The government of Eritrea has recently grouped all developmental activities within the country onto four latitudinal economic zones or (fronts), in order to “promote effective and flexible developmental tools for improved outcomes” as detailed by one of the country’s top policy architects. The eastern and coastal part of the country, including water reservoirs (dams) like Gahtelai are included on the first economic zone, while the multiple dams and mining sites in the central part of the country are included on the second Economic Zone. The third economic zone integrates multiple developmental packages and resources in the western part of the country. In much similar case, Nationals living outside the country are categorized as the fourth economic front considering their utmost national essence, and their professional and financial potentials.
Eritrea therefore, by refuting aid dependence, (which is always a failure story), has definitely awaits much deeper engagement from the Diaspora accepting various undeniable facts. Amongst the many is Eritrean communities which are living in different part of the world are a very unique asset of the country. Eritrea, during its darkest situations had earned the fruitful commitment and unstoppable courage from its Diaspora citizens. It is imperative to acknowledge that their financial, academic and social input in history was worth of everything. So, in an era of fierce competitiveness in the pursuit of national interests, no nation can develop effectively without implementing a clear strategy that seeks to harness the potentials of its Diaspora. This is the main reason that the government of Eritrea started to carry out a strategy for much deeper engagement through the maxims of the ‘fourth front’.
True as it is, People’s displacement is as old as the history of mankind by itself. Practically, colonialism through its devastating socio-political and psychological elements had resonantly forced many third world citizens to dislocate from place to place in search of safer surroundings. Thus, it is argumentatively convincing, and is certainly true that most of the pushing factors are emanated from two categorical factors of the colonial phenomenon: First, most third world citizens are products of an acute form of colonial suffering and further, many post-colonial societies are formed either in extension to or in resistance against colonial elements. The second category of factors is related to natural disasters, including draught and other related factors (compiles with the crises of nation-building process and poor management of diversity); forces people to travel from place to place in search of better surroundings. Both factors induce a sort of complex dynamics and shape the lives of many third world citizens as worse as it sounds.
Like most African states, Eritrea was created by colonization. However, unlike many African states, Eritrea paid an ultimate cost to challenge colonial incursions and fought for 30, bloody years to maintain its survival in the face of evil intended colonial actors. During its devastating past history, a genocidal policy in 1967, produced the first largest refugees where many Eritreans were forced to migrate in to the neighboring countries in tens of thousands. The atrocities of the Ethiopian Army continued in 1968, 1970, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1980, 1983, and 1990 against the Eritrean civilians, which resulted a massive exodus. The total number of Eritrean refugees in Eastern Sudan, for instance, rose from 28,600 in 1967 to 772,000 in 1986. After Eritrean Independence in 1991, and in particular and after the 1998-2000 Ethio-Eritrea border war, a large number of people migrated from this country, which was considered by the international community to remain in persistent threat due to a ‘no peace no war’ stance then and the unjust sanctions.
Besides, a milieu of national liberation struggles, which certainly provide to the reality of post-independence nation-building process, and the struggle toward institutionalization, bureaucratization and democratization is not an easy matter. Undoubtedly, perceived in the vein of the so called crisis of African states, expressed their failure of discharging their responsibilities in social and economic governance.
Eritrea’s post-independence national development program is indeed a dialectical process of making an independent alternative social trend. It has widely attributed to place a long term development agenda over short ones, which is quarreled with the motives of making a very rapid socio-economic return. Understanding the fact that a path toward the establishment of a viable modern state is as complex as many past experiences shows, the issue of migration still pervades and has fundamentally influenced the national political discourses in a highest degree. Many actors strive to make credit of it by making it happening via economic and political instruments, albeit sanction, was amongst the brightest.
Perhaps, Eritrea is remarkably a poor nation, not exempt from this consideration, that according to the theory of migration, migrants make a rational decision to increase their welfare or utility by moving to another place where they can expect to earn a higher income. From this perspective, what hasn’t been yet discussed or totally ignored is that migration is more resided to a process than to a product. Then, the important point will be how migrants can create, nurture and perfect tools to facilitate organic attachments with their origin country, which is Eritrea in this case.
Further, in interpreting the role of Eritrean Diaspora in supporting national development agendas – in its sharp endings- is thematically incorporated with three fundamental truths. Firstly, skilled and well-articulated citizens are complementary in Eritrea’s development agenda, ahead of the uses of natural resources. Diasporas’ economy generally relies upon skilled citizens where some experience reveals that it is not fluctuated easily by global financial setbacks. Secondly, throughout the history of the nation, Eritrea’s Diaspora had proven their warm devotion toward nationalist causes, during and after the liberation struggle, which is a manner that is a very good background for further engagements. Regardless of their geographical location, the Eritrean Diaspora had contributed financially, materially, and diplomatically towards the liberation struggle, during those very challenging and difficult 30 years. The third and most important truth is that the country’s investment fields give, at a policy level, the highest consideration for nationals to invest in all sectors- first local, then the Diaspora, and at last to foreigners.
In the past, the Eritrean People Liberation Front (EPLF), as the anchor of Eritrea’s revolution, took the responsibility and facilitation of engaging the Diaspora Eritreans in their effort of sending remittance. It is now continuing this similar effort, at a Government level, by facilitating remittance, in a form of a minimum of 2% annual rehabilitation tax. It channels this effort to support of the families and siblings of Martyrs, war disabled fighters and victims of natural disasters, and in contributing to the nation building endeavor. In Eritrea, paying such tax, and any tax in general, is not only a duty but is a well believed right. History can attest it, tradition can support it and politics can prove it so far.
In this manner, the Eritrean Diaspora has equal rights and says in national issues and matters. They endow rights to social services, right to land, right to social security, and right to participate in the Economy. We could draw from this a conclusion that such experience must do not only on the grounds of customs, but also in terms of the attitude toward powerful burden-sharing practices.
Finally, it is worthwhile to mention that during the past decades evil surrogates have been working day and night to stop this Diaspora tax and obstruct the Diasporas’ engagement to discourage their attachment with their country. However, they couldn’t stop the leverage on the multiple roles the Diaspora play as senders of remittances, investors, philanthropists, innovators, exportable labor and first movers in the growth of important sectors such as: tourism, health, and the development of human capital. “Every day, in every way, Eritrea is getting better and better”. The Eritreans in the Diaspora need to stand still under the banner of the ‘Fourth Front’ in order to maintain their historic character in remaining entrusted for their nation.