Interview with Mr. Saleh Ahmedin; Chairperson of the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students

This year, the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students (NUEYS) is re-launching its website. What is new about it?

It is the era of digitalization. Therefore, our union too has been striving to keep up with the rest of the world. By reintroducing the NUEYS’ website, we opt at sharing and disseminating current information relevant to the youth. We have redesigned and restructured our work scheme as well as our staff so that we promote information sharing in multiple languages of our country. The website is also open for contributors outside of the permanent staff; tourists, commentators and analysts from different vocations and different places inside and outside of our country. Therefore, we look forward to making NUEYS website one that also opens platforms for outside opinions as well.

That being said, are members of NUEYS individually active on SNS?

It is indeed important for our members to be active on SNS and part their individual experiences and outlook in relation to the union’s endeavors, however, only few do. And the main reason for that is the limited availability of internet access in our country. We have been working to address the issue and I hope that soon we will be able to see some changes.

Eritrea will reach its 30th Independence Anniversary this year; thirty years of which the country has been depending mostly on its youth. Can you summarize the contribution of the youth in the past three decades?

It is definitely not easy to summarize the youth’s input in the country’s affairs. But how about starting with the challenges Eritrea faced in the past three decades and how our youth tackled them. Eritrea was put through massive systematic attacks that didn’t make its journey undemanding: Military invasion, economic embargos, social pressure and diplomatic isolations etc. – all great efforts to demean our country and our people, to which our youth tirelessly acted against on heavy sacrifices. Eritrea went through methodical attacks aimed at creating havoc and confusion within its land and people. Many of our youth have lost their way but many more found their way in the confusion and have led our country through its developmental schemes and goals towards ensuring social justice. Eritrea’s youth stood resilient for its country’s sovereignty, massive developmental projects and dissemination of social provision. But mostly, it stood resilient to safeguarding the country’s internal peace and its people’s values and unity. For all of this, the Eritrean youth paid their lives, gave their precious time and their individual opportunities and gains. If Eritrea stands still as a sovereign country, where its values are still intact, it is basically thanks to the sacrifices and devotion of its youth.

To its contracts, where there any opportunities that the country provided the Eritrean youth with in the past thirty years of Independence?

Of course, peace being atop of the list, Eritrea has also made education and other basic social services widely available to its youth. The Government has done a lot, within its capacities, to provide chances for the well being of its people to be perpetuated.

 

How did Eritrea manage to unite its youth?

We define Sawa as an important faculty of learning about differences, mutual respect and unity. Prior to Sawa, Eritrean children are nourished with golden values of our society and then in Sawa they come to realize Eritrea’s cultural richness and colorfulness. Therefore, we love and respect each other. We pay sacrifices for each other. The Eritrean youth is highly disciplined, growth oriented, selfless and patriotic. These qualities are the newest versions that the Eritrean youth built atop the longstanding values Eritreans secured for over a century now to safeguard and develop our nation.

Sawa, is definitely, an experience big part of the Eritrean youth have in common. What if Sawa hadn’t existed?

Sawa is a multipurpose training center. Sawa trains its youth to be militarily and politically advanced. Sawa also feeds its children with virtues of unity and national identity. Sawa is also an academic center where students encourage each other to exceed academically and vocationally. Youth who respect the people, protect and build the nation come out from Sawa. Therefore, if Sawa hadn’t been realized on the ground when it was sought after as a project, almost three decades ago, now, maybe Eritrea wouldn’t have existed as a nation, considering the invasion it faced.

A nation is built by joint efforts, common experiences and collective understanding. Having our youth come to such terms is of paramount importance, therefore, having Sawa to serve as a platform for the exchange of such ideas, I believe, is very useful. Above all, is not so much the location that matters; it is the policy. Wherever the place, gathering the youth to learn from, and encourage, each other is what a country needs most for its development and security.

What is the union’s stance on the matter of Eritrean youth exodus in the past twenty years?

Africa is rich for its young populace. A form of mental warfare we needed to stand strong against was in fact the systematic attacks, on all levels, aimed at stripping Eritrea from its chief resource: its youth. Eritrea has been victim of continuous assaults from the outside mainly targeting the youth. Mass departure of the young was promoted upon openly so that the youth is kept from living up to its best potential in the country, as well as, crippling the youth to eventually weaken the country’s productivity. Therefore, NUEYS has been working on raising the awareness of the youth on several political issues, the importance of having a politically and economically independent sovereign state, the realities of cross border crimes – activities of human trafficking included and other sad but actual realities that the youth needs to understand and wisely act upon. Likewise, for the people who have already clandestinely migrated, the NUEYS reaches and works closely with them to create a liaison to keep them close home.

How does women participation look like in the NUEYS?

It’s as equal and vibrant as that of men. However, the number of men exceeds at leadership level within the union. The reasons could be several, however, the union does promote and invite for women to take the lead and be represented at all levels of the union’s structure.

Eritrea is at a very dynamic setting within the Horn of Africa; in 2018 the peace accord with Ethiopia was signed followed by a number of diplomatic ties with neighboring countries. Most recently, internal political issues in Ethiopia are seeing the fail of the main siege power that hindered the harmonization of countries in the Horn. Do you think that the novel political ambiance in the Horn of Africa might be of relevance to the future of the Eritrean youth?

The undeniable truth is that, because of the Ethiopian invasion, Eritreans – young and old, went to war and as result we lost lives and opportunities. However, years later now we still have maintained our dignity, sovereignty and we kept working on our nation building schemes despite many hardships we had to overcome on the way. Most importantly, the Eritrean youth, has more than ever, generated peace for its people as well as helpfulness, diplomacy, self-reliance and a winners’ spirit for themselves. Regional stability, for the Eritrean youth, would mean further advancements and wider growth prospects. So, yes there are bigger opportunities. The new political ambiance in the Horn of Africa is of great relevance to the future, and certainly positive, outlook for our youth.

What message would you like to convey in line with the New Year on behalf of the union?

Years of heavy sacrifice, resilience and perseverance paid off greatly, and after all, we have survived and have come out winners. Our potential and unity, in hard times, have evolved to be supreme and unmatchable. With great lessons learned and ample level of patience the Eritrean youth hold, I want to tell our youth that we enter 2021 with the same spirit our people had entered the year 1991. Against all odds, the sacrifices we made to make our nation sovereign and peaceful for our people in the past twenty years plus, have been majestic. Cheers to better times of growth and prosperity ahead for the Eritrean youth. Happy New Year!

 

Translated by Billion Temesghen

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