On 24th May 2021, the 30th anniversary of Eritrea’s Independence Day was colorfully celebrated in a way that promotes Eritrean society’s sense of identity and dignity. Independence Day is the site of collective memory urging the people to remember the great revolution of the past. The celebration, as usual, was taken place in Asmara Stadium but in all respects it was new in type, both in organization and content. The four hour program was attended by President Issaias Afewerki, higher government officials, people and students. Concert and artistic productions of great mosaic that reflect the diversity of the society and historical narrative of the country were presented by young artists. Military parade of the 34th round and the twenty minute long firework gave additional splendor to the ceremony. The 30th anniversary of Eritrea’s Independence Day has an exceptional and ideal meaning. The great celebration and demonstration is an expression of resilience of the great people of Eritrea.
Thirty years after independence, Eritreans are still close enough to the revolutionary period to feel its warmth and to remember it with the advantage of hindsight. Independence Day celebration has been used as an instrument to demonstrate the ideals of the great revolution, strengthening national identity and national unity. H.E President Issaias Afewerki in his celebratory speech explained the injustice happened to Eritrea after the Second World War up to the present. He also mentioned the ongoing propaganda campaign orchestrated in the past six months following the desperate incident of 4th November and TPLF’s missile attack on Eritrea. He called the Eritrean people residing inside and outside of the country to resist as ever against any form of injustice.
The legal rights of Eritrean people for independence and self-determination was deliberately sacrificed in the altars of UN to satisfy the interest of great powers. Regional and international organizations and leading global powers disregarded the legitimate claim of Eritrea. Eritrea was the only Italian colony never allowed independence and the exercise of the right to self-determination. The Eritrean case was the only international issue on which the two super powers came together to quash the liberation struggle.
The Atlantic Charter, jointly declared by Roosevelt and Churchill on August 14, 1941, contained the policies of their respective countries. The two leaders agreed to “respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them.” The terms of the Atlantic charter, however, did not apply to Eritrea. Article 1, paragraph 2, of the UN charter also states that the purposes of the United Nations is: “To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace.” The Eritrean people are endowed with the inviolable and inalienable right to self-determination. Article 73 of the UN charter also stipulated that “Members of the United Nations which have or assume responsibilities for the administration of territories whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government recognize the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount, …” Despite their applicability, however, these rights are denied to Eritrea.
Competing interests of major powers took precedence over the interest of Eritreans and the federal decision that did not recognize the inalienable right of the Eritrean people was imposed on Eritrea regardless of the opposition of Eritreans and many truth-loving representatives at UN. The then Ambassador Ichaso of Cuba delivered a strong statement of opposition to the resolution: “We consider that the United Nations should assist all colonial territories to obtain their independence sooner or later as circumstances may require. The draft resolution approved by the Ad Hoc Political Committee, which provides for federation, closes all roads to Eritrean independence, whereas the proposal for independence presented by the delegation of Pakistan, which we supported, does not close the road to federation, but simply leaves that a matter to the free determination of the Eritrean people…. I feel that to give independence to Libya, Somaliland, and not to give the same treatment to Eritrea constitutes an act of discrimination in the solution of the problem of the former Italian colonies.”
Ethiopia and her western allies had used unconvincing arguments including economic unviability of Eritrea. Article 3 of the UN Resolution 1514 (XV) that put into effect the right of self-determination stated unequivocally that “Inadequacy of political, economic, social or educational preparedness should never serve as a pretext for delaying independence.” With the advice and encouragement of western powers, Ethiopia unilaterally dissolved the federal arrangement in 1962. Article 2 of Order No.27 of 1962 stipulated that “The Federal status of Eritrea and Ethiopia is hereby terminated and Eritrea, which continues to constitute an integral part of the Empire of Ethiopia is hereby wholly integrated into the unitary system of administration of Our Empire.” A year before the unilateral dissolution of the Federation, Eritreans had already started an armed struggle to pave way for independence. In the course of the struggle they were able to create a powerful revolutionary movement that radically transformed the course the Eritrean history and brought to its knees a mighty colonial rule.
The thirty years of armed struggle and the thirty years of independence have offered Eritrea the ability to adapt to disturbances. The theme of this year’s celebration “resilient-as ever” has adequately described the behavior of the country. Resilience has been defined as “the capacity to withstand or absorb the impact of a hazard [whether natural or man-made] through resistance or adaptation, which enables certain basic functions and structures during a crisis, and bounce back or recover from an event.” Eritrea has now possessed the willingness and capacity to deliver resistance against any form aggression. Once a victim of aggression and coercion, Eritrea is now engaged in rectifying past grievances, alleviating present hardships and eliminating future threats.