Similarities of Two Nations: Story Does but History Does Not Lie

Some parallels based on the history of Eritrea and the United States
Some parallels based on the history of Eritrea and the United States … a reflection on the relevance of history for building a prosperous nation ….

By Dr. Amdetsion Kidane, DBA

On October 26, I posted an article titled “Sanction on Eritrea Continues: A Baseless Decision.” One of the issues I mentioned in that article is the financial burden the United States of America as a new independent nation had to go through due to Embargo by Britain deploying its mighty navy in the high seas to control movement of essential goods to the new nations. As I mentioned in the article, the move by the only superpower at the time inflicted heavy pressure on the new nation similar to one that Eritrea is currently facing. 

However, the similarity between the two new nations does not end here. I will continue listing and briefly explaining the similarities with the objective of: (1) making a point that both nations had a humble but determined beginning for a just cause, (2) expressing my strong belief that Eritrea’s problem and the negative publicity being disseminated against her by irresponsible journalists will subside just as the negative publicity aired about the United States and some of its patriots, notably – John Adams did, and (3) stating the fact that in periods of trial, a nation has to be blessed with people of fortitude and a leader or leaders who selflessly stand to the principles of freedom with justice and the betterment of life for all withstanding the barrage of criticism that may shower on them. With this hindsight, I will list and elaborate five similarities so briefly.

Similarity 1 – Constant threat of war:

In spite of the hard-fought for and well-deserved independence, Great Britain was constantly looking for excuse to retaliate the embarrassing defeat it sustained in the hands of the dedicated and resolute fighters of the American revolutionaries. This is best evidenced by the burning of Washington including the destruction of the White House, which at the time was known as the “Presidential Mansion” and The Capitol – thirty-seven years after independence in 1812 and continued for two years.

Well, seven years after independence, Eritrea was invaded by the Ethiopian (Woyane) regime killing 19,000 Eritrean soldiers and more than 100,000 soldiers of its own in addition to hampering the rate the Eritrean economy was growing. As if this not enough, the Woyane government of Ethiopia, ironically aided by the United States of America, the constant threat of war continues true its policy of “no peace, no war.”

Similarity 2 – Economic hardship:

With independence declared on July 4, 1776, the economic problem of the new nation started, and mounted to a point of despair before it got better starting around 1793 – seventeen years after the historic event. With the mighty British navy controlling the US coastline and movement of American ships to and from Europe and the West Indies, the US economy was literally at a stand still. The impact was painful.

“Shortages of nearly every necessity made the day-to-day struggle at home increasingly difficult. A dollar is not worth what a quarter had been, … Our money will soon be useless as blank paper … Bread, salt, sugar, meat and molasses, cotton and wool, had become dear and beyond measure. Farm help, help of any sort, was impossible to find.” …

wrote Abigail Adams, a determined revolutionary herself, to her husband, John, who at the time was one of the commissioners at the Court of France. Doesn’t this sound like life was in Eritrea in general and Asmara in particular, after the liberation of Massawa in 1990, in the aftermath of the Woyane aggression 1998 -2000 and even now since the sanction was first imposed in 2009?

Similarity 3 – Determination:

The American Revolution, triggered by the notion of “no taxation without representation” was “a revolution in the minds and hearts of the people.” As such, it is difficult to list down all dedicated Americans who contributed to the success of the revolution. It should be stated though that it took thirteen years after the Declaration of Independence to form a formidable government, draft the constitution, and have it ratified and implemented. By then though, tens thousands of soldiers were killed in action, and fourteen of the fifty-six Congressmen who signed the Constitution were not lucky enough to witness the formation of real government and election of the first president of the country in 1789.

We can relate this to our own struggle for independence, which was planted in the hearts and minds of the Eritrean people, and the price we paid in human lives – sixty five thousand of them in the struggle for independence, and nineteen thousand to defend the costly and hard-gained independence of the nation in 1998 to 2000! Gallant and brilliant individuals who should have enjoyed the realization of the cause they fought for and defended, and should have had part in leading the country to prosperity did not.

Similarity 4 – Leadership:

As for running the American government, the lucky ones were mandated to lead the nation into the future. “It was thus to be a government led by revolutionaries, all men who had taken part in the Revolution. Washington, by common agreement, was the greatest man in the world, and in John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and John Jay, the American people could fairly claim to have the best minds in the country. And however striking their differences in temperament and political philosophy, they were without exception, men dedicated primarily to seeing the American experiment succeed.”

Here again, is a parallel as all of the ministers in the Eritrean government were revolutionaries who with the exception of a couple saw action, planned and implemented effective military and economic strategies under the many years of hardship in the field. Even the couple of exception, are dedicated individuals who, during the struggle complemented the military operation in the field from outside sacrificing personal comfort that was available to them.

Similarity 5 – Divisiveness:

In the United States, political divisiveness was on the rise even long before the formal government was installed in 1789. Most of this divisiveness was at first targeted at a single individual, John Adams, although at times it mildly shifted to others. Adams’ contribution to the American Revolution was not in question from within or from without. Even King George III was quoted as saying, “I have heard of one Mr. Adams but who is the other?” long before the Declaration of Independence. A few of the reasons that triggered the divisiveness against him is due to his very nature of openness, intolerance to mediocrity and lack of integrity and honesty, and his stubbornness, anchored in his earnest desire to see the Revolution succeed. Once he wrote to a grandson, “I rather see you as worthy possessor of one thousand pounds of honesty acquired by your own labor and industry than of ten million by banks and tricks.” Adams, by all accounts, with all his shortfalls, is considered the greatest revolutionary next to Washington. Relating to Eritrea, our struggle has given birth to many Adams, raised many Adams, sacrificed many Adams and have many Adams still alive, leaving the judgment to history to bestow honor to those people who truly deserve it.

Some of you may dismiss some or all of the parallels I have drawn – considering the difference in time periods the two struggles occurred and the circumstances under which they occurred. I remain convinced though that Eritrea should learn more about the history of other nations including the United States to reach the level of success they are at. The basis of Adams vision for prosperous America that we are witnessing now is anchored on a sequence of histories that happened as far back as thousands of years before the American Revolution. Allow me to close this article with Adams reflection on the relevance of history for building a prosperous nation and the precaution to be taken to protect it from forces that block the road to success.

Writing about the rise and fall of nations, he observed,

“… Even mighty states and kingdoms are not exempted. If we look into history, we shall see some nations rising from contemptible beginnings and spreading their influence, until the whole world is subjected to their ways. When they have reached the summit of grandeur, some minute and unsuspected cause, commonly affect their ruin, and the empire of the world is transferred to other place.” He cites the rise and the fall of the Roman Empire. He relates to the rise of England to the level of mightiness it had reached in 1755 at the time he wrote down this observation when he was only 20 years old student at Harvard College as it was called then. Referring to the resources that America had, and the potential to develop a strong naval force, he says, “The only way to keep us from setting up for ourselves is to disunite us.”

The work to create prosperous Eritrea is in progress, and at a remarkably impressive rate. At this historical juncture, we have the option of playing a positive role to contribute to the effort of accelerating realization of the goal, or play a negative role, not knowing that we really are, to derail progress. Knowing the commitment and devotion of the large majority of Eritreans the goal of having a prosperous nation will be realized. However, history will remember us, and exalt or disparage us for whatever role we play. Story does but history does not lie.

* Source: John Adams, David McCullough, Simon & Schuster, New York 2001


The writer is a Professor of Quantitative Analysis at Howard University, Washington, DC