as if it wasn’t enough to paralyze the country for 30 years;
- chaos and destruction in Libya;
- turmoil and vacuum in Yemen;
- instigating tensions in the Nile Basin for hidden agendas;
- incubating and deploying terrorist organizations with different labels to add chaos and destruction to chaos and destruction;
- instigating and stoking misguided religious polarizations; and,
- plunging the entire region into interminable turmoil by undermining the regional organizations instead of allowing the countries of the region to solve their own problems.
All these trends and phenomena cannot be seen in isolation. They must be seen as part and parcel of the dramatic spectacle of the last quarter of a century spawned by the strategic interests of domination and monopoly.
In addition, there are self-styled or aspiring regional powers which misconstrue the vacuum and imbalances entailed by the war of chaos as a blessing in disguise and which aggravate the prevailing turmoil in order to promote their influences in the region. In the event, all the conspiracies and hostilities perpetrated against our independence and sovereignty must be seen in the context of this broader perspective.
Against the backdrop of such misguided and reckless policies, the resolute efforts that we have and are exerting to defend and safeguard our independence are not less than the long armed struggle we waged to achieve our liberation. And as we confront the challenges in unison with all those working for the security, stability and harmony of this region, time will tell that we will emerge victorious by bolstering our resistance and resilience.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In tandem with the resilient resistance we have been waging to safeguard our independence and sovereignty, we have not been kept hostage, contrary to the hopes of our detractors, by external hostility to compromise our commitments to develop our country that was devastated by war. This remains, indeed, the priority of our priorities.
The central purpose of the nation-building process is not only prompted by the solemn pledge that emanates from the precious sacrifices paid in the liberation struggle. It is also a fundamental right of all the citizens. As such, it involves putting in place extensive infrastructural facilities and services with equitable and fair spatial outreach in order to create a conducive environment for bettering the standard and quality of life of all citizens. Narrowing the urban-rural development gap and reducing socio-economic disparities are thus critical components of the economic growth drive. This means according primary opportunities to those who lack adequate food supply; those who are deprived of access to potable water, housing, electricity, efficient road and transport facilities as well as effective social amenities such as education and health services. These segments of the population must be given the opportunities to bolster their resources and capabilities so that they would be able to secure sufficient income to lead decent lives as their compatriots.
This development and economic growth matrix is not rooted on one’s preferences or sympathy. It is indeed a matter of rights and obligations of liberation and independence for the realization of which the entire Eritrean people have and continue to pay immense sacrifices. It cannot be governed by a distorted logic of appropriating the best and always first to a selected few.
It goes without saying that the achievement of extensive and all-round development – in a country that was denied opportunities for half a century and where the infrastructure is both old and dilapidated – demands time, resources and hard work. Furthermore, it requires determination of the appropriate pace and realistic phasing; the judicious use of resources; the quality and effectiveness of the manpower employed as well as meticulous planning and the requisite resilience to face and overcome potential challenges.
In this spirit and framework, the following were the sectors of highest priority in the past 24 years:
- In infrastructure: building of roads, power plants, water harvesting facilities, ports, airports, communications networks, and transport fleets;
- In agriculture: development of seeds and animal husbandry that go beyond food security and sufficiency;
- In Marine Resources: enhancing capacity to exploit the fisheries potential ;
- In manufacturing: development of modern value-adding processing capabilities in all categories of industry and enterprises with the aim of producing quality products for the domestic and export markets;
- In services: building sea and air services connectivity to enhance the growth of tourism both for domestic and foreign clients;
- In Social Services: development and expansion of quality health and education services to bolster the growth of human capital as well as to acquire the necessary professional and technological expertise to implement all planned, sectoral, development projects and programmes.
It must be pointed out that the gap between the strategic objectives in each category and the progress achieved to date – as the documents illustrate – remains rather considerable. (For reasons of brevity, I shall skip the detailed statistical analysis on this occasion). This does not of course mean that we have not been successful, outside public relations reports, in implementing the objectives we had charted out. This is meant to highlight that the difference between where we want to be or where we can be, and, where we are today after 24 years of independence, is still not negligible.
Laying down a conducive platform for the rapid and reliable implementation of planned projects is clearly crucial. In this connection, we can assert with full confidence today that we have reached the stage where we can implement what we aspire for and the plans we chart out henceforth without any obstacles. Indeed, we are finalizing all the necessary preparations, by marshalling all the requisite resources, capabilities and time, to start implementing from this year major programmes that had been shelved so far.
Let me mention, at this juncture, a matter that requires attention and which I would not like to gloss over.
There are no short cuts or sudden leaps in the development drive or in accumulating wealth and prosperity. One may entertain aspirations and wishes and this is not, of course, a vice. But the malpractices manifested this year by a few deluded and corrupt individuals and government functionaries who sought to amass wealth by any means without toiling and working hard can only lead to a perilous path. Such deplorable practices of corruption and theft must be combated vigorously. In this respect, and in order to successfully implement the major development programmes that have been charted out, we must work hard with patience and diligence, to give precedence to development through resilience. Indeed, we need to emulate the exemplary practices of the members of the Defense Forces, who are not only defending the independence and sovereignty of the country in conjunction with the vast majority of our people in spite of many hardships and difficulties, but who are also engaged in implementing challenging developmental programmes without the requisite reward.
Glory to our Martyrs who made independence a reality!
Victory to the Masses!